With the health and safety of our community being an utmost priority, and based on the directive by the Swedish Government in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, we can confirm that the Ironman Kalmar Triathlon originally scheduled for August 15 cannot take place in 2020 and will return on August 21, 2021. “
Well. That’s that then….. or is it…..?
I could have just sat back down, sacked off any significant mileage plans and relaxed for the rest of what has been a complete shitfest of a year. But the thought of doing that just didn’t feel right.
Regular readers will remember that I’d pledged to raised money for Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance after Beardy had a nasty bike crash last September. They were continuing to fly throughout the pandemic, so I had to do something, but what?
Chatting to my pal Kate, who was also registered for Kalmar, we hatched a plan. She would be coming up to Scotland (Lockdown restrictions dependant…) for a birthday holiday with her partner instead, and we would do our own unsupported challenge on the 15th August.
Have you ever had an idea that you almost immediately wished you hadn’t had? Well, about 8 seconds after I hit send on “Maybe I could plot out our own 140.6mile route?” I regretted it.
I can remember my high school Tech teacher (big up, Mr Linton!) writing in my report that while there is never any harm in setting goals, I would always tend to make life more complicated and challenging than it needs to be…. But isn’t that where fun comes from….?
Kate and I plotted, got thumbs up from our significant others, and realised that this was exactly what we both needed.
Backstory complete, it’s time for my “Race” recap of Team JK’s 140.6 Challenge:
Swim Run Part 1
I had looked at various route options that included a swim, but a number of factors were not sitting right with my inner Captain Sensible:
- Water quality in local lochs is notoriously bad during the summer, and with the amount of thunderous downpours we’ve had lately, the algae blooms have been massive.
- I’ve spent the sum total of 3 hours in open water since last August and have done zero lengths of a pool since February. I didn’t much fancy tackling 3800m in a cold loch.
- Without water safety support, it felt a bit careless with emergency services already stretched enough as it is.
With this in mind, we decided to convert to a duathlon and replace the swim with a 5km Run.
I woke with the familiar knot in my stomach at 2am. We weren’t due to set off until 6 but I could not settle. I went over every single conceivable thing that could go wrong, I reworked the route in my head a dozen times, and I tried to read my book. All to no avail. When the alarm went off at 5 I felt jaded. Even more so as I forced down toast.
At 6am on the dot, we pressed start on our Garmin’s and chatted our way round an easy 5km jog in the drizzle. Nothing exciting to report other than my legs felt really strong and it woke me up enough to feel ready to ride 112 miles.
Run 1 – 31min 10s.
With Beardy still sound asleep, Laura waved and filmed us as we set off from my house in the grey drizzle. We debated our choices of attire and wondered how long it would take for us to freeze to death, but thankfully it wasn’t actually cold, just a bit damp and dreich.
I had originally contemplated using a 187km bike route I’d done in training for Lakesman in 2018, but the thought of negotiating Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy didn’t make me feel excited, so I plotted a route that would take us up and over the Lomond hills into Falkland, on to Newburgh and then east towards Newport-on-Tay. We’d loop back over the Tay bridge towards Perth, before heading out to Dunning and then up and over one last big climb and onto the final stretch home to Kinross. Easy, right?
The first climb was literally up into the clouds. The Leslie to Falkland climb is my favourite up but most dreaded down. It was wet, murky and slow but we were soon safely down and into Falkland where we could push on to Newburgh to meet Laura and enjoy our first break out of the saddle. Laura met us and checked we had enough fuel before we set off towards Dundee. I had somehow mentally blocked the Newburgh to Newport-on-Tay stretch. It’s absolutely gorgeous and not particularly steep, but the uphill is a slog. Kate was reminding me to eat (something I always forget to do on the bike…) and we were putting the world to rights and having a blast.
We soon reached the Tay Bridge where were paused for photos before enjoying the gradual downhill and ride in a lift.
Dundee – Errol passed in a blur. We became our own two-woman chain gang. The absolute BEST thing about this not being a race, was that we could sit on each others wheel for a bit and enjoy some discounted speed. Near Errol, Laura popped out of a layby again with what can only be described as a transcendent donut experience for us both.
I have never enjoyed a donut more than this one. The timing was perfect as this would allow all that Big Raspberry Energy to absorb into my blood and get me up and over the 20% Balthayock climb into Perth.
Off we sped, full of sugar and with a renewed sense of excitement, towards my most dreaded hill of the day.
