At first what is the celtman. Celtman is a triathlon race in the highlands of Scotland. It is a full distance race (in other words an ironman distance race) and then a little longer and more offroad or extreme conditions.
That means 3k swim in 10 degrees water (cold water) in a Loch, then 202k cycling up and done with a total of more than 2000 hight meters and to finish it of with 42k run through the mountains offroad. And the extra bit is that the whole race is selfsupporting. So during the run you carry your own fluids and food with you and you have a supporter with you by car during the cycling.
If you read this some will think why would you even consider doing a race like this. Well actually I don’t like Ironman races, it is too commercial and as an english man said who I met during the race. From the moment you register till you finish they want to earn as much money from you as they can and the courses of most Ironman races are boring. And I agree.
So for me registering for a race like Celtman is an easy choice. 200 athletes, really good, friendly and fantastic organisation of people who really love the sport, love the outdoors and are full of passion. All volunteers are great and spend several days of there time just for you. It is a friendly environment and you feel really welcome in every aspect. The locals are friendly and welcoming and really get in the vibe too and want to help you in every way possible. And then you haven’t even started the race yet.
So the week before the race Bob (my supporter) and me arrived in Shieldaig at a really nice Bed & Breakfast Kinloch with Claire and Richard. They made us feel welcome and cooked each evening a nice healthy meal as every morning we had a breakfast with everything we could think of. They both wanted to make sure that I could have a good race and cooked healthy food, with the needed carbs! This week for me was to relax as much as I could and do some training here and there. Bob was the best, he trained with me in cold water, got on the bike and cycled 70k with me. Then others days he drove by car to certain parts of the course so I could run or cycle certain sections. It was great fun and a relaxing vacation. Friday morning there was a last swim with other triathletes organized by the celtman crew. Bob decided to stay on land. It was too cold. I was excited and really happy to go in the water just one more time. I got in, the first few metres were great,
but then………….My worst nightmare and biggest fear appaered on the service of the water JELLYFISH. I really got in a panic mode and was very happy to have my safety buoy with me. Like a motorboat I kicked my legs as fast as I could and got back to shore. From that moment on I was in tears a lot of times. Bob had a hard time with me, but was very patient, sweet and motivated me. I didn’t want to start, really I did not. But al lot of hugs and kisses, some messages from Dutch friends, Marjon our swim coach who had send a message to the head Jellyfish to be aware, Josta was coming and my parents gave me the courage to just do it.
2 AM the alarm clock went of. OEFFF that is early and directly some panic came back aahhhh the jellyfish. But we had to do a lot, so keeping busy was the trick. Getting all the stuff, eating breakfast and driving to the transition zone to prepare the bike, get the GPS tracker and my Dibber (this dibber works like a chip but you have to Dib your Dibber in the Dibberbox as told in the briefing, important little thing around your wrist) Ok check all done of to the bus. The bus that would bring us to the start. My supporter stayed behind with all the other supporters. They had some free time for a good cup of coffee.
4.45AM standing at the start. And chatting along with the other Dutch Hans, Will and Joop. I asked them if they wanted to swim in front of me to keep the jellyfish away. And they really wanted to do this for me. Great men, really great. In theory it was a perfect plan. Ok last thing a foto with the whole group surrounded by a lot of midgets, got to love the little buggers flying around your ears and nose.
5.00AM Entering the water and ready to go. Lying behind the kayaks, Will, Hans and Joop close with me and we were off. Happy to swim but my fear was still there. So I tried to relax as much as I could. As coach Marjon said, relax your head and neck and keep breathing out under water. And I was lucky the first 2k the jellyfish were not in sight. So I swam and I swam hard. Got a good rythm and swam from group to group. Normally I won’t do that, but this my tactic to make sure others would swim into jellyfish and not me haha (sorry and thanks for all the other athletes) The dutch guys were no where in sight, I lost them along the way. Then we had to swim to the island and then to shore. I hugged the island as they told in the briefing. The current would not win from me and I navigated really well, keeping a short straight line. And then the horror started in the bay hundreds and hundreds of jellyfish. Ok keep calm, breath out and start singing your song. Like nemo and dorey “just keep swimming, just keep swimming (with a little rap in between) DIB YOUR DIBBER IN THE DIBBERBOX”. This kept me positive and also closing my eyes under water. Don’t want to know what is happening under me. And yes with my hands I grabbed a jellyfish here and there. One of them liked to kiss me on my cheek blehhhh. But I kept calm and focussed on my Total Immersion technique. As I know I would be more efficient and faster on safe grounds. It worked and I made it, Bob was standing there with a very big smile and this felt like I already made it to the finish. I conquered my biggest fear, swimming through jellyfish WOEHOE!!!!
I wasn’t even cold from the water and ran to my bike. Bob was also surprised, he was prepared to put blankets around me and give me hot tea. And that he would have to help me put of my wetsuit and get all my biking gear on. But no worries, I felt great, warm and happy. So wetsuit of and in my cycling clothes. In between the local tv interviewed me and I chatted away. Drank my tea ofcourse and jumped on my bike.
6.15AM on my bike and happy!
Rolling up and down from the scottish hills and enjoying the scenery. And as scotland promisses, nearly the whole 202k we had rain and at the end the wind picked up too. But that did not spoil my day. I like being challenged by nature. And the rain was sometimes really nice and cooled me when I was climbing up.
