Saturday 12th July 2014. A date that I had feared for a long time. The date of my first quadrathlon.
This was no ordinary event, oh no! Not a triathlon with an extra leg, but an epic one-day event set in the Scottish Highlands:
- Swim 1.4km (0.9m) across a chilly Loch Tay
- Walk / Run 24km (15m) across SEVEN munros (ranging from 1,001m – 1,214m high)
- Kayak 11km (7m)
- Cycle 55km (35m) along the entire, undulating road around the loch
I should probably mention at this stage that I haven’t ever done a triathlon before, not even a super sprint one. I haven’t run a marathon, nor a half marathon. In fact I have never entered a running race (bar the Race for Life 5k, which I have pootled round a few times with clients). Swimming was a pastime of my childhood, splashing around pools in the Costa del Sol, so front crawl was completely new to me. And let’s not even talk about kayaking! The bike phase was the only bit I had some confidence in, having cycled John O’Groats to Lands End in 2010, but my road bike had been gathering dust since then and I was never exactly a speed demon. So signing up for the quadrathlon was not a natural progression of my interests. It was sheer madness!
That should have set the scene a bit, and might have left you wondering why a strength coach with no endurance experience would sign up for an event that attracts ironmen and fell runners. Good question. I don’t really have an answer, but my husband’s big mouth (“That sounds quite fun. I could do that tomorrow if I had to.”) might be partly to blame. Moving on…
THE BUILD UP
We kicked off our training proper about two months before the event. A serious back injury in the earlier part of 2014 had put paid to any training until mid May, so we knew we had our work cut out. We weren’t aiming to get a fast time, we just wanted to complete the course. Many people reading this will have followed our training progress via this blog and my Facebook posts, so I won’t go into great detail but, needless to say, it turns out that living in the fens isn’t the greatest prep for an event set in the Highlands! Instead we built up our leg endurance by running on the flat (off road) and I did a spot of hill sprint training on the treadmill. We managed two separate day trips to get some better hills – the Chilterns and the Peak District – but even the Peaks felt like molehills compared to the mountains we faced on the day. We did a long cycle each week but encountered similar problems in terms of flat terrain, and we went kayaking twice. We both have decent upper body strength and discovered we’re pretty good at staying in sync so felt that the kayak phase was the least of our worries. But the swimming – boy did I struggle! My husband Martin took to front crawl like a duck to water, and easily managed the required distance after a few sessions. I, on the other hand, couldn’t master the breathing. Still, the progress I made in the space of four weeks was incredible and having mastered 1.4km of front crawl in the pool, we progressed to open water. In spite of the surprisingly warm 19 degree water, my first experience was awful and induced a panic-attack. But over the remaining weeks I grew in confidence and knew that I could cover the distance, albeit slowly.
The week before the quadrathlon brought with it a whole host of new challenges: Namely tapering, carb loading and packing.
Being a newbie to this endurance malarkey, I had never done a taper before. I was quite excited about the prospect of not training (having devoted around 20 hours per week in the run up), but it was surprisingly hard not to do anything. I kept wondering if I should squeeze in just one more swim, or jump on my bike a final time, but I followed advice and resisted, opting instead for daily foam rolling, walking the dogs and a light sports massage three days out.
The carb loading also sounded fun in theory, but proved tougher in practice. I had been eating more carbs than usual during my training, but had to wean myself back on to wheat as I knew we’d be fed pasta the night before the event. The few days before the Quad we needed to eat as much as possible, owing to the fact that we were expected to burn around 10,000 calories on race day, and clearly it would be impossible to consume that much during the event itself. So on the Friday my breakfast consisted of a full cooked breakfast, two slices of toast with jam, a bowl of porridge with honey, and some fruit with yoghurt and muesli! Tip of the hat to Ewich House B&B for allowing me to eat so much. I know I was taking liberties! More on our food later.
Now, packing might sound like a menial task but the logistics for a four-stage event (as well as planning a dog care rota and running my business) were crazy. Before we left for Scotland the house looked like some kind of bizarre jumble sale. Wetsuits, waterproof coats, woolly hats, padded shorts, midge repellent and an alarming number of energy bars were among the items littering our living room floor. Thanks to Martin’s supreme packing skills everything was boxed up and loaded into the car. And so it was with rested legs and full bellies that we set off on a nine hour drive to Scotland.
