Our training diary candidates and ironman virgins have now completed their challenge, Ironman Wales. The trio can all now claim to be a part of that elite club of ironmen and they’ve graduated to the heroes and challenges section of this magazine! Not bad for a group of guys who between then have destroyed knees, couldn’t swim and hate running.

Words & Pictures: Anthony Pease

Richard Manning 47, richard manning

Richard is a design engineer living in Llandeilo, South Wales.

The two months leading up to Ironman saw my fitness slide due to various factors. I didn’t dare go running in case I exacerbated a couple of injuries and that led to a 1-stone weight gain (and I’m guessing none of that was muscle).

I always knew running was my weakness so I’d planned on giving myself enough time from the swim and cycle to walk if needed.

My “plan” was to aim for a 90-minute swim, a 7-hour bike and leave 8 hours for the marathon – also allowing 15 minutes for transition. I arrived in Tenby on Saturday morning and walked up to register, drop off my bags and leave my bike.

Once that was done I was surprised how relaxed I was – all the planning and faffing was done now. I even made it into Fecci’s for a banana split – now that’s carb loading at its best. I slept in my van and surprisingly, had a good couple of hours sleep but before I knew it the alarm was waking me at 04:30.

I’d planned a big breakfast of porridge, bananas and malt loaf but I ended up drinking a coffee and nibbling a few biscuits. It was soon into the wetsuit for the walk to the beach… The swim went OK I guess.

The swell was far bigger than expected (some estimate around 6-foot) and I saw/heard a few people losing their breakfast on the first loop. I came out of the water after that loop and my watch said 45 minutes – so I was bang on schedule. Ironman Wales 15 (27 of 32)

The second loop was done in a very similar time so I wobbled up the beach and headed to transition on plan. I’d come to Ironman from a cycling background so I wasn’t overly concerned about the ride. On the day though I really struggled and kept running out of gears on most of the hills.

In the end I finished in around 7 hour and 30 minutes, so it wasn’t too far off my estimate. It would have probably been quite a bit slower if it wasn’t for the amazing crowds that lined much of the route. Heartbreak Hill is probably the best-known section but all round there were encouraging shouts and applause.

So, it was just a marathon left to do. At least I knew I’d get a PB, as I’d never done one before! To be honest it was a bit of a painful blur of Pretzels, Coke and Paracetamol but I slowly filled my arm with the four coloured bands that meant I was on my last run back into Tenby to the finish.

On the start of the run back, I was caught up by Huw’s brotherin- law Neil, we jogged back down the hill together and decided to keep each other company until the end. We did walk a bit through town so that we could manage a run along the red carpet to the finish. How long is that finish?

I started running as the road turns onto the seafront and was quite wobbly by the time my feet felt the carpet under them. Eventually I made it across the line and was declared an ironman. I wandered off into the recovery tent and was immediately hit by the smell of pizza – the best pizza I have ever tasted!

It all felt a bit of an anti-climax after that – collect your bags, get your bike and hobble back to the van – which was on the other side of town. Writing this a few weeks after the event I’m really pleased I signed up and completed it.

My biggest fear was that an injury might come back and mean I’d have to retire from the event. I knew that if that happened I’d want another go next year. Now I’ll never have to do this again!

Lots of people have told me that I’ll be back, and that it’s addictive, but I really don’t want to do another one. I don’t like running. I’ve learnt to swim freestyle and I will continue to get in the sea whenever the opportunity arises. There are loads of challenging events out there and I’ll pick something different next year.

Colin Barrett 43 colin

Colin is a peripatetic brass instrument teacher for Pembrokeshire Music Service

Just over nine months of training and here it was, the Ironman Wales weekend. After sleepless nights about my transition bags and ensuring I had everything I needed to get me through I found myself on North Beach around 06.30.

Due to a rolling start I eventually got in the water and started my race about 07.10. The swim was tough for me to say the least. Big rolling waves made sighting difficult and I swallowed my fair share of water. However, I came out in 1 hour 51 minutes and made my way across town to T1.

This took 13 minutes and then before I knew it I was away on my bike. I knew I had to keep it steady or I would blow up way too soon and not be in a good place for the run. I managed to overtake a lot of people who were obviously better swimmers but not so strong on the bike.

This gave me a real boost and confidence that I would claw back some time from an awful swim. I eventually finished the bike in 6 hours and 56 minutes which was longer than I wanted but the swim did take it out of me. T2 was 9 minutes and then I was out on the roads trying to put one foot in front of the other.

The crowds were incredible and I was soon feeling comfortable and confident that I would actually complete this little challenge! Being a teacher in the area, a member of the Tenby Aces and living in the town, gave me the best possible support ever.

Smiling most of the way round the four 10km laps I eventually crossed the finish line in a time of 14 hours and 32 minutes. I had done it and now joined an elite club of athletes called ironmen. Was it all worth it and would I do it again? Hell, yes.

Huw Benbow 41, huw

Huw is deputy headteacher of Cleddau Reach Cc Prmary school.

It’s a few weeks since Ironman Wales and to be honest, it all feels like an out of body experience now. I managed to get to the start line reasonably unscathed which was a miracle in itself. The swim was pretty lumpy.

It felt like we were swimming uphill at times! The decision to stagger the start was helpful as it allowed me to get started in relatively clear water. I was glad to leave the water 1 hour and 20 minutes later without feeling sick and ready to roll.

The bike ride was windy but of course over pretty familiar ground for me – Saundersfoot was as close to the feeling of riding a Grand Tour that I will ever get!

Returning to Tenby, just after 16.00 I knew that the next few hours would be soul searching to say the least. Lap 1 was the worst; 4 miles in and my legs were buckling.

Seeing my family back in the town at the end of lap 1 did give me a real wake up call and from there on I improved. It wasn’t pretty mind you, a mixture of knuckle dragging running and guilty walking. But at about 22.10 I made the left turn onto the esplanade and the red carpet. The relief on my face in the finisher pics says it all – I was an ironman!

I loved the day… it was incredible in so many ways. I’ve got back on the bike, done a bit of running and even been in the sea a couple of times since. The one question that everyone asks is “will you do it again?”

At the moment I answer… maybe!