Back to Wales again to finish off the Always Aim High triathlon series. I entered the Slateman back in May as warm-up training for the Celtman. But I did better than expected, so thought why not enter the series, as there was a great prize on offer! I knew that the Sandman would be a challenge, only three weeks after the 5-day Terrex expedition race. And so it proved, but not only because of that – I also got a puncture which cost me many minutes. These things happen though, so I came into the Snowman with nothing to lose. But I wanted to still do well anyway, to make up for last time! 🙂
Properly rested and recovered from previous exertions, I had spent at least two or three weeks feeling human again. This was a good sign! Andy was also doing this race. The fell run at the end wasn’t going to play to his strengths, but he seemed set and it was nice to compete together for once. He was more nervous than I was though and got stressed about not having time at the start to get set up. Goodness knows what else he wanted to do though, as I was hanging around for a while!
The swim was in Llyn Mymbyr. It was reportedly 11 degrees C. This didn’t worry me too much as my exploits with the Wild Ones had me splashing about in colder than that the week before, and this time we’d be racing. I was determined to actually push it hard on the swim for a change. It was chaos at the start, with bodies everywhere, people stopping to put goggles back on and arms and legs flailing. I did head up crawl for a while, negotiating a way through. I should have started nearer the front. Anyway, I eventually got moving and remembered to work hard. I couldn’t see too many people in front as I ‘landed’. I was 12th out overall and 3rd female.
My transition was OK. I cunningly left my toasty wetsuit all tangled up round my feet to warm them up a bit whilst I sorted out my top and helmet! Into the bike and I felt good. One thing I had worried about coming into this race was a persistent knee / sartorious muscle problem which came on a few weeks ago and wouldn’t clear up. It was complaining a bit on the bike, but was solved by switching to a lower gear and spinning away like mad. The course was short – only 31km with an easy gradient drag back up to the finish. I had a great ride and came into transition 1st female. My bike leg was also fastest female by some way – I only wish we had had to go round again! 😀
Next up was the fell run. I decided to take my poles with me, partly to protect my knee and ankles and partly because they might make me go faster. I am very used to them, so I felt comfortable. Plenty of people said they wish they’d had some! Up to the summit and I was still in first, but as I descended I saw several girls not far behind. Indeed, halfway down two of them (Sheona Schofield and Helen Pitt) came flying past. This was reflected in their final run times – they did the whole run 10-12 minutes faster than me! However, I held on for third and was delighted to stay on the podium.
I ventured back up the course to cheer Andy on, madly ringing the cow bell my dad had acquired at every competitor. Just as we thought Andy might have got lost, he appeared with a smile on his face!
The men’s race saw the fell runners taking a big advantage too. We all spent longer running than we did cycling! It is nice that the series overall plays to different strengths in the different races – it makes the podium less predictable. In the prize bag I got a pair of my favourite goggles from Aquasphere and also some sunglasses from Scott. Nice!
Bethan, who won the Slateman and was second at Sandman put in a solid time and won the series.
Bad luck aside, I had a great time at these races. They were well organised and I was especially impressed with the course marking and strict transition entry / exit security checks. They are also set in some stunning locations. I haven’t decided on my final race plans for next year, but these will definitely be on the potential list.
Oh, and although my knee hurt on the way up the hill (as it had done on every practice run in the preceding weeks), 3 days later I still can’t feel a thing. It could be masked by the intense pain in my quads preventing me from getting down any steps. Or maybe an 8.5km mountain ascent and descent is the perfect cure?!