A lifetime ago when most of my running was done on tarmac, I used to do the odd road-based duathlon. I enjoyed the challenge of the mix of bike and run but in recent years have been less inclined towards them for some reason.

Last September saw a wee day out in Applecross and the discovery of the Glen Clova “extreme” duathlon which raises funds for the Tayside Mountain Rescue Team.

With the start and finish lines being located outside the Glen Clova hotel, the course was a tasty wee 27km cycle loop round the glen itself before heading to the upper reaches of Clova and then the first transition at the Glen Doll car park. From there it was a quick change into hill running kit for the run up the forest track into the absolutely stunning Coire Fee and a steep climb up the side of the waterfall before a last push to the summit of Mayar.

The route continues over the high plateau on a good track out to Dreish where you retrace the route a bit before dropping down the Kilbo path which could be described as “gnarly” being narrow and rocky. A short section of forest trail leads back to the transition and then back onto the bike for the short spin back to the finish line at the Glen Clova Hotel.

I drove up to stay with pals just outside Kirriemuir Friday night but the Clova Hotel kindly let competitors camp in the field opposite the hotel. Just after parking my wee Berlingo and muttering about van envy whilst admiring a selection of VW T5s and other such luxury accommodation, I met Gregor who confirmed he had a less than ideal night and hadn’t slept much. Registration and kit faff over, it was time to start. The road was still open to the public, so in order to keep things sensible and safe, they set off folks in waves of 20 riders by race number for the first bike section. I had entered early so found myself in the first wave. Fairly quickly, things settled down and strangely I found myself sitting behind the lead rider for most of the route. With about 10km to go I felt like the bike legs had a wee bit in them so opted to nip past and try to get as much time as I could between me and the chasing pack. It was a really spooky (and unfamiliar!) feeling being first into transition not knowing how long it was between the waves of subsequent riders and runners, who would have amongst them Gregor and the other racing snake types.

I left the transition feeling like I had picked up someone else’s legs and even my best running effort felt awkward and weird, I looked back and still couldn’t see anyone. I began to wonder if they had cancelled the race for some reason but made my way up the track and into the coire anyway. Starting up the climb at the waterfall, I looked back to see a pile of runners closing in rather quickly. I tried to maintain my position but got caught by a skinny triathlete type just before the summit of Mayar. Another fella shot past shortly after that as well and I resigned myself to trying to simply keep up as best as I could. On the return from Dreish, I saw Gregor who was doing great as usual. The top section of the Kilbo path was technical enough to level things out a bit and I managed to hold my position until the lower slopes where I lost another couple of places.

Back at the bike I was over the moon to see my watch showing 2:40 as I clipped into the pedals for the last 6km ride and knew that failing anything technical on the bike, the target time of under three hours was safe. I could feel wee tinges of impending cramp in my calf muscles as I headed back down the glen but thankfully it never amounted to much but I was extremely happy to cross the line and rehydrate in the sun whilst watching the remainder of the race.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to stay for the post-race beers and music since I had Johnston Orr’s wedding to go to but that is another story all together…

Gregor was in 8th position at 2:44.42 and I finished in 12th position at 2:49.11 from 132 finishers.

While I won’t be trading in hill running for duathlons anytime soon, this was a great course, super well organised and a braw way to mix up the racing season a bit !

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