Chequered Flag Duathlon Series 1

IMG_0708-0.JPGThis was an event I entered with my PT group, Louise’s PT 4 U Fitness Team, after being contacted by Chequered Flag I was unsure of what to expect.  Duathlons are not something I do, having only really taken part in a couple previously and those were on a borrowed road bike.  This time, I had been ill during the week, felt unwell and nearly didnt attend on the day of the event, today, I had to run to the shop and buy some shorts as I left mine at home.  Oh boy this was looking awesome 😉 We arrived at the location to motorcycles screeching around the track, we were hoping they weren’t joining us.  So far, the caliber of bikes we had seen and the general feel was of racers who were pretty serious, here was me with my mountain bike, Graham had forgotten his trainers and was wearing some serious trendsetters to go with the horn on his bike, hahaha.  Not to be jested however, Graham has completed some serious miles on his bike in 2 etap races this year. IMG_0698.JPG Completing both of these in very respectable times, a testament to what you can do with some hard work, focus and not blaming your kit! Registration was a very straight forward process where our main concern was keeping warm, the wind chill had gone up a few levels since earlier in the day.  Coming to these type of events where I am not sure what to expect, I get really nervous and uncertain of how I might fair against everyone.  Especially, against all these folks with their duathlon and triathlon t-shirts!  All of a sudden feeling rushed, trying to get my kit organised and changed.  Pop the tire back on my bike – the wrong way initially I might add. IMG_0697.JPGWe headed to the start line and had to work out where to the pop the bikes, haha my tires were so wide they nearly didnt fit in the stands, hahahaha. Much nervous chatter, dashes to the toilet, pictures to be taken – well we need proof we were present.  The pre-race briefing was simple and concise, just what you need when you are nervous. Over to the track and we lined up, a very original and unique way to begin, we watched for the lights above.  All had to light and go off before we could begin, there was a build of anticipation as they lit up. A few nervous, almost false starts as we waited.  Then we were off!!!

I found the first few yards pretty heavy underfoot having been on trail and off-road sections for much of my last lot of running.  This felt high impact underfoot and a reasonable pace, I wasn’t sure I could keep it up, especially as I have been focusing on endurance based events over the summer.  We were quickly into a downhill section of the track, coming around the bend you were straight into a head wind which I thought nothing of at this point.  We quickly made our way off the track on the run route around the outside of the track.  Instantly, this felt so much better but it seemed longer than I anticpated it to feel.  I came around the last hill of this section to the words of, ‘F**k Off!’ exclaimed very loudly behind me, I am presuming he was talking to the hill and not me.

Into the bike section, helmet on, I reached to take my bike out of the stand and nearly pulled the whole stand with me, hahaha, oops, that would include Lucy’s bike with it.  Those slimmer tyres I was so proud of for the C2C hahaha – they were not slim at all.  I had to resort to brute force to free my bike but we were finally off, to top it off my front bike light fell off – ahhhhhhhhh! Okay, thats okay, Ill just hold it.  Over the transition line and jumped on the bike.  This holding my light actually wasn’t my brightest idea, I couldn’t properly pull my brakes but I also had nowhere to put it.  5 laps here I come, I pumped my legs hard to get around the corner and down the hill.  I noticed that many of the guys on the road bikes were free-wheeling it down this section but I kept cycling.  Then we hit it, the wall, brick wall of wind.  We would come around that first bend so quickly only to feel like you were going to fly off the bike as the wind whipped at your wheels, pushing you wider on the track,. This is where I struggled the most.  Uphill and into the wind.  I received a few ‘well done’s for doing it on a bike like that!’ but its all good, I even overtook some folks on the last hill as you came toward the transition section.  Lap one complete – 4 to go. A massive high five to all the spectators for their cheers and support!  After completing the 5 laps, quickly moved into the transition area and was directed onto the final run.  Now you would think that this would get boring quickly, I tend not to enjoy repeated laps but you don’t have time to get bored – you are just pushing to go fast.  This involved following the same route as the initial run but only on the outside of the track.  The marshalls were great at encouraging you, although one of the team felt they were alittle sparse as she came in further down the field towards the end of the final run.  Nevertheless, this was a great event, especially as an introductory, the whole team did fantastically well. We all enjoyed ourselves, the instructions were very straight forward and easy to follow, Graham felt that the marshalls helped to create a very relaxed atmosphere for those of us who didnt feel up to the same level as some of the other racers.  Everyone was cheered in over the finish line, great to be welcomed in with a bottle of water and an energy bar.  Focus was all on the taking part and personal challenge – brilliant. I would highly recommend this with 2 more left in the series to take part in. IMG_0699.JPG IMG_0707.JPG

This is the fun at the finish line, the first pic takes in my serious car driving, racing face and then obviously the fun, haha, all makes it worth it!

