Race Report: IMW22 Keith Nash

My Ironman journey started in 2015 when a good friend of mine Gareth ‘Gazza’ Watkins mentioned that he had done Ironman Wales, when he told me of the huge distances involved, I thought I’d misheard. I was so impressed that he’d completed such a test of endurance. After a chance conversation with another friend Stu we decided to do Brecon sprint triathlon in 2016, so I started couch to 5K, learnt to swim 4 lengths without stopping and borrowed a road bike. I’d completed my first tri and absolutely loved it.

In 2017 I went to Tenby to watch Gazza do his next Ironman Wales and I was hooked, I quickly joined Torfaen Triathlon Club and with their help and guidance completed Staffordshire Ironman 70.3 half distance triathlon. With that under my belt I was ready in 2018 to enter the big one in Tenby but luck was not on my side, an injury, subsequent knee operation and 2 x COVID cancellations forced me to wait a whole four years for my chance to ‘Face the Dragon’ on September 11th 2022.

Pre Race

Friday 9th Nadine and I were in the van on our way to Tenby to register still uncertain if the event was going ahead due to the sad passing of The Queen the day before, could it be called off yet again we thought, surely not after all the disappointments of previous years but luckily all was good and we all had to green light to go ahead, Phew!

Saturday was prep day, Bike racked, red and blue bags hung on my peg in transition then time to enjoy the lovely weather, walk around the town taking in the atmosphere and trying to control the nerves. We had an early night and unbelievably I managed to get to sleep and have a good 6 hours.

Race Day

I awoke at 4.30 a.m. looked out of the window onto The Esplanade and was worried to see the race banners and trees furiously blowing around in the wind that had built up during the night. A quick breakfast of porridge, toast and a banana before walking to transition to put food and bottles on the bike and drop off my personal needs bags, back to the hotel for a last nervous loo visit and a shower then on with the wetsuit to make our way to the now very windy beach, I walked down the zig zags with a fellow club member and mate Lee when I saw the awful sight of the swell and chop of the water, Oh dear I thought (or words to that effect) this is going to be tough. A minute silence for Her Majesty, the national anthems and then the bit I’ve been waiting 4 years to experience came. Thunderstruck by AD/DC played and we were off.


Lee and I entered the surf together, he just ran in through the waves and was soon swimming away from me as if he were a fish I’d just caught and released back into the water, I waded in as far as I could before trying to swim and that was when things went south for me.

I started swimming as normal but kept getting hit by waves and was unable to get into any type of rhythm with my stroke and breathing, I stopped and tried again but to no avail, this went on for the next 5 minutes or so when negativity got the better of me, I was now panicking, breathing erratically and thought I’m not actually getting anywhere here. Other swimmers were hanging onto paddle boards and getting pulled out by the rescue boats around me when I thought oh no, I think my day is going to end here having to be rescued. Nadine will effin kill me I thought, I’ve worked so hard and sacrificed so much to be here. That was the slap around the face I needed so I just concentrated on calming myself down and trying somehow to move forward. I then found I was getting a little closer to a marker buoy which gave me a massive boost and I was on my way again. After finally reaching and going around the first big turn buoy I was away good and proper this time swimming with a bit of a rhythm but having to only breath on my right side to avoid the waves hitting me on the left, around the next turn and ride the waves back to the beach to complete the first lap.

Second lap started much better as I was hyped up and willing to attack it head on but then the next problem reared its ugly head, sea sickness. I started retching at first until around the first big turn buoy came the vomiting, every time I put my head down in the water for a crawl stroke position I was being sick. I soon discovered if I did breaststroke and kept focused on the horizon I was able to control it, this will be slow I thought but at least I’ll get there and will have to smash out the bike to catch up. To my amazement I finished the 2.4 miles swim in 1 hour 32 which is only about 15 minutes slower than if I’d had a flat calm, turns out the conditions which although were rough meant there was a favourable current and most people I spoke to that day had PBs for the swim. Phew again!

Next was run up the zig zags from the beach, grab my pink bag, wetsuit off, trainers on and run the 1K through the cheering crowds towards transition 1 where the bikes were racked. Just as I got close there was the long-suffering Nadine and my gang of supporters who were all worried sick and panicking because my tracking chip had not registered. According to their tracking app I had not even entered to water, big relief for them when they clapped eyes on me Nadine later said she didn’t know whether to slap me or cwtch me.


Gazza Watkins the mate who had started me on this foolhardy quest to do an Ironman was this year working as an Ironman Wales volunteer with another mate Dean, they were in T1 as I ran in shouting “MY CHIP IS NOT WORKING” sure enough they both calmed me down as I was still in a mess after almost pulling out of the swim (apparently around 70 people got rescued that morning) then they got hold of a timing official to issue me with a new chip. At last I was sorting out my blue bag bike gear and getting dressed, fresh socks, bike shoes, race number, bike jersey, helmet, glasses and half a tuna sandwich as I walked to my bike.


It was so nice to finally get on the bike I was now in my happy place. I was only 15/20 minutes off the time I had thought I’d be starting the ride so I stuck to my race plan which was to reign in the pace. I’d been warned not to start too hard as it’s easy to run out of steam after the 85 miles mark when the hills start to get tough again on the second loop from the Ridgeway onwards. After an hour or so when my tummy finally started to settle down my fuelling strategy was back on course feeding myself little bits but very often, Tailwind in the bottles, flapjacks, soreen maltloaf and a snickers bar in the pockets then a pork pie and cheese slice in my top tube bag for my lunch.

