This week Bill Carne talked to Andy Dawe about his two decades of rugby with Pembroke and the Quins, and the training for his debut in the Iron Man – and we find out how it went for him . . .

When the flare went up to announce the start of the Iron man competition in Tenby recently, one of the many super-fit, enthusiastic, committed, stark-staring bonkers (please delete as appropriate!) first-time participants was Andy Dawe.

We spoke to Andy in the week before the event and discovered that his battle plan was to sleep alone overnight in his camper van at Kiln Park after parking his bike up the afternoon before.

“I know I’ll have trouble sleeping,” admitted Andy, “then I’ll be up at 4am to get my head ready, make some porridge, toast and get lots of fluids down my throat and set out in plenty of time to be at the start.

“I’m nervous already but I’m sure the adrenalin will kick in once I put my foot on that beach because I know how tough the swim will be, especially with all those bodies fighting for space.

“My plan of campaign? To sit at the back and steer out of danger by letting the youngsters go ahead!”

Ask Andy about why he was undertaking such a challenge at 47 and he would say,

“I’m fast approaching 50 and wanted to do something different before then – and this is different."

Andy works at Murco and there will also be good support there because colleagues Roger Morgan, Chris Barker, Simon Stanford, Carl Scott, Tom Worrell, Kim Harland and Rob Allen are also taking part. Also looking out for him will be Tim Griffiths, who has been an excellent training partner.

It all seems a million miles from his early days in Pembroke where he played rugby in school before he decided at 16 to join The Army.

“I was soon involved in rugby there and my play must have improved because I played for The Army Colts (under 18s) against The Navy and RAF in a team that included Dean Ryan (who now coaches Worcester) and George Graham (who later propped for Scotland).”

Andy returned to Pembroke when he was 22 and went straight into the Pembroke first team.

That was a useful side which never won any trophies but enjoyed its rugby, with the biggest celebrations being reserved for local derby wins against Pembroke Dock Quins.

Ironically, Andy eventually left the Scarlets and moved just a mile down the road to Bierspool when he felt the need for more game time than he was getting from one particular coach – and he enjoyed it thoroughly.

But local derbies took on a different dimension as he was playing against his old pals in Pembroke but he finished off his playing days back at Crickmarren, where he usually played in the centre with Mark Fraser, until he was 40.

“I had always enjoyed keeping fit so I started running,” said Andy, “and I joined Martin Dyde in competing under the Pembrokeshire Harriers’ banner, first in 10K races and then moving on to half and full marathons.”

His personal best at 10K is a creditable 37’ 40” achieved in Llanelli, plus 1 hour 22’ 15” for the half marathon (Cardiff) and 3 hours 03’12” for one of two marathons he completed in Berlin.

Andy took part in his first London Marathon in 2009 and had set himself a target of three hours and 30 seconds after doing an awful lot of training to make sure it went well.

“It certainly paid off,” said Andy, “because although I hit the proverbial ‘wall’ after 20-odd miles clocked in at three hours, 14 minutes and 56 seconds.

“It might not seem significant but those four seconds I was under three hours 15 minutes meant that I was able to automatically claim my place for the following year as a good runner for my age!”

“It was doubly great because my kids, Ellie (17) and Harry (15), were much smaller then but were able to cheer me on because my sister Helen came down from Sheffield to join them – and my mum Pauline has also been on another occasion.

But Andy would readily admit that the ‘Iron Man’ offers an even greater challenge.

“I did the long course weekend and that was pretty tough so I know what I’ve let myself in for.

“In the 2.4 miles swim on the Friday evening I made sure that I kept out of the way of all those threshing arms and legs but I hate swimming and know that I’ll scramble back on to the beach and feel sick because of the water I have swallowed, so getting on the bike won’t be comfortable and if I can achieve a time of over seven hours I’ll be well pleased.

Then it’s on to the marathon, probably with shaky legs, but this is where Andy feels most relaxed because of his previous experience.

“I know how demanding that is going to be but I will look for a time of over four hours so that I can complete the challenge in something around 13 hours in total.”

It will round off a period of intense training where Andy fully recognises that he has been hard work for partner Jackie, Ellie and Harry.

“I publicly apologise to them because I know I have been hard work because training almost takes over everything as you eat, sleep and talk ‘Iron Man’”.

Jackie in particular deserves a medal for her patience, especially since I am so hopeless at what I eat and I rattle on about taking part all the time.

“I’ve been training almost every day, with swimming in Broad Haven and 40- mile bike rides a mere jaunt. Tenby Aces have been a great help and I can’t wait now for the big day to come in 48 hours.”

Ask Andy Dawe if he is likely to undertake a second ‘Iron man’ in the future and his answer is quite short and interesting:

“Ask Jackie,” he says with a huge twinkle in his eye!

Stop press: Andy completed the event in 14 hours after what he described as a nightmare swim where he was sea-sick five times.

“It was awful and took a while to shrug off but what a great day, especially with the support I got in my home town of Pembroke. Thanks everyone for helping to pull me through!” **