My Grandma lived in the remote Scottish highlands near Ullapool for 30 years. I can remember visiting her as a child, running around a wood nearby pretending to be a Celtic warrior, keeping the marauding midges at bay and battling my brothers Robbie and Jack.
She was known locally as the ‘Wild Lady of Lochbroom’ and roamed up and down the hills hacking at bracken with her machete.
She passed away three months ago and we buried her in the church at the bottom of the loch, a lone bagpiper (a young lad from the lochside who used to visit my grandma for chocolate biscuits after school) played us out as I bore the coffin alongside my brothers and family. Afterwards, I knew I needed to do something special to say goodbye to my Grandma Wild.
I'd heard about Celtman after finishing Ironman UK last year. Afterwards I was looking for a different challenge to push myself and found Celtman. With Celtman being in the highlands of Scotland, almost home turf for me, it really appealed to me.
(Image: Steve Carter)
It’s a long-distance triathlon with a 3.8km sea loch swim (average water temp is 10-13 degrees), a 202km bike leg which passes by my Grandma's house, and then a 42km mountain marathon across the Coulin pass and Ben Eighe.
>>> Celtman Triathlon 2015 – in pics
Having liked the Celtman page on Facebook back in September 2014 I still received updates, I saw one saying that someone had got injured and was offering their place as well as two nights accommodation to the highest bidder. They'd raised money for the Nepal Earthquake and didn't want to see their fundraising go to waste. The problem: it was May 24th and Celtman was on the 27th June, giving me around a month to prepare.
Most people would generally advise around six months of training for an Ironman and around seven to eight months for something like Celtman. One month was a different ball game.
As I sat there looking at Ebay wondering whether this was totally insane I thought about my Grandma Wild and I knew that she'd believe I could do it. With that thought I knew that it was the perfect way to say goodbye to Gran and I lodged the highest bid, winning my place at Celtman... in one month.
(Image: Steve Carter)
With one month to go there was pretty much no way that I could properly physically prepare for the race, most tapers start two weeks out and the benefit of endurance training is that it takes time to build up. The way I was going to get through this race was with mental preparation. Now that's not to say that I didn't madly start training, but that I felt preparing mentally would be the key to success.
I was averaging around five or six swims a week, outdoor without a wetsuit so felt I would be comfortable on the swim. In the last six months I'd not cycled more than 14km (7km to and from work) or run much further. So I felt this needed to be my focus. I immediately put in some 100km bike rides on the first Saturday and Sunday, repeating this the following weekend and adding some 20km runs in as well.
I felt that quality was key and that a few long distance rides/runs would be more beneficial than lots of short ones. One big problem was that I live in London so there aren't any mountains to run up or big hills to train on (not like in Scotland!) so I couldn't really do anything to properly train for trail running. The key thing that got me through the training rides and jumping up to those distances immediately was the mental preparation.
As soon as I'd signed up I decided not to let any negative thoughts into my mind. With one month to go there was absolutely zero benefit from any doubts. If someone I told looked at me with fear, or looked at me like I was an idiot for signing up, I just pretended that they we're 100% behind me. If I felt tired or low, or that I'd bitten off more than I could chew, then I immediately banished that thought and focused only on thoughts and emotions that were positive.
I visualised every single part of the race in minute detail, swimming across the loch, mounting the bike and racing down the long sweeping coastal curves of the Scottish roads, running across the mountains, past the trees and through the midges.
I kept fantasising about crossing the finishing line, emerging as a Celtman! Then with two weeks to go, things got really bad. I was out on a 22km run and an old knee injury resurfaced (runners knee bla bla bla, it's from bad technique), I ended up limping home and knew that it was bad. It proceeded to get worse over the next day and I had to stop running altogether, cycling wasn't much less painful either.
Think positive I thought, everyone else will be tapering for Celtman you might as well start now. So with two weeks training and a dodgy knee I put my feet up and started my taper. Over the next two weeks I could feel the stress building, not just about the race but about the logistics and the equipment.
Then with three days to go I developed a stress ulcer in my mouth that was incredibly painful. With positivity in mind I decided to call him 'Eric' and pretended that it was fate that he'd come to rescue me on race day by taking all the pain away from my legs and focusing it in my mouth (it was the best I could come up with!).
On the Thursday 25th I got the train up to meet my Mum who would be my Head Coach and support driver, my friend Sam Rupar from university was going to be my support runner (you have to have one for the second section of the marathon). Sam’s an avalanche detector in the Cairngorms and knows the mountains like the back of his hand. So with my Mum, Sam and Eric, we arrived in Torridon ready for Celtman.
As the race is self-supported I'd agreed to meet Sam and my Mum after 50km, 100km and 150km of the bike leg, I had room for three bottles on the bike and reckoned I'd average two hours for each 50km. One bottle every 40mins and a banana, gel or High5 bar every 30mins.
The run has aid stations on the first leg but we needed to carry food and water for the mountain section which was where I'd meet Sam. With our strategy ready and bags packed (I must have backed and repacked them about three times), we went to sleep on Friday ready for the 3.30am alarm on Saturday morning.
Find out how Calum Hudson gets on at the Celtman... (2/2)