Stuart Kelly – Cairngorm Adventure Triathlon, Sept 2017

Cairngorm Adventure Triathlon

Based at Loch Morlich near Aviemore, this event is roughly 3km open canoe (teams of 2), 25km mountain bike and 5km trail run, with the promise of a “useful item” and a burger at the end. I’ve been keen to take part for years but the 240 places sell out fast so this was my first time and it lived up to all expectations (friendly people, dodgy weather, mud, useful mug).

We treated our families to a camping weekend at Rothiemurchus, which was also about half-way along the bike course. Registration and briefing were a generous 10am Saturday morning. The race was split into 4 heats of 30 canoes – we drew the 4th heat so there was time to go back to the campsite for lunch and encourage the first riders going by.

On a calm loch we finished second canoe in our heat. The canoe ahead of us was using a long double-ended kayak paddle which presumably wasn’t against the rules but seemed a little unfair to the other 238 competitors. Back at the beach the crowd seemed to agree with us, although “you should quit while you’re winning” was surely a double-edged remark.

Short run across the beach to transition, another short run with bike before riding up to the top of the Slugan pass, mainly on fire roads, then down a fast and slippery descent with prominent first-aiders. As the adrenaline from the descent subsided I discovered my front gear shifter had shaken loose – only a matter of time before it fell off – so I wedged it out of harm’s way and tried to enjoy the simplicity of having fewer gears to choose. A few miles of tarmac followed, then past the campsite and the last 10k on forest trails.

Climbed off the bike to discover my feet were missing – a couple of miles thumping along forest tracks eventually got them back – started to enjoy the run with a mile to go. The race organisers had other ideas though, a scramble down a steep bank then the last few hundred metres through ankle deep sand. Somehow managed to keep cramp at bay until I crossed the line second in my heat, seventh overall.

With Rob finishing his first multi-sport event a few minutes behind (24th overall) we knew we’d both had a good day but were amazed to be announced as 3rd placed team with a combined time just over 4 hours. Our children still think we should quit while we’re ahead but I’m sure we’ll be back soon.

posted by Stuart Kelly on
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