Sandmen and Feedzone Portables
It was my turn today, The Sandman Triathlon on Anglesey a 1km swim, 60km bike and 10km run in the sand dunes. It had been a disastrous race last year, in which I didn't eat or drink enough and had suffered a tiny bit of heat stroke. I was determined to get it right this time and had a clear strategy set..... Steady swim, steady bike and run hard with target times for each leg.
There were strict instructions that we left the house exactly 7am as I wanted to register well before 8am. I get stressed by having to rush so was glad when we had the car packed and ready to go dead on time. It was a glorious day....cold mountain air, a deep morning blue sky with the first rays of sun starting to appear. Not a puff of wind either. Rosemary was doing a fine job of being cheery, but she was clearly in discomfort after yesterday's crash. It also meant me sitting in the back seat.
Dada Byde dropped us off in Newborough itself, which left a 2 mile traipse down to the beach. It was a wise move as competitors in their cars were in a line about a mile long and moving very slowly. I walked a little bit but Rosemary insisted that I ride down to make it in time. Another wise move.
Wow.....on the left hand side of the road there were hundreds of spider webs covered in dew, hammocked across fern like plants and glistening in the sun. I started singing "three little birds" a Bob Marley song that I sing when I'm very happy or very sad. I was very happy.
Registration was seamless, I racked my bike and luckily found Rosemary very quickly. She helped apply number tattoos, fixed my main number to my race belt and made sure I had my race nutrition. She's learnt to help only when I ask for it.....which I really appreciate. My mind can't cope with distractions when in race mode. I then headed to the transition area, got it set up....all pro' with my shoes attached to the pedals. I munched a banana and as soon as it was finished, the announcer announced that the race was going to start 30 minutes late! Gah....loads of competitors stuck in traffic. I swore a little bit but couldn't change the situation and had a coffee to get over the annoyance.
After the race briefing, around 400 competitors trundled through the sand dunes and towards the beach. It was about a 1km walk to the start and I chatted to Rob from my club on the way. Despite assurances from the announcer to the contrary, there wasn't much time until the off....I left Rob, jogging down the beach. 5 minutes to go.....a quick dip in the shallows, a wee to warm up my wetsuit and a goggle rinse to equilibrate them with the sea water (stops them steaming).
We all lined up on the beach, a guy on a tannoy started an oggy oggy oggy which I failed to enter into, and then a sea of bodies charged down and into the water. It was mayhem but my goal was to stay relaxed. I refrained from sprinting, avoiding contact with others until the turning buoy. Humans tend to have a flock mentality and I noticed the majority of swimmers following each other in a sub-optimal line. I'm no sheep and stuck to my plan, getting clean water in the process.
At around half-distance, spotting error in line choice an entire school of triathletes soon enveloped me, turning the water white (beats yellow I suppose). Boom! A foot connected with my eye socket and water seeped into my goggles. A quick flip on my back and they were sorted!
Beneath me I saw a bed of juicy mussels....imagined chips and mayonnaise to accompany them. I then remembered that I am a vegetarian who should be focussing on a strong swimming stroke. A final turn towards the beach and I was soon running towards transition through the dunes! Ach..... 5 minutes off target.....definitely a mis-measured distance so no need to worry.
Transition was relatively quick with only a tiny mishap when my wetsuit Velcro attaching to my shoe Velcro. Damn.....on mounting my bike, I found that my shoe had become fastened so entry was more difficult than it should have been. I lost a few places but only to riders who seemed to be charging off at an unsustainable pace. Once off the beach road, I had a rhubarb & custard gel washed down with water, removing the taste of sea water from my mouth.
The rest of the bike was uneventful with only one polite moan at a chap who was blatantly drafting. I stuck to my plan of remaining relaxed, avoiding going into the red at any stage. No need to spend important energy pennies at this stage. Rosemary had made me some rice cakes, the recipe taken from Allen Lim's Feedzone Portables book.....chocolate and blueberries sandwiched between sticky rice! Absolute yummy and much more palatable than overly sweet and processed gels. Chapeau Dr Lim....... R and I should be due royalties from this book as it's been adopted by many in the triathlon and adventure racing communities based on our recommendations. The only downside is the non-adoption of SI units in the book, inexcusable for someone purporting to be a scientist! A 'cup' is as stupid a measure as a bit of string!
My bike leg was 5 mins quicker than last year and my legs felt relatively fresh too. T2 was slower than I wanted, possibly due to my position in the transition zone but also because I chose to put on socks to protect my feet from abrasive sand. 'Brick' training meant an absence of jelly legs in the first km. Several people passed me, two on the first steep dune but I knew how tough the run was and had a clear strategy to only up the pace after the 7km water station.
It was now hot....over 20 C in late September and going was now tough! "Two cups of water please" I called out to the army cadet who duly obliged. A quick gulp of one and the other went over my baldy heid and down my back. Heaven.....followed by a bit of voluntary hell. Refreshed, I upped the pace and focused on slowly catching the guy in orange calf guards who was a few hundred metres ahead......next.....next. Then the 2nd placed woman passed me with about a mile to go....she had started 10 minutes after me but losing only 11 mins overall was a good benchmark.
I then heard Rosemary cheering from on top of a big sand dune which I had to ascend. Last year I nearly crawled up the bloody thing but this year I ran. "I'm not the 3rd female" I cried to the cheering crowd. "They're man boobs"....to which I heard laughter. A final push along the beach in which I passed a few more people. "I wish it was double the distance" I thought, still feeling good! Over the last dune and to the finishing line! Ohhhh......"I need a wee seat" and I plonked myself on the ground.
It was a great way to finish the season. 5 minutes faster than planned on the bike, spot on target for the run and a swim that was within the top 25%. T2 was too slow and an iffy shoe entry after T1. Very happy overall, a wee bit room for improvement and confident that I can maintain a similar pace when I step up to half-Ironman distance next year.
The bigger challenge was walking back up to the car, 3km away and I even had to have a little sit down on the way. We just caught the end of service at Caban, a cafe which always provides a serviceable lunch and then it was back to Dinorwig. Rosemary collapsed on the sofa, suffering from yesterday's crash and I prepared dinner. Having not done enough in the day, I walked to the feed station at Fachwen to cheer on the final few competitors in the Brutal Double Ironman....who had been racing for 35 hours! I don't think Rosemary was too surprised when I fell asleep on the sofa almost immediately after dinner!