All of our kit had to be checked and surrendered the night before the race, with the exception of our wetsuits, so on Friday morning we laid everything out on the lawn at the B&B (thankfully it was a sunny day – shame that didn’t last!) and made sure everything was in the right bag. We had made laminated lists to put into our transition bags for each stage as well. Geeky yes, but it was a complete lifesaver on the day.
Having sorted our kit and divvied up the food (ShotBloks, malt loaf, pepperami, energy bars, nuts, and my homemade peanut butter flapjack) we were ready to head over to the event hub and start the formalities.
The first thing that struck us was that it took almost 45 minutes to drive from our B&B to the race start point. Hmmm. I had clearly not taken the winding (and rather undulating) loch side road into consideration. Oh well, an even earlier start tomorrow! I’m not sure if it was a good or a bad thing to drive along a section of the road we would be cycling along the next day. It wasn’t exactly a nice wide, smooth bit of tarmac. But I tried not to dwell on it.
Arriving at the event hub was very exciting and we both experienced that weird mix of nervous energy and gripping fear! As we parked our car and started unpacking all our boxes and bags, we couldn’t help but check out the competition. Lots of men. Lots of VERY nice bikes (I really was the only one with mudguards, so far as I could tell). Lots of wiry looking fell-runners. And us. Jolly good. There was no time to feel concerned though. The sun was shining, the view across the loch was stunning and everybody was so friendly. I know people always say that, but they really were. We no longer felt intimidated because you simply couldn’t – every person we came into contact with during registration met us with a beaming smile and words of reassurance. The organisers and volunteers really made this event.
Registration was complex but well organised and we had read through everything in advance so we knew what to expect. First we collected our massive clear sacks and race numbers. Then we had to distribute all our kit into the relevant sack along with our race numbers, before heading over to the kit inspection area. It was good to know how seriously the organisers take everyone’s safety. All out kit was thoroughly checked, including a mandatory 3L water pouch and plenty of food. At this point our mountain bag was taken off us, sealed and whizzed off to other side of the loch. It’s at that moment you really hope you remembered everything you need for seven mountains, because the next time we’d see that bag would be after our swim! We also had to pass the navigation test (take a bearing, locate a grid reference and identify various hazards on the map). The lovely Alan took us through our test and thankfully we passed, unlike some who had to pay a £25 fine to the charities and then re-take the test. Finally we were given our wristbands and electronic timers, and instructed to get our bike and kayak bags to their respective places before heading in to the feasting tent!
Food is clearly an important part of an endurance event, and Wildfox Events had laid on plenty for all the participants. Pasta, (unsurprisingly), jacket potatoes, garlic bread and a token salad, followed by chocolate cake. Very filling and very tasty, although I felt so bloated afterwards.
Post-dinner it was time to get down to business: The safety briefing! First we were shown a video of the projects going on in Africa, with the money raised by these events, and it was totally humbling. Clips from that video certainly kept me going the following day. Then Mr Fox-Pitt, creator of the event (I should have words!) gave us a bit of background on how the quad was born, before moving on to the logistics and safety. The weather outside at the time was nothing short of perfect, but we had all seen the forecast. It seemed hard to believe that it could change as dramatically as the forecast suggested, but we were told to expect heavy rain, poor visibility and very strong winds on the munros. “Do not ditch any of your safety kit. You are going to need everything in your kit bags tomorrow.” They weren’t lying. And the palaver of the navigation test and having to carry a whistle and thermal blanket were more necessary than ever. We were also told that there would be mountain rescue and medical crew positioned atop each munro and at various check points along the route. Little did I know at this stage how grateful I’d be for their presence. Finally we were given a quick demo on how to slice a watermelon in half with a claymore (big sword type job), as that would be the final task on the Quad in order to stop the clock.
Kit inspected. Bags dropped. Tummies fed. Safety instructed. Our job here was done for the time being, and so we drove back along the loch and off to our B&B, and made it to bed shortly after 10pm.
