I thought I’d wait a week to write my Sandman race report, mostly due the that fact that I didn’t even have the energy in my fingers to type but also I wanted to really take my time to get it right.
I noticed on the Wednesday that the 5 day weather forecast for Anglesey was heavy rain and gales. When has a weather forecast ever been right 5 days in advance? The answer is never, well until then anyway. I’d been telling Donna for days not to bother packing shorts for the kids as it was going to be cold, wet and windy, and boy was it cold, wet and windy. Conditions couldn’t have been any worse for a triathlon but it didn’t bother me, in fact I was kind of glad. I’d trained a lot in similar conditions, after a few hairy moments in training I’d got used to how to handle my bike in those conditions and I knew it would bother other people more then me. I knew that I’d place higher in the field and I was right.
I’m not sure how but I had an amazing night sleep the night before. I went to bed early half expecting to be lay awake worrying all night but I pretty much fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Clearly my preparation had been perfect and I’d left myself nothing to worry about.
I woke up about 5 on race day, looked out of the window and the weather looked perfect for a triathlon the air was clear and still and it looked like the forecast was wrong after all. In true comedy style the rain started literally as we left the cottage.
We arrived at Newborough forest and registered early. I was of the first into Transition to setup my kit. I thought I’d have a little wander over the sand dunes and have a look to see if the sea was rough. Walking up the dunes I passed another competitor on the way back who was pale and looked like he seen a ghost. He just looked at me and said “Don’t look mate, seriously don’t look”. Obviously I had to look at that point. When I saw the waves I couldn’t believe that the swim was going ahead. It reminded me of the film A Perfect Storm. Fortunately the organisers had seen the conditions and made the decision to move the swim into the bay where it was slightly calmer. This meant the there was a half mile walk to the swim and also a half mile run into T1 from the swim.
On arriving at the swim it was calmer but it was still very rough, I felt ok about it, I’d trained well and new it would be hard but I knew I was prepared. The sea was actually quite warm at 16º. We had a quick warm up but then it was back to the beach and ready, set, go! When the hooter sounded we we’re off, there was no turning back and I ran into the sea, waded out over the breakers then dived in and was away. It was stupidly hard and was very up and down, one second you’re swimming on the crest of a wave, the next second you’ve dropped 8 feet into the dip and it felt like I was going nowhere. I managed to quite quickly figure out a rhythm and got into it. I passed quite a lot of people who were really struggling. I don’t think I was far off the front by the time we got to the buoy to turn. There were a few guys way out in front but I was right in there in the mix with the main group. Heading back with the waves was much easier. I started back great then came the dreaded swimming cramp. It had been a tough first half to the swim and my calves had now started cramping badly. I had no choice but to ease off my kick and try to manage the cramp as best as I could. I came out of the water probably right in the middle of the field which I was very happy with. The run into T1 was a struggle. My calves were still cramping, I knew once I was on the bike it’d settle down but I had to run half a mile into T1 without doing any damage. The race organisers had suggested that competitors wear water proofs or an extra layer on the bike as it was so cold and there was a danger of hyperthermia. This was something I hadn’t planned for and didn’t really have anything other than my tri-suit. Donna had sprinted back from the swim and was waiting at T1 for me with some t-shirts but I decided they’d slow me down so I didn’t take them. Maybe it was the rush of trying the get on the bike quickly and off my cramping legs that helped me through T1 so quickly. I was the 17th fastest in T1. Made even more remarkable by the fact I set off on the bike with my running shoes on still? I had to stop and take them back. What was I thinking?
