Snowdonia Slateman Triathlon Sunday, 22 May 2011
The Slateman route comprises:
- Open water swim – 750m (shorter 200m swim option available for those who prefer).
- Road cycle – a classic 51km circular route taking riders over the Llanberis pass, via Capel Curig and descending the spectacular Ogwen Valley to Bethesda, and on to the transition at Llanberis village.
- Off road run – an incredible 11km trail run through the world famous Dinorwig slate quarries and Padarn country park. “
This is the course description from the race website and the reality of the beauty of the route lived up to the hype. Snowdonia is awash with spectacular scenery and so I was more than happy to sign up for the first running of this event along with about 450 others. It was always going to be a challenging course; the lake temperature was a shade under 12C, a 250m ascent over 2 miles out of the valley (800m ascent in total) on the ride all followed by a trail run that included a 200m climb/1 mile…but then the weather made it really challenging!
Saturday saw the arrival of a weather front that most meteorologists would class as ‘un-seasonal’ but most of the potential racers would term ‘grim’. Torrential rain and wind with gusts of up to 60mph made the prospect of attempting the course the following day somewhat unappealing, so much so that the start line on Sunday was over 100 entrants short. The wind was still blowing hard and gusts were a bit nasty but at least the rain had passed which meant that there was a great atmosphere amongst the supporters and that helped to keep spirits up ahead of the starters horn.
The lake swim was a frantic melee as all but 14 (who set off on the 200m swim 15mins ahead of the main start) went in a single wave. It took me the first of the 3, 250m legs to settle into a stroke that resembled crawl. The second leg was spent trading blows with someone who seemed to be glued to my shoulder irrespective of any tactics that I could employ to shake him off. Finally, I managed to find some clear water after the 2nd marker bouy and I found a rhythm where I could actually swim. Exiting the water in 49th position, I wasn’t feeling brilliant and the prospect of the bike, my weakest discipline by far, filled me with apprehension.
After a rolling first couple of miles along the valley floor the gradient began to steadily increase towards the valley head. Getting increasingly steep, my legs were burning by the time I reached the top but at least we had been protected from the wind. Turning left towards Capel Curig and out of the lee of the mountains, it was awesome to have a decent tail wind for the next 5 mile section. After turning left again at Capel Curig, the course entered another valley with an initial 4 mile climb followed by what should have been 10 miles of aero awesomeness and super speedy descent. True, it did follow that profile but the wind was funned into a head wind and there were some vicious side gusts as it rattled off of the mountains. It was all I could do to keep moving forward, even on the descent. By the time I turned off of the A5 road and into the final 7 miles or so of the course my legs were throbbing and I was glad to get onto the aero bars for a while.
The ride into T2 was full of mixed emotions. On one hand, I was glad to get off of the bike. On the other, I knew that there was a tough climb ahead on the run….but at least it was out of the wind. The climb up through the slate quarry was as expected, tough. It was worth it though as we were rewarded with an amazing view from the top across the lake and town and to Snowdon itself. Then we were into the woods and the descent began. The rain had turned what had been an ankle turning rocky trail into something altogether more muddy and ‘interesting’. It even turned into a stream at one point, which made navigation fun. I was in my element! I hooned it!
An overall time of 03:04:13 and position 90/287 and my race was done. I had lost a lot of pace and places on the bike but felt happy with my performance. The Slateman had been tougher than the majority of athletes had anticipated but it had been an excellent, well managed, marshalled and supported race. Definitely worth making the trip for.