Three years ago this Saturday I completed Celtman! The Extreme Scottish Triathlon. I have a friend Jean Bowman competing tomorrow, she was 60 earlier this year and a complete inspiration to me. Although she would say it was me who inspired her to take on this immense challenge. Jean will be amazing, and when she runs over the finish line tomorrow she will be the oldest women to have completed Celtman.
I wrote the following words at 3 in the morning the night after the race, lying in bed not able to sleep. Quite raw and completely unedited!
My alarm went off at 3am yesterday morning, I put the kettle on then went off to collect my dibber and GPS tracker, choked down some porridge then racked my bike. It was then time to get into my wetsuit (whilst being eaten alive my midges) and get onto the bus that was taking everyone to the swim start.
I have to say I have never felt so calm before a race in my life which is so weird seeing as I always get nervous and this was going to be the biggest challenge of my life. The start was amazing we were piped and drummed and there was a burning Celtman sign, I guess all to get us ‘mad for it’! After a group photo under said burning logo it was time to get into the water. It was a deep water start, there were lots of people waiting on the shore putting off the inevitable, I decided to wade in quickly so I could get acclimatised to the temperature – bloody freezing! Then the klaxon went and that was it – lets see if the training pays off!
Coming round the last island and seeing the finish was pretty amazing as it felt so long and far swimming across the middle of the loch. They weren’t wrong about the jelly fish either, I saw a few initially and thought ‘that’s not so bad’ but once we rounded the island and were swimming to the jetty there were literally thousands, I touched a couple initially with my hands which was pretty off putting but then swimming into a few with my face was pretty horrible – they did look amazing though.
Then that was the swim over, very cold feet, face and hands but the rest of me was ok. Andy helped sort me out in transition and then it was out on the bike. The first half of the bike was amazing, it took me a while to find my rhythm but once I did, I absolutely loved it!
From the moment I had got out of the water I had started to feel sick, swallowing food was really tough, let alone keeping it down. By the second half of the bike I was onto gels and had swallowed sick a few times only for it to come down my nose!!!!! I found the big hill after Dundonnell really hard and was rewarded at the top by a headwind! The last 40 miles were absolutely horrific and were my real low point, the wind was brutal, I felt sick, my legs hurt, I was watching my average speed drop from 18mph to 16.8 by the end (I needed 17 for a blue t-shirt) and I had Sarah telling me (in a very firm voice) to drink and eat more as they’d been monitoring me and I wasn’t taking on enough!!!! After 7 1/2 hrs on the bike it was over, team Greaves sorted me out in transition and a banana has never tasted so good!
I have no idea how I then managed to run but I did and it felt so good to be running after the bike. It was also amazing to have Rhian running with me. Although I had seen people on the bike and had Andy and Sarah supporting me with food, fluid and morale in the form of messages from everyone, it wasn’t that often and it was still pretty lonely.
Rhi had a hard job of feeding me as my stomach was just churning and I felt sick as a dog but she was amazing and we managed to pick runner after runner off as we headed along the Coulin pass. Rhi had told me I had over 2 hrs before the cut off and also had to tell me to slow down a few times as I was working too hard and still had a mountain to climb!!! We eventually made it to the road but I couldn’t see T2A and I still couldn’t see it after quite a few bends which was pretty demoralising but then I heard the kids with Ariane cheering me – high fives all round and into the kit check.
I then had Andy with me over the mountain and this was the best bit of the whole day, my legs felt strong and the clouds had cleared to give us the most incredible views. I couldn’t believe I still had the strength in my legs to take people on the hill, going up was fine but coming down I thought my thighs were going to collapse beneath me but I made it down the steep scramble and scree and eventually onto a pretty runable path. I had to concentrate so hard not to trip over rocks as I really didn’t trust my legs. On the last stage of the mountain we started to pass all the people who hadn’t made the cut off and were doing the low level route, what amazed me was that they all looked so lean and fit that I couldn’t quite believe that they hadn’t got to the cut off in time. Coming round the last corner to hear everyone cheering was brilliant.
Ariane then ran with me for the last 6 miles on the road, picking up Rhian for the last 3. It was a flat surface and downhill (mostly) and the girls chatting away totally took my mind off how I felt, you know you have good friends when you stop to wee and they hold your hands to keep you from falling over!!! Turning off the road to run along the water front and past the finish was really evil, I was running on empty. Seeing Lynsey and Helen at the last turn was amazing and we all ran up (yes up) the road to the finish together. I had to fight back the tears seeing Jas and Harris and they held my hands over the finish then gave me the biggest hugs ever – awesome.
I can’t thank my support team enough without each and everyone of you I couldn’t have done it:
Ariane– for watching the kids and being so awesome on the last 6 miles.
Rhian& Matthew for giving up some of their honeymoon, Rhi without you I’d never had made it so fast over the Coulin pass – partner in crime!
Lynsey& Helen for timing your support perfectly – just when I needed it most.
Sarah– for making sandwiches in the back of the van whilst Andy overtakes at speed, banter and general awesomeness.
Andy for inspiring me in the first place and being there every step of the way.
I haven’t slept a wink as my body hurts so much, no blue t-shirt yet that gets presented at 11.
The human body is amazing I pushed mine beyond what I ever thought it capable of.
Looking back I do think about doing it again, it was such an incredible experience. Not sure I could top that day, racing again would be different and not sure if I want to…..
- 154 miles under my own steam in….
- 14hrs 48min 29sec
- 5th female, 28th overall, 16th fastest run
On to another challenge…..