A good friend of ours, Andy successfully raced the iconic Celtman Scottish Extreme Triathlon this year. The Celtman is part of the Xtri World Tour and takes place in June in Wester Ross, Scotland and is centred around the stunning Torridon Mountains. Make no mistake - when they say this race is extreme they mean it; a 3.4km swim in cold, deep, jellyfish infested water, a 202km ride on the scenic but challenging Scottish roads and to finish a 42km run through an ancient drover pass up and over the Beinn Eighe mountain range. Being fit is only part of the equation for success; slick teamwork; specific preparation and an ability to adapt are all required. Following his success in the race we asked Andy for his top 5 tips for completing The Celtman and these are detailed below.
1. Firstly pick your team carefully and schedule in a training day a few weeks before the event. Andy chose a team of three with different strengths, his fiancé for emotional support, a friend who is a great runner and whom Andy had done most of his Munros with, and a friend who is a long distance kayaker who has bags of experience with extreme events that require support. Two weeks before the race the whole team had a day where they simulated the event in miniature so that the team could practice feeding him, clothing him, helping in transitions etc. This does not have to be at the race venue and indeed in Andy’s case wasn’t. This was a three/four hour session which was purely for the team to practice; Andy threw in on the spot challenges for them throughout the day like changing clothes, pumping up tyres etc. so they were fully prepared. In Andy’s words the first 30 mins were a disaster and if it had been race day he’d have been extremely stressed. By the end of the session they had it totally dialled in and knew exactly how to support me as a team. I can't recommend highly enough doing this session; there were plenty of ill equipped teams on race day!
2. Know the course like the back of your hand. By race day Andy had recced the bike course twice, once riding it and once in a car with a GPS looking for decent feed stops. He'd also been round the whole run course with his support runner. The first section of the run is in extremely rough terrain with the high likelihood of going off track, definitely worth checking it out before the big day.
3. The swim is cold and jellyfish filled. Wetsuit boots, gloves and under vests are allowed and it's worth considering using them. In the race Andy used all three but if he had to do it again he'd ditch the gloves. He practised a lot with them but felt they held him back when actually on the course. His thinking was that they would protect his hands from stings but despite seeing loads of jellyfish, that wouldn't have been an issue. The boots and under vest worked well though, and are well worth thinking about. Despite there being hundreds of jellyfish Andy reported that he didn't actually mind them once I got going; they don't bother you and actually look quite amazing when you're swimming over them. If you can practice swimming at the venue before the race you should, although in Andy’s case he didn't get the chance.
4. Shieldaig is a small place and it's very busy with cars on race day morning. If you're staying in the village this isn't an issue but if you are not, it's worth giving yourself an extra 30 mins to get into the village and parked on your way to transition. Nothing worse than a rushed start to the race!
5. Celtman is not Swim-Bike-Run, it's Swim-Bike-Run-Hike. It's a 3.4km swim and a 202km bike and there's nothing you can do about that. But the run is split between running and hiking and you should take that into consideration. You have 11hrs from the start of the race to get to T2a and the cut-off for the high course, (to be awarded the coveted blue t-shirt) and the low course. That means once off the bike you have to run 16k to get to T2a; after this it's impossible to do anything other than hike up Beinn Eighe, it's too steep to run. So in training after a big ride Andy would focus on a 16k run at a decent speed, rather than a slower 30k run for example. Know your timings and what sort of pace you need to be doing once off the bike.
All in all Celtman is a must do race for every triathlete’s bucket list. It is over subscribed so they run a ballot each year. If you are one of the lucky few that gets a slot then these tips will help you, and your team, be properly prepared.