Spontaneity is fantastic. Not only does it give you a buzz, but it also means for people like me, no time to worry. Hakuna Matata was my phrase for this triathlon. Personally, having been out of the game since Ironman last year I really needed to pop my triathlon/ race cherry and this was a good time to do it! Here is my race report of the weekend, but if you’re not a reader here is a link to a nice short video 🙂
Having seen that 50 places had been opened up via my many followers on twitter, I got itchy fingers and went straight to the website to look at what the craic was and indeed if I could do it. A 1000 km swim “No problem” I said to myself, a 51km ride? “Ha, I’ve just done 71kms last weekend” and a 11km run? “well that shouldn’t be an issue!” but I still wasn’t convinced. After checking I wasn’t doing anything, nor that I had nothing being planned for me that weekend, and with added incentive in knowing a fellow GRC’er Nina was doing it, my itchy fingers typed and entered the race! And what’s more an added ROAD TRIP was in order!
Then the pending doom started, 9 days to the race, balls, I’ve not even done an open water swim! I’ve not even tried the new wetsuit on after my old one split at Ironman, as an aside, this is the wetsuit that didn’t fit at Christmas! What? I hear you cry – I enjoyed myself the past 6months!
Also, a look at the race profile saw that this was no flat course and of course why would it be? It’s in the mountainous region of North Wales going alongside Wales’ highest mountain!
Slight panic but my mantra kicked in Hakuna Matata!!
Race weekend came upon us and happily Tina had decided to join in the madness / road trip / hilly triathlon too. So there were three GRC’ers Nina, Tina and myself!
Wales isn’t around the corner and so with no time off work allowed we made our way down on the Friday staying half way down and eventually getting to Llanberis on Saturday morning, just in time to see Nina’s mate run the sprint triathlon. There was a carnival atmosphere, though the band playing in the truck could have been a bit more in tune, however the cow bells were drowning them out and the sun was shining – happy days! I must admit, my head was a bit fuzzy after the beers the night before but that soon went as I started to realise the extent of the hills and the coolness of the water in Lyn Padern!
Registration took place in the nearby information centre and helpfully there was Chain Reaction Cycles on hand to tune up my bike, which is awesome as the gears were playing up. Half hour later, and a number of lectures from bike mechanic – You’re using wet lube – your chain is all manky – your gears are wearing down – your bike is fithly (it’s white, how can you keep that clean!) – you need to get your cables changed soon! OK OK! I even got that look from Tina that only a Tri Mother can do!
So the gears were made better and you could actually see some of the metal on the chain so I was happy anyway… oh and more importantly my rims were cleaned so the brakes would actually work!
The sun was still shining as we checked into the hotel in Caernarfon, a quick 4km run along the coast with a post – run Ice-cream we were heading back to Llanberis for an evening meal, not before we checked out the Quarry we were to run up and the 1km Swim course.
Nina had chosen the eatery that night “Pizza and a Pint!” amazing, and we spent it in the company of her friends with the back drop of Mount Snowdon. An awesome sight. Lasagne and chips was actually my food of choice washed down by a nutritious Stella Artois! Such an athlete. This was swiftly followed by more fuel in the form of Sticky Toffee Pudding and Custard. Amaze.
We got to Llanberis about 8:30 parking without too much fuss and setting up transition. The nerves started to kick in here, though I kept saying “Hakuna Matata” in my head.
We were all in the last wave and had about an hour to wait after the first wave to get into the water. The water was chilly, though I did get used to it, especially as there was false start and it took about another 10mins to bring the guys back to the deep water start. The wetsuit was OK, lots of lube applied to the appropriate parts for comfort and ease of body extraction.
The swim was finally underway and immediately I knew I’d not had enough time in open water (once, for 400m is clearly not enough) It took me a while to get into a rhythm and when I did, I got discombobulated and had to reset the rhythm all over again. 22Mins later I was into transition, really OW swimming is just a case of getting on with it and not drowning.
Transition was comfortable, the clouds were parting, my feet were numb but I made it through after 4mins of faffing.
Onto the bike we headed out of Llanberis with a strongish 16mph head wind. The route wasn’t going to be a surprise as we had drove it the day before, there is a 8km cat 3 rising to a category 4 section uphill section to the Pen-y-pass where the Miners Path starts to ascend Snowdon. It took me 23mins to get up here. This is the start of a 12mile down hill section, the first steep with sharp corners where if you’re not careful you could fly over the barrier and down a lovey cliff.. perhaps the brakes should be used here!
At the bottom of the steep section a sharp left hander took you onto a road that gently descends to Chapel Curig – this was one of the most awesome rides I have ever done, I never got out the big ring and I ran out of gears on the cassette, I was going so fast my legs couldn’t spin fast enough to provide more energy! Amazing.
The next section gradually rises though the scenery about takes your mind off it, there was a headwind of course but it was comfortable.
Again a downhill section on a lovely piece of tarmac, running out of gears again winding the way down a valley with mountains rising all around. It truly is amazing this route.
The next section which is in the foothills of Snowdonia, before the land meets the sea, there is a horrible section of busy road and uphill, with the headwind, head on. This was miserable but again, spinning and Hakuna Matata I made it into T2 after 1hr and 55mins to do the 51km loop. I got my best average speed ever here, 26.2kmph for the route. Thank you down hills!
T2 was a blur, I chatted to a pro who was winning but got 2 punctures on his very wide rimmed bike, he was out but I had a run to do…
The run takes you across the field past the swim course and into Electric Mountain which is a power station, in a mountain. You run through the grounds across a bridge and then into the old slate quarries where there is a 1.6km zig zag climb through them. It is that tough, that they have a separate challenge called the Quarryman, the fastest through this section wins a prize. Though I was not in the running, I did manage to run a lot of it, walking on some sections.
My effort took me 13:55 to get through, the course record is 7:58 though this is on Strava, and I bet they hadn’t done the bike or swim before hand!
The views were amazing, it was worth stopping to get the breath back to look at the views. I was taking people on the run left right and centre! It felt good to be back running and amazingly running better than other folk. When you reach the top, you go through this massive cutting in the Slate called Watford Gap and then you are met with a vista that is like no other, below is the zig zags you’ve just ascended, in the distance is Llanberis with the transition and festival tents in the foreground, all with a backdrop of mountains. Wow.
The route descends through an old forrest which the trail took you through swathes of bluebells covering the forrest floor, across stream above a waterfall and down a dirt track. But the run has a few more brutal nasties thrown in, just when you thought you were going down all the way, another sharp uphill was in order bringing you out onto a road where you steeply descend again into the forrest, back on trail the section runs along a steep descent through forrest, across more streams and then up again! This time my legs were heavy, the steps were near vertical, all I wanted was to go down.
Eventually the forrest rescinded and opened out looking across Lyn Padarn where I swam some 3 and a bit hours ago, the final bit was on road, across a railway and then along the field where I enterd the finishing chute 3 hours and 30 minutes later and in position 596.
Nina was next in after 3hrs 54mins position 834 looking very fresh followed by Tina 4hrs 14mins position 942 vowing that it was the hardest thing she’d done since Ironman.
The triathlon was great, really well organised and what a fantastic, if brutal, course.
No chance to rest, as Tina and I were back to work the next day, so we drove up after a shower and some grub at the very hospitable Pete’s Eats.
If that wasn’t enough for you here is a video I put together…