Slateman Triathlon Review

By Flipper Fingers

January 17, 2017  

Alex tells of his experience at the Slateman Triathlon by Allways Aim High events. It’s a rip roaring read giving a deep insight into the inner thoughts of the club secretary. Usefully it also gives a good account of the race, the pros and cons and might help to address any questions future hogs might […]

Alex tells of his experience at the Slateman Triathlon by Allways Aim High events. It’s a rip roaring read giving a deep insight into the inner thoughts of the club secretary. Usefully it also gives a good account of the race, the pros and cons and might help to address any questions future hogs might have when considering the Slateman Triathlon. Is it worth it worth the cost? Is it organised? Where on earth is it? Is it too tough?

It has become a tendency of recent race reports to start with a truism. For instance: ‘one gel before the swim, the inky black – I slither in.’ And this Slateman Triathlon review (2016) is no exception:

‘One gel before the bike; when you’re on your way, as many as you like.’

Also:

‘Foolhardy be the athlete who undertakes the Slateman Triathlon without prior training’.

Preparation

The event had, as usual, begun with anticipation. George had spent much time messaging the Always Aim High organisers on social media in the lead up to the race, questioning their every move to try and gain the slightest advantage.

It was also the occasion of numerous firsts: the first race of the 2016 season, the first event of the SW Championship in its history, and the very first time any Walrus had undertaken the Slateman. Also by all accounts the first training Mr William had done in at least a year. The team sheet was strong: Cakebreath and Goose for the Savage (sprint + full over two days), and George, Wetsie, Hag, Hadman, Whalebreath, Sammon, Barnacles, Edward Ironside, Wily old Welch and Bingham the Bastard for the full. Mad Maddy Madigan was also there roaming the hills, though what she did on those long days away she still refuses to tell.

The setting at Llanberis. Credit: http://www.llanberis.com/visitwales/llanberis.jpg

Overview

Situated in the foothills of Snowdon in Llanberis, the setting was breathtaking and spectacular. The organisers – Always Aim High Events – state that the race ‘offers a unique mix of incredible scenery and challenge with a carnival atmosphere’, and this is pretty much bang on. Or would have been, had torrential rain not turned transition into a wallowing pit of misery where nameless fluids and gels mingled in one foul pit. ‘Ah yes – much like a carnival’ I hear you say. But I digress! The scenery was indeed immense, with the swim starting in Llyn Padarn lake – perhaps the most picturesque swim I have yet done, once the ever-present fear of the freakout had been conquered – while the cycle takes you over Llanberis pass, through Dyffryn Mymbryr and through the Ogwen Valley as you head back to Llanberis. Many a climb, in short. Following this, the run (or ‘Quarryman Challenge’ as it is known) takes you up the slippery and steep zig zags into Dinorwig quarries and back down through Padarn Country Park in time for tea and medals.

Llyn Padarn. Credit: http://www.walkiees.co.uk/

Prelude

The event itself began the eve before as, in traditional fashion, the Walrus herd gathered over the evening, answering the Chairman’s great call. Intense discussion about nutrition saw the first seeds of discord sown as each tried to tempt the other to devour something that would set them back for the following day’s race. A short ride was undertaken to ‘turn the legs over’, but this soon turned into madness after one sickening climb followed by a hair-raising descent. Safely at the back for me. William, Sammon and I bought an extra neck-warmer to keep the icy cold at bay. The object would later prove Sammon’s destruction, though at the time it would emerge that we had chosen wisely. As is my way when faced with events such as this, I spent much of the evening in quiet contemplation, barring a brief argument with George about whether or not to wear leggings in the swim. Memories of a long-limbed man quietly peeling a sweet potato two years before in this very spot prior to the Snowman 2014 cheered me and sent me into a deep reverie. Sleep took its hold – one so deep that I must have missed all of the knocking and calls inviting me to dinner. No matter – two bowls of pasta and a bag of donuts later I located everyone by the lake. “Oh, we thought you were with us all along.” Always the same.

It’s wet now. Wetter than before. We’ve crammed into the camper van for some stew. In silence Jonny peels sweet potato while we all stare to the east and onto Moel Siabod.

Quote from the Snowman Triathlon 2014 Report

The morning of: alarm bells, awaken! Bingham first into the bathroom for T 0.5. Then a burning desire for hot coffee, eggs and bananas for nutrition. ‘Ah but it’s a hotel and we’ve all paid for breakfast,’ so it’s straight to the croissants, danishes, coco pops and delicious hot chocolate. Then eggs, sausages and bacon. Yoghurt next of course. More coffee – and there it is: straight to the bathroom for T 0.75. All done, good to go. WAIT! T 0.9 – right on queue. More bananas and another coffee.

