The Snowdonia Triathlon Festival is a new event organised by Always Aim High Events, this race has replaced the Snowman Triathlon which was a tough race that only someone who wanted a challenge would consider entering, the snowman was one of my favourite races on the calendar and really did test you out mentally and physically so it was going to be interesting how the two courses compared.
I made the trip over the week before the race to have a recce of both the bike and run routes, after doing so it was clear that the course would have different challenges than the Snowman, the bike course is less demanding on elevation and has some fast descents, the run course is on an undulating trail rather than a pure fell, this would mean the bike being pushed more and the run being raced rather than suffered, the run has a nice sting in the tail which anyone who had previously completed the Snowman will be fully aware of the climb up through the rocky trail in the forest and finished off with a quad bashing descent on tarmac to take you to the 1000m of head down suffering to the finish.
we had decided to camp over at a site 1 mile down the road from the race venue, I find I can relax much better when camping and you can generally get very local to the venue which eases the morning stresses, this trip didn’t quite have the pre race relaxation as normal, we picked our spot to set up the tent with a scenic view that only Snowdonia could offer, we unloaded the car, unpacked the tent which is a nice size with two bedrooms and a full height living area, with the tent unfolded and ready to insert the poles it became apparent that my mum had forgotten the tent poles, now this gave us a few options, 1- drive the 4 hour round trip to get them which would have cost money, 2- find a hotel which we already knew was booked up everywhere local, 3- buy some new poles, 4- buy a new tent…
We opted to purchase a new 3 berth tent, this way money wasn’t wasted and we could get back to the site and get sorted, this did mean my mum would be sleeping in the estate car which sounds rubbish but it looked rather comfy with an airbed and duvet in there.
So after some jokes I went to register and spread the word of my mums mishap, this even meant informing the dream team tv crew. I got in a 30 minute spin on the bike to loosen the legs and then headed back to site for tea and an early night.
This is always a busy and stressful time for me until I get transition sorted and wetsuit on, it was my first AAH event of the season so plenty of friends I hadn’t seen and the tv interviews to get out of the way with questions being asked which would give your game plan out to fellow competitors standing close by listening.
I knew a few names on the start sheet who would be my main rivals, Paul Hawkins and James Hockin was the ones who stood out to me but you don’t know everyone and there is always people who look the part and have all the gear but you can’t judge a book by its cover.
I have raced Paul and James many of times and we all know our own individual strengths, I had an idea that Paul wasn’t on his best run form so I predicted his tactics would be to get on my feet in the swim and then in his words SMASH the bike, James is solid throughout the 3 disciplines and ends the races with a fast run leg.
My aim for the race was to swim hard, bike the first few miles hard and then settle down at a good power to see me run well off the 60k bike leg.
Photo credit : Ffion Ankers
Swim – 1000m
The swim takes place in a stunning lake and the distance in this race is shorter than the usual 1500m of a standard distance race, this meant I would commit a bit more energy into attempting to get out front and exit the water with a lead, the water temperature was approximately 16deg which was tropical for this lake after experiencing sub 10deg temperatures in last years Snowman Triathlon.
The first buoy was around 200m, I made a decision to start on the opposite side to the faster swimmers, my aim was to get to the first buoy and have enough of a gap to stop anyone getting an easier ride in my draft, this worked out and the only company I had for the remainder of the swim was a canoe with the Dream Team tv camera in my face, this made sighting a little difficult but also helped keep me pushing hard to exit the water with a nice gap over the chasing Paul Hawkins.
Bike – 60k
The Snowdonia bike course has 3 main climbs which aren’t overly steep but drag on which makes them important to pace the climbs well, there are some amazing views riding through the Snowdonia national park and on route, some fast descents and rolling roads.
I mounted the bike and had a 26 second lead, my plan was to go hard and hopefully increase the gap over the chasing athletes, this didn’t go to plan and Hawkins moved through into 1st position after 3 miles, at this point I was surprised at how well he was riding, I was happy to let him go and stick to my race plan with the hope he would be pushing too hard and I could reel him back in towards the end of the bike.
On the bike I didn’t feel good but I didn’t feel bad, I didn’t push overly hard on the climbs and after getting off and entering transition 2, I hear Paul has a 4 minute lead, i didn’t predict this would happen so it came as a shock to know I had a massive task to chase him down.
I have later found out that I had seized bearings on one of my rear derailleur jockey wheels, this will have made life difficult without knowing at the time and hopefully is the reason I was off the pace.
Run – 10k
This run is 90% on trails, the first 4 miles are on rolling terrain on an out and back section, the back section of the run involved a run up through the forest which is a steep rocky climb of 1000m, this leads you to a fast descent on tarmac which really hurts the already fatigued legs.
Off the bike I had a 4 minutes deficit to chase if I would challenge for the win, I also had a fast running James Hockin coming into transition 2 only 60 seconds behind.
As soon as you hit the run there is a bank of steps to overcome before attempting to run freely, I felt surprisingly good and went out hard to attempt the close the gap, I had the tv camera quad bike in front of me which keeps the pressure on, after 2 miles I got sight of the race leader Hawkins and at the turn around point I had closed the gap but it was still a deficit which would take something very special to chase down, at the turn around I also got to see the 3rd placed athlete Hockin closing me down.
At 4 miles my concern was holding onto my current 2nd place position, I knew to hold this out I would need to crest the rockey forest climb and then leave everything out there through to the finish, this didn’t happen and as I crested the tough climb I got knocked back into 3rd and left trailing behind the fast finishing James Hockin, he was on a charge and only lost out on the win in a sprint finish with me coming home just short of a minute later.
2:39.02 / winners time – 2:38.07
Fastest swim, 3rd fastest bike, second fastest run
Snowdonia festival full distance results sheet
Im was happy to be back racing at an Always Aim High Event, these races really are my favourite.
I’m happy with a podium
I had a good swim tactically and performance
My bike was off the pace needed to compete for the top step
The run only fell short of being great to a fast legged Hoskin
Swim – shallow lake, fresh and clean, 1 x 1000m loop
Bike – challenging, stunning views, quiet roads, good surface
Run – off-road loose trail, undulating with a sting in the tail
Would I race again – yes 100%
Snowman vs Snowdonia course – these are two completely different races, the Snowman is more of a challenge and demands a strong mind to overcome the pure fell run, I do love this run as it sorts the men out from the boys. The new Snowdonia is more of a racers course but still a challenge.
If I had to choose a course I would opt for the Snowman, it is a run course different from any and demands massive respect to get up and down fast, the Snowman Triathlon was my dads favourite race and we shared some great memories of how it made us suffer.
Always Aim High Events provided an excellent organised event in an amazing location, I would fully recommend putting The Snowdonia Triathlon Festival on your 2017 race calendar.
As always a big thanks to my team ChampionSystem/VCUK and sponsors.
Mark Lomax Chartered Accountants
Next up – Helvellyn Triathlon 4th Sep
Also keep your eyes peeled for the tv coverage of The Snowdonia Festival races, this will be shown on Chan 4, Eurosport and SkySports in the coming weeks.