The Corrieyairack Challenge offered a great goal for mum-of-one Romy Beard, of Glasgow. And the delighted 31-year-old ran and cycled through fabulous Highlands countryside to become the first woman home.
Romy Beard, the mum of a young son, had a goal for 2013. She wanted to take part in a new style of sporting event. Already a good amateur runner and having refound her fitness after giving birth to Ayden two years ago, the Glasgow 31-year-old was looking for an adventure challenge that would be like nothing she had done before.
TheÂ Corrieyairack ChallengeÂ ticked every box. The event, which took place atÂ Badaguish, Highlands, on July 6, offered a 13.5-mile hill section and then a 38.5-mile cycle. You can choose to walk, run, mountain bike and/or road cycle. (The previous format had been a 17-mile run followed by a 26-mile cycle but this year there was a last minute change due to the arrival location not being available.)
The Challenge is billed as: â€œScotland’s toughest Mountain Duathlon demanding special respect and a special place in your heart” and it takes in Scotland’s highest mountain road the Corrieyairack Pass.
Romy said: “I am a runner with the Bellahouston Road Runners and I have completed a few triathlons before but somehow the event order of swim, bike and run just wasnâ€™t ideal. I would often end up with a stitch on the run, thus never running at my full potential.
“When someone told me about the Corrieyairack Challenge, while I could hardly say the name of the event, I immediately thought the run then bike order would suit me better.”
Romy, originally form Luxembourg, signed up with two male Bellhouston Road Runners, entering as a mixed relay team.
The Corrieyairack Challenge on the day
With nerves kicking in on the morning of the big day, Romy told herself that this was less of a race and more of a challenge. She said: “I decided to pace myself over the run and the cycle and to see what I could do in the endurance event.”
But it would seem that Romyâ€™s road running experiences were to be of huge benefit. She said: â€œI have been training hard since my son was born to achieve personal best times in a 5k and a 10k run and although I have suffered a few set backs with a hamstring injury I felt strong as the challenge started.
“I just kept pushing on and trying not to give it my all but still allowing myself to enjoy the feeling of a good pace.”
The hardest part of the hill section, which heads out from Fort Augustus, is the Corrieyairaick Pass itself. Rising to 770m, this is a very tough climb and it saw Romy digging deep into her mental and physical reserves.
She said: “I just kept telling myself how wonderful it felt to be out in the countryside on such a great day and amid such amazing scenery. That pushed me onwards.”
Flying downwards on the descent, Romy recalls feeling great. She said: “I was so elated by the speed of the downhill after the slog of the uphill.” The next section is a long valley run and by the time Romy reached the transition she had never felt happier to see her carbon road bike.
From run to bike
Jumping on to her bike she recalls feeling as though she was flying. She said: “It felt so good after the long run to be pushing my legs on the bike. I lay down on my tri bars, and ate and drank as much as I could, and felt fabulous. But that was until I hit the first gentle incline. Then I had to slow right down to snailâ€™s pace, with nothing left in my legs but heaviness.”
The 38.5 miles (62kms) was a challenge for Romy, who had not cycled so far in an event before. However, her training, including a very windy ride around Arran in the previous months, did pay off.
She knew when she started the bike section that she was the first female in the race but she feared that at any point the second lady would come flying by. “Cycling is not my thing,” said Romy, “so I worried that the ladies behind me were much stronger on a bike.”
With the thought of her first ever event win in her mind, Romy pushed on past Kingussie and then towards Aviemore before heading for Badaguish. She said: “I knew it wasnâ€™t far to go, but this truly was the toughest part of the cycle and comparable to the last few kilometres on the run. I kept waiting for the turn off for the finish line.Â I kept looking at my watch and counting the kilometres. I had driven this section a few times but never noticed the long, very gradual hill.”
A winning result for Romy
But all the hard work paid off on the day. Romy crossed the line as the first female in this her debut entry to the Corrieyairack Challenge. Her mixed relay team were also first home. She said: “I couldnâ€™t believe I’d won the ladies event and it is the first time I have ever won a race. I definitely plan to do something like this again. It was an amazing race and set in such a beautiful location.”
The final results:
Romy’s overall time was 04:24:51
The winning male in the run/cycle event was Juanma Cardenas in 03:39:34.
To find out more about this event for 2014 seeÂ Corrieyairack Challenge.