This weekend I took part in my final Triathlon of the year over in Anglesey. The Sandman Triathlon is the third and final race in the Always Aim High Triathlon series after the Slateman Triathlon in Llanberis and the Snowdonia Triathlon in Capel Curig. The events have a special place in my heart as the Slateman was the first ever triathlon I took part in and is what made me fall in love with the sport.
The Sandman is probably the most honest and racing course out of the three, but still comes with it’s unique challenges. The swim takes place in the sea and runs parallel to Newborough Beach. You then head into transition over the Sand Dunes, jump on the bike and complete a fast and rolling loop around Anglesey. Finally, you kill the legs off completely with a 10km trail run on mostly sand and single-track.
After my most successful result at the Snowdonia Triathlon coming in 5th overall, I entered a big block of training for the Sandman feeling positive that I could perform just as well, if not better. One big BUT though was when I looked at the starting list…plenty of fast lads seemed to fancy their chances for this one…there goes my chances for another top 5 result this year! Nonetheless I would still give it my absolute all and try to keep up with the big boys.
This is still my weakest discipline by far so I wasn’t expecting miracles from the first discipline. But the weather conditions did not do me any favours. Upon arriving at the Beach, the wind was already fairly strong and seeing the Sea for the first time was not very nice! Wave after wave after wave. Brilliant. Supposedly it was like a pond for the sprint race on Saturday, I should have entered the sprint…
The race briefing explained that the current was pulling to the left so they advised swimming far right around the first buoy. The only problem was that everyone decided to do this which made for a front first turn. After a horrific first turn experience, I sighted for the next buoy and almost noticed how many people were in front of me. This sucked. I tried to put some effort in but just couldn’t get into a good rhythm with the waves crashing over my head at every breath. At one point I thought I was swimming in the wrong direction as a load of athletes adjacent to me seemed to be getting further away. This panicked me so I headed towards them, only realised that they were the ones on the wrong path! I had to do a complete 90 degree turn to get around the final buoy which cost me a lot of time.
Out of the water (thank god that’s over!) and I was way down the field. I left transition and my family told me I was in around 30th place. Not good! Now was time to put the hammer down. The weekend before the race I went had recce’d the bike course twice to make sure I knew where to do the damage. The first stretch of the course leads you through Newborough forest before starting the loop. Before even starting the loop I had already made up 10ish places. I felt good on the bike and went above my target race pace. I passed more and more athletes before hitting some lonely miles.
All of a sudden some guys comes flying past me on a descent. I wasn’t going to let him have that too easy. He was a pretty big lad so kept nailing me on the descents, but I knew as long as I could keep him in sight, I could reel him back in on the final short sharp climbs. My plan worked a treat. I got him back and built a gap at the end of the bike loop before heading back into the forest into transition.
I knew I had made up a lot of places but wasn’t sure on my position. Coming into transition the crowds were cracking and the atmosphere was absolutely buzzing. I had an alright transition, grabbed a gel and headed out on the run. My family told me I was on 11th place just as I set out. As soon as I set out on the run I could feel that final push on the bike in my legs. The cramps set in, uh-ohhhhh! I could see 10th place just ahead but just couldn’t put time into them. A couple of miles in and my legs started to feel a bit better. Next thing you know theres someone in sight again. I dug in a bit to get past him to take 10th.
From this point it was just a ‘hang on for dear life’ through the Sand Dunes. I entered the final stretch of the run on the beach, took a few looks behind me and was clear so eased back a bit. I crossed the line finishing 10th overall. Considering the quality athletes that showed up today I am happy with that.
Looking at my times, I took over 10 minutes off my overall time from last year, and considering the conditions this year were considerably worse, that is a great improvement. It was a fantastic day and was organised to perfection thanks to the Always Aim High team. That was my last triathlon of the year and I now head into the autumn winter months ready to put in some serious volume to come back next year stronger and faster than I’ve ever been. Big things planned next year!