“The 70 Wild Miles is a triathlon consisting of a 47 mile cycle, 10 mile canoe and a 13 mile run. It is not a race as such, the real purpose being to assist in the fight against Cancer. So, if you’re the kind of enthusiast to whom the thought of cycling the 47 miles ,canoeing a loch for the next 10 miles , and finishing with a 13 mile run sounds like a fun day out – then this might just be what you are looking for! The added bonus is that it’s all for a good cause and there’s great scenery too – if the weather and your state of fitness let you admire it.”
That is the opening sentence of the 70 Wild miles website …… if you end up looking your either going to think “FUCK that” or “WOW !!! I really fancy a go” , 15 years ago in 1996 a young Kenny Short decided he was having a go, he was fit and already a very good runner so off he went , trained hard to became better on a bike and learnt to kayak in preparation for his first attempt … this is actually where Kenny and I bonded our friendship as he developed his Kayak skills alongside mine on the white-water of the Highlands .. but that’s another story …………..Kenny is a very fit man , his prowess on the football pitch lead him to running , then triathlon and multisport events , now a days he likes a bit of fell running thrown in to .. and only a few weeks ago completed the super tough 250 miles Irish Coast to Coast in an amazing 5th place ..he has been a supporter of the 70 wild miles for a long time now and has raised well over £10,000 for its cause over the years , always a top ten finisher and a well known face amongst the competitors who travel from far and wide to compete … and many from abroad , they actually have a special page on their website for its “great characters” and Kenny is right there.
So I was here on his 12th attempt , June 2011 , acting as his support , following him round with his kit and food , but mainly to make sure we got good photos …..seriously though it was great to be part of something as exciting and motivating as this event while I wait on my groin strain getting better and it fired up my desire to attempt it myself next year .We travelled North on Friday afternoon , choosing to camp at the Glencoe campsite to have full use of the facilities and to enjoy the excellent scenery that this campsite has to offer , it really is astounding , the Pap of Glencoe towering above us and Loch Linnhe leads west to the Sea , a truly beautiful spot !
We hit camp , Kenny had brought along a brand new tent so we set about building it , it looked a cracker on the picture, can’t be too hard to assemble I thought , 20 mins later as we were still trying to piece it together, I joked about how if our friends in the Borders could see us right now , two of their top outdoor athletes trying to figure out a 3 man tent .. eventually though we were done , thank god we were in a campsite and not up a stormy mountain top ..
We settled in for a while, had a brew and Mark Watson arrived with his son Corey , he was also entered in the 70′ and very excited as it was his first time, not just for the 70′ , he was a multisport event virgin, I had faith in him though , he’s a fit bloke and I witnessed him last year run from Valluouise to the foot of Glacier Blanc during a kayak trip we were on in the French Alps ,this is a 10 mile run that must climb 2000 feet , very steep !! and he had been training since Christmas so I was expecting good things , we sorted out the details of the next day and decided Corey would stay with me in support of our athletes……..Once everything was sorted out , off Mark went and like the Gypsy he is crashed out behind some bushes in his caravan , not before walking his greyhounds and tarmac-ing a couple of drives … lol
Mark had an earlier start than Kenny as it is staggered by estimated time so as not to have long waits on everyone finishing , because of this I didn’t get to see him start but Cory was there in the morning waiting on me to arrive.I helped Kenny ready his kit , he was looking good , not too much Lycra which is always a relief .. my friend and fellow ultra runner Davie Bell coined the abbreviation MAMIL , middle aged man in Lycra and it certainly is not a good look ………..
Kenny headed off to use his Dibber , a small ID device that takes your time through every stage , once dibbed he was off … the first section climbs from the Glencoe ski centre to the top of Rannoch moor and then down past Bridge of Orchy Hotel , then climbs steadily before descending down towards Tyndrum , it is here where the hardest section lies , not steep but a long long steady climb along the Dalamally road heading to Oban , its a long stretch and even felt long in the car but Kenny cracked away , passing bike after bike , at this point though I saw someone at the side of the road struggling , it was a guy and 2 birds , awesome , maybe a spare one for me !!! but no !! all they wanted was someone to fix their puncture , I obliged and he was chuffed to bits , off he went heading towards the finish … turns out they were a 3 person relay team just there for some fun and had borrowed the bike , obviously unaware of the fact you can get a puncture !!
I jumped back in the jeep and fired off to catch Kenny , we caught him with 10 miles to go , he was going hard , still blasting along , I over took him to try to get a picture , I pulled up at the bottom of a long hill , grabbed my camera and ……….. whiiiiizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Kenny shot by me , superfast and with his nose on the bar to gain streamlinity !! , no photo here then!! I shot after him and followed him to the finish , he nailed it in 1:58 .. super quick !!
I found Mark Watson and he had also had a good bike , Hawick certainly has a few lads out there at the moment doing some cool stuff …….
