We set our alarm clock for 4 am Sunday morning so we could be at the iron Wales transition area at 5am. We needed to double check that that our bikes were all set up correctly, fully loaded with drinks, energy gels, mars bars and my wife’s home made flapjacks.
After getting changed into our wetsuits the race organisers led us on mass down to the beach. Quite a sight 1600 people all dressed in black neoprene with white swim hats, walking through the streets of Tenby at 6:15am.
After carefully stowing our shoes away, there was just enough time for a quick dip in the sea to acclimatise to the temperature. At 6.55am all 1600 of us were lined up on the beach for a mass start at 7am prompt. With the sound of a horn we were all off on stage one of our race. 2.4 mile swim in the calm waters of Tenby North beach.
After a bit of argy bargy and a couple of kicks to the head it was all over (Gary 59 minutes, Mark 70 minutes). After taking my wetsuit off on the beach I put my shoes back on for the 1 kilometre run uphill to the real transition area, carrying my wetsuit.
Quickly as possible the bike helmet was on and the 112 mile bike ride was under way. Up to now the rain had kept at bay, but with two or 3 short sharp down pours the roads were wet, making sure we had to slow down at corners and take it steady. The first lap of 72 miles went enjoyably well and there was lots of encouragement on the worst of the hills, helping us get to the top (imagine a mini Tour de France) the second lap of 42 miles felt as though the race organisers had selected the worst hills of lap one and set us to do them again. Gary was then slowed down by a puncture 8 miles from the end, but after fixing it on the road side was back underway in less than 20 minutes. All in all it wasn’t a bad ride and slightly quicker than expected. (Gary 7hrs 4min and Mark 6hrs 45min).
In transition it was a matter of getting our running shoes on with a nice fresh pair of socks, before hitting the undulating cobbled streets of Tenby for 26.2 miles over 4 laps. This was the part of the race I had been most worried about. Having run marathons before I know how tough they are on their own, without spending the previous 8 hours swimming and cycling. And almost straight away my worries were confirmed with a long steady hill out of the town. But you know what they say, what goes up must come down. And sure enough there was a turn around point, to come back down the hill and through the narrow streets. Here the crowds were amazing, lots of high fives and shouts of “nearly there” and “you can do it”. Sure enough after 4 laps we were ushered to the finishing tunnel and along the red carpet, where they shouted “you are an ironman” as you cross the finish line. Total time Gary 13 hours 12 minutes 45 seconds and Mark 12 hours 32 minutes and 34 seconds