Matt Wackett: Racing the Slateman Triathlon

This is a guest blog by coached athlete Matt Wackett, who's progressing rapidly under the watchful eye of coach Hamish Shaw.

Questioning your sanity doesn’t occur the moment you enter your card details and click ‘Enter’. It happens when your hands are blue, glasses steamed up & you’re trying to mount a sopping wet bike in the pouring rain, with brown crap streaming out of your nose. That’s me, at approximately 10:38am this morning, Snowdonia…

 

Like all good things in life you get up early; Christmas Day (presents), holiday (early flight) & race day (a tin of rice pudding). Sunday 22nd May 2016 was no different. 5am alarm, 5:07am rice pud, 5:30am leaving the house, destination Llanberis.

A smooth race morning comprises little panic and the blue-skies above the A55 in North Wales added to the comfort of cruise control, allowing me to drive with my feet out the window. No traffic, I arrived in plenty of time.

Registration was queue-less, as were the toilets…”am I at the right place?”, I thought. Even the cafe served up a black coffee and two Welsh cakes in less time than the cafe staff could talk about me in Welsh. Still going smoothly, just like my chamois application.

8am, racked and with a couple of hours before my wave was off I decided to head back to the car for the team talk. Despite my optimism, clouds had already gathered like 15 Kiwis in black rugby kits, shortly raining down torture on competitors, organisers, spectators and sheep.

Biblical, it was. The tap was on, and even the World’s Greatest Plumber couldn’t stop it! It rained, and it fruit’n rained.

Trapped in my car, the urge to drive straight back home did float across my dashboard like one of those chocolate mints you get at the end of a three-course meal; you really can’t stomach it, but you do it anyway!

You’ll guess I didn’t drive home, otherwise the blog would finish here and there’s so much more misery I had to inflict upon myself…

(Minor interlude whilst you brace yourself for further pathetic fallacy)

The clouds continued to rumble in….and then didn’t feck off.

Bike soaked, transition towel soaked, helmet now bucket, trainers sodden. Now I had to squeeze a wet toothpick into a neoprene toothpick suit. That’d be one to watch back with the grandkids. I was in though, thanks to another Team Oxygen Addict athlete zipping me up. Always helpful, not least when you can’t feel your hands.

Meanwhile a sort of briefing went on, I only caught the “And that’s it, have a great race!” before being shepherded out of transition into the pen to await judgement. Race build-up had  swiftly gone from baby’s bottom to five o’clock shadow, soon to be the full Chewbacca!

Already soaked to the bone, the joys of an hours wait in a field trampled with sheep poop was just what I needed to wet my appetite for the chilly waters of the lake. Particularly when your warm up wee is knocking at the door. I held it, just.

The Swim

Into the murky depths of the lake I bled my internal radiator and savoured the short moment of tranquility before it drifted off out of my wetsuit. Time to get serious now though, a 1000m swim lay ahead and my face was about to get cold.

Sorry, ‘cold’, I meant chuffing freezing.

 

The swim was not my finest, nor my worst. Sort of like a Tuesday, it’s there, it happened, meh! One thing is for sure, it was bloody cold. I don’t think 400mm of neoprene would have saved me from a willy only visible by microscope.

T1

Smurfs emerged from the water, white caps and blue hands scraping at wetsuits in a desperate attempt to strip off. Falling over like a drunk trying to remove his jeans with his shoes till on. Casualties fell and tripped on sheep poo, baaaaa ha ha ha!

The Bike

So we escaped T1 with a soggy piece of carbon and glasses that would have served better to hide a hangover. Mounting Flavia (is not usually) was a nightmare right out of a Wet Wet Wet! album. Blooming horrendous. Chain slipped, feet slipped, a true banana skin.

When I actually managed to attach myself to my bike, I faced the first excitement of the day; riding up Pen-Y-Pass. A cracking little ramp early on warm you, if your hands can function enough to change gear! The masses climbed, and the masses were passed (vans included)…

 

Off the top you’re nice and warm, but still in wet kit, so what’s needed to make this a really ill-conceived concoction? A fast descent. Free blow-dry optional.

The bike course is an awesome one, minus the traffic building up behind slower riders. Conscious of the DQ in 2015 I didn’t cross the solid white line like a good boy. I just opted to find holes like Mesut Ozil.

Particularly frustrating was the A5 descent….full on Sagan top tube between the cheeks only to slow and repeatedly have to keep manoeuvring past three particular vehicles. It’s a pleasure to ride on such roads during the race, but equally frustrating if you’re in the last wave and passing, literally hundreds, or competitors and vehicles.

Anyway, enough frustration vented…the sun had popped out, albeit briefly…

Heading back into Llanberis I clearly needed another shower, this time with hail stones. A good soaking to wake me up for the run to come.

The Pain.

Everyone knows the Slateman is famed on it’s brutality, not least the gentle run up the Quarry Mile. It’s like a runners version of a Tour de France alpine climb, switch-backs n’all. I love it.

I reconvened with Andy Dines leaving T2 and compared notes on how this meeting would play out. The first mile or so gently builds you into your run legs before things go belly up. It’s a friggin’ b*tch to get up and without Old Mike Stockton to discuss politics with on the way up I was left chatting to other runners (at their dismay, I think).

My pain subsided very briefly on sight of a leopard print tri-suit. All is good in the world of tri.

 

The summit appears, but the pain doesn’t stop. You gotta keep running, bro. Run, there’s still circa 5 miles to go. I smashed a gel down like my dentist told me not to and cracked on like a milkman doing his round.

Down through the first section of woods the inevitable happened, my ankle went, again. I cursed, swore, hobbled for 20 yards then ran like Laura Dern in the original Jurassic Park. I’m now banned from running off-road.

Thankfully, other parts of my body hurt too. Combined, I was the epitome of masochist. Give me more, I thought. So the organisers obliged and threw in another little steep ramp to boost the heart rate above 200.

From then on it was down hill (ish) and a case of staying in one piece. To the line! I high-fived every 5-year old spectating calling me “Daddy”. My upset that the pain, fun and rain had all stopped was rapidly removed with a handful of custard creams and my slate coaster.

On a serious note, yes we do serious here, that was a bloody tough day at the office. Swim – cold, double-wet and a bit of a slog. Bike, frustrating but the numbers came out good – NP and Average identical and at a level which is healthy. Although I am expecting a beasting from Hamish tomorrow. Run was solid, ankle left the party early, but still smashing out a 52 minute 11km trail run off the bike with gas in the tank at the end.

Kudos to all those who even started the darn thing today, particularly the “Savage Women”; I like you.

As a closing note, the sun was well and truly shining as I drove away from Llanberis and tortured me all the way home. So did the number of fast food restaurant’s along the A55.