Sandman Triathlon is a must do race, whether it be competing for a podium or a goal of race completion.
The Sandman Race is the 3rd event of a 3 race series that is held by Always Aim High Events, each of these events have their own challenges and I am often asked which one is the toughest and which one is my favourite, the truth is they all play their part in making the whole series the best in the country.
If I could make the perfect event from the AlwaysAimHigh series, I would have the Sandman sea swim, The Slateman bike leg and the Snowman run course.
Photo – Tom Last (tdl event services)
Sandman Full Distance
Swim – stunning 1000m sea swim, the start is a walk of the full swim distance down the beautiful Newborough Beach on the Isle of Anglesey.
Bike – 60k, 1 x loop, fast rolling course.
Run – 10k loop around the unique Newborough forest across a combination of forestry tracks, single tracks, sand dunes with the final leg along the stunning beach.
I have raced the Sandman Triathlon in 2014 and 2015 with results of 3rd and 2nd overall, this race attracts a quality field of competitors and it’s normally the strong bikers that triumph, in the previous years I have swam well, biked hard and hung in there for the run.
2016 and my race tactics are no different from the previous two years, I was going into this race not knowing how the legs would perform after taking on one of the countries toughest events at Helvellyn Triathlon, this was just two weeks before the Sandman race which left my legs that sore and fatigued that I could only swim for the week post race.
Photo – Tom Last (tdl event services)
Race morning and I was excited and looking forward to the day ahead, after a pre race tv interview and informing the tv crew that there was many more quality athletes to include in there race predictions, it was time to make the 1k walk down the beach to the swim start.
Swim – I had been down on the Saturday and the sea was as calm as a millpond and looked very inviting to swim in, although this would be perfect to train in it wasn’t the conditions I wanted for Sunday’s race, upon entering the beach over the sand dunes i was greeted by the sea which had waves good enough to surf on, this would make the swim tough for me but even tougher for others and hopefully increasing the advantage I take onto the bike leg of this race.
The swim starts with a 50m run off the beach, we had been advised in the race brief that the current would push us left so we should aim right of the first buoy, I was sticking to my own plan and due to most people taking the briefing advice I started far left so I didn’t have to deal with a mass of competitors swimming against me, the water is shallow for half the distance to the first buoy, this meant running and striding over the waves and then choosing the best time to dolphin dive through the chop and get into a swim stroke, I got away well but swimming was a challenge against the waves, stoke rythme and breathing was disrupted and concentration was increased to avoid swallowing water and advancing through the tough conditions.
I swam most of the swim side by side with Greg Cherry, it didn’t feel a fast pace but it was impossible to see where to navigate and I think we both took comfort in having company, to adjust to the conditions I slowed my stroke rate to match the waves, occasionally having to miss a breath due to being hit by a wave, once we rounded the final buoy it was a fast swim aided by the current and waves back into sure and the swim exit, I put some effort in and opened up a small lead and entered transition in first place.
Bike – into transition and onto the bike, lots of adrenaline from the spectator atmosphere, live commentary and the tv camera following every move.
The first 2k of the bike is a gradual climb out of newborough forest, I worked hard up here and opened up a gap on second place, now the challenge was holding off the strong bikers over the 60k bike course.
I held pole position for the first 40 minutes on the bike, I was pushing as hard as my legs would allow but I was lacking the edge to keep on top of the bigger gears which would keep me at the front of this race.
By the time I entered transition 2 and the end of the bike I had faded down to 5th position, the strange thing was I didn’t feel relieved that the bike was over but I just felt I didn’t have it in me to bike to the level needed to compete in this race.
Run – soon after transition I dropped another position and was left in 6th, for 9k of the 10k run I didn’t have sight of anyone in front or behind, I lost a bit of motivation and was running more at tempo than race pace, in previous years I had suffered loads getting round this run and holding a podium position, this year felt much different, my body wouldn’t let me suffer due to the fatigue created weeks before, I entered the final 1k on the beach and attempted to find the most solid ground which isn’t easy when its a beach of soft sand or loose stones, the tv quad bike is in front of me and a drone above, I was quite happy to hold the relaxed pace and enjoy the remaining short distance to the finish, luckily I had a glance back and saw a chasing athlete Richard Anderson who looked determined, this meant I had to up my effort and hold off through the finish line.
This is my lowest position in an AlwayAimHigh race, I obviously didn’t target finishing in 6th position and being beaten is never easy, I’m experienced enough to realise that I finished in 6th place because I was beaten by better athletes on the day, triathlon is improving as a sport each season and it’s being in these quality races with quality athletes that makes this sport so exciting.
Best bits …
The best part of the weekend for me was seeing the under 8yr kids doing a triathlon, the determination of them and braveness of doing a swim, bike and run on there own is awesome. Full credit to the event organisers for having the kids events as part of the weekend of races.
Well done to the race winners and a big thanks to Always Aim High Events for another amazing day of racing.
Big thanks to my support crew who couldn’t be missed in team colours
As always, I was racing with some of the best kit supplied by sponsors of my team ChampionSystem/vcuk
Mark Lomax Chartered Accountants