I had been thinking for some time about doing something “big” during 2018 as I would be turning 50 in January and wanted to embrace hitting my half century! However the latter half of 2017 turned out to be a frustrating time, starting with cutting my knee badly on holiday and getting a significant infection which took time to heal and resulted in a long lay off from regular exercise. I ended up pulling out of several races and lost my mojo to the point all ideas of big races went out the window.....
At this point I realised I needed some help to get my focus back and some basic routines and goals. Confidence was definitely low at this point! I decided to contact Graham and look at some coaching support. I already knew Graham and felt he was the right person to get me back to where I wanted to be. I was thinking at that point about scaling my ambitions down and going back and doing a standard distance I’d done before in France but aiming to improve my time. Yes you could do that said Graham, but would it really be a challenge given I already knew I could do one? Left me to think about it and realised after a day mulling it over that if I was going to something it needed to be something that was a significant challenge and before long found myself looking through 70.3 races....Vichy 70.3 in central France was entered and a whole 2 week summer holiday planned !
And so the hard work began in November 2017 and with some proper structure from Graham, I started to enjoy my sport again and see my fitness coming back. We agreed Vichy was my A race and I would do a sprint and standard as build up races. Training was going well, I started to feel stronger and then I went on holiday for a week, fell over running and damaged my other knee. I was devastated! Although a trip to the physio confirmed no ligament damage, it was swollen and inflamed and all I could think of was “ here we go again’ .....another season’s goals at risk....
Training was curtailed slightly but managed to get through my first warm up race and practice racing again. My second warm up was a standard and felt better in this with a 28 minute improvement on my last standard so that gave me a lift. But two weeks before race day my knee started getting really sore again after my last long road run so nothing was guaranteed....
We headed off to France a week before the race and the location could not have been more perfect. A secluded Airbnb in the middle of nowhere complete with a jacuzzi was the perfect chillin’ place with instructions to keep off my feet as much as possible! Having rested my leg the week before a couple of short runs confirmed my knee was feeling much better. I also had a chance to swim without a wetsuit a couple of times in a local lake - again a good confidence booster in case Vichy was no wetsuit which it had been for the last two years. I was feeling ready.
We headed to Vichy on the Thursday arriving in an outrageous rain storm which had the desired effect of dropping the air temperature by 12 degrees. By some stroke of luck the forecast was to stay lower until after the race instead of the usual 30 plus degrees. Anxuety mixed with excitement started kicking in when we arrived at the race venue to register. First look at the swim course which suddenly looked a long way! Friday involved a lot of relaxing and time off my feet and getting bags ready for transition before a gentle cycle from the hotel to drop our kit off. No announcement about wetsuit but a quick word at the help desk and unofficially the water was 22 degrees and with a cool night ahead unlikely to change. Hoorah!
Unfortunately I have always suffered from pretty bad nerves which manifests itself in an inability to get enough food inside me. Dinner was a struggle but was hoping that I’d had enough throughout the week. This also meant I could barely sleep, not helped by discovering just before I went to bed that I’d booked the race transfer for the Ironman rather than the 70.3 so we would have to walk - panic panic!
After an awful night, up bright and early and time for pre race food...except every time I smelled my porridge I retched and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t eat. I started thinking shit I’m not even going to make it to the start! Tried a different tactic and went for a bite of banana and slowly nibble by nibble I had something in my stomach. The walk ended up being a blessing as I gingerly took baby spoonfuls of the porridge as we walked and by the time we arrived at the race I’d eaten most if it. Huge relief!
Was also great to see everyone walking about in wetsuits so once I’d done a final check on the bike and final reminder of the reference points for finding my bike again - time to get a final loo stop in before getting in my wetsuit. Will and I said our farewells and headed to our respective swim starting spots. It was cloudy and pretty cool so feet n hands were chilly - not what I’d been expecting! Gradually I inched my way towards the rolling start gantry chatting to another newbie helped as realised I wasn’t the most nervous person there after all. And suddenly we were there and 7 in a row we were let through for our rolling start whereupon I sort of slid unceremoniously in to the water! Once in the water it felt so much better as it was a perfect temperature. Graham in his final pre race message has said “ keep calm in the water “ and now I knew why as the number of people in there, meant it was like being in a washing machine with lots of people swimming in to and over each other! Physical! Felt confident though in my lovely wetsuit ( not sure I would have been without) and gave as good as I got. Decided to just keep steady and see how I felt after the first half. Had noted a few landmarks during the recce so that helped break it down. First bouy was nice and quick but second seem to take forever! Gradually the exit point got closer and closer and then I was out and jogging along to transition. Swim done!
My T1 was my slowest ever. Wetsuit came off like a dream but then I faffed a bit with my bag and then as it was unexpectedly cold decided to get gloves on and arm warmers. Arm warmers didn’t want to go on with clammy arms which was a blessing in the end as I would have overheated but had wasted time. Lesson learned – keep it simple.
Out on the bike and time to get focused again. Had bought a new bike computer to check my cadence except I couldn’t get it to work! Arghh! Abandoned and decided to rely on my Garmin. Second bit of advice from Graham, don’t let my concentration drop for a minute…..
With 2000 riders out on the bike course and a 12 metre drafting rule in France, concentration was key. So I made every manoeuvre really obvious and when I heard the dreaded bike of the “arbitre” was extra careful. This did play havoc with my rhythm however, so had to make it count when I got a good stretch to get on the aero bars. More retching as I took on food but made sure I kept taking on the fuel and hydration. Bike ran like a dream though. All the hills seem to come at the end so I could feel my pace dropping off but the arrival of signs in to Vichy were very welcome but still needed to concentrate as a fast down hill with speed bumps could have ended badly!
