03 July 2015

Celtman - West Highlands, Scotland June 27

Celtman Xtreme Triathlon

As a record so I can look back after I've forgotten many of the details .....

I could write a small book on the reasons to be here taking on this challenge but will sum it up instead:
- I don't want to live a life of ease.
This doesn't mean I don't enjoy many of the aspects of a life of ease that we all generally know and love - my beer in the spa, a comfy bed every night, good food and wine and company, a nice car, a warm house, a nice dram before bed .....etc.  I love all the creature comforts!
But most days I also want a stiff, strenuous challenge, preferably 2.
- suffering is good for the soul.  I've no doubt about this.  Its important for me to suffer but prefer to be in control of most of the parameters.  I'm not a masochist.
- I love exploration and adventure, new places and people, new experiences.
- Not knowing how well I'll handle a challenge is part of what drives me to try and prepare for many different possibilities.   This game involves a lot of preparation and getting that done on a daily/weekly/monthly basis gives me a ton of satisfaction.

Support crew:
Adam Bardsley and Gary Fagen - Epic Vets from Canada last year were roped in to help me out.
In this race you need a support crew.
There are no aid stations on the bike, only 2 on the first 20km of the run and you need a support runner on the mountain section.
They needed to pick me up from my hotel at 3:15am which is a tough thing to ask anyone.
And that was just the beginning.
They were outstanding all day.
Nuf said about them - this is about me!

Getting here - its a long way.  About 1/2 way around the world from New Zealand.
Flew to Sydney, Bangkok, Dubai, Glasgow, 5.5 hour drive to Torridon.

Its wet here!
I knew the race would probably be wet and kinda cold and perhaps we might not be a blue to get up the mountains for the most spectacular and demanding part of this race.

Swim - about 11Degrees C, calm.
I had on 5mm surf booties, a warm Blueseventy wetsuit (Fusion), a titanium-laced neoprene surfer rash vest with hood built in, another neoprene cap, the race swim cap.  Gloves weren't allowed or I would have used them.
I was still cold, but OK.
Went out steady knowing we had a lead kayak so figured I'd try to get near that and hold sight of it as long as possible to go straight. Turns out there were only 2 decent swimmers in the field and I drafted off of them fairly comfortably.  Lots of jellyfish of all sizes, zillions of them but not stinging at all.  Very beautiful actually.
Was probably around 3km as I was in the water 45 minutes and it was into an out-going tide a bit.

The Bike - it really is 202km with about 6500ft of elevation gain.
No steep climbs, but a few long ones with 3-5% incline.
Road surface was mostly good, perhaps 15% rough chip?
Only a bit of rain.  Biggest difficulty was headwind for the last 30+km.  That hurt.
7:05 total bike time including a few pitstops and stopping for food, coffee.
It is a beautiful place to ride when its clear.  Gorgeous, remote place to ride.
I had carb drink, lots os snickers bars, coffee with milk, some muesli bars, bit of coke.
Never went too hard so stomach was fine.

The Run - here's where things got interesting ....
I really thought the first 18km were on the road and we could get aid from our support crew.
Big over-site!
So I took off with a bottle and a snickers bar and told the boys to look for me in about 5k.  Since they didn't know any different they said "sure" and off I went.
At about 1km I knew I'd made a mistake.
Onto a long climb up a 4-wheel drive track and then onto a boggy, rough track leading away from the road.  I started looking for streams to re-fill my bottle after about 30 minutes but thankfully there were 2 aid stations out there and I loaded up on cookies and water at each.
Gary came running in from the other side to come give me aid not knowing there were aid stations.
The first part of the run was run-able and took about 1:50. Even had a couple of km of road before getting to the mountain trail.
The mountain segment .....
This was only 10 miles.  "How long and hard could it be" was my thinking.
We hiked straight up a 20-30% slope for almost an hour to begin covering about 3km.  Ouch.
After the first summit there were some really tough boulder hopping bits along a knife-edge ridge which took some time as I'm crap at that.
I really can't afford to rip either of my ankles to bits as I've done that so many times in my life that one more bad one will likely mean the end to my running life.  I always think of Steve Gurney (won the Coast-Coast 9 times) when I'm running on technical trails as he wrecked his ankle at age 40 and can't run any more.
There was a lot of hopping from boulder to boulder and using hands to climb down the tougher bits.  A few people cam by me and quickly dis-appeared into the distance.
After the 2nd summit there was a scree slope to navigate down.
I thought I had done scree slopes before but this sucker was the real deal.
Was like quicksand topped with jagged boulders of 5-20kgs each all on a 30-40% slope.
As you slid down you set some rocks flying down a bit so hopefully you don't smash anyone below you and those above you are trying not to as well.
After that it got a bit harder as the trail sorta dis-appeared.
I now understood why we needed to bring a map and compass.  Even in clear daylight conditions it was hard to see where to go. There's not a lot of people out there!
If it was foggy, really raining or dark it would be damn near impossible to find where to go. Thankfully it was not raining as all the boulder hopping and climbing would've been way tougher if it was slippery.
Then once the trail re-appeared I mostly could jog down although there were a million rock steps which was bloody impressive as the were big boulders creating the trail  An incredible feat of engineering really - about 5 miles of this??
I was really getting tired of having to concentrate on my footing about now and was hopeful of getting back onto t road!
With 9km to go on the run we did hit the road again and I did manage to jog that whole segment but the entire run ended up around 7 hours.
I only stopped moving for about 2-3 minutes during that entire time so to say it was a tough course ........ well for most triathletes I think its fair to say there's not another course like it.  Even Norseman is mostly pavement and the trail section is all uphill.
Gary was my support crew on this run and he's actually quite good at the technical stuff.  I think he'd go at least an hour quicker over that 10-mile segment if he was racing for himself.

15 hours - that's how long the race took and that's 2.5 hours longer than my previous longest race which was Kona one year when I walked that last 22km with a f... knee.

Scotland is wonderful.  I was really impressed with the rawness of it all. Its safe, clean, green an the people are super friendly.  We had a great time and loved every minute of it.
But I don't think I'd try the race again.  Next time I go to Scotland it will be as a more normal fitness tourist.  I would like to do some hiking in some other areas as there's tons of magnificent, remote places to see.
The wee town of Applecross was a highlight.   Magic little place.

Not a lot left on my bucket list of events/races to do now and my wife would _really_ prefer I don't add anything to it.
But there are a lot of interesting looking Triathlons I'd love to do before my legs aren't capable any more. Looking forward to getting to some of those soon.
Cheers, Scott

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