Our alarms (yes, plural – we set three to be safe!) went off at 4.20am. You’re never going to wake feeling refreshed at that hour, but at least I’d only woken up once in the night. We got into our swimsuits, chucked on jeans and a jumper and then forced down some rye bread with honey and half a banana. I really didn’t feel like eating – my stomach was churning with nerves – but knew we needed to get some fuel in ahead of the swim, so I munched on and we left our B&B at 4.45am as planned. Neither of us spoke much on the 40 minute journey over to the event hub. A combination of being half asleep and a tad anxious. Upon arrival we got straight into our wetsuits, trying to ignore the ominous looking clouds above our heads. You couldn’t really help noticing that the munros we would shortly be ascending were totally invisible, shrouded in a heavy mist; a complete contrast to the previous evening where they had formed a picturesque back drop to the loch.
But as soon as we got to the warm-up tent, it hit me! My fear suddenly turned to excitement and I realised I was grinning like a woman possessed. The fact that I felt like a complete amateur – a fraud perhaps – amongst all these professional looking types, suddenly didn’t matter and I felt a huge wave of emotion. After a jolly good instructor-led warm up (much like the drills I take my bootcampers through at the start of a session), we were escorted down to the loch. It’s a surreal experience walking bare foot through the long grass, following a piper, surrounded by 200 wetsuit-clad strangers at 6am, but one that I shall never forget.
I remember muttering “I can’t believe we’re actually here, I can’t believe it’s happening” and then arriving at the edge of the loch and laughing (slightly maniacally) as I tried to visualise myself powering through the water. My biggest fear pre-race had been the temperature of the loch. We hadn’t swum in anything nearly so cold, bar a brief flirt with the Atlantic back in April (a chilly 9 degrees). Whether it was the adrenaline, or just the fact that the shores are a tad warmer, my entry into the water wasn’t too awful. So rather than the sense of impending doom I had anticipated, I just got really excited. The atmosphere was incredible and there was a quadcopter flying overhead filming us, not to mention the piper had been positioned in a boat to accompany us across the loch. Before I knew it there was a voice bellowing through a loudspeaker and we all started counting down from 10. “…3, 2, 1” and we were off!
Martin and I had agreed that he should just go at his own pace and not worry about me. We were surrounded by safety boats so I was content knowing that, worst case scenario, somebody would save me if I panicked. Martin was gone in a flash and looked really strong (he actually completed the swim in 25 minutes), whereas I didn’t get off to such a great start. Funnily enough I remained quite calm – the adrenaline kept me smiling – but the water was much more choppy than I had bargained on and so I struggled to get my breathing settled. Every time I tried to breathe on my left, I got a load of water in my face. I also confess that I found the dark depths of the loch quite unnerving. Like many people, I found myself reverting to breaststroke a fair bit but I could feel this was a) slow and b) using a lot of leg energy, which I needed to conserve. So I flipped onto my back to open up my lungs and and settle my breathing. This worked but as soon as I went back to front crawl, I lost my rhythm again. I was only managing about 10 strokes before having to stop again. I was convinced that I must already be at the back of the pack, but actually there were loads of people behind me and I felt very much “in the throng” so made a conscious decision not to fret about anyone else and just do my own thing. I turned onto my back again to take some deep breaths.
And then a funny thing happened.
Whilst working on my breathing I was aware that I was wasting a lot of time, floating around rather than actually swimming. So I figured I might as well move my arms a bit to keep me warm and moving vaguely in the right direction. I honestly don’t think I have ever swum backstroke before in my life. But as I started to do it, it became obvious that this was quite a strong stroke for me. Suddenly I was going faster than some of the people doing (far more sensible) front crawl. So I thought “fuck it, let’s do this” and I just carried on facing the sky. I used other people and the safety boats to make sure I was in a straight line, occasionally looking to see that my path was clear and I avoided any collisions. As I neared the far shore my pride got the better of me and I resorted to bashing out 100m of crawl, just so I could finish in style. So yes, bizarrely I ended up doing about 2/3 of the swim backstroke! I later learned that my time for the swim was 30 minutes, so I was pretty chuffed given that it hadn’t exactly gone to plan and I had reckoned on around 40 minutes.
Once out I found Martin who was very relieved (and surprised) to see me so soon. However he had to share the bad news that his GoPro (which we’d hoped to use to record the rest of the event) had somehow turned itself on in the kitbag where it had spent the night, so the battery was completely drained. #EpicFail.