The relief coming off the bike was massive as I knew then it was just me and my shoes – no punctures or mechanicals to worry about. As I started out on the run I could feel myself welling up as I began to realise I’m going to do this. But quickly stopped myself as I had 13.1 miles to run and needed to get back in the moment. Felt good to start for first couple of km but then pace started to slow and knees started to ache and realised I needed to concentrate on getting in to a rhythm and not allowing myself to think too far ahead. I also had to have a wee stop! Took on water every couple of km and all sorts of food inc tuck biscuits as gels were tasting unpalatable at this stage and I needed savoury flavours! Couldn’t face energy drink either so just took water until lap two when I needed something stronger. There was great support on the run and it was lovely hearing your name called out. The two saltires being waved gave me a real lift! Heard Will before I spotted him – “You’re looking great Ali”. I wasn’t (!) but it’s what I needed to hear before I passed the finish area and collected my band to start lap two – only 10k to go! Had wanted to pick up the pace on lap two but just couldn’t find another gear. Both knees were aching and didn’t want to risk inflaming either or both – objective was to finish so just tried to keep moving forward. Lap two I just kept saying to myself every time I went past a landmark “ that is the last time you have to run past there” and then focused on the last bridge I’d have to cross before dropping down to the expo and ultimately the finish. It was a way in the distance but gradually it got closer and closer…..
And then I could start to hear the DJ and the two commentators and this gave me a lift and when I could start to see the red carpet getting closer and closer it felt amazing! Finally in to the finish zone and this time towards the finish gantry with my eyes welling up at this point. 6hrs 40 minutes and 28 seconds and I’d done it.
I was ecstatic! Such an amazing feeling to finish and all the sweeter after the hiccups along the way. There is no doubt Graham’s support made a huge difference. I didn’t have to plan my training – it was done for me tailored to my level, goals and progress. But most importantly he gave me belief that I could do this.
I had thought this was my one and only 70.3 but I’ve now got the bug and looking forward to 70.3 no 2 in 2019!
In 2017 I finished the tri season on a disappointing note at a standard distance tri, and as I had big-ish plans for 2018 I decided that I needed to enlist the help of a coach. I had no idea if I was under training, or over training. My A race for 2018 was Edinburgh IM 70.3 but I also wanted to run the Edinburgh marathon in May and so I needed a tailored training plan and a coach.....cue Gregg.
I hadn’t run a marathon for over 10 years so was feeling pretty excited about the Edinburgh marathon. It felt pretty odd to be heading off to the start of a race with a small bag of running gear compared to the normal paraphernalia of swim/bike/run. In training I had told Gregg I wanted to run somewhere around 3.30-3.45 and he told me to aim for 3.30. It was perfect marathon running weather- dry, cool, little wind. I set off feeling fresh and loved the support in the first few miles as we ran through Edinburgh, but as a result set off too fast! I realised my pace was too quick but decided to go with it as I knew I would be hurting the last few miles so I would be slower then. In hindsight that wasn’t the best plan and next time I’ll pace better at the start and save something for the end! I hit a low around mile 19/20 but took a few gels and after a couple of miles my body felt a bit better, and I managed to finish in 3hrs 26 mins. I had beaten my 3hr30 target, and I took 10th place in my Age Group. Gregg was spot on with the training and almost spot on with my time!
Now that I had ticked off the marathon it was on to the Edinburgh 70.3. A bit of a shift in training to get some long bike rides in and some open water swims. The weather in June was perfect for long bike rides. Most of my training is done early in the morning (at 4.30/5am) so I love this time of year as it is light so early. I completed the 2017 Edinburgh 70.3 and had struggled in the horrid rough sea conditions and so took Craig up on the offer of a coached sea swim session down at T1. The evening we met couldn’t have been windier and the sea couldn’t have been rougher! We stood chatting for a while but then had to venture in. I hated it! However, a coached session in those conditions and the advice given by Craig were invaluable.
My sister and her partner were over from South Africa to race the 70.3 too, so we headed down to the start together on race day. I prefer to keep myself to myself pre-race so we soon wished each other luck and went our own ways. It was perfect swim conditions- the sea was calm! The rolling start worked brilliantly, and I also watched quite a lot of people ahead of us swimming wide to the first buoy so tried to swim straight and keep to the left of the group. I loved the swim. Swimming is my weakest discipline, but my confidence is growing. A shout out from Graham (who was commentating) as I came out of the water was much appreciated and then I was off on the bike. I live close to the bike route so had ridden it a lot in training, and had a great bike leg. I took 20 minutes off last year’s bike split. But it was a hot day and I hadn’t taken on enough fluids. So I set off on the run from T2 and immediately realised my legs were feeling heavy. I have since discovered that I mixed up my electrolyte drinks at double concentration, in error, and so this meant that I could not drink enough of it on the bike, and coupled with a hot day this meant I was dehydrated. I felt sick on lap 2 of the hilly 3 lap run course, and couldn’t take on any fluids for the last lap. I stopped looking at my watch as I knew it wasn’t my best run, but I never once thought that I couldn’t finish. I finished in 6hrs 06 mins and knew that I had given it all that I could, and took 5th in my Age Group. This gave me a roll down slot for the South African World Champs but I didn’t take it- had it been closer to home tho.....!
But.... I had missed my sub 6 hour 70.3! So I spoke to Gregg during the following week (during the week of IM blues!) and decided that I couldn’t end the 2018 tri season yet and entered Aberfeldy 70.3 in August. I convinced my family that it would be fun to join me on this trip and we camped the night before in Aberfeldy. I envisaged little sleep the night before so banked a couple of good nights sleep the preceding nights! I drove the bike route the evening before the race too as I hadn’t managed to do a bike recce. It was a pretty wet start to the race- it rained from Saturday 10pm until about 9/10am Sunday. But there was little wind so lovely calm water again for us. The day before had been very different for the sprint distance- the water had been described as “spicey” so we definitely got lucky! I had another steady confident swim, and exited the water to another shout out from Graham. It was still raining so I opted to take some time to put on a long sleeve top, which was definitely a good idea for me as I feel the cold and waste energy shivering. The bike route has a pretty big climb at the start and the end with a flat mid section around the Loch. I actually didn’t think my bike split would be that good as I was passed by quite a few men from the swim wave behind, and my 5km splits seemed to be slower than Edinburgh 70.3. But as I came to the climb back over the foothills of Schiehallion I started to overtake a few people, and as we came back in to Kenmore I was surprised and delighted to see that my bike split was 3hrs 18! I felt good off the bike, and was confident this would be a better run. The run is my strongest discipline and I managed to do a lot of overtaking. My nutrition worked better today, although I still have some work to do on taking enough fluids without feeling sick- the cooler weather of Aberfeldy definitely worked in my favour. I found a sprint finish in my legs and crossed the line in 5 hrs 49mins- I was so chuffed!
