Nell McAndrew, arguably the UK's fittest celebrity, achieved a top 10 finish at the UK's most famous duathlon, the First Monster Challenge. McAndrew's team of four called, 'Beauty and the Beasts', which also featured Scottish rugby legend Gavin Hastings, were tipped as to do well. And the grueling Monster course proved no match for the team as they secured a 9th place finish overall against a top class 1,100 sell out field.
Speaking after the event Nell, who was competing for the third consecutive year, said: "This event is almost as tough as running the London Marathon! But it's great fun, very well organised and has a tremendous atmosphere. I don't think we were ever really in with a chance of winning, but we have done wonderfully well to finish in 9th place with a time of 6 hours and 28 minutes. "The running leg was great and I thought I did really well to get the team into 9th place. But the bike was so tough. Up hill and off road was hard for me! But I dug deep and only dropped a couple of places."
The winning team, The Great Glen Grunters, from Inverness finished in a time of 5 hours 38 minutes just falling short of/ the course record by three minutes. "The winning team were untouchable!," added McAndrew. However the most important element of the race was raising money for charity and in particular Save the Children - hopefully we can beat last year's total of £150,000. I hope to be back in 2010 - I would love to try and get a little closer to first place!" Nell completed her 9km mainly uphill run in 43 minutes, 9th quickest of all the competitors and her tough off road 22.5km mountain bike section in a time of 66 minutes.
Gavin Hastings admitted to being a little nervous at the start line fearing the quality of the line up. He said: "The other three members of 'Beauty and the Beasts', and in particular Nell, are in a different league from me. They are extraordinarily fit, not to mention competitive! My main aim today was not to let the team down!" Hastings put in a sterling performance completing the toughest cycling leg of the course in a very impressive 1 hour 6 minutes, nine minutes ahead of the average time (75m). He added: "I was pleased with my own performance, both on the run and on the cycle, and equally pleased that as a team we have done really well. "It's great to see the event sell-out - there is a great camaraderie and team spirit amongst the 1,100 or so competitors. The Monster certainly seems to have become established as a key fixture in the sporting diary."
A total of 28 superfit fitness fanatics took their places at the start-line at Saturday's First Monster Challenge. Unlike the other 1,100 competitors who completed the 120km duathlon in teams of four, the Iron Monster participants completed the entire course solo - the equivalent of running a marathon and then cycling two marathons. The last man to finish throughout the entire field was 19 year old Calum Ridout, from Kilmarnock, completing the Iron Monster in 11 hours, 48 minutes. Although experienced on the bike, until Saturday Calum had never run beyond 10km - making his 40km all the more remarkable.
Iron Monster winner was 45 year old Alec Keith, a solicitor from Inverness (pictured with Nell). He completed the 120km course in an astonishing time of 7 hours and 20 minutes, smashing the Iron record by 44 minutes. He said: "I only entered four days before the event and I actually missed the start and began the race after all the other competitors were about 300m ahead! I am delighted to have won and hope to be back next year to defend the trophy."
Organisers FirstGroup, the UK's largest bus and rail company, hailed the First Monster Challenge a resounding success with the event attracting a sell out 275 teams.
Competing in Nell McAndrew's team were: Nell McAndrew, Gavin Hastings, Graham Whyte (51) from Inverness and Dave Cummings (42) also from Inverness. Graham Whyte was formerly team captain of 'Inverness Bikes and Fitness' the winners of the 2007 and 2008 Monster events. In 2007 Nell's team finished third and in 2008 she secured 17th place. Competing in the winning team, The Great Glen Grunters, were: Kenny Riddle (43 from Inverness), Paul Rudden (38, from Inverness), Elanor Reid, (33, From Inverness) and Roxy Bannerman (27, from Tain). Kenny and Paul have tasted success before. Both were in the team that won The First Monster Challenge in 2007 and 2008. Kenny Riddle said, "We are delighted to have won the event - the two girls were fantastic today! The event was superbly organised - in fact they even arranged some brilliant weather. Bring on Monster 2010."
The First Monster Challenge, which has been officially accredited by the British Triathlon Foundation, consists of teams of four. Each competitor is required to complete two legs of the eight-legged event - one 10km run and one 20km cycle.
To access the results in full or for more information about the First Monster Challenge, log on to www.firstmonster.com