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Highland firefighter completes Half Ironman challenge after nighshift for mental health charity

By Garry McCartney

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Louise has been a firefighter for three-and-a-half years.
Louise has been a firefighter for three-and-a-half years.

A FIREFIGHTER from Forres has completed a Half Ironman challenge at home, covering more than 70 miles and raising nearly £1000 for charity.

After finishing a night shift at Inverness Fire Station, Louise Mason (27), swam 1.9km, cycled 90km and ran 21.1km in her back garden in Thornhill Crescent to raise funds for mental health charity Mind UK.

She explained: "I wanted to give myself a lockdown charity challenge to try and keep spirits high. The swim was in a children's paddling pool in water of 9C tethered to my garden fence with a bungee cord for about 40 minutes. I did the biking on a turbo trainer and the run consisted of 844 laps up and down the side of my house.

"The reward at the end was fish and chips and a massive slice of birthday cake!"

Louise has been a firefighter for nearly three years and enjoys helping to protect her community.

She said: "Every day is different and every incident is very dynamic so it keeps you on your toes. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has given us additional PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic and I’m grateful to still be going to work as it helps retain the feeling of ‘normality’."

Outside of work, Louise loves to keep fit through hillwalking, running, rock climbing, cycling and wild swimming.

She said: "Most of that has had to stop for now due to the lockdown so I’m just going for smaller bike rides or runs from my doorstep. Once lockdown has eased I will be really excited to get out for a swim in a river or loch!"

Louise usually fills her free time with events, races and challenges. She has "dabbled in" mountain marathons and triathlons and, in 2015, rowed a boat over 800 miles from London's Tower Bridge to the Eiffel Tower in Paris to raise funds for a children’s hospice in the Midlands.

Her most recent 'Chippy Tea Challenge' was supposed to be a Scottish coast-to-coast triathlon from the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean using only "human power" in less than 24 hours. However, it had to be adapted due to the lockdown and was completed in mainly poor weather.

"It didn't seem to stop raining," she said. "The only dry spell was when I was on the static bike under a canopy.

Ready to take on the swim challenge in her paddling pool.
Ready to take on the swim challenge in her paddling pool.

"It was a challenge to swim in a very cold, cramped space. It swim went by in a flash (just under 40 minutes) but the postman turned up to deliver a parcel as I was stood at the side of my house in a wetsuit! After explaining what I was doing, he gave me a countdown to set me off on my triathlon.

"The bike was more of a slog than I had imagined. The view down the side of my house definitely isn't national park-worthy but for the first hour or so I felt steady. That section took me approximately three hours and 30 minutes."

Cycling 90km on a static bike.
Cycling 90km on a static bike.

Finally, Louise ran continuously for another three hours and 10 minutes.

"The first 200 laps seemed to fly in," she said. "I thought 'this is a piece of cake' but oh how I was deceived. With a lull before the halfway mark at 422, I zoned out for 300 laps, slogging up and down my path not knowing what day of the week it was!

"The last few laps felt surreal and with the rain still falling I crossed my home-made loo-roll finish line ribbon.

Louise's friends and neighbours appeared on her driveway throughout the day to clap, cheer and encourage her.

"It's been so lovely to see people saying that the updates and videos from my challenge have made them laugh," said Louise. "It's great to know that I kept them entertained during these uncertain times.

"I’m humbled by the support I have received, both in the build-up and on the day. I can’t thank everyone enough for their kind words and donations."

Visit the website here to make a donation in support of Mind UK. @lulublueberry

Louise's podium presentation!
Louise's podium presentation!

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