Friday, May 23, 2014

Celtman Recce Weekend Part 1 - Venue, Transition and Swim Recce.

So this is what it is all about, finding excellent camp sites on the way to the race.  A peaceful first night in the tent (been a while since we've used one of those) given the late-hour dinner of bacon and pesto pasta.  Andrew slept well but I froze occasionally until I woke up enough to wrap myself in a blanket inside my sleeping bag and vowed never to forget my fleecy PJs for camping ever again - even in May.

We stopped off at Kinlochewe for fuel and the best coffee and |French toast ever, made in the oven "with love".

At Torridon we dismissed the soggy camp site, realising why my parents used to choose the one at Shieldaig.

We went over to Shieldaig and had a little walk to buy lunch food and figure out where the swim goes.  Because it's an A-to-B swim, it looks like a helluva long way although I have to say that in a way, it felt less daunting than 3 laps of quite a long way at the Forestman course.

Not a lot has changed since I was here though, for reference, that was when these trees did not exist.  My mum and I used to make a bee-line straight down this hill from the campsite at the top to the toilet block at the bottom.  Just to do our toothypegs at night.

Since my middle name is Eileen, as a child, I always secretly wanted to swim around the Island of Tighe An Eilean.  On raceday I will get to do this and more.  All with the presence of a safety crew of course.

Tigh An Eilean
We drove up to the swim start and went to have a look at where we'll be staying for the week.  It's walkable between the two for my parents (or rather my early-rising mother) if they want to see me off, so that's nice.
Celtman T=0 - the beautiful, grassy swim start
Hopefully Celtman T1=90minutes, the swim exit
We headed back to Torridon to find the finishing point at the village hall and eat our lunch overlooking the sea view.  I'd accepted Gairloch as the accommodation option for this weekend - better facilities and the opportunity for me to do a sea swim without most of Shieldaig village watching.

We drove up there, me enjoying seeing the bike route and enjoying just how many long, flat sections there are - something that doesn't come across on the route profile.  Sadly I also appreciate they will be tough if it is a windy day... but not as tough as they would have been on the old bike.

Open to new things, we went to check out the camp site in Gairloch village.  It seemed to have mediocre facilities but when we enquired at the office, the guy seemed very keen to take our details quickly.  It transpired he was also very keen to take our money quickly and quoted us an extortionate rate to stay.

We made our excuses and left to "check out the other campsite".  He warned us they would probably be full which I knew to be a complete lie since Big Sands is a massive campsite.  Seriously unimpressed we were welcomed with open arms at Big Sands and a price tag less than half and many many more cubicles, hot showers and even baths... (I know, they're for the children...)

We took a while to find a sheltered site to avoid flapping canvas nights then set about squeezing into our wetsuits, thanks mostly to TSK's enthusiasm and excitement.  After all the driving I was less excited about the excruciating cold pains but my mood soon improved when the sun came out and I realised the sea was still there and hadn't retreated a few kms.  So happy indeed.

My boots were a blessing in disguise s TSK's ankles were so cold he almost fell at the first hurdle (waves) I was already trying crawl and playing in the waves when TSK's testicles threw him out of the water for the third time.  Finally he was hit square in the back by a breaking wave and took to mincing along the beach making me feel slightly safer.

I did some body surfing, stared at some seaweed and had a play with it to break my fear.  Stared at a (non-stinging) jelly fish and admired its beauty to try and break that fear but that didn't work and I just swam away very quickly.  It freaked me out a bit and I started to think that every shadow was a Portuguese man o' war.

I had another play in the waves but then, whilst I could have stayed in longer, I decided there was little point in tiring myself out and putting myself off and letting Andrew get cold on the beach.  I'd managed to make the equilibrium of getting a bit wet and getting it warm.  If only I can manage that on race day I'll be sorted.  My head hurt because of the wind that was blowing the cold water everywhere but I took solace in the sheltered location of the swim in Loch Sheildaig as opposed to the open space of Gairloch.

For reference, the water was about 9-10 degrees and I managed about 10-15 minutes in the sea.  It certainly woke me up to just how cold it might still be 5 weeks from now and I will redouble my efforts to do cold water adaptation swims as well as distance over the next few weeks.  That said, I'm glad I took the opportunity to experience it first hand, knowing that it can only really get warmer.  I also discovered a new love for crystal-clear water and found that I didn't have any adverse reaction to the seawater taste.  All good learning experiences & things to look forwards to as well as to address.

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