I nipped off into the changing tent to dry off. Somebody very kindly donated me some talcum powder (good tip for anyone looking to do the event) and got myself into my running kit ready for the mountains. Wetsuits stashed into the transition bag we took a moment to refuel. There were hot drinks on offer and plenty of food. Although I couldn’t face cake quite so early on, I was very happy with half a banana and a peanut energy bar. Whilst munching on this I was amazed to see that there were still people finishing their swim a good 15 minutes after I had got out of the water. I might have been the least stylish but I certainly wasn’t the slowest.
I confess that before the event I thought that the mountain phase would be the least of our worries. No, we’re not fell runners, and yes we live in the flattest part of the country, but we have both climbed a few munros over the years, and we figured that even if we were slow we would just plod on and get through. Little did we know how much the atrocious weather would affect things. Nor had we encountered such steep munros before. I swear Meall Greigh made Ben Nevis look like a gentle stroll.
We set off shortly before 7am and, although there was a very fine mist, the rain hadn’t yet set in, so we were reasonably cheery and chatting with other competitors as we started on the first ascent. Plus at this point there was still a gorgeous view back to loch Tay. Shortly after this photo was taken, however, we reached the cloud layer and the views were no more. In fact, we couldn’t see anyone else at all. Occasionally we heard voices but visibility was very poor and it became clear that we really would need those navigation skills.
The rain started and the legs quickly began to feel the effects of the cold, wet and steep climb. I thought my legs were fresh after a good rest before the Quad, but in hindsight they just weren’t ready for the scale and pace of what we were undertaking. All our previous munro treks (the most recent being 2 years prior) were with friends who were inevitably slower than us. But tackling these munros in race conditions was entirely different. Having to stop regularly to read the map to stay on course made the going even tougher. By the time we reached the first summit (boy was a glad to see that little orange tent and the poor chilly chap camping out inside it), I was pretty much soaked through and starting to get quite cold. The wind was really strong and kept blowing the rain cover off my rucksack. Try as we might to pin it in place, it kept blowing off and in the end we gave up. This meant that everything in the rucksack got soaked. Soggy food didn’t seem massively appealing; we just wanted to keep moving.
For a pair of non fell runners we were making decent time and jogged any of the brief flat sections, plus the downhills off each summit. Every now and then we came across other participants which lifted our spirits, as did the amazing volunteers positioned at every check point. We did get lost several times though, one time quite badly. Thankfully we were with two other teams – equally lost – on that occasion, but we all wasted around 30 minutes as we went back and forth across a plateau desperately trying to figure out how to get to where we wanted (the bearing on the compass wanted to take us down a ravine, but the poor visibility made it very tricky to work out which way to go to circumnavigate said ravine). How we lost the path, I have no idea, but we certainly weren’t the only ones.
Some sections were quite technical, and at one point we found ourselves essentially rock climbing, but I guess that added to the sense of adventure. I confess that much of the mountain section became a bit of a blur. I know that after the fifth munro I was starting to get quite grumpy and my hands were almost numb with cold. My gloves were soaked through and my breathing had got quite laboured. But the low point came on the descent off munro six. There was no path, and no sign of other people. The grass was long and riddled with tiny streams and holes, just waiting to twist an ankle. It was impossible to get any speed on this particular downhill and my shoes were squelching with every step. I was not the best company, coming up with some classics that make me wonder how Martin didn’t file for divorce there and then:
“This is the worst day of my life.”
“I am NOT having fun.”
“I’m so cold, and so wet, and so miserable.”
“Why have we come down this way? You got us lost.”
Looking back I should have recognised that something wasn’t quite right but at the time I thought I was just suffering from a sense of humour failure. When we eventually got back down to loch level, we could see lots of other participants and we trotted along the stretch of tarmac towards the food tent. I was so relieved to finally be out of the rain and able to stop and eat something that wasn’t squished and wet.
