Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales, is known as the “Iron Town,” and it serves as the perfect location for Ironman Wales, which draws athletes from all over the world. Most of our club will be aware of the distance of an Ironman; a swim of 2.4 miles from Tenby’s north beach. 112 miles on the bike and then a full marathon. Our Tuff presence this year took the form of Gavin Sewell and he has submitted a fantastic report. The distance of an Ironman has been set out simply because you would hardly know from Gav’s report. He is supremely upbeat throughout and even his mention of the famous ‘zig zag stairs’ uphill from the beach to transition, is simply billed as incredible. Make no mistake this is a tough course, particularly as it rained. 1,707 competitors finished out of 2,181 booked in for the race. Congratulations Gavin, we are all proud of you:-
“Knowing the challenge that was ahead of me, I hadn’t felt this nervous and apprehensive since Bolton 2016 (my first Ironman). Turning up in Tenby and registering on the Saturday the whole town was buzzing with Ironman vibes, it felt like they had been waiting all year for this event. It was the 10th year of Ironman wales”.
“I managed to see Joe Skipper on the Saturday, the eventual winner, who described the bike as punchy. Over 8000ft in elevation, punchy isn’t quite what I would call it”.
“Race day came, it was a lovely but windy morning. I said goodbye to Claire and headed to the beach for the start. The national anthem of Wales was quite something to hear as it sounded like the whole of Tenby was singing along”
“The swim started and my goggles immediately misted up, and along with the massive waves it made for a very scary and hectic start. The waves battered me, I had to tread water after the first turn point to clear my goggles, it literally felt like a washing machine getting thrown from one wave to another trying to avoid other swimmers. I lost my swim hat on the 2nd loop somehow, but managed to get into a rhythm and was very VERY relieved to get out of the water. As horrendous as the swim was the 1.5k run from the beach to T1 was incredible. The crowds cheering you on put a big smile on everyone’s face, I have never seen anything like it”.
“Next up was the bike. This is what I was worried about before the race as the amount of elevation was huge, and pacing it right to leave enough in the tank for the marathon was so important. The first 70 miles of the bike were great. I stuck to my watts, and was rolling along nicely. The hills were there but they only really took hold after 70 miles, where you repeat part of the first loop. The St Brides climb out of Saundersfoot was amazing. The closest I will get to feeling like I was cycling the Tour de France. The crowds were so close and spurred you on”.
“After 70 miles the heavens opened, this made descending some of these climbs very challenging. Whilst the road surfaces through the course were fantastic, be warned I saw quite a few riders receiving medical attention on the side of the roads where they weren’t so careful, I just hope they managed to make it to the finish. The bike course overall though was great all round, having crowds even in the remotest parts of the course, and as long as you trained for the hills you were in for one hell of a ride”.
“Now for the run, and this is where the bike can come back and bite you in the arse. I left T2 feeling pretty good and saw my wife straight away which gave me a massive boost. The run is 4 loops and virtually straight away you are climbing for 3 miles to the turn point. Then it’s downhill back into Tenby where it’s up and down, up and down , constantly for 2 miles. The crowds in Tenby were incredible even with the rain, and having fuelled on water, gator aid and flat coke at food stations, on the last loop of 6-7miles I knew I had it”.
“Then the best bit came…. running up the finishing shoot, the crowd was 5-6 deep, cow bells ringing, people cheering, I made sure I took every bit in and loved every minute of crossing the line in 12hrs43minutes. It was only when the wife told me afterwards that literally 6 minutes before that they had a power cut and the shoot was plunged into darkness, before someone worked magic on the generator and it was back up and running!”
“To be honest as the day went on I realised that this wasn’t about the time like other events for me, but soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the moment was. Tenby embrace this event like nothing I’ve seen before so I enjoyed every bit of it, and couldn’t help smiling, with an atmosphere like that you can’t help not. One word to describe Ironman Wales …..EPIC.”
“Ticked off the bucket list”.