Balthayock is a short but sharp 20% climb towards Perth from Glencarse and Kinfauns. I have, admittedly, never made it up without getting off to push. I was nervous. But guess what? I made it. I managed to pedal the whole thing. I wasn’t making any Strava leaderboards, for sure. But I made it up that damned climb and I have Laura’s Magic Surprise Donuts along with Kate’s Magic Encouragement Chat, and some mega Zwift miles to thank for enabling me to tough it out!
Perth was negotiated with relative ease and we were soon coasting downhill towards Bridge of Earn, where the Farmer Clan were waiting for us with haribo and cheers. You may remember the Farmer Clan from my Lakesman adventure when Greig completed Triathlon X. This time they had Phoebe, Lucy and Hugo the Lab with them. It was a huge boost and the haribo literally helped me survive the next leg out to Dunning.
I had been battling a bit of nausea since the start, probably down to lack of sleep. Ginger Ale had helped to settle my stomach but I couldn’t look at the Veloforte bars I was carrying (that I always swear by for long rides) and the bottle of high five energy I had on my bike was immediately turning my stomach. I needed to get to Dunning and eat some food to stave off a bonk. And FAST.
Kate called Laura and told her I was in a bit of trouble. Laura swooped into action and we pulled up in Dunning to be greeted by ice cold Coke and salty, crispy, fluffy chips.
I slumped on the pavement and had the first cry of many. No matter how much I train I never seem to dial my nutrition in. I was tired and fed up and trying to distract myself from the fact that I was soon going to need to lace up my trainers and run a bastard marathon.
Kate and Laura got me fed and cheered me up by being their brilliant selves and then Kate gave me a Caffeine Bullet. Wow. It was fucking disgusting. It was “chocolate orange” flavour but really it just tasted like an ash tray but holy shit it worked.
Kate is an incredibly accomplished endurance athlete. Last year, she completed a Deca Ironman. That’s TEN ironman distance tri’s in TEN DAYS. One right after another. She’s also a very experienced ultra runner having completed countless 100 milers has even done GUCR. If there is anyone on this earth qualified to keep me alive during an iron distance event, it is she. And I trust her with my stomach. So I let the rancid caffeine shot dissolve in my mouth while we climbed what was left of Dunning Common after the recent storms and descended to the final stretch.
By now I was on probably my 8th wind. We had one more stop just before Crook of Devon to refuel and let it settle before the Marathon. Then it was back to Kinross for a couple of laps of the town to round up to 180km to appease the pedants.
Bike – 8hrs 41mins
Run 2 – The Marathon
I think the reason I am able to get through endurance events is that I can play down distance in my head without doing it a disservice. I don’t see a Marathon as the distance from my house to work, which it is…. I see it as four 10k’s with a bit on the end. So, while I don’t exactly feel confident, I’m not completely terrified of the distance. Unless I’ve just cycled 112 miles…
Back at the house, we ate, changed and mentally prepared ourselves for the next bit. Laura packed a bag and jumped on my mountain bike so she could come along for moral support. Kate promised me she’d get me through this and urged me to trust her. I do, of course, she’d got me to the end of the bike in one piece after all.
At Lakesman, my legs felt great off the bike but my stomach shut the whole thing down after two kilometres. I feared this was going to happen again but somehow, I felt ok. Not amazing, but ok.
We hadn’t even reached 2km and I spotted a familiar face on the trail. Emma (one of my work besties) had driven with her family all the way from Livingston to hang out and wait for me. She appeared to cheer me on at exactly the right moment. I was so overwhelmed that she would travel all that way to see me for a split second. I have the best mates.
I kept expecting my legs to stop but they didn’t. They kept going. 5km passed, then 7.
Around 8km, my mum and dad appeared around a corner…. and I fell apart. I’d been stropping on and off for a while but I was so overwhelmed to see them. Dad scooped me up in a cuddle (no time for social distancing today, sorry…) and mum provided the only kind of support a mother truly can, by telling me to stop whinging and get on with it. It was exactly what I needed to hear and we were soon on our way. My only regret is that I couldn’t stomach the hot choc my mum had lovingly made for me. I am so lucky to have the most amazing parents.
I walked a bit, ran a bit, took on some water and carbs by letting gummy sweets dissolve on my tongue and then got going again. We followed this pattern for a while and eventually we were joined by Beardy who had honoured my request for iced water. (I have never ever been so fucking thirsty!!!) We continued round our first lap of Loch Leven to the mill which would mark the half way point. A few more walk breaks were needed but I was managing to maintain a steady enough pace. Kate was incredible, offering support, reading me messages from people and ensuring I was taking on sugar by putting me on her survival plan. Laura stayed with us, chatting to me as Kate jogged ahead to take photos. I was just in awe of how she took this all in her stride. She had, after-all, done the same miles and the same hills as me but here she was, surviving on fresh air, keeping me alive and still chipper and determined to get me to the end. She’d set me a target of finishing by Midnight, a la Kona. She assured me we were on track. She’s a numbers girl and can actually *do* running maths. I can when I’m not absolutely destroyed, so I was thoroughly glad she was there to keep me straight.
