Nokia Coast to Coast race report by Kim Threadgall

I completed the inaugural Nokia Scottish Coast to Coast on Sunday which was a 100 mile journey from Nairn to the Isles of Glencoe Hotel in Ballachulish on foot, bike and kayak.  Over the weekend there were three categories and the one which appealed to me happened to be the ‘expert’ category as it involved 11 miles of kayaking compared to one mile in the other categories.  Before entering the race though I checked with the organisers that I would be okay to take part in case they were only looking for elite racers!

My category was limited to 50 athletes and involved a 7 mile flat trail run, 34 mile road cycle, 11 mile kayak, 33 mile cycle (16 miles off road), 14 mile trail run and a quick 1 mile kayak to the end.  I enjoy all the above disciplines so I was looking forward to this event all year!  After returning from doing the Swiss Alpine Marathon at the beginning of August I felt really good and all memories of broken ankles were forgotten so I managed to get in lots of good training before the event.  In fact out of everything fitness was the least of my worries, logistics, support and kit choices were the main concern.

Unlike the other categories we could change bikes for the second bike stage and the recommended bike was a cyclocross bike (as we would be riding both on and off road).  Not owning a cyclocross bike and not planning on buying a new bike I decided that my hardtail mountain bike would be good enough.  Ian kindly changed my tires for me although they were still pretty big tires as we decided we wanted to limit the chance of getting a puncture even if it meant I would lose time in speed.

Then there was the kayaking section…always the bane of my life.  Although the kayaking section was classed as a flat paddle I had heard it could get quite choppy.  I decided to stick to a sea kayak even though most people I seemed to speak to were using surf skis or k1’s!  In the end I borrowed Drew Sharkey’s sea kayak which is faster than my plastic tub but still very stable.  This gave me a lot more confidence going into the kayaking section.

The biggest help to me though was my support crew.  My mum, dad and Ian – not sure what I would have done without them as they did a brilliant job!  My dad basically planned out everything, my mum was in charge of food and Ian was in charge of the kit on the day.  My motto for the race was ‘pace’ and ‘fuel’ so I told my mum to make sure I ate at each transition even if I refused…..

This is the first race I had tapered for all year so the amount of energy I had leading up to the event was unbelievable, it also meant I didn’t sleep very well though!  Race day came and although we had only planned on taking up one car, we basically filled up two cars of kit and food – not sure how other people managed to do it with one car and one support person!  I knew quite a few people doing the race so had a few texts going back and forward on the day and met up with Nick Beckett at registration with Claire who was acting as his support for the race.  Paul Cooper had to pull out of the race and so he offered to help Claire with Nick’s support.

I wish I could spring out of bed every morning as I did on Sunday morning at 4.15 am…I even beat my alarm clock.  I had a quick shower and had some breakfast talking excitedly to another racer before collecting my bag and making my way to the start line with my parents (as Ian was heading straight to the first transition point).  It was dark at 6am when the race started so we all wore head torches.  Only 40 people had turned up on the day and only 4 of them were females….I had a very good chance of winning or coming last I thought!  Gary Tompsett set us on our way and before I knew it we were on the course running across the grass before it led us on to the river path.  Nick was behind me at this point but I know he tends to start off conservatively so about 4 minutes went by before he caught up with me and we managed to run together the whole way.

The run felt great, legs felt great and I knew I was running at a comfortable pace which is just as well as Nick chatted to me the whole way!  Over the last 20 minutes of the course Nick and I ran with Kenny Short however, as we pulled into the transition area at Cawdor Castle I said goodbye to them knowing that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them on the bike.  This was probably my quickest transition point and I was out on my bike before Nick and Kenny, so I shouted to them that I would see them in a couple of minutes!  I was slightly paranoid about the first section as it was very rocky so took it very slowly as I didn’t want to get a puncture…

I settled into a decent pace waiting for everyone to pass me, Claires car passed me and I naturally followed the road around the bend with them until I saw her stop and I realised I couldn’t see Stevie Grant in front of me anymore.  For a non navigational course I couldn’t believe I hadn’t spotted the sign so turned back up the road just as Nick and Kenny went flying passed me.  I shouted to Nick (not that I wanted him to stop and wait for me..) so that he knew that I wasn’t in front of him anymore.  I had to laugh slightly as he would be thinking that I was having an amazing cycle when he never caught up with me!!

The rest of the cycle was pretty uneventful, I tend to get quite bored on the road bike particularly when there is no one around me and I found myself constantly watching the mileage praying for it to be over soon.  A few people passed me including Matt but the majority of the field were already in front of me at that point due to there being such a high standard of male athletes.  It started to rain which didn’t bother me at first but I then got really cold and my calf muscles (I was wearing ¾ length tights) felt really tight and I was worried about them cramping up.  I had only planned on changing my top half for the kayak section but by the time I came off the bike I was freezing and ended up changing into completely fresh kit.  I was quite glad to get into the kayak as it was warmer but straight away my left arm started to complain… stupidly I hadn’t been using my tri bars in training and I think the different position had maybe hurt my arm.  It meant I never really got into the kayak section and couldn’t get much strength into my stroke which was disappointing.

