Coast to Coast Scotland – Saturday 10th September
Nairn to Isles of Glencoe 105 Miles – (7 mile run – 48 mile Bike – 1 mile Kayak – 21 mile bike (off road) – 13.5 mile bike – 14 run/trek – 1 mile kayak)
Richard a “non member” and I travelled up to Nairn in the Highlands approx. 16 miles from Inverness on the Thursday as registration was 15:00 hrs on the Friday, before racing Saturday, we had opted for the, do it all in a day, “Expert” category rather than the “Challenger” category, where you camp over night half-way at the end of the first kayak. After registration, where the marshals checked all our compulsory Emergency Kit, we racked the bike at T1 and spent the evening analysing weather and considering what pace we would have to keep on the bike (48 road miles – 21 off road – 13.5 road) to make the cut-offs. Richard came to the conclusion that it was about the process not the time… I decided to take some cash as by lunchtime, we would probably be in the pub waiting for the bus home.
The run – This isn’t going to be too bad 7 miles from Nairn to Cawdor Castle
6:30 start, flat and along the river bank. We started with our rucksacks but in hindsight we should have left them at T1.
The Bike – Headwinds are for Fen lovers 48 miles to Fort Augustus
We are all accustomed to Saturday mornings with a relentless headwind that follows us around the long bike out on the Fens. It was time invested well, the headwind was relentless gusting up to 40 mph and against us from one side of Scotland to the other. It blew the heart out of some of our fellow competitors, who simply through the towel in at various stages.
I had practiced extensively on my mountain bike with knobblies on and then swapped for slicks for the race. The weapon of choice for ‘Experts’, carbon cyclocross bikes, my 23 year old Vintage Raleigh M-Trax MTB raised a few eyebrows.
Kayak – messing about in boats 1 mile
A little Kayaking on Lochness was a welcome break from the headwind.
Second Bike – It wasn’t like the video 21 miles off road – 13.5 miles off road to Fort William
The pre-race video showed a little of this section – smiling riders bowling along a tow path at Lochness, the only flat 1 mile on the course. The other 30 miles were technical, difficult, fast and furious. I only fell off twice on some tricky slow bits, result.
Final Run – “Save yourself for the Run”. 14 miles to Loch Leven
The advice we received from everyone we met at and or had spoken to before the race was “save yourself” for the final Half-marathon. My favourite response from another competitor when asked by an enthusiastic southerner “Is it really that bad” “Aye….. it’s savage”. The only thing I had saved, after riding flat out into a headwind on a 23 year old Mountain Bike – 4 gels, a sultana cake and a couple of protein bars.
It’s a trek/walk/run some of it you can run, other parts, even if the terrain was flat, no self-respecting mountain goat would take on at anything but an amble. The final decent to the loch was wet, marshy and resemble the terrain for a Cheese Rolling competition. I think I hit the deck three times. Then a fast 1.5 k along the road to the kayaks, when I say fast, we reached the final cut-off time with 30 secs to spare.
Kayak 1 mile across the loch to Glencoe
Finish 12:50 mins.
It took a lot to get around including a dose of Club Spirit! We were placed 13/14 in our age group for the expert category. Less than half the experts who set off completed all or part of the course. I tried to eat or drink every 15 mins, 1 gel/bar every 1 hour (4 gels to every protein bar) with the addition of three Bananas and a few brownies and two of the small pre-packed sultana loafs. We found the key was variation. I read a number of articles before the race and my favourite quote was “ultra races are eating competitions with scenery thrown in”
TIP – I put lots of elastic bands on my handle bars, each time I ate I removed one. That way I could reference hours in what I had eaten.
We learnt a lot and would be happy to share with anyone considering the event but would advise doing it over two days first. Then have a real crack at it the following year.