Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon – Before you sign up

There are Triathlons and there are long distance Ultra Distance Triathlons. And somewhere in between there are Extreme Triathlons. But what makes these Extreme Triathlons like Celtman unique and different? First, the weather conditions as well as the course is on the extreme end. Secondly these are self supported races. They are built to make you suffer in more ways than one. And in this suffering alongside other athletes and support crew, you not only become a part of a family but also live though some of the most memorable moments in your life. I got introduced to these crazy races while doing a research on my first IRONMAN Triathlon. For someone who was then struggling to swim 100 mtrs without a break, the thought of doing an extreme triathlon should have been scary. It indeed was, but it just gave me goosebumps and at some level got me excited. Maybe that was a sign enough for me to take the plunge. But of course I wasn’t ready for it then. How the journey unfolded warrants another blog entry, so in this one I will purely focus on highlighting what you are up for, if you are considering Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon.

DISTANCE

Before dwelling into other facets, here is brief snapshot of what Celtman entails:

SWIM: 3.4 kms in Loch Sheildaig (temp around 11-13 degrees) infested with jellyfish

CYCLE: Bike through a distance of 202 kms (approx 2000m elevation) across sections of rolling hills in cold and mostly rainy conditions

RUN: Last but not the least, the run takes you on a beautiful, yet brutal course of 42.2 kms across munros before ending at the community hall in Torridon village.

ENTRY INTO CELTMAN

The ballot for Celtman opens every year around November. The application process is fairly simple and self-explanatory. There is no limit to the number of entries the organisers accept, but yes, as the title suggests, it’s a ballot and there are fixed number of entries which get accepted every year. And this is not on first come first serve basis, which means, unlike black Friday sales in US, you don’t have to sacrifice your sleep for getting a foot inside the door. There is a deadline for submitting the entries. The shortlisted candidates will receive a confirmation via email on the pre-decided date. If you have received a confirmation, you will be asked to submit the race fee within a week or so. In case you decide not to go ahead with the race owing to your personal reasons, you can always decline and there will be a wait-list as well.

ACCOMODATION

I am bringing this upfront as this is the part which gave me sleepless nights. I waited for my confirmation before even doing any research on stay and had to shoot out atleast 60 emails to different B&B, Hotels within 10kms radius before I managed to get a confirmation. However, later when I met other athletes, I learned that most folks tend to block a place even before the shortlist is announced. Worst case scenario, you lose out on a small deposit, but definitely save yourself from the hassle of finding an accommodation later. This part of the highlands predominantly has Bed and Breakfast setups or you can also book a cottage. The budget of course varies basis the location, size and amenities. The other option that you can look at are camping sites for campervans in and around Torridon. There is one 3 mins walk from the Torridon Community hall – the venue for the expo, race briefing and also the end point for the race. If you are not comfortable or don’t have an experience of camping in the past, then it is not advisable. Owing to the heavy winds on the day before the race briefing, one of the athletes had to manage the tent almost flying off the ground.

Most of the B&B setups will have their independent sites, listings such as Steve Carter, FB groups etc. Not many AirBnb options were available when we checked. While the race will start in Sheildaig and there are some options available right outside the starting point. This takes care of your start point and T1 access. T2 this time around was in Kinlochewe and as luck would have it, it was just 2-3 mins run from where our cottage was. The race ends at Torridon, which is like a 15 min drive. You can search for places to stay in Torridon, Sheildaig, Loch Carron, Kinlochewe, Lower Diabaig or Strathcarron. For race briefing and registration, it won’t be a challenge to even drive down for an hour, but remember that you will have to report in early on race day in Sheildaig Church Hall between 3 am to 4 am.

SUPPORT CREW

Your life line through Celtman. Your support crew can make or break things for you. You are free to choose the number of people you want in your support crew. But remember that only one of them will be permitted to assist you in T1. It is mandatory to have one support runner accompany you beyond T2A (18 km mark in run). Goes without saying, he or she has to be an experienced runner. In my case, I had checked with a close friend to club the race with a vacation, but owing to his schedule it couldn’t work out. Even though he was kind enough to fly in only for the race, I thought it might be too much to ask. It is another coincidence and story how I found my support runner. A local resident of Loch Carron, fantastic person, familiar with mountain routes and a good runner himself. He was familiar with the entire route and more than that, he made our entire journey and experience memorable.

