2013, the fifth Tollaidh Triathlon. Paul retained the title as overall winner. He joked that he should get to keep the Golden Karabiner now that he has won it three times, like they do with the World Cup. The crowd were outraged and reminded him in no uncertain terms that he was duty bound to protect the prize of prizes and return and defend it next year.
It was a tough race. Weather conditions weren’t great with a stiff SW breeze and wet and slippery underfoot. There were a few first time entrants this year that added an excitement of unknown competition.
After two months of dry, cold weather, last week it all changed. The thaw set in and the rain poured for three whole days. On Friday it was dry but Creag nan Luch certainly wasn’t. Paul had a few hours at the crag with Jim ‘wildwest’ Buchanan and Jake ‘the apprentice’ Bulmer to get the draws in the routes for the event. The forecast for the following day was dry but dull. At 6am the rain was lashing the window and the wind was rattling the roof slates. Game on, you get what you get. In the end the forecast was right, sunny showers and a dry afternoon. Creag nan Luch is sheltered in those conditions and perfectly climbable. The crag was certainly drier than on the Friday and Simon ‘the Champ’ Nadin commented how good the friction was, just a pity he couldn’t feel his fingers whilst climbing.
Nineteen runners set off on the 8km hill run from Tollie over to Slattadale. All made it, just. There was high drama when Andrew Wilby missed his footing on the treacherous and rocky descent. He took a bone crunching fall landing heavily on his side and back. With blood pouring out of his hand he carried on at full pelt as only a ‘Wilby’ could do and ran into Slattadale just a minute and a half behind Calum Cunningham. Calum is a future potential Champ and once he gets his paws on the Golden Karabiner it is going to be pretty hard to wrestle it back off him. But the same was said and thought of Wilby and yet events have a way of taking unforeseen twists.
At Slattadale Calum got on his Mum’s aged mountain bike (the only half decent bike in the family, a clan of climbers not cyclists) and found himself cycling through treacle towing a trailer load of ten tonne logs. Predictably he was soon suffering severe cramps and hopes of taking the Karabiner back to Ullapool faded as the rest of the field began catching up and passing him.
The Triathlon is decided at the crag, it is a climber’s triathlon after all. Andrew Wilby was first to make it to the finish at Creag nan Luch but couldn’t climb due to his injuries. He was feeling very sore and needed a hot bath and an ice pack or two plus major attention for his lacerated thumb. He was wishing he had never heard the phrase Tollaidh Triathlon. With Andrew failing to complete and Calum lying in the heather suffering hypoglycaemia, the event was wide open. A lot of the rest of the field were new to climbing or even touching rock for the first time in their lives so Paul was handed the title on a plate being the only competitor who actually completed the event rather than just finishing it off with a top-rope climb. He managed to get up Toss, 6c, as his second route but only just, clipping the anchor with not many seconds to spare from the ‘five minute climb time’.
The women’s field was led by Megan Macrae, a local lass brought up on the local crags and hills. She put in a brilliant run and cycle time of under two hours.
A lot of people had a lot of fun, some more than others. I hope everyone gained something from the experience and that it adds another hue to the colour of their lives. I want to thank all the people who came along to help out, time keepers, road safety marshals, belayers, food providers, prize providers….without you all it doesn’t happen.
See you next year I hope.
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