Great blog Tony and awesome effort, you truly are a super athlete to be able to do more than one of these things per year! To add to Tony's comments thought I'd put my two penny's worth in (sorry it goes on a bit). I’m still in Tenby enjoying a peaceful week off in the beautiful Pembroke countryside.

I rocked up on Friday afternoon on the train and had the pleasure of travelling with two Americans on the train, one a former Marine who'd never been to the UK before. I was asked a plethora of annoying questions about life this side of the pond. He talked lots and didn’t seem too bothered by the potential sea swim or conditions that were being blown. I, on the other hand was starting to getting myself worked up about the swim and bike sections and doubting the amount of preparation I’d done for this event. Especially after reading jonny’s blog about Galway 70.3, I didn’t fancy a punishing surf swim to start my Sunday. I also found myself reading tritalk blogs about conditions and I totally got sucked into the hype about how tough the swim ‘might’ be! So I was somewhat pleased that at the race briefing we were advised that the swim had changed from South to North beach due to the conditions. (having walked past south beach on the  morning of the race, I was delighted as the whole of south beach was one big washing machine of waves.)

THE SWIM

Bumped into a focused Tony on the zig zag climb down to the north beach start and wished him well. The sun was just rising out of the sea and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a scenic setting for a triathlon start, it was a special moment. We congregated on the beach at 6:45am, listening to The Welsh national anthem and then a sprint into the sea and the first lap of the 1.9k loop. My game plan was get in over the waves before heading west to the first bouy. I later found that about 400 athletes had run down the beach by 300 – 400 metres to start the swim closer to the first turn bouy. (basically cheating! – some of their splits were 1st lap 23mins, 2nd 28mins). Once in, I got some clear water, settled into my stroke, ‘engaged the lats’ and enjoyed riding the waves and looking out across to the horizon as the sun was
rising. The turning at the first bouy was mad as the waves and swell brought a lot of athletes very close together, it didn’t help that the turn was a sharp one. One guy yelled ‘cool heads boys’ but nobody listened, my timing chip got
yanked. The swells were making it harder to sight and to keep to a rhythm. A few times I turned to breathe only to be washed over by a wave. Mmmm, salty. I could see my progress as I kept focus on small points of interest like lifeguards and boats the first lap came about just as I settled to the conditions and I didn’t fancy getting out. I exited the sea, waved to my supporters who saw me and I took a glance at the clock. 29mins – happy with that. Across the sands and timing mat and back in again. The organisers had got smart on the (cheating) athletes and stood in a row, preventing another run along the beach. I found the second lap easy and enjoyable and my mind started wandering to the bike and transition. Unfortunately on the first bouy of second lap the same congested scramble turn resulted in my timing chip being ripped off (told you it was feisty). That was a horrible feeling as I realised that this might mean an unregistered time and the lack of splits. But there was little I could do now, so battled on and out to complete lap two in 59 mins (but you’ll have to take my word), one min down from Bolton IM last year.

As Tony mentioned the transition was a 1k run, I really hope they keep the tough 1k run to T1 next year - it was a great part of the race, incredible atmosphere and included wonderful supporters and is very different from any other race,
plus it adds to this quickly growing status of this tough IM. The day below I had invested £4.99 in a pair of quality Shoe Zone slippers to carry me to T1. They were perfect. I took my time in T1, probably took too long as I put, extra clothing on and arm warmers, a number of people seemed to sit next to me in T1, and then go. But I was keen to keep warm on the cycle as I’m a total wimp and feel the cold (fellow Brockwell Lido swimmers can vouch for that)

THE BIKE

A great bike course, I won’t let anyone say anything else. If you’re in the saddle for 6 hours plus, you need variety and this certainly doesn’t disappoint. The wind, rain, hills and technical descents. You get some awesome views of beaches, countryside and lovely little towns and villages.
I had set my Garmin up to alarm every 20mins to feed and I stuck to that like glue. Can recommend that strategy. I drank and ate like a king, but frustratingly had to stop at mile 80 for a comfort stop.
The locals, supporters, feed stations and marshals were all superb, I can't express how good the support was on course. The locals knew where the tough points were and came out in force to cheer folk on.

THE RUN

I was feeling really good off the bike, very strong and I started thinking of times and a PB. However this feeling didn’t last long as I started running. It was a 5k climb followed by a 3k decent and then a series of turns around the
hilly town. After 5k I started telling myself – this is now survival, just get this one ticked off. Coming down the Narbeth Road was painful on lap two. I really can’t run down hills, my legs feel like they’re working overtime and my right knee kills. After two laps my walk through aid stations was getting a little longer. However I didn’t walk through Tenby town itself, my supporters wouldn’t allow it! 

Throughout the run the support from other runners was brilliant, there was some good banter, however I can’t get over how many Europeans were out there. There were loads, I think the weak pound and new course had attracted some
decent athletes from Europe. The locals also bought into this event. The marshalls who were astonishing.

On lap three the rain was absolutely pelting down and there was a gale howling - that didn't stop my motivation or the cheering from the supporters. On my final lap I was tired and very hungry, not enough TUC biscuits could satisfy my hunger and I was starting to get really cold….I nearly asked a spectator for a his t-shirt, but battled through as the rain eased. I did say to myself that I have to commit myself to marshalling at least one LD race each year - I need to give
something back. 
As I worked out I had 5k left I picked up my pace and told myself to get his one done and dusted and I made sure that as I went past the aid stations for the final times I thanked everyone for their support and mustered a big smile. Back into town and with 1k to go I found Tony, so I stopped for a chat (walking up a hill), I wished him well and cracked on to the finish line.

THE FINISH - 11 hours 18 mins and 23 seconds.

Quality! Amazing. A long chute without anyone on, I was searching for family and girlfriend, started welling up, but kept it together for a big celebration. The fish and chips were a nice touch, massages were on offer, but there was a 30 min wait.

SUMMARY

An amazing experience enhanced by great support from the people of Wales. Immediately after I said ‘that was it, no more’, but that feeling lasted all of 24 hours. I think I’ll focus next year on improving my running, I’d like to drop 30mins from my Marathon pb. I’ve done both Bolton and Wales and would recommend Wales every time. Bolton isn’t a patch on this course. I hope fellow Windrusher consider IM Wales, it’s tough, but who signs up for an easy IM?

Matt

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Comment by Laura A on September 16, 2011 at 11:50
Great to read the whole thing now!  Well done again, and you account does sell the race slightly more than Tony's!!  See you soon I hope
Comment by Oliver Jones on September 16, 2011 at 11:43
Incredible effort Matt and what a great time!  I assume you're planning on taking it easy for a bit now!  Any thoughts for 2012 yet? - maybe try a slightly warmer location next time ;-)  Look forward to catching up with you soon mate.  Congrats again!

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