Ironman Wales : 10th September 2017
4.45 on a very cold quiet and overcast morning, deep in the Welsh hills, the 3 Sittingbourne Striders; Joseph Lovelock (Captain) David Valenti and Jacob Beaney gathered with trepidation and cautious excitement at the challenge that faced them. They were about to take on the mighty Dragon of Ironman Cymru. An arduous course of a 2.4 mile swim in the Irish Sea, a 112 mile Cycle over the Pembrokeshire hills and a Marathon run to finish the day. The Tenby Trio eagerly set off to the start line with 2000 other competitors. As a ray of sun broke through the clouds the rolling start of the swim began and they were off. Little did they know that was the last time they would see the sunshine. 2 laps of a 1.2 mile swim in the sea saw a good start for the 3 Striders with their first lap all being completed in just over 35 minutes. The winds picked up and the sea got rough but could only slow the three down marginally, all three of them leaving the water within a minute of each other at the 1 hour 15 mark. What followed was a 1 km run into the transition areas to get ready for the next leg of the journey.
112 miles through 8000ft of ascent on the hills was always going to be tough but the weather made it punishing. The athletes were battered with 45 mph winds gusting higher with horizontal rain coming in from all angles. The ascents were steep and lengthy and the descents were littered with slow signs due to the rain. Valenti made good progress storming up the hills and maintaining a high average speed, pulling away from the other two. The weather was relentless even wreaking havoc with the Ironman Trackers, reportedly the worst conditions that Ironman Tenby had seen. Lovelock was with Beaney from the word go until another competitor caused a crash that took out his gears. With 35 miles to go and only 1 gear to choose from the rest of the ride just got harder for Joseph Lovelock. The Captain had to dig deep in his fight against the Ironman, but his will would not be broken.
The medieval town walls and picturesque beachfront provided an impressive back drop for the final push of the day, the Marathon. With nearly 3000ft of ascent the run was a spectacle by its own right. 4 laps of the town, running through the cobbled streets to the applause of people cheering the competitors on from every road side, street corner and pub doorway. The fans were wild with excitement creating an incredible atmosphere that spurred on the entire Ironman community. Even when darkness fell the noise and the cheer and the Ironman party continued, willing the participants to the finish. The marathon proved to be Valentis best event, completing a 4 hour 12 run; with Beaney and Lovelock coming in at 4.50 and 4.52 respectively. Ironman Cymru is considered one of the toughest Ironman race sin the series made harder by the fierce weather. The challenge that the 3 Striders faced was demanding emotionally, mentally and physically and will be one to remember for years to come. Walls were run through and barriers brushed aside, the three let nothing stand in their way on the road to glory. They even had the energy to smile for the finisher’s photo.