The Big Ben Triathlon is an off-road, open water triathlon held in and around Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Chris Lyness took part in last year’s event, and passes on his tips for success…

How fit and/or experienced do I need to be?

Pretty fit; You need to be able to swim about 1.2 miles in open water then mountain bike 56 miles, then run (walk) a half marathon up and down Ben Nevis. The cut off times for the various stages aren’t too severe but ensures all stages are completed in Scottish daylight in September. A little experience is needed in all events, open water swimming isn’t quite the same as pool swimming- no rests, but in saltwater and a wetsuit (a requirement) you are positively buoyant!. The Mountain biking is not too tricky and any technical sections can be walked (though it’s faster to ride!). Where the run goes up onto the Ben Nevis mountain proper you are accompanied by a local runner/guide so navigation isn’t a problem.
What training methods would you recommend?
Training started a couple of months before event. I was lucky enough to be living near the sea so training alternated between swimming about a mile in the sea one day and running 8-12 miles the next with a rest day then repeating. I only really started cycling towards the end and did a couple of cycles of approx 30 miles. I wasn’t particularly consistent with my schedule and did (alot) less some weeks
What kit would you recommend?
Swimming wetsuit – can be hired for the season off the internet (weekend hire costs pretty similar), or if you are going to use it more than once might be worth buying (which I did), Bodyglide (like wetsuit safe vasaline) to stop chaffing
Cycling kit- don’t need a fantastic bike as the route is mostly fire roads- but something springy of the front will make the miles go by easier
All the usual helmet and gloves, etc
Running shoes and waterproof top and bottom (requirement)
lottttttts of energy gels!
What were the highs and lows for you during the event?
Highs – swimming was easier than I thought it would be. Getting to the top of Ben Nevis. Finishing.
Lows – Long drags on the fire roads for the biking, crashing on bike, tarmac running section before starting the Ben Nevis ascent – digestive turmoil day after!
All in, how much would it cost me to do this? How do I organise it? Any logistical advice?
Entry is 90 for the solo 2011 race, camping night before 15, + 10 food/energy gels (developed an expensive habit) + any equipment you have to buy (for me it was a wetsuit @ 130) + travel (depends where you are coming from).
It’s easier to get there the night before to register and get the free meal – if not you need to register early on the day to be there on start line @ 6am on loch side Fort William. You’ll finish as it’s getting dark. I drove so that took care of local logistics, but lots of hostels and campsites can be found around Fort William, and the town is small so you can cycle around it when you get up there if you don’t have a car. Trains go from Glasgow (not quick)

How fit and/or experienced do I need to be?

Pretty fit; You need to be able to swim about 1.2 miles in open water then mountain bike 56 miles, then run (walk) a half marathon up and down Ben Nevis. The cut off times for the various stages aren’t too severe but ensures all stages are completed in Scottish daylight in September. A little experience is needed in all events, open water swimming isn’t quite the same as pool swimming- no rests, but in saltwater and a wetsuit (a requirement) you are positively buoyant! The Mountain biking is not too tricky and any technical sections can be walked (though it’s faster to ride!). Where the run goes up onto the Ben Nevis mountain proper you are accompanied by a local runner/guide so navigation isn’t a problem.

What training methods would you recommend?

Training started a couple of months before event. I was lucky enough to be living near the sea so training alternated between swimming about a mile in the sea one day and running 8-12 miles the next with a rest day then repeating. I only really started cycling towards the end and did a couple of cycles of approx 30 miles. I wasn’t particularly consistent with my schedule and did (alot) less some weeks

What kit would you recommend?

Swimming wetsuit – can be hired for the season off the internet (weekend hire costs pretty similar), or if you are going to use it more than once might be worth buying (which I did), Bodyglide (like wetsuit safe vasaline) to stop chaffingCycling kit- don’t need a fantastic bike as the route is mostly fire roads- but something springy of the front will make the miles go by easierAll the usual helmet and gloves, etcRunning shoes and waterproof top and bottom (requirement)lottttttts of energy gels!

What were the highs and lows for you during the event?

Highs – swimming was easier than I thought it would be. Getting to the top of Ben Nevis. Finishing.

Lows – Long drags on the fire roads for the biking, crashing on bike, tarmac running section before starting the Ben Nevis ascent – digestive turmoil day after!

All in, how much would it cost me to do this?How do I organise it? Any logistical advice?

Entry is 90 for the solo 2011 race, camping night before 15, + 10 food/energy gels (developed an expensive habit) + any equipment you have to buy (for me it was a wetsuit @ 130) + travel (depends where you are coming from).It’s easier to get there the night before to register and get the free meal – if not you need to register early on the day to be there on start line @ 6am on loch side Fort William. You’ll finish as it’s getting dark. I drove so that took care of local logistics, but lots of hostels and campsites can be found around Fort William, and the town is small so you can cycle around it when you get up there if you don’t have a car. Trains go from Glasgow (not quick).

You can find further details of the 2011 Big Ben Nevis Triathlon in the muchbetter Events Calendar.

Ben Nevis is in a beautiful part of Scotland, with plenty of adventure potential around, so why not browse our range of muchbetter holidays and accommodations in the Highlands?