As the dust begins to settle I can finally take a step back and appreciate the accomplishments of Team Emotional and their completion of the 2011 Ben Nevis Triathlon.
For me and James ՈardcoreՠClark this year’s event would represent the third such competition at Fort William and one in which we hold very close to our hearts. For Frank Ռion HeartՠHarland and Darryl ՍarineՠCarr this was a step into the unknown, a leap towards cementing the team ethos firmly into their very psyche. This event not only tests your physical levels of fitness but also pushes the boundaries of your mental capabilities far beyond what you ever thought was possible.
Diving straight in
Leading up to the big day, everything was set, I had prepared my kit and even managed to feel pretty confident that if I survived the swim I could push on for a decent time.
Conditions were pretty much as expected with heavy rain in the days prior to the event which continued throughout, making some sections very difficult to negotiate indeed. Surprisingly calm at the beginning of the swim, there was a small break in the clouds and for a split second the notion that I might actually enjoy this leg of the race flashed through my mind. However after only a matter of minutes I soon realised that this new found confidence was my mirage on the horizon. I paddled frantically avoiding the flaying arms and legs of my fellow competitors and struggled to catch any real purchase in the cold Scottish sea loch. Focus on the turn point, count down each buoy as you pass, break the race down into small sections – anything to hide the fact that my arms were now burning and my insides were harbouring around two litres of murky salt water. My breathing was very heavy and laboured and as I glanced behind I was certain I was at the rear of the field, it was pretty soul destroying to be honest. Here I was pushing on best I could knowing I was still last! After the initial panic and frenzy I began to settle into a more comfortable and manageable pace and felt a surge of enthusiasm as I made the turn and noticed a number of swimmers behind. On completing the first leg I took the opportunity to gather my thoughts, clear my head and prepare for the bike leg. The rain was lashing down once again but I was confident that this was my strongest leg and I would make good time.
Things take a turn downhill
Being a veteran (very loosely termed) of the course certainly had its advantages. I was able to facilitate a plan of attack, I knew where to push and where to hold back. Steady on the ascent and quickly on the descent – flat out on the straights. Gaps were quickly diminishing. I felt good and so did my bike. But alas thatֳ where the story takes a downturn. Arriving on a steady incline towards the end of the off road section I had mechanical difficulties, gear changing became impossible without the chain coming off which effectively rendered them useless. I was stuck in the middle cog and my front brakes failed. Now call me old fashioned but only 48hrs prior to this event I had paid a substantial amount of money for a full service including brakes, gears and new chain. Nothing on the run to this point had done anything to affect their performance but I was forced to accept the joke of a botched job from a major High Street chain. Indeed my old brake blocks had not been replaced, only loosened and forgotten about. Call me naive for not checking on collection but the assumption that a reputable company shouldֶe been able to perform the simplest of tasks to ensure a safe and reliable ride. They also conveniently chose not to provide a breakdown of works undertaken meaning I was unable to dispute Ռesson Learnedծ
Considering my mechanical problems I decided to negotiate a particularly difficult technical section on foot, weighing up the pros / cons I decided a lost couple of minutes would be a small price to pay versus death. I even managed to pass one / two unlucky people who had attempted and subsequently failed miserably on the way down. One final ditch and I would be off again ɠPuncture… How could this possibly happen considering I wasnִ even on the bike!? However I was fortunate it was the front wheel. Terrible weather makes even the simplest of tasks a thousand times harder and as I stood soaked to the bone riders flew past with a cursory “everything ok?” After what seemed an age I was back on and pushing for the second of my laps, which came and went without too many problems – as long as didnִ need to change gear! Checking my previous times for this leg only went to confirm the feeling that had I traveled problem free I would of indeed of posted my best time. Others however were not as lucky. James suffered with a snapped chain for the second year running Рluckily a kind soul with a chain splitter was on hand to help – when will the man learn that a little TLC can go a long way. The Lion Heart damaged his chain which in turn snapped his rear mech breaking a number of wheel spokes. Leaving the Marine who it has to be said was riding the worst bike I have ever seen – the only things missing were the front basket and tassels from the handlebars. He had no quick wheel release and Darryl wasnִ carrying any tools or a repair kit. In hindsight maybe this wasnִ such a bad thing because he was incapable of fixing them anyway Рno joke! Fortune most definitely favoured the unprepared and as if lady luck herself guided him around the course he plodded on without a problem.
Transition two provided a much needed rest, the chance to take on board fluids / gels and offered the opportunity to change into fresh, clean, dry clothing. Not the tri norm I hasten to add where a one minute turnaround will suffice but a full eight minutes chilling. Things would be bad enough so why not make this as comfortable as possible!
The final sprint
Finally the run, I knew what to expect and prepared mentally. The huge mountainous terrain obscured by the rain and mist had an eerie silence about it today but I knew in a matter of 2.30hrs I / we would be done. Myself and Frank headed off together, and jogged slowly to the foot of Ben Nevis. A quick drink delayed the ascent for a matter of seconds before marching up its side over public footpaths / runners routes. The endless turns and unforgiving conditions set this event apart from the other races. The higher we climbed the further the temperature dropped and the stronger the winds became. These are the moments that really call in question the sanity of making this trip. When the next checkpoint feels like a million miles away and the will to give up is strong. But then just at breaking point when you feel you can no longer continue No Fuss volunteers appear in the distance spurring you on and fill you with renewed vigour.
The descent offers competitors a more direct route to scale the Beast, bouncing from rock to rock and sliding down shale and grassy mounds. The assumption that this final leg would be significantly easier is quickly dispersed when the constant battering to your knees, ankles and hips sends aftershocks throughout your body. This makes for a truly emotional downward phase. However spurred on by an impending finish we pushed on and crossed the finish line only minutes outside my PB, not bad considering. Battered, bruised, tired and aching, the number of adjectives you are able to use to describe your feelings are endless at this point. The sense of achievement is unparalleled in anything Iֶe ever done before and it is that reason alone that has me scanning the No Fuss Events website already waiting for confirmation of next year’s race diary.
Thanks once again to Fraser and his team and also Florence and her family at Burntree Lodge, Fort William for offering a most enjoyable stay. We shall be back of that there is no doubt…
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Author: Ben Dinnery