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Celtman! Extreme Scottish Triathlon

by Rosemary Byde
(Edinburgh, Scotland)

The finishers!

The finishers!

What?
The Celtman! Extreme Scottish Triathlon.

Where?
Torridon, North West Scotland.

When?
June 2012.

How?

Swim: 3.2km across a sea loch full of jellyfish.

Bike: 202km on scenic singletrack Highland roads (with a support crew in a car).

Run: 40km over a pass on fireroad, then up and down a very big mountain (with a buddy runner).

Transitions: Functional, and there were four of them!

Who?
Me, 123 other athletes from 18 different countries + all the support crews.

Why?
I entered to give myself a massive challenge for the year and so that I could say I had been there for the first edition. I am confident this race will become iconic!

Here's what happened:

The race was on Saturday, but felt like it started on Wednesday, when my supporters began arriving (mum, boyfriend Andy and Kate, my buddy runner for the mountain). I got a bit stressed kit checking and packing. It was a long drive north on Thursday, but we took the scenic route and got to Torridon just in time to register. There were lots of people I knew milling around, which was comforting. It seemed that just about everyone at the B&B and in the villages was a Celtman racer or supporter that weekend!

At the briefing on Friday, we were told to *read the manual*! The only thing my mum noted down was the name of the nearest hospital …

I was glad to get into bed that evening, but I felt bloated and like I had eaten too much. During the night I imagined my feet were hurting, my head was thumping and I was coming down with a dreadful lurgy. At 3am the alarm went off and I leapt up. Somehow I got my contact lenses in and ate some muesli before venturing out to sign on, rack the bike and get on the coaches to the start.

The Swim:

Celtman triathlon
The loch we swam across at dawn


I sat next to a friendly Norwegian who mused about how bad the ‘midgets’ (midges!) were and how cold the water might be. There was a long wait at the beach but it passed quickly, chatting to people I knew and being interviewed by the TV crew. By the time I got to the water it was minutes from the start time and I hardly made the line before the klaxon went off! The swim was shortened to about 3.2km (from 3.8km) due to the cold (it was 12 degrees C), so we struck straight out for the other side.

First shock of the day – the sea was full of jellyfish! I have a bit of a thing about jellyfish, and squealed a few times when I hit one with my feet or they floated up near my face. I started at the back, and spent the whole time moving up the field. My day-long tummy problems started halfway over when that muesli nearly came back up – and every time I swallowed a mouthful of salty water I nearly gagged. Still, it was a race so I kept going. I was 22nd out of the swim, which was pretty good.

The Bike:

Celtman triathlon
On the bike just after topping up on food and drink from my supporters


After the transition my supporters went to relax over some breakfast, whilst I set about cycling 202km. I felt really nauseous for at least 20 minutes. After a while I settled down, but was probably a bit too excited, as I covered the first 60km in 2 hours.

By this point I was running low on fluids and desperate for my support crew to arrive in the car. When they did I was so relieved! This gave me a temporary boost, until I started getting terrible stomach cramps. I also had to stop to pee a few times. I’ve never experienced cramps like that before and I still had sore tummy muscles 3 days later! Still, I got into a more sustainable pace and really enjoyed the longer climbs and descents in the second half of the course. I was also lucky to be playing leapfrog with another girl from my club as it kept me motivated and meant I had her supporters cheering as well as mine :-).

The Run:

Celtman triathlon
That's where the second half of the run goes!


At T2 it was chaos. People were shouting, a car reversed into our boot lid which was up in the air, I chucked a sock onto a burning midge candle in the back of the car and midges landed in their hordes! I was glad to get away. Standing upright again at last, my stomach felt a hundred times better. I set off running up the hill through the woods, swigging a milkshake and accompanied by Andy on his mountain bike. It was great to have company and someone to natter to again :D.

The scenery was lovely, but the last 5km on tarmac was tough going. When I arrived at T2A I was very glad to switch to walking. This first section had been 18km, which is about the furthest I’ve run in one go recently.

Now Kate (my buddy runner) joined me and we set up off the mountain, me with my walking poles and a new companion to chat to. It was fun hearing tales of the supporters’ day in the car and some of their crazy overtaking and reversing antics. Kate asked me if I was eating and my answer must have sounded highly unconvincing as from then on she kept taking food off me and giving it back to me in bite size morsels at regular intervals – often directly into my mouth, so I had no excuse!

We passed the people from the TV again and I did another interview, this time on the move. I tried to think of something intelligent to say, other than ‘it’s amazing, fantastic’! Kate said I was too articulate to be working hard enough and kept the pace up afterwards!

The tops and the ridge of Beinn Eighe were covered in dense fog. As I kept telling anyone who would listen, Kate knows what she’s doing when it comes to mountains and route finding! We negotiated the elusive sheeptrack to cut a little uphill corner, got straight to the peak, down the scree slope and across the boulder fields. When I checked the gps it was 17km to go. My heart fell that it was so far – but then I thought about the fact that was still less than the first leg, and I felt better.

The Finish:

As the road neared for the final ‘transition’ we could hear cheering and it was very exciting. Andy was there with a group of others, who had apparently been hanging around for hours! I threw my bag over as I didn’t need to carry it any more, but ignored him yelling at me to give up my poles as well. We set off plodding and the endless view down the road depressed me. Then Andy reappeared and said the next girl was just 4 minutes behind. This had a magic effect on me as I’ll always put up a fight at the end of a race :-).

I finished 2nd female (54th overall) in a time of 16 hours and 23 seconds. I was over the moon, as this was way beyond my expectations going into the race. All nine girls finished and it was great to all get a mention and applause at the ceremony on Sunday.

The overall winners were Alex Glasgow (12:09:48) and Susanne Buckenlei (13:55:33 – what a machine!).

Any Top Tips?

  • Find out what you're letting yourself in for!

  • Book accommodation early.

  • Get a great support team.

  • Choose your buddy runner wisely.

  • Train hard.

  • Don’t expect to run all of the ‘run’.

  • Read the manual!

  • Watch out for midges.


Would I recommend this race?

Of course!! It was epic, fun, well organised and throughout the whole event there was a great sense of camaraderie between competitors, supporters and organisers.

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