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…
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