wow, what a player! She has huge physicality on the pitch and awareness of the game, self-explanatory really when you realise she is Capatin of the Swedish National Women’s 7’s team!
wow, what a player! She has huge physicality on the pitch and awareness of the game, self-explanatory really when you realise she is Capatin of the Swedish National Women’s 7’s team!
I don’t actually remember a starting point for sport and fitness and that’s possibly because I was an active child and being sporty simply continued into my adult life. When I was born my dad delivered me – I didn’t wait for the midwife and my dad laughs when he tells me that I entered this world with speed and purpose and haven’t stopped since.
I know I used to run everywhere and as a child I had skinned knees frequently, I climbed on things and recall feeling excited the first time I saw a rope swing in a woodland near to our home. The earliest I recall anything about fitness being ‘a thing’ was in primary 7 when I was awarded sports champion. I didn’t even know such a thing existed and suddenly I was given an award for doing something I loved. I recall my gran being very pleased as she had been sports champion in her day and was delighted that the sporty gene had been carried forward.
High school offered lots of sporting opportunities and I tried them all – the only ones I didn’t connect with were racquet sports but otherwise I embraced every opportunity. I am sure I paint a picture when I say that running shoes and sportswear were the main items on my Christmas list each year.
In my adult life I experienced the evolution of lycra and aerobics – it was good at the time but the classes weren’t quite ‘me’. On the basis that it wasn’t the done thing for girls to go to a traditional gym, along with the idea that lifting weights would give me muscles I didn’t want, it was 1996 before I discovered that weight related fitness was the key to remaining strong and in good shape. It’s bizarre looking back as I can’t imagine following a fitness programme today that doesn’t involve weight related routines. Thank heavens fitness evolves the way it does or I would still be in a leotard and tights !
Running and general fitness moved into triathlon and triathlon moved into adventure racing then obstacle course racing and now I enjoy different events wherever I go.
I like to have a solid fitness foundation so that I can train up relatively quickly for any event that takes my interest. Over the years that has included hundreds of events from 5k runs to longer distances, the London Marathon was very memorable. I have enjoyed fell races, kayaking, cycling and pretty much anything that creates enthusiasm when I read about it.
Last year I applied for Ninja Warrior UK …. Well why not!! I went through the application process, the audition and in August made it to the filming stage in Manchester. While I was fit and strong enough I lacked skill between transition and splashed down on 4th obstacle. With a bit of luck I will be back there this year but with over 30 000 applicants I know the odds are against me. Making it up that warped wall would place me as the oldest female ever to have completed that stage of Ninja Warrior anywhere in the world so I am training hard …. and keeping my fingers crossed.
While 50 seems old at times, (there are certainly days when I ache a lot and I recently noticed my knees are sagging ….. truly what on earth is that about 😀) I also feel young, energised and entirely ‘alive’ when I am training.
This weekend I completed Tough Mudder with a fabulous group of ladies from our amazing gym — Good Health and Fitness
(Dundee’s best kept secret when it comes to gyms that make a positive difference!!) It was a fun event and we laughed, helped each other, shared moments, and felt very accomplished by the end. Friendship through fitness is something special and I value that as much as fitness itself.
So the future …. I cannot imagine ever being inactive so enjoying sport and fitness will continue to be part of me, hopefully when my time is up I will eventually leave this earth in a similar way to my arrival – with energy and a bit of a sparkle. In the meantime I am truly thankful for the active life I have, those that are part of it, and for the opportunities that are out there just waiting to be grabbed and embraced.
Welcome to next in the series of ‘Women In Sport Week’ blogs, I am very excited to bring another, different sport (for want of a better description) for you to read about. Perhaps also, I want to highlight that Nicola H has come to this sport relatively recently and is leading the way in terms of creating new paths at any age, at any time.
I have watched Nicola grow and develop in confidence while working with Stuart Aitken from Stuart Aitken Fitness. As a personal trainer and someone who thoroughly enjoys the feeling of lifting weights, Nicola’s points for me demonstrate some real progress in terms of encouraging more women to lift weights. It is important that we take pride in being strong and challenging those preconceptions.