Rat Race Coast to Coast – Scotland in ALL her Glory!

The first question I had to face from friends – ‘Did I enjoy myself?’ For once this was a tough one, I was and still am, in that phase of, ‘ehhhhhh, yes of course’.  I know I did enjoy myself, most physical challenges I face I do enjoy, even if it takes me a while to realise it.  Rising to the challenge, personal, is what it is all about!  Even a week later, I hesitate when asked this question.  But I am not slow to talk of the fantastic moments along way as well as the traumatic ones . . . . .  yes you will find them out also!

I did not have the best preparation in the days leading up to the race, I wasn’t mentally prepared, I hadn’t had the best physical preparation after being drop-kicked by a cold – flu bug at the end of my 100 Mile run.  So on many levels I wasnt happy with myself going into this race, I allowed other things in my life to distract me.  Yes, I make the same mistakes everyone does, its a learning curve and I am only human.  No super hero powers . . . . .  yet!Cheetara-thundercats-4597636-375-600Quite obviously, this is not me but Im a fan of thundercats 😉  Hmm what would I look like as a super hero.  Anyway, I digress!

I was taking part in this event with my best buddy Karen, she has been training ferociously to achieve her goal of completing this event.  Karen chose this event, why?  wait for it . . . its brilliant – there were sections of kayaking.  I wouldn’t recommend selecting your events in this way.  However, unique to Karen hahaha!

Analysing the route, the kit lists, the final emails was all over.  Karen and I headed up on the Friday. easy drive taking it nice and easy with plenty of stops to stretch the legs.  It was a fantastic day.  We arrived in Nairn, full of wonder at what we were getting ourselves into.  I was full of trepidation, I was woefully unprepared, or at least felt like I was.  We kept seeing the word ‘Expert’ everywhere and the burst our laughing hysterically.  ‘Expert – hahahaha’, ‘OMG expert – hahahaha’, followed by ‘maybe we should tunr up at the start line and just say we were given the wrong category’.  It was suddenly very REAL!

Registration was a very quick affair, but no kit checks.  I was suprised as this was heavily enforced leading up to the event.  It was beautiful weather and was forecast to continue over the event weekend which would place less on ??????

Once our bikes were dropped off at Cawdor Castle, literally 5 – 10 min drive away, seeing the countryside, it was going to be amazing.    We should have been in bed early for our early rise but it just wasn’t happening, we were wide awake.

The morning arrived quickly, well it would when you are getting up at 430am.  This was like a normal work day for Karen, I was hoping I wouldn’t get a crash in the afternoon, which would be well into the event.  This was relatively unknown territory for both of us.

The start line was down at the sea, set just back on the grassy area, fantastic place to start.  There was an air of excitement as everyone milled around and waited for the start talk.  We headed down to the beach to get a quick pic before starting.10671321_10202478574838056_2725662220864347802_n

Then we were off with a roar, straight toward the sea with a sharp right turn.  We had a short run through the town to get to the trail section.  I was feeling like I was adrift of the main front group but I actually made reasonable time here, making my way up the group and finally to the point where I felt like I wasnt too far away.  Underfoot it was fairly slippy with the dew of the previous night still obvious on the ground.  Tree roots and large stones meant you had to be aware of where you were placing your feet otherwise you were sent stumbling, slipping and sliding,  I very nearly went over my ankle but managed a hop, skip and jump to save myself. A bit early in the day for that!  Concentrating on trying to stay relaxed and find my rhythm, it was going well.  People were passing one gentleman who was not happy about this, ‘dont  know what you are all in a rush for, we’ve still got a hundred odd miles to go’ was his statement.  I simply said no-one was commenting on his pace/speed.  ultimately, we each have to find our own pace, otherwise the runs doesnt feel like our own and can be more detrimental.  But he wasn’t bothered about being ‘chicked’, I wasnt sure whether that was a positive statement or not.

