Race Update – Ben Nevis Braveheart Triathlon – John Arthur

What seems ages ago I entered this race as it was last year I hit the submit button. Fast forward to Friday evening driving up to Fort William for the pre-race pasta party and registration/briefing. No vegan options with the pasta dishes but luckily I took my own. Looking round the room I didn’t recognize anyone.

There was a large English contingent with a few combining this with a first time up Nevis. I got my numbers and a ‘dibber’ which is used to register times at various points during the race. Off to my luxury accommodation for the night which was the back of the car (at least it’s an estate) in the college car park very near transition. A big fancy camper van, big enough to sleep 4 rolled up next to me to put my digs for the night into perspective. Not a bad night though the back was pretty stiff in the morning (not getting any younger). I used the camping stove for usual porridge breakfast.

No Fuss is the name of the organizer and that is reflected in the laid back atmosphere which was refreshingly easy going. Nobody was that bothered about where you rack your bike, whether you have bags of stuff, boxes etc. The transition is the grassy area on the Old Fort site right by the water across the road from Morrison’s. I saw one lady wandering over to get something from the shop wearing a wet suit. Not something you see every day at the checkout.

After a bit of nervous pre-race waiting around for the tide to come in we were off at 9:15. Out and back twice along a line of buoys with 2 at the end forming a long narrow T-shape. The water was quite cold to start but got better as we swam out. It turns out this was due to the lots of cold fresh water from the burn by the start coming down off the mountain. There was a bit of novelty as I was among lots of swimmers as usually quite quickly I am toward the back in less congested water. I think the organizers had decided to get the race started due to times later in the day as the tide was definitely not slack. A very strong head on current at the turn forced everyone onto the buoys and I got my leg caught in the rope and quite a few people swam over the top of me. I was still enjoying the novelty of being in a crowd though (take the positives where you can). A good tail current swept us back to do the loop again. I was expecting my usual just under 40 mins but looked at my watch in T1. 47 mins! Oh well keep calm and carry on.

There were still quite a few in transition (again a novelty for me). My transitions in the race were the worst ever with about 8 minutes faffing around trying to get socks on and then shoes with overshoes (Fort William in September and a menacing sky so I though it is bound to pour at some stage). I gave up on trying to get gloves on which turned out a good call as the weather on the bike was OK. One of the many different things with this race is that you ‘dib’ leaving the water then after leaving T1 then your time is not started again until about a 1.5 miles later avoid trying to race through the Fort Willian traffic.

At a lay by just out of town you stop to dib back in and off you go. Well sort of as it was straight into queueing traffic on the busy A82 heading north. Lots of cars, caravans stuck behind cyclists for a good few miles. Not great but once we turned right at Spean Bridge the road got much quieter. Steady uphill on average all the way out to a turnaround in a car park for another dib and some water/snacks if required. I was feeling OK and had passed allot of folk. My nutrition was a couple of date/walnut bars during the non timed section then one bottle containing 6 gels squeezed in a bike bottle with some water (like wallpaper paste). Much easier than trying to use individual gels. The other bottle was normal energy drink. The ride back although mainly downhill was into a head wind so harder than expected. My bike training had been almost all commuting and no long rides so this took its toll and I was very glad to dib and limp back in for another classic transition.

I changed into running shorts which is just a personal thing but I hate running in cycling shorts, tri suit etc. I reckon a minute or 2 over the grand scheme would be worth it. I forgot to chuck the unruly gloves from earlier into my pack (a mistake I would regret later). Another dib then off for 3k out to the start of the Ben Nevis trail.

I could not believe how busy it was with hikers going up and down. Despite the crowds most folk realized there was a race on and let you past and often gave you encouragement. What would normally be runnable gradients suddenly became a fast walk due to the legs being ‘gubbed’ (technical term) from the bike. Around half way the cloud started and visibility was poor with increasing wind and rain. Things got really cold toward the top and a waterproof jacket was deployed-oops no gloves as my hands started to get really cold. I started to try to jog bits that were not joggable just to try to get warmer. At half way there is a dib location with a couple of marshals. If you don’t make it here by a certain time you get turned back. The path just went up and up and…..eventually the leader came by on the way down which was depressing and heartening at the same time. The top 2 guys were miles ahead. Just for something to do I started counting people to get an idea of where I was placed. By the time I eventually reached the top I had counted around 30. Dib at the top (poor marshals). Visibility was around 20m. I realized I had only had 2 gels on way up and 2 drinks and the hands were numb by this point. Someone gave some Kendal mint cake to take to the race which I had on me so I chewed on that (pure minty sugar) on the way down. Another half way dib then out of the clouds. A fell runner type guy passed me at break neck speed. I’m not good downhill and so took no risks. The last 3k road section was better that expected and I was running OK. At last I dibbed at the finish.

I previously had a predicted time of between 7 and 7.5 hrs and was glad to see I just scraped under at 6hr 59’ 55”, 14 minutes of which were spent in transition! 3hr 28 for the run and 2:28 for bike (excluding the neutralised sections).
My wee printout when I was done said I was first super vet. This was my first race as an SV so a pleasant surprise. After nearly 30 years of events I thought I had finally made a podium so I hung around for the prize giving but only male/female and teams got mentioned. So no vets or super vet categories were acknowledged which was a disappointment. All in all a well marshaled and very hard event. I am not sure that I would do it again as I would rather another untried event. The top team was all female from Carnethy running club who were 6th overall. A possible future challenge for the fusion ladies?
Tidal issues on the swim and not sure of distance measurement
Very busy traffic on A82 especially to Spean Bridge
Allot of people on the Nevis trail to get past
Not an event if you are looking for a ‘normal’ 70.3 looking for a time
Lack of age group categories
Very well marshalled on the day
Laid back & relaxed atmosphere
Amazing location and unique event especially the run route
A nice medal 😉
Cheers John
posted by John Arthur on