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Slateman

I surpassed my own expectations in this race!

In preparation for the Celtman in June I thought it would be a good idea to practice at least one triathlon. I have done a couple of off-road events recently – by which I mean one last year and one the year before :D. But I haven’t done one with a road ride since about 1999! The setting for the Slateman (Llanberis, Snowdonia) is the place of my childhood holidays and where my dad now lives. It also coincided perfectly with his 70th birthday, which turned into a bit of bash!

The disciplines were:

Open water swim – 750m
Road bike – 51km ca. 590m ascent
Trail run – 11km ca. 330m ascent

The night before I was a bag of nerves. Andy says this is always a good sign, but it didn’t feel like it. My first on-road triathlon in years, no maps, and it was going to be a bit of a sprint!

Swim

We found out at the race briefing that the swim had been shortened from 1000m to 750m because the water was too cold (11.3oC). I thought this was a bit unnecessary, but then I read the British Triathlon rulebook and realised they had to if they were going to comply with the rules!

I practiced windmills and looking foolish on land before hopping into the water about 7 minutes before the start. I wasn’t keen on getting my face wet but it had to be done! The water was lovely and clear but my goggles were totally fogged up, or maybe greasy. I was also trying out open water swimming without contact lenses. I could see the big orange thing we were aiming for – just about.

I got into a good position then swam hard at the start to get clear of slower people. It worked and I soon settled down into a better pace and spent time practicing drafting on someone’s toes and side-side. They both had their difficulties when the person in front would randomly swerve off course!

On the final leg back to shore I couldn’t see a thing because the sun was directly in my eyes, so I didn’t bother sighting and just followed someone else. It seemed to work out OK, as we soon arrived at the beach for a long run across a field to transition.

15m32s (including the field run), 5th female, 52nd overall

T1

This says it all!

2m24s, 16th female, 161st overall

But lots of people were in trisuits, whilst I was messing around putting on a jersey, socks, buff and gloves. I didn’t want to get cold on the descents, but was maybe a little over-cautious.

Bike

The bike started with a lovely long, steady climb up Pen-Y-Pass. I had no idea how many women were in front, but I kept working and caught up with a few, as well as plenty of men! The descent was fast and fun, then we turned at Capel Curig for another long, gentle drag. I rode the route on Friday so knew this wouldn’t be too bad, and we had a slight tailwind.

As I rounded the corner I saw a fast-looking girl up ahead. It took me the next 15km to catch up with her and it was a great incentive to keep working hard! At this point there were at least 3 of us near each other. We then caught another girl on a slight hill. I wasn’t letting up the pressure as I knew the bike would be my strong leg and I think it was about here I finally pulled away as I didn’t see the others again. ‘Hello’ to the friendly guy from Hereford Tri who also kept trying to beat me on this stretch!

The local support was amazing, with people in the little villages coming out to cheer and ring their cowbells. I smiled and waved to them as I went past and realised I was actually having a pretty good time! 🙂

The final descent back into Llanberis was marred slightly by a long queue of cars stuck behind slower riders. I had to ease off a bit but kept calm, realising it would make no more than a few seconds difference. Coming back to transition I saw my dad sitting on a wall. I yelled at him and waved – which made the other spectators laugh! I didn’t realise until I was hooking my bike up that the row of empty racks might mean I was in the lead …

1h35m56s, 1st female, 86th overall

T2

1m5s, 9th female, 115th overall

OK, a little bit better!

Run

As I started the run course a few of the marshals were telling me they thought I was in the lead. I couldn’t believe it! But I wasn’t convinced it could last. Almost none of my run training has been focussed on short or fast. After an easy kilometre, the track rose steeply in a series of zigzags, gaining 200m in height over 2km. At least I am used to hills!

This was really hurting!

Lots of people were stopped at the side with cramps in their legs and I could feel my calves screaming. I kept plodding away. Looking back round the corners I could see the next girl, but she wasn’t right on my heels yet. After a little drop, the track went up again. I was in a world of pain. But then the film crew came up and starting driving just in front of me. I now knew for sure I must be the leading lady! I don’t often do head-head races and it was quite a buzz!

I still pushed on as hard as I could, glad of the downhill respites. Through a tricky, rocky, rooty trail in the woods and onto a steep, short uphill. I was fazed by all the others walking and did the same. I found out later the girl behind me had seen this and it had spurred her on! Oops – I’d have felt the same if our positions had been reversed – I think I’m a better chaser than I am leader.

A kilometre later and she overtook me at speed on a downhill. I tried to stay with her but there was nothing in my legs. Another killer uphill and some uneven steps – it was her turn to walk and I wanted to capitalise but just couldn’t! It was only 8 minutes more running until the finish. All the way I had her pegged at nothing more than 25m but couldn’t do anything about it.