We quickly reached the Cawdor Castle transition area with the morning mist still hanging in the air.  We had a fleeting site of Cawdor Castle as we ran past, I have borrowed my mates Karen’s photos as I was saving my phone to track my progress, with no garmin 😦10370356_10202478575438071_4956908465355902352_n140916051949_H

My timing here was 1 hour and 1 min so actually quite happy with that, it was an absolutely melting 7 miles, very close and very warm.  I took on board my first gel walking through the transition point to my bike.  I took my time here to get organised and make sure everything was where I wanted it.  I would say the only thing I hadn’t thought of was all the mildew overnight making everything wet.  Thank god it never rained!

I was hooked up, hydration pack that is, unhooking my bike from the rails, my only thought was here we go.  Well, alongside thinking about Karen, I wondered where she was for most of the day.  It was walking between the bikes that I was traumatised, yes you saw it – traumatised – I mean, you really shouldn’t see these things, not this early in the morning and not at an event.  I was exposed to a ‘willy/ tadger/ johnson’ – it was just THERE!! Nae shame, hinging oot!  Averting my eyes I shuttled past as if it was going jump out, well you know, I was traumatised haha!  I swear I kept having flashbacks throughout my race, for those that dont know me this wont have much significance but those who do, well what can I say.

Onto my first cycle section, I should have known from my attempt to get started that this wasn’t going to be my best part of the journey.  Out the gate and I had to stop with kit issues, my bike bag was rubbing on the wheel.  This hadn’t happened on any of my training runs, tried tightening it up and hoped that was all it was.  Ensured all my suspension was locked out so ensure I could use my bike as best I could.  Especially given it is a dual suspension mountain bike.  I had had slimmer tyres put on the bike to help but it has to be said I felt like an elephant on a bike:

elephant on a bike

After repeated stops to try to sort my bike bag, I was frustrated but started to look around and take in the surroundings.  It was on this section that I had many of my ‘WOW’ moments, all related to the stunning scenery we were passing.  Actually, I was the one everyone was passing, my bike was heavy in comparison.  Suprisingly, alot of folks on road bikes but simply with larger tyres, many had done the reverse to myself.  No wonder they were flying past me, any time I had gained on the run, I lost on the first cycle.  It was truly torture, my quads were burning, then they were on fire, the same thing you might say – I am no longer sure.  Then my knee was sore, my hamstrings grew tight, I lost the feeling in my toes, although this happens often in my right leg.  I tried to take in my surroundings and keep moving forwards, many guys, would check in that I was all good, chatting as they passed.  Occasionally some banter would develop if you got a back and forth moment, the guys had to and could easily stop for the toilet breaks.  It was fairly hilly and the pedals just never seemed light enough churning around, I mean I could walk faster but I chanted to myself ‘I WILL not walk, I will NOT walk’.  So I kept driving down through my legs, one after the other, concentrating on moving forward and upward little by little.  140916011958_H 10690012_10202478576078087_1107017065648108929_n  This was one looooong, big ass hill.  I think alot of folks stopped at the top to ease of the legs, I was literally quivering in my shoes hahaha, never before has this happened.  Over the top and on the other side was a fantastic downhill section, we passed by a beautiful loch, in the distance I spotted orange ‘thing’, I thought ‘oh, oh can this be the next transition point’, my eyes were deceiving me.  I thought Rat Race had changed the colours of there signage but I could see it, I mean what else could it be?!  Great big trucks/ cranes – ‘Noooooooooo’.  That was a sheer moment of torture!

A lovely gentleman passing me let me know we only had about another 5-6 miles left, ‘I could do this, I can do 5 – 6 miles.’  We climbed more hills and came to another downhill section toward the transition point in Fort Augustus.  I had let a wee camper van pass me going down this big hill, mistakenly thinking they would leave me well behind but, and this sickens me, I had to keep braking going downhill!  Can you believe that!! Braking on a downhill section!