ACCLIMATIZE

If you live in a country where the weather is nowhere close to what Scottish Highlands have to offer, then I would suggest that you come in a few days earlier. It will help you settle down and also explore the route and decide on the game plan along with your support crew. Do a few short rides, runs and definitely swims to say hello to jellyfish

EXPO

It opens up two days in advance. A schedule will be shared with you. Some of the equipment that you need for your race day, right from neoprene hood to show cover to rain proof jackets are up for sale during the expo – only until the stocks last. You have the chance to also purchase Celtman merchandise – Tees, Jackets, Jerseys, Kilts etc. There are two briefing slots basis your bib number as there is limited space to accommodate everyone at the same time. Please pay attention to the briefing. You and your support runner will also have to get your respective mandatory kits checked at the expo before you get your bibs

Race Briefing at Torridon Community Hall

RACE DAY

Unlike IM events, you don’t have to put your bikes on the rack a day before. You have to carry it on the race day morning and place all your T1 gear next to it. Only one person from your support crew wearing the Celtman Support Tee will be allowed to assist you in T1. You can also carry a foldable chair to sit at ease and change.

SWIM

From Sheildaig, you will board a bus to the starting point of the race. This is when you might get anxious or tenses. But the sound of bagpiper and the drums gets you charged up for the race. The water is really cold, especially for athletes who do not have access to water bodies in such temperatures. I chose comfort over drag – covered myself from head to toe in neoprene suit, booties, gloves and hat. The cold temperature will hit you as though thousand needles have been pierced into your face.  The water temp can go as low as 11 degrees. Ensure that you do 2-3 short swims in the lake prior to race day to create a game plan to deal with this. There will be fields of jellyfish and you will have to swim through them. Of course, you need to keep calm, there is no way you can simulate this in your pool. Once out of the water, you might feel slightly disoriented. So be careful when you are getting out from the rocky pavement. Keep a warm cover in T1 to cover yourself for the short span while you change. Have some warm coffee if that helps to relieve yourself of the cold temperature.

Swim Start by Kai-Otto Melau

Group photo before the swim start by Kai-Otto Melau

Entering the loch by Kai-Otto Melau

 

BIKE

The course is nothing but absolutely beautiful! Enjoy every bit of spectacular view that you come across as there will never be a dull moment. The course won’t kill you, but the weather can definitely catch you by surprise. I saw riders in multiple layers and I saw some brave hearts in sleeveless through the entire bike course. There is one clear mantra to survive it – Stay warm and focus on comfort over being aero. If you get wet in the rain, then chances of catching cold are higher as you pass through the open fields. Avoid that situation as that will set you back on the course, like it did in my case. You support crew can meet you at any given point post the first stretch until Kinlochewe. The road until this point is pretty narrow and this rule is to avoid traffic jam or chaos. But don’t worry, you generally don’t need your support crew for the first 10-12 kms, unless there is an emergency. If you can, keep some warm team or coffee with your support crew – it can help to battle the cold.

Bike Course profile and route for Celtman 2018

Bike Course by Steve Ashworth

Bike Course by Steve Ashworth

Bike course by Steve Ashworth

Bike Course by Steve Ashworth

Bike Course by Kai-Otto Melau

Bike Course by Kai-Otto Melau

Bike Course by Kai-Otto Melau

 

RUN

For flatlanders, this is nothing short of brutal. If you are not into trail running, you will definitely find this tough to deal with. Barring the first 5kms, between 16-18kms mark and the last 5-7kms, there is nothing which you can call fairly flat and even. You will absolutely need to know how to read a map or have a support crew who knows it well. I was lucky to have a support runner who dint need a map at all for this course. T2A is at 18km mark and if you make the cut off time, you get to go on the high level course. The rest have to cover the low level course. Don’t get fooled by the term “low level”, it is not easy by any means. Both have enough and more sections where you possibly cannot run and will have to hike. In order to qualify for the lower course, you still need to make it to the cut off.

There is a list of mandatory gears that you need for the run section, please do not take it lightly. The weather on these munros can really change within minutes. The temperature can drop down to as low as 5 degrees on top of these mountains. The mandatory kit for you and your support runner will be  checked again at T2A. The Celtman organisers will also asses your health at this point. If you are a flatlander, you are in for a big surprise on this run course. One thing you need to add to your kit is a pair of light hiking poles. Trust me they really help and provide the support you need when your legs are all beaten up.