So, massive thanks to Gregg for his coaching. Thanks to Craig for taking the time out for an OW swim session with me, and thanks to Graham for the mentions when he is commentating.
That’s the 2018 tri season over for me, but I have found one more race to do this year- the Edinburgh ultra marathon in October. And then it’s race planning for 2019.
In the third and final part to our Celtman blogs, we follow on from Ross and Amanda’s insightful stories from an athletes point of view, to finish with the views from Craig as a member of a support crew and coach for the event.
As a coach I have never had to be quite so ‘hands-on’ at a race before! But Celtman is not like your average race… Having cycled on parts of the route previously I knew what the bike course was going to be like – hilly, windy and likely wet! The run – despite finding many photos, videos and speaking to people who have done it - I think the only way you can truly understand its severity is by physically being in it. I knew there were many parts that are going to be walked/scrambled up when you reach the Beinn Eighe mountain range, but things don’t quite look the same on a computer screen. And then there’s the swim. It can be summed up in 2 words. Cold. Jellyfish.
So as coach for Amanda who completed Celtman (and shared her story here) I knew that, if it was possible, getting to go and train on the course would be extremely beneficial to give confidence and feel more relaxed with what was to come on race day. Thankfully Amanda was able to make it up on 2 occasions – with mixed weather conditions, shall we say! The run and water temperature were what I thought were most important to get accustomed to.
I have outlined 6 areas which I feel anyone competing in Celtman should take into account.
Congrats to all who took on Celtman! Extreme Scottish Triathlon – it’s not called ‘extreme’ just for the lol’s!
I enjoyed my supporter duties so much that I may even enter the ballot myself for 2019!
Good luck to anyone who takes on Celtman in the future – I might see some of you next year…
If you are looking to race Celtman, or any other race, and would like the guidance of a coach then get in touch and we'd love to help. Contact us here or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
In the second part of the Celtman trio of blog posts Amanda details her day out.
Celtman! What a weekend! I can't really put into words how amazing, but grueling, the day was! The week leading up to the race was emotional and filled with self-doubt, asking myself,
"Am I capable of taking on something like this?"
"The jellyfish and cold water, I won't even finish the swim! Why are you doing this?"
Everything was going through my mind. Luckily, I am surrounded by people that were positive that I could take on this challenge. Well, at least they said I could.
I told my coach Craig the first time I met him, "If you think I'm not cut out for this don't hesitate to say!" So I must have been ready, even though I thought another year of training would have been handy.
On Friday morning, my support crew: Euan; my dad, Mark; and I drove to Lochcarron in preparation for Celtman. We headed straight to registration at Torridon Community Centre: first to register and then to meet my coach Craig, who was on support runner duties for the day. Meeting a few friendly faces I had been talking to on the lead up to Celtman helped calm the nerves ever so slightly. Race briefing commenced with the usual do's and don'ts of the race, which I found hard to concentrate on; I don't know if it was because everything was going through my head or the severely numb bum I was experiencing from sitting on the wooden floor for almost an hour. However, I took in the important points. Arriving at our accommodation in Lochcarron, I checked over my bike (Craig checked over my bike) and then Craig and I went for a quick spin which helped calm me down. For the first time, I was surprisingly prepared with all of my food made up. We sat for dinner and a chat and headed to bed for 9ish. I was scarily calm and organised which felt strange, not only to me but to my support crew as well.
I think I had around 3 hours deep sleep and woke up with a rush of nerves going through my stomach! All I could think about was the jellyfish and the cold water. 1:30am: out of bet, got ready, into the kitchen looked at Craig and gave this nervous laugh whilst thinking "what am I doing?!"
I proceeded to try and make my breakfast, and also my sandwiches for the race, and make a cup of tea, whilst getting my kit organised. I tried to walk around doing it all at once before I just took a breath and thought, "one thing at a time: Food first!" And at that time in the morning, the food was hard to eat!
I checked and checked, again and again, that I had everything ready for transitions and my buffet ready for on the bike. We all headed on what felt like the longest journey to transition to get my GPS tracker and sort out my transition box, as well as my bike. Dumping everything at my number, I had some last minute preparations with Craig; but the midges!! I could feel them crawling all over my face, hair, head, hands and everywhere! Sheildaig had perfect weather conditions, the water was calm and in our favour; the Celtic gods were being good to us so far. But the midges!! Even though the weather was perfect, I wasn't getting my hopes up. Once everything in transition was prepared, I squeezed myself into my wetsuit and made my way to the bus pickup point. Final hugs to everyone and off I went. Boarding the coach, I felt like I was Forest Gump going to school, but I saw a smiling face and that was enough for me to choose who to sit next to. Her name was Claire, she was lovely and calmed my nerves about the swim as she had swam here often, thanks Claire! The journey was short and the feeling coming off the bus was quite surreal: hearing the drums play with the Celtman sign blazing as you looked out across the water to Shieldage, with a pink lit sky as the sunrise. I wasn't in the group photo before the swim as me and Claire were too busy looking out at the water, but the view was too good.