Down to transition – cold, and raining. Vague awareness of a voice on the tannoy explaining that the water is only a few tenths of a degree above the threshold allowing for it to be the full distance. A pact with Mr W for mutual support at the start of the swim. Lord knows what will happen if we both go under. Manic unpacking of tri boxes, some thigh slapping and then the briefing. Then off to the swim start to see off the early waves and for a long wait in the rain. Off goes Becky Sammon, clad in bright orange, and Holly, then Wetsie and Henry and the other elites, and then it’s our turn. Wading in I feel the cold seep into my limbs; a cold so deep that even a full urination doesn’t completely solve it. But it does the trick enough and off we go!

Whalebreath and Hadcod in training

THE RACE

Slateman Triathlon Swim

The cold shrinks my brain to previously unseen levels. Mr W nowhere to be seen. A pang of conscience – turning around I see him not far behind. A brief conversation sees us agree to break the pact as both are fine, the freakout avoided by this stage. I eye the first buoy and concentrate hard. Before I know it I’m out of the water and sat on the grass in T1 desperately tugging at my leggings which refuse to budge. George passes by merrily with a knowing smile, leaving transition by the time I free my first foot.

Slateman Triathlon Bike

Off on the bike — a quick gel – straight into a long queue snaking its way up the first climb, traffic heavy and centimetres away on our outside. Not pleasant. Into the driving rain; I don my flappy jacket at an auspicious passing place, during which procedure the first of several items I was to drop on the race falls from my pocket – a delicious flapjack I was saving for half way. Before long I’m cycling with a group of gentlemen who all seem of similar ability. One of them sidles up to me: ‘Sexy Walrus? Do you know Ian Bayly?’ ‘Old Big Balls?’ I cry in response. ’Yes! That’s the one!’ Bemused at this chance encounter and at the mutual nickname, I ride off in silence. Soon I spot Matt W and we enjoy a good haughty discussion – politics, military matters, that year’s expedition and angling – before I continue on my quest to catch George. At which point the second item – my multitool – falls to the ground with a crash and smashes into a thousand pieces. Glorious sweeping descents and long, steady ascents – with the odd tougher badger thrown in – characterised the rest of the bike. That and the driving rain.

The valley of Dyffryn Mymbr. Credit: Wikipedia

Slateman Triathlon Run

Soon it was into T2 for a club sandwich and a rub down. Then off on the run – down the road and there they are! aha! Mr George, Burns and Bingham, walking due to various injuries and incapacitations. A wise choice for their bodies but who knows what misery befell their minds for the remainder of the route. Short of a good wisecrack to shout as I went past I made do with a slap on the back and I was off, speeding down the road before turning up into the quarry. Then climbing – back-breaking climbing. I pass Edwin, resplendent in SW blue, and continue on. Slippery wet feet slap the turf and rocks like wet fish. Near death at every corner and sharp bend. Hellish ascents follow equally hellish descents. Something falls from my pocket – my remaining gel. A runner behind stands on it and it explodes. Vague thoughts of what might happen if a worm eats it.

The Quarryman run. Credit: snowdoniaslateman.com

Before long I’m at the finish, gasping. A somewhat odd reunion with a friend from university, not seen in years, right on the finish line. Smalltalk over jelly beans and bananas. Then off to find the remaining Walrus and watch Goosebeard come in – 3rd plaice! Singing of the club song as he steps up to the podium – glory – then off for burgers and ales. A subdued ride with Henry home, silence reigning most of the way. None of the German techno that characterised the journey up. Then we part ways, not to speak of it again.

Summary

A thrilling race, and wholly recommended! As with other Always Aim High Events, what you get from the Slateman triathlon is challenging terrain (the Slateman run up the Quarry – or the Quarryman – is utter madness), spectacular scenery, great organisation and excellent value for money. Compared to other mainstream triathlons (e.g. Blenheim – over £100 for the Sprint), it is relatively cheap, no matter what distance you do. It is with anticipation that a good number of our club await the Sandman Triathlon in 2017. In terms of the route, the swim, though cold, ranks as one of the most exciting open water swims I have done. With mountains towering to one side and the water gleaming in the spring sun, it really was glorious. The bike was fairly unpleasant due to the driving rain, though on a nicer day it could have been terrific, with stunning scenery all round and a winding route full of great ascents and descents to please a technically adept rider and terrify the novice. The starting ascent was spoilt due to heavy traffic on narrow roads during the long, slow ascent, which was the only negative point on the whole race. The run was extremely challenging and a real morale-sapper, but excellent fun.

Overall: do it!


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