Monday, 19 May 2014

Slateman Tri 2014

After my adventure with Ruth to the Snowman Tri last year, the Slateman was immediately added to our hit list as another brilliant event on the Always Aim High calendar. We made the obligatory overnight stop at Telford and smashed up the parkrun on the Saturday morning before ambling over to Snowdonia. The drive in to Llanberis doubled up as a recce of the end of the bike course and it looked just fine to us: easy!

At registration we realised we were in different swim starts, and couldn't figure out why or how they had organised the waves. Ruth was in the final wave which started 20 minutes after mine. This meant my whole race strategy had to change from "just enjoy the race, take it easy, you're here to have fun" to "you must absolutely rag the bike as hard as you can and pray you don't get caught on the run". We also spotted Jane Hansom at registration who is one of our favourite triathlete ladies but we were too rushed (and scared) to go and talk to her because we were keen to find the hog roast which had been promised in the race information. Sadly, it was all closed up by the time we got there but we promised ourselves a post-race hog roast instead.

We wandered down to the lake where the swim would take place, Llyn Padarn. It looked very inviting indeed; on picking a shallow section in the late afternoon sun and dipping her toe in, Ruth declared that it wasn't cold at all and that the swim would be lovely. I was all over the optimism so just took her word for it.

The next morning as we excitedly waited to start the swim, we spotted Jane again. She had a thermos of warm water and was pouring it into her wetsuit before the swim, genius! Ruth decided she could achieve the same thing by having a wee in her wetsuit and doing a handstand, but I thought it was probably one of those slightly risky new things that you shouldn't try for the first time on race day. Before we had time to enter into a debate, it was my turn to swim.

The water, which was apparently 13°C(!), took my breath away and shrank my nipples into something not at all dissimilar to frozen peas. The wide start line was marked by two buoys and with the competitors split into six waves, it was a remarkably pleasant start to the race with not too much argy bargy. Once I was swimming I forgot about the cold and found myself in a good steady rhythm. The top section of the course was a little choppy and there were a few elbows and kicks around the buoys but all in all I felt like I was having a great swim. I exited the water, looked at my watch and with dismay, realised that the reason I felt like I was having a great swim was obviously because I hadn't put much effort in. There would be a lot to make up for on the bike. It's all well and good thinking about being quick but I had developed "the claw" (the loss of all hand functionality after a spell in cold water) and couldn't even grip my wetsuit to pull it down.

T1 was embarrassingly slow as I desperately clenched my fingers and failed in several attempts to put my shoes and socks on (..socks, yes. Don't judge me, I need the comfort). But no time was wasted getting out of transition and I breathed a sigh of relief as I hopped onto the saddle.

The bike started with a fantastic lung-busting climb up the Llanberis Pass which seemed to go onwards and upwards forever. It was a great opportunity to make up for a rubbish swim and I was feeling very smug with myself as I picked off other cyclists one by one. The local support at the high point of the pass was brilliant with loads of noise and cheering to spur us all on.

A great descent led us to Capel Curig and onto the A5, where the wind was blowing fiercely across the road. As I turned a corner just past Llyn Ogwen, a gust hit me so hard that it brought me to a near standstill, but that gust was obviously the gateway to cycling glory as the next section was a dream. A long, open descent towards Bethesda with a tailwind brought joy into my heart and just when I thought life couldn't get any better, we hit brand new tarmac. I didn't want it to end!

The next section through Tregarth was well supported by more of the local Welsh folk. It was probably the worst section of the course in terms of road surface and speed hump obstacles but it was a good chance for a slight breather before commencing the return leg to Llanberis in a brutal headwind.

My T2 was significantly less embarrassing and I managed a fairly quick turnaround despite using proper laces, having a snack and chucking more suncream on my face. My legs and lungs weren't loving the run though and I wished I had taken a bit more time to have a puff on the inhaler. Luckily the first part of the run was flat but that didn't last long; after just a mile or so we started climbing off-road around the slate quarries and there was a mile-long section of uphill switchbacks.

I was glad to reach the top after giving up on attempting any pace for the climb, but then the run got awesome. Loose downhills, short, sharp rises and a wickedly technical forest trail had me find my run mojo again. I was hopping over rocks and had my feet going juuust fast enough to scare myself a bit. One more decent climb led to a fabulous final descent down a steep, bendy road and back into the forest before leading straight back over the bridge and toward the finish. With music blaring and a massive crowd, it was a fantastic atmosphere to finish the race in.

I crossed the line and did a little happy dance because Ruth hadn't caught me, but I didn't have to wait too long for her to come through the finish. We raided the very well-stocked triathlon buffet and made haste toward the hog roast, which AGAIN had finished. Next year we need to get faster. However, as we hung around for the results (and to cheer on Jane) Ruth spotted a man behind us who had managed to acquire a slab of pork crackling that was bigger that my head. To my sheer delight, he snapped me off a sizeable chunk and handed it over with a smile. You cannot beat the Welsh for hospitality!

The Slateman was a fabulous event and was amazingly well organised given that there were over 1000 competitors on the day. The route was the perfect amount of 'tough' without being totally absurd and the atmosphere was electric. We will definitely be back next year, and we want a hog roast!


  1. Haven't read your blog in a while Eggera, and now, as I'm laughing to myself here in Canada, I can't fathom why. Excellent descriptions, loving how much you love to challenge yourself. I'm rooting for your pork roast next time. :)

  2. Thanks Jodi, it's all about the pork!