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!