Rosie Baxendine’s journey to the Braveheart started just two weeks before the 2016 event. Here’s the story of how she overcame a serious pelvis injury to compete in the race.
Okay quick report and the reason why I ended up at the top of Ben Nevis yesterday laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole thing!! – here it goes… (grab a cuppa its long – I need to explain from the beginning for it all to make sense!)
Last August I sustained a stress fracture in my pelvis whilst training for my first marathon – which should have been a stepping stone to my first ultra – my dream. The dream was shattered. I had one bone consultant saying don’t run at all and the other saying little runs are okay…. (the stress fracture uncovered the fact that I have osteopenia – borderline osteoporosis – so about 75% bone density that I should have)
But as I’m not one to let the grass grown under my feet I took up cycling in September and booked myself into a sportive (Loch Ness in April) and took up swimming in October (after 20 years break!) and booked into the River Spey 10k in July and the Henley Bridge to Bridge 14k in August.
My plan was to do no running races in 2016 but to try Tri in 2017 after my next bone scan. However, my sister persuaded me to book into a sprint tri (Petersfield) next weekend. I knew that no part of that would be an issue for me distance wise as I was actually running 2 or 3 times a week but had kept it all at maffetone heart rate – so had a good fitness base with the longer runs being 6 miles and usually involving a nice local hill.
So my first ever tri was to be the 25th September 2016 – how exciting!! My ultimate dream for 2017 was to work up to a middle distance triathlon…..
So – Friday 29th August I was lying bored in bed playing on Facebook as my husband was snoring and I couldn’t sleep. (I think I’ve found the ultimate cure for his snoring – I’ve told him every time he keeps me awake form now on I’ll go and find an epic event to do LOL!) Anyway – a message popped up from a friend saying ‘Fancy a place at the Braveheart Tri?’
I laughed. Then googled. Then laughed some more.
Messages kept popping up ‘You can so do this’ ‘Just go for fun’ ‘what can you lose’ ‘You walk the Ben anyway’ yada yada yada
Then I got thinking…
1.2 mile swim – easy – a warm up for me
56 mile cycle with 650 m elevation – I’d done that distance and 850m elevation 2 weekends ago and had been out about 3 times a week doing at least an hour since.
13.2m run – no chance!!! But then again….. walk you say….?
So 5 hours later of laughing some more, plotting, adrenaline surges and generally WTAF moments I agreed to it if I completed 4 things that weekend……and at 6am on the Saturday I announced to my very confused looking husband that I was heading off for a 10 mile run and could he pick me up at the end! Then run went surprisingly well considering I had not done that distance since my pelvis issues! I then headed to St Andrews for a 1.5 mile sea swim and loved it. Sunday came and I grabbed my bike and headed out for 45miles over the Sma’ Glen (about 700m incline) then did a fast transition and ran up Birnam Hill (4 miles – 390m incline)
I felt brilliant – and agreed to do the Braveheart Tri!!
So, as I had done a total of 2 days training I decided I had better taper for the event! I followed the training plan on their website – at least I had done something by the books! The following weekend I had the Firth of Forth swim already booked in so used it as another sea swim practice and managed a time of 41mins for 2.2k.
As the day got nearer I actually never faltered in my belief that I could do it – I was totally wired and excited. I had no expectations. I was googling how to do transitions and was sure I’d come last but KNEW I would finish. I kept it quiet though as I didn’t want all the ‘you’re crazy/you’ve not trained/it’s a big hill’ dialogue in my brain.
I had made my decision and was going to do it.
The night before at the race meeting though I did talk to a few people. I was feeling a bit intimidated at that point by all the Ironman t-shirts and sponsored tops. Also the lack of women entered! (I think there were 18 in total – awaiting official results etc)
I got to transition really early – in fact I was the first person there. I had to ask how to rack my bike but as I was there first I picked a place next to a bench to sit on to change if necessary (and in fact chatting to another competitor he said good idea and moved next to a bench to – see a newbie can be useful LOL!) The transition area filled with tri bikes, fit looking people and a buzz of nerves. Again I had adrenaline but no nerves – whatever I did didn’t matter. It would be my best and against all odds!
The swim started well – I was in the front half and I felt at ease. The water was cold (13’C) but no colder that the sea the previous two weekends. It was two laps and the 2nd half of each was towards the sun rising over Ben Nevis in the background. The water was clear and I could see the sand and seaweed below. I was bashed occasionally but my swim events this year meant I didn’t worry at all and loved every minute of it. I swear to god if you’d seen me swimming you’d have seen a grin on my face. I got out and hit my garmin – 37 mins. I was more than happy with that and there were a lot of people behind me still!
I did a full change in transition into dry warm clothes. The air temp was still only about 11’C and if every person I’d spoken to said do a full change to stay warm. 10mins to get comfortable would not matter for me!
The cycle was a there and back – climbing nearly all the way out and then a turn around to a fast spin back down. Ben Nevis again loomed to one side at all times – the top of the mountain covered in clouds as usual. It was stunning.