Boom I was already in Leg 3 with a short run and a wee kayak!  Funnily enough my legs felt fine trying to run to the kayak.  I had noticed as I parked my bike at the transition point that  lots of folks were eating and taking their time getting organised heading back off on the bike for the second leg of the bike or to look at it another way Leg 4.  The kayak was quite nice actually and I just waited for a lass to come along and join me in the kayak.  Together we got round the buoys, albeit with alot of left, left, left, right, right, right . . .  ahhhh shite we need to go right again. Hahahaha!


At this point my head was down and I was concentrating on keeping moving.  Then I heard Karen shouting my name – amazing moment!  I now knew she was doing great, such a relief.  Headin gof on Leg 4 my spirits were lifted and I had just shouted to Karen, ‘Catch me up’.  I was looking forward to that.  My legs were much lighter, I am not sure how but I suddenly felt real good.  I had eaten at the checkpoint but surely that wasn’t it?!


From here we were on alot of trail based sections, my holiday in Turkey, had fully prepped me for this type of off-road.  Dry, stony underfoot.  The fire was back in my belly, we cycled past amazing sites and simply beautiful areas.  It really was stunning and I was faced with sections that I really had to dig deep and not allow myself to take the easy option . . . walking . . . alot of the guys who had roadbased bikes were indeed walking.  No longer jesting my bike – aha!  I droppped my gears and slipped into a high peddle turnover to get myself up them thar hills, loved it.  The I would fire along the top flatter section full of achievement as it was one more section I had made.  My pace was up, my legs were firing round and round and felt like they were finally flying – as G man would say ‘AMAZEBALLS’ – I loved it.  A few fellows were sitting at the roadside eating and giving me encouragement as I drove up the hills where others couldn’t get traction, I made it, cheesing moment, hell yeah.  Now I havent even mentioned the best bit,  duh, duh, daaaaa!  Hahaha, okay I am getting excited bare with me.10689496_10202478577678127_7609302357402868460_n10622958_10202478579038161_2784033259847333800_n


The downhills, for me anyway were fantastic, right, then left, then right again with minimal room for manoeuvering , I was getting veeeery close to the bushes and I hadnt worked out if there was solid ground right under them.  Right, left, I had frequent moments of worry about Karen on this section. I really hoped she was okay! I was literally fleeing down these sections, wind in my hair, I loved it!

Finally we came out onto the road and I slowed again, very disappointing and my head went down for a bit but I laughed to myself as I recognised where I was.  This was the section that Karen and I had driven to check out the route and got lost,  It was here we learnt the true menaing of passing places and single route roads hahaha.

We came into Fort William, passing amazing scenery to have to deal with the traffic – ahhhhh – it wasnt great.  I had completed Leg 4, amazing.  I felt reasonably good I had to say but was tired and a sarcaastic comment let me know I wasnt hiding it well from a fellow racer.  At this transition point, the timer went off, we were allowed 30 minutes or less.  This allowed us to ensure our bike went to the correct point for collection post-race.  You could also go to the toilet, essential for the ladies.  Glad that I was consuming enough fluids, eat and drop off anything you didnt want to run with in your bag.  I decided to run with my cycle bottle as I could fill it with a carb mix and keep the fluid in my hydration pack as plain water.  Massive thanks to the guys at Run 4 It Dundee for their advice in using these mixes in my endurance events.  I really think consuming this regularly had made a difference to the day as it had been hot all day and I was sweating, alot!

I got myself organised, chatted with some of the other racers. Then I headed off, I was in Leg 5, give me a big ‘Hell Yeah!’  Running along the West Highland Way (WHW), it was tough, I decided my strategy had to be walk the hills, run the downhills and flats.  Underfoot was tough with rocks hurting my feet and making it really difficult to get going.  I really enjoyed this section nevertheless, I had gotten some energy back again and made what seemed like good progress. I had decided to let the competitor in me come out to encourage me to push onto the next person I saw.  This was good as it would have been easy to just settle into a walk.  Many guys were walking either because they were tired or sore, I passed many and kept going.  One foot in front of the other, the 8 mile marker was a welcome site and spurred me on even more.  We turned off the WHW at a specific point and it was one tough climb to the point where we would see the loch at Glencoe, it was right there but so far away.  The climb up to this point didn’t really look like much but it kept on going.  Then cam ethe final downhill, I knew this was coming and I cam into my own.  Downhill is where I can really open up the throttle and let go.  Letting my body fly downhill, leaning into the hill, we could hear the loudspeaker of the event but I was never getting closer to it.  It was a long downhill and I was surprised to feel my legs flag.  The undergrowth kept pulling at my feet and ankles, then we would reach flat slate-like stones which were slippy.  Other sections on the path were boggy and suctioned your feet in.10685325_10202478580518198_3736990669744429678_n


