I’ve been talking about doing a triathlon for years. Earlier this year I bit the bullet, joined the Mersey Triathlon club, got training and signed up for my debut race at Slateman sprint triathlon. I can now officially call myself a triathlete!
Slateman sprint triathlon was my first of what will hopefully become many triathlons. When I began training with the Mersey Tri crew the comments I got about starting off with this particular race went along the lines of ‘You could have picked an easier one to start off with’ and ‘That’s the one all the men do’. I was told that it would be a tough race, so I trained hard. Probably more than I needed to, but I’ve discovered that triathlon training is addictive…
I’m really pleased with how I did, and loved every minute of it. My aim was to do Slateman sprint in an hour and a half and I came pretty close to that finishing in 1 hour 37 minutes – even with some shoe malfunctions and stacking my bike at the dismount zone! Coming in 30th place out of 150 women, I’d say my debut as a triathlete was pretty successful.
I love being outdoors as much as possible, especially out in the wild which definitely influenced my decision to start with the mountainous Slateman rather than a more flat city-based triathlon. The views were absolutely fantastic and it could not have fallen on a better day with the sun shining all day.
The water in the lake we swam in was an icy 11 degrees – any lower and they wouldn’t have let us in even with our wetsuits on. We had some seriously fashionable fluoro pink swimming caps to wear and actually started from a standing position in the water rather than in a mad rush from the edge which is what I expected. As we walked in everyone around us was gasping with slight shock as the water seeped into wetsuits. Someone had a microphone and I thought he was yelling out ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi’ but apparently I was mistaken.. I just assumed he must have been Australian as well!
I’ve been doing my open water training at Crosby Marina and the Liverpool Docks, so one of the first thoughts I had during the swimming leg was momentary surprise about the water being fresh and not salty. Despite being a water baby and loving swimming, I’ve never swum in any open water swimming races before. I know others had some experiences getting swum over, grabbed or kicked but thankfully none of that happened to me on this occasion. There was a bit of a traffic jam around each buoy where everyone seemed to get stuck and ended up treading water for a few seconds but otherwise no problems.
With only 400m to swim, I was soon running up to the transition zone and quickly wriggled out of my wetsuit thanks to a ‘wetsuit dance’ demonstration one of my fellow Mersey Tri triathletes had shown a few days earlier before jumping on my bike up the steep and windy Llanberis pass. Driving up it this narrow road in a car is deceptively misleading. It’s a steady uphill climb of about 400m for about 5km till you reach the top followed by a wicked descent full of many snake bends. I loved the fact that I over took some of the guys on the way DOWN the mountain who had overtaken me going up the mountain! Competitive much… Ironically it as not racing down here that I crashed, but at the dismount zone when I was trying to get off my bike and avoid hitting an official at the same time. Fail.
Running is definitely my weakest sport and I found this leg the hardest. Some sections were more of a scramble than a run and it was reassuring that I wasn’t the only one conserving a bit of energy by walking up those parts. I wasn’t wearing trail shoes so that did let me down a bit as I got overtaken by quite a few girls in the last kilometre or two as I couldn’t physically go any faster without slipping, tripping or falling of a cliff somewhere.
Nutrition wise I didn’t put a huge amount of thought into my race day nutrition. Something I’ll have to work on for the next event for sure. For breakfast I had a big batch of high protein bircher muesli with Protein Dynamix whey protein isolate in the morning about 3 hours before the race. I then ate a banana about 30 minutes before the race began. With it being my first triathlon I wasn’t sure how I’d go energy wise so I threw an energy bar and a shot block in my back pockets just in case. Turns out I didn’t need it for a sprint, but I will definitely need something to fuel me better for the longer distances.
On the hydration front I’ve been working on running during training without any water so that I wouldn’t have to carry anything. I’d originally planned to run without water but as Saturday turned out to be a beautiful sunny day I decided to take my water bottle with me. Just as well, as I drank almost 600ml along the trail!
I completely forgot about transitions until the day before Slateman. Just before heading down to Wales I was watching transitions on Youtube and had a bit of a go in the back yard at doing a flying start… Needless to say I didn’t master it! I’ll be working on practising ‘the 4th discipline’ a bit more in the upcoming weeks.
I loved the festival vibe they had going at Slateman. There were lots of families and kids out cheering you on and plenty of cowbells ringing over the mountain. It was great hearing people you know (and don’t know) cheering you on by name and such a positive environment with people of all ages, shapes and sizes racing. There was even one woman I saw wearing a veil while running who must have been on her hen do!
My next triathlon will be Ullswater Olympic distance triathlon in July. My plan is to keep on increasing my distances at each race I do and see how far I get. The swimming and cycling legs are fine but I definitely need to focus on my running to build up more strength, stamina in that component.
All in all I loved Slateman and will probably return next year to conquer the Olympic distance!