By this time in 2016 I had raced 4 times over various triathlon distances and was feeling confident as I edged closer to Hawaii. This year has started a lot slower with only one sprint triathlon race ticked off so far. I decided after Hawaii I wouldn’t enter lots of races and would do events I really wanted to enter. One of those races was Long Course Weekend in Tenby Wales. I have already completed the swim and bike legs of this weekend before but didn’t do the marathon as I was preparing for IM Wales later in the year. I loved Tenby as a town and course but the main reason was for the medal. The medal for this event has to be one of the best in triathlon, made up from four medals one for each of the individual entries and another for completing the weekend. This then all fits together to make one super medal!
We arrived in Tenby on Friday morning and the weather was looking great for the weekend of racing. The town of Tenby is really beautiful and the beaches are stunning. This calm place really gets into the mood for triathlon and the town centre and beach quickly filled up as the swim start approached that evening. Of the three disciplines that weekend I was hoping for a good improvement in the swim section from my 2015 time. I had swam 1.12 last time at this event although the conditions where less favorable that evening. I still hadn’t got under 60 minutes for an IM swim anywhere, so this would be a great start but anything under 1.05 would be good.
The spectacular visual swim start makes for an interesting first 200 metres as visibility is minimal through the flare smoke but I was able to get into a rhythm quite quickly and the first section went by very quickly in fact the first lap felt very quick and for me it was, 28.30. I was very focused after seeing that time knowing if I could hold together a good second lap the sub hour was achievable. The second lap was even calmer as the 1900m swimmers had got out. I seemed to go quite wide up towards the boats I think this may have been to avoid the huge jellyfish I saw after rounding the turn buoy! I turned back for the beach and could see the clock as I was approaching the beach just hitting 58 minutes. I swam hard and ran the short section up the beach recording a pb swim of 59.15.
We stayed out of town at the YHA Manorbier where they have 3 camping pods with use of the hostels facilities. This was a lovely place to stay was really quiet and overlooked the sea a great base for the weekend and still very close to Tenby. I had a 9am start time for the bike section although I would have preferred an earlier one to get going but these couldn’t be changed. Ady Stott and I had planned to ride together and had both chosen to ride our TT bikes for the hilly Welsh course. I had riden the course before and there are large sections that suit a TT bike as long as your comfortable descending and climbing on it as well! Ady lead us out of town and it soon became a team of people rolling through the first 40 miles quite quickly. This first 40 miles is relatively flat whilst much of the next 72 miles rolls with sharper climbs at wise mans bridge and Saundersfoot. The pace was fast and out of the three disciplines I have done less cycling than I would have liked to coming into an event like this. This would be the first time over 100 miles this year and I was concerned pre-event how I would cope on the later sections of hills. I made sure I kept drinking and taking on my mountain fuel energy and after negotiating the first loop was feeling good and strong. I took some confidence from this and continued to work with a smaller group now knocking off the last of the flat sections. The group was working well but I was out of fluid and decided the best option would be to stop. Sometimes its easy to get carried away and I probably could have stayed in the group but with a marathon to run on the Sunday I couldn’t afford to go that far into the red. The stop did me good and being on the TT bike was now a great benefit and I felt really good moving probably at a more comfortable pace. The second loop seemed to pass by really quickly although I had a couple of mishaps with my gearing, throwing the chain a couple of times getting all excited with new electronic shifting! In 2015 I had posted 6hrs in similar conditions so posting 5hrs 40 was a surprise, maybe I was in better shape than anticipated!
The leaderboard was updated that evening ready for the Sunday mornings run. I was currently in 8th position, if i needed any motivation after two days of racing this was enough!
The marathon is tough and hilly and set on a different course than IM Wales out towards Pembroke and back via Manorbier to Tenby. I had already ran a marathon earlier in the year at Manchester and got a time of 2.48 so was hoping to get somewhere near 3-3.15 for this one. I wasn’t too sure how the legs would hold up after the bike leg the day before but as soon as the gun went I felt relaxed and decided to give it a go.
Richard Gardiner, a Welsh champion marathon runner and marathon best of 2.18, was quickly leading through town up front with the camera motorbike in front, I felt comfortable at the pace the group were running so pushed on and found myself in second. I was able to maintain this and even got my own stint in front of the camera, surreal! The tone for the day was set within 3 miles as we were sent up a steep climb looking back over Tenby and then the course just continued to roll throughout. The course is quiet on country lanes with short visits in town centres. By the half way point I had dropped a place to 3rd but was still on for a sub 3 hour marathon which would be ideal. The sun was out and after around 18 miles the course gets to the coast before climbing back to overlook Tenby. This was a testing section and coming back into town I lost another couple of places.
Onto the last climb into town and I was looking at 5th place in the marathon and a finish of 3 hours. I really enjoyed the finishing chute and found I was in 2nd for the long course weekend waiting for the return of the other runners!
The leaderboard was updated very slowly it seemed as we listened to runners coming in thick and fast. After what seemed like an age the results were in and I had managed to claim 3rd place overall with a total time of 9.42, what a result! The presentation was something else. All competitors that complete the full weekend are called through and provide a guard of honour before being presented to Tenby with streamers, champers and ABBA! The podium made up of the Swedish Pro IM athlete Marcus Hultgreen, Richard Gardiner Welsh Marathon Champion and Phil Wilson!!
So not only did I collect the coolest medal in triathlon but picked up a fantastic cup as well! I had an amazing experience at this race and all weekend with family and friends definitely recommended.
Massive thanks to #teamwilson for traveling all the way to Tenby over 10hours of travel time just so I could race, always in the right place at the right time for the cheer and quality race photography ;-)) Thanks to Ady Stott, John Swallow and John Paul Bednerak for the company and crack over the weekend and build up top lads.
Massive thanks to Raceskin for the continued support providing the best custom triathlon kit there is and Mountain Fuel for providing the fuel to get me through these events. Lastly thanks to Simon Ward for providing the coaching for me since 2013 always on hand to stop the wobbles and give the confidence to compete.
Check out Phil’s full blog below.