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Outdoors / The Pack / Sean McFarlane

CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN: SEAN MCFARLANE

Merrell Ambassador Sean McFarlane reports back from one of the Toughest Triathalon's he's done yet.

I’ve had a bit of success in these type of races in recent years. Runner-up spots in this one last year, as well as the inaugural Celtman and Brutal races, have even given me the ‘specialist’ tag. As ever, I had three clear aims: to survive it, to get to the finish and to leave nothing in the tank.

My pre-race build-up goes okay and I feel good come race morning. The calm and sunny conditions do well to conceal a high tide not so conveniently about to begin its retreat just in time for the start.

The less said about the swim the better. The water is cold, but bearable, and at least it’s a nice day. The heated tent in transition is certainly welcome once I eventually emerge from the waters of the Forth.

Trying not to look at the alarming lack of bikes in transition, I clip in and head off. My parents have come out 20 miles in to cheer me on. They look understandably unimpressed and shout ‘37th’ as I pass. The truth hurts – a lot.

I’d been very much looking forward to using my new TT bike, but I’m all too quickly aware that I’ve not ridden it enough before the race. Fifteen miles in and my upper body aches in a way it shouldn’t. I’d also changed the saddle and it doesn’t feel right either. It’s crucial to stay aero in these races, but I’m just not able to do that. My mistake and I’m paying for it.

Once at T2, my ever-loyal wife Becs ensures I’m properly kitted out and fuelled up. The run starts with an hour of tarmac and then comes a long grassy climb up to 1,500ft. It’s horrible and I begin to fade. I lose a place for the first time since leaving the water and it hits me hard. Once up onto the West Highland Way path, I try hard to spot some targets, but even my eyes are failing. I reach the Glen Nevis pit stop after more than three hours of running. Just Ben Nevis to do now!

I’ve done plenty of races up Ben Nevis before and it’s a unique place. It’s clear that for many of those among the throngs of walkers on the mountain, this represents a far bigger challenge. After a thoroughly disappointing day it’s just the reality check I need. Onto the snow and summit, I finally begin to enjoy myself. I’m in eighth and having seen seventh place struggling to descend I know I’ll catch him. The run down is the highlight and, given I’m now 13hrs in, I feel great. I try to never leave anything in the tank, but for whatever reason I have this time. Over the finish line and straight to the free bar.

I was well and truly beaten by six others. Thom Phillips, 2013’s winner, came within 2mins of doing the double. Jon Thorp from Norway, sixth in Norseman last year, held on for a gun-to-tape win.

 

 

01/07/2014
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