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Working on the solution to Hawaiian puzzle . . .

There has, Catriona Morrison informs me, been a regrettable departure from the household.

Catriona Morrison trains for her gruelling Ironman routes with Stirling Castle in the background. Picture: Stewart Attwood
Catriona Morrison trains for her gruelling Ironman routes with Stirling Castle in the background. Picture: Stewart Attwood

"The chickens are all dead," she reveals. Her ambitions as a poultry queen may be over, but there are other schemes to hatch for the Glasgow-born triathlete. Goals which will require the 37-year-old to traverse the globe and bid to excel in swim, bike and run.

Recently returned from New Zealand, where she got her 2014 off a victorious start in Ironman's Asia-Pacific Championships, Morrison's natural ebullience has been heightened by what she describes as an accidental triumph.

Along with her husband Richard, she had ventured down under to celebrate the 50th birthday of their best man rather than with any competitive intent. She was training hard, as she always does. A casual observation that the long-distance circuit was passing through Auckland took on a serious twist.

"I thought it would be remiss not to take part," she recounts mischievously. It was, nevertheless, more of an excuse to extend her own stay and soak up the sun. "To win was just a bit surprising. I must have been fitter than I thought I was before I went out."

When your stock-in-trade is the full Ironman route of swimming 3.9km, cycling 180km and running a full marathon, the nature of Morrison's fitness is a planet apart from mere mortals.

Yet the former world duathlon champion is driven by an obsessive goal: to conquer the sport's mythical showpiece on the Hawaiian island of Kona. Held every October, it is a conundrum set by the natural environment, heat, winds and tides; all parts of a puzzle which has stumped even the best. In three prior attempts, she has yet to crack the top 10. Yet the points accrued in New Zealand have advanced her push to qualify. A similar display in Panama this weekend could effectively secure her spot with eight months to spare. "And if I qualify early," she adds, "I'll have the leeway to plan ahead."

Despite injuries hampering her aspirations over the past two seasons, she remains ambitious, more so because of her undoubted potential to contend. Last year, if only she had been properly fit, it may have been there for the taking. "The conditions were very benign. It favoured the stronger bikers but the runners did well. That was heartening. I know I can be in the top five. I'd love to be on the podium."

Ironman is not an idle pursuit. Nor does it come cheap. Life is simpler, undoubtedly, for those who can realise their dreams over the shorter standard distance of the sport. A part of the programme at the Olympic Games, as well as the Commonwealths, those leading Britons get access to funding and support, and a steadier diet of prize money from the International Triathlon Union circuit.

Morrison has attended two Commonwealth Games. Despite the incentives, she has no plans for a third. "I'm too old and slow," she smiles. "But in Manchester in 2002, it was as close to a home Games as I ever expected. I could have gone for it in Glasgow but I've been to two Commonwealths and while it was great as an experience, they weren't great athletic performances.

"As an athlete, those are what drives me. I wouldn't want to go to just make up the numbers. I need to be competitive and I'm not that over standard distance. I've moved into a different area of triathlon."

Instead, she will watch on television in her West Lothian home or perhaps in some coastal trans-Atlantic destination. She has a small cluster of sponsors to serve, aided by a small stipend from one commercial benefactor and her part-time role with the Winning Scotland Foundation. Sport will not make Morrison rich. "If I do well in a decent race, I get rewarded," she confirms. "But those races are few and far between as well. I probably break even at the end of the year because I now go to more expensive races. The flight budget's gone up."

Frequently in tow will be her other half. "Richard's not a bad biker," she confirms. A senior executive at East Lothian Council, his annual leave is built around his wife's escapades. The poor man, you think, being dragged off to locales which are less Rough Guide and more Condé Nast.

The support of her husband, it would appear, is better than any energy bar. "It's a big emotional outlay doing an Ironman as well so it's good to have someone there for all the wobbles, or all the things you don't want to have to take care of on race day," she laughs.

"I've done one Ironman when he wasn't there. But it's always great to have that support. Even during the race, when you're spending eight hours out there, seeing a familiar face is wonderful."

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