5 minutes to start: All the athletes entered the cold water but I felt surprisingly okay with it, so far. Gun went off and Celtman had begun! Nerves and slight panic rushed through me and I struggled to relax: the thought of jellyfish started to freak me out, everyone just bashing about trying to get there space, my goggles kept filling up with water. Complete nightmare! Eventually I started to find my rhythm and calm down for a bit, but I will say I saw no jellyfish. That might be because I swam with my eyes closed though, I only opened my eyes once I was sighting. Strange I know, but it was the only way I could relax. That was until I felt these squishy things hitting my hands or sliding past my body. I just kept lying to myself to get through it, "it’s fine! It's just another swimmer!" even though the nearest swimmer at this point was a good couple of feet to the side of me. Once the first island was passed, I began to calm down. The second island looked as though it was getting closer, but it felt like it wasn’t! Another jellyfish hit my face, hell no! Even feel my face because of the numbness, I knew exactly what was around me. I'd say it felt like the worst swim I had ever done! I thought I was at the back and swimming for about 2hrs. That was until the swim exit was in sight! I swam as fast as I could to get away from the jellyfish and out of the cold water. I made it to the exit, I touched solid ground again, but I couldn’t find my feet; thankfully, a volunteer pulled me up and made I got out alright. I can’t put into words how amazing the volunteers were throughout the day, but now it was time for Craig to take over. He met me at the exit and wrapped my up in my dry robe, asking if I was okay. I looked at my watch 1hr 2 minutes, I was over the moon!!!
Craig helped me out of my wetsuit and into my cycling gear, putting a hot water bottle on my feet to bring back some feeling whilst shoving a sandwich into my mouth; I’d never thought I would need help to be fed at 28 years old. I felt so sorry for him: I basically had a wardrobe in that box and I was in a kind of shock so on top of Craig making sure I was alright, it was up to him to pick what jackets, etc. I was putting on. In the background, Euan started yelling, "Amanda! I know it’s not the time, but you look like you've lost weight!" He tried to lighten the mood which worked in the manic. I was good to go with the bike, with my one cold foot as I stood on my sock; I was off out of transition.
The lovely short steep hill at the start and the first twenty miles to Kinlochewe was just sheer craziness! The roads were packed with support cars and bikes. I barely got over 12mph because of cars not letting me by and from dodging potholes! There wasn’t much I could do but accept that it was going to be a long stretch of road because I couldn't go very fast; additionally, my legs were feeling heavy from being cold and not getting the chance to properly get into my pace. As well as all of this, I lost my straw from my water bottle going over a cattle grid; off to a brilliant start! Eventually my support crew appeared along the road and I just shouted, "STRAW!" I could see the confusion and panic in their faces. At the next stop, I got the bottle sorted and was off heading to Gairloch.
The weather wasn't too bad and I was feeling really good, making really good time. Euan was hilarious, I previously wrote out all my stops on what food to give me, when and where but that never happened at all. At every stop he would run out with his hands full of food asking me if I need anything and about 50% of the time I didn't (they stopped a lot but I wasn't complaining). Still feeling good, I was catching people on the climbs which I surprised myself with. The heavens soon opened and in true Celtman style, the weather took a turn for the worst. It was cold, wet, and mostly head winds. I thought if I get my head down everything will be fine. Craig pulled me over just past Poolewe, I think to make sure I was taking plenty on for the big climbs about to come. Nine bar in mouth I headed off again. It was getting colder and I could see my pace gradually dropping but I tried to stay as positive as I could. A couple of miles later I saw Euan running down the road a bit holding something, a chocolate bar claiming Craig told him to give me it. At this point I was feeling sick from the amount of chocolate I was eating. I accidently bought the Nine bars with the chocolate on top. Heading to the climb before Dundonnal, I felt my stomach turn; I boked pretty much all the way up this hill! At the top of the climb, I thought it would be a good idea to change jackets to let the one I had on dry for a bit. I grabbed a sandwich which I planned on eating but instead just shoved it in my pouch and headed down for the biggest climb on the course. I couldn't even get on my tri bars for the down hills because I was scared incase the roads were too slippy.
Getting to the big climb, I took a deep breath and made my way up; I was freezing! This hill didn't seem so bad the last time I climbed it but this time it felt torture! I mastered the art of eating whilst climbing on this hill, the last thing I wanted to happen to me on this course was bonking; that was all that I needed. Eventually, I got to the top; it felt like it took forever! I shouted to Euan that I needed my leg warmers as they passed in the car. Quick stop and I got handed tailwind; not much of a difference between leg warmers and a bottle of tailwind. Once I eventually got the leg warmers, they were a life saver, along with my relatively dry jacket on under my waterproof. Now, you would think a downhill would be amazing for a rest, but when you have to pedal down it through a head wind, it’s the worst! I looked at my watch and I completely accepted that the blue t-shirt was out of sight. The focus was now just on finishing the bike course. Coming down the hill to the junction that takes you on to the A835, I felt so weak; my eyes started to close and I was all over the road. I thought this was the end of Celtman for me, I couldn't think straight. I think my dad started to notice something was wrong; I saw him pull over at the reservoir and rush out to tell me he was going to get me a tea. I felt my body was about to collapse, I couldn't say much to him. I felt deflated; my chest started to feel really tight with the cold and everything was sore. "Next stop!" he told me. I could have honestly just shoved the bike in the back of the car; but I’d come this far, I’d trained for months for this and I had to prove to everyone and myself that I could do it! That cup of tea was a game changer for me, change of gloves and I was off! Craig looked at me and said; "only 30 miles, that's all!" It would have been stupid for me to stop now. Back on the road, head down and I gave that 30 miles everything I had! I don't know what happened but my pace started to creep back up and I felt a bit stronger, again taking over athletes. I just got my head down and powered though the demons. 10 miles!! 10 miles to push!! My support team passed and I smiled, I was nearly done! One more climb and that was me! All downhill from here, but that one climb nearly killed me; I couldn't breathe and again, my chest was agony but I got up it; I actually got a PB going up it. Then the long awaited downhill, the best downhill ever: 46.3mph; the perfect way to finish the cycle and with a perfect view.
