The story of a true Ironman!

The dust has settled and the pain is starting to fade, Mark Thomas, Construction Manager at Waterstone Homes, part of the Jehu Group tells us about his Ironman challenge, and believe me it was a challenge.

For the past 12 months Mark, 40, has been training intensely for his second Ironman Wales competition, for those of you who are novices to the world of Ironman, this global competition certainly lives up to its name. The race starts on Tenby’s beautiful North Beach which provides one of the most spectacular swim locations on the race circuit. Mark begins his race here with a 2.4mile swim which consists of two laps of the course. The transition area is on the opposite side of the town so requires the athletes to run up the North Beach path to road level and then a further 1,000m to Transition 1.

Mark commented, “The swim is my second-best discipline behind the bike so I was feeling relatively confident at the start line as conditions were good. The 1st lap went well with a split time of 33 mins, so my target time of 1:05 was on the cards if I could only up the pace slightly for the 2nd lap. However, it wasn’t to be, with conditions taking a real turn for the worse with a big Easterly swell coming in, it got tough going with many athletes getting pulled out by the lifeguards! In the end, I managed a 1h12min so very happy considering the conditions”.

At Transition 1 this is where Mark puts on his bike helmet and mounts his bike ready for a gruelling 112mile ride. The bike course takes athletes through the scenic countryside of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and passes numerous castles and iconic landmarks. Regarded by many as the toughest bike route on the Ironman calendar, it was never going to be an easy ride.

Mark said, “My transition from the swim to the bike went very smoothly and at this point I was pretty much on track. It was around mile 63 when the accident happened, there had been a diesel spill on the road which I got caught up in and crashed my bike. I came skidding off my bike tearing up my right glute and elbow and damaging my derailleur, this is the mechanism that enables you to change gears.

I waited for a medic and mechanic to arrive but sadly they didn’t come so I set about fixing my bike, which took around 1hr 20mins, I had to cycle the rest of the course (49 miles) on one gear. That was tough! The Tenby course comes joint with Lanzarote, Spain for its toughness. Had to dig deep to get through that.”

After 7hrs 45mins Mark completed the bike leg, at Transition 2, Mark dismounted his bike, placed it on the bike rack, removed his helmet and slipped on his trainers for the run. All that stood between him and becoming a double Ironman was a gruelling 26.2 mile run.

Mark commented, “You’d probably think I should be saying that the Marathon was tough but after that punishing bike ride stuck in a big gear there was no comparison. I just had to run 26 miles and that was it! I completed the whole competition in 14hrs 30mins compared to last year when I finished in 13hrs 5mins.

I had a target of sub 12hrs so as you can imagine it was a little disappointing at the time. After the race, it came to light that the course had been sabotaged by a local famer, so upon reflection, I’m pretty proud to have got the finish line.”

Mark’s plans for the future he said, “I will continue my 7 day training regime where I train intensely for 3 weeks, with an adaption period during week 4 which gives the body time to recover before starting again. I’ve entered the Marbella 70.3 Ironman in April and this training will continue to prepare me for Ironman Wales 2018, where I have a score to settle!”