Ironman Wales is nearly upon us and this is a good opportunity to share our experiences of the event, both as a spectator and as an athlete, so those supporting get the most out of their weekend.
Here is a snap shot of a typical spectator’s race day (which mostly consists of eating and drinking, with some supporting). We have also included some information on what Tenby can offer pre/post race day.
How to get the most out of race day
Get up early to watch the IM Wales Swim – situated on North Beach, the athletes meet near transition to walk through the town. Cheered by crowds of supporters, athletes make their way down the winding slopes to the beach. This is a fantastic sight for both athletes and supporters, and not one to be missed by sleeping late. Watch as up to 2000 athletes enter the water jousting for position, before setting off on a two lap course. Then the athletes exit the water, collect their trainers and run up the winding slopes toward the town, clocking an additional 1km to get to transition, IN A WETSUIT.
Relax, briefly, have some breakfast before heading off to support on the course – Tenby has many fine restaurants and cafes that cater extremely well for the Ironman weekend. Cafes in and around Upper Frog Street will happily serve you a breakfast to fuel you through a morning of supporting.
Walk or catch the shuttle bus to Saundersfoot – The walk over to Saundersfoot can take up to an hour (or you can catch the shuttle bus), but it is worth the journey. One of the highlights for both athletes and spectators is the bike climb at St Brides Hill, aka Heartbreak Hill. Resembling a scene from the Tour De France, athletes are encouraged up the hill with supporters inches away. Just remember your cow bells and cardboard motivational signs.
Time for Lunch – Saundersfoot has some excellent pubs but for the ultimate lunch time experience, it has to be fish and chips on the sea front. We recommend Marina Fish Bar.
Walk back towards Tenby, catching the end of the bike and first lap of the run in New Hedges – As you walk back to Tenby you pass New Hedges, where you see riders on their second lap of the bike, and witness the turnaround point for the run course. This is an excellent point to see athletes you are supporting at multiple times.
Venture back to Tenby to watch the run. The run course is 4 laps which take in the town centre. You can see athletes at multiple times if you find a good spot in a beer garden or a window seat in a pub. Perfect recovery for a tired supporter; just don’t forget to have your supper because the night is still young.
“You Are An Ironman” – Be sure to go and watch athletes cross the finish line. No doubt you will hear Paul Kaye as one of the announcers because he is a regular at Ironman Wales. Watching athletes finishing the race is a humbling experience, but be warned you will have a tear in your eye at some point. If you manage to stay up until 12am, you will be able to see the last few finishers cross the line, and I guarantee they will have the biggest cheer of the day.
Pre and Post race day
Visit the Expo at SixBells Car Park for all your Ironman merchandise needs – Be warned that stocks are limited so there isn’t any guarantees that the T-shirt you saw on Saturday will still be there on Sunday. Be careful, because it is too easy to get caught up in the Ironman hype and spend a small fortune.
Visit the Beach – Tenby is blessed with excellent beaches so make sure you visit other than on race day. North beach is where the Ironman swim course takes place, but South Beach and Castle Beach are worth a visit too. South Beach is made up of 2 miles of golden sand so plenty of space to stretch your legs.
Visit the Museum and Art Gallery – Supposedly the oldest museum in Wales, get some R&R pre/post race and take in the views from the picturesque location.
Eat some cockles at the harbour – The harbour offers some of the best local seafood, and a trip to the local fish mongers is a must.
Sample the many eateries and water holes – Tenby is not short of good pubs and restaurants/cafes, just ensure you aren’t hung-over for race day. For pre Ironman food, we suggest The Moorings, who will do an athlete friendly pasta dish the night before race day.
Watch or compete in the Saunderfoot Triathlon – The Saundersfoot Triathlon is a sprint tri the day before Ironman Wales, and ideal for anyone coming down to support. Some crazy folk have even been known to do both this tri and Ironman Wales. Be warned it is an 8am start!!!!
Support the IronKids events – IRONKIDS is a ‘run only’ event for up to 1,000 children aged 3-14 years, held in Tenby. It’s all about fun and healthy living with each child receiving a medal once they cross the finish line under the iconic IRONMAN finish gantry. This normally sells out months in advance.
Stay for longer than the weekend – Tenby and the wider Pembrokeshire is a spectacular setting, and there is plenty to do. Local businesses have really benefited from the introduction of Ironman into the area, but facilities and services go so much further than triathlon.