Martin suggested I sit down and change my socks but I muttered something about needing to be quick because otherwise I would lose the will to go up #7 – notoriously the toughest munro on the course. I recall standing by a heater and trying to eat a sandwich, when one of the medics came up to me, touched my hand and asked if I was OK. I hadn’t realised but I was shivering violently and my hands were shaking so hard that I had barely consumed any of my sandwich. I told her that I suffer from Raynaud’s and that my hands are always cold, so she slipped her hand inside the neck of my jacket.
“You’re freezing. I need to take your temperature” she said. Against my will she got me to sit down and reported that I was indeed suffering from mild hypothermia. At the time I thought this was all a big over-reaction and a serious waste of precious time, but looking back (and talking to Martin about it) I really wasn’t in a good way. My waterproofs clearly weren’t quite up to such extreme weather – I was soaked through to my sports bra (4 layers under) – and coupled with my Raynaud’s and the slow going off munro six, my body temperature had dropped a wee bit low.
The medics were utterly brilliant though. I was probably really rude and ungrateful at the time, but they couldn’t have treated me better. I was stripped down to my underwear and wrapped in a survival blanket and another warm fluffy blanket, whilst being fed warming chilli and hot chocolate. Another lady dried out every item of my clothing in front of a fan heater. Unfortunately my only spare warm layer was also wet, having been in my rucksack, which had been without a cover for many hours by this time. I did have a spare pair of socks stashed inside a plastic bag though, and it felt good to put them on my chilly tootsies.
Then I was told that I wouldn’t be able to go up munro seven because I was still borderline hypothermic. They’d just received a weather report from the summit and it was blowing a gale and raining heavily, so they told me I’d have to bypass that and go straight to the kayak start. Although other teams did this voluntarily (you are still considered to have completed the race but you get a “silver” status, rather than “gold”), this was not an option as far as I was concerned. People had sponsored me. I had trained and so had Martin. We had to do the whole thing. But the medic told me that none of that mattered and it was her job to keep everyone safe. After much debate and a few more spoonfuls of chilli, it was agreed that I could continue with the final munro IF and WHEN my core temperature was back in the green.
An hour later (yes, an entire hour of our race time was actually spent being treated for hypothermia!) I was wearing my dry(ish) clothes and had my survival blanket on between my fleece and jacket. I resembled a Christmas turkey wrapped in foil and looked rather ridiculous with the blanket stuffed into my waterproof trousers, but boy was I toasty! What’s more, I had been given the OK to continue on the proviso that I reported to the medics at the top of the last munro and at the kayak start.
Having lost a lot of time, we were keen to crack on and although it wasn’t long before we were sopping wet again, at least I was nice and warm this time. Plus they hadn’t lied about #7 – it was hand over hand most of the way up. Really hard going and slippery, so I was working up a serious sweat in my foil blanket. As we approached the summit of #7 I got a second wind. The warming food had taken effect and I was feeling good. I had even regained my sense of humour and we recorded the only bit of footage from the day:
It helped that there were lots of other competitors around, and everyone was offering words of support to each other: “You’re 5 minutes from the top, keep going!” Having clocked in at the final summit and had a brief chat with the lovely Alan (who had done our navigation test the day before) we whizzed down the munro, literally running all the way from top to bottom, which took an hour or so. It was exhilarating to be moving at speed again, and the rain had almost stopped for a while so we made the most of the fact that there was an actual path all the way back down to the loch.
Having reported in to the medical staff (who were very happy with my improved state), found a toilet – an actual toilet(!) – and refuelled on energy drink and cake – we were pleased to be ditching the fell shoes and heading back onto the loch.
Thankfully the kayak phase proved to be far less dramatic than the munros. In all honesty it was just the persistent rain that prevented the next 1 hour 50 minutes from being rather pleasant. We just got on with it and accepted that – once again – we were going to be rather wet. I had seen video footage of previous years where the participants were paddling along in glorious sunshine and I had thought “ooh that looks fun” but no such luck for us. Just some very grey scenery and a slightly annoying speed boat that kept churning up the water. To pass the time Martin and I decided to play a game of “I spy” but it was pretty short lived, having exhausted everything in about 3 rounds (K for kayak, W for water, T for tree – even M for mountain wasn’t permissible as they were totally invisible). We moved on to the celebrity alphabet game which kept us occupied until bikini beach, where we had a check point and a tasty strawberry daiquiri mocktail. One of our fellow competitors was really getting into the groove, having climbed out of his kayak and started dancing on the beach to the reggae music. Perhaps he had a real alcoholic daiquiri? Either way, his teammate didn’t look hugely impressed.
