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Following a summer of Alpine Adventures, including a quick nip up and down Mont Blanc for Simon, I thought it about time to put those extra red (wine) blood cells to some real use… so headed North..quite a way and then some more…for the Nokia Sponsored Coast 2 Coast – accompanied with Salomon Sponsored Superstar Natalie White. The amalgamated team being named Westies / Salomon or Double Trouble!!

Essentially its a race from the East side to the West side (said in an Ali-G style!) begining in Nairn and finishing in Glen Coe. Being terribly disorganised we missed the solo entries but managed to ebuy an entry for the mixed pairs (with hindsight it was for the best as i’ve dislocated by shoulder and done something to the long nerve) that took a leisurely 2 days…

Day 1 consisted of a 7 mile trail run (flat and fast), 50 mile road cycle, plus 2 mile run and kayak (Nairn to Fort Augustus – FA in FA!), with Day 2, a 16 mile mountain bike, 17 mile road cycle, 14 mile hill run, plus 1 mile kayak (Fort Augustus to Glencoe).

We arrived in Nairn late on Friday night, after a covert op into Aviemore for Fish n Chips, to register and then to take the bikes to the secure compound for the first transition ….finally we were sorted and managed to get to bed around 1am…..

Day 1 – 4 HOURS later my superb Nokia phone broke the silence "occh noo get up its 5.25" (Hope anybody from Nokia reads this and wants to give us free entries next year!!). Good intentions were quickly dnf’d and after hitting the snooze button 10 times we finally found the kettle for a 1 litre of Timo Turbo Expresso! and a bit of last nights onion soup / chillimix…mmmm!

I was quite worried about the 7 mile trail race as Nat is a racing snake and was recoiled on the start line with 5 mins to go (I could see her from the portaloo’s!) The pre-race plan of starting steady and picking it up worked well until the first bend..

As we approached the end of the trail run we were 5th overall, with only men going solo (cough cough) in front – Nats is a dark horse at times and her apparant injuries had cleared up…. i’m sure we were the first and last team to ever have a sprint to transition!!

A quick turn around and on to the road bikes for 49.5miles in the rain and wind (0.5m – it was just windy) We caught a kiwi a few miles (he was green and quite hairy too) who had a different idea on what constituted "doing his bit". All went ok except for the long climb when Nat was going so fast i had to hold her back (see the pic!)

The end of this stage involved a short run done in a style not dissimilar to this YouTube clip followed by a fast paddle in Lake Ness then run to the finish, passing a cake shop (oh how we’d regret this later). End of Day 1 – 7th overall and 1st mixed team in a time of 4hr 20mins.

We’d left the girls* in the van at Nairn so whilst everybody else retired to refuel and rehydrate – a new miracle drink called beer does this simultaneously… our day wasn’t even half way with an epic " trains, buses and thumb" back to the start at Nairn before heading back to FA… and playing catch up on the refueling.

Day 2 – The phone rang at the same time…. rain beat against the roof and we quickly reviewed the day 2 stratgey to include more coffee and a bigger,more traditional, breakfast than yesterday consisting of porridge with loads of jam..

We had the option of starting day 2 anytime between 7am and 9am, so we opted for a 7.45am start (late as usual so made it for 8..ish) which coincided with the unveiling of our secret weapon – 1 meter of knicker elastic linking our bikes! The mountain bike section began on a muddy canal and then single track in to a forest on wide forestry tracks. Towing Nat was quite scary at times, especially, when doing just over 40mph downhill she started commenting upon the delightful forna and flora i was missing!!

Realised then that we should have cleared up her contributions to our Heath Robinson tandum – pedalling and braking ie we both needed too!! Fort Bill arrived about 0.75 seconds earlier for me than Nat, but i’m sure was trying to pass me on the line – too bloomin competitve!!

A quick transition to get our running shoes on, a bite to eat and off we ran – a 14mile hilll run which started of up the tourist path of Ben Nevis then back to the YHA before following the WHW to just above Kinlochleven. The route took a kink right then up, over and down a "real fell runners" descent onto the North Road around the Lake….

Paddling was bad enough especially as we’d be told to head for the house in the woods… surely they didn’t mean all 10 of them! I guess setting off in with the kayak facing the wrong way didn’t help too much and i blame that, rather than my earlier droolings in the window of a cake shop, for finishing 10 seconds behind the 3rd solo male (10 hours of going solo is epic according to Nats…) – but we still won the mixed pairs.

It’s a brilliant race, and if you laugh your way around it doesn’t seem that hard, esp as you feel like you’re getting somewhere – the weather was a pain but as the famous saying goes "In Scotland it’s not the weather that’s poor just your clothing!".

Tim Austin

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