Tenby Long Course Weekender

When learner drivers sit their driving test they have to watch a hazard perception video. The footage was shot in Wales. How do I know this? Because one of the frequently asked questions in leaner centres is – why does it say “ARAF” on the road? “Araf” is Welsh for “slow” and it’s only seen in Wales.

Having now driven through Wales I’ve come to the conclusion Araf doesn’t mean slow down, it means your journey will be slow. Much slower than I thought it would be. It’s so slow I wondered if I ‘d ever get to my destination.

Wales is beautiful but I’d still build a motorway through it!

My destination was Tenby for the Long Course Weekend. Instead of swimming/biking/running in one day I’d be doing it over a more leisurely three days.

Before I detail the race I’ll mention the one complaint I have about it.

My start time for the bike ride was 0945. The organisers of the event implemented a cutoff at mile 66 of 1330.

When signing up for the event I was asked whether I wanted an early or late start but there wasn’t a cutoff mentioned. If I’d known I’d have chosen the early start.

I contacted the organisers to ask for an earlier start. I was told changing the start time was not possible and “sorry for the inconvenience”.

It’s more than an inconvenience to know in advance that I won’t complete a section of an event due to something I was not told in advance when signing up.

I checked the results and of the 3393 people in the race only 60 went at a pace that could have made the 1st lap cut-off (if they had started at 0945). I also checked and a number of riders who were due to start at 0945 had set off much earlier. Their times had been registered despite being told in the race notes that the timing chips would only be active ten minutes before the start time.

I asked why those riders were allowed to start early and it was reiterated that the start times couldn’t be changed due to “health and safety reasons.” Yet they didn’t disqualify any early starters despite the fact those riders must have been breaking the health and safety rules!

Even the top 10 racers in the event got to start earlier.

There was a number of very angry riders at the end of the 1st lap who weren’t allowed to continue.

In future I hope they implement a less strict cutoff time. 15mph is the common timing on most races I’ve entered. They should also ask riders for an anticipated time rather than an early or late start.

The races has rules, punish riders who break them not the ones who follow them.

SWIM

The last time I visited Wales was eight years ago. I went down with my girlfriend (of the time) and a couple of friends. Our plan was to climb Snowdon. My two friends decided to run it, so my girlfriend and I walked and we agreed to meet our friends at the top.

We started walking and we soon came to a break in the path. It wasn’t clear which way to go so we choose the right hand path. After a short distance there was a sign that said “Crib Goch route”. I hoped Grib Goch was Welsh for ‘easy route’.

We weren’t confident about our choice but as there was another couple ahead of us we thought “lets follow them as they look like they know what they are doing”. However, the route started to get steeper and steeper until we were on all fours climbing a vertical wall -and, when we got to the top, we realised we’d climbed the wrong mountain. It wasn’t Snowdon. It was its partner, which I found out afterwards is called Grib Goch. It turned out Grib Goch was Welsh for, well… Grib Goch.

The only way back was down the vertical path we’d just climbed or along a ridge so narrow you couldn’t stand up on it. Either side of the ridge was a huge vertical drop. A fall on either side would lead to death.

Luckily, we made it across. Mostly on all fours while holding on for dear life.

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It was the first and last ridge walk I’ve ever done.

Once we made it to the top of Snowdon my friends asked how we got on. My girlfriend replied that we’d got lost and had ended up rimming – confusing the term for ridge with something a whole lot different.

My friends laughed and then asked –

“Did you enjoy rimming?”

She replied: “I loved it. I want to do more rimming when I get back to Scotland”

I didn’t have the heart to point out her error. It was too funny.

My mistake. I should have pointed it out. She went to work the next week and told her friends and clients that she’d spent the weekend in wales rimming with three guys.

I’ve always wanted to come back to Wales. A couple of years ago I watched a TV show about the Tenby Long Course weekend. At the same time I saw an episode of Grand Designs set in Tenby where a couple renovated the lifeboat house. The race was the perfect opportunity to revisit wales, do a fun event and check out a cool house. I just hoped it wouldn’t involve ridging or rimming.

The swim was amazing. It takes place in a sheltered beach cove surrounded by the town. It comprises two loops of a triangle with an Australian exit. When viewing the course from the town I thought the hardest leg would be the middle section and the easiest would be the last. I was wrong. The easiest was the middle and the hardest the last.

I also thought the sea looked flat calm. It wasn’t. There was enough of a swell to keep the swim exciting/interesting/terrifying.

My sighting was good and according to my GPS I swam the same-ish route on both laps.

I was confident of beating Andrew as I’d swam in the sea more often him and I assumed he’d probably be slightly cautious.

If you do race it then I’d advise:
– Try to start near the front as there’s a lot of people taking part
– The course is setup for the whole weekend so you can have a practice swim at any point.
– Practice sighting. The markers are quite far apart so use landmarks instead. I used the house from Grand Designs.
– Book somewhere to eat for afterwards as the town’s mobbed with hungry swimmers.

BIKE + RUN

Last night, I watched a program about people who swim the English channel. The pilot of a boat told one swimmer: “You need to be prepared.”

The swimmer replied “Prepared for what?”

“After doing this you’ll never be the same again!”

Which implies some life changing profoundness will be gained through completing the challenge but I’ve found that’s not always the case. I once had the same conversation as the swimmer and pilot with a friend of mine. He’d accepted my challenge to eat 12 Cadbury creme eggs in one sitting.

“After doing this you’ll never be the same again!”

He was never the same again. He used to love creme eggs but now can’t abide anything with caramel in it.

I don’t think I’ve learnt anything profound by completing race but I have learnt one lesson. I don’t like racing in the cold, rain and wind!

I wish I could tell you how I overcame the hellish weather, the problem with start times and the atrocious food stops at the Long Course Weekend Bike Race but I can’t. It was wet and miserable so I did one lap of the course. That was more than enough.

Instead of battling on we finished early. We used the free time to watch the movie “Central Intelligence” which was very enjoyable.

Some quick thoughts about the bike leg.

– There are no timing mats on the course until near the end of the lap. We should have done the big loop twice rather doing the small one and getting caught out by the cutoff time.
– The feedstops were pretty bad. No sport gels and the “energy drink” was diluted orange. I know this because a woman at one stop told me after I’d asked what it was.
– The course is roughly the same as Ironman Wales. This has a fearsome reputation but I didn’t find it that bad. There’s no long climbs just lots of short one. None of which required me to get out of my seat.

Thankfully the weather was a lot better on the Sunday. Andrew had won the bike leg so this was the decider. I was confident of victory having beaten him in most running races over the last few years. I was too confident.

I started off way to fast and bonked at mile 9. I thought I’d done enough to coast round ahead of him but I was wrong. He caught and passed me. I didn’t see again until the end. He was the deserved winner….this time!

Some quick thoughts about the run leg.
– Its a very undulating course. Don’t start off too fast and be prepared for some steady climbs.
– The food stops were fine for a half marathon but if i was doing the full I’d have preferred a better selection.
– The finish into Tenby is great. A big crowd cheering me on was a relief after the steep hill into Tenby.

Would I do the Long Course Weekend again? No but that’s not due to the race. Its a tricky location to get to due to all the driving from Scotland. Worth visiting once but never again!

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