The Long Course Weekend, Tenby – Lee Davies

Set over three days the event is a great way to complete a long course or Ironman triathlon. With 24 hour transitions between the three events, it’s the relaxed and comfortable way to conquer the full distances.

For me the only Long bit about the weekend was the wait.  A hangover from the pandemic, I had entered for the Middle distance rather than the Long Course event way back in Autumn 2019.  A 1.2 mile swim, 70 mile bike and 13 mile run over three consecutive days and after nearly three years I was finally on the start line on a Friday evening in early July 2022.

I went in style, booking a good hotel over looking the South promenade with a sea view out to Caldy Island.  The only worrying thing about the view was the size of the waves and the wind whipping up the white horses. Surely we won’t swim in this….
The North beach at Tenby is tucked into a sheltered bay so whilst the sea was quite ‘big’, the course was swimmable, well for most of the competitors at least.  Given that the course doubled up with the official Swim Wales event then some 3000 intrepid, wet suit clad adventurers dutifully filed into the sea for the triangular course.

Out to the first buoy, not too far offshore but with the tide coming in and the current against us, it was not getting any closer each time I sighted it, (which was about 1 in 3 of the times I looked, the other two only showed me the next approaching wave).
Finally, I made the turn, bobbing along somewhere near the back of the field.The next reach was down current and fast.  It was a bit disconcerting to see a few other swimmers being fished out around me by the paddle board army who were there to look after us. Still, I got much encouragement, direction assistance and plenty of ‘Are you OKs?’.  ‘Yes thanks, just pacing myself….’  Often my arm would reach forward for the next stroke straight into fresh air followed by a whack as the next wave came in from my right hand side.  Hang on, keep swimming.  After rounding the last mark, it was ‘make for the rock on the beach’, easy if it was not for the two lap swimmers who had caught me up and were racing me there.  I was swamped by the charge of the white hat brigade.  As a single lap, pink hat, I was expected to get out of the way, tough luck guys, I am finishing this one.  As I hauled out on the beach I realised three things.  My legs had stopped working, I was bloody freezing and I was very glad it was another day before I needed to get on my bike.  Still, 1 hour 22 and 112th place out of the 151 people doing the Middle distance weekend was not so shabby for a beginner.

We awoke on Saturday and the wind had lost none of its gusto.  After getting the hotel kitchen up for an early breakfast, we were off at 0800 on the 70 mile course, (don’t ask, even the organisers could not tell me why it was 70).  First part was flattish against a block headwind.  Tactic; find a big cyclist, tuck in behind and hang on. Turning at Milford Haven the wind blew us back towards Tenby, then the fun began.  You can always tell when something interesting is about to happen, the chatter in the peloton quietens and the pace eases slightly.  After 60 miles the 1:5 climb out of Wiseman’s Bridge and the 1:6 out of Saundersfoot was Wales at its best.  Suddenly we were at the course divide, the long course 112 milers were back round the hilly loop, I was off to a thunderous finish with a massive cheering crowd lining the central street. Slight remorse I was not on the full course but what a great way to finish a challenging ride. Riding time of 4:10 minutes and in 12th place of my 151 fellow Middle Distancers.  I am better on a bike than I am in the sea it would seem.

Eat, Sleep, Repeat, yes; except Tenby was buzzing, so out to soak up the atmosphere with a pizza and a cheeky beer then maybe some sleep ready for day 3.

The run day was amazing. Everyone runs on the same course, marathon, half marathon or 10k.  We all finish in Tenby, the only difference is the point you start from.  I was on the half distance course so we took the bus to the 13 mile mark, it seemed like a long drive…. Given the marathon had a two hour head start I had time for a coffee and a view of the start line before the action began.  To see the first marathon runners coming through at about the 1 hour 30 mark was amazing. They all got cheered to the rafters by the half marathon starters.  Then the clock ticked onto two hours and we were off, a mad mix of marathon heros coming through and half marathon hopefuls heading out. The course was testing, well marshalled with regular drink stations.  Suddenly there was a really testing hill at mile 6.5, the crowds were building and the cheers grew as we pushed up.  I realised we were passing through the start of the 10k race before those runners got started.  I now knew how it felt for the marathon runners at our start, what energy and what a lift.  Hill?  What hill?  I was on a mission and Tenby was in sight in no time. I took the cheers of the crowd and sprinted over the red carpet to the finish line with a negative split and a time of 1:58, 40th out of my 151 Middle Course compatriots.  Overall 42nd in the field with a time of 7.5 hours.
Would I recommend this weekend?  Damn right I would.  Not only for the opportunity to test yourself at the longer distances in a managed way, nor just for the atmosphere, the friendly vibe and the supportive crowds; but because you can pick and mix.  Long or short swim, three distances on the bike and three on the run. Set the test to suit yourself.  What could be better?  Of course those full Long Course warriors get the best bling but I have to say I am proud of my achievement and my overall 42nd place out of the 151 other Middle distance purists.

Will I be back?  Yes, too right I will.