Ironman Wales, Tenby 2011

Time: 10:36:46
Swim: 47:43
T1: 9:41
Bike: 5:50:08
T2: 2:35
Run: 3:45:39

Race analysis here

What a race ! The course was already great but the added spice of the impending weather was great. Having done Wanaka in a gale and New Zealand in torrential rain I’d felt that I’d always be able to think “well at least it’s not as bad as Wanaka / New Zealand”  picking whichever was more appropriate. As this race approached with the remains of hurricane Katya approach from the west it looked like this could prove worse than those two races combined.

The start of this weather had hit the day before prompting a move of the swim to the North Bay which was more sheltered. This meant a 1km run to T1 so they’d set up a third set of racking for us to hang a pair of shoes to run in. It was a tough way to run the first edition of the race but the organisers did very well and it was very clear what the new swim and run to T1 were.

The night before the race I had my usual nights “sleep” waking every 20-30 minutes. During one of those spells I had the most vivid dream of me going through my race breakfast, getting ready and then laying for a final snooze on the bed. I woke up in shock that I’d done none of it.

Breakfast: mashed banana, peanut butter and strawberry full fat yoghurt (~400 cals), 2 x hot cross bun with butter and marmalade (~500 cals), 3 x coffee with a belgium waffle biscuit with each (~500 cals) for a total of 1400 cals. I was pleased with myself.

At 4:55 I walked to transition to pop my nutrition and computer on my bike. I left transition at 5:05 and came back for a snooze before walking over to the swim nice and early at 6:10am.

Having been a little disappointed the swim had been moved to the more sheltered bay it was good to see big swells coming in and crashing on the beach. At one point coming right up to the wall washing through timing equipment, stopping the generator for the big Ironman arch and wetting the shoes of a fair few marshalls. All was soon up and running again. Short warm up swim to get aclimatised to the cold water before getting in the pen first to get a prime spot.

Now, when I saw the course I mentioned to Jo “how would they stop people running down the beach at the start” to which she replied that it was only me that worried about such things… I admit given any sets of rules I always mentally stress test them, test the boundaries. There was a pen marked off but without a marshall people started walking the far side of it (closer to the first buoy). I stuck to my prime spot thinking they’d be brought back but eventually so many people at gone by I couldn’t risk they’d just allow it. Then someone decided to walk all the way down to the far end of the beach. Before we knew it  everyone was walking. It took a great effort by the marshalls to get everyone back but they didn’t manage to get us in to the pen. Luckily I was on the front line but now we were beyond the metal barriers.

Gun goes and (of course) everyone just starts running down the beach. We’d not been told we shouldn’t though I think most knew it wasn’t the idea. No way was I going to end up behind slower swimmers so I ran with the best of them. It was a quite comical but made for a smooth start to the swim. At one point I had to ease off as I could feel how heavy I was breathing and decided it was not a good idea to enter that water so out of breath. It did however give the RNLI guys a fright I reckon as we ended up closer to the cliffs than they’d have liked and they were vigorously indicating for us to move away. As we approached the first turn buoy we hit the swell and chop. It was MASSIVE and it was great fun. There was also a very localised downpour which produced the most amazing rainbow. I remember thinking how amazing it was. They had the biggest buoys but in the troughs you couldn’t see them. By far the roughest swim I’ve done and I was happy the whole way round. Exiting the first lap I heard them say there must be a strong current as we were out in 22 minutes – strong current plus a few 100m run down the beach. Again, good on the organisers as they quickly got the run down the beach sorted so on the second lap they had marshals forcing you back in the right point. My second lap was 25 minutes something. So either the swim was short of there was a very strong current as 47:43 is my fastest swim in the toughest conditions. I can imagine there was a strong current with us on the longest leg with the wind coming the opposite direction which I think made the conditions so rough but allowed fast times. What a swim !

Now the run to transition – a mere km with quite a climb from the beach. I learnt from my mistake in New Zealand and put gillet and arm warmers on. I’d been riding well at Epic Camp and felt that I should give this ride a little more welly. I switched my computer to show me 3s average power, current 5km average power and overall average power. My aim was to keep it around the 250 watt mark. As ever early on I was a little full of beans. The first 10k my average power was 275. Despite this guys were flying by. I need to learn not to worry about this because by about 90km I was in the no mans land between the really strong riders who are half decent swimmers and everyone else. The second half was largely on my own. This is one hell of a course – no major cols to go over but their are endless hills for about 2,500m ascent. The first loop is the flatest but also the most exposed and with very strong winds it meant riding in to  a strong head / cross wind which at times was pretty hairy. The main loop which is done twice is quite sheltered so the wind wasn’t really as big an issue as you’d feel it should be given how strong it was on the coast. I was feeling so strong on the bike and at halfway

IMWales11_3I stopped being passed and start catching some that had gone by. At 110km my average was 259 watts at which point I started the second loop. The noticeable thing on this loop was I couldn’t quite maintain the same sort of effort up the hills. Up to that point on the hills I’d aimed at going easy up them – they are steep enough that even going up relaxed I was climbing most at just over 300 watts but on the second loop I was more like 270-280.

The support in places was awesome – at Narbeth the crowd was huge and then coming out of Saundersfoot it brought tears of joy to my eyes. Really really fantastic.

By the end of the bike my average had dropped to 248 but still the highest wattage I’ve done since geting the power meter and my bike split was 5:50 – that should make you realise this is a VERY tough bike course.

I managed a pretty quick transition, got my vibram Bikila LS on – I’m getting quick at this now. Headed out on the run relaxed. Pleased to see sub 5 min Ks. I felt I was way out of a slot position already (little did I know I was in third) so just enjoyed the atmosphere. The support was great. At either end of the course there were tonnes of people. I can’t remember thanking so many people or smiling so much. There were several supporters that I made eye contact with each lap and thanked them specifically… with each lap their support increased.

If the bike was tough this has to be one of the toughest runs. You initially head out of town – there’s a short downhill then a steady climb for about 3km. You return but have a detour over a short sharp hill before a dead turn and back over the hill. Then a steady 3km descent before a short rise into down for 2kms looping through almost all the streets in the walled down. This is constantly up and down with a highlight of looping round castle hill – this includes a short sharp hill which I don’t think you’d be able to ride up. In town the support was awesome.

It’s the downhills that got me. I was looking forward to the uphills but by the third lap (of four) I was struggling on the downhills, in fact it was downhill I was closest to walking but I’m pleased to say I ran every step. Other than that I felt strong. No signs of cramping at all, ran forefoot throughout just didn’t have the motivation to keep pushing after halfway. I screamed at Tim and Nick who were chasing me down. Till halfway I felt they weren’t catching quick enough but with my slowing after that they caught me with a lap to go.

Coming on to the esplanade and towards the finish chute I was beaming. I’d really enjoyed my day.

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