Getting towards T2A by Kai-Otto Melau

Going for the high level course by Kai-Otto Melau

Navigating through the hilly course by Steve Ashworth

Technical descends by by Steve Ashworth

The section where you descend from high level course

Getting back to flatland by Steve Ashworth

 

AFTER PARTY

Dont forget to relish the beer at the finish line of Cetlman, it will be the hardest you would have worked for one in your life. The T-shirt distribution and group photo is captured the next day at Torridon community hall. This is the time you also get to interact with the other athletes. As the organisers rightly pointed out, irrespective of how rough the weather is on race day, but on the day of the group photo, there is a clear weather for a nice picture. They also throw a small party in the evening at the Torridon Community Hall. You get to learn some Scottish / Irish dance moves and definitely works well as your recovery workout.

NOTE: When a Scott says that’s its easy, you must brace yourself for a storm that’s coming your way. The idea of this summary is just to give you a sense of what you can expect at Celtman. And what are the key things you should keep into account if you are considering this race. Of course, for the locals and residents of countries which offer similar course or weather conditions for training, this might not be very useful.

A quick look at some memories from Celtman 2018 in a short film by Erik Putsep and Paul Lockhart

The film from Celtman 2015, which really got me excited about the format and race gives you a a very brief insight into what it entails:

Another interesting documentary “A Race for Lords” by PeigneeVerticale about French athlete Jean-Sébastien Rolin who has taken part in Celtman Extreme Triathlon 2018, in Scotland. Not my story but loved how it has been beautifully captured

And of course, Scotland is a beautiful country to explore. You must take some time out post your race to relish the beauty of this wonderful country. Check this fantastic video from John Duncan –  it will make you fall in love with Scotland.

You can also refer to the Celtman 2018 Race Manual for more details. Stay tuned for my race experience in the subsequent race report. I have kept the blog really brief, but if you want more details, feel free to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or drop me an email on siddhant.chauhan@gmail.com

My Entrepreneur Journey Story

How did I become an Entrepreneur? What led me to follow my passion? How was my journey? What were my challenges? Why did I decide to part ways?

I have tried to answer all your questions in this blog. If you are someone who wishes to start her own venture or maybe make some bucks from your passion, I hope reading this blog brings in some perspective. And if it does. Dont forget to comment and share with me 🙂

Background :

I hail from a simple family with Ex Army Officer as my dad and a Mom who decided that her kids were her full time job. This is important to know for many who thought I came from a business class family or received any help in any way from my family apart from sheer encouragement and support in my journey to prove myself.

Though I was always inclined towards a creative line there was not enough options and consultation to discover the right course or education. During my B.com when my parent’s saw me distressed not enjoying what I was doing I was given a chance to prepare and appear for NIFT. But fashion was not my thing and I realized it later of course when I didn’t make it.  I went ahead and completed my MBA in marketing from Symbiosis Pune in 2007 and then joined a high paying job at a leading IT MNC. It was but the natural flow of things. I had never thought I would be doing anything more than a corporate job. 4 years into the Job and I realized I wasn’t cut for the hardcore politics and follow the lead. Plus IT stopped interesting me I guess. I think it was around the same time things changed and for good.

I have been passionate about craft ever since I was a kid. While we always had an Archie’s store in the vicinity to pick up cards for special occasions, it did not allow us to customize it beyond a certain point. And I was always keen on creating a hand-made card with customized messaging, as I always believe it adds that additional human element to the entire process of gifting. While I loved everything to do with paper craft, people often mixed it up with a more widely known form of paper art, which is Origami. However, the fundamental difference between the two is that the traditional concept of Origami uses only one piece of paper to create shapes without the use of any scissors or glue. However, paper craft gives you a larger room to experiment by deploying various techniques on paper or card as the primary artistic medium for creating three dimensional objects as well.

As a papercraft artist I used various kinds of craft supplies and tools to create more professional looking handmade cards, scrapbooks, altered items, home décor which gives my work a fun and free-spirited feel.

I made handmade invites, favour boxes, 2D/3D greeting cards, quilled paper art, scrapbooks for all occasions, altered arts like Book ends, wall hangings and home décor products out of paper and related products. Click here to see my work – http://www.craftingqueen.in/

What was the big idea behind starting Lulupu.com? Was there something that inspired me to do this?

