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Before getting onto the Llanelli Sprint tri, I competed in the Sospan 3km swim on the Friday evening. This was my first open water swim of 2018 and a chance to try out my new Zone 3 Vanquish wetsuit. Zone 3 have been kind enough to support me this year on my journey to Kona in October.

The weather conditions on the Friday night were horrendous. It was hammering down with rain and I was tempted to pull out of the race, but I knew I had to get in to test out the new suit and also get a feel back for the open water. 4 laps of 750m in Llanelli North Dock would make up the 3km. I decided to swim the first lap at sprint distance pace, to have an idea of what I could do on Sunday. The water wasn’t too cold and after having a quick glance at my watch after lap 1, I was pleased with a time of 10.14 for the 750m. Easing back into a decent rhythm, I completed the 3km swim in a time of 42.05, to take 1st place and improve on my time from last year by over 3 minutes.

Llanelli Sprint Triathlon

Sunday morning and the start of the Welsh Triathlon Super Series. The start list was stacked full of immense talent. The announcer said it was the best field he had seen in the last 21 years. There were Commonwealth games athletes, Kona finishers and Welsh record holders all competing for 1st place. There was a great deal of hype leading into the race, with S4C filming the triathlon. They asked for my thoughts on the race and what it meant to Welsh Triathlon, so I agreed to an interview on Saturday afternoon. Some of the questions they asked me were about my chances in the race on Sunday. I knew if I had any chance of a podium finish, I would have to be either leading or 2nd coming off the bike, as there were a lot of strong runners in the mix.

Watch the S4C highlights

I had a plan for the race and heading down to the Dock to get ready for the start, my nerves did kick in a little. There were a lot of strong swimmers lined up and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake I have done in the past of not starting at the front of the group. I positioned myself near the strongest swimmers at the front of the pack. The likes of Morgan Davies, Alex Matchett and Kieran John were almost guaranteed to be the first ones out. The gun went and everyone ran into the water to jostle for position. I picked my line and the first few hundred metres were fierce. It settled down and keeping the leaders in my sight, we headed for the first buoy. As we approached the first buoy, I came into contact with a swimmer next to me and got smashed in the face by his elbow. This is the first time I have ever been hit in the face during a triathlon and it did shock me. I quickly checked my nose to see if it was bleeding, but it was ok and I ploughed on. I think this was the point the top 3 swimmers pulled away by 4-5 metres and it was difficult to claw that distance back. The rest of the swim went quite smoothly and I came out of the water in 4th position in a disappointing time of 10.45. This was 30 seconds slower than the first lap I did on Friday night in the Sospan Swim.

Exiting the water I started running into T1 and slipped on the grass right in front of my parents. (i hope S4C didn’t get that on camera) I jarred my knee a little, but quickly got back up and ran towards my bike. I quickly whipped off my Zone 3 Wetsuit, helmet on and off I went on the bike. Alex, Morgan, Kieran and then myself. I was quickly caught by Luke Pollard who was flying on the bike and then Chris Silver and Olly Simon passed. I was thinking to myself that I had to stay with these guys, or my race was over. Myself, Chris and Olly were all around the same pace on the bike and we quickly caught Morgan, Kieran and Alex. Luke Pollard was out in front with second place changing position all the time. I had my targeted power output in mind for the race, but this soon went out of the window, due to the traffic situation. Myself and Olly were stuck behind a car for a couple of minutes with nowhere to go. This was the only issue to be fair and the rest of the bike went well. Returning from the turnaround point, I was in second place, behind Luke Pollard, who was quite a way in front. I made the decision to stick with Olly, Chris and Alex and looking back I made the wrong decision. I was feeling good and I should have upped the pace on the return leg, to maybe stretch a bit of a lead over them.

On the approach to T2 Luke was in front, Olly second, myself 3rd, Chris 4th and Alex 5th. As I was taking my feet out of my shoes Alex whipped passed us all and into 2nd place going into T2. Maybe I started to take my feet out a little early and should have waited a bit longer. Bike leg time of 40.16 wasn’t bad at all, although I felt I could have gone a little faster.

Going into T2 I quickly racked my bike and tried getting my feet into my trainers. A lot of athletes had issues with getting their trainers on due to their feet being so cold and mine weren’t any different. I couldn’t feel my feet, but I was lucky enough to get my trainers on without too much of a problem. Luke, on the other hand, was over 6 minutes in T2 having a big problem with his. I saw Alex leave transition in 1st place and I was now 2nd. Catrin was there supporting and ran over to stop the traffic crossing the road where I was going to be running. I needed every bit of help I could get at this point. As I said earlier, I knew I had to be top 2 leaving T2 if I had any chance of a podium. Alex is a 15 min 5k runner, so I knew there was no chance of me catching him and the likes of Chris and Olly, who are also very fast runners, were behind me, chasing me down. Chris quickly passed me and although I tried to stay with him, it wasn’t happening. My podium position was slowly fading away. I’ve never been one to give up on anything I do and I wasn’t about to start now. I could feel Olly breathing down my neck and that made me dig even deeper to hang on for third place.

The run was an out and back route, which gives you a chance to see where the competition is. I saw Alex running towards me, looking very strong, followed by Chris and when I reached the turn around point I Could see Olly and how much of a lead I had over him. I calculated it was roughly 15 seconds and I knew I had to give it everything I had to hold him off. A heart rate of 196 by this point and a little look up to the sky to ask ‘Pops’ for a bit of strength to see me home to the finish, I gritted my teeth and gave it every last ounce of energy I had. I could see the finish line in front of me and I had a quick look back to see where Olly was and I knew I was safe. I just about had enough energy to zip up my NFT tri suit and sprinted across the line to take 3rd place.

These sprint distances certainly get me out of my comfort zone and with all my training based on Kona this year, I was always going to struggle against the guys who are racing this distance week in week out. Overall I was pleased with the performance and pleased to hang on for a podium finish. My run time was 17.53 with an overall time of 1.10.04.

A quick shout out to two of my athletes representing NFT, who also competed in this race. Firstly Alun Howells, who was competing in his first ever triathlon, finishing in 1.25.06. Alun is a top guy and has the potential to be a very good triathlete. Always gets on with the sessions I give him and is learning very quickly. For his first triathlon, I am extremely impressed with his attitude and his execution of the race was brilliant.

Mat Green was also racing and finished in a time of 1.21.27. Mat is a very focused and determined athlete and going into the race we set a target power out for his bike leg, which he wasn’t too far away from. Overall a good performance by Mat who is making improvements all the time.

Both Alun and Mat will be competing in Ironman Wales this year and like myself, their training is focused on the longer distances, so having a blast in the sprint distances is just a bit of fun for us all.

All in all, it was a good day for NFT athletes and I’m proud of the way the guys attacked the race.

Next up for me is my preparation race for Kona, which is Ironman Lanzarote on May 26th.

Please feel free to comment on the posts I write on my website with your thoughts and any questions you may have.

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