Celtman - Chris Stirling

Race report by Chris Stirling:

What a day, Celtman 2015 did not disappoint for sure, an amazing weekend spent with good friends in an awesome place and what has to be my hardest days racing ever. I can honestly say I have never learnt so much about myself and racing in one day before, obviously not the result I had hoped for and not my best days racing but looking back now its irrelevant. The reason I am so drawn to preparing for and competing in these events is what you learn along the way, sometimes positive, sometimes negative but its all part of the process. The journey that Celtman offers in its unique, at times brutal but beautiful environment and atmosphere never fails to deliver.

Me and Steve heading along the ridge

First off huge congratulations to Dirk Zangen, winner of the race in 11hrs51mins. Celtman once again has the champion it deserves, he is a top man, dedicated, focussed and humble, the finish line photo of him with his daughter says it all. 10th in 2013 with a foot injury, he came back focussed, prepared and had an awesome race, nice one Dirk, another Celtman inspiration. He led from start to finish for a comprehensive victory.

In 2014 I had a great day, one of those where it just all falls into place, sure it was physically hard, particularly towards the end but it all went fairly smoothly. Full of confidence, which I never had before, I went away and trained harder, addressed weakness's, improved, got stronger and came to race day 2015 feeling stronger than ever. What I learnt though is you can feel and be as strong as you like, but without the right mindset, none of that matters and with a race like Celtman you will be in for a very hard day, mentally and physically, if you allow it to be that way. The problem was I wanted to win and in that drive lost sight of what's most important in these long events, staying in the moment. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win, but it clearly is not the best driving force for good days racing. Its not a situation I have ever been in before, so its all learning, I can be hard on myself at the best of times so I am not intending to be here.

The other factor is that sometimes its just not your day, the strongest and best prepared athlete on the day usually wins and that's how it should be. By the time I got off the bike, Dirk was 30 mins ahead, on his way to the mountain, after a great swim and record breaking bike split, set into a headwind for the final 40km. Way too far ahead to realistically catch but I never gave up and always had a little hope until we hit the final stretch of tarmac to Torridon.

As usual it was great to catch up with the Celtman Family, many of whom had great races, some not so but it was the highlight of the weekend to spend time with all these amazing people. Heading to Torridon really does feel like going home, so thanks everyone, I enjoyed every minute spent with you all. No other race has this feeling for me and its the main reason I will probably be back next year. Hopefully everyone else will be too, if not we will have to sort something out!

Pre Race dip, hosted by Nannys Tea Room, Shieldaig

I am going to keep the race day shorter than usual, I think I have said it all above :)

The Bus!

Celtman starts with a bus journey to the swim start, I love it, we are all in the same boat about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, its an amazing atmosphere and fitting start to the day.

The Swim-

A quick dip the day before had settled my mind, the water was not too bad, the kit I had chosen was perfect and I knew I would not be too cold. The sky was moody to say the least but the wind calm. The crossing of the loch feels wild, you really are out in the middle, an awesome experience to say the least. I tried to get in the zone, I had worked hard on my swimming this winter, really hard so felt confident I could start hard and put in a reasonable time. So I did, but too hard for too long and I felt far too tense for the whole way. Working super hard but not moving very fast. Only myself to blame for this. As soon as I got out I knew it had not been great but my amazing support crew helped me out and a quick transition had me out on the bike.

The Bike-

I knew I was well down the field and had to have a good ride to get back into the race, my head was not in a great place, it was raining and a bit windy so I got my head down and rode hard from the start trying to make up the time. I am used to doing this in shorter races but its not the best plan for a 202km ride with 2300m of ascent. I was riding on emotion and paid for it later on, compounding things I was seriously uncomfortable on the saddle, this caused real issues for the last 30km, into a headwind, unable to get down on the bars and feeling spent from riding so hard at the start. My support crew got me through this and put up with me, I wanted to quit most of the way but they kept me going and looked after me. It is the hardest day I have ever spent on a bike but I am glad I went through it. I certainly learnt a lot!

The Run-

The happiest I have ever been to get off a bike, another quick transition, I still had a glimmer of hope and was looking forward to the run on Bein Eighe whatever. I left transition close to 2nd and 3rd place and passed them by the top of the first hill. I ran hard through the Coulin Pass, but saved a bit knowing my strongest section was still to come. I thought after the ride my legs would be shot but it did not turn out that way. Meeting Steve at T2a and ready for the hill, I was glad of the company and enjoyed the mountain, we chased hard but really had no one to chase, Dirk was so far ahead! The descent was so different to last year, my legs were tired but I felt relaxed and enjoyed it. When we hit the road I knew the chase was up, it was lovely to have Jo run with me down the road to the finish line.

The Final Climb

So that was Celtman 2015, in hindsight the most rewarding race I have ever done, I will learn and adapt more than ever from it, so I am glad it was the way it was. I will go back, but I will make sure I keep focus on the things that matter this time, old and new friends, Shieldaig, Torridon, our friends the Jelly fish and that awesome ridge line on the mountain. :)

 

Mens Podium, Me, Dirk, Odd Arne and Heiko

Next stop is a little race in Norway that first inspired me to take up triathlon...Norseman here we come!

Without my amazing support crew I could not have done it, thanks Steve and Jo for being awesome. Also everyone along the way who has shown support and helped out, you all know who you are, its all appreciated, hopefully I can repay the favour sometime.

I am planning to write a short XTRI kit blog soon, but thanks to Zone3Eleven Sprocket,LaSportivaCurraNZ and Blair Davies Coaching for your support this season. Also Colin Henderson and Ross Millar for the amazing photos and support.

All winners