Ironman Wales 2018 Race Report by Nia Davies.
I hadn’t been nervous at all in the days leading up to the race. I just felt ready. I had done the training and now wanted to get it over with. David, my boyfriend and coach, kept telling me not to have a time in mind but I had worked out that I was capable of a 15 hour Ironman. I had even said to David that if everything went my way “best case scenario” I might sneak in under the 15 hour and he told me off and warned me that Ironman is a long day, no one knows what will happen and I should just enjoy it. I listened to him and realised he was right. I didn’t want to finish disappointed. So race day I would have been happy with anything between 15-17 hours.
Race morning came around quickly and eating breakfast of porridge and toast at 4am was surprisingly easy, I was expecting to have to force it down. Off to transition to check the bike. It was definitely an unique experience walking through the dark streets of Tenby with hundreds of other athletes, silenced by nerves. Everything was fine with the bike and DC and I found a quiet corner to change into our wetsuits. I must say that I think we had a very calming effect on each other and it was a good idea finding a quiet corner and getting out of the way of the hustle and bustle.
We bumped into my training partner, Bryanie, who was also doing her first Ironman and walked together to the swim start – separating to find our own swim start times. I stopped at the 1.15 sign having swum 1.17 at Tenby Long Course Weekend.
Being Welsh the anthem was emotional and nerves were really jangling by this point but soon we were off!
1st lap went perfectly – no punches or kicks or shoves from fellow athletes and no jellies! Sore shoulder but no problems – 35 min 1st lap. Delighted!
Back in for the 2nd lap and decided I needed to concentrate more on my sighting, I felt I had been slightly wide the 1st time and this is where the fun began. Punches, kicks – being pulled down by my legs and people just trying to swim straight over the top of me. One guy was trying to swim straight over the top of me, pulling my legs down with every stroke. This was a bit ridiculous as we were now thinned out on the second lap so I stopped and whacked him one as he passed!
Then worst still, at the 1st buoy I spotted the biggest jelly fish I’ve ever seen and along the top of the loop I was constantly swimming through them and felt like I was getting handfuls of jelly with each pull.
I absolutely hate jellyfish. I don’t know why but as soon as I see one I panic and have to get out of the sea as soon as possible. Obviously I couldn’t do this today and managed to somehow control the panic and keep going.
Out of the water soon enough and saw 1.14 on the watch! 3 min PB. A good start to the day.
Running up the zig zag and through tenby with the pink bag to transition feeling like a celebrity. My name was being shouted from all directions I couldn’t stop smiling. Realised I was probably running way too fast and told myself to take it easy.
Into transition and who do I see but Bryanie. Few words – both happy with our swims. Bryanie asked me: “do you want me to wait for you?” “No no, you go!” Off she went. 2 pancakes (Aldi lemon and raisin to be specific) shoved in the gob and away! They didn’t taste as good as usual with my mouth so dry and salty after over an hour in the sea.
I knew there would be a headwind on the first part of the course to Angle. I just kept my head down, didn’t want to push too hard too early and tried to eat as much as I could but I felt really full. Loads of my friends from my triathlon club West Coast Triathlon passed me with words of encouragement. I was happy with how the day had started.
Soon I had the company of the television camera who were following me, David, my friend Mel and a few other Welsh speakers throughout the day for S4C. They were by my side from Castlemartin to Angle. Tried to go down to the TT bars to “look good” for the camera but the wind was causing a few wobbles especially on the way down to Freshwater and I spent too much time on the hoods and being extra cautious after witnessing a few accidents early on. I witnessed someone go into a corner too fast, break, skid and go straight into a wall. Probably less than 10miles into the bike their day was over. I kept my head down and was cautious, maybe overly, but there was a long way ahead. At least chatting to the cameraman was a distraction in this part. He asked how far ahead David was. I replied “very”. No time for maths.
Good support in Pembroke and at the turn around point I spotted Mel and Sally behind me. I expected to see Mel pass me any minute knowing she is a stronger cyclist than I am and often looked over my shoulder looking for a friendly face.
Glad to see Lamphey and the wind now giving a helpful push. This part of the course went quickly and seeing the David’s family in Templeton, my parents and lots of WCT in Narberth and my sister along with endless friends in Saundersfoot was the highlight of the bike course. Being light I always pass people on the hills but with the crowds too it was definitely hard no to show off too much! I definitely enjoyed this part.
Happy to get back to Tenby and see 15.6mph avg on my Garmin. The fastest I’d ever done the 1st 70 miles.