Have a read and get behind Nicola as she embarks on her journey to represent her country . . . .
1.Have you always participated in some form of sport/ exercise/ activity? If so what have you been doing and if thats a no, has there been any reasons?
At school I was always one of those kids who would forget their PE kit on purpose and write fake notes so I could skip class, I was never a sporty child! Through my teens I played a little hockey and netball, then I found something I loved martial arts! I trained in Freestyle Kickboxing for years, until I picked up a knee injury. Following that life just got busy and I stopped all sporting activities for years. However, during this time I focused on my career and my family.
2. I know you have been training with Stuart Aitken Fitness for some time now, what brought about this next phase in your training/ participation in sport/ exercise?
About 6 years ago at the age of 34, I made a choice to get off my arse and get fit! But it is a minefield out there! I really did not want to do fitness classes (not coordinated), the gym was something which was alien to me (full of ‘pretty’ people) and I did not know where to start. So I decided to go with something familiar, something I knew I could do and that was boxing. I did this for about 2 years and during this time my fitness levels gradually increased but it wasn’t enough and I felt like I needed to push myself.
That’s when I signed up for Survival of the Fittest which then led on to the Deerstalker and Spartan Race. One thing I discovered from participating in these races is that….. I AM DEFINITELY NOT A RUNNER!!!!!
This was when I got a bit lost in my fitness journey and I decided that I wanted a bit more structure and someone to support me. Around this time is at the age of 36, I started to work with Stuart Aitken of Stuart Aitken Fitness. Stuart gave me focus and accountability which I had never had before.
Stuart will probably tell you when I first started with him I wanted what nearly every woman wants to be slimmer and leaner. But now I realise I was just trying to fit into expected social norms!
After training with Stuart for a period of time we both realised that I work better when I set a challenge (something real to aim for) and that’s when Stuart suggested Powerlifting and before I knew it I had signed up for my first Powerlifting Competition. That’s where my strength journey began and I have never looked back since. Also as a result of the confidence I gained through my PT sessions I started martial arts again, this time taking up Sport Jitsu – this helps a lot with the Cardio.
3. What do you take away from your training and participation in your sport? Has this evolved over the years or with changing activities?
Training sessions are “protected time” just for me. I work full time in a stressful job and have a daily commute of 3.5 hours in total. During training I can just focus on what is in front of me and most of the time it’s just about getting through the sets and lifting the weights. Nothing else matters during that time. Life is left at the door! I always have a great sense of achievement after every session…..
Powerlifting is a sport where it is just you against the bar and you have to be physically strong to lift the weight but mental strength is also key. I am still working on that element but every day I am getting better. I also have to give recognition to the women in the Powerlifting Community who are some of the most supportive and inspiring women I have met. At every Powerlifting Competition they are always there cheering and pushing you on, its part of the reason I love this sport and it makes me feel proud to be part of such a great community.
4. You received some really awesome news this year in your powerlifting journey, would you like to share this with us? How did that feel?
Following on from my recent trip to Belfast for my first British Masters Powerlifting Championships, I have recently been selected to represent Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in South Africa from 10th – 17th September this year.
To say I am proud is an understatement! Although, slightly terrified!! I am really looking forward to getting on the platform in September and getting some PB’s.
Thanks must go to Stuart my trainer for his constant reassurance and guidance and my husband Brian for his unwavering support.
5. This blog series is part of Women In Sport Week,I love highlighting real people achieving their goals and truly enjoying what they do.
You came to the sport of Powerlifting relatively recently, what would you say to other women out there who are afraid to lift weights or think they are too old or too overweight or too unfit?
I would say to other women, try anything and everything, what have you got to lose?
You never know what will be the one thing that you connect with.
I turned 40 last year and never would have imagined that I would be representing Scotland at this stage in my life! You are never too old to try something new. Take risks, believe in yourself and lifting weights doesn’t make you bulky!
Negative body image is something which I have struggled with all of my life. I was bullied at school which led to years of self-doubt and negative thoughts. I used to talk about myself in a really destructive way – and you don’t understand how harmful this can be (especially when you get older and have kids).
