Today’s blog comes from Tri & Run coached athlete Marc Bradford. Well done Marc!
The snowman triathlon had been on my triathlon bucket list for a number of years. The combination of a challenging hilly course combined with picture perfect scenery make this an easy entry onto my triathlon to do list. The legend distance is 1900m, swim, followed by a 57 miles cycle, incorporating 5518ft of climbing. The final leg, the run, warms you up with 8 miles undulating along the Nant Ffrancon Valley, with a final leg destroying run to the top of Moel Siabod.
The race was had a 7am start, which necessitated a 4:30am alarm call, to drive over, get racked up and ready to go for 06:30am. The temperature was hovering around 14C and the discussions in transition were centred around whether a bike top was needed, I was still undecided as left for the walk over to the swim start.
Early swim start of 7am, I was in wave 1, so was first into the Lake. My expectations of it being freezing were wrong as it was a barmy 16C. The swim consisted of one large clockwise lap follow by a smaller lap. The vista of the Snowdon horseshoe dead ahead made it one of the most picturesque starts to a triathlon that I have ever done. First half lap went well, no washing machine moments as everyone was spread out, so was able find my stroke quite quickly and settle in. I had been working a lot on my stroke with Lynda and felt much more comfortable maintaining my race pace, without feeling like I was blowing up. The second buoy turned me straight into the rising sun, which made sighting quite difficult. The second loop went quickly and soon I was out of the water heading into transition.
Back in transition I ‘ummed and ahhed’ over whether to put on my cycle top eventually deciding to leave it and head out in just my tri suit. The start of the cycle heads down the valley, giving you time to adjust from the swim. Got a quick bar on to give me some sugar, just before hitting the first hill a short sharp accent to Pen-y-pass. The car park was busy as I passed by, with people making an early start on Snowdon, as I passed through and dropped down into the Llanberis pass. A technical and fast descent had me quickly passing through Llanberis, over the hill and down the valley to Beddgelert.
The first of the hills, Rydd hill soon arrived, it’s short and sharp and I was quickly descending down the other side towards Blaenau Ffestiniog. I knew the second hill was the tough one, so was trying to get as much food on as possible to give me some energy. At mile 36 the ascent began and it was relentless, 1200ft of climb, legs were starting to fade by the time I reached the top of the Crimea pass. Thankfully it was followed by a nice rolling descent into Betws y Coed, giving my legs a bit of a break. One last hill out of Betws y Coed got me back into Capel Curig and into transition. At this point my legs were a bit jelly-like to say the least.
I slotted my bike on to the rack and dropped on to the ground in a big heap- I was knacked and I still had the run to do! Pulling myself together I slipped on my trail shoes and chucked my running pack on and headed out of transition. The first section of the run heads down the nant franc valley and is an out and back with a slight uphill on the way out. As I turned the bend into the valley I could see down the Tryfan in the distance. My initial quick pace slowed to a walk on the first small hill. Seeing a few runners off in the distance, I downed a gel and tried to pull myself together and make up some places, I had lost on the cycle.
At the turn around the gel kicked in and I picked up some speed, and with the descent managed to get up to a semi normal trail running pace. Ahead lay Moel Siabod, rising steeply from the transition, it looked like a long way up. With the first 8 miles under my belt, I ran back into Plas- y Brenin across the bridge and started the accent. At the bottom of the hill I grimaced at the marshal and said ‘straight up ‘ looking up at the steep tree lined footpath, she grinned back and said ‘yep straight up’. The steep path slowed my pace and immediately I fell into a fast striding walk. Soon I was out of the forest and heading up the side of the mountain. It was busy with runners coming down having already ascended and others making the accent.
A mile in and I started to feel truly knackered, the path was steep and rocky and my pace had slowed again. I stopped and set on a rock for a break, a guy sat down opposite me grinning ‘that looks like a good idea’. After a brief exchange we were both off again, pushing each other on. I had underestimated the time it would take me to do the run, on paper it was only five miles, I maybe should have looked at the contours a bit more! After a few false summits I finally reached the checkpoint at the top of Moel Siabod. I turned briefly, took in the spectacular view and then started my descent.
On the first bit of rocky descent I fell forward, and the shock of the stumble caused both my calves to cramp and spasm. All I could do was lie down on my back and wait for the cramp to pass. The cramp meant my descent was slowed to small steps, my dreams of springing down the path at full fell running pace were a distant dream. Stopping at a stream I filled and downed a full water bag before carrying on. The water seemed to do the trick and I felt my legs returning back to normal. Once I reached the bottom of the hill I was able to pick up the pace and caught two people before hearing the tannoy of the finishing line. The last 200ft was a steep path before a sharp turn onto the finishing line, I came in just under 8hrs.
It was a fantastic, well organised and probably one of the toughest races I have done. The best races are the ones that really push you out of your comfort zone and this one certainly did that.