The Long Course Weekend is a unique race in which athletes complete a full iron distance triathlon but split over 3 days, with the 2.4-mile Wales Swim on the first day, the 112-mile Wales Sportive on the second day, and finishing with the Wales Marathon 26.2-mile run on the final day. The Long Course Weekend takes place in Tenby, Pembrokeshire (south west Wales).
As the three disciplines are split over 3 days, athletes have the option to just complete one as an individual race or to do all 3 as a full iron distance triathlon. Sundried ambassador Jim Doughty gives us a race report.
Day 1 - The Swim
I arrive at the beach nervous. The thoughts running through my head are 'I don't feel like I belong here' 'I probably haven't done enough training' and 'I am anxious about the swim.' I see hundreds of athletes all getting ready and think to myself 'it's now or never' so I start to pull on my wetsuit. I head out into the water to get accustomed to it and once in realise I have nothing to worry about. The sea is flat, calm, and warm compared to the lochs in Scotland where I do my training.
We are shouted into the start pens to listen to the race briefing. It's 6:45 pm and the air is electric as we stand listening to the last minute instructions. The swim consists of 2 laps, each 1.2 miles long with an Australian run along the beach between the laps. We are told to watch out for jellyfish as they can sting. 7pm and the fireworks are set off; it's time, we all enter the water and start swimming.
There is a slight pull by the tide which makes hard work of the first leg of the lap to the turn buoy. I get squashed against the buoy as I take a tight line around it but find some clean water once around and onto the back straight. The rest of the 1st lap passes by fast as the current helps us along the way. I exit the water after the first lap in 45:12 and run along the beach for the second lap with a smile on my face. I now know I will complete the swim within the time limit.
The 2nd lap is a re-run of the 1st lap and I exit the water for the final run up the beach and cross the finish in a time of 1:26:42, I guess my swim training is paying off. I collect my medal and quickly make my way back to my hotel, by the time I arrive it's 9 pm and time to start recovery before the 112-mile bike tomorrow.
Day 2 - The Bike
I awake at 5 am and have my usual breakfast of porridge and a banana with a coffee. I arrive at the car park at the leisure centre and cycle the last mile to the start of the Sportive just before 7 am.
The countdown is on and I am nice and relaxed about the Welsh Sportive. The weather is being very kind, the sun is out and there is virtually no wind.
We wind our way out of Tenby and head towards Pembroke via some spectacular countryside and some rather impressive hills towards the Pembrokeshire coastline.
After Pembroke, we head to a place called Wiseman's Bridge and a climb that's about a mile long and at 16%. It's tough going but I muster up some hidden strength and dig deep. As I crest the summit I hear some of the other competitors talking about how hard it is on the second lap, I can't wait for that. We head over to Saundersfoot to the famous timed hill climb, I'm happy just to get over it and head back into Tenby, we have covered 66 miles and are now heading out onto the second 46-mile lap.
As I approach Wiseman's Bridge for the 2nd time and the climb back up from it I realise that there are around 50 people all off their bikes and walking up the 16% climb. I use all of my training along with some of my mental willpower to stay on my bike throughout the whole climb. I realise I only have one major climb left before the final run into Tenby. For the second ascent of Saundersfoot, I soon realise we are not racing anymore and it's more about survival. I reach Tenby in a time of 08:15:19 which feels slow but given the amount of climbing done I decide I'm happy with my time and am now thinking about my recovery for the rest of today and head over to the massage area and wait my turn for a full leg massage to give me the best possible start to my marathon tomorrow.
Day 3 - The Run
The marathon starts at 10 am so I have some 4 hours before the gun starts us off. I have some breakfast and head into Tenby for the start. I can't believe the atmosphere at the start line already; it's like there has been an all-night party and it's still going on, I love it and it really helps to motivate me.
At 10 am the start of the final event of the weekend is underway, a mere 26.2 miles of running and The Long Course Weekend will be over for another year. I start strong and while away the miles by thinking about how much I have missed my family while I've been away racing and how much they sacrifice for me to be able to do this all year long.
I reach the halfway point in Pembroke, the sun is hot now and I'm on schedule for a 5-hour marathon, which I consider to be ok given what else I've completed this weekend. My phone beeps with a text message and I read it, it's my wife telling me to stay strong as she has seen my splits on live tracker and has also realised I am going to beat my previous overall Ironman time. I feel some tears start to form and use the emotions to push me on. I reach the finish in a time of 05:04:42 and an overall time of 14:46:44 which is just under 11 minutes faster than my previous Ironman time.
I am ecstatic and have a wide grin on my face as I collect my 4th medal from the Mayor of Tenby. Now for the next endurance event: the 8-hour drive back to Scotland.