For those who don’t know the section between Tenby and Lamphey that is then usually a flat section where you can further boost up your average before arriving at the hills again where it would undoubtably drop but that day it wasn’t meant to be. The headwind had picked up again and it was so demoralising to watch the average drop. I think I was down to 15.2mph by Lamphey and I knew that overall my avg speed would end up below 15mph which had been my target.
After showing off in the hills I lost the men that had previously been keeping me company and was now alone. Because of the winds I wasn’t eating much because I was too nervous to take my hands off the handlebars too much. I was telling myself – “Nia you’re fucking this up!”. Lonely now and lots of negative thoughts at this point. Kept looking over my shoulder for Mel, desperate for some company. Up to Narberth and told my parents “dwi di blino” (Welsh for “I’m tired.”) Considered walking Wisemans before telling myself to get a bloody grip. Crowds were now gone. Up Wisemans and Saundersfoot but no familiar faces this time and crowds much quieter.
How am I going to run a marathon? I hadn’t unclipped once on the bike and I was seriously concerned that my legs wouldn’t hold me once I’d got off the bike.
Back to Tenby and as soon as I was coming down New Hedges saw DC running up it. Breaking on the bit I should have been picking up speed so I could have a good look at him! He looked happy and I was so pleased it was going well for him! I definitely missed spectating him on the day. My sister was also on the hill and spirits lifed further. Into town and Roger (David’s Dad) told me Bryanie was 1 min ahead. Great. Some company.
Into t2 – no sign of Bryanie (our pegs were right next to each other) I thought she must be out on the run already. I sat down to change socks and into treyners and who appears still in her helmet – Bryanie. 1st thing she asks “can we run together?!” “OMG yes please”!!
Off we went out of t2. Wow! The cheers were incredible. Both Bryanie and I had discussed before hand how we’d run the marathon by our heartrate. Keeping it in z2 which meant about 10-10.30 min/miles. I laughed so much when few minutes into the run Bryanie said “Nia just to let you know we are doing 7.30 min/miles” 😂🙈 oops. Forced ourselves to slow down. Plan was to walk every feed station which we did. Water and crisps every station for me, with the odd cola. Bryanie was feeling a bit sick so was sticking to the water. I also carried lucozade, sweets and gels. I had 8 gels with me and the boys at the feed stations took the piss – “want a gel love?”🖕🏽Gel every 4 miles with the crisps worked well.
First two laps passed quickly. Ran it all apart from feed stations. Support was immense. Saw David who was on his last lap and another TV interview was a distraction.
Leaving town for the 3rd lap I went over to high5 friends, suddenly one of them grabbed my hand.. I hadn’t noticed David was there too – delighted to see him as was expecting him to go back to shower before supporting. I love the photos of this moment!
For the last 2 laps we adopted a 30 second walk 30 second run for the uphills whilst running the down hills and the flats around town. It worked well. Saw my parents at the top of New Hedges and my sister was at the junction. She even ran (by now it was more of a shuffle) a part with us which again was a nice distraction especially as it was getting darker at this point and the crowds on the hill, thinner.
I can honestly say I enjoyed every moment on the run (funny how much your mood can change from the low on the end of the bike to this!) From seeing so many family, friends and the many randomers (some getting more and more drunk with every lap!!) supporting. I really appreciated the support. I’ve been a spectator and appreciate what a long day it is. I’m lucky that I’m usually spectating David and as he is so quick my days are never as long as the one my supporters were currently experiencing. I lapped it all up, smiling, waving, high fiving. I wanted to take it all in. My first ever Ironman and here I was, doing it. I knew as long as I kept putting one foot in front of the other I would soon be crossing the line.
It was lush too passing fellow athletes. Some teasing us me and Bryanie for being “inseparable” as we’d done a lot of training together and now doing a full Ironman marathon together. It was a morale booster to see the friendly faces knowing they knew exactly what you were going through as they were going through it too.
Soon we were “sprinting” (felt like it but in reality about 10min/mile) through town and to the red carpet. I grabbed Bryanie’s hand as we flew down the red carpet. We heard the famous words over the mic..
“Nicky and Bryan – you are an ironman” 😂😂😂 great!
We hugged, so happy to finish! Bryanie has been a huge part of my Ironman journey – from talking each other into entering to all the training together this was a great ending. I’m sure we’d had a bit more support on the run with being two girls together – “go girls”, “go blondies” we’d definitely got plenty of support from the crowds!!
More camera time before finding DC in the crowds – what was my time?! I’d forgotten to look and forgotten to stop my watch too! 14.16! Way quicker than I’d ever dreamed of. DC had broken his PB too with a 10.26 so a good day all round and all our hard work had paid off!
What a day and what a feeling. I slayed the dragon. I am an Ironman.