• Nikki Bartlett

Aberfeldy British and Scottish Middle Distance Championships

So whilst having a night of post race insomnia, I thought to write my blog, after 3 hours of staring at the ceiling! If anyone has any tips on how to sleep post race, that would be marvelous.

Setting the scene: Aberfeldy is STUNNING, the views are an athlete’s paradise. Aberfeldy Middle Distance (half ironman distance; 1.9k, 56mile bike, half marathon) was set to be both the British and Scottish Middle Distance Championships for 2014.

The lead up to the race: Saturday 16th August: I was once again very lucky to have an awesome support team; Jenna, Bex, Bex’s mum & Grandma, and my parents. We spent Saturday chilling at The Cromlix Hotel (Andy Murray's restored hotel), which opened this year. It was a lovely experience and great value for money: £26 pp for: canapés, bread, starter, main, dessert and petit four! Thanks to Bex’s Grandma for the very kind treat.

We then travelled up to Aberfeldy, and did the pre-race day standard routine of registration, briefing, and as it was a split transition-handing in T2 kit. We then drove part of the cycle course.

Race day forecast: VERY windy, wet and cold!

Swim (1.9k): The swim location was in Loch Tay, the picture below will create a great insight, such a pretty swim location! We entered the water, which was apparently 15.8 deg-hmmm I won’t argue this, but it certainly felt A LOT colder. It was EXTREMELY choppy and when the whistle went, from start to finish it was in summary, a NIGHTMARE. If you would like an honest reflection of my swim read on. If not skip to the bike section. In summary it was my worst EVER swim to date and I hated every second of it.

The swim continued... Well we set off and with that my heart rate set off so fast it resulted in a massive panic, with the waves splashing my face. I tried to calm myself down by lying on my back and kicking. It didn’t work (after a couple of minutes trying), I wanted out. My panic rate increased and I can’t believe it on reflection, but I did in fact put my hand up and say ‘get me out of here'. Yes minus the ‘celebrity’ part-it was like an episode of Celebrity Jungle. After being told I would have to wait until all the swimmers went through, to be ‘shipped out’. I thought hmmm… I must try again! So off I went still panicking-waves hitting the face, yes crying, which resulted in my goggles steaming up. I tried a mixture of breast stroke and back kicking. I eventually calmed down and set off in some sort of swim mode.

I came out of the swim, a whole 32mins later (I think the swim was a little short) and was somehow STILL crying! For those who know me-I actually cannot remember the last time I cried. Out I came bloody crying and saw my lovely support crew and all I wanted was a big hug. Then my dad shouted out-Nikki your 15th female and I was thinking ‘oh dear god, I have a LONG ASS DAY AHEAD!’

The bike (56miles/90k): Still in a state, I set off on the bike, 6 minutes down on the lead females.

The bike course was seriously out of this world. They didn’t need to close the roads for good reason-there’s just no traffic (minus about 10mins in total of the course-which was very well organised). The wind was certainly making the bike course extremely challenging, then the rain added an extra element, on top of that-it was dam cold out there. I wore a short sleeve top under my tri suit and arm warmers. On reflection I would have put on another long sleeve and gloves.

The first part of the bike section was challenging, wind, hills, rain and lots of cornering. After this the section around the loch was fairly straightforward. All into a massive head wind. My arms, hands, legs and feet were numb for the majority of the bike section. This made it very hard to change gears too!

Mentally-I sorted my head out fairly quickly into the bike section. I simply had nothing to lose from the race as I was so far down! I just plugged away at each section of the course, with some aims within each section. I started to over-take a few girls. I then saw Andy with about 20k left of the bike from A1 multisport (fellow ambassador), who said I was in 3rd/4th. At first I didn’t believe him, but it seriously spurred me on. I came off the bike in 2nd place. On reflection minus being very cold, I loved the bike section, and I’m looking forward to driving back to Aberfeldy one day and just going out to cycle the course again!

The run (21k/half marathon): The run was a straightforward out and back section. The course was undulating, but with some tough climbing sections in there, certainly not a flat course. Again, the scenery was gorgeous. I was 2.5mins off 1st place (Caroline Livesey) at the start of the run. My immediate aim was to keep a high leg turn over and sort my numb feet out! I kept to my usual nutrition plan on the run; 1 gel at 20mins in, another between 45-50mins in. All with taking in as much fluid as possible.

With 7 miles into the run, I started to hear from fellow athletes that first place was just within eye-sight. I was certainly working my ass off. I was hurting big time at this stage and knew my goals going into the race, so kept focused, and a lot of self-talk under my breath! I was very very slowly making ground on first place, and time was slowly running out. I approached Caroline with about 0.5-1 mile to go. I was so exhausted to reach her; I thought to run with her for a bit. But as time was slowly ticking, my legs slowly starting to tire, I knew I had to make a painful move now.

Trying to ‘sprint’/push away with very little energy was a hard battle, and I wouldn’t have liked to see my running technique at this point ;-). I JUST about managed it. Running down the finishing straight in first place (female), I was simply elated. I could have shed another little tear – but of joy this time. But I was pretty much all cried out ;-). I was OVER THE MOON with a 1.24.30 half marathon split!

Results: 1st Female overall: British and Scottish Middle Distance Female Champion

Swim: 32mins

Bike: 2hours 49mins

Run: 1 hour 24 mins 30 secs

Overall time: 4.49.41

Well done to Caroline for 2nd place and Jen Stewart for 3rd place.

Well done to all of those who competed, tough course, tough conditions, but we are all so very lucky to have raced in such a fantastic location. That is one of the biggest joys of racing and training. You see and experience some of the most beautiful locations the UK and other countries have on offer. I feel very privileged to experience this.

If you are looking at racing at Aberfeldy next year, I would thoroughly recommend it. What I learnt from the race; practice in cold water and choppy conditions. For the bike, make sure you are confident with bike handling skills on very wet road surfaces, with wind. Dress warm. Also practice taking on nutrition in windy conditions, I struggled with this a little. I would also advise driving the bike course. For the run; not much to advise here to be honest. Overall; fantastic race to do and experience the Scottish countryside at its finest.

Thank you for lots of post race messages, support from family, friends and sponsors mean the world to me. Every sponsor plays such an important role, check out the awesome bunch here.

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