I reached the final Leg – kayak across the loch – at the same time as a gentleman called Alan.  We hopped into the kayak to head across the absolutely stunning loch.  The sun was glittering across the water, words are simply not enough to describe it.    It took us a while to get across with both of us having issues with our hip flexors at various points.  But we made it and crossed the finish line!  Amazing feeling I have to say, I was greeted with ‘ You are the freshest looking racer Ive seen crossing the line.’  Not bad, bad I was not able to relax yet, where was Karen.  I went for my bag which by the way seemed miles away and headed back to wait for Karen.  I was never so relieved to see her appear in a kayak and complete one of the most epic events ever.

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Simply amazing!  I will be back to improve.  A massive thanks has to go to Heal Physiotherapy (  for helping to ensure I was physically fit and able to complete this event.

100 Mile Challenge – Cotswolds Way Challenge – Day 2

Day 2 arrived waaaaay quicker than I anticipated!  I woke feeling like I hadn’t slept, for the 2nd night, this is not a great pattern, my neck was sore – massage undone with a rubbish camping pillow 😦  But legs were only feeling alittle stiff as I walked like a cardboard cut-out to breakfast.  I had on my good old tartan jammies, being new to this whole camping thing, I can’t get used to the whole walking about – where strangers can see you!!!!! – as if its just normal clothes, weird!  It was a lovely morning if alittle damp, we were starting much earlier this morning.

Day 2 started of much like day 1, we received our morning history lesson before setting off, I was finding these really useful as marker points on the way.  We set of at various times, I set off at 845am to the words of  ‘there goes the warrior’, after chatting with someone who had also completed Lake District Total Warrior – epic event!  Slow and steady was the aim today, get the legs ticking over and trying to loosen off any stiffness.  With a much longer day in store – ‘nae getting lost was the motto’ for today.

Straight into a hill I was getting used to this, I really love running off the main roads, on trails, taking in the scenery.  You will get used to this statement.  I really do begin to feel alive again, taking in all that is around me!  It makes it all worth it.

The main talking point of today was the beautiful views we would witness, after first climbing some impressive hills.  The main name was Cleeve hill, it is the highest point on our run at 1,083 feet.  It was a tough climb all the way up there, I arrived at the top with my hands driving down on my thighs.  There was a little old lady sitting at the top, she greeted me with, ‘ its all downhill on the other side’ – AMAZING!  I took a second to capture my breath, take a quick pic and actually look around instead of at the tops of my feet.  We could see the Severn river and Cheltenham racecourse,  to be honest the views were simply stunning.  I decided this was also a good point to take on board an energy gel as I felt like I’d expended alot of energy.  It was, once again, a really hot day.

As you went over the back of the Cleeve Hill, you were immediately on the listen for the shout of ‘fore’, straight onto a golf course.  I had enough energy, as I did the whole of the challenge actually, to say hi and acknowledge, having a joke with the golfers.

After this we were heading into Cleeve Common, an area we had been warned by the support crew that they couldn’t get access to, to help us out with water and fuel.  I had a quick respite talking with a dog walker when I slid on my ass down a slope.  I had momentarily lost my concentration on my footing when trying to keep my eyes on the acorn signs on the posts.  It was incredibly dry underfoot, dry loose underfoot made it easy to slip and slide.  With today being the same as the first day in terms of the weather, hot and dry, and obviously had been for at least several days prior to the run.  This made my choice of trainers correct, it was difficult not knowing the route and the types of conditions that I may come across.  I tried to listen to others from the surrounding area who had covered some of the route previously but there really was a mix of individuals choosing road shoes and trail shoes.