My legs felt good. I kept wondering when they would protest and kept thinking I should really go slower. I was being passed by quite a few competitors but also passed one or two! I passed two people fixing punctures and thanked the universe for keeping my ride puncture free! Again I did the whole thing with a huge grin on my face! I caught up with and chatted to a few people on the way but soon felt the need to pull past them. I kept wondering If I was being silly but I felt fine and the tailwind nutrition I’d decided to use (another first!) seemed to be doing the job – I felt strong, fit and full of energy!
My cycle was 3hrs 25 mins – My aim was to be hitting the run at 12 noon to give me loads of time to hit the run halfway point by the cut off time of 3.30pm. Into transition – 8 mins for a pee and change and I was out again by 11.30am! And the sun came out – I LOVE the sun – I swear to god I’m solar powered!!
So I set off with a real spring in my step (still grinning and laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all) with really no idea what lay ahead.
I’d never seen Ben Nevis before.
I’d never walked a munro before.
I’d never tried to run after a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile cycle.
But all I could do was give it my best.
I trotted along the roads to the base path – all fine. 2.5 miles done.
Then the climb started. I got out the poles I’d borrowed which were allowed in the kit list. Thank goodness I had them – a real life saver! I loved the climb! Beautiful views. Loads of people giving encouragement (it was the normal tourist route and very busy due to the nice day) I managed a little trot on the flatter bits about half way up. I then came to the half way waterfall where they marshal’s tagged me in and I must admit I had a little OMG moment when I released that I was actually only half way. It was a long way already. I’d set my garmin up with a run section so of course it spent most of the time auto paused due to walking (hint for anyone thinking of doing it – set the garmin to hike unless you’re actually going to run it all 😉 ) So I couldn’t really tell how many miles I’d done etc. But I just kept thinking what will be will be. Just keep walking and it will have to end. I had a few bits of walk 10 paces then stop – then start again. But I never faltered – I would do it.
Eventually I got to the top.
Oh my goodness. The views! The elation! The slightly deranged giggles I got!?!
I – me – Rosie – Just had to get back down and I was a triathlete!!
So I started to trot back down without a care in the world and BAM – cramp in my inner thigh! I’ve actually never had cramp before (yes really!) and didn’t know what to do!
I hobbled forward trying to think. I’d seen it in others – they’d lie on the floor and get a friend to stretch them yes? Oh no wait that’s for the other muscles….
Okay electrolytes – oh yes I’d forgotten to drink for a while (rookie error) so hobbled on a bit sucking my tailwind… Hummm.. still pain…. No idea what to do… but it’ll stop surely?
Kept hobbling on telling leg to shut up…… and a few more strides and it actually listened!! Cramp went away and I trotted merrily back on again!
The rocks soon got too rough to trot so back down to walk. Boy going down in tough! I trotted any safe bit and actually loved breaking into a run after so much walking. I stopped for a drink of water at the waterfall half way down and noticed my legs were shaking involuntarily! I decided at that point not to stop again as I didn’t like the sensation! Again the poles were a god send. Again I had a stupid grin on my face the whole time!
Finally, I was down in the valley and I would see the café – I could also trot along quite merrily without worrying too much about stones. At this point I realized quite how much concentration it took to walk down and not slip or trip. My whole body was screaming. My legs were shaking. But I find switching off physical discomfort easier than the mental strain of concentrating on every single foot fall to ensure I’d not injure myself. In fact, when I got back onto the road it was a huge mental relief to only concentrate on my exhausted body.
I made a deal with myself – I would run all the way back. I could go as slow as I wanted but I had to run. I knew if I walked or stopped my legs may just give way! So off I trotted. I was still smiling and a few kids ran up for high fives as I ran through the houses – I high fived back and shouted thank you as I jogged past. I was so so very thankful and grateful – for the whole experience – I wanted more than anything to reach the finish but part of me wanted it to not end! I was almost sad then I knew I was on the final mile!
There were just a few little undulations to get back. One was over the railway. I could hear a clattering noise and could see people standing on the bridge as I got near… And low and behold The Jacobite Steam train suddenly came into view and tooted!! It passed under the bridge just as I ran over.
What an amazing site to see! I laughed. I thanked the universe out loud. I got a lot of funny looks.
The last mile seemed fine after that – I was on a total high! My pace quickened ever so slightly and I checked my watch – 3.59pm. Oh crap – my long suffering husband was coming in on the train at 4.30pm to watch me finish as I’d told him I’d be finishing in 10 hours – oops!! Again I laughed as he’s missed so many of my finishes over the years as I always over predict my times! As I rounded the corner to the finish someone shouted ‘Sprint finish’ and I though feck it and did – I had no idea where I got the energy to do it from but I ran across the line laughing out loud.
Oh my goodness – I am a triathlete!!!
In loving memory of my Grandfather who passed away peacefully whilst I was descending Ben Nevis. He always loved hearing the stories of my mad adventures. I wish he had heard this one.
(Results – 2nd in category (Female Snr), 9th Lady, 88th Individual out of 121 starters with 10 DNF (web results say 92nd but I was told that includes teams results)