Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Sandman Triathlon

On Sunday, the sun shone and I was at the seaside.

This was no ordinary trip to the seaside though. I was there to support my husband as he took part in his first Sandman Triathlon which started and finished on the beautiful Llanddwyn beach in Anglesey.

My two little ones were with us but once they saw the sand and the water, any thoughts of supporting daddy were quickly forgotten. It made it quite a difficult day for me trying to balance keeping an eye out for two adventurous children having the time of their lives and keeping an eye out for my husband so I could offer the appropriate words of encouragement. A difficult day - but one I was so glad to be a part of.

The first of my many 'difficulties' arose as I tried to walk the children the mile or so to the beach from the caravan where we were staying. It was a beautiful location with views over the Menai Straits and a stunning forest trail down to the beach. The same trail formed part of the 10K route that the triathletes would have to run having finished their 1000m sea swim off Llanddwyn beach and their 60km cycle around the island of Anglesey. The effort it took to drag my reluctant four year old son along the trail would probably have rivalled the effort put in by the athletes chasing personal bests. It was hard work and as a result, we were late getting to the start of the race. The good news was that the start time was delayed. The bad news, even with the delay, we still didn't make it down in time to wish daddy luck.

We were in time to see in the distance, the crowd of yellow swimming capped wetsuited hopefuls (of which I knew daddy was one) run into the sea and begin their arduous battle against waves, currents and fatigue.

My husband is a strong swimmer with a lazy stroke that could never be described as graceful but his long arms pull him through the water with efficiency. He has swum the Dee Mile and between the piers in Brighton. I didn't think the swim would pose too great a problem for him so I was very surprised when I saw him staggering clumsily out of the water looking as though he was in trouble. I found out later that he had been kicked in the face near the start when everyone is jostling for position. As well as being slightly stunned by the blow, the impact had knocked his prescription goggles off his head. Not being able to see properly was disorientating him.

Meanwhile, my son found out what happens when the tide creeps in and you fail to step backwards.

Somehow, my husband made it to his bicycle but clearly wasn't quite recovered form his ordeal as he tried to cycle off in his wetsuit! I would have loved to have been there to witness this but I was having a troublesome time trying to persuade my children to come with me to the transition area. We eventually got there but not in time to even see him riding away up the hill into the distance. We clapped a few of the other participants then went for a  picnic that included for me, a very welcome flask of coffee.

The children were happy blowing bubbles, playing sword fighting with inflatables and running around so we stayed near the entrance to the transition area and waited for daddy to cycle in.

He had estimated that the cycle would take him 2 hours and he did it in 2:10:57. I mentioned at the very beginning of this post that the sun shone. This was his undoing. As much as the children and I were enjoying the sunshine, overheating and dehydration are deadly enemies of anyone exerting themselves. My husband ran out of water and began to suffer the consequences. His cheery wave to us as he ran into transition belied how bad he was feeling.

As much as I would have liked to position myself in various strategic locations along the 10K route, I knew it would turn into a nightmare trying to mobilise the children to make it all work so we headed back down to the beach. After a quick paddle myself which was lovely, I left the kids playing in a large pool and made myself a base further up the beach where I could watch for my husband on the last leg of his race.

The kids loved the freedom to play in the water making 'adventure playgrounds' out of rocks for the little fish that swam around them. This left me free to watch drama after drama unfold within sight of the finish line as exhausted runners feared they were not going to make it. I would have loved to have seen the jubilation of the people crossing the finish line, but that would have meant I couldn't keep a watchful eye on my little ones.

I expected my husband to finish in about an hour. I thought I spotted him once and called the children out of the water to come and cheer for daddy. They both looked at me like I was an idiot and said No  Thanks! It turned out to be a false alarm anyway so I watched and waited... and waited. I was starting to get really worried but eventually, I spotted him in the distance. As he ran past me I took a photo, told him enthusiastically that he was wonderful and he was nearly there. I watched him run away from me toward the finish line and his own personal (somewhat overdue by now!) victory.

My camera was not zoomed in. I really was this close to him yet he neither saw me nor heard those words of encouragement that I had waited so long to give.

I  persuaded the children to leave the water to come with me and find daddy. We found him. I have never seen him look so utterly exhausted. It had taken him 1 hour and 27 minutes to complete the 10K. He never really recovered from the dehydration he suffered on the bike leg of the race and had walked much of the route as an alternative to just giving up.

I have so much admiration to each and every one of the determined men and women who took part, from the awe inspiring winner who clocked up a time of less than two and a half hours to the last man over the line in 451st place in just over 5 hours.

My husband finished in 421st place with a time of 4 hours 09 minutes and 18 seconds. He is absolutely  my hero.

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