I was alittle nervous as it had sounded like Cleeve common was a long way and I was additionally nervous that I would get lost as there weren’t many runners around.  Cleeve common had several reserves on it and we made our way through them following the trail, I came to a point  where once again I had to question my direction and luckily for me someone came along and we were able to cross-reference our directions/ maps. ‘Thank God!’ Is all I could say hahaha

Running through, Cleeve Common, I ran a small section with Graeme again and one song came to mind where the paths split but literally met back up further on . . . . Hahaha can you guess which one?  ‘I’ll take the high road and you’ll take the low road and Ill be in Scotland before ye’.  Luckily for everyone I didn’t sing out loud, I learnt that it cant be that good, as my kitten runs into another room whenever I try out my singing voice!

Further along, a few us came to a field, with cows in it.  This was not a problem as you actually pass through several fields like this.  I managed to spot the marker at the corner of the field.  As I approached this, I noticed a cute calf coming toward me.  Now, I like many runners know that you never, ever want to get between a cow and her calf.  It just kept coming toward me, then stopped, so I started walking and it then started wandering back towards its herd.  I got to the corner and ‘oh my god’, half the herd were between me and the gate onto the next part of the way.  Not only that they all stopped chewing and looked at me, I mean straight at me!  Freaky, at this point I decided to wait for the fellas coming along behind me, although not sure why, they wanted to use me as a decoy runner, aye thats right send the Scottish runner.

As we moved through the herd, they dissippated, slipping and sliding through the field trying not to deck it on a cow pat!  I just, I mean JUST managed to save a wee frog as it leapt to the spot I was planting my foot.  Phew, this run was really taking me back to nature and in a totally cheesy way.

We climbed up to see the views and then we descended, we ran along the edge of alot, alot of fields.  I turned into one field and bright as the sun – a sunflower.  The little things stick in your mind when you are seeing the same colours over and over again.  The undergrowth grabbed at your feet and your ankles, so concentration levels had to remain high.  I was also very aware of the camber of the trail.  It is important to pay attention to this as I learnt from my very first ultra, 2 day event where it was constant in one direction.  This I felt put alot of pressure on my feet and ankles.


Further along I saw a snake – yes you read that right, its simply amazing what you can see and admire in the countryside and then it all went epically wrong.  As I progressed, I realised I was struggling, we had moved into a woodland area.  This is the moment I got lost.  I could swear blind that the arrow pointed right .  .  .  .  .  . and yes blind I was.  I headed down a 25% gradient but I hadnt seen a sign for some time and I had learnt this was never a good thing.  Back at the top, after I got eaten again, I could not believe my eyes.  The sign pointed – clear as day LEFT!


Okay it was all about putting one foot in front of the other, just keep moving.  This became a challenge as I freaked myself out in my own head.  There had to have been deer or something else in those trees, I kept hearing noises.  The trees were pretty isolating, it literally felt like you were on your own in the middle of nowhere.  Everywhere looked the same, but it was softer underfoot and I was able to pick up alittle pace which was good.  I came out of the trees onto the road and was informed I only had a little way to go to reach the Scout area.


Crossing that finish section I literally fell to my knees, I seriously felt done – that was incredibly tough.  What propelled me to keep putting one foot in front of the other?  The fact that so many had placed their trust in me to complete my challenge – I couldn’t let these guys down.

I was lucky enough to walk straight onto the massage table – BOOM!

That night, I was to be so inspired.  The 100 Mile crew had arranged for Jamie MacDonald ( )to come and speak to us.  The guy is a legend in his own right, I am blown away that I got to hear this guys speak.  To start with his achievements put some of the runners in the frame of mind, ‘we are just running . . . ‘ but Jamie explained this away saying ‘I am just a normal guy’.  I challenge this!


Not one of us is just anything, never just normal.  Each and every single one of us are extraordinary, we have so much potential to achieve more than our dreams, to inspire and motivate the best in others.  This was a major turning point, I believe for myself, but not only me,  you would actually feel the energy in the room change.  Throughout my runs I had dithered over whether to write a blog or not, I’m just me, no-one special.  I didnt believe that anyone would want to read my story or my blogs.  I mean why would you want to read about me running.  Jamie told us to share our stories and to inspire others to step outside themselves to achieve more and further inspire others.  In that room alone, all of us runners together had raised approx’ more than £50,000 for our various charities.  An incredibly humbling moment.


We went to our beds, motivated and inspired beyond belief.  Not only this but to the rain drilling the tents – this was going to be interesting.