Celtman Delivers Despite Mountain Disruption

17th June was the sixth edition of the Celtman! Extreme Scottish Triathlon and once more I nipped over to Torridon to cover an event that remains captivating, inspiring and moving in equal measure.  Below is a brief storyboard on my day through the lens.  All of my images from the day are available at Celtman Images where you will also find the updated Celtman Hall of Fame – Alligin Photography’s personal tribute to all the great triathletes who have competed in Celtman!

Inverbain and the start of the swim in Loch Shieldaig.  The wind is keeping the dreaded midges away but it will make the swim more difficult.  As the competitors are dropped off by the buses I am always captivated by those final few minutes before they enter the water.  That distant look of the competitor preparing for an event that they have already given so much towards.


A final look at the iconic Celtman symbol as the short walk to the beach is made.


The assembled field at the start just after their traditional “team photograph”
Francesco Mirando is first out of the water in a time of 49 minutes 7 seconds for the 3.4K open water swim in the cold Shieldaig waters.  He was the only competitor to duck below 50 minutes which shows how tough the course was with an awkward chop and gusting cross wind.
Supporters at the Old Pier, Shieldaig, urge on their swimmers as they reach the first transition.
Blown off course!  The final stretch to the exit was probably the worse for the cross wind and those that did not hug the island found it difficult to make headway, not helped by a falling tide.  This competitor was one of two that was blown across the bay at Shieldaig.
The final swimmer, Jonathan Forrest, shows the tiredness already in the body as he makes the final push for the shore.


As Forrest was leaving the water eventual race winner, Chris Stirling was already powering through the field on the bike section where he took a lead he was not to relinquish.  Nearing the end of the 202K cycle, the last 40k of which were in to strong head winds, he maintains his form on the bike that had seen him build up a commanding 22minute lead over Alan Sample in 2nd place.


With Mountain Rescue closing the high route over Beinn Eighe I missed both Chris and Alan on the run.  This is Alan Semple on the bike working hard to keep the distance between him and Chris Stirling down before the final run section.  He was to take nearly 18 minutes out of Chris in the run and finish only 2mins 39secs behind.  His run raises one of those great debates in sport as to what would have happened if they had competed over the longer high course!  We will never know.


An example of the cross wind as with tied legs it becomes a struggle to keep the bike upright and straight.  The 25k from Garve to Achnasheen was brutal in to a strong, gusting headwind.  This image is taken after they turn through 90 degrees at Achnasheen to complete the final section to T2 at Achnashellech Forrest.  It must have been very hard mentally to cope that despite the turn the wind was still a head wind!


Despite the head wind it was good to see the competitors resisting any urge to draft one another.


Thor Hesselberg was competing in his 5th Celtman and has a highest place finish of 11th on his CV.  But the relentlessness of the wind during the 2017 cycle was showing on his face as he came passed.  You can read more about Thor’s Celtman achievements at the Celtman Hall of Fame.


And did I tell you it was wet aswell!  Good form being maintained but over 6 hours cycling in the wet and wind was mentally tough and threw a number of schedules out of the window and meant that far fewer triathletes made the cut off at T2a for the “blue” shirt race.


And a final image from the cycle section is a nod to my former life.  It was good to see the Royal Marine colours on show.  I believe this is Simon Whitby of the Royal Navy Triathlon club who went on to finish 44th in a time of 13:25:59.


With Being Eighe closed a change of plan for me, parking at Inver Alligin and a walk up between Being Alligin and Liathach to catch the competitors before they returned to the road.  As mentioned I missed Chris Stirling and Alan Semple but running strongly in 3rd was Odd Ivar Solved who was also first Vet home.


I believe this is Chris Watson tracking the route of the river Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil as he heads for home.  The RAF man took the Service honours with an excellent 7th place in a time of 11:53:36


Marie Meldrum running strongly to become the first Women home winning both the Women’s open event and retaining her Veterans title from 2016.  She finished in 24th place with a time 12:42:17.  Go to Celtman Hall of Fame to read about a number of other Celtman records that Marie now holds, quite some achievement from arguably the most successful Celtman!


Over thirteen hours on the go and much of it in the rain and wind.  Compare the river to the image above and if you look at the rock i the middle you will see how much it has risen due to the now incessant rain.  It was a tough Celtman! in more ways than one.  And the BBC reported a heatwave in the UK!


Still going strong.  Alex Glasgow, the inaugural Celtman! Extreme Scottish Triathlon winner acts as a support runner as he leads the way down towards Inver Alligin.


Tired eyes remain focussed during the final stages for this Celtman.


After a long day with the lens this remains one of my favourite images.  I would like to think that he has just been told by his support runner that there is a free bottle of specially brewed Celtman! ale at the finish.  Whatever the reason he was coming passed at a rate of knots and best to keep off the path until he was passed.


And this images reminds me how tough a day it is.


But the tougher the challenge the greater the sense of achievement.


An achievement that is both personal and shared.  Competitor and support runner enjoy their final few moments in the Scottish back country before the final 4K on the road back to Torridon village where they will collect their free bottle of Celtman! Ale, refuel and share the camaraderie of the 6th Edition of Celtman.  Mountain Rescue may have closed Beinn Eighe but with the rain and particularly the strong winds the day had remained “extreme” and another Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon was confined to the history books.  Congratulations to all the triathletes who competed in 2017.





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