Well, I did two-thirds of it, and what a blast.  The Long Course Weekend is basically an Ironman split over three days, with a 2.4 mile sea swim on Friday, 112 mile bike ride on Saturday, and a marathon on Sunday.  Because of my dodgy knee I left my running shoes at home which meant that, a) I was strangely jealous of those who got up on Sunday to run, and b) I had a few pints of ale on saturday evening.  Swings and roundabouts…

Tenby is a great little town, and the atmosphere is amazing.  There were loads of NEWTs there, and I kept bumping into them, but even if I didn’t there were plenty of people to chat to, all of them friendly and enthusiastic. I asked a barmaid in one restaurant (they gave a 10% discount to all LCW athletes) why they support it so much, and she said “It’s just nice seeing Tenby full of fit people instead of drunks!”

I didn’t tell her that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

 The Swim … I was aiming for a 1:30 swim, which was my Ironman time from last year (in a lake in Bolton).  This was my first proper sea swim, and although on the drive up I was really worried, when the time came I loved every minute of it.  Didn’t even have my usual dark moment (oh my god what am I doing I shouldn’t be here Im going to drown I need to get out!!).  The beach start was fun, not scary, and even the jostling and bumps to the head and jaw didn’t trouble me too much.  The jellyfish … I tried to convince myself they were just beneath the surface and as big as my hand, and not fifteen feet down and the size of small cars.

First lap in 35 minutes, and eh, what, really?  So that gave me a load of impetus for lap two, and I swam hard, enjoying it, not feeling tired or worn out.  Finished in 1:10!  For me that’s incredible.  And even though I saw LOADS of happy faces on the beach at the finish, and realised that the tide and currents were definitely on our side, hell … it’s still an official PB. And with the nasty chafing I’m still suffering from on my wrists and neck, I deserve it.  Looks like I’ve been to an S&M club.  Allegedly.

Went out for food, sat chatting with some guys in a restaurant, waitress told us it was an hour’s wait for a fecking pizza, went to Tesco’s, bought pasta and salted crisps, went back to my hotel and got my bike stuff together.

Day two, the bike, and it was raining.  Not a happy puppy.  The wait for the off went on forever, but once I was underway I felt a lot better.  Chatted with a few NEWTs on the ride, then bumped into Jim Maloney at the first feed station.  From that point on we rode together, taking it in turns to move ahead and catch up, chatting, and enjoying the ride.  Even the weather improved!  And the scenery was gorgeous.

It was a pretty gnarly ride.  I saw loads of people with punctures and mechanicals, an ambulance screamed by, and then I passed someone being attended by another ambulance.  I was told later that he’d ridden into a stationary van, hope he’s OK.  A couple of guys from the club took tumbles too.

The first 70 mile loop was fine, with the two nasty hills tough but OK.  Support in Saundersfoot was brilliant and put a smile on my face.  Then we hit Tenby and headed out on the second, 40 mile loop.  I almost fell descending one hill — the feeling of your rear wheel fishtailing is not pleasant — and Strava tells me at one point I hit 49.9 mph.  That shook me up a bit, and I knew I was getting tired, so I rode a bit more carefully.

Chain started slipping.  I had a bad feeling about this.  At mile 108, halfway up Wiseman’s Bridge, my chain snapped.  Arse!  Jim didn’t realise, and I certainly didn’t want to call him back, so I tried fixing it myself.  To no avail.  I walked to the top of the hill to call the mechanic, and amazingly he was within a few minutes of me.  He fixed my chain, and after losing maybe 45 minutes I rode the last few miles into Tenby, and a brilliant finish.  Heard a few ‘Come on NEWT!’s, not sure who from, and then bounced over the line.  112 miles … done.  Nice one!

I met up with Gareth & Paul and had a post-race pasty, then I had to get back to my hotel and take a bath.  I didn’t realise just how covered in oil I was.

Then I went back out for the evening and … well, this is recovery food, isn’t it?

A big shout-out to the splendid NEWTs who made the whole weekend so enjoyable, and the Tenby residents (including the amazing guys at the Albany Hotel) who are so welcoming.  I really hope my plans for next year can incorporate Long Course again.

As for the dickhead who scattered tacks across the road at one of the feed stations … I hope you meet a dustbin-sized jellyfish.

And now it’s time to give my poor bike some TLC.

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