We loaded the bike on the roof and set about getting Kenny fed and watered , Sean MacFarlane pulled in , he was Kenny’s number 1 rival , a very fit individual and fast …. Shawn is a very interesting character, a corporate lawyer who works part time , has his own allotment where he grows his own vegetables and likes nothing more than fishing from his sea kayak .. but at the same time a 37 year old dynamo of speed and a highly competitive athlete ….Sean had also been at the Irish Coast to Coast where he and Kenny had battled it out over 2 days , bring it I thought , that will only bring the best out of Kenny !
I looked around at the other competitors coming in and I saw “Dangerous Dave” a kayak friend of mines from Glasgow , he was also entered and was looking fit , Dave was a fearless kayaker of old with a reputation for the nasty stuff , we have kayaked together a lot over the years and he has always impressed me with his boating skills so it would be interesting to see how he was getting on at adventure racing , he was loving it and this was the second time he had done the 70′ , I had a good chat with him and we caught up with each others adventures over the past few years.
The Kayak stage is 11 miles heading North up Loch Etive , a tidal sea loch with a reputation for large swells , it was good to go though and all the competitors headed out on a mass start , I wasn’t going to be able to follow this leg so I jumped into the jeep and headed back the way I came.
I arrived back at Glencoe and headed down Glen Etive to the head of the loch , this is a glen famous amongst white water kayakers for the river that runs through it , drop after drop of sweet white water including some awesome waterfall drops , it’s also a beautiful place that really takes your breath away whether kayaking , walking or what was soon to be the case , running up it !!
We arrived late and many of the Kayakers had already made it to the finish line , Kenny included , Corey and I had driven a 60+ mile round trip battling the highland weekend traffic , where as the kayakers had paddled a mere 11 miles up the Loch, however Kenny and Sean told me stories of stiff tides , cross winds and rescue boats flying past leaving huge wakes to be negotiated , they had found the conditions tough and felt it far harder today than past events. I kept my eye out for Mark Watson and saw him come in looking tired but happy to see the shore , he had found it tough but he was here smiling , well done I told him. The journey up that loch is a beautiful one but in a tidal loch where the tide is going against you and the crosswinds are throwing up waves and blowing you off balance I’m sure nobody was taking in the view.
Most of the racers spent a good hour here resting and refuelling before embarking on the 13 mile 900 feet of climbing in the last section , this follows the Glen road to the finish line at the Coupall bridge , this bridge gets its name from the river Coupall which flows from the top of GlenCoe and crosses the Glen Etive road just before the exit to Glencoe.
The runners were soon to be treated to beautiful scenery yet they it was unlikely they would enjoy it due to the unrelenting nature of this sections never ending climbing , one by one they mustered themselves , dibbed in and off they went racing uphill to the finish line.
I saw Mark Watson head off , he shot away fast , excellent …. he disappeared into the distance .. Kenny eventually decided it was time to go so we loaded up his kayak and he stripped down to his shorts , he dibbed then off he went , he’s a superb runner and after all his hill running exploits I doubt this little run bothered him much , he was working hard through the steeps but he cranked his way through to record one of the fastest runs of the day ….. get in !!!
I had sat at the finish to photograph both Mark and Kenny and watched people fall over the line one at a time , everyone should be proud of themselves that day , I did not see one person slack off during the whole event , everyone put their hearts into it , everyone did themselves justice and absolutely everyone enjoyed themselves … that really is the sign of a very good event , theyre not all like that !!
The overall winner was Sean McFarlane who did amazingly well and put in some of his best ever performances , Kenny came in a very respectable 4th place with only really a matter of a few minutes within the top 5 places .. Mark came in 17th ,which was brilliant , especially for his first foray into multisport racing , his run was a very good one which did him proud and sat him nicely in the rankings ……………….
We all agreed to head our seperate ways to eat , wash and get ready for the Ceilidh which was to be held in the Glencoe Hotel , in Ballahuilish.Kenny and I headed back to the camp site and chilled for a couple of hours talking about the race and what had all heppened in the Loch stage . Mark Watson arrived at the campsite to pick us up and we all headed to the Hotel where we met Sean and Martin , Martin is from Sweden and was a friend of Seans from his days working in Gottenheim , Martin comes across every year to join Sean on some crazy romp and he had done really well coing in 3rd in the 70′ , we sat down to share stories and have a few beers , the prize giving went quickly and eventually the band began to play , drunken athletes are a joy to behold , mad energy then a sudden death at 10pm .. so at that we were walking back to the campsite before midnight and I readied my self for another night of Kenny’s snoring …………
I really enjoyed my time at the 70′ and although not involved in the action I had another great experience , it took my mind off my injury for a while and kept my motivation high , gave me an excuse to take some photos .. what a Great weekend !!!
I’d just like to say that the 70 Wild Miles is 100% a fundraising event and everyone involved is voluntary , all the entrants have to raise over £300 each and all the money goes to Clic Sargent , a very worthy children’s cancer charity …….. please have a read of their website and consider even a small donation , everything helps …………………………………. http://www.clicsargent.org.uk/Home