I used to feel that my self-worth was based on how I looked and that I was nothing unless I was skinny! This led to dieting (a lot of unhealthy dieting) and when I reached my “goal” weight – you know what – I still wasn’t happy!
It has taken a lot to get to the point where I am now (and I still have off days) but I believe Powerlifting and focusing on strength training has changed my perceptions of my body – where achievement and goals aren’t focused on looking a certain way but are based on what your body can do. It’s about accepting who you are and being happy with that.
As an example, a few weeks ago I came into the gym and said to my trainer “I am weighing too light Stuart, I need to put on 3-4kgs” the pre-powerlifting me would never have said that but now I really just don’t bother about weight – it’s just a number! (unless I need to make a weight class!)
If I had a chance to speak to the younger me I would have said “ be who you want to be not what everyone else expects” – would have saved me years of grief!!
If you would like to help Nicola to realise her dream in SOuth Africa feel free to pop onto this crowdfunding link to donate:
Well it is now only 4 days, 22 hours, 11 minutes, ? seconds and counting – oh god its drawing closer and I am scarily calm. Is it the calm before the storm? Well we’ll soon see.
I thought you guys would find it interesting yo see what previous MDS runners to say about the race . . .
Name: Gordon Barrie
When did you complete the Marathon des Sables? 2005
What was your background in running? I started running in 1st year at school (Madras College in St Andrews) and joined Fife AC. I now run for Dundee Hawkhill Harriers (since 1991). I have competed over various
distances on the track, cross country and road.
What made you sign up? I was in danger of drifting away from the sport
and wanted a fresh challenge. Plus, I had seen the MdS on the TV and in
Runner’s World and thought it looked amazing (and it was!).
What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara? Running
through the desert on the long stage in the middle of the night was
fantastic. There was nobody else around, it was nice and cool and the
stars in the night sky were amazing!
What was/ is your worst memory of the race? Waking up on the morning of
the long stage (about 50 miles!) and being sick with nerves. I honestly
though I was going to quit at the first checkpoint that day. Then I
looked at the guy lying next to me in the tent, who looked worse than I
felt! He kept going and I was immediately motivated again. I never
looked back after that. In a race like the MdS, everybody has highs and
lows, you just have to keep focussed on the goal. Plus, everybody
encourages one another. There’s a real bond between the runners.
How long did you have or take to train for the race? I was running
anyway but specific training for the MdS was probably 5 or 6 months,
with the bulk of it in the last 12 weeks. Back to back 20+ milers at the
What is the one thing you would have changed about your training? I
would have done some upper body strengthening and carried a pack more
often in training.
What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had
had going out there? Make sure you like all the food that you’re
carrying. I discovered that I should have taken more savoury stuff. I
found the sweet food unpalatable in the heat!
Name: Keith Anderson
When did you completethe Marathon des Sables? 2009
What was yourbackground in running? No background prior to entering the event
in 2007. Was formerly a rugby player.
What made you signup? Had seen Ben Fogles documentary a few years before which
was the first awareness of the event. I was looking for a challenge and wanted
to prove that the ordinary person can achieve anything.
What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?
Difficult. In short the camaraderie and “journey” everyone shared. Personally,
on the long day I suffered sickness bug and almost retired at the first
checkpoint. I got medical assistance for extreme dehydration 7 x 1/2 litre bags
of saline and glucose via a drip, after which I got up and walked the next 66
miles non stop. That episode was “my mds”.
What was/ is yourworst memory of the race? Sickness bug which swept the
campsite on day 2.
How long did you have or take to train for the race? 2 years building from 10
km up to ultra distance races as long as 64 miles.
What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?
You don’t need to train for 2 years. 6 months should be long enough. However my
experience was in 2 stages. The journey to the start line which comprised of 2
years of fundraising and training which was an amazing time, and then there was
the race itself. The more training you do the more you get to know your body’s
What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had
going out there?
I researched every element of the race to an extreme level and so I had all the
info I needed and there was no real surprises which gave me confidence in my
abilities. The best piece of advice that I had was to never withdraw yourself
from the race, get a medical assessment and let them withdraw you. You’ll be
surprised how much you can achieve even when you think you are done.
