The event couldn't really have gone much better for me. The swim was beautiful, a little choppy in places and I spotted a couple of jellyfish low down, but you couldn't have hoped for much better conditions considering it's the sea off Wales. I was really happy with 1hour 13mins.
My bike speed isn't the best so I was worried about cut-offs but I rode in the moment and enjoyed every part, even the hills, amazingly, due to the incredible support from the hundreds of spectators lining the sides. Adrenaline is an amazing thing. It's a hard bike but seeing people sat in front of their houses or on a sofa on a flat-bed farm trailer in a lay-by or banging pots with wooden spoons really helps and they stayed put for even the slower riders on their second lap so you feel as special as the fast competitors. Again really happy with my time, a great feeling knowing you're not going to be cut off and you'll be allowed to do the marathon!
The bike has a deserved reputation for being hard but the run lies in wait, quietly gloating, as it knows it's actually harder. It heads out of town and then steeply uphill for probably a couple of miles. Then back down the way you've come and winds round in a maze through the crowded streets of Tenby. Four laps. Supporters even on the further reaches of the run had music systems set up in front of their houses.
I was determined to do the first two laps with no walking, hills and all, except for water stations. Rose was in Personal Needs on the run so I saw her every lap and she supplied what I needed most... love and belief in me. I can't thank her enough for selflessly supporting for over 15 hours, exhausting in itself. She'd even walked out to Saundersfoot on the bike course to cheer at the top of the hill for a brief moment as I passed and then walked the 3 miles back.
Lap 3 of the run was dark. Literally it was getting dark, but mentally too. My poor quads were shot from the bike effort. I took the last painkiller and salt tab. My adaptive nutrition plan which had worked wonderfully on the bike and until now was starting to crumble. I developed a weird 'scratch' on the back of my throat that made me cough to the point where I thought I might be sick. I think it was the build-up of the intense flavour of the Powerbar gels or a scratch from the one and only Dorito I had had at a Feed station. I had to breathe through my nose to control the cough reflex for a while until it passed. No gels from now on, for now water for a bit and flat coke.
Loads of people were walking the long, long, long hill now but I'm a bit bloody-minded and decided to run. I knew for me that to alternate walk / run would be the start of a downward spiral to just walking everything. I was like a slow snail creeping past fractionally slower snails! Some of the slower snails sped off on the downhill but others didn't. It mattered not as I wasn't battling them... I hadn't walked… an internal fight won.
So no gels but I need energy still so it's tiny bites of banana and tiny sips of coke and energy drink. I had to pop up a dark side road for a wee so I'm OK hydration-wise so no more water, that will dilute salts.
Back in town on the second half of the third lap and Tenby was a disco. The bike shop literally had disco lazer lights strobing the street. In fact it was becoming a bit overwhelming. Once more past the finishing chute seeing people enter it... but you're peeling off for another lap.
But there's Rose again and it's the LAST lap! What a mental pickup. I tell myself it's a lap of honour. I thanked every supporter that I passed on the bike and now I thank these ones doubly. It's raining and they're still out. Every tiny child on the run wanting a high five has got one. Their excitement at that small act is such a positive buzz that I feel like they transfer a small bit of energy to me.
I'm running slow but OK. I'm not an Ironman yet but my quads feel as hard as iron. My knees hate the downhills. ITB pain is bearable due to the taping. I'm so happy it's the last lap, everything's good now. There's even some chats to be had with other last lappers and a few laughs. We're on the way home.
The finish chute is loud and red and a blur. I high five Paul Kaye, he tells me I am an Ironman. I search for Rose, she's there, but too much music and faces to see her so I cross the line arms raised. I see Rose on the other side, there's hugs and a few tears.
A long, long journey, four years since not finishing Bolton but absolutely worth it. The last lap was definitely the last lap, it doesn't get much harder than Wales, no need to do it again!