The Anglesey Sandman Triathlon was the last event on my calendar for 2016 and the last of the three events which form the Always Aim High Adventure Series. Having completed the sprint race the year before, I knew that the Sandman offered its own unique challenges – specifically waves, wind and sand. Although on paper this event looks the easiest of the three in terms of terrain, it would prove to be far from it!
I’d received an email from Race Force on the Friday leading up to the event to say that I was in contention for the Adventure Series prize. This goes to the person with the fastest combined time across the three events. I knew that there were competitors that were much faster than me but perhaps they hadn’t done all three events. This certainly added an element of excitement to the proceedings.
I arrived at the event village in Newborough Forest early on Sunday morning; the conditions were much different to the day before for the Sprint event. The wind had picked up and the sea was pretty choppy. I knew from the year before that the swim conditions would make it difficult to sight the buoys and also hard to swim straight, as the tide drags you in towards the shore. The build up to the start was slightly different for me in this race. As I was racking my bike in transition I was asked to have a chat with the television crew. It was quite surreal being interviewed, and I can’t really remember much of what I’d said. I love the TV coverage that Always Aim High provide of the event and so to be asked to be included in that was very exciting!
After a short walk along the beach I was stood on the start line, ready for the sprint into the sea, ready to start my last race of the season, ready to hurt one last time. The first 50 metres in the water was a melee of jumping over waves and dolphin diving, before finally settling into swimming and making my way to the first buoy. The sea was rough, I’d say rougher than last year and as I made the 90 degree turn around the first buoy and began to swim parallel with the beach, I tried to use my experience from last year and keep right so as not to be dragged towards the shore. This didn’t work. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to swim in these conditions but the constant ebb and flow of waves makes it difficult to get into a rhythm. I was swimming blind. I couldn’t see any of the three marker buoys ahead of me. It wasn’t until I got closer to the second buoy that I realised how far left I had been dragged. I probably shouldn’t write what went through my head at that point! The rest of the swim was much the same, although I’d managed to get a sighting of the final buoys. I was pretty tired by the time I got back to the beach to complete the swim. This is what I meant by the Sandman offering its own unique challenges. On paper a 1000 metre swim doesn’t look too bad. In reality, the conditions took a lot of strength out of my arms. I’ve included a picture of the route my GPS watch recorded for the swim so you see how straight I didn’t swim!
As I got to my bike in T1 the TV camera focused on my transition – just to add a bit of pressure! I remember the camera operator asking how the swim was – I think I managed a rather out of breath ‘hard work’.
The bike was 60 kilometres, predominately on wide and fast roads. After a short climb out of Newborough forest, I erased my memory of a poor swim and I quickly settled into a rhythm, holding what power numbers I knew I could sustain. I didn’t feel great and, coupled with the second half of the bike route being into the wind, the bike just felt like hard work. At this point I had no idea where I was in the contention for the series and so I just focused on pushing as hard as I could. After a fast descent back down through the forest, past the spectators, I was off the bike and into T2.
I set out onto the run and for the first time that day was feeling good. I pushed the first couple of kilometres hard and began to pick off a few competitors ahead of me. As I got deeper into the forest the running got more difficult, under foot became much softer and the odd sharp rise up a sand dune took the edge off my pace. Each sand dune made it harder to get back up to speed. My pace wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be in the closing kilometres and I’d rather resigned myself to the fact that this run wasn’t going to be my quickest.
I crossed the line having given everything I had that day. Of the three races, the Sandman is definitely up there as the toughest - certainly for me this year anyway. I was absolutely delighted to find out that I’d finished second in the overall series, and somewhat lucky as third place was just one minute behind me!
It’s time to put my feet up, relax and reflect on what has been a successful 2016 season for me. I have churned out consistent results this year. For me, next year is about building on this - getting fitter, stronger, and faster and hopefully appearing at the sharp end of races with more regularity.
Thanks to Always Aim High for another great event and a brilliant end to the season, I look forward to smashing my times next year!
KitBrix Luggage Partner for 2017
February 24, 2017
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