On we marched, shuffled and jogged until darkness fell and the headtorches went on. Now well into our second lap, I was fighting nausea and a very upset stomach so had been moved onto the polo mint and sipping water method of survival.
Now, I am a firm believer that what happens on the run leg of an ironman, should stay on the run leg of an ironman. So, for now, the story of how I solved my stomach issues will remain sacredly stored between the four of us that were out on the trail that night.
I even made it to 30km before I had to switch to mostly-walk-sometimes-jog. Which is unbelievable considering how little running I’ve done since May.
Now truly in the dark, we continued the patented Bean Deathmarch with midgies, scary woods and non-covid-compliant raves on the beaches around the loch. (although Kate would run ahead and tell them all what we were doing so they’d cheer for us as we passed)
As we entered the final 5km, I decided to switch the route and head via the golf course path towards the top end of the high street. It would get us away from the midgie clouds and cobwebs and onto some tarmac.
Beardy met us at the entrance to the trail (with a fresh bottle of iced water) and we shuffled down the high street as the pubs were chucking out punters. These punters were bemused by the 3 thugs with head torches and keen to know WTF we were doing out for a jog at 11:45pm. Kate and Laura filled them in and we even got cash donations for SCAA (so lovely!!).
Finally, VERY VERY FINALLY, we were in the last kilometre. Beardy and Laura headed for the house and Kate and I toughed it out, even adding distance PAST MY HOUSE to make it up to a whole-ass marathon.
We did it.
WE BLOODY DID IT. WE ALSO FINISHED WITH SEVEN MINUTES TO SPARE.
The bestest best bit? Kate made us medals.
This is not how I expected my 2020 attempt at 140.6 to go, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Run 2 – 6hrs08 (but I forgot to stop my Garmin…)
It became immediately apparent upon the stoppage of movement that my stomach was not ok, hun. I spewed. A lot. And violently. But my poor body had nothing in it, so I got to enjoy minty bile. 0/10 would not recommend. After a few hours of shivvering on the sofa, reading all the incredible messages of support, I somehow made it to bed and slept for around 3 hours. This meant the next day wasn’t horribly painful… I cannot say the same for day 2 where, after 9.5hrs of solid sleep, I have to lower myself onto the toilet. Winning.
So as another 140.6 adventure draws to a close, and I look towards 2021, I can take a HUGE amount away from this year: nutrition – still needs a metric fucktonne of work. Bike – ZWIFT. WORKS. But I need to do more. Run – I can get by with low levels of running if that helps keep injuries at bay, but I now know for sure that I’m capable of running further off the bike than I’ve ever given myself credit for. It would also be lovely if swimming could be more of a thing in 2021….
After Covid ruined EVERYTHING, I had put fundraising on hold even though SCAA were still flying, while I tried to decide what to do. Initially I’d set out to raise £2500 but I knew this would be a big ask. I decided to lower my target to £800. UNBELIEVABLY, I managed to raise over £1000.
Now some thank you’s:
Kate – where do I even begin! You literally kept me alive. Thank you for being honest, being firm (“Don’t be such a mardy cow”) with me and for being so totally selfless in your efforts to help me achieve this. I’ll forever be in awe of your grit and your ability to just get the fuck on with it. You are a machine. Love you, girl.
Laura – your efforts to keep us safe and fed on the day were heroic. Driving for miles on unfamiliar roads to scoop up two sweaty, sweary thugs was nothing short of a marathon in itself. I’m so grateful to have had you along for the journey. Those donuts, man.
Beardy – thank you for coordinating the Crew. And for Iced Water. And for not running me over with your bike at any point. Thank you also for slowing the fuck down and being safe. You still owe me the helicopter ride, but absolutely not under the same circumstances.
Mum and Dad – thank you for literally picking me up off the floor and pushing me onwards. You’ve been doing that for 34 years, so why stop now?! Love you both so much. x
Rosie Jess – your little smile and laugh brings me so much joy. I cannot wait to have adventures with you. And thank you to your mummy and daddy for always being my best cheerleaders. Aweeeee x
To the rest of Team Bean, HG, Runch Gang. You have NO idea how much strength I draw from you. Thank you for keeping me motivated and for advice, snacks, munros and ideas. You are all amazing humans.
Until next time….