Scotland Coast to Coast - Expert Category: 1 day
In 2010 I took part in the Coast to Coast Challenger - 105 miles over 2 days.
2010 was my first multi-day race and a bike mechanical within the first 5 miles put paid to any dreams of a good finish, but the event itself was fantastic and we fell in love with the Highlands.
I went back for a repeat in 2011 and it was probably my best ever result, coming in 20th overall and putting the previous years ghost to rest.
Fast forward to this time last year and my brother and I decided we'd have a crack at the 1 day event.
Mike had finished it once, but crashed out the other time, and this year he was aiming for top 20 overall and first over 50.
The race is from Nairn to Glencoe - East coast of Scotland to West across the highlands, Loch Ness, Loch Lochy, Ben Nevis. Full of amazing scenery, hills and Scottish weather!! as a single day event it is a beast.
The format is: Run (7 miles) : Bike (48 miles) ; Run (1 mile) ; Kayak (1 mile) ; Run (1 mile) ; Bike (34 miles) ; Hike (14 miles) ; Kayak (1 mile).
Pre-race information is regular and comprehensive, and when you get to the registration centre on the friday it is efficient and well organised. For me, one challenge is going to be getting my clothing choices right as you have to take all your kit with you for the whole day.
We're due off at 7am on the following day, so after dropping my bike at Cawdor Castle, I spend the rest of the afternoon trying to work out what to wear and what to take with me. The forecast is (amazingly) dry, some sunshine, but the westerly wind is strengthening and we will be running and riding against a really strong headwind all day.. the worst news!
We're off! - Run, Bike and Kayak 1
Mike has booked a B&B that overlooks the start, so after a lovely early breakfast, we walk down to the start with Rab and Mary (our fantastic support crew!) and join an impressively large group of similarly minded idiots.
We are given instructions by tannoy, then asked to go through the start corral and chip time in one by one - which takes us well beyond the scheduled start time. We eventually get started 20 minutes late and we're off.
I take it easy on the run, feeling good, my plan is to go slow and steady to make sure I've got enough left to push on the last hike. I know I'm at the back of the field at transition, and spend some time there as well, changing clothes, as to plan before heading out on the bike.
As soon as we get out of the castle grounds I feel the wind.. strong, steady headwind. I'd mentally planned for this, so just get my head down and spin. My aim is to keep steady, don't push too hard too soon and grind it out. The scenery is stunning, the sun is shining, but it's hard, the wind is unrelenting and there is a long way to go.
My past year of cycling have paid off, and I steadily pass people as I go without pushing too hard..
I could still picture the last section coming to Fort Augustus, cycling the south side of Loch Ness the road has a straight stretch where you can see about 2 miles ahead, all uphill, relentless and quite horrible. I was dreading this bit and today it is straight into the wind..
I continue to grind.. I'm usually a grumpy git riding in the wind, but today I've focussed on staying calm, and steadily plough on..
Until we get to the crest of the hill.. the bike is now pointing downhill, so I ease off waiting for gravity to work.. but the wind is so strong and steady I'm virtually at a standstill...
Grrrr... no rest..
The final few miles down into Fort Augustus are pretty quick as it's mostly downhill and I'm feeling quite fresh and strong as I pull into transition.
I'm a bit concerned at the time though.. it's midday... and in my head I would be well into the second ride by now.. but there are a lot of people around me, and the second bike leg is shorter so I'm not too concerned.
I jog down to Loch Ness and join another racer in the kayak. We have a loop of the loch which is as I remember it... incredibly painful for my lower back.. but we make good time and high five as we get out to put shoes on.
At this point I hear my name being shouted.. Amazingly, Kim, Lee and Mark have arrived at Fort Augustus on their day trip and are at the kayak transition as I was coming in!
It was great to see them and we chat for about 5 minutes before I jog back to transition and get back on my bike...
I get about 200m out of transition and realise that racking my bike I've bumped the saddle and it's need adjusting.. so I stop at the side of the road and then meet Kim and the guys again!
They hold my bike for me while I make the necessary adjustments and I'm off again.
The second part of the riding is along the Caledonian canal before some more technical sections and off road riding along fire tracks and forest trails. There is more off road than I remember and thwe wind is still strong against us, so progress is slow. I've continued to pass people throughout the bike but I'm beginning to worry that my timing for the 4pm cut off at Fort William may be tight..
I start to work harder and push...
I remembered the run in to Fort William - there are fabulous views across to Ben Nevis and today it is clear and blue skies. While it is a WOW moment, I'm realising I'm really tight on the timing.
I'm pushing as if on a time trial legs feeling tired but pretty strong, and as I drop down onto the outskirts of Fort William I think I may still have a chance..
But another rookie error on my part.. Transition isn't where it was in 2011 and 12. I cycle past the turn off I'm expecting to go down and we have another 10-15 minutes of riding through saturday afternoon traffic before arriving there, close to the town centre.
Rab is there as I pull - "Come on you've got a couple of minutes"
As I pull in to the timing chip check point, the marshall shouts out.. "2 minutes before Time Out"
I get off my bike, take my bag off and drop it on the floor...
I pull everything out of my bag..
my run shoes are at the bottom.. I need to change my socks and shoes..and shorts...
One shoe on... My camelback is empty..
So my race is done..
I got my clothes wrong, transition plan wrong, timing hopelessly wrong and didn't pay enough attention through the day..
The delayed start could be used as an excuse - we lost 20 minutes that aren't added due to safety reasons, but to be honest I just got it wrong.
The picture above is Mike finishing his race...
Rab and Mary drove me and my kit to the finish area, at the Isles of Glencoe hotel.
We were able to cheer Mike in as he came in 11th overall and first of the over 50's - an amazing result.
I've booked my spot for 2017... training starts now....!!
Overall Score: 9 out of 10
Would You recommend this to a friend: Yes