The Slateman Triathlon: Race info, tips and training advice
Multiple-time podium finisher and triathlon coach Alex Foster shares his best advice on how to race the challenging Slateman
The Slateman has earned a cult-like following over the years, with its tough bike course and evil run course attracting thousands of triathletes hoping to test themselves in stunning surroundings.
In fact, it’s even made our list of the best triathlons in the world. And while it’s certainly a challenge, it’s one that anyone can overcome with the right mindset, training and knowledge.
Below, we’ll help you get started on that journey…
When is the Slateman?
The Slateman takes place from 10-11 June. The sprint event is held on Saturday 10 June, which is also when the ‘savage’ begins.
The standard and middle-distance events take place on Sunday 11 June, which is when the savage also finishes up.
Where does the race take place?
The event is based out of Llanberis in Snowdonia National Park (now officially known as Eryri National Park).
How long is the Slateman?
There are a number of different distances that you can enter, including a sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5.8km run), standard (1,500m swim, 49.9km bike, 11.9km run), ‘savage’ (a sprint on Saturday, followed by a standard race on the Sunday) and the ‘Legend’ (1,900m swim, 92.6km bike, 23.1km run).
What’s the course like?
Course maps for all distances are available on the Always Aim High Events website, but here’s a brief rundown of what to expect…
The swim for all events takes place in Llyn Padarn, which you’ll find beside Llanberis at the base of the highest mountain in Wales, Snowdon (Eryri).
Once out of the nippy waters you’re faced with a hilly route around the national park, with all courses including an ascent of Llanberis Pass. Road conditions are generally decent and if the weather is good, the views are stupendous.
The standard and legend courses will see you circumnavigate Snowdon, while the latter will also see you pass through the Ogwen Valley, flanked by iconic mountains such as Tryfan (the rocky, often foreboding, peak that looks like a shark fin).
Total elevation gain on the sprint bike course is 415m, while it’s 716m for the standard and 1,363m for the legend.
Once onto the run, you’ll have Dinorwic Slate Quarry to contend with, complete with 2km of zig zags heading uphill. It’s 416m of elevation gain for the standard and double that for the legend.
The sprint, meanwhile, sees you avoid the quarry itself, but you still have 221m of elevation to best over the 5.8km run.
Top tips for racing the Slateman
A swim surrounded by mountains, a bike course in the heart of Snowdonia and a run through an awesome slate quarry – you’ll struggle to find a more iconic race than the Slateman Triathlon. And it’s certainly a true test for any level of triathlete and a must for your race calendar!
The swim takes place in Llyn Padarn so prepare for a breathtakingly chilly experience.
A good tip is to let some water in your wetsuit before the start, as this will help you acclimatise. Along with a neoprene skullcap to combat brain freeze! See session one (below) for a great cold-swim session.
Exiting the swim, you’ll warm up with a lengthy run to transition; it’s important to remember your bike location in the large transition area.
The bike leg for the sprint and legend events starts with a gradual climb up Llanberis Pass. The ascent is 5km long with an average of 5.1%.
Manage your efforts on this lengthy climb; you want to be in touch with the race but it’s easy to neglect the toughness of the remainder of the racing ahead. Know your limits and race to them.
Be prepared for speeds up to 65kph between the leg-burning climbs through Snowdonia. Check out sessions two and three.
The run highlight is the infamous zigzag slate quarry climb. The amazing views at the summit can be seen quicker by keeping your strides short and mentally breaking the climb into smaller sections.
To get around this course fast you’ll need to descend well and be prepared to tackle the technical forest section followed by some steep climbs. See sessions four and five.
Do at least six cold open-water swims pre-race. Start each with a 200m race effort and settle into a warm-up. Build duration of race efforts over the sessions.
Do intervals on long comparable hills to the course. Work hard over the top and recover on the descent. Perfect your pacing with a course recce two weeks before race day.
Alternate with big gear efforts at threshold and higher cadence recoveries (main set 5 x 6mins; 3mins rest between reps).
Build strength/endurance with off-road running. Get specific with a hill-rep pyramid session (hard up, relaxed down: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5mins).
A treadmill brick off the bike is great prep for Slateman (15mins at moderate effort building gradient as: 3 x 5mins at 3, 5 and 7° incline).
Top image credit: Always Aim High Events