Glen Affric Race Report - Alex Kemp
As I build towards the Celtman and some longer races later in the year, a
notice from our Club Secretary entitled ‘for you off piste triers’, earlier in the
year sparked my interest in the recently rejuvenated Glen Affric Off-road
Duathlon. In my opinion, set in one of the more spectacular and remote glens
in the west of Scotland the event combines a 13km fell/hill race, 29km
mountain bike and 4km trail run to finish.
As the weather appeared to be warming up, I suggested to my wife and two
daughters that we make a weekend of it, and head off in the campervan
combining a search for ‘Nessie’, which my daughters have been fascinated
with for sometime. We arrived in Cannich late on Friday night and managed
to grab some sleep, although arguably not the best pre-race night’s sleep, as
the campervan tends to be a bit of a novelty leading to a lively night with some
The following morning dawned overcast and quite chilly, which led me to
consider a change of race gear during registration. I tend to work off the basis
of start cold, finish warm versus the start warm finish boiling approach and I
was glad that I stuck with the former, as it warmed up during the race.
The field was made up of a range of abilities; some hardcore fell/hill racers,
some avid mountain bikers and the triathlon crowd, with a good turnout from
far afield. The first run starts off with a punishing 7km of uphill, climbing from
100m to 500m on a track which then peters out to bog and streams; the pace
was fast and I managed to hold the lead up to the river crossing before a
group of four of us jostled for the lead on the steep and technical downhill to
the banks of Loch Affric, where the route then returns to transition along the
loch side by a track and road. I arrived in transition in 4th place, just shy of 1-
hour, and felt in good form and fresh for the bike.
After a good transition I was off on the bike and had opted to keep my tires at
higher than normal pressure due to the amount of time on the fire roads that
the route followed; traded off against the slightly bumpier ride on the more
rugged parts of the route. Since working with Blair my bike times have
improved significantly and I quickly moved into a 2nd place, which is a dramatic
change on where I was 3-months ago, where I would lose places on the bike.
As we hit the first big climb past Dog Falls I caught sight of the guy in first
place and started to gain ground on him, although had to caution myself to not
blow out too quickly, given the further climbs on the route. A long sweeping
downhill follows this climb before the route climbs steeply back up the south
face of Loch Affric, where I assumed the lead and then put the power on down
the hill and along the loch side back to transition, where I arrived in just under
1 hour 10 mins.
Another good transition into the final run, but well aware that I had Peter Flick
on my heels, who had made very good time on the bike. The final run is an
out and back route on tracks; I pushed hard, but a quick glance over my
shoulder 1km from the finish saw that Peter was within about 20m of me. I
gave it all I had and managed to hold him off, coming in just over 3 secs
ahead of him, feeling delirious and exhilarated at the same time, as I am used
to being near the front of the field, but not winning.
After the family’s awesome support during the event, we started to wend our
way back home in the campervan via the Loch Ness exhibition, the
Commando memorial at Spean Bridge and the Falls of Bruar, stopping in Fort
Augustus for some much needed fish and chips! This will go down as one of
my most memorable weekends for a whole variety of reasons and I will
definitely be back to do this race in future years. It has given me a real boost
and I can feel the benefit that the change in training regime has brought to my
performance and belief in what is achievable.