Tenby, dawn light, (All rights reserved, Finisherpix)

Tenby, dawn light, (All rights reserved, Finisherpix)

The guy leading race briefing at Ironman Wales on the Saturday night revelled in his one liner: “There’s hard, harder, hardest (pause for effect),?then there’s Ironman Wales.”

Words like “brutal” and “savage” were being bandied around by athletes describing the course. Yet, according to Ironman themselves, 51% of the athletes taking the start line the following morning would be Ironman newbies. Clearly the reputation of the race as one of the toughest, if not the toughest Ironman course in the world was not putting off the punters. In fact, with over 2,100 due to take the start, maybe the opposite was true.

I had already confessed to being nervous about my return to long course triathlon after a four year furlough, but as race day dawned I felt strangely calm about the whole thing. Not that I’d slept well, mind. As usual sleep would not come as I tossed and turned the night away. Breakfast was my usual light affair of chocolate brioches, banana and coffee. Even the rain falling in the still dark skies didn’t unduly dampen my spirits.

By the time I drove the 20 miles from my hotel to Tenby the rain had eased off. I soon became aware that this was going to be a triathlon experience like no other as I walked to transition. It was approaching 5:30 am, yet the doors of Tenby fire station were open and the banging beats of disco were blaring out of a sound system with the station crews dancing and cheering the athletes as they trudged through the slowly dawning streets. It seemed that Tenby was ready to party.

Last minute fiddling on the bike, greasing up with Bodyglide and squeezing in to my wetsuit (I’ve lost 5kg and it still feels tight) was soon accomplished and there was little left to do but to join the throng of black neoprene clad lemmings heading through the streets of Tenby down to North Beach. Frantic waves and kisses, shouts of encouragement and handshakes from the crowds of loved ones, families and onlookers slowed our progress, but after hanging our running shoes on the racks provided (swim exit to transition is about a 1km run) we made our way down to the beach.

The sea looked pretty benign in the steely early morning light and I was feeling none of the nerves that I had felt in the week before. Maybe today was going to be alright?

Read Part 2 of my account of Ironman Wales 2015