UK SUP Great Glen Paddle Challenge
I had added the Great Glen Paddle as my final race of the season and was really upset when the event company cancelled it 4 weeks before due to not receiving 150 competitor entries. As I had good friends also attending the race the only thing to do was run the paddle under the management of UK SUP.
It was a very small event with only 9 paddlers, 8 SUP and one surfski but it was certainly a big challenge.
I felt more relaxed about this race than any other this year and the main reason for that was I had paddled the board prior to the race. I was using the Naish 14 x 24 Maliko (2017) which was the perfect board for the conditions.
Two days before the start we made a decision to reverse the course of the challenge and paddle from Inverness to Fort William as we were still experiencing a very strong North Easterly wind. This direction would give us a strong downwind course.
We all started at 3:30am which took us onto the mighty Loch Ness in pitch black. I entered Loch Ness just before 4am and was not expecting sunrise until around 7am. Add to the pitch black 2 foot waves, really strong wind, no moonlight and a 40km Loch, this was going to be no easy ride. As we would be fighting the elements the last thing I wanted was an appearance from the Loch Ness monster. I therefore had a wee dram of whisky as I entered the Loch and gave the rest to Nessie, asking her for a safe passage for all paddlers.
I got on Ness with Phil Plume and we had Bart de Zwart ahead. As the wind and the waves increased this was all about feeling the board below your feet and reacting to what the elements were giving us. My board handled the conditions so well and I felt very comfortable.
Five and a half hours in and I was at the half way point and safely across Loch Ness. Now onto a canal section. I kept my rest time short at this point as I will still feeling strong. I was paddling the distance on liquid food and water so only needed one refill stop.
The paddle consisted of 3 Lochs, Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochie and the remainder flat water narrow canals over the 95km distance. Every bit of this paddle was enjoyable. I took my first stroke happy and took my last stroke happy. My husband, Pete was my support for this race and we always work so well together during an endurance event. As I have said so many times endurance is always a Team event and I just take the paddler role.
The last Loch was Loch Lochie and once again we had very strong downwind conditions, this made for an amazing crossing of the 20km Loch.
I had hoped to complete the distance in between 12 and 13 hours as the last time I did it I took 14:27. As I crossed the finish line in 11:37 and 2nd place overall I was so happy to knock almost 2 hours of my previous time. I now hold the female record for crossing Scotland both ways.
My good friend Bart De Zwart broke the overall record for the crossing in a time of 10:50. Every paddler completed the distance and the most impressive performance was by 2 very special paddlers, Dean Dunbar and Allistair Swinsco. Dean is a blind adventurer and Allistair was his sighted guide for the paddle. The conditions we had were tough and pretty big waves for an inland paddle, therefore what these 2 men achieved is absolutely amazing. It was a very heart warming moment seeing them both finish.
What also made this event special was that all the paddlers individual support were their partners (husband, wives, girlfriends) that made for a real family event and massive achievement for everyone. We also had 2 additional support in Deano and Debs, these guys kept everyone’s spirits high and from what I hear fed so many people bacon butties, maybe even a few tourists. Guys you are amazing and hope to see you again soon.
Huge thanks to Naish SUP for the perfect board, Black Project Fins for my carbon Maliko which gave me great stability and kept me tracking straight, Red Bull for keeping my energy high, Velocitek for assisting me on staying on track with my speed and distance, despite it being scary a few times when I saw the downwind speed, especially during the night and Dador Dry Water Wear for the awesome new full dry suit, which I wore for the entire race and kept me dry despite falling in a few times.
If you get the opportunity to paddle this course please do, the scenery is absolutely beautiful.