My goal for this part was to get through it without any nutrition problems. Time doesn’t matter. Just enjoy. If it will take me 14 hours so be it. Bob and I had made a plan the day before. The first 45k he would just ride, because in the first section we rode on a single track road, so no supporting allowed.
After45k I got a new bottle. Goal was to keep 3 filled up bottles as much as possible. Bob from then on stopped every 10k asked if I needed something. Sometimes I would just keep cycling and stuck my thumb in the air and smiled. Other times I stopped and grabbed some fresh bottles with food.
The biggest difference in food was that I decided to eat as much solid food as I could instead of gels on the bike. It worked for me and I kept feeling strong. Legs felt good and I kept a steady pace. Heart rate was low, lower than normal. I knew that all my food and liquids would be processed better with a lower heart rate. Everything to make sure I would not dehydrate like I did on the Norseman.
At the 110k point it was getting tough. I felt my lower back and got tired. I stopped at the car and got of my bike for 5 minutes. Stretched a little and got from Paul(supporter of Will) a miracle cream on my back. It helped and the pain just left. Thanks a lot Paul!!!!
Then later I felt a bit dizzy and my stomach had other ideas. I recgonized it immediately from my race in Barcelona (there the medics said my glucose was low and blood pressure too). Bob immediately gave me the other miracle juice COLA!!! My body just needed the sugar and caffeine haha.
Ok off to transition. Bob drove through to T2 and I struggled through head wind, rain and going up and down hill. The last 20k the weather wasn’t that nice for us. But I had my song “just keep cycling, just keep cycling (with the rap in between) DIB YOUR DIBBER IN THE DIBBERBOX”.
T2, I made it through the 202k. The longest bike ride ever for me. 8u48min on my bike oh yeah!!! Another goal reached. I was again so happy. At T2 a lot of people were clapping, it felt like another finish. I dibbed my dibber in the dibberbox and then action. All clothes of, new pair of underwear, everything clean and dry. My Salomon vest on my back with 2litres of elektrolytes and water, food, first aid kit, headlamp, whistle, compass, rain coat and trousers, hat and gloves. Of to my next goal, running for 18k through coulin pass. I already did this bit during training and it is a beautiful track. With a big smile I ran up (yes I ran uphill). My legs felt great, not stiff. Why?? I don’t know. It just was. There nearly at the first top I met this English man and we chatted I bit about Ironman racing. We both agreed that doing a race like Celtman is better than every other full distance triathlon race. Give me extreme, tracks, trails, cold water and I am happy. After a little walk and talk we went through a gate, I said goodbye to my new friend, wished him the best race and I ran downhill, flying. Jumping from stone to stone. Fully enjoying myself. Halfway there was a post with some food and drinks. There were 2 ladies checking all athletes and chearing us on. One of them saw me and said “wow you look strong”. And I did. I grabbed a sort of cake from the table and ran of for the last bit. I did not know how I was doing timewise. As there was a cuttoff time for the blue shirt (11hours from the start) or white shirt(13 hours from the start). And I really did not want to know. I just wanted to run and enjoy. I ran in 2hours and a bit to T2A, checkpoint and cuttoff point. Bob was already there. And I was very much on time of the white course track. I had more than 1 hour left. So that meant I could go on. And finish the race. Because leaving T2a meant no way back. But also no time limits. You can take as long as needed for the last 24k. From this point your supporter must tag along. So bob and I ran the last 24k together.
I filled up my camel back. Bob gave me some extra food. Bags were checked and there we went. On adventure through the mountain. We started climbing up. It started as the same route as the blue course. After a few kilometres the blue went right and we followed straight ahead. Some blue route athletes came running down. We jumped to the side and gave them a cheer.
The first bit I felt that I was getting tired and the dizziness came back. I sat down and then Bob grabbed in his bag and there it was THE COLA. He carried an extra half litre of cola with him. Can’t get a better supporter than that. I sat for a few minutes, drank and ate some more. The energy came back and ready to just keep waking uphill.
Bob and I laughed, talked, enjoyed ourselves and sometimes we were just quiet and enjoyed the views of just being happy, being outside and playing in the mountains. We jumped from stone to stone, walked through mud, streams and navigated our way through the mountain. As there was a path, but scottish style (that means for all other europeans that there was no path, just more or less a direction) After 14k of climbing up and down, the path became a path. Bob asked do you want to run and the answer was yes. From that point on I ran the last 10k through the mountain. The last 2,5k was on the road. Still going up and down. I felt good. Yes of course the legs were stiff and I felt every muscle, but my internal system was working, no dehydration and in my head I was clear. And that made me mentally really strong. We went on running and I took over a few men who passed me in the beginning and were now walking and struggling. Bob was surpised and said you’re are a machine. My answer: I feel good and now I just want to finish and I want to finish running. In a marathon, that is part of the triathlon, I want to run more kilometres than walk. So we did. In total I had run 28k and walked 14k.
And then there was the finish line. Wow, wow, wow. I just did it, better than I have could imagined. Time didn’t matter. My goal was to keep feeling good and that I could keep enjoying myself. And I did. A big hug and a lot of kisses with Bob we looked up and there was the organization, smiling cheering and congratulating me with a celtman beer. CHEERS!!!!
16hours and 17minutes full of fun.
Thanks to the Celtman crew, all of them were great. Bob who supported me with all his enthusiasm, passion and love. And everyone who followed me on the website. The messages on my phone were very funny to read afterwards and also warming. I am one lucky girl!!!