56m45s, 5th female, 133rd overall

Finish

I crossed the line 14seconds behind, but ecstatic to have done so well! I had hoped to finish in the top 10, in under 3.5 hours. In the end, I was 2nd in a time of 2:51:40!! Overall 86th out of 454 finishers.

In 5 weeks time I will have to do four times the distances, but this was a great practice run and made me feel like a real triathlete who can even compete with girls on TT bikes with pointy helmets and skinsuits ;-).

The event was televised and will be shown on Channel 4, S4C and Eurosport. The top 3 were all interviewed at the finish line, so hopefully I’ll make the cut for a few seconds of sweaty TV fame!

I really recommend this event as it was well run, with fantastic scenery, very clearly marked courses and all the marshals and supporters were so enthusiastic! I even got my split times texted to me before I had left the event field. Thanks to the organisers, Always Aim High Events. Full results here.

Top 3 women:

Bethan Hughes – City of Chester Triathlon Club – 2:51:26
Rosemary Byde – Edinburgh RC – 2:51:40
Sarah Rose – Manchester Triathlon Club – 2:54:15

Top 3 men:

Peter Brook – Sixty Nine Cycles – 2:20:23
Paul Mountford – Tri 1st – 2:24:11
Chris Standidge – City of Chester Triathlon Club – 2:24:57

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Trans Wales 2011

The Trans Wales became one of my ‘3 big events for the summer’ after I was persuaded to enter by fellow adventure racing friend, Elizabeth. We were riding as a female pair, with Rachel Henderson also putting in an appearance in the solo category. And so it was we lined up in Builth Wells last week to start what was to be the last edition of this classic race.

The format was 7 days of mountain biking place to place. Each day consisted of a long ‘linking stage’, which was not a race but had a cut-off time. If you got back on time you were given a ‘race time’ equivalent to the cut off. If you got back late you accrued penalty seconds at the rate of 1 per minute. There were also six short timed race sections which ran at some point out on the course during the day. These ranged from 2 to 8km long, were mostly at trail centres and included a hill climb, a descent, some up and down loops and a night stage. For team pairs, the result was averaged and added to the overall time.

The racing added a bit of spice to the event, but we had gone to enjoy ourselves, ride somewhere different and, in my case, give my shiny new bike (Lynskey titanium 29er hardtail) a proper testing out! I never anticipated how this event would feel – there was a great sense of camaraderie, the food that appeared in the inflatable marquee every night was plentiful and tasted good and everyone had tales to tell at the end of the day. The laidback feel extended to the publicised distances (I learnt that every day was pretty much the same; 60-70km, 5-6 hours in the saddle and the profile would go something like up, up, down, down, up, up ….) and the social events. On one night after we had finished riding it was announced that the band would start at 8pm. This was the first we had heard of a band and was when we were at the most remote camping spot in a field full of midges!

My favourite days riding included one wet drizzly moorland pedal where we got into a fantastic rhythm and it felt just like home, and a ‘big country’ ride, complete with awesome views and a long, speedy, hilly special stage in the middle of it. I had a couple of emotionally fraught moments, but as Rachel so cheerfully put it: “if you don’t have at least one ‘moment’ in the Trans Wales, then you haven’t tried hard enough!”

After a day or two of riding under my belt, I found that the new bike (and disc brakes!) inspired confidence and I was cheerfully cruising down and over stuff I wouldn’t have dreamt of riding before. I also discovered the terrain it was perfectly made for when we rode a rocky byway with many stream crossings. I had been told that big wheels ‘roll better’ – but would I really notice anything different? The answer was a definite ‘Yes’! I could come almost to a standstill on a rocky riverbed, then give a little push on the pedals and suddenly pop over an obstacle and onwards. My body can also vouch for the total comfort of this bike as nothing is now hurting!

As for the racing, we found ourselves in first place in the female pairs category following the initial stage. After dropping to second following the downhill third stage we regained the lead the next day and held it to the end. Longer stages, hilly stages and dark stages all worked to our advantage. We rode well as a team and managed to finish the week still on speaking terms – not bad considering we have only actually ever ridden together (socially or otherwise) once before and had quite different approaches to pitching a tent! Elizabeth did a great job of inspiring confidence and making me relax, enjoy the ride and save my energy on the linking stages or, as she put it, “getting ready to chop my legs off” if I didn’t slow down …

Rachel also made a reputation for herself and climbed onto the podium on the final day to collect a popular special award for being the ‘toughest and most cheerful ever tail-ender’!

All in all, a fantastic event and a great result. Next year they are changing the format, but if the atmosphere and organisation is anything like this one I would highly recommend it.

Me and Elizabeth showing off the leader's jerseys!

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