Ironman Wales 2016

Ironman WalesIronman Wales – Definitely one of the hardest Ironman races but also one of the most beautiful!
Tenby, a small town in Pembrokeshire, is a hidden gem. The home of Ironman Wales and the home of the most friendly and welcoming people.
My decision to do Ironman Wales was only made in May. My yearly yearning to see my family and friends plus a friend’s wedding made me have a look at what races were on in the UK at the end of September. Yes I could have found a nice easy little 10km run or something, but no, as soon as I saw the date of Ironman Wales and the photo of Tenby on the Ironman website I knew I had to race it! The entry button was clicked, payment was made and a message sent to my coach, Dave, saying ‘Erm…I’ve just entered Ironman Wales :-/ !!
The build up to Ironman Wales was different to previous Ironman races as I had already planned various mtb races during July/August/September. And as long as I didn’t injure myself the mountain biking would make me stronger on the climbs, in preparation for the brutal Welsh hills!
Injury free, I arrived in Tenby on the Thursday before race day, after 2 flights and various trains. I had managed to arrange a homestay and as soon as I met Simon at the train station I knew I was going to have a fantastic time there. Simon’s hospitality and support throughout my stay was out of this world; from helping me with my bike gears, making me dinner, giving me tips with his local knowledge and generally looking after before and after the race.
First stop in Tenby was registration. A very quick easy process, especially being an AWA with our own registration table. And no issues with my TSA licence! Yay!
A quick browse through the expo, which has so much more Ironman branded stuff then the SA expo, so yes a few items had to be bought!!
I was grateful for a rest day on Friday; 2 long flights, train journeys and carrying all my luggage I definitely needed to get my feet up and rest, but that was after building my bike and taking it for a quick spin around town. You could feel the buzz in the air of excited athletes already. Ironman banners were blowing in the breeze and the usual pre race compression gear was out in full force.
I was very lucky to have been offered a lift to drive around the bike route by Steph, who I’d met through the Ironman Wales Journey Facebook page. The Ironman Wales bike route is stunning! One big loop followed by a smaller loop which is a repeat of the second half of the big loop! This small loop has the hectic climbs and technical descents so I was grateful to see it; it would hopefully decrease my likelihood of crashing!!!
Race briefing on Friday was the same as most race briefings, except for talking us through the swim exit and the 1km run to T1. There was also no pasta party, but instead we had been given vouchers to use in the local restaurants which was a great idea.
Saturday was the usual pre-race swim, bike, run. The water temperature was perfect and the sea beautifully calm. For once I was feeling confident about tomorrow’s swim!
My gears were being a bit noisey so for peace of mind I stopped at the mechanics before bike racking. Unfortunately they were still noisey on race day!, but I think a new chain is needed.
There’s no access to your bike bag and run bag on race day so it was pretty important not to have forgotten anything!!
Race number tattoos on and I was ready to race! (I think the only reason they give us them to wear is that removing them the next day takes away the pain from the rest of your body)
Apart from the fact I couldn’t get my borrowed backup Garmin Edge to calibrate I was extremely calm on race morning. We gathered in our start pens before walking down to the beach. 1 hr 10 mins was my aim and there was a good bunch of chatty people around to help keep the nerves at bay.
We walked down to the beach past all the crowds, hung our pink trainer bag on the numbered hooks (#101 for me which meant near the bottom of the ramp after the swim exit) and managed a quick warm up swim before lining up on the beach.
The National Anthem. WOW! All I can say. If you haven’t watched the video please do! (click HERE!)
And we were off! The rolling start worked well and apart from a washing machine effect around the first buoy with a few feet and fists flying I had a fantastic straight forward swim. There was a drag out which meant we could enjoy the pull back to shore. I loved the 2 laps and amazingly had equal splits! I had a double take looking at my watch; 1:03? Really? Wow! All I could think was that Dave should be pretty happy but could hear his voice saying just don’t f*** it up now on the bike!!!
Ironman Wales likes to add to the difficulty of the hilly race by making its athletes run 1km from the sea to T1. But what an awesome run it was!! Wetsuit off and spare trainers on, pink bag in hand we had a climb up to the road and a run through town past cheering crowds into T1.
I quickly got into a rhythm on the bike. A decent swim meant we were all fairly well spread out and less likely to be caught in a situation that we might be caught drafting. Although I have to say that there was some blatant drafting by some people at times.
There was barely a spot on the whole route that had no spectators. The villages were packed with people ringing cow bells and cheering your name.
The bike route has 2,400m of climbing and what you lose on the climbs you can’t make up on the descents due to the twisty and technical roads. There were quite a lot of crashes; and we were lucky that the rain stayed away as there would have been loads more!
The climb up Heartbreak Hill was amazing!; Amazingly tough and amazing crowds! The crowds were held back by barriers but nearer the top there were no barriers so you had to cycle through a narrow channel of cheering supporters. It felt like the Tour de France!
I had stuck to my planned power pretty well but knew the hills would still have taken a lot out of my legs.
The start of the run is always great; happy to be onto the third element and happy to be eating my mini mars bar (my little treat I always have at the start of the run)! Legs, body and head were all doing ok! I had moved up from 9th out the water to 2nd out of T2, but was quickly back into 3rd within the first kay of the run. Amazingly, for once, I hadn’t peed on the bike (yes everyone does!), possibly because I’d drunk less fluid due to the colder conditions that I am used to. And yes I normally pee on the run, but I decided to use the portaloo quickly since it was colder and wouldn’t dry quickly and I didn’t want wet trainers!!! It was the longest pee ever and I felt like I was in that portaloo for hours!
The four laps were all equally tough! Each lap consisted of a climb up out of town, a descent back down and a winding run through town. The crowd support again was fantastic! Every inch of the way! I was cramping on the inclines and I’m a little bit disappointed that I couldn’t have run faster but through the pain I still loved every minute!
I was very happy to finish 3rd in my age category (12th female), although a win would have been nice 😉
The awards and Kona slot allocation was held at 11am the following morning. It was nice to be back on the podium, but no Kona qualification this time (sigh of relief from my bank balance!) There was no after party but plenty of socialising in the local pubs after.
Thank you Tenby for such an awesome race! And to Simon and all the lovely people of Tenby.
And thanks to Zoggs, 32Gi, Enduro Hub and Wingman Multisport Coaching!
SWIM: 01:03:31
T1: 00:08:10
BIKE: 06:11:31
T2: 00:03:37
RUN: 03:54:58
TOTAL: 11:21:47
POSITION: 3rd (35-39), 12th female

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *