Tri Training Harder's Course Review of IRONMAN Wales 2017

You have stepped up to a significant challenge in what many say is the toughest IRONMAN course of them all. We have put together this course review to give athletes detailed insight into the course so that they arrive fully prepared and ready for the big day.


IRONMAN Wales is hosted by Pembrokeshire and based in the seaside town of Tenby. Although it is a long drive for the majority of participants coming from the rest of Britain, it is well worth it. The scenery is totally unspoilt and what a good excuse to see a part of the British Isles you might not have ventured to otherwise.


Tenby has a range of B&B's and small hotels as well as many campsites in the local area, all very reasonably priced. We would advise staying in or close to Tenby, as this is the location of the swim start, race HQ, T1 and T2 and the finish.


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The swim course at Wales is one worth recceing. The beach has a shallow gradient and as such is one where competitors can make a great deal of progress off the start line hurdling over the shallows and dolphin dipping/diving as it gets a little deeper. Good sighting is paramount over this course as there will be waves, wind and current to contend with. The first leg heading to the left of the beach as you look out to sea doesn't have many landmarks in the background so regular sighting to the buoys will be vital. The second leg is much easier as you have the harbour, headland and very handily the old and new lifeboat houses to site from depending on the exact location of the buoy. This leg also usually benefits from a little assistance by the local currents and it also happens to be the longest stretch. The last leg into the beach keeping to the left of Goscar Rock is by far the easiest to navigate as the houses atop the cliffs make for easy reference points.

The swim comes in on the near side of Goscar Rock from this point of view, houses on cliff top useful for sighting.
On the morning of the race the beach turns into a natural amphitheatre the cliffs make the swim feel as if it is in a bowl and the crowds lining the top beach road make you feel like an athlete centre stage in a stadium. Enjoy the atmosphere!

Cut off: Athletes have 2hrs 20 to complete the swim course and an further 10 minutes to exit transition on the bike.


Important! At IRONMAN Wales, there is an extra "Shoe Bag" at the swim exit so that you can run up to T1 (1km) without hurting your feet. In here, have some trainers that are easy to slip on and off and perhaps some arm warmers for the bike so that you can put these on as you go. Please note that these trainers are separate to your trainers to complete the marathon in, you will need to bring TWO pairs in total.

Once you have made it to T1 you will find your own numbered BLUE bag (given to you at registration) in which you could have the following:

-Race belt with number attached*
-Bike Shoes (if not already mounted on pedals)
-Talc for your bike shoes to soak up any excess moisture
-Small towel
-Nutrition for the bike (if not already attached to bike or in drinks bottles)
-Spare water for rinsing your mouth out after the swim
-Socks (if used)
-Warm layers


Your wetsuit and any other swim kit that you are finished with is to be put in this bag and passed to a volunteer to be re-hung.


The bike is split into three sections, as seen below in this elevation map. The first section "The Angle/Pembroke Peninsular Loop" in blue, followed by the "Narbeth" loop in green which is repeated on the third loop.

The Angle/Pembroke Peninsular Loop

Within the first kilometres of the bike there is a small rise just after the popular Kiln Park holiday site, but nothing too much to worry about. The first proper climb doesn't come until you have got all the way to Pembroke and the drag out of there takes you up onto the peninsula to Angle. There are some technical sections around St Petrox and down through Coldwell Wood, these are well worth checking out before the race. Take extra care at Castlemartin as you go past the Army base for the cattle grids as these will not be covered - free wheel over them.

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Sharp Corners indicated by Red, Descents in Yellow and the climb out of Pembroke in Blue.

Take care on the single track road going into and coming out of Angle, don't risk overtaking here-  wait for the wide roads to Pembroke for that. The first aid station at Angle (40k) is at the bottom of a narrow descent so again, this is something worth checking out before race day.

Once in Pembroke itself the support here is good and you are nearing the completion of this section of the course for the last time. Once you pass through Lamphey you turn left onto the next loop (blue on the elevation map above) that you will do again later on, and here is the second aid station at 60k.

Narbeth loop

The next section is lumpy but as a reward at the end of it you get a great view of Carew Castle as you cross the bridge over the river here again there is some excellent support here. The good news is you are now climbing all the way to Narberth and beyond to Princes Gate which is the highest point on the course. Even better news is that it is split up with flat bits and short sharp relieving descents along the way.  Usually there is stellar support at Narberth too which is great as your legs are starting to feel it!

Supporters base at Wiseman's Bridge
Once you are through Narberth you are over half way and once to the top of the course at Princes Gate it is downhill, yes downhill all the way down to the coast through Summerhill and into Wisemans Bridge. Again more support here from alongside the beach inn and again a section well worth recceing before the race.

You will turn inland after 105k having done roughly 15k of downhill and see something like the sign below. Fear not this is just a sign to help feeble motorists - you are an Ironman in the making!

Once over the top of this climb is a technical descent under trees which can be slippy when wet, again this part of the course is worth being familiar with. The great news is that once down here you are into Saundersfoot you will drop at speed into town and through some more excellent support.

The aid station at the top of this climb (New Hedges) signals the end of the work for this lap and indeed the end of the bike course after the shorter second lap, all that is left is a fast simple descent down into Tenby when you whistle through on the first lap you can look forward to shouts from friends and family.  Coming down the hill into Tenby be aware you are going to turn right at the roundabout to head out on the second lap of the Narbeth Loop and do not follow an athlete in front who has finished the bike and turns left towards transition. This lap goes back out to Lamphey but turns immediately right to what was the second aid station on Lap 1 without going out to Angle and back. There isn't much to say about this section apart from here is where you will find out how well you paced the first lap, especially during those last couple of drags up to Narberth.

In summary it is a course where conserving your effort for later on in the ride will reap rewards.

Cut off: 10hrs 30 minutes after the start of the race


In Wales the weather can be changeable so the arm warmers you may have had on during the bike, can be kept on and if not desired perhaps they can be tucked into and looped over your number belt a couple of times to secure them.


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Run Special Needs - Useful access points for support at red circles.
The run consists of 4 laps of just over 10km each, with each one heading uphill out of town, looping round and then an easy downhill section back into town. It is well worth enjoying the flat section out of T2 as it won't last long. Focussing on the positives of the run and your technique will pay dividends on this course. The more efficient you can be early on with this course the better given the lack of flat sections. The run in and around town is fantastic with good crowds and enthusiastic ones at that. The special needs assistance for the course is down by the harbour where supporters can hand up anything required for the run.

In summary, this is a hard course, but it also has an excellent atmosphere and support from the crowds throughout the day from the moment you leave your accommodation to walk to transition at dawn to the moment you cross the finish line and beyond. A lot of time can be gained by knowing the bike course well and we hope you can proudly look forward to the looks on fellow athletes faces when you tell them you have tamed Ironman Wales.


Our top tips for having the best experience at IRONMAN® Wales as a spectator:

Parking in Tenby is limited and is full early on race day morning.  We would reccommend using the Park & Ride service based at Carew Airfield to drop the car and then it costs a few pounds for a day ticket to get you into Tenby, on to Saundersfoot if you wish, back to Tenby and then to Carew at the end of the day.  Athletes travel free.

1) Where is best to spectate for the swim? 

For the swim from the cliff top above the beach is fantastic to have an almost birds eye view of the swim. A small number of spectators will be able to get onto the beach depending on the tide but the swimmers will soon become specs in the sea. Make sure to get here once your athlete has gone into transition to get a place near the front.

2) Where is best to spectate on the bike? 

The easiest place to get to is the bottom of the hill as athletes pass by the petrol station on there way out onto lap two. But here the athletes will be travelling at high speed and it will be a blink and you miss them experience. It may be better to walk along the road a little towards the Kiln Park climb where athlete will be travelling a lot slower. Either that or the short trip to the Saundersfoot climb which has a party atmosphere with the crowds parting as the riders climb. We would reccommend using the park and ride to get there.

3) Where to spectate on the run?

Anywhere in Tenby is great and the crowds will be deep in most places. For the athletes benefit though some spectators out on the climb out of town are always welcome! You will be able to see athletes coming in on the bike and also going out on the first lap of the run. So this is a great place to start spectating the run and then gradually progress into town to see your athlete finish.

Gear and Equipment


This will be a wetsuit swim, so make sure you have one that is well fitted and that you have tried beforehand (walking around like a lemon in your living room doesn't count, get in a lake or the sea).

Take a couple of spare swim caps with you - these could be very useful extra head warmth on the day underneath the one you will be given.


This is a relatively hilly course. For IRONMAN® Wales due to the short, sharp nature of some of the climbs, a compact gear set up would be advisable for the majority of athletes. However, if you don't have a compact chainset then a 28 tooth rear cassette should be enough to prevent most riders from churning a gear that is too big. 

We would recommend front wheels with sections less than 50mm due to some exposed sections on the bike course. 

Make sure you have enough bottle cages for your nutrition plan and have got your bike fully serviced or at least well cleaned, lubricated and checked (especially tyres and brakes) at least a week before the race so that you can ride with confidence without putting yourself (or anyone else riding near you) in danger.

Ipods, MP3 players or similar are not permitted, and your race number must be worn on your back and clearly visible.


The terrain is tarmac for the majority, making lightweight trainers the obvious choice. Make sure trainers are well worn-in pre race, the last thing you want are blisters on the run leg! Remember, Ipods, MP3 players or similar are not permitted on the course. Your race number must be worn on your front, visible for photographers and marshals to see.


All your hard work and dedication in the lead up to this will be 100% wasted without a viable nutrition plan on race day! For a more in-depth look at how you could tackle your nutrition plan for the race, click here.

Bike Course Feed Stations:

These will be found at 38km (Angle), 59km (Lamphey), 91km (Narbeth) 177km (New Hedges), 125km (Lamphey), 157km (Narbeth) and 174km (New Hedges).

At these feed stations you will find: PowerBar Drink, Energize Bars, Water and Bananas (cut in half)

Run Course Feed Stations:

There are 4 feed stations on each of the 4 run laps and in total, athletes will pass 15 aid stations on the whole run course.

At these feed stations you will find: PowerBar Drink, Gels, Water, Cola and Bananas (cut in half)

Tri Training Harder's training holidays in Portugal. Training is never as hard in the sunshine!