Thank you to Sarah Harrison for writing this race report from The Snowman Triathlon for us. Congratulations on a podium finish, Sarah!
Just over three years ago, after I had joined STC but before I’d done my first triathlon, I had to buy a swimming cap – and then I forgot it one day. Someone lent me one and commented that they had so many that I didn’t need to worry about getting it back to them. I remember thinking, ‘Imagine having so many swimming caps that you don’t even have to buy one’. I bring up this point because if you want a free swimming cap, just part with the money rather than doing the Snowman.
This race had been on my radar ever since my first season: At that time, it was a late-season race, with a brutally cold swim that was often shortened, surely the most stunning bike route in the country, and a little 10k run with over 2000 ft elevation gain to finish. I have a strained relationship with triathlons as I am caught between my love of the mountains, and mountainous parts of our country, and my lack of time to train for this terrain. However the offer of a free place from Pedalcover (who insure everything I own of any monetary worth, and without any hassle) tipped me over the edge and I decided to go for it.
I woke up on Sunday morning having had the best night’s sleep I’d had in days and really not wanting to get out of bed. This is not what happens when you’re feeling prepared for a race, in my experience at least. The previous day had been stressful; finding out at registration that I should’ve bought extra kit to carry on the run and so having to hit the shops very late in the day to spend money I didn’t want to spend. Fortunately I was staying at a pub and found something to help put that behind me. On the plus side, a late evening drive of the bike route confirmed that I’d made the right choice – for me – to bring the road bike. Well, I made it out of bed and drove over to Capel Curig, with a stunning view of the run up Moel Siabod for most of the way.
My swim felt better than recently – although of course as a woman starting in a later wave you often don’t know that at the time. At the bike mount line, someone said something about my place (though I didn’t hear what it was), so I thought it must be o.k. Once out on the bike, I just wanted to get the first descent out of the way. It was narrow and windy, and I wasn’t familiar enough with it to take it at real speed. After that, I’d be able to enjoy the route a bit more. The bike route was a major draw of the race, taking in some of the best scenery in that part of Wales. I held back on the bike leg – not too much though – as I was aware that I had a mountain to run up. I needn’t have bothered. I could have run up flights of stairs for the same elevation gain, but I could not run up that path of loose rock, mud, grass, bogs and jutting rocks. My recent attempts at hill training were for nothing and I was reduced to walking, along with most people in fact. It was tough, even by fell-runner standards (as reported by my friend Dan Stephenson, also an STC member, as I have no idea about fell races!) The best training for this would have been to walk up lots of mountains with a big backpack. My calves were on fire and every time the gradient eased up even a little and I tried to run, they exploded again.
So that was news to me, that I wasn’t going to be running the run. What wasn’t news to me was that I can barely run downhill on technical ground. I simply don’t do enough of it to be any good at it. The last mile or so of the run is on better ground and it felt so good to actually run. Fortunately, a marshal at the top of the mountain had told me that I was second lady. I knew that the first lady was already about 20 min in front of me and I didn’t stand a chance of catching her downhill. So once I’d got a few minutes off the summit and could see there were no women on my tail, my priority was staying upright and uninjured.
As with Slateman, the atmosphere at this race was fantastic. It doesn’t draw as many competitors due to the fierce nature of the course, but if you like stunning scenery and are willing to ‘run’ up & down a mountain then I highly recommend it. They offer a sprint on the Saturday, and a full (which I did) and a ‘Legend’ distance on the Sunday. Look it up. Setting off home again, I was telling myself that it really wasn’t my cup of tea as the run leg was too frustrating. However by the end of the drive I was already considering doing it again – does anyone want to keep me company next year?!