In 2009, I relocated to Bangalore for an assignment. Staying away from home with not too many friends around, I decided to use my free time to explore my favourite hobby that I relished as a child – hand-made greeting cards. My mother’s birthday was approaching and I decided to visit a stationary shop to source the raw material. That’s when I spotted the colourful Quilling strips and brought a few of them. I navigated through a few DIY videos on YouTube to understand the technique better. As time progressed, I became extremely addicted to this form of paper craft and simultaneously started exploring other forms as well. I began a blog called www.craftingqueen.in  and kept updating it with my latest work and this gave me an opportunity to interact with other paper crafters not just in India, but across the globe. While the basic material was available in India, for moving to the next level most of the tools and material had to be sourced from abroad. I saw a lot of crafters like me relying on their friends and relatives to get them these products while returning from a trip to United States. It took me a lot of patience to source products through this channel. This is when I decided to create an online store which will give crafters across India an opportunity to purchase these products locally. Initially I used a blog called www.craftignqueenstore.blogspot.in to sell the products. Looking at the traffic and the demand I decided to go the ecommerce way and Lulupu.com was born on March 1st, 2012.

At this point I would like to throw light on one of the segments of Lulupu.com – The Design Team. This special team comprised of talented crafter across the country, who focus on providing a platform to build a community of like-minded crafters. To be a part of this team, a crafter had to qualify the set of filters or parameters decided by us.

Here is our blog that was build with so much love- BLOG

 

 What does one require to set up a business? 

Firstly, it is not a rocket science that if you set up a business which you are extremely passionate about, it works to your advantage as you do not see it as a purely money minting venture. In my case, my knowledge and passion gave me the ability to guide and help beginners and amateurs in paper craft over and above the products specifications and pricing.

Secondly, it is extremely important to register your business and have all the mandatory licenses / permissions. This could be for import/export, trademark or even the GST process. It ensures that your customers are not getting cheated and are engaging with a brand which is ethical and abides by laws of the country.

Thirdly, it is important to know the pulse of your customers and keep a track of changing trends in your industry. Be on your toes!!!

Last but not the least; one has to be mentally strong to face all sorts of challenges. A new venture is demanding and the market is very competitive.

Any challenges you faced in starting this business?

Honestly, I began as an amateur with a lot of enthusiasm and desire to make a difference. My husband encouraged me to focus on my strengths to create the building blocks for Lulupu.com. While he is not an avid crafter, he was able to provide me with a strategic perspective to create a concrete roadmap and structure to set up and grow this initiative. We spent a lot of time in ideating and using consumer insights to prepare the framework which would work well for the growing paper craft community in India. This took us almost a year along with setting up of backend operations before finally launching Lulupu.com on 1st march 2012.

I think one of the biggest challenges was to start from the scratch. I had no idea how to run a business or put it up in the first place. The journey has been tiring and at times challenging enough to give up hope. It’s the passion to do what I love to push me this far.

Our basic idea behind Lulupu.com was aimed at overcoming the biggest challenge faced by paper crafters across the country i.e. sourcing products from global brands locally. Since it is an extremely niche and unorganized industry, a lot of people compare the prices of the products being offered in India with the ones in western countries. But the customers also overlook the fact that the papercraft industry is at a very advanced level in these markets. At the same time for a registered business like ours with proper sales licenses in India, there are innumerable additional costs incurred which add on to the final costing. In a price sensitive market, we were, nevertheless, constantly working towards exploring more efficient and cost effective supply chain to ensure our customers get their favourite products at the most competitive rates without compromising on the quality. What people take time to understand is that they can now order these products right at their doorsteps by a mere click and also opt to pay once they have checked and confirmed the order! They no longer have to rely on their friends / relatives to travel to US / UK to order these products and wait for months before they receive them! Needless to say they don’t have to pay a bomb to local sellers who more than often dupe them with defective pieces or exorbitantly priced items.

 

Why did you close the store after 5 successful years?

When I conceived in 2014 October, I was put on complete bed rest. I somehow managed to continue as I had hired one intern to work on the admin front. Nonetheless, my health did impact the business. I took a 3 month break when I delivered Kenisha and coming back with a bang wasn’t easy. I felt torn apart between my needy baby and my needy business. It was also a time when the market was getting highly unorganized with alot of people jumping into the industry without any knowledge and spoiling the market. I was finding it difficult to work and realised its time to let go. I knew I didn’t have the finances and the time anymore. The baby definitely took priority and I have no regrets. I left the market in a good note and made a name for myself!

Slide below to read few of the published articles I could find

So there you go, that was my journey as an Entrepreneur and I cant wait to hear what you have to say? Where are you stuck? Do you have your big idea in place? Would you need any support from me? Tell me in comments what more I can share? Please be specific and if i have the expertise am happy to share 🙂