When I got to transition, my head was everywhere; I didn't know what was happening, I had the timing chip lady grabbing my arm and another woman who was supporting taking my bike from me. She could have been stealing it for all I knew! She took me into the transition area and waited with me until my support crew came. All of a sudden, I had another support crew giving me a chair and a towel, so now is the time to thank you, you absolute stranger, and apologise to their athlete for having to wipe my feet on their towel. Relatively quick change of shoes and clothes; went to the toilet and off onto the run with Craig. "1 hr 17 mins until the blue t-shirt cut off, can we make it?!" Good one Craig. I couldn't even make that if it was a flat 10 miles and with no cycling beforehand. I had to laugh about the situation, although I was disappointed. I’d finished the bike and the swim so I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it; I was still finishing and getting a t-shirt which was the main thing.
The start of the run was dry but I was on edge, I didn’t want to speak too soon. Craig informed me that the mountain was closed because of the weather, so not getting the blue t-shirt was okay because if I made the cut off and bagged blue I wouldn't have felt as though I truly deserved it. A steady jog from T2 to the first climb of the run and then up Coulin's Pass; there was no way I could have ran up it, I would be faster walking. The heavens decided to open again, just as Ross; another athlete from You Can Sport that Craig knew, caught up with us. We all walked up a good bit together but you could clearly tell who was supporting and who was racing as the two support runners were chatting in front whilst Ross and I were shuffling at the back. After a while they jogged off and it was just me and Craig again. We had a lovely meal together consisting of a Nakd bar and Clif blocks. We thought that it would be a good idea to have topics for the run but both of us forgot to write suggestions down, but we managed to discuss music, films, training, Love Island, living with people, habits, cars and how Craig should of just pretended he was me because he had his jacket over his bag which gave him strange looking boobs. Overall, the conversations definitely passed the time and the views were amazing .
Finally, T2A! I was still feeling alright on the second half of the run as I was still able to chat. We adopted a method of jogging which was doable for the majority of the run; however, we had to walk for a lot of the steep rocky parts. There was a lot of walking seeing as it was almost all rocky part with a few river crossings. I eventually gave up jumping across the river crossings because I was absolutely soaked anyway.
Along the 'trail', we passed a few others and the Torridon Mountain rescue teams that cheered us on so that lifted our spirits. We continued to chat about food to pass the time; mostly discussing the food we were most excited to eat afterwards. I also got the feeling Craig was getting a bit worried because I wasn’t taking on much food; the last thing I ate was the nakd bar during the first half of the run. I felt okay though, just a bit tired with my chest still as tight as it had been, with sore knees that Craig heard all about for most of the run. One thing I will say is don't trust people telling you what’s ahead; they lie! "Downhill and flat!" I was told! Yeah, maybe, eventually; about 2 miles away! Craig's tactic was helpful though; he took lead a bit and jogged when possible so that I would jog on behind him, good coaching I'd say. But it was getting cold and we needed to keep warm.
Finally a road! A hilly road but it was a road! Again, I was lied to and told we had 4km to go... we definitely did not! And finally, I got a niggle. I wasn't worried about it, it just meant the jog was going to get slower. Looking over at Torridon, we wondered where the finish actually was because there was no blue arch!
Just over the last hill, the finish line was waiting and I didn't know how to feel about it! All the training and tears in the months leading up to this moment; it was finally here! It's a moment I will never forget! I’d finished! Craig hugged me and told me, "You did it!" I was in shock, and then Euan came running over to me hugging me telling me how proud he was. My dad; he's been through it all with me and it finally hit me what I had just completed. He hugged me and tears started running down my face. Paul (the race director) congratulated me and gave me a massive hug. I received my beer - I had completed Celtman!!! My overall time was 15hours 54minutes, 19seconds. I was obviously a little disappointed that I didn't make the cut off for blue but I never thought I would ever complete anything like Celtman.
Celtman was quite possibly the hardest, most amazing, day of my life. The race tested me and made me push through what I thought was my limit. The Celtman community is among some of the most mental but friendliest people I have ever met. The race did not disappoint, in true Celtman fashion, the water was cold, the cycle was horrendous, the run was brutal and the weather was tedious but it wouldn't be Celtman if it wasn't like that.
I could not have gotten through that day without my dad, Euan and Craig; they kept me fed, watered and as warm as they possibly could, and lifted my spirits right when it was needed. I would like to thank Craig for the past 5 months of crazy training and stepping up to be support runner last minute, you've not had it easy dealing with me but you done what you promised you got me to the finish line and I can't thank you enough for everything. To my dad, who has spent many miles in the car, keeping me safe and helping me out as much as possible, even if he does annoy me from time to time, thank you for being you. To my friends and family, thank you for all of your encouragement and understanding this year. A special thank you to Iain; you tell me time and time again that I can do anything I want to, even if I think it's impossible, you make the impossible possible. It was all your fault that I got into this race and I can't thank you enough from the bottom of my heart.
Celtman I am not finished with you yet! I will be back!
On the 16th June two You Can Sport athletes took to the cold, jelly-fish filled waters of Loch Shieldaig in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland. Ross Crombie and Amanda McCaig embarked on what is aptly named ‘CELTMAN! Extreme Scottish Triathlon’. In this 3-part blog you will get an insight from both Ross and Amanda as well as our coach Craig, who was Amanda’s support runner for the mountain run section of the race. Each part, I’m sure will give different views from both a racers point of view and from a supporter/coaches view looking in. First up it's Ross.
Race Report from Ross
What an event! This has always been an aspiration of mine to take part since 2012. I was in complete awe of Raymond (club mate) last year and listening to his experience I thought I may struggle to complete this. In 2016 I pulled out of Lochloman swim as I was too cold, was I going to do the same?
