So I did it, I crossed Scotland in a day. Well 11 hours, 8 minutes and 3 seconds to be precise. 11 hours of continuous exercise starting in Nairn on the east coast and finishing in Glencoe on the west coast. It was brutal, challenging, spectacular and exhausting. The Scotland coast to coast I salute you.
What more would you expect from 28 miles of running, 85 miles of cycling and 2 miles of kayaking with the small matter of 4,000 metres of climbing (and the equivalent descent)? It’s the longest I’ve ever cycled and for the stat lovers amongst you also featured the slowest half marathon I’ve ever done at 3 hours (if you’d seen the ‘hills’ you’d understand why).
But what a race, the weather was as close to perfect as is possible, sun and cloud the whole day and a pleasant 14 degrees once it the day had warmed up. Although my feet were blocks of ice for the first bike ride, something to keep in mind for any winter bike riding I do. We had just one small shower in the whole day and almost zero wind which was my big worry going into the race.
My little brother and I did the race as a pair, we’re nicely suited in terms of running and cycling pace so complement each other well in a team. Plus having that moral support and someone to chat to along the way always helps distract you from the many miles ahead. It also helps that he’s studying sport science at university so could plan our nutrition strategy for us.
Now that it’s a few days later and the aches have started to subside I can look back with fondness and pleasure at ticking a race off the bucket list but there was a moment during the final run where pleasure was not something on my mind. We were hiking up the final ascent, we had no gels or food left and I was starting to run on empty. Not a nice feeling but it was fixed by one delicious, magical, succulent fruit pastel offered by another competitor. A little piece of sugary jelly has never tasted so good!
It was a great race, the route passes through some of the best scenery the UK has to offer, it’s a big challenge but also one that is achievable if you have a decent level of fitness. Although I wouldn’t recommend you wearing road shoes if you do attempt it as I saw a few people doing. I have no doubt they regretted them as much as the people I saw fall over 8 times on the final descent towards the finish. Organisation from Rat Race was also top notch as were the marshals stuck out in the middle of no where but still with a cheery word for every competitor.
Would I do it again? Maybe, it was an awesome race to do but the only reason I’d go back is if I thought I could get fit enough to knock at least an hour off my time and that means a lot more cycling. Not sure I have the motivation or time to commit to that any time soon.
However it was a very useful race for a couple of other reasons. Firstly nutrition, this is by far the longest race I’ve ever done so was a step into the unknown nutrition wise. Gels were always going to feature but for that long a duration we also needed something with some substance. We went with peanut butter sandwiches and I found them perfect to get some food in my stomach when I was feeling a bit sickly from the gels. However I got through 8 gels and 6 pieces of bread made into sandwiches and that still wasn’t enough. We also ate some flapjack at one of the transitions which quite honestly was heavenly. Think I’ll try that on some long runs as they get you carbs and sugar while being easy to eat.
Secondly also learnt the importance of kit, I kept it fairly simple but on the whole was very pleased with my kit choices. No blisters rubbing of any problems which is great. My rucksack was a little on the heavy side but is comfortable and I couldn’t justify buying a new one, I will keep it in mind when I come to buy my next one though. I also quite liked running in my lycra cycling shorts, comfortable and supportive so may consider some running specific ones for running events.
Finally I now know that I can do a race of that length and intensity, I have the endurance to keep going for a long period and aside from the final massive hill at the end of the 2nd run I felt quite strong also. It gives you a lot of confidence and mental strength which in endurance sports is everything. Shows that all those 6am runs have been worthwhile and have given me a really good base fitness.
But it’s always an odd feeling when you finally do a race that you have been planning for a long time, feels like something is missing from your life all of a sudden. So inevitably my mind starts thinking about the next challenge….perhaps a marathon?