By Dan Elliot
In 2018 I raced the Sandman Savage Triathlon and won. This meant I was the lucky recipient of an invitation from Always Aim High Events to return and defend my title in 2019. The Sandman is one of my favourite races throughout the year and heading in to the 2019 race as the title holder made it even was more special. As I was crossed the Menai Bridge Suspension Bridge and arrived in Anglesey, the excitement and anticipation started to build as memories of my success in the 2018 came flooding back.
The Sandman is held at Newborough Forest and Beach, one of the most beautiful locations that exists for triathlon. After registering on the Friday I headed down to the the beach to take a look at the sea. It was about 7:30pm and the sun was starting to set making the view absolutely incredible. As I stood and watched the sunset I thought about the weekend ahead and the excitement grew even more, as a Savage competitor I would be competing on both days in both the Sprint and Classic races and in less than 12 hours I would be standing on the beach at the startline ready to hit the water for the first time.
Day 1 - Sprint
The sprint race on day one is always a challenge as for the past few years it has been the final race in the Welsh Triathlon Super Series drawing in some of the top athletes from around the UK. The great thing about this race though is that alongside the elites there are also complete beginners to the sport - this race is perfect for them as the swim is shorter than at some other events and this is the discipline most new comers struggle with. Saying that, athough the swim is a little shorter than usual, it is still a difficult swim mainly due to it being a sea swim leaving the conditions in the hands of the Gods! This year the conditions were rough but despite this I had a good swim and headed out onto the bike.
The Sandman Sprint bike course is one of my favourites on the circuit. It has everything with the long steady club out of Newborough beach, the fast flat roads near the end of the course and the technical downhill as you re-enter Newborough. When the Anglesey winds come into play it makes it that little more challenging! My ride was extremely solid and I was 2 minutes faster than last year and I entered T2 in 6th place. My favourite saying is bike for show and run for dough. The run is really tough and considering it is only 5km it takes a lot out of you due to the technical and trail nature of it. Of course you can’t forget the final 400m on the sand which really saps the energy, however the view out to sea makes all the pain worthwhile!
Competing in the Savage race makes the run pace extremely difficult to judge. You need to make sure you save enough in the legs to race a standard distance the next day. I ran conservatively but hard enough to maintain my position and finish in 6th ready to really go for it on day 2 and maintain the Savage title.
Day 2 - Classic
The Sandman Classic is my favourite race throughout the whole Always Aim High series. It has everything. A technical sea swim, a fast, flat and windy bike where aerodynamics are so important and then a trail run through stunning woodland forest finished off with a leg sapping run across the beach to the finish. I headed to the start earlier this year to watch some of my training pals in the Legend, another race I would fully recommend for the seasoned triathlete and one of the best for really challenging yourself. Half an hour later it was my turn and I was stood on the start line ready to go. The start this year was a little different to previous years due to the tide and the run into the sea was much shorter. I went out hard and managed to get on some good feet. I was sitting nicely in 4th place until I popped up to look for the buoy and couldn’t see it, I stopped for a moment before finally locating it. A yellow hat appeared beside me and I swam alongside them the rest of the way before exiting just in front; luckily for me it was a female Classic competitor having such a good swim and not the male in the Savage who I knew would also be pushing for the win. I exited T1 in good shape and was out onto my favourite bike ride. After overtaking 2 competitors in the climb out of Newborough Forest I knew I was in second place, and it was extremely likely Chris Standidge was up ahead. Chris is the 2018 70.3 AG world champion and now races as a pro so there was little chance I would catch him but I wanted the keep the pressure on just in case he had a problem. Turns out I had my best ride of the season and left T2 with a 5 minute gap either way meaning I could run hard without really worrying about catching Chris or being caught. I ran really well and soon the amazing view as you reach Newborough beach appeared for the final time. I had managed to come home in 2nd place in a time of 2 hours 27 minutes and 56 seconds, over 5 minutes faster than last year. I had done it and retained my Savage title. This means I’ll be returning to Sandman next year and after 2 years of amazing experiences and tough racing it’s something I definitely will not be missing.