Becoming a Savage

The Slateman in Snowdonia National Park, Wales has a reputation for being one of the most epic triathlons in the country, if not the world. My fellow TVT members have always recommended it as one of the best races with the friendliest atmosphere, so obviously I had to give it a go! Never one to shy away from a challenge, and since I don’t intend to make it one of my regular race fixtures, I decided that I might as well do the whole thing and go for the Savage title! It would be a first for me, doing two triathlons in two days, and two particularly brutal races at that.

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My journey to Llanberis was the first challenge! A five hour drive through torrential rain and hailstorms came to a very happy end in beautiful sunshine warming up Llyn Padarn ready for the racing weekend. My accommodation for the weekend was the very friendly and comfortable YHA Snowdon Llanberis, situated half way up a not so comfortable hill just off the main road through Llanberis. I checked in and made my way down to registration to pick up my race pack and get my bike checked over.

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After such welcoming weather on the Friday evening, it was a shame to wake up to rather miserable conditions the next day. But a bit of Welsh drizzle wasn’t going to faze me as I excitedly rode down to transition to prepare for the first race.

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The heavens opened as we were getting ready, I put on my wetsuit early just to keep warm and dry…ish!

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Soon it was time to head to the lake ready to swim! The temperature was a pleasant 14 degrees and I got off to a great start on the surprisingly civilised 400m swim coming out of the water in 11th place.

I opted for no extra clothing for the bike leg except for gloves…and I’m so glad I wore them! There was still drizzle in the air and the roads were wet, which made the downhills all the more treacherous. The steady climb up to Pen-y-Pass was exhausting, but I think my Yorkshire Dales cycling trip mentally prepared me for hills far worse than that! Whilst I was gratefully whizzing down the other side I could see what I would have to tackle next as I carefully made a U-turn at the bottom and began the climb back up.

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In T2 I could not feel my feet or hands, which made pulling on my running shoes particularly tricky! They didn’t thaw out until a couple of kilometres into the run, which was by far the most ridiculous part of the race!

A gentle slope up from the lake quickly turned into a wet and rocky climb through the woods and up onto the hills. The downhills were also challenging, always keeping an eye a few paces ahead, but so much fun! The crowd cheering at the finish line was a fantastic end to the race, and I was genuinely excited to tackle the full distance race the next day.

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An afternoon stroll to the waterfall and the castle was my perfect active recovery, followed by a hot chocolate and a jacket potato for dinner. I had an early night ready for the big race in the morning. I was still buzzing from the sprint distance and couldn’t wait to start the full!

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Transition was packed on Sunday morning, with about three times as many athletes as the sprint race. However, I felt more relaxed knowing where my bike was racked already, knowing some of the routes and knowing that the lake wasn’t as cold as expected!

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Again I had a great swim exiting the water in 15th place, but with almost twice as many women as in the sprint distance, this actually put me in a better position than yesterday!

T1 went smoothly apart from struggling to get gloves on my wet hands, and soon I was out on the 51km bike course. The first 10km was the same route as yesterday, but instead of the U-turn, we carried on along some beautiful fast straight roads through stunning countryside. Undulating hills with the occasional quick downhill which I could enjoy a lot more on the dry roads. The most relentless part of this route was the final 10km back to Llanberis, where I battled a fierce headwind.

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Coming out of T2 once again I couldn’t feel my feet, my legs were noticeably more tired than in the previous race and I had a painfully good idea of what was to come. I trotted down the road for 3km before turning off and beginning the gruelling climb up the infamous “zig-zags” of Dinorwig Quarry.

Needless to say, not many people were actually running this part of the race. With 200m of climbing over 2km, this was even more ridiculous than yesterday’s “run!”

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The camaraderie between competitors and encouragement from the marshals saw most people through, there really was no shame in walking this part. The descents were fun again, with the final 3km echoing Saturday’s run course.

An even bigger crowd greeted us at the finish and after crossing that line I was so sad that it was all over! My overall Slateman Savage time was 5:17 and I was the 13th Savage lady, which I’m very happy with, considering what a tough race it is.

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I had a relaxing afternoon walking by the lake before going to Pete’s Eats for what is possibly the greatest meal I’ve ever eaten! This is macaroni cheese in a mug. Usually served with chips, I opted for peas instead as I don’t think even I can handle that many carbs!

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On Monday morning I decided to take on my final challenge of the weekend and donned my hiking books for a walk up Snowdon. The sun was out for much of the climb, but it did get rather windy further up. Two people ran past me as I was walking, assuming that this is their standard Monday morning jog up one of the highest mountains in the UK, it made me feel very inadequate.

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As I approached the summit it became very steep and very windy, time for the gloves to go on again! A man had just popped the question to his girlfriend as I reached the summit 🙂

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I admired the beautiful views, took pictures, had a snack and revelled in my accomplishment for a while, before heading back down the same way. As I reached Llanberis again I could see that the top of Snowdon was now enveloped in cloud, so I was very lucky and so happy to have been there while it was clear 🙂

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