Ironman Wales 2012

Ironman Wales race report   

by Jeannie Fry

If you are looking for a beautiful ironman course in an enormously welcoming little Welsh town, less than 3 hours away (by Julian’s driving speed), with all the razzamatazz of the Ironman brand package, then this is the race for you.

On 16th September Julian and I returned to Ironman Wales to conquer our demons from last year. Last year’s race was the most challenging ironman event I have ever experienced, being in the wake of a hurricane and involving shore dumping waves to get into and out of the swim, high swell making buoys invisible out the back, a cliff path climb and 1k run to T1, a windy, relentlessly hilly and brutal bike course, and yes, a hilly run course!

This year the sea was calmer, but the cliff climb is here to stay, and it does make this event rather unique. The crowds were amazing as we ran through the streets of Tenby, wetsuit in hand, to T1. Having done this last year I was able to overtake lots of people on the way. When I came into T1 only 2 bikes were gone from my age group racking area. We set off westwards into the wind to Freshwater Bay on the first loop of the bike course. The first major climb through the dunes here seemed easier than last year. Maybe I had got the training and taper right for this race? We headed back towards Pembroke to embark upon the second part of the course, 2 laps involving 4 climbs at Wisemans Bay and Saundersfoot. The ambulance was parked on the descent in between the two! Sure enough, 5 people were to come off on this descent in separate incidents during the day. The main problem was that it started to rain continuously for the last 60k of the bike, and those who had not done the course were at some disadvantage, so if you are thinking of doing this event, it is a great idea to take part in the Wales weekend sportive in June in preparation. It also helps to know what gearing to take!

Safely back in T2 there was only one bike back in my racking area. I had knocked 24 minutes off my ride time from last year. I set off on the marathon determined to run all the way, unlike last year, when, having done Bolton ironman 6 weeks prior, I was somewhat fatigued! My broken toe started to burn, but I told myself “this will pass, it will go numb”, and it did, and I did…pass the leader in my age group. I thought I could relax…..maybe even walk a bit, but NO….on the switchbacks on the run course I realised a girl in my age category was gaining on me. Oh no! More pain. I tried to stay with her as she overtook me, but it was not to be. I came home 6 minutes behind her in 2nd place. I was elated to have completed my 14th ironman race, 39 minutes faster than last year, and secure enough points to put me back on top of the European age group ranking, my main goal for the season.

The medical tent were kind enough to have supplied a podiatrist who gave me a bed, blanket, tea, ham sandwiches, ice, painkillers, bandages and taping for my heels and toes, and LOTS of TLC, so I could walk away from the recovery tent, get my bike and bags, and then sit on a deck chair outside the bed and breakfast, which was at the top of a hill on the run course with a pint of cider from the pub opposite, so I could assist the drunken mob cheering Julian on.

Julian also finished faster than last year, coming out of the swim ahead of me, on account of the superfast wetsuit he bought the day before the race. The lengths that people will go to!

In wrapping up, I would recommend this race to anyone who likes personal challenge. Forget about the opposition. This event is about survival on the day and getting to that finish line. It’s about trying to smile when you are suffering and staying positive ALL the time, irrespective of what the Welsh weather and terrain throws at you. It is a long day, but it is SOOOOO worth it when the announcer at the finish line yells “You are an ironman”. Can you tell I am still addicted?