The bike leg started ok. In the forest we were sheltered from the wind and it didn’t feel so bad. The rain was heavy and it was cold but no wind. Once we were out of the forest things changed. We had the wind at our backs for the first 7 or 8 miles and although it was mostly up hill I managed a decent pace. Then we made a left onto the A5 and had a tough slog of about 12-13 miles with horrendous sidewinds. The roads were very wet and tricky without the wind, but gusts of 35mph+ were almost taking the bike form under me. I had what I thought was a great battle with another rider. His number was 270 and on the stretch of A5 he passed me 4 times on uphill sections as he was a seriously good climber and I passed him 4 times going back down again. Mainly because I’ve got no sense and was hammering the downhill sections. No idea if he noticed this little battle but It kept me entertained for an hour or so. On one hill a guy from South Africa passed me and we had a little chat on the way up the hill. He told me it was his first and last triathlon. He was strong though he left me for dead on the hill after the chat. I passed him again a few minutes later on the next down hill. Then came the part of the day I was least looking forward to. The left turn to head back to newborough with about 5 miles directly into a 30mph+ wind. I passed so many people on these 5 miles. I was down as low as possible on my tri bars and was passing a lot of people who were probably much stronger cyclist then me but without tri bars they were going nowhere. The final 12 miles or so along the coast with the sidewinds from the right this time were very dicey. The sidewinds on the A5 were blowing me 4-5 feet into the road which was no real problem as long as there was no traffic. The sidewinds from the right were blowing me off the road. Even giving myself 3-4 feet room I was blown off the road a couple of times and had to unclip and bailout very quickly. No damage done other than to my time. On the final hill going back into Newborough forest my South African friend passed me again, he made me laugh as he passed me when he said ‘This is where that blood I injected this morning comes in handy’. I managed to average 18mph for the 60k which I was very happy with in those conditions.
Once again I breezed through T2 in a pretty fast time. That the final time the words fast can be used when describing me in this triathlon. I must have overtaken the South African guy in transition because he passed me on the run and we had another amusing chat. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be his last triathlon because he kept me amused a few times along the way and I think the sport need characters like that.
The 10 run was hard. When I say hard I mean it was really hard, it was brutal. There seamed to be endless sand dunes with thick wet energy sapping sand. Where there wasn’t sand there was thick, wet energy sapping mud. The sand dunes took so much out of me it felt more like a 20k run. I couldn’t physically run up some of them they were to big and too steep. I was almost crawling at times. Then came the final half mile or so along the beach. Not just along the beach the marshals edged us right up to where the wave were lapping over our feet. This last half a mile seemed to last for ever, just ahead of me on this final stretch I could see somebody I recognised. It was my nemesis from the bike section competitor 270. He must have overtaken me again on the run and was 40 feet ahead of me.
Then we headed off the beach, onto the final sand dune and climb to the finish. I tried to get back to the guy in front but he beat me by 8 seconds. I saw family and friends as I came to the line, my friend Grant was there cheering me over the line, it was great of him to come so far to support me. I missed my Dad who was there but somehow also missed me as I ran passed him. Dad was chief lookout and was supposed to warn everyone that I was approaching the finish. Somehow just like at Boundary Breeze he managed to miss me. Jack did a great Job as chief photographer, he got some great photos. Jacob and Grace despite the rain were there at the finish and both expressed a desire to do a Triathlon themselves. Grace spent the rest of the day trying on my gear and playing triathlons.
Despite the weather I had a great day, the event was organised brilliantly by Always Aim High Events and the marshals were very friendly and helpful. I managed to raise £1135 for Myeloma UK which surpassed my expectations. I managed to get myself from and bad place health and fitness wise and raised money at the same time. It was hard but would I do it again? You bet I would.
I’ve decided mostly due to the weather I’m retiring the bike until spring and I’m going to spend the next few months working on my running and swimming which are my 2 weakest events. I’ve entered the Congleton Half marathon. I may do another couple of half marathons before the end of the year. Then I’m looking towards 2013 where I’m hoping to maybe do a full Marathon and possibly 1 or 2 longer triathlons. I’ve definitely got the triathlon bug now and I intend to continue for as long as my body will allow. I’ve got the idea rolling around somewhere in the back of my mind that I want to do an Ironman. At the moment I’m thinking 2013 might be the year to do a half Ironman and maybe the full Ironman in 2014. I’m not discounting the possibility of doing the full Ironman next year. First though I want to try a couple of half marathons and maybe a full marathon before I make up my mind. My body may decide that I’m only allowed to do Olympic distance triathlons. Donna has also said that I’m never allowed to do and Ironman. Donna might be right, my body might be right but watch this space.....