I went up on Thursday to get registered and tried to relax. Wasn’t too nervous, I was really excited.
On Friday I went for the swim recce at Loch Shieldaig. It was raining and cold. I went into the water which was really cold and then tried to put my face in. It was BALTIC. I really couldn’t acclimatise. I swam about 200m trying to relax. Then a few swimmers said watch out 10m ahead for the jelly fish. I swam over and got a really weird feeling seeing all the jelly fish all shapes and sizes. I tried to get used to them and the cold. Then thought right I’m out of here. Got into a better rhythm swimming back but my face was freezing. Could really feel my hands getting cold too. I’m glad I did the recce, but I really started doubting myself that I could do the swim, I honestly thought I’d taken on too much.
Then I went to the bike mechanic to fix my front derailleur. After 30min he says you’ve got a big problem. Not the words you want to hear. You’ve got a gear cable problem. I left it with him for another 4 hours with no joy. The only thing I could do was physically push the front derailleur while pedalling and try and move the gear at the same time. I couldn’t believe it. But I had 2 options moan about it or suck it up and just get on with it. I have to say a massive thanks to Jonny, Lorne, Raymond and Paddy who said they could loan me a bike. But I just thought I’d bash on and give it a go. Thanks also to Jonny who reminded me of using a bit of Vaseline to create a barrier round my face from the cold water.
Saturday, day of Celtman. I never really slept the night before. 2am alarm went off. My first reaction was I could just go back to bed and say I was ill. But then I thought man up and start your adventure. All I could keep thinking about was this freezing swim that faced me. Changed, breakfast, support crew ready into the camper van at 2:55am. Let’s go. Weather was calm. Dry, no wind. Looked really good. Big queue getting into Shieldaig. Got signed in and then into transition to set things up. Wetsuit on. Met Paddy and then we went to the bus to journey further round the coast. I was bricking it, really nervous but hiding it well. Bus dropped everyone off and we had 30min to get ready and wait. I got the Vaseline and covered my face while I remembered. Dropped my bag off. The Celtman symbol then gets lit and my nerves are off the scale. Group picture done and then we get told to enter the water to a deep water start about 50metres in. Here we go.
It was really tricky walking into the water as it was covered in seaweed and very rocky. Then the cold hits you. One last pat on the back to Paddy and then my adventure begins. I tried to get towards the swim start but the hooter went just before I got there. I kept saying to myself, relax and enjoy this. It was freezing. The vaseline did help a bit, I think. I sighted for the corner of the first island, several swimmers going all over the place. Then boom jelly fish. Just tried to keep in a rhythm. You feel yourself push some jelly fish out the way, it’s a great way of improving your catch and pull haha. I started getting used to it. But it started getting even colder as I went round the first island. You then head for the White House to get round the second island. It seemed to take ages to get there. Once I got round the second one you head for T1, I felt a sense of achievement already, thinking I’m actually going to get through this swim. I then felt good at the end of the swim and delighted to get out. I could hardly get out and fell back in. Needed a few helpers to get me out.
I ran into T1 freezing, expecting to see my crew. No one there, I was raging, I couldn’t get my stuff off. The Celtman crew ran down transition shouting out for my crew. They were still in the camper van enjoying a nice wee warm cup of tea. Argh! Numpties. Once they got to me, it clearly wasn’t an organised drill session. It must have been hilarious to watch. Wetsuit off. Then top on, ooops forgot my bib shorts, top off, shorts on, 2 adults wresting to put my socks on. 1 tries to dry my hands, 2 wrestle to put gloves on and that doesn’t work. Then Steven puts my number belt on round my middle which I didn’t realise as I tried to get food out my pocket later and couldn’t as the number belt was round it. Eventually out of T1 stressed to the max.
One word for the bike ‘gruelling’. It was very tough. Uphill for much of the first 20k to Kinlochewe. Had to dodge the huge traffic for all the crews going in the same direction. The bike route is stunning. Scenery is fantastic. Met my crew at Gairloch about 35miles in. Felt great. Then met them about mile 55. Still felt great, few bottle changes and bananas. The weather was wet and windy and rapidly got worse. My hands were freezing as I still couldn’t get gloves on. My gear changing started to get really difficult as my hands were numb and I couldn’t manually push the derailleur any more to get into the big cog. It was pouring and the head wind on the long drags were draining. At mile 90 I had to stop and try and get gloves on. They managed to get them on for me. Got to Achnasheen and I thought I had 6mile to go, but sign said 10mile. So, looking at my watch that makes it approx. 125miles in total. My legs were done. I was soaked. Into Kinlochewe I passed Lorne who shouted where to dismount. Into T2. Glad to get off the bike. Quickish change, kit back on, then out with Derek for the first part of what I thought maybe an easy run, oh boy was I wrong.
Once off the road about 3k in you get to a logging track and the start of the hill. It then goes into a trail route and then turns boggy and fern covered. The hill then rises further and further and further. Very hilly. The rain battered down again, I was soaked. The path was unrecognisable. The views were breathtaking! You then get back onto a better logging path and up over into the coulin estate. There was a feed station at the bottom. They said remember and turn right. Derek and I ran on and across a bridge, the marshals were screaming at us. We went the wrong way. I was a bit annoyed as the right turn wasn’t clear. But only lost about 1min of time. It was then a very undulating run along the loch, legs were really feeling it now. Eventually we could see over to T2a. So relieved to get to here. I should have been better organised with nutrition, I just grabbed a drink of lucozade and a few pretzels at transition. It was good to see Paddy, Lorne, Raymond and Jonny again. I was jealous when I saw Paddy eating a roll, why didn’t I get my crew to get me a roll?
