Wow, who’d have thought it? The challenge I set myself of completing three triathlons this year is two-thirds accomplished. The hardest two are out of the way as well, leaving the easiest til last. Psychologically it will be easier as well, as I did it last year. So, bring on the Sandman in September!! 🙂 I almost feel like I don’t have to train… Haha, only joking. Actually, training is going to have to take a slightly different form as the week after the Sandman Tri I am taking part in the first Velo Birmingham, a sportive of 100 miles of closed roads. I have never ridden 100 miles. Ever. Uh-oh, best get on the bike… 😮
So, going back to the weekend, I was pretty nervous about it. The weather forecast kept changing which meant I was unsure on what clothes to wear/carry. I had also wanted to swim in just my tri-suit rather than battling with a wetsuit but with the amount of rain we had had the lake temperature was going to be colder than it had been a couple of weeks ago. I was right on that front: in the morning it was measured at 13.4 degrees (British Triathlon rules state if the water is below 14 degrees then wetsuits are mandatory).
In the morning I couldn’t face solid food – it was too early! – so I made myself a nutri-bullet smoothie of kale, banana, peanut butter, flaxseed, honey, oats, cacao powder and almond milk. I also took a couple of homemade energy balls with me to chomp on at various times during the day.
Elton came with me for support. It was going to be a difficult day for him as I would be out on the bike for possibly around 3 1/2 hours so he would need to find something to do. Luckily, the race was taking place from Plas y Brenin in Capel Curig and not far from one of his favourite cafes, Siabod Cafe 🙂
I got down into transition, found my place and started to set up all my kit. There are really funny rules when it comes to triathlon, mainly around helmets, like you have to be wearing your helmet done up when you enter transition. You also then must leave your helmet undone when you’re not using it, i.e. during the swim phase. Then, you must have your helmet on and done up before you take your bike off the rack in T1 (1st transition, swim to bike) and it must stay on your head and done up until your bike is back on the rack in T2 (2nd transition, bike to run). It’s a bit complicated for newbies!
The rain was still holding off at this stage and down in transition there were even midges which meant very little wind. Suddenly it was time for the swim. I was in the second wave of swimmers so my start time was 8:35. We watched the first wave set off and then in we went, getting accustomed to the temperature and making our way to the start buoys. I was listening to the briefing, but I obviously wasn’t listening as I set myself over on the right hand side. I like to be on the outside of group but as we were going clockwise, this put me on the inside. It must have been because in the Slateman we had swum anti-clockwise. We set off and I found myself being kicked and pushed a bit, what I had been planning to avoid. I also found myself caught up in a group of people heading in the wrong direction! This wasn’t good. I had to stop, get my bearings and move across people when there was space. Eventually I was on track and then got into a good rhythm.
Out of the lake, into transition, wetsuit off, bike kit on and off I went. There was still a threat of rain and I was quite cold so I put my jacket on. At some points during the ride I regretted that decision but most of the time I was fine. The bike ride was by far my favourite part of the tri. Just under 70km of Snowdonia roads. I paced myself well, knowing the route and therefore saving my energy for the hills. The rain stayed away which meant fast descents – especially on the Crimea Pass where I managed to notch up just under 70km/hr!! I even managed to overtake a few people on the last hill up to Capel Curig from Betws-y-Coed which, psychologically, gave me a great boost.
Now it was time for the bit I was dreading. The run. It was never going to be a run in the true sense of the word having recced the route a couple of weeks earlier. 9km up and down Moel Siabod. As I was sat there in transition, getting into my running shoes, there were people already crossing the finish line!! Amazing and demoralising all at the same time! I managed to run across the bridge out of transition and that was it for a while. From then on it was a walk, and not a fast one at that. My quads were like lead. Every time I picked up my foot my leg was screaming at me to stop. It was nothing short of horrendous. There were so many people coming down the hill and, what seemed like, very few of us going up. The rain arrived. I stopped and put on my waterproof jacket. The rules stated we had to carry full body cover, hat and gloves on the run stage and my trusty new Montane VIA Snap 4 running vest was perfect for the job of carrying all I needed.
The track seemed to go on forever. It was slippery. It was muddy. It was rocky. It is actually an incredibly technical route. There were people coming down who had obviously taken tumbles but as far as I know, no one was seriously hurt, thankfully. Finally, I was close. The rain eased off creating a strange light and I stopped to look back down the way I had come and take a quick snap (featured image on this blog). It was moody. I found a little bit of energy from somewhere and increased my pace marginally to hot foot it up to the summit. Definitely time for a selfie here 🙂
It was then as if I hadn’t had to get up the hill at all. My legs felt fine. I felt good. Time to head back down. I was super grateful for my Salomon Fellraisers for the descent. I was able to move pretty quickly on the grass and in the mud, just taking care on the slippery rocky sections. I overtook a couple of people on the way down, again this was a good psychological boost. I even saw a friend of mine, Debs, on the way down as she was coming up. I gave her a quick hug and wished her well. Debs was doing the Legend route, 1900m of swimming, 91km of road cycling and a 21km run, finishing up and down Moel Siabod. Debs is an absolute hero of mine and a real inspiration. She’s in her 50s and is way fitter than me. She even completed Iron Man Wales last year!! What a legend 🙂
The last section of the run veered off through the forest and did a bit of a dog leg back to Plas y Brenin. I looked down at my watch and saw that I was getting close to 6 hours but there was no way I could move any faster. I had actually started to feel a bit sick, probably from lack of proper food and was doing my best to keep going. Finally, across the line. Finished. 5 hours, 54 mins, 2 seconds. That was tough. Possibly the toughest thing I have ever done. I said ‘no way am I doing that next year’. We’ll see 😉
The winner of the Full Distance did it in 3:23:36. That’s 2 1/2 hours quicker than me!! The winning female did it in 3:49:53 – that’s still over 2 hours faster. I don’t think I’ll be able to make those gains in a year, but maybe I’ll be able to shave off a few minutes…