I think it is fair to say that triathlon has really exploded onto the scene in Wales since 2011 and the introduction of the first Ironman Wales event. Since then the participation levels for triathlon and the number of events have sky rocketed. One of Wales’ most popular events is the Long Course Weekend (LCW) which normally takes place in early July, and serves as an excellent introduction to long distance triathlon. LCW is organised by Activity Wales Events who have built a great reputation for delivering swim/bike/run events to a very high standard. The event also positions itself well in Ironman Wales training plans, being two months prior to the big event in September. Held in Tenby, South West Wales, LCW mimics the swim and bike course of Ironman Wales (the run is a different route) so it is the perfect opportunity to recce the course in preparation. Tenby is well versed at hosting sporting events of this size, with surrounding villages and towns adding additional facilities.
2017 will be its 7th year and although tweaked over that time, it has remained largely the same with the swim held on Friday evening, the bike on Saturday and the run on Sunday. The local residents and businesses have really embraced the event with athletes getting discounts in many shops and restaurants across the weekend.
Originally set up to serve athletes wanting to compete in the distances offered by full distance triathlon, the event now offers shorter distances on each discipline which has made the LCW more accessible for all level of athletes. Activity Wales Events do promote each discipline as separate events which does appeal to those who do not normally partake in triathlon, the events are:
- Wales Swim
- Wales Sportive
- Wales Full & Half Marathon
For each of the swim, bike and run events you will receive a medal. However, those who have signed up for the LCW receive a 4th medal upon completion, which allows all medals to connect to make one substantial medal. The full LCW costs more than signing up for the events individually, however, this covers the cost of the additional medal, tee shirt and awards ceremony.
As mentioned, the swim takes place on the Friday evening on Tenby’s North Beach/harbour with the sun setting in the background. Many athletes will be staying in Tenby with the event within walking distance and easily accessible; street parking and car parks are available nearby for anyone travelling in. The swim event has two options; either one or two laps of the 1.2 mile course. At the end of lap 1 athletes will exit the water, run up the beach before either crossing the finish line for the half distance or re-entering the water for lap 2. As the event is a sea swim, it can be very dependent on the conditions. When the sea is choppy the event can be very challenging and I have seen many people choose to call it a day after the first lap.
There are three different distances for The Wales Sportive. The short distance of 45 miles, the mid of 66 miles, as well as the full distance course of 112 miles for the athletes who really want to push their limits. The event is held on open roads so riders do have to be mindful of sharing the road and obeying traffic laws. The route is well sign posted with marshals at key points on the course and well stocked aid stations. The 112 mile option is the same course as the Ironman Wales bike leg, with 1 big loop returning to Tenby, before setting off on a smaller second loop again returning to Tenby for the finish. Athletes on the 112 mile option set off in waves quite early on the Saturday morning, while the shorter courses take in elements of the 112 mile course and set off at later times. The first part of the 112 mile course takes you out to Pembroke/Angle, this section can be fast and athletes often push it not realising that the rest is very challenging with its hills. The hills are not mountainous but can be steep in parts and come thick and fast.
The run is held on the Sunday and has expanded its distances over the years. As well as offering a marathon and half marathon, there are also 5k and 10k options.) With a red carpet finish, and a packed Tenby town centre, the finish line is an unbelievable experience. All the run options are held on a closed road route but be warned – none are flat! The marathon starts in Tenby at the reasonable time of 10am and is an out and back loop. The half marathon starts at Pembroke Castle at 12pm and joins for the second 13.1 miles of the marathon. The marathon course is very challenging with one big climb during the first half and 4 decent climbs in the second half. The section down to Manorbier and back out again is brutal for both marathon and half marathon, but the views are spectacular. Feed and water stations are situated roughly every 5 miles along the route and are a welcome opportunity to take in fluid especially if the weather is warm.
Verdict: If you want a festival of swim, bike and run then the Long Course Weekend is for you. The whole event consisting of the three disciplines is well organised by Activity Wales Events. The LCW is often thought of a precursor to Ironman Wales but to be honest the event holds its own. Pembrokeshire, especially Tenby is extremely welcoming and the location is beautiful. I will definitely be returning.
The Long Course Weekend series has also been extended to events in Jervis Bay (Australia) and Mallorca (Spain) in recent years. Although a trip to Australia may be out of my budget, I would love to experience LCW Mallorca in the coming years.