Five Celtman finishes for Thurso endurance athlete Lorna Stanger as wild weather hits Extreme Scottish Triathlon
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Thurso-based endurance athlete Lorna Stanger completed her fifth Celtman Extreme Scottish Traithlon at the weekend in gruelling conditions.
She was awarded a coveted red tee-shirt, making her only the second woman to become a member of the elite group in the 10 years the event has been run in Wester Ross.
Held last Saturday, competitors in the extreme triathlon have to complete a 3.4 kilometre swim in Loch Shieldaig, then take to their bikes for a 200 kilometre ride from Shieldaig on a circular route that takes them through Kinlochewe, Gairloch, Dundonnell, Garve, Achnasheen and back to Kinlochewe, where they set off on the 42 kilometre marathon run section, which is mainly off road on rough ground and tracks around Beinn Eighe and Glen Torridon, finishing at Torridon village hall.
There are usually two routes, with runners arriving before a certain cut-off time at the transition point being sent on the higher track over Beinn Eighe while later runners take a lower route. However, this year extreme weather conditions meant that all runners had to take the lower route, with the high mountain route closed for safety reasons,
Finishers who run the high route receive a blue tee-shirt, while those on the lower route receive a white tee-shirt. This year, runners reaching the transition point before the cut-off time still received a blue tee-shirt although they didn't run the higher route.
After the event, race director Paul McGreal said conditions this year were probably the worst they had encountered in the 10 years the triathlon had been run in Wester Ross. The swim conditions were difficult, driving rain and strong winds made the cycle very challenging and likewise with the run.
Lorna also said this year's was the most difficult of the five finishes she had achieved. She finsihed the triathlon, which began at 5am, in 17 hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds, placing her 50th in the white tee-shirt catergory.
She said: "It was gruelling, by far the worst conditions I have experienced at any of the Celtmans I have taken part in. My swim time was slower than a year ago, as was my cycle time. On the bike I was having to use the brakes a lot due to the cross winds.
"The cycle section from Achnasheen to Kinlochewe was exceptionally hard with almost gale force winds, either in your face or blowing across the road. I was determined to finish the race, and really had to sprint to transition as I was very close to running out of time and not being allowed to start the last part of the run section.
"It would have been heart-breaking having put so much effort in and then not be allowed to finish."
But at the end of the day she achieved her ambition, winning a white tee-shirt, giving her five finishes in total and the coveted red tee-shirt. Her first finish was in 2014 where she received a blue tee-shirt, followed by white in 2015, 2018, 2021 and again this year.
The only other woman to hold a red tee-shirt is Marie Meldrum, from Fort William, who now holds seven blue tee-shirts and finished this year in 48th place in the blue category, in a time of 13:40.59.
First blue home was Ross Creber, from Scotland, in 10:35.59 while the whites were led by Ken Le Prado from France in 14:13.34. Out of an entry of 263, 170 started the triathlon, with 88 finishers in the blue category and 54 in the white category. There were 28 competitors who failed to finish.
Next Saturday, Lorna hopes to be back in Wester Ross for a new event, the Celtman Xtri Solo Point Five, which is roughly half the distance of the main event, but is still extreme and takes cyclists over the famous Bealach na Ba at Applecross.