Ironman Wales is known as being the most brutal race within Europe if not the World. On the 9th September 2018 it saw members past and present of the 1st Battalion the Royal Welsh take part, with Lt Aled Smith and WO2 (retired) Conrad Lawson coming back to the race again and CSgt Terry Francis attempting his first ever Ironman.
Race day morning was blustery and chilly; we all knew it would be a tough day out on the bike course! The swim takes place off the North beach in Tenby, Carmarthen Bay. The dramatic scenery makes for the most incredible amphitheatre with crowds of thousands lined on top of the cliffs looking down to the 2,400 hopeful Ironman competitors. As a competitor the emotions and tensions are sky high at this point, waiting patiently for the gun to go off to get racing! Before the race starts the Welsh national anthem is sung in front of the crowds and competitors, lumps in people’s throats and tears in many eyes.
The swim at Ironman Wales is a two loop course covering 2.4 miles, with a run across the beach front through the crowds in between the two laps where they cheer and spur you on to no end. Having completed the swim you then make your way up the zig zags off the North Beach to the swim to bike transition. If you thought the crowds down on the beach were big then nothing can prepare you for the thousands that are waiting in the town with the one mile run being packed four or five people deep the whole way. (Lt Smith swim 1:17 CSgt Francis 1:15)
Out of transition and it is then onto the 112 mile bike ride through the Pembrokeshire countryside which is unrelenting and truly brutal with nearly 8,000ft of vertical elevation. It is a long time spent on the bike and can get extremely lonely in places going through your own mental battles, but with the crowd support it is made so much easier. The bike route consists of one large loop and one smaller loop with ‘Heartbreak’ hill thrown in at the end which could be mistaken for the Tour de France the crowds are that big. (Lt Smith bike 5:34 CSgt Francis 7:45)
With your legs being hammered by the unrelenting Pembrokeshire hills it is then time for the final discipline, the 26.2 mile marathon! This consists of four brutal laps through and out of Tenby with 3 miles up and 3 miles downhill. By this point you are running on empty and the only thing that is keeping you moving forward is the support of the crowd who are screaming at you, it’s easier to keep running than it is to walk because the supportive abuse you get if you walk isn’t worth it! Each lap you get a different coloured band and when you collect your fourth then it is your time to run down the red carpet and receive your glory of becoming an Ironman on one of the hardest Ironman courses. (Lt Smith run 3:25 CSgt Francis 4:47)
Overall times. Lt Smith finished in 10 hours 31 minutes becoming the Army Long Distance Champion. CSgt Terry Francis finished in a more than credible 13:59 for his first Ironman.
Ironman Wales 2019 hopes to have a large gathering of members of the Royal Welsh and we are very much looking forward to the 2019 season. If you are new to triathlon or are a seasoned professional and want to be involved in the R Welsh triathlon team for 2019 then please get in touch with Lt Aled Smith or Sgt Jay Kingsford who would be more than happy to hear from you.