The first lap went really well until I reached Wisemans Bridge climb where I saw a friend spectating, she shouted that my tracker was still not working which worried me again thinking if I do reach the red carpet tonight the officials are not going know who I am.

Then was the bit we all look forward to, the climb up from Saundersfoot they call Heartbreak Hill, I’ve spectated there three times before so knew what to expect and sure enough it didn’t disappoint, it was amazing with fantastic support that I will never forget, what a feeling! Next was the 69 mile feed stop at New Hedges for a Fluid top up and there once again popped up Gazza and Dean who acted like my own personal pit crew quickly changing my bottles and putting my tailwind powder in, I grabbed my personal needs bag in which I had a salmon sandwich and a packet of salty crisps that really hit the spot, Nadine was there supporting too so a quick chat stop while stuffing food in my face then I was on my way again for the second lap.

A quick wee stop at Lamphey marked the last of the dry weather as the rain came in with roughly 2 hours left of the ride still to do. It wasn’t cold so all was well apart from having to really take care on the downhills due to lack of visibility with soaked glasses. The support out on the bike route was epic too even in the rain there were still loads of folk to egg us on. What a relief it was to roll back into Tenby and all that anxiousness of a mechanical or an accident on the bike left me as I climbed up the last hill towards transition with a time of 7 hours 36 mins for the 112 miles course with almost 8500 ft of climbing. I was really pleased with my ride considering the feed stops, wind, rain and the shakey start I had. Unfortunately, over 200 people had not made the bike cut off times so were pulled out from the race. I felt I had paced it perfectly and still had plenty in the tank for the marathon I was just about to run.


Back in the tent to change out of my rain soaked bike gear and once again who was there for moral support but Gazza who assured me that my timing chip was working ok now, he’s really earning his free T shirt today I thought. On with the dry socks, trainers, tee shirt and feed belt, spin my race number around to the front and I was off again.


On turning the first corner out of transition there was Nadine with the rest of my family and friends shouting encouragement though a megaphone she had bought specially for the occasion. I stopped for a quick chat and a hug and ran off with a huge grin on my face, that was going to be the theme for the rest of the evening as I knew so many people and familiar faces supporting me and others. Lots of different friends also turned up to spend the evening joyfully watching me suffer.

Ironman Wales run course is marathon distance consisting of four loops of roughly 10.5 KM each with about 1750 ft of total climbing , as running is my worst discipline and up to this point the furthest I had ever ran in one go was 16 miles my plan was to run at least half the distance then see what I’ve got left, pretty basic I know but I was hoping the crowd support would see me through.

Loop 1 I managed to run the whole thing including all the hills and came back through the town where the support is just insane with everyone screaming your name and giving high fives, I was buzzing and then totally amazed when I reached the end of the lap point in 1 hour 6 minutes which for me is reasonably quick even without adding the long leg busting bike session beforehand, I knew I couldn’t sustain that pace so next lap I decided to time myself running the flats and downhills and marching uphill when I got back around to end of lap 2 I found I was only about 12 minutes longer than the first, again I was happy with that.

3rd lap is apparently the hardest mentally, people told me about band envy and yes, it is a thing. You find yourself looking at other peoples coloured lap bands on their arms to see how many laps they have done. It started to empty down with rain but I just kept my head up and ran what I could and walked the rest stopping at almost every feed station for a drink, banana, crisps etc and keeping my mind occupied by talking to other competitors and enjoying the crowd support. I was slower this lap but happy I was still going forward.

Start of lap 4 I was starting to flag a bit, all through the run I had purposely not looked at the milage on my watch because I found the only way I could get through it was to just split the evening into 4 separate runs one after the other, weird I know but it just worked better for me in my headspace to cope with the amount of time on my feet.

It was properly dark now but the rain had eased off a lot and the course was much quieter as more and more finished their race. I was noticing quite a few fellow competitors who had stopped completely, and some were receiving care from marshals and medical staff which freaked me out as I was now in unchartered territory myself and didn’t know my own limits which I could have reached at any moment. I eased up to give myself every chance of reaching the finish and drank down my emergency caffeine hit energy gel. I had marched more than half of that 4th lap and when I finally received my last lap band at New Hedges I was elated, it’s now roughly 3 miles downhill all the way to the finish line in the town and there’s no way I’m not getting there.

That last run through the streets past the pubs and cheering supporters was fantastic and before I knew it I was running onto the Esplanade for the last time heading for the finishing chute with a run time of 5 hours 34 minutes for the 26.2 miles. Going down that red carpet with the crowd going nuts and music blaring is something I will never forget and if ever I do another Ironman I’m sure it wont be as sweet as this my first time was. I spotted the family and gave Nadine a sweaty salty kiss and hug then ran in while the announcer said over the speakers “Keith Nash You Are an Ironman”. Job Done.

The relief of crossing that line a whole 4 years after deciding I was going to give it a try was immense and to put the cherry on top of the whole experience was that who was stood there waiting to put the medal around my neck but the guy that first planted the seed and started me on my ironman journey, Gazza Watkins. There were hugs and I don’t mind admitting a few tears, what a day!

Ironman later corrected my total time after my chip fiasco with a finish of 15.14.03 which again I was chuffed with because for me it was only about finishing under the 17 hours cut off time.

Would I do it again? Yes, but the itch has been scratched for now.

Would I recommend it? Definitely, but prepare yourself for a huge commitment on your family life and finances and also many many hours of training but a lot of fun along the way too.