Long Course Weekend: Swim

The last swimmers at the Long Course Weekend 2016

This weekend, Stuart and I headed off to Tenby for the Long Course Weekend with a couple of friends, Roelie and Sergio.

Originally, I intended to train for the full weekend as a precursor to doing my first Ironman next year. I’ve swum the distance before and have completed 5 marathons, but I’ve only cycled 100 miles (rather than 112 miles)… And I’ve not done it all back-to-back!

Anyway, as I’m 6.5 months pregnant, I’ve dropped my distances down to 1.9k; 45 miles and 10k whereas Stu is doing the whole event.

We arrived just after 3pm, so headed for a car park in town to go straight to registration. As we were entering the car park, I spotted former LRR Kelly and her husband, Ed.

The registration hall was quite busy and very hot. As I was in the queue, I spotted Roelie, so we agreed to meet up after we had finished registering. Roelie has also decided to do the 10k run, so she went to buy a coach ticket. I didn’t realise that I needed to buy one, so it was fortunate that we bumped into her.

Stuart pointed out that we ought to eat before the swim, so we went to a nearby bar and ordered some pizzas. I can’t eat nearly as much as I used to, so after I’d had half of it, I felt completely full.

Just as we left the bar, we spotted Sergio running down the street. We called him over and the 4 of us agreed to meet outside our hotel at 5:30pm.

Roelie led the three of us down a shortcut to the beach. It was quite a precarious zig-zag trail, so I was glad I had proper shoes on!

Tenby
(c) Roelie Hempel
Tenby
(c) Roelie Hempel
Tenby
(c) Roelie Hempel

On the beach, we saw our first jellyfish of the day – a large barrel jellyfish. There has been a lot of talk online about how many would be around, but they don’t bother me as much as they used to.

I was a little nervous about the swim as the water temperature was said to be 14.5C and I don’t cope well with cold water. Also, I’ve had a bad cold this week, so I was worried that the temperature would set off my asthma and I would have to withdraw.

After we handed out bags in, we went down to the beach. We had expected to have 15 minutes for acclimatisation, but they were already telling people to head towards the start pen. As I was getting my goggles on, Stu said hello to Gemma Marshall. Gemma used to train with LRR and STC and is a fantastic all-around athlete.

Fortunately, the temperature of the water didn’t feel that bad in the acclimatisation swim, which gave me a bit of confidence. Also, the sea looked calm, which was good as I’ve only swim 1.2k in open water so far this year.

There were huge crowds on the cliffs and beach and a massive sound system, which created a party atmosphere. We had to wait in the start pen for over 20 minutes, which was a little nerve-wracking. I chatted to some other women at the back of the pen, although it’s hard to have a conversation when you have earplugs in and it’s very noisy!

The gun sounded and fireworks went off. For safety reasons, I started at the very back. This was a wise decision as Roelie, who started mid-pack, said it was one of the roughest swims she has done in terms of being swum over and hit by other competitors.

I think my sighting to the first buoy was good – I noticed that most swimmers at the back were hugging the shoreline, which must have added distance and was also choppier. A few people were a bit disoriented and we’re heading straight for me, so a kayaker had to redirect them!

Unfortunately, there were a lot of boats in the bay and so on my way to the second buoy, I had to ask a kayaker to point it out to me – I turned out to be hidden behind a lifeboat.

After rounding the second buoy, the sea got much choppier and it seemed to take an eternity to reach the third buoy. It was also a lot busier. By the time I entered the water, the fastest swimmers were halfway to the second buoy, so they started passing me. Stu saw me on this section, but I was focusing on ‘Just keep swimming’ as there was a 1 hour cut off.
Despite the enormous barrel jellyfish we saw on the beach when we arrived, I only saw a couple and 2-3 smaller (moon?) jellyfish. Everyone had said there were lots of jellyfish around, but it was a little overcast, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t see more.

I hadn’t realised that the timing was gun to chip, so my official finish time was 1:10… Starting at the back of 2000+ swimmers means a long wait. My Garmin said 1:01. I was a little disappointed not to have finished in under an hour, but I need to be kinder to myself at the moment.

LCW swim 1 LCW swim 2 LCW swim 3

Stu was waiting for me at the finish. His official time was 1:03, so he was interviewed by the TV crew as he finished with the elites.

Sadly, I don’t think Stu has realised just how well he did. He was in the top 10 finishers doing the full Long Course Weekend, so was meant to have a time trial start from a ramp for the bike leg at 8am. He was totally unaware of this as he set off for his 7:30am mass start. I hope that somehow someone told him! As for me, I have until 12:45 to wait for my bike leg.


The medals that finishers get are quite impressive. Gemma Marshall shared a fantastic photo of her medal – I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing it here:

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