hill on my arse and remember thinking "sweet, that's 20 yards less I have to run".
We hit the road at the bottom and were directed to turn right and run about a mile along to the last kayak start. We kept up what felt like a decent pace along this section but what in reality was probably a crawl. But we just kept going and it was a bit of a blur climbing into the boat. Here again my technique let me down but I was a bit better than the first time round and we got into something of a rhythm. By this point my back and hip flexors were seizing up and I had to stop for a couple of strokes a couple of times. Once we came within earshot of the finish-line tannoy and realising that people were able to see what we were doing I knew I just had to keep paddling. Then we were at the shore being literally dragged out of the boat by the marshals. My team-mate tapped me on the shoulder and said "we've done it mate". Four simple words that sounded so good.
We jogged the 50 yards over the finish line to be welcomed with a mars bar and some water and a pretty decent medal. You get an immediate print out of your time and a breakdown of your splits and I was made up to see we'd made it in 10 hours and 58 minutes. With 20 mins wasted up front on puncture repairs, that was way beyond my expectations.
It's been a week since that moment and I still haven't decided how I feel about it. There's definitely a sense of achievement in completing something that I haven't done before. It wasn't as hard as I expected, which I put down to a combination of some reasonable training, proper feeding, decent weather and the fact that actually it was awesome fun. Finally some advice for people thinking of doing this in the future; 1) take the one day option, it's really not that bad, 2) try to get a cyclocross rather than an MTB, 3) cycling SPDs are a must, even though it means carrying your running shoes on the bike and 4) never stop eating and drinking as you go.
were flying by and despite the odd twinge in my back I was enjoying it. I also remembered to eat and drink, alternating between lucozade, water, flapjack, haring and gels to keep on top of the calorie intake. This was a crucial part of the strategy and I was glad to have practiced eating on the move over the summer. The climb to the highest point on the road bike leg was steady and manageable. Despite taking this in a relaxed fashion we made up a lot of places here and left our little informal group behind somewhere along the way. I had enough breath to have a chat with a guy on a lovely looking Genesis and made sure i took in the beautiful surroundings. Riding over the peak we felt good and the descent into Fort Augustus was fast and technically challenging with some sharp bends taken at speed. We took a fast transition at Fort Augustus and felt great as we ran round to the kayak. We were pleased that the friendly marshal made a point of telling us we looked fresh at the time-check. I think maybe it gets harder to detect sarcasm after 4 hours of exercise. Getting into the water I was really found out at my lack of experience with a paddle. In my team-mate's words I was "shocking". That's probably a kind assessment. A short easy run back round to the transition, a pork pie and a drink later, we were out of transition and into the offroad bike leg. It started with an easy ride along the canal before heading into a fairly technical section of fire roads and single track that the Surly was well equipped to handle, with the only limitations being those of the rider and not of the machine. The offroad section is a bit deceiving on paper because, relative to the on-road section, it looks flat. It's not. At all. In fact after leaving the canal path behind I can't remember a single stretch that wasn't either up or down. Again we were happy to be on fast bikes with proper bike shoes as we overhauled a lot of MTBers in trainers on the short, sharp climbs. There was the odd bit of drizzle around by now and we were tempted to stick on a waterproof layer, having been in a single, short-sleeved layer up to that point, but we could see blue sky ahead and so pushed on. Eventually the fire tracks came to an end and we were welcomed by a sign telling us we had 12 miles to go on the road to Fort William. Our bikes ate these miles up with minimum of fuss and apart from one mental driver in Fort William who couldn't control her car, we reached the final transition without incident. You get up to half an hour's grace at Fort William before heading out on foot to tackle the West Highland way. We wanted to get on with it and so after a quick change of footwear and some fiddling with kit and camelbaks we were off. The first few km were a steep-ish climb out of the valley and we decided that our planned "walk the ups, run the flats" strategy remained the right one. My team-mate by now was struggling with some stomach cramps and decided it would be funny to tie a bungy to my pack and let me literally drag him up the hill. For the first time in the day, that made me feel the burn in my quads. The route was stunning and the weather was set fair, and with running the flats we got through the first 15km at a reasonable rate. Then a sharp right turn took us over the hilltop up a very steep path. Tiredness was beginning to creep in and this was a case of head-down and just keep going. Finally the miles started ticking by more slowly and I was glad to know that the finish wold be within sight once this final hill was conquered. Eventually we hit the top and without really pausing to soak in the views we were jogging down the otherwise. The conditions underfoot were treacherous and I fell over three times trying to get myself off the mountain. On the last fall I slid about 20 yards down the h
I did the one day "Expert" option in the pairs category. My team-mate and I have a lot of experience of offroad running but this was my first adventure/multi-sport race. Having only this summer really taught myself to ride any real distance on a bike, I was a bit nervous about legs 2 and 3. We hadn't really discussed a target and Plan A was to be within the cut-off times. Secretly I hoped that we could come home inside 11 hours but this being uncharted territory for me I had no idea if that was realistic or achievable. We started in Nairn at first light in perfect running conditions. Cool with a light breeze and a buzzing pre-race atmosphere amongst the small field. I was a bit stiff from a poor night's sleep on a sofa bed in the Inveness Travelodge (not really recommended unless your budget is £15pp). As the murk of the dawn gradually gave way to the rising sun it became apparent that we were going to be lucky with the weather and mild sunshine and glorious clear skies became the order of the day. We started steadily deliberately. I'm a seasoned but average runner (i generally run just over 40 min 10k on the road) and so the 12km ahead didn't worry me but everything after that was in the back of mind and I knew it would be crucial to save myself for other battles to come. The first 5km was a gentle warm-up and I didn't mind that the single file nature of much of that section meant there was some traffic ahead of me. As the route eventually hit some wider tracks we pressed ahead a little bit, picking up the km pace by 20seconds or so. The time flew past and before we really knew it we were entering transition at Cawdor Castle and locating our bikes that we had set up and safely racked the night before. I'd chosen my trusted Surly Crosscheck for the job. A great cross-bike with road bike features but ride-all-day geometry, steel frame and knobbly 32mm tyres. It's one of my favourite material possessions in the world and as we rolled out of transition and clipped in we were feeling good, strong and excited about the 48miles of rolling road that stood between us and the next transition. That was, however, until fate intervened. We must have gone all of 500 yards when I heard the words from my team-mate that I'd hoped not to hear at all for the next 85 miles of cycling. "Flat, flat, flat". Damn. Before we'd even got our of the Cawdor estate we were on the verge, using one of only two spare tubes and compressed air canisters. My team-mate is good on the bike maintenance side of things and got it done quickly (and I just tried not to get in the way), but it was still hard watching half the field settle in to their rides and roll off into the distance as I stood helplessly watching. 10 minutes later we were off again. But it wasn't to last long. My Garmin said 2.48km when I looked round to see him veering off to the side once again. Another puncture, same tyre. Another 10 minutes wasted. This wasn't going to plan. After what seemed a lifetime and having again checked the tyre cavity and found nothing, we finally got going properly and were off. We'd lost 20 minutes and a lot of places, but at least we were moving. The first 20km after that was difficult. We had to hold ourselves back a bit and avoid the temptation of trying too hard to make back the time. We reeled in some of the slower riders (mainly on mountain bikes which is not the ideal tool for this job, but then not everyone owns a cyclocross) but it took nearly an hour of hard riding before we started to get back amongst it. At that point we managed to get a bit of a group going and working together to share the load off the front. This proved to be a godsend and looking back it was a key part of the day because it enabled us to conserve a bit of energy without losing too much time. By this point the mile