Bag check at T2a, swapped crew member for Steven. Raymond said this is when the fun starts. I never expected the low run route to be so tough. OMG it was tough. You still scale up to about 500m. Up and up and up. Legs burning. I’m starting to get really hungry, then Steven says, ‘o it was great when I was in T2 waiting on you, I went had had a wee cheese and ham toastie’. I could have killed him. That’s all I could think about. You then reach the top and start to descend. It’s a very technical rocky route through streams. It’s utterly stunning!! Lost my footing several times, just managing to keep my balance. Really felt hungry not a good sign. Grabbed an oat bar off Steven and I perked up a bit. Round the bottom of the mountain now and we started to descend through a really nice trail to the road. I said to Steven any more hills? He said no, then as soon as we turned the corner there was a huge hill! Argh. Down the hill and could almost see Torridon. From the top of the hill I hear the war cry. ‘Crombie I’m coming to get you’ Paddy hot on my heels. I set off like a rocket lol. Steven struggled to keep up.
Into Torridon, up the hill, the finish banner in sight. Boom I complete my adventure and journey of a lifetime. What a feeling. I was totally goosed. Downed the bottle of beer. Great that Jonny captured some pics and to see paddy smashing it too. All I could think about was how well Raymond had done last year in worse conditions.
This was an outstanding event. I feel so privileged to get the opportunity to do this and thank my wife who said no chance to me doing it in the first place. Total respect to all finishers of this event. I know a few are thinking of doing this next year. My advice, you only live once so go for it. Raymond who is thinking of doing it again, you are just totally mental! Lol. (The annoying thing is, if you do it 5 times you get a special red t-shirt..........)
Great welcome from my family when I arrived back home. Amy said ‘well done dad I’m glad you didn’t die!’
I couldn’t have done any of this without You Can Sport’s help!
It was another busy weekend for everyone at You Can Sport - athletes and coaches alike. We had people at events across the UK; racing, commentating, interviewing, coaching and spectating.
One of our newer athletes, Julia, was competing in her season opener (take two...after her planned opener was snowed off by the Beast from the East a couple of months ago) at the Selkirk Standard triathlon. She finished off her race with the 2nd fastest female run split of the day to take 2nd place in her age group, a great improvement from 5th last year. What better way to start the season than with a podium finish - congratulations.
Julia now has the Edinburgh Marathon this weekend, and then a few weeks later the Edinburgh Ironman 70.3 in July.
Over in Pitlochry was the annual Etape Caledonia cycling event. The weekend started with Graham hosting a series of interviews with world record holder Mark Beaumont. These offered great insight into the many adventures Mark has had over the years and provided inspiration to the participants taking part in the event the next day.
Sunday was the main event. A 45 or 85 mile cycle around the stunning Scottish Highlands. Among the thousands of riders taking part on the Sunday was Amanda - one of our athletes coached by Craig and using this as a training ride for her upcoming races.
Throughout the day Graham provided the event commentary - filled with many "woop woop"'s i'm sure - and called out the riders are they crossed the line.
Craig had been out hill running with Amanda on the Saturday as part of her build up to Celtman next month where he will also be on support runner duties.
On Sunday Craig was coaching at the Scottish Swimming Come and Try Open Water event. A session where swimmers of all abilities can learn open water skills and techniques within a safe environment.
Then, down in London Gregg was spectating at the Virgin Sport Hackney Half Marathon. A brilliant event in East London with around 20,000 participants.
It is definitely an event to consider in future - particularly those looking for a quick time on a flat course.
Next week we host the Scottish Sea Farms Triathlon Festival for the second year. Fingers crossed the current good weather continues!
Xterra Malta was the opening event of my triathlon season.
The build up to the event had been what I felt was ‘good enough’ but there were still improvements to be made. The Scottish ‘Spring’ had made it a little difficult to keep my motivation and consistency at times leading up to the race.
Qualifying for the Xterra World Championships was my main goal. This meant an Age Group win would have to be on the cards. With only a small number of athletes in my 20-24 category there was a good chance it would be a tight race for the top spot.
The beach start meant that choosing a good start position was important to get the best line to the first turn buoy – front and centre for me. It did take me a couple hundred metres to get into a rhythm but managed to sit with a small group for the first loop and upon the ‘Australian exit’ run along the beach to start lap 2 I could see that I had dragged a group along behind me. The end of the second lap positions hadn’t really changed and I exited onto the Golden Bay sand with a few others for company.
The run to transition took us from the beach and up a steep set of steps to the main transition area. In a quest to find some marginal gains I opted to get out of my wetsuit before climbing the steps. Out onto the bike I had dropped a position thanks to trying to put on bike gloves with wet hands (with the very rough terrain they were highly recommended). Once I was out on the bike I focused on keeping the athletes ahead in sight and gradually worked on closing them down. I didn’t feel great to begin with and struggled to put down any considerable power on the climbs. Nearing the end of lap 1 I started to feel better, but then that’s where it went downhill...
On the final rough rocky section of the lap I heard the dreaded ‘sshhhhhhh’ of a pierced tyre. I was hoping that the tubeless sealant would do its thing and seal the puncture as I rolled along but the hole proved just too big to repair itself and the tyre went down. And down. And down some more! All this just 2km away from the end of the lap. I stopped to attempt my best patch-work on the hole but alas – no joy! So, after a few naughty words to myself I slowly made my way back to finish the lap - essentially just riding on the rim for 2km on far from smooth trails. Just as I neared the final straight of the lap I passed Gregg, who had been waiting for considerably longer than anticipated, and I said, “this is going to be a long lap”. Yes, I was considering riding 15km on the rim…not advised! Then a very kind spectator offered me a tube to (try) fix the flat. It worked, to an extent. I managed to get *almost* 5km into lap 2 of the bike where on yet another rough rocky descent… ‘sshhhhhhh!’ And that was that.
It was a long 5km walk/roll back to the transition area that took around 40minutes. I had company of a young athlete from Netherlands who also suffered the same issue on the same section. We rolled back the most direct route to transition with a fair bit of sliding around on the rocks but eventually we made it back.
