"Why choose to compete at Slateman over the many other races on offer?"
Stephen from Dream TV asked me, during the pre-race interview on Saturday afternoon.
Good question, why did I choose to come and race in Snowdonia? To swim in a Llyn Pardan, the 11degree mountain lake, cycle 51 hilly kilometres and tackle an 11km mountainous trail run?
Having given Stephens question some more thought. Here is my answer. In a more concise, coherent format to the one I gave in the interview (pre warning you, before you watch the race/interview on TV)
1) I have fantastic memories of my 1st Slateman experience last year, I wanted to relive that magic.
2) Racing the whole series (Slateman, Sandman, Snowman) last year meant I got to know North Wales, some of the athletes, supporters& members of the Always Aim High team. I was keen to return to this stunning part of the UK and to catch up with many of these people.
3) As defending champion I felt an obligation to return to defend my title. I am a huge sports fan, one characteristic that I greatly admire in athletes, regardless of sport is consistency. Winning the same race, back to back several years on the trot is a huge ambition for me. Mastery of a course and its unique challenged holds great appeal.
Mountains, fresh lakes, steep winding trails. Slateman is epic with a capital E in terms of scenery. This is why I was back.
In March, 220 Triathlon magazine asked me to write five top tips for slaying the Slateman Triathlon.
So did I take my own advice?
1) Try and do a Course Recce
Last year, I arrived on Saturday night, just with enough day light left to put the tent up and quickly drive the bike route. This year I was staying with Stel and her family, in their house perched on the mountain side above the lake we would be swimming in, Llyn Pardan. On Saturday, Stel and myself checked out the lake temperature by having a quick dip and I discovered the run route would be slightly different to last year, with a nice steep jaunt up a flight of steps to a castle to start with. It was a shame the swim was shortened to 500m, but rules meant 1km in 11degrees wasn't allowed. Yes, you heard right, I said "It was a shame". I never thought I would want a longer swim, but having overdosed on chlorine this winter I was keen to put the hours of swimming into action and compare myself to last year.
2) Pack warm. Mountain weather is unpredictable.
I had 3 swim caps with me, all of which I wore. I had arm warmers and socks but decided on the minimalist approach, which my feet didn't appreciate, cold feet trying to get into my trainers is one tricky manoeuver I discovered. (Yes Ele, I know what I said to you when you offered me over shoes "I'm not that soft, I don't need those!" I eat my words!)
Cold feet, made getting the trainers on harder than getting up in the mornings!
3) Attack the bike
My top tips included going for it up the Llanberis pass, the first climb and then enjoying the following descent. I decided to use my Garmin on the bike, this was the first race I have ever done this, usually preferring to just "get on and race it". Having been training with my Garmin and specifically a power meter this winter I decided to change tact. I wasn't focussing on Watts but my goal was to keep a high cadence on both the hills and the downs and use heart rate to prevent too hard a start. With adrenaline I easily failed at the latter point! I managed 207watts for 50km completing the bike 3minutes quicker than last year in 1.31.
My Bike split is on Strava here
4) The run- "save some energy for the run beyond the zigzags" was my advice.
I looked over my shoulder at the start of the zig zags and saw 2nd place female Natalie Seymour, not far behind me, probably only 15seconds adrift. Well, all thoughts of conserving any energy went out the window. "Go Go Go" was all I thought, I ran up and down that mountain like a lunatic, managing to completely fall flat on my face on the descent as I attempted to jump between rocks (2 week later the knees are still bruised). I managed a sufficiently non sensible, all out run, to finish 45 seconds up on Natalie and retain my title, and the Quarryman challenge (fastest female up the zigzags in 10minutes 52seconds, 30seconds quicker than last year) every bit sweeter because it took every ounce of energy to manage it.
Little side note:
Slateman 2015 marks the 4th time I have had the pleasure of racing Natalie Seymour, our head to head encounters stands at 2 a piece:
September 2013 World Triathlon Championships London 25-29age group Natalie 9th, Suzie 15th
May 214 Slateman Triathlon Suzie 1st, Natalie 2nd
June 2014 Blenheim Sprint Triathlon (British elite Super series) Natalie 11th, Suzie 15th
May 2015 Slateman Triathlon Suzie 1st, Natalie 2nd
Natalie is a great competitor, unfortunately last year after Blenheim she had a bike crash that ruled her out for the rest of the season, so it was good to see her back in action and she absolutely pushed me all the way to the line, at Slateman this year. An athlete who represented Team GB at London 2012 in the Hockey squad, she is one quality athlete and I look forward to doing battle again!
Well done Natalie Seymour 2nd and Ruth Purbrook 3rd. Top racing.
The smile says it all. So much love and support out on the course THANK YOU
5) Make a weekend of it
Llanberis and the surrounding area, really is a beautiful area. I took my own advice and made a weekend of it. Staying with Stel, Mabon and Merin over the weekend. Saturday night was a 10 person feast with my Mum, Mike, Rohan, Madi, Jess and Robin celebrating Madi's birthday and enjoying a pre dinner walk around the Slatemines. This area is quickly becoming one of my favourite spots in the UK and Stel and her family are fantastic hosts.
Slateman Triathlon will be shown on Channel 4 on June 6th. Here is a sneak peek.
Writing this, a year on from winning my first Slateman in 2014 and having managed to retain my title in 2015, I started thinking about what I have done differently in the year between the two. Sure, the basic are still the same, I still swim, bike and run, a fair amount each week, week in week out.
There are two main areas I have given a bit more thought too in the recent year.
Movement and mobility
We call it crazy voodoo magic, but it's basically me and Ele having a laugh!
I have written a more comprehensive piece on this on The Movement Therapy website here
In summary, I buggered my Achilles last season, I have been working with Sarah Pitts along with a few other professionals in Leeds to sort this out. One key area of weakness I found was my mobility and range of movement so I have been working with Sarah at The Movement Therapy Centre to increase my range of motion. Alongside the Leeds Bradford Tri Club weekly Yoga practice with Kirsten Steffensen and building in better daily movement habits. The power of habits, why we do what we do and how to change by Charles Duhigg is a fantastic book that I fell in love with in my old job and is well worth a read. Read this book and you will discover why my most disliked word is "talent"... if I can increase my range of motion through practice then surely the same is true for all skills?
Nutrition. A hot topic and something I have been experimenting with recently. I have written a piece on the OTE website explaining how I fuelled my Slateman adventure.
Banana and chocolate chip cakes and Tapioca Pudding essential goodies for the hosts (and for me!)
Finally, a shout out to The Yorkshire Young Achievers Foundation, Two years ago, out of the 100s of emails I sent they were the only people who replied with a 'Yes' to my request for financial help. They gave me a cheque for £500, which helped me to buy a TT bike.
This week I have been helping them with their yearly launch. To raise awareness of 1) The grants they give out to support young people with ambitions and 2) The awards. You can find out more on both of these here.
Good Luck with all your own racing. Go have fun!