‘Hi coach, what should I do Slateman or the Windermere Marathon’ I asked.
‘Oh, Slateman is so iconic’
‘I knew you would say that’
So, with that and a few months preparation, on Friday I am heading to North Wales to take part in the Always Aim High Slateman Savage (Saturday Sprint and Sunday Classic event). Its difficult to compare Slateman to your average Sprint or Standard distance triathlons. Firstly, North Wales is always wet, its very hilly and rains a lot. Secondly, there are some big hills in North wales that catch the rain and thirdly the run is off road, contains hills and is often wet in the rain.
Saturday morning, I woke early to the feeling that I was in a different country, the sun was shining, the birds were singing in the trees and not a cloud in the sky. This can’t be North Wales. Breakfast alfresco in the sunshine and off to registration at Electric Mountain in the beautiful village of Llanberis.
It was one of those days which give the body a boost, clear blue skies and not a breeze to rustle the leaves in the tree. Llyn Padarn was like a millpond. So, no nasty waves to slow the swim. After the poor winter I was expecting the water to be cold, I had done some Open water swimming in preparation so the water was not a massive shock. In fact, the swim went smoothly, it’s a big lake so sticking out at the sides meant I avoided the washing machine in the middle of the pack. I have learnt in the past that the end of the swim becomes shallow and then deep just before the exit point so as some started to wade through the water I continued my swim. A dash across the field avoiding the sheep droppings and into T1 and straight out.
The Llanberis pass must be one to the most famous valleys in the UK, and stamping ground for many rock climbers, a place I have spent much of my youth, so I was able to tick off many of the famous crags that line this impressive valley. Its fairly plain sailing for the first 5k and then crossing the bridge below Dinas Cromlech and then it starts. The next 2k are the climb, in the distance way way above you is the Pen Y Pass YHA, the top of the pass, so its low gear and keep turning. The last few hundred metre are the steepest, before the descent down to the Pen Y Gurad Hotel and the turn around point. A slight climb and then the descent of the pass. What a descent, 2k of steep downhill with steep walls either side. Thank fully the road was closed to no worry about the corners only the sheep that randomly cross the road and stop for a loom at the mad cyclist hurtling towards them!
Into T2, and out on the run. The run starts crossing a flat rugby pitch, before hitting the steep slopes of the PadarnCountry Park, and it is steep! After the first 3k, the rout flattens out and and despite a few climbs is a lovely descent towards the Slate Mining museum. Temperatures were relative hot so I was thankfully of the drink station at the end of the last major climb. Once you reach the museum the end is only about 500m away and you are off the slate trails. So, opening up the throttle I headed for the finish. I had hoped for 1:40, so was over the moon to cross the line in 1:37:13, a massive PB. The training with Offthatcouch had paid off.
Following a restful afternoon and evening, it was back the following morning to complete the classic route. The Sunday was not as bright as the previous day and there was a gusty breeze blowing down the Llanberis Pass. The swim was choppy once we turned the first buoy. Again, I had avoided the washing machine and could swim my swim.
T1 was a nightmare! How can a wet suit slide off one day but the following day, you flounder about a like whale shedding its skin? So T1 took longer than I planned.
Onto the bike and its back up the Pass to Pen Y Pass. The area seemed much quieter today, on the Saturday, many visitors must have escaped the royal wedding. It was great to hit the hostel and start the descent to the Pen Y Gurad and then onto Capel Curig a long long descent. Dropping into the OgwenVally the wind was blowing across the road and making the cycling hard work. However, at Ogwen Cottage the road drops steeply for about 5-8km in to the village of Bethesda. The last 10 miles sees a long line of riders digging in deep for the last climb and the fast descent to Llanberis and into T2.
T2 was much better than T1. Quick change of footwear and off across the field. The run climbs first up Dolbadarn Castle before dropping down to the road and along the road which runs parallel with the reservoir. The run is fairly gentle for the first 2k and then it hits the Slatemines and its up, up up. Climbing the zig zag path for at least 2k until you reach the Gates of Mordor (a gap between two slate pillars). With the main climb done, it was once again full power down towards the first water station and across to meet the previous days route. Thank fully I could tick off the places I had ran past on Saturday which was a great judge of my progress. Hitting the flat once again at the museum.
I was hoping for 3:30, this year which would beat my previous years’ time. So, I was absolutely delighted with 3:27:12, a PB of at least 3 minutes.
So, the Savage was completed two PB’s in two day. The training with Steve Clark has paid off, and now to prepare for the next one. If you haven’t done Slateman, I can guarantee the weather, but I can guarantee a fantastic race experience in some fantastic scenery. So you next year, possibly in the rain.