Support & Encouragement - Celtman Reflections

Published: Mon 1 Jul 2019

This year we had a number of members taking on the challenge of Celtman. Arguably one of the worlds toughest triathlons, where getting yourself over the line is by no means a certain outcome on the day. Ultimately its a very personal journey of hard work and self-discovery, but whatever the outcome all journeys have one thing in common. That's positive back up support of family, friends, club coaches and your on the day support team. Club member Darren realised his dream of finishing Celtman this year and shares with us his reflections on the role the right people and support played in his success. Thank you Darren for sharing!

My triathlon journey started the first night I went along to Triathlon Inverness in 2017. Plucking up the courage to go along to my first Monday night swim session, in my baggy beach shorts took a lot of effort. This feeling lasted a long time and I am still not convinced it will ever leave me. Getting into the pool was a hard step for me as I was embarrassed about me swimming abilities however with the welcoming and encouraging coaches as well as club members I continued and persevered. As time went by I got to know the coaches and members, making new friends.

After having joined the club, a friend, Nigel Levett (Celtman Support) said or more so planted the seed, knowing fine well what he was doing, “If you are going to do a triathlon you have to do the Celtman.” I remember watching this on the TV thinking that this would be a fantastic event to be part of, not for one minute thinking I would ever be able to take part.

Continuing with my Monday night swimming sessions and then running sessions the enthusiasm from club members started to rub off on me. Listening to their stories about events that they were/had been taking part in made me want to do the same but I was still not confident in my own ability especially when it came to swimming. With the persistence and continued quality swim coaching I received I plucked up the courage to enter a triathlon in Mallaig. It wasn’t the taking part in this that inspired me to do more; it was watching other club members taking part in the middle distance event. Seeing the enjoyment they got out of it along with the camaraderie amongst them over the whole weekend inspired me to keep training which would then give me the confidence to enter similar events.

I continued with the club sessions as well as building upon friendships. Over time “Celtman” was something that I was starting to hear more and more about. Even more so when I was introduced to Jimmy Dryden. Listening to his sorties, I could tell how much the Celtman meant to him. From listening to other peoples’ experiences I thought that the Celtman was well and truly out of my reach.

After meeting Mark Georgson during one Thursday night running session he invited me to go out on the bike with him. Over time we did managed to persuade Martin Gordon (Celtman support runner) to come out with us. I’m sure others would have joined us if it wasn’t for the unsociable time we went out. During these bike rides, I felt that I never really spoke much as Mark was the one doing all the speaking. It was great, after each ride I would be “buzzing” and full of enthusiasm.

Mark had a way of inspiring me; he has such a positive outlook on life in general as well as having so much enthusiasm and commitment for triathlons and training. Celtman was something he talked about a lot.

My triathlon training continued with no real structure or goal in mind. I was just enjoying the training and trying to improve upon all three disciplines. Being part of the Triathlon club was great, wishing I had taken the plunge a lot sooner.

After having completed a few smaller open water triathlons I decided to enter the ballot for the Celtman 2019. Hearing that it was unlikely that I would get in first time I thought that this would give me the opportunity to get my name in the hat for 2020. How wrong was I, receiving the email to say that I had got a place in 2019 I didn’t know if I would laugh or cry. At first I felt embarrassed; I knew I had a lot of work to do especially with my swimming. The encouragement I received from friends and club members was overwhelming.

The timing of getting a place in the Celtman could not have been any better; Sarah Leakey needed a “guinea pig” for her coaching qualification. Through the unfortunate injury of others I secured the role of Sarah’s “guinea pig”. This was going to be my first taster of structured triathlon training; I was so excited and felt privileged. Knowing Sarah’s background, if anyone could get me to Celtman standard Sarah could. I knew I wasn’t going to be in for an easy time as day one of my training plan started on 31st December; Hogmanay celebrations were a lot tamer than previous years.

Due to having a structured training plan I found myself training on my own a lot more. This was also due to the fact that most people were sleeping when I trained. The support I received from my wife, Laura and close family was invaluable however I always felt that if I trained early then this would impact less on family life. Although training a lot on my own I still received the support and continued encouragement from others which kept my focus.

I was lucky to have met Martin Gordon through the club. His running ability impressed me, having the ability and will power to run every day for a year, running impressive amounts of miles each week, he had to be my support runner. Martin was great as he too has the same mentality as me; he was always willing or appeared willing for an early morning training session. There were many mornings when I thought it would not be impossible to get my legs going and would have never managed to keep going if it wasn’t for Martin.

As the months closed in, training got harder, the hours and intensity increased. At times I found myself struggling to fit training in due to my own and Laura’s work commitments. I also found that there were days when I struggled both mentally and physically to keep going and often found myself feeling very low. I can be very hard on myself and never want to let others down. Knowing the amount of work and effort Sarah had put into my training plans and how others wanted me to do well, kept me pushing through these times.

During training my uncle, former Kona competitor told me, “Training with others is special. It pushes you and a little friendly rivalry during long runs and rides gets the adrenaline pumping and makes the time pass quickly.” This is so true. I was fortunate at times to be joined by others which always regenerated my enthusiasm, provided me with encouragement and made me push harder.

During the last few months before the Celtman I spoke with so many people who had taken part or had knowledge of the Celtman. I gained invaluable tips from them all. No wonder Jimmy is known as the “Celtman Legend” what he and his wife Mary dont know about Celtman is not worth knowing. Jimmy provided me with the best insight I could possibly have asked for as well as boosting my enthusiasm levels to a whole new level which I’m sure Brian Thursby-Pelham would agree with.

Celtman week came around so quickly, with a few messages of reassurance from Sarah I knew I was ready for it and wanted to make everyone around me proud. On the morning I was full of mixed emotions, although the swim was my biggest fear I was actually now looking forward to get into the water to conquer this fear. There was no way I was going to fall at the first hurdle. I felt that the swim went well and to plan. Still not convinced by Nigel’s words of enthusiasm regarding how strong I looked given the fact that he was holding onto me as tight as he could at the same time trying to keep me upright. Once on the bike and getting warm I felt great and was able to keep my support on their toes. Martin and Nigel were absolutely outstanding throughout the entire day. When I got off the bike and started running I did suffer with a lot of foot pain which for the first time during the day got my spirits down. I did find myself having to apologise to Martin for going so slow.

Reaching T2A within the time limit for the high route gave me such a feeling of achievement and emotion. Although my day wasn’t over, this is what I wanted. All the hard work not only that I had done but everyone else around me had paid off.

My day was only going to get harder with the ascent of Beinn Eighe however the sense of achievement and privilege kept me going, as well as Martins encouragement when things got really tough.

I don’t think I will ever get the same feeling I got when I crossed the finish line in Torridon that night and to have had my friends and family there who supported me along the way was extra special.

I was told that I would have many highs and lows during the day; I can honestly say even when I was hurting I loved every minute of it. Celtman was a journey and an experience I will never forget.

By writing this I wanted to thank Triathlon Inverness for what the club has done for me. Not only has the club developed me into a triathlete it has given me the confidence and ability to believe in myself and aim for new goals which without the support of the club and members would not have been achievable. I feel extremely fortunate to have met a new circle of friends through the club and I thank you all for everything you have done for me as well as your support and encouragement from the first night at swimming club until now.

Darren Shearer.