After the welcome refreshment we only had to cross the loch to complete the kayak section, so we pushed on as hard as our shoulders could manage, and were greeted by a small, enthusiastic team of volunteers, who cheered us on to the bike transition. It was slightly depressing watching a few other teams completing their cycle (the phase starts and finishes at the same location – the event hub), but despite a spot of envy we clapped them through the finish line.
This was one of the nicest transitions in so much as we knew we would be having a complete change of clothes. In fact I had cleverly even packed a spare set of socks, undies and a towel, so for a brief, blissful moment, I was completely dry. Martin, along with all the other male competitors, was forced to change into his padded lycra in the middle of the food tent, whereas the ladies had a screen to preserve a spot of dignity. Not much mind. There is nothing dignified about stripping off multiple wet layers in a grassy tent, but I was past caring by this point.
As we made our way out into the rain once more to grab our bikes, I was very aware that my legs had pretty much seized up, and that the next 35 miles were not going to be the easiest ones I had ever cycled.
Prior to race day, the cycle was the one phase I was not at all concerned about. There had been a niggle in the back of my mind about it being the final stage, knowing that our legs would be tired and that Martin struggled a bit on the bike, but I figured that sheer grit and determination would see us through. When it came down to it, the bike phase ended up being far tougher than I had thought possible, and quite frankly it was a miracle we actually completed it!
The first major blow came about two minutes in, when I felt like something just wasn’t right and like I couldn’t get any speed. It was then that I noticed that my wheel was on the wrong way round. #EpicFail.
Having corrected that, it then became apparent that my front brakes hadn’t been tightened enough after reattaching the wheel, but I was painfully aware of how much time had already been wasted and I just wanted to finish the race, so we trundled on despite my lack of front brakes. In hindsight not a great idea given the conditions and the numerous ups and downs on the route, but hey ho. Onwards and upwards. And a bit more downwards. And then some more up. And down. You get the idea…
The single track road was exceptionally “undulating”, covered in puddles (many of which concealed large potholes), and was not closed to traffic. Not that there’s a lot of traffic, but knowing that a car could come round a bend at any moment – especially when you have no front brakes and the road is wet – made it very tricky to get any real speed on the short downhills. Which in turn meant a distinct lack of momentum to get us back up the other side. The 10 miles to Killin felt like forever. I knew we were going slow (although the rain had killed my odometer so I didn’t know precisely how slow) but nothing I did seemed to make pedalling any easier.
Martin and I had talked about how we’d pause at the fish and chip stop at Killin before the big push along the far side of the loch. But when the time came neither of us could face stopping; we were that desperate to finish. So we sailed past the chip van (and got a few cheers from other competitors who had stopped) and pushed on.
The far side of the loch was less gruelling than the first section, and we were able to pick up a little bit more speed. But it went on, and on, and on. Honestly, it felt like we had cycled the full 35 miles just getting down that stretch. At one point I burst into tears when, convinced that we must be close to the far end of the loch, I spotted the event hub marquee on the other side of the loch, meaning we were only just over half way! I really wanted to give in at this point but instead my body just went into overdrive. I was so very desperate to finish that I kept on pushing through the pain, all the while shouting “I’ve got nothing left” and “I just want this to be over.” The biggest problem with this renewed vigour was that Martin couldn’t keep up with me. His spirit wasn’t quite as broken as mine, but I am a stronger cyclist. The plan had been for me to get him round the cycle, but I ended up leaving him behind in my bid to finish. Martin said that his overriding memory of the cycle is watching me get smaller and smaller as I pedalled into the distance and hearing me shout “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCK” upon reaching yet another climb. Bad wife!