As I rolled up to enter transition, popping a wheelie upon arrival, the marshals and spectators were cheering me on before realising the state of my rear tyre. I handed in my timing chip and asked if I could still do the run. I could. So, I racked my bike in the most relaxed T2 I’ve done and exited to head out and enjoy the wonderful views on the run course.
On the run route I was trying not to interfere with the slightly slower runners who were still officially in the race as we marched single file up the cliff edge towards the highest part of the course. Once you reached the top, it was a nice technical rocky descent to finish the lap looking down onto the bay where the swim took place. I ended the lap in 24mins and aimed to get round the second and final lap in near enough the same time. I managed lap 2 in 25mins and finished with a run split that would have given me a top 3 split for my age group.
I am now looking at entering another Xterra event later in the year to hopefully put together a full race and chase that Maui spot.
Next up will be the Highland Cross in June and then Ironman Barcelona in October. Who knows what else will be in between those, I’ll wait and see.
Thanks to Gregg for Malta race photographer and supporter duties.
It’s been a busy start to 2018 for all of us at You Can Sport – both from an athlete and business perspective.
We sponsored our first event – the Stirling Duathlon. This race hosted the Scottish National Duathon Champs, the Scottish Student Triathlon (SST) Duathlon Champs and was also an ITU age group qualifier for 2019. The winning club of our free coaching session was the Grangemouth Triathlon Club.
Coming up in the next few weeks we have the return of the Scottish Sea Farms Triathlon Festival at the University of Stirling. This is set to be even bigger and better than last year’s successful event. We are still on the lookout for more volunteers to help throughout the day. So, if you are free on Sunday 27th May, and would like to help out, please contact email@example.com with your details. You will be provided with lots of food and drink throughout the day as well as some other goodies, and maybe even a tan (if last year’s weather is anything to go by!).
You Can Sport Athletes
Ross’ first event of this year was the Falkirk Ultra Race, an 8hr ultramarathon where he was able to cover a huge 68.6km within the time. He then opened his triathlon season at the East Fife sprint triathlon with a 6 minute PB and a brilliant 19min 5km run split.
Fionna completed her first ever marathon in Barcelona in a time of 5:48.
Gregg ran another half marathon PB at the Surrey Half in a time of 1:36.
Graham was back out competing in the Open Adventure Open5 series in the Peaks (Edale)as a Male Pairing with Keith finishing 5th, and then in the Dales (Grassington) as a Mixed Pair with Suzanne coming in 6th.
Craig competed at the opening Xterra event of the season in Malta. He was unfortunately forced to withdraw after a double puncture on the rocky bike course. Before that his swim of 21:11 was the 6th fastest age group time of the day. Wanting to make the most of the day, he was able to make his way back to T2 from the bike course and was allowed to go out and enjoy the run around the scenic coastal course. A detailed account of his day will follow.
In the next few weeks we’ll have athletes competing at the London, Stirling and Edinburgh marathons, the Tiree Half Marathon, Selkirk Standard Triathlon and plenty other events across the country!
Good luck to all our athletes.
Our first year has been a busy one with individual athletes, corporate events, commentating and our teams own personal racing. Here is a short recap of some of the things we’ve achieved in 2017.
Scottish Sea Farms Triathlon Festival
We organised our first corporate triathlon event for Scottish Sea Farms in May. With months of training building up to it the participants all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Throughout the process some of them lost significant amounts of weight, gave up smoking, and everyone noticed increased camaraderie within the office itself. Then on day the day, with Olympian Michael Jamieson also in attendance, they were able to complete the event and raise over £30,000 for charity.
We are currently in the process of organising their 2nd annual Triathlon Festival for 2018 which will be even bigger and better than before.
We now have athletes being coached all across the world, from Grangemouth in Scotland to an oil rig off the coast of Malaysia.
All of the athletes coached by You Can Sport have achieved at least one PB this season, with many of them setting a new PB nearly every event they competed at. We have had a real cross section of abilities with athletes focussing on running only events, to some doing IRONMAN, ultramarathons and even the double-endurance triathlon at Deca UK.
We look forward to seeing how they all get in 2018 and can’t wait to help them work towards their goals. If you’d like to join them in being coached by one of our team then contact us to get started.
Graham has been busy with commentating at various events throughout the year with the diary already filling up for 2018. Some of the events we attended this year were IRONMAN 70.3 Edinburgh, Etape Caledonia, Strathclyde Park Triathlon, Perth Mo Run and the Aberfeldy Triathlon. If you have an event that you’d like an experience event commentator to attend then get in touch with Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Craig was awarded the Triathlon Scotland Performance Development Coach of the Year award at their annual awards ceremony in November. Then, this month, Gregg completed his IRONMAN coaching certification to add to his British Triathlon L1 and will start getting more involved in 2018.
We have lots of exciting plans for next year in the pipeline and will be looking to expand our athlete base even more. So if you have set yourself with some goals for next year already and would benefit from some coaching guidance and personalised training plans then email email@example.com now to get started.
We know You Can achieve your goals!
On the other side of the country at Glasgow Caledonian University was the Triathlon Scotland AGM. As part of the day, Craig was delivering a Skills School session, for 8-16yr olds, with other Triathlon Scotland coaches. The session theme of 'Intelligent Racing' involved problem solving tasks, learning how to patch a punctured inner tube, relay races incorporating team challenges such as building the tallest tower from Jenga blocks, and more.
Once finished in Perth Graham hotfooted across to Glasgow to host the Triathlon Scotland Annual Awards Ceremony - to recognise the work of athletes and coaches in Scotland over the year.
The winner of the Performance Development Coach Of The Year was our very own Craig Coull for his work across the development pathway and coaching involvement. Congratulations Craig and all other award winners.
Meanwhile, down in London, Gregg was racing his way to a new PB time of 1:41 in the RunThrough Richmond Park Half Marathon.