Back in November 2014, Merrell's endurance ambassador Sean McFarlane and Chris Volley from British Triathlon, acting as extreme triathlons provocateurs and O3 OlympusMan advisers, visited Cyprus and
tested the proposed courses for the event.
After returning home he put down his thoughts in his Merrell blog:
Olympus Man - Sean McFarlane tests a potential race course in Cyprus!
December 10, 2014
Ambassador Sean McFarlane recently ran a very successful training camp at hotel Almyra in Pafos, Cyprus. But it was a camp with a twist as Sean and fellow coach Chris Volley were all too willing guinea pigs for testing a race course for an exciting new event hopefully coming to the island soon. Time to practice what they preached!
Local event organiser Mike Hadjioannou had long been planning an extreme triathlon in Cyprus. With runner up spots in the inaugural Celtman, City to Summit and Brutal extreme triathlons, he reckoned I was an expert racer in such events. I tried to convince him otherwise but he didn’t believe me.
From ocean to Olympus
The concept here was pretty simple – from ocean to Olympus – and I knew straight away it had the makings of an epic. The proposed course is without doubt one of the most challenging half ironmen courses on the planet. A 1.9k swim in Pafos harbour would be followed by a 90k bike with over a staggering 2,600 metres of ascent. The last leg would be an off road half marathon with 500 metres of ascent gradually spiralling up to the summit of Olympus at 1950 metres.
The starting location was perfect. The clear, clean and warm waters of Pafos harbour at 7am very much felt like the lull before the storm. The hotel manager Ashley joined us and he rightly questioned the need for a wetsuit in the 23 degree water. Our circular two lap course, with the sea bottom always visible, seemed to be over all too quickly – not often I say that for a swim leg.
One of the toughest bike legs!
Onto the bikes, we were all too well aware of the stats involved here. There was a lot of climbing. A lot. Mike had joined us for this stage and we first headed east along the quiet coastal road out of Pafos and then inland. The smooth tarmac surfaces were perfect, and empty roads were the order of the day. After 39k of pretty easy biking we were only 260 metres above sea level, but the view ahead of us was now wall to wall mountains, so we knew we were going up.
A quick stop to refuel and then the gears changed, the wind dropped, the pace slowed and we climbed. Eventually into the charming village of Agios Nicholas, the gradient levelled and we picked up the pace for a brief respite. On arriving in Kato Platres we were now almost at 1000 metres. The landscape had now changed considerably and the autumnal colours were at their glorious best. The falling leaves almost made me think I was back home, save for the warmth in November, not to mention the perfect road surfaces. Now for the final push, though I hoped not literally. Over an hour of solid climbing later we arrived at T2 in Troodos. And I was knackered!
Our run course was a half marathon taking in two circular trails under Mount Olympus – the Atalante followed by the Artemis - with a final short stretch heading straight up to the summit. Mike now changed to role of chief supporter and adopted a questionable Smurf tracksuit which would at least allow us to spot him from a mile away.
The run was both the highlight and lowlight of the day for me
The highlight was the trails themselves – challenging terrain but always runable and with views to die for. Each turn gave a perfect viewing platform to look back seawards from the heart of the island. But it was also the lowlight as I felt dreadful! Off season racing isn’t something I do and this was tough, really tough. Chris was like a kid in a sweet shop and fuelled by our staggering surroundings, he was hammering on like an over-excited gazelle. Meanwhile I felt like a rhino with a hangover. But Chris kept me going and we ran, joked, tried to eat and met our team every forty minutes or so. Just over two and half hours later and with the light almost gone, we were on the final section up to the summit. Then we were there. We were Olympus Men!!
What a great adventure. Mike plans on having a limited entry trial race at the end of April with a full race in November. I’ll be back, hopefully in better shape and raring to go.