I did, of course, eventually realise I had left Martin behind and slowed down a bit until he had caught up. When we eventually got to Kenmore (the far end of the loch) it was with huge relief that we turned onto the final stretch. But the relief was only short-lived as we faced more undulations. Even in the lowest gear, it felt like the legs just couldn’t keep the pedals turning. We saw a marker “5 miles to go” which actually made us feel worse rather than better. The gaps between miles 5 and 4, and then 4 and 3 felt like hours. I can say, hand on heart, that at the “2 miles to go” sign I almost stopped. I truly didn’t think my legs could manage another hill. But as luck would have it the final 2 miles were downhill and I have never felt so excited. When I saw the entrance to the event hub I started to cry again – this time tears of joy.
All thoughts of an epic finale were quickly dashed when the guy in front of me (him and his teammate had overtaken us with a mile to go) fell off his bike as we got to the car park. I almost had a collision and narrowly avoided him and the fence. Martin had a bit more time to react so whizzed round us. Having checked the guy was OK, I pulled my bike round him, jumped back into the saddle and cycled the last bit across the bumpy grass, and then shoved the bike back on the rack.
I had visualised crossing the finishing line many a time during my training, but it really didn’t go to plan. Firstly there was the fact that it was pouring with rain so there was no jolly crowd to welcome us back as we limped the final 50m. Then there was the fact that the guy who had come off his bike was clearly miffed we were going to finish one place ahead of them and so they were hurling abuse at us from behind. And then there was the fact that a load of us were all finishing at the same time so there was actually a queue to get over the line and slice the watermelon. Instead of the elation of finishing I just felt broken. Completely and utterly broken. I couldn’t even raise a smile as the arrival of team Bionic Brammah was announced . Looking back I know that is something I will always regret. Surely I could have jumped for joy, or at least hugged Martin? But the fact I literally just looked at him and uttered “Thank fuck for that” is testament to how ruined I was.
15 hours and 18 minutes from start to finish (including the hour of medical treatment). That is one heck of a long day. We certainly felt we had earned our goody bags!
In hindsight I should have gone straight into the massage tent and taken advantage of the free sports massage they were offering. I also should have downed a litre of sports drink and then gone in search of food immediately after the massage. But when you’re recovering from mild hypothermia you don’t think straight. Instead we reclaimed all our stuff and got it into the car before I went and queued for the showers. Not the most luxurious of showers but I needed to wash away the day and feel the hot water on my skin. It did the trick and I emerged ready to go and eat. Once again, the organisers had come up trumps with heaps of chicken, veggie lasagne and apple pie waiting for us. By this time it was close to 10.30pm and fatigue had set in, but we wanted to stay and watch the awards ceremony. In the previous 13 years of the Quadrathlon, the winning team has finished in around 8.5 hours give or take. This year the winning time was 9hrs 42 minutes. A testimony to the terrible weather – although I am still incredibly impressed by the times some people achieved in shocking conditions. Respect!
As much as a small part of me wanted to feel like a true quadrathlete and stay for the ceilidh, we were both so shattered and knew we had a 45 minute drive to get back to the B&B. Besides, my legs were barely functioning so it was a lost cause. With a sense of surreal accomplishment we walked back to the car just as the fireworks display started. They were incredible and rounded off what had been something of an epic day in my life.
Back at the B&B, the lure of a long soak in the bath was strong, but it seemed unfair on other guests to start running water so late at night so we collapsed into bed and after a bizarre bout of twitchy legs we were out for the count.
If you’re contemplating doing this event, then I 100% do NOT recommend a nine hour drive the following day. We got some very funny looks as we hobbled in and out of numerous service stations. And I spent the following three days unable to bend my knees, which made working with my clients and going down stairs especially interesting. It’s amazing the techniques you can develop! I am sure the pain was made worse by the lack of sports massage and the poor recovery food immediately post-event, but you live and you learn.
Looking back I am, of course, incredibly proud of our achievement and in years to come I will definitely recall what an experience it was, albeit a tough one.
Would I do it again? Not in a hurry!
The organisers did a faultless job and it is a brilliant event, but I certainly won’t be there in 2015. Having done it once, the only reason to go again would be to significantly improve our time and that would involve lots of weekends in Scotland, running the route and getting used to the terrain. Perhaps a challenge for my 40th or 50th, but don’t hold your breath.
All that remains to say is a massive thank you to everyone who sponsored our efforts. After reading this I’m hoping you’ll agree that we earned it! I am not sure how long the sponsorship link stays live but here it is for the final time:
Thank you for reading 🙂