The Slateman has become a classic and very popular event on the UK calendar. Set in Llanberis, as the foot of Snowdon, it starts with a 1k swim in Llyn Padarn, which is always cold. The bike starts by climbing the Llanberis Pass and totals 51k and the 11k run climbs through the slate mines at the back of ‘Electric Mountain’ which is more than enough to finish the day.
This year the weather was frankly miserable, with an air temperature of 10 degrees and persistent, hard, cold rain. Transition racking was a solemn affair, with everyone looking cold and miserable. Having competed in triathlon for 27 years now, there are some traditions, which have survived the test of time. One of the most common is the race announcer informing competitors of the water temperature (in this case 12.5) followed by a chorus of more than 1000 triathletes saying the word bo**ox in unison. It doesn’t matter what the water temperature actually is, what the announcer says it is, or whether it’s cold or warm. The greeting by waiting triathletes is always the same and everyone assumes that the announcement is a lie.
A quick chant of oggy oggy oggy and the first wave was underway, 17 minutes later I’m running to transition. It wasn’t the fastest swim, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. In transition, I’d decided to put on a base layer and a gilet for the bike, as the weather was pretty ‘grim’. Here’s the thing… I am quite well known for my intolerance to the cold, especially when racing on the bike. It’s not all bad, I am the proud holder of The Triathlon HUB 2015 Hypothermic Incident Of The Year Award, an achievement of which I am very proud. Based upon my past thermal issues, I thought the base layer and gilet would be a wise idea and certainly as I climbed the pass during the first 20 minutes, all felt good. But it was about to go badly wrong….
Over the top and onto the descent, the wind and rain started to bite and I could feel the cold creeping into my bones. Having passed Johnny ‘The Dolphin’ Sewell on the first climb, he passed me again and disappeared into the distance. By now I was dithering, wobbling and jiggling and had to stop pedalling as the bike was all over the road. In such conditions the issue is that if you stop, it doesn’t help, there’s nowhere to shelter and get dry. All you can do is keep going and hope that you can make it back to transition and some kind of help.
I rolled down the final hill into Llanberis, wobbling all over the road, with cyclists flying past, one after the next, shouting at me to get out of the way. I’d pretty much given up on the race and had decided that I wasn’t going to run and I simply needed to get back and try to get shelter. At times like this, you only have to ask yourself one question…. “what would the HUB do?”
The first and biggest issue was that during a recent trip to Majorca 70.3, Frank Burrell had been forced to pull out. He found himself in the back of an ambulance and wrapped in a foil blanket. This in itself did not present a major issue for me personally. The bigger issue was that the following week, whilst riding the Fox & Hounds chain gang session, myself and Ste Hilton decided to do ridicule Frank with a video re-make, including foil blanket. Oh yes, It was hilarious at the time, but that little episode was about to become a backfire of epic proportions.
I rolled up to the dismount line and with one shoe on and one shoe off I ‘clip clopped’ into transition and sulkily racked my bike. Cursing my friends I decided to put my shoes on and just start the run. The first mile was miserable and I was running on stumps, but I slowly warmed to it and settled for enjoying the route. Suddenly the sun came out and by the end I was running quite well. I even managed to pick Cora up to run over the line. I have to say, there’s been many times when I’ve felt like not starting or not finishing the run during a triathlon, but I don’t think I’ve ever crossed the line and wished I’d stopped or not started.
Here’s the moral of the story. If you ever find yourself in this situation, decide to pull out of an event and post your sorry tale on Facebook. If your friends are worth their salt, they’ll support you with comments such as “well done mate, right decision” or “you did awesome, most people wouldn’t even get that far”. In essence, your friends will tell you what you WANT to hear. Well my friends are not like that at all. My friends would publicly destroy me on Facebook and would bring it up for years to come. Support and sympathy are not part of their DNA. We are after all talking about the friends who awarded a special trophy for my incident last year (a bronze arse wrapped in a tin foil blanket).
So that is the moral of the story. When it comes to the crunch and the going gets tough, everyone needs friends like mine who ensure that it you do pull out…. You may as well not go home. And they know they can expect exactly the same treatment from me should they face the same misfortune.
Great to see so many HUBsters there, I do hope IMUK is warmer.