My Ironman Wales Journey

The swim

I suppose I am writing this race report to inspire the newer club members or members that think the race is too hard.

For those that don’t know me, my passion for endurance racing came from completing my first marathon.  After finishing I said to a friend who shall remain nameless, who I blame for starting this journey (Kelli Cawfield – opps) “What shall we do now”, to which she replied, “A triathlon club swim in Pontardawe on a Friday night shall we join and give a triathlon a go?”

Neither of us could swim properly and I hadn’t been on a bike for over 20 years!!!  So, we attended sessions and improved our swim technique, learning to put our face in the water (lol).  I bought an entry level bike, of which I was terrified, it controlled me not the other way around and our journey began.

Our first event was entered Swansea Sprint Tri, we loved it and decided why not go straight in for a full Ironman!  Ironman Wales I decided was beyond me and so we entered Ironman UK, to be my one and only full distance.

BUT the dragon kept calling……  so, one day I hit the register button by mistake and IMW 2020 was entered.  Enter stage left Covid 19.  With hindsight, this did me huge favours and after an additional 2 years of training I had decided this race was do-able for me on paper if the conditions were right!

Race morning – weather forecast had not been great, so I wake up and thankfully hear no rain on the caravan roof.  I nervously eat my breakfast and head out to meet Rachel who was mad enough to volunteer to walk me to T1 race morning (I think this may have been to make sure I got there!) and I am not liking the wind!! 

I get to North Beach, the idyllic pan flat sea that’s normally there was no more, all I could see was waves and chop!  That’s it I think, race over, I’m not going in.  I hate open water swimming at the best of times.  I’m going to die if I get in there!!  Thankfully I see a lot of familiar faces, who bring me to my senses, and I figure a DNF is better than a DNS!  So big girls’ pants were on and to the words of Thunderstruck we were off….

Well, the only way I can describe it is being like a rag doll in a washing machine on spin cycle, I was chucked around but kept thinking just get around one loop without dying!!  I reach the beach and Sam in there shouting my name, I look at my watch and I’m at 40mins, a PB, as I re-enter Sian is there shouting out my name and it spurs me on and in I go for round 2, telling myself I did it once I can do it again!

Finishing that swim was huge for me and in a PB time of 1:20.  Running to T1 taking in the amazing crowds and cheers, no words can describe, but I told myself I had earned my bling on the swim and no way was this bike course going to beat me!

The headwind on the bike was a battle and the return from Angle where you can normally make some time up was a battle, but overall I was good on time, which was great for some PMA.  The hills kept coming and I kept fighting drawing energy from the crowds.  Narberth climb tackled and the dread that was Wisemans loomed heavy.  It felt hard but having complete strangers yelling out encouragement and telling you to keep going and that you were nearly there, inspired and pushed you.  Heartbreak hill next and the crowds from the bottom to the top, WOW.  Having your name called through a loud haler (Sian) certainly makes you peddle faster.  The encouragement from the crowd being a female rider when you are passing the men, pushing you even harder.  Back into Tenby and only the worst part left to go again!  That’s when the monsoon rain hit and was unforgiving for hours.  I saw many a crash at the bottom of a descent and a few ambulances.  I checked my time and I was good, so slowed right down, I was here to complete not compete!

Reaching the top of Heartbreak for the second time, was the moment for me, sounds silly now, that I knew the race was mine.  No 26.2 miles would stop me, downhill stretch on the bike and red carpet here I come.

Heading out on the run was huge for me, as it’s the bit I didn’t think I would make.  Seeing fellow athletes out in club colours around the course was fantastic and friends all dotted around the course shouting you on give you then much needed boost to keep running, especially those boozy nuns!

The rest is history!! What a day and what a memory.  I always said it was a one time tick box succeed or fail, but it was amazing and I can hear it calling again – just not next year – I need a year off full distance.

So for anyone out there with doubts, if I can do it #anythingispossible.  Dream big, reach for those goals #dreambelieveachieve

Kelly Griffiths, Ironman Wales finisher 2022







Ironman Wales 2022 – Kelly Griffiths