Saturday, 25 June 2011

HUGE lessons learned at the 'The Long Course Weekend'

So, as a warm up for Ironman Wales this coming September, I very belatedly decided to sign up for the swim and bike parts of what was clearly seen as a "Tenby Tester".

I actually signed up for it just 1 day before the deadline, over a coffee, whilst taking in the racing vibe at Lanzarote at the sea front at Puerto del Carmen.

I had arranged to camp with a couple of the Celtic Tri lads at Kiln Park, and we travelled down on the Friday afternoon, before the 1830pm swim start, at the South Beach Tenby.

About 600 or so had signed up for this, and there was a 1 or 2 lap option. Needless to say, with the race in September on my mind, I opted for the 2 laps.

Arrival at the beach was greeted with proper sunbathing weather, even at 6 o'clock, and the place was full of families starting their weekend early.

No wind either, - "looks like a mill-pond" was the quote from Rich.

After edgy discussions about finishing times, and the fact that said mill-pond conditions, and salty water would almost certainly take about 5-10 mins off our anticipated times, we were herded into quite a small starting pen, ready for the off.

After a 2 minute water tester, which turned out to be quite chilly, we were back in the pen, and awaiting the gun.

I adopted my ever present strategy of hanging towards the back, and casually walking into the foam.

Things got off to a good start, and I got into a good rhythm early on, and avoided all but a friendly bump. The first buoy was in a straight line out to sea, and we got there at a decent pace, even though when we got to it, actually getting round it seemed a bit of a struggle.

We then turned and headed off for the second and third buoys, which were at a 90 degree right turn off the first buoy.

Lots of swimmmers still all around, as I was expecting, and it was here I remembered AD's mantra of draft, draft, draft.

We reached the third buoy, which then required us to basically turn around, and head back up the beach in the direction of the start point, (via the fourth buoy).

This is when it went completely pear shaped.
I turned, and thought I was headed back towards the start area. After about 5 mins or so of relying on the little group in front of me, I looked up, and realised that the buoy seemed to be getting further away. I dismissed this as folly, and put my head back down to really concentrate of putting in a good 5 min shift to finally reach the elusive next buoy.

It was at this point I again looked up to find the buoy had either broken free from its fixed point, or I was in fact not really moving.

Sadly, after suddenly realising I was alone, with no swimmer closer that 75 yards to me, it became apparent that the buoy was not broken, and I was clearly going backwards.

I eventually found myself alongside another guy, and I simply said to him "uhh... what is going on?, I think something may be wrong!" He instantly agreed, mentioning something about the current being up.

I then stopped, and really surveyed the scene. There seemed to be a narrow train of swimmers a long way out to my right, and to the left was the shore, where I could clearly see a steady line of wetsuit clad people walking back up the beach!

I decided to give another 5 minute shift in a final attempt to reach that damn buoy.

I probably didn't need to tell you, but I soon had joined the growing group of walkers!

I was actually fuming all the way back to the beach, really really mad.....but with who?
I wasn't quite sure.
The only scrap of comfort here, was that I was not alone, and everyone I spoke to, (even the fishpeople that completed the 2 laps) found it very tough.

Turned out the current was very strong, and after all the bitching and blaming, there have been (very vague) assurances that this current will not be present at 7am on Sept 11th.

So, after my stuggle with Nemo, we found ourselves eating fish and chips at 1030pm!, just hours before our 7am, 112 mile bike ride.

We got our heads down at 11 ish, only to be properly entertained by a very loud couple of rutting lovebirds (in the tent right next to us)....til about 2am. Funny as, but not the right time to be laughing to the point of tears!!!

So, up at 5am, we all packed the tent away, and rushed to the start, with literally about 1 minute before the 7am off.

So late in fact, that I did not meet AD. Though judging by his awesome 5hr 40min time, I would have had to have been at the very front to see him anyways.

I set off with a couple of the Celtic Tri lads, and for the first mile or so, we ambled along. Then we drifted apart out towards Pembroke. This part of the course really is quite fast, and 30 miles came and went quite quickly, with little taken out of the tank at this point.

It was on the loop and turn back out of Pembroke that the hills started to appear much more frequently.

Still, I was feeling good, and I was now cycling on my own, (apart from a couple of 5 minute stints having very polite chats with a couple of chaps, both bizarrely having been in Lanzarote the week before).

I was only really interested in average speed on this ride, and I was keeping it either just above, or below 17mph. It was a speed I was happy with, but as the hills kicked in on the 2 loop part of the course up through Narbeth, it started to slip a little.

By the time I had come through Saundersfoot on the second loop, I was really feeling the hills, especially the drag up and out of Saundersfoot, and was very pleased to reach the ring road at the top, and the fast cruise back into Tenby.

The finish was actually right in the middle of the town, and tightly packed up against the shops, and to be fair, there was a lot of people there watching.

My finish time was 6hr 50 mins. 98th position out of approx 300. I was happy with it, and would be very happy with it come race day.
The distance covered that day was about 110 miles, as a couple miles were missing, from diverting the finish line to where it wont be on race day (I think).
The average speed came out at 16.1mph.

I then drove straight back to Wiltshire, to get ready to go and watch the mighty Richard Drayton vs Jenson Button showdown at Blenheim.

Happy Days.



  1. Hey Jason, great blog and info. I have started my IM journey and I am hoping to do my first 70.3 later this year, and hopefully a full IM next year.

    I will be stopping by here more often now that I found your blog. Good luck with training and raicing.

  2. Thanks for the post Jason - looks like it's going to be one tough day out! I'm sure they'll make sure the swim is sorted come race day though