Sandman triathlon – 14th September by Simon

The basics: it’s organised by Always Aim High events. They do three in north Wales, the slateman in May, this one and the snowman in two weeks time. They also run the huntsman at Hawley lake in October.

The course of the Sandman consists of a 1km swim, a 60km bike ride and a 10km run. Headquarters is the main carpark near Newborough beach on Anglesey.
It’s very well organised, and everything is clearly marked. You start off in one of 5 waves separated 5 mins apart. Approx 100 competitors per wave.

From the car park you walk up and over the dune onto the beach. Then you walk about 1km along the beach, past the washed up jellyfishes to the start box. When your wave is called you assemble in the box having had your timing chip scanned, and then go through oggy oggy oi with the starter before he blows the hooter. At which point you ‘rush’ into the water, wade for a bit and start swimming to bouy one about 50m out. Turn left and now swim some 900m parallel to the beach past 2 or 3 more bouys before heading for the beach. If your eyesight is poor and there are waves then spotting bouys 400m away is quite tricky! They could have done with a couple more really. And going back a step to the waves, they were heading diagonally at you and towards the beach. EVERY stroke met a wave. Fortunately I breathe on the beach side away from the wave, so was largely ok, but I did hear a report that someone had thrown up twice!

Anyway, having regained footing you wade ashore and climb up the very soft sand of the dune and then down into ttransition. 28 minutes. Success.

Change, get on bike, and head out onto the bike course. The car park is at the beach. The road leading from it goes up. Not steeply, and with the wind behind actually very easy. Take a drink, with bottle in one hand go over speed bump. Wobbled, but fortunately stay on. Tom not so fortunate on next bump and falls over. I stop but he assures me he’s ok, so carry on. He thanks me when he passes me some time later.

Having made it back to Newborough you turn right and head up to the A5. Wind largely behind, so keeping speedo at 32kph a lot of the time. Turn left onto A5 and the wind is still behind! Result! Plough along here, cross A55, keep going. A few hills so far, but nothing insurmountable.

Finally it’s time to turn into the wind and all of a sudden the hills get steeper too as you cycle along the coast. Suddenly average speed starts to fall and I limp up some hills and finally turn back down the Newborough beach road. Slower down than up because of the wind! 2h30m56s (without pee I’d have made sub 2h30).

Off bike, run shoes on and off we go again. Trog along a nice path until you turn off into the woods. For some reason you’re then required to run down a short but VERY steep incline. But that’s taken care of and Mark Bebbington of Rochdale catches me up. He’s great and suggests we run together for a bit. He provides huge amounts of encouragement for me, but after about 2km he leaves me behind. At 5k there is a drinks station providing energy drinks and water. Phew. Then up the hill, across the access road and then head down towards the beach. It’s here you encounter the sand. Sue catches up with me here and also chooses to run with me a bit. We try and offer each other encouragement, but she leaves me behind too. Little bits of sand at first, then softer stuff and longer stretches until you climb the last dune (where two photographers are lounging) and down onto the beach.
Now you’ve only got about 500m to go, and the choice is soft sand near the top of the beach, or harder sand mixed with gravel and stones further down. I chose the latter, Sue the former. Finally the dune we climbed once before exiting the swim is there and you do your best to run, but largely walk up, and then run down the other side to cross the finish. 1h17. Oh well.

The support from everyone was great. All through the villages people cheer you on, everyone you pass or who passes you says well done, kids on the beach shout “well done, you’re almost there, you can do it!”. Awesome, and it all helps. Even the cars of competitors who are heading home having already finished wait for you to cross the access road in front of them, and then offer encouragement. My run time would have been much slower without Mark and Sue.

A note on nutrition. I bought a high5 starter set, read the notes and primed myself with a high caffeine dose before the start. Then walked along beach and didn’t find a portaloo! The inevitable ensued. I had also filled my two bottles with high carb drinks. Half way round the bike ride stop for another pee. Also sample some gels. They’re acidic and very sticky and washing it down with fruity carb drink doesn’t help. In the end I only used one bottle (it wasn’t that hot) so should have filled the other with WATER. Was craving water on the run, so was pleased when the drinks station had some.

So final timing was 28mins for swim, 2h30 for bike and 1h17 for run. Total 4h25.

Final note on support – alwaysaimhigh hand out cowbells to everyone (I have two now). You hear them all around the bike and run course and they’re great. I will bring mine to the next team event!

Final comment is that when you cross the finish line you are greeted with a table arrayed with orange segments, chunks of banana, chunks of chocolate, biscuits, crisps, giant cola bottles (sweets), etc. It’s great!

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