This was my first Extreme Triathlon, although many would say any Ironman Triathlon is extreme, to me that’s normal. Only 3.4k swim, 202km bike and 42.2k run (over 2 Munros) ~3600m of ascent to go!
Triathlon is very much an individual sport on race day with no outside assistance allowed, (that’s maybe doing a dis-service to all the support in the background getting you to the start line be it family, friends, coaches, frustrated colleagues!).
Celtman is different in that it is fully supported on the day and you can’t complete it without a support crew for safety reasons.
Craig Law was one of the key man in charge of support, who joined /dragged me round the first half of the run and John Huston as my mountain goat and motivator for the mountain section. Without the team I couldn’t have completed it and certainly wouldn’t have had the result I did (I’d probably still be lying in a peat bog somewhere).
The race starts with boarding a bus at 4am in the small village of Shieldaig in Wester Ross.
The race starts at 5am so into the lovely warm Atlantic waters (11⁰C) for quick acclimatisation before the start. I work my way to the front of the line and hit full gas as soon as the gun goes, very quickly the race strings out and I settle into 4th place, and that’s how it stayed for the next 51mins, the gaps got bigger and I avoided the thousands of jellyfish or used them as handholds for extra propulsion. Not that I needed it with my #Phantom 2.0 wetsuit, and Kayenne goggles from @Aqua Sphere. Into transition and I only realise how cold I’ve got when I fall over, thankfully to be caught by Craig and John before I hit the deck. Quick change and onto the bike, glad I put on some thicker clothes as I didn’t really know where I was for the next 30minutes or so until I started to warm up.
The bike curse is brutal with constant undulations (that feel like mountains by the end) not to mention the stiff headwind that seemed to stay as a head wind until the last 1hr. Having the support team was a great motivator and relief seeing them at pre-arranged locations, topping up on energy drinks and snacks to keep going. I was hitting a bit of a low point after 2 1/2hrs when I was passed and dropped to 5th place (this was fantastic a dream result would be top 10 overall).
The answer to low points in long races is to eat more, so the next fuel stop was energy drink, homemade muffins, with a side of Torq Caramel Latte Gel. From there on it was a real slog until the last 60km, thankfully the Torq caffeine energy gels were doing the trick so I could start putting the power back down in that last part of the curse that started to trend downwards, with a tailwind back to the transition for the run.
Off the bike and wobbly legged run into transition to meet the team, get the trainers on and set-out onto the first not hilly part of the run (that still includes 450m of ascent). This is where the team work really made the difference Craig was worried pre-race he may not keep up, first thing I said was don’t worry I’m ******* so I’ll have to try and keep up with you. He was superb keeping me motivated and shouting out the obstructions as we ran so I didn’t end up head first in a bog, and ensuring I kept eating as well as giving commentary on how the close competitors were behind us. This part was a real struggle, I was looking forward to the mountain part which is where the fun starts so it just had to be endured, eventually we got to the checkpoint at the bottom of the mountain where there’s a 2min mandatory safety and sanity check! Time to change support runner and head straight up hill for an hour.
I now had 6th place breathing down my neck setting out up the mountain, only about a minute behind me. John was awesome keeping me going and forcing energy gels down my neck, despite how hard going it was it was a good time to recover and get fuel in. It’s that steep that it’s a fast walk rather than a run, although it felt like a crawl at stages. Nearing the top and the bag piper starts to pipe you to the first summit (an amazing feature of this event is the volunteers and the special touches) gives a wee bit of a boost, also having pulled away from 6th place raised the spirits too. More importantly it was onto to ridge run (with awesome scenery watch the video at Celtman Movie 2019 ) my favourite part and time to put some distance into 6th place and see if I could secure 5th place. It was superb fun, the energy started to return and we sped along the ridge. On nearing the 2nd summit we were surprised to pass 4th place coming back down, we had expected them to be well ahead. On summiting I said to John let’s give it everything to see if we can catch them. Throwing ourselves down the ridge at ridiculous speed, brain disengaged, sliding down the scree slope we caught 4th place after 30minutes. (We later found out that we set the fastest run along the ridge of the day and John set the all-time record for descending the scree slope!).
Just 8km of off-road and 7k along the road to Torridon to go. The off-road was fun, buoyed with being in 4th place it just flew past, the last 7km on the run was as tough, it was great to have John running with me a Craig shouting support and giving time splits from the support van.
The sun was out at the finish and a nice cold beer awaited, after 13hrs 19mins I finished 4th overall, 2nd in my age category. An amazing result and something I hadn’t thought possible.
What next, a Ceilidh the night after, and the support team volunteered for next year even before I said I’d be back.
Not much rest for the wicked though 2 months later I secured another awesome result finishing 3rd in my age category in the British Middle Distance Triathlon Championships (report to follow), and now I write this on the plane to Hawaii to compete in the World Ironman Championships on the 12th October!