Although kayaking isn’t my strongest discipline I actually enjoy plodding up lochs in choppy weather but it felt like I had never been in a boat before.  My right wrist also started to hurt and I just wanted to get this section over and done with too.  I don’t think it helped that I was once again completely on my own at this point and I was feeling a bit lonely…

It is always a relief getting to the end of the kayaking section in one piece however, I had seen a couple of boats on the other side of the loch passing me.  I dropped the boat and ran 600 metres or so to my support crew who were waiting with my change of kit and food.  I had been in the lead up until this point and was reassured that it was two men who had passed me at the end.  I had a feeling that if I was in the lead at this point then unless something bad happened such as a mechanical issue then I should manage to keep up my lead.  I felt myself relaxing and for some reason spent a lot more time in transition than I should have.  My mum tried to force me to eat but all I could stomach was a glass of coke and a banana.  I couldn’t eat anything else and felt bad about all the uneaten food my mum had prepared!!  Looking at the results I was disappointed with my time on this next section but if I hadn’t spent 17 minutes in transition it would have been a lot quicker (and no I wasn’t putting on make up but I did brush my hair…).

I must admit I love my mountain bike and from that point onwards it just felt fun.  I am not the most technical mountain biker out there but at the same time I am not really into fast flat canal sections, so a few guys (the racer category met up with our category at this point) went whizzing passed me on this section but I soon caught up with them again as they struggled on the really muddy section which followed which was fun!  Thankfully no mechanicals and a few hours later I found myself pulling into the transition area at Fort William.

Now for the pain to begin…..although running is my strongest discipline I also knew this is when it would really start to hurt!  Again I tried to eat but only managed a banana and a bit of muffin.  I changed again, faffed around and I was off…thankfully the first mile or so was on the road so it gave me a chance to stretch out my legs which were feeling surprisingly okay.  I soon hit the trails and I found myself passing a lot of people (a mixture of people doing the challenger 2 day event and the 1 day racer event).  I kept running and I must admit it felt like the longest 14 mile run I have done…I estimated it would take me about 2.5 hours but realised that it was going to take me longer than this!

The run continues on the WHW before turning right towards Kinlochleven.  I felt good all the way until we turned right and I just lost the will to live at this point…suddenly the whole day just caught up with me and I felt really tired.  I was still in the lead so I decided just to walk with everyone else at this point.  The marshall at the turn off said ‘only 3 miles to go’ but it was the toughest 3 miles of the day and to make matters worse the downhill section was a mud bath!!  Every time I tried to run I fell, bodies were flying over all over the place, some decided it would be easier to slide down and I just walked down in a daze.  I noticed Paul half way down on his bike and rode the rest of the run with me, I eventually dropped off the hill after 3 long hours and hit the road for another few minutes.  My legs felt like led at this point and when I arrived at the final transition point I felt drunk!  I had planned a super quick transition but stood around swaying from side to side as Ian changed my shoes (I hadn’t planned on changing anything at this point).  Ian asked me if I was okay to get in the boat at this point and I nodded my head and let him help me in my boat and push me out into the water.  The first couple of minutes were slow and then suddenly I had a second wind and felt great, the finish line was in sight and the paddling was really easy.

I was greeted by my parents, Nick and Claire cheering for me and I pulled into the shore, helped take my boat out of the water, took off my spraydeck and ran the final 300 metres loop across the finish line.  Bizarrely my legs had recovered again from the rest in the boat and they felt fine doing the run.  We all had lots of hugs and photos taken before Ian appeared – he hadn’t seen me finish as he had to drive around from the last transition.

I completed the course in 11 hours and 52 mins and first female (23rd overall).  Nick finished in 11 hours 15 minutes and was 18th overall.  It was a really good event and one that I would definitely do again.  As we had spent a lot of time planning the transition points it went smoothly on the day although next year I will probably aim to do faster transitions and not spend so much time trying to eat if my body continues to reject it!  Gels, jelly babies, bananas and energy drinks were the only things I could stomach but I have made it up for it this week!  Having a great support crew definitely made a big difference and I can’t thank them enough for what they did for me, both throughout the race and the days following it.

8 thoughts on ““Nokia Coast to Coast race report by Kim Threadgall”

  • VictoriaLomax

    Great report kim and well done too! I’d love to do that one next year (in the racer NOT the elite category though – 1 mile in a kayak is more than enough for me!!)

  • Jean Ashley

    Enjoyed your report Kim, and well done, there was no way I was ever going to catch you … but I enjoyed trying! Same thorghts as you … couldnt of done it without a ‘brill’ Support Crew, husband and daughter, they brought me back from the darkside at least twice! Maybe see you next year ….I think its got to be done again … would love to see the scenary! All the best … and I hope you got a prize great shame they didnt wait for the girls! Cheers Jean

  • Cath

    Thanks for the write up Kim. I find it totally inspiring to know there are women like you entering the expert category and doing so well on the course and beating a lot of the guys! The hardest part of the race for me on the challenger course was cold /wet hands just an hour into the long road cycle. The sealsking waterproof gloves I borrowed just before the start of the race saved me that day.

    Keep up the great racing.
    All the best

  • Paul McGreal

    Hi Kim

    Great report, and great race. I was chatting to you (also in ‘Expert’ class) as the wheels came off for both of us going up that last climb. Good work on powering up there and cuffing me by qite a distance!.

    I’d not factored that climb in at all to my plans – it was a dawning horror when I came round the corner on the WHW and saw the trail of people heading skywards!


    Paul McG

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