The Sandman Triathlon is one of Always Aim High Events and the second in a 3 race series, the first being The Slateman and the 3rd being The Snowman which takes place two weeks after this race.
Anyone who has followed me over the past two seasons will know how much I enjoy racing in the AAH series, there is something different about these races which stands them above all the many races I do throughout the triathlon season, the events attract large numbers from elites to first time athletes, the organisation is faultless with a large focus on a friendly atmosphere, there’s an added bonus of TV coverage which allows us all to relive the day with the events being aired on a number of channels shortly after the race.
The AAH events have grown massively over the years and with this the strength of the competition has increased largely.
The series prize
The way the series works is your time in each of the 3 events gets accumulated and the athlete with the lowest time wins one of the best prizes out there. By winning the AAH series you will get the chance to race in the Nevis Triathlon which takes place on a Carribean Island, this just looks stunning and would be a unbelievable way to end the season.
The Sandman Triathlon race venue is Newborough Forest, the start and finish set in an exclusive area within the 700ha woods adjacent to Llanddwyn Beach.
In an area of outstanding natural beauty, the surrounding scenery along the race route is stunning, this event offers a challenge for everyone regardless of fitness and experience.
I was staying in a b&b just a stones throw from the race venue, this took away a lot of the pre race stress and I had time for a chilled early morning breakfast of porridge and some toast and banana.
After sorting transition out and a pre race tv interview, I had time for a short warm up jog before getting oiled up and getting my wetsuit on.
Swim- (1000m sea)
The swim was going to be very different from last years mill pond conditions, this year we would be challenged by the roughest conditions iv come across but this excited me and would play as an advantage in my favour over some of the weaker swimmers. The walk down the beach seemed to be a long way and looked much further than the proscribed race distance, I wasn’t grumbling at this as the longer the better for a chance to increase the gap getting on the bike over the fast bikers.
The start is from a segregated pen on the beach which leaves a 50m sprint on the sand into the water, I was lined up at the side of who I thought was the fastest swimmer Ross Hoskin and next to him was my fast improving mate Lewis Eccleston, the gun went and iv never seen anyone move as fast as Lewis did and all I could see is him bounding over the waves in the shallow water, I think this helped me get a good start as I rounded the first buoy in the lead and had a small gap on Ross Hoskin, Ross took 60 seconds out of me last year in the swim so I was well aware that he could be coming past, after a few hundred meters I felt him in my draft and I tried to get him to come through on my right side with the idea of me hanging onto his draft just off his left hip, maybe he was aware of this as he came through on the left so I made the decision to drop back and then move back through into the slightly protected side and into his draft.
The swim was very enjoyable, iv not been swimming great over the last month but for some reason I felt in full control of the pace at the front of the race and the swim seemed to be over in a flash, I think this was due to the level of concentration needed to work against the conditions and being focused on not letting Ross slip away.
Bike – (60k)
The bike course is fast and rolling, there doesn’t seem to be many descents but there are plenty of short climbs which have you working hard if you want to maintain some good speed.
Straight out of transition there is a 2 mile ascent to get out of the forrest and onto the main route which is one large loop.
Going into this race I was aware of some very good bikers, this normally means these guys are left to chase hard after loosing time in the swim, with the Sandman bike section being 13 mile extra in distance than the usual standard distance race of 40k, I was conscious that this could play into there favour.
At around 10 mile and taking a 90 degree turn I had a glance back down a long section of road, at this point I was in first place but still had young Ross Hoskin for company, at this point I had been working hard but could see two athletes closing the gap at which I recognised as the eventual winner Ewan Brown and third place finisher Paul Hawkins, I figured the gap was going to be closed so used this time to get some fuel in and get set for what was going to be a tough remaining 27 mile of each one of us trying to break clear.
This was very similar to how last years race panned out so I used my experience from this to get me through this battle the best I could.
Being at the front end of the race and having the tv camera bike filming you most of the way is a massive advantage, there is only a 7 meter draft limit at these races which is basically an estate car length, anyone who rides a bike will know the benefits from drafting and that even at a legal distance of 7 meters which can look much closer to an unknowledgable eye is still benificial.
Each rider had spells of feeling good and attempting to get clear at the front of the race but with the ability of each rider being high it was a near impossible task.
Being in a group situation like we was can be a dangerous game but we all knew the rules and had the British triathlon referee for company much of the time which kept everything in check and to the rules.
As the pace hotted up we approached the remaining 10 miles and took a sharp right turn, it was at this point Ewan put a real solid effort in to get clear which left the group splintered and only me matching the increased pace, I noticed Paul Hawkins had dropped back due to what he said was a lack of concentration and I was already planning ahead for the run at this point and thinking he would be challenging for a podium position, from this point I went through to the front and tried to open the gap more but after a few miles Paul had closed the gap which must have been hell of an effort and could possibly have effected him later in the run.
I was ready for Ewan doing exactly what he did in last years race when he put in a big effort up the final climb and kamikaze down the descent back to transition, even being aware of this he still opened up a 30 second gap and I entered transition in 2nd place with Hawkins on my toes.
“Press to watch” VIDEO – bike finish📹
Run – 10k (sand, sand and more sand)
I had a bad time in last years run having lacking some run fitness due to injury and the fact I opted for a all or nothing approach on the bike, this year I felt much fresher even after a very tough bike and ran out of transition at a good pace in the aim to create a cushion and mental edge over the chasing Hawkins in 3rd.
“Press to watch” VIDEO – run start📹
To make things just a bit tougher for 2015 the run route had been slightly changed which included much more leg sapping hills in the first half of the course, these hurt but I figured it was hurting everyone.
I was running strong, the gap between me in 2nd and 3rd had opened up to a clear distance but I was still on edge on some of the fast runners making there way through the field.
Once I hit the beach and could see the remaining 1k of sand to the finish I knew 2nd place on the podium was mine and moved down the beach to utilise the wet harder sand to get me to the finish.
I finished 2nd and 1 place higher than last year but in a much stronger line up of competitors, I’m proud of the result and full respect to Ewan Brown for yet again an unchallengeable dominance at these tough AAH events, well done to Paul Hawkins for finishing off the podium with a gritty run and alround race.
As usual a big thanks to my support from family and friends, racing is made easier with you all there 😊
Big thanks to my race team VeloClubUK and all the team sponsors for providing the best kit to race fast.
Club Roost Wheels
Mark Lomax Chartered Accountants