Also, never share anything with fellow participants, that’s not being selfish
it’s self preservation as bugs transmit very very easily so no sharing
Name: Lucja Leonard
When did you complete the MDS? I did my first one in 2014, now up for my 2nd.
What was your background in running? I took up running to lose weight about 8 years ago, hated running or any sport growing up, I was a size 18, weighing 98kg when I started with a walk/jog routine and next thing you know…..I’m running MdS (ha ha not quite, it did take quite some time but it was pretty quick considering my history) First marathon in 2011, first ultra 2013.
What made you sign-up? I’d watched a documentary about it on TV and was gob smacked by the sheer challenge.
and then return again . . . and again? My first MdS was a real eye opener, a real kick in the guts every day I was out there to say you are not as fit as you thought you were and I found it brutally difficult and although I finished I was personally disappointed with my result so even though on the finish line I vowed I would not be back….whilst I was watching my husband compete in it again last year (2015) and he did super amazing (32nd overall!) I just got so excited I had signed up before he had even finished the last stage! I am really keen to go back and run it better and stronger. I am fitter, lighter, stronger and wiser than last time so that has to help right?
What was/is the best memory of being out in the Sahara desert? The total isolation, I love that feeling of being away from everything that is routine to my normal daily life in a stunningly beautiful place whilst pushing my body and mind to the limit. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
What was/ is your worst memory of being in the Sahara? The heat & the sand!
How long did you have to or take to train for the race the first time round and then thereafter or have you been keeping fit doing other races in between? I was marathon/ultra fit, or at least I thought I was (it’s all relevant) already so my training kicked off in the December of 2013 so a good 4 months of solid training with a mixture of training and a few races in between to keep me focussed. Christmas is always a hard time though so that was a blip in the schedule. In hindsight I can see now that I overtrained, I was so focussed on my weekly mileage rather than the quality of my training, and spent too many hours running ‘junk’ mileage and too much running with my bag instead of focussing on quality sessions and including strength work into it. After MdS I remember it took at least a month for my body to recover, I recall feeling like I wanted to run about a week after and about 1/2mile in I just stopped and was totally exhausted, the mind wanted but the body couldn’t. It really takes a lot out of you.
This time around my training has been all about quality sessions, getting in my key sessions each week – strength, flexibility, speed, hills, tempo, long back to back runs and most importantly – rest! I have only just had a run with my bag and only plan on about 4 runs with my bag fully weighted, and I will start heat chamber sessions and Bikram yoga 2 weeks out from the race.
What is the one thing you would have changed about your training? Sometimes less is more.
What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had before going out there the first time (if you can remember)? It is probably really obvious and it does sound stupid but I wish I had realised how damn hot and sandy it was going to be, nothing prepares you for the furnace that is the Sahara and no one can explain it to you.
Did you change things massively year on year? More in my training approach, a few tweaks to nutrition, especially for during the race, the first year I took lots of nuts and bars to eat whilst ‘running’ and found them impossible to stomach, so this time I am going for gels and liquid energy (like Hammer Perpeteum and Torq energy sachets to add to my water) and save the chewable stuff for back in camp.
Thank you for reading folks, I really do appreciate everyones support and words of motivation. Big thank you to Gordon, Keith and Lucja for answering these questions for my blog but also for answering my incessant questions and fielding my worries.
I am raising money for a small local mental health charity – Dundee Association for Mental Health – DAMH – they are a wonderful Dundee based charity who do fantastic work to help local people. As someone who understands the need for this kind of invaluable support, both personally and professionally, I aim to do my very best out there in Morroco.
I will be taking on my biggest challenge to date,
if you would like to donate to the charity and sponsor myself you can do so here – Sponsor Page – Thank you
Follow me from your comfortable seat 😉 – Here is a link you can go to to follow me on a ‘live’ basis but if you wish you can also send good luck messages to keep my spirits raised during the event! I am runner number . . . 1013 (#scary)
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!Quite 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.
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 😦
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:
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. 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.
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.
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.
Simply amazing! I will be back to improve. A massive thanks has to go to Heal Physiotherapy (http://www.healphysiotherapy.co.uk/) for helping to ensure I was physically fit and able to complete this event.