If I did A races, this would have been it, this was kinda the culmination of my training this year. Post Ironman yada yada yada – insert stuff about knee injuries – yada yada – getting back on it, building slowly – yada yada yada, most of you will have heard me moan about this all. But this was my first race I’d prepped for and actually did training specifically for since finishing Ironman so it was important to me to complete it well and without injury.
So there I was, bobbing about in the water in a 2ft swell (exaggerated?) realising that I needed to enjoy this as I wasn’t really going to be racing again this year. Moments before I was kinda dry, if a little rained on, wondering why I hadn’t swum as much this year and if that was going to be a problem in this water. The swell was large, due to the wind which was strong, but not as bad as I was expecting. We were all glad (kinda) that it was a full swim, as no one wants to train for an even only to be told that the swim was to be cut short! I say all, but really I only knew of Tony’s views whose favourite leg is the swim.
The piper was blaring in the background, just to affirm to us that this was a Scottish Loch and the Scottish Middle distance Championships but also it was the British Championships too. This added a bit more flare to the event, more signage and more kudos?
A distant whistle went and off we all paddled toward the Northern Shore of Loch Tay. It wasn’t long until a rhythm was found, which would be broken quite often by attempting to paddle while cresting a wave, having the affect of what i imagine to be looking like Superman flying out of a wave, where i reality it probably just looks silly. The crest of the wave is also the only point at which sighting the buoy was even possible, so you had to time your sights with cresting otherwise, following the bloke in front was the only option.
After rounding the first buoy on a left hand turn of the inverted triangular course, you could feel the force of the waves, swimming directly ‘upstream’ against the waves, the 2nd buoy seemed to take an eternity to come through, my watch had buzzed twice signalling 1000m had gone, and I wasn’t even at the 2nd Buoy! My calculations in my head weren’t working out for me and so I just had to plod on and get out alive and with some energy remaining.
Swim done in 36mins, exiting the water was fun and a quick run up onto the car park into T1, the bumpy carpet meant running wasn’t easy but eventually I made it to my bike.
Tony was there and was almost exiting, this spurred me on a bit, then Kedslie (A GRC’r) joined right at the point where I was working out which was my right and left foot. I’d put overshoes on the bike shoes thinking it would be torrential rain and I’d have nice dry, warm feet for the cycle. I did not envisage having this issue though and at this very point I contemplating taking them off, though I really did not want to. Would they really help me anyway? It took an inordinate amount of time to work out my left and right foot, then put on my top, then put on my race belt, there’s a buckle for a reason on race belts… you don’t need to step in it you know, I found this to be difficult that day! then the gloves, then the sunglasses, then eventually the helmet 6mins later and i’m hobbling out of T1.
I’m not one of those pros that can just seemingly jump on the bike effortlessly while still maintaining a forward projection. I hobble over the line, wearing my shoes, rocking over the cleats, stop, lean the bike, throw my leg over, get the first foot into the cleat and then push off. Elegance, it is not, practical, it is though!
The first bit of the ride takes you through Kenmore and then onto the road to the hilly bit. By the time I’d reached the hilly bit, I’d drunk and eaten some carbs, this 4km section went quick and glancing at my watch, that I’d taken time to fix to my bike in transition (6mins!) I had averaged 31kmph! WTF i thought, though i knew at this point with the hill looming I would slow the hell down. I had some Tony Catching to do.
Incidentally while I was faffing, Alan had been and gone in transition as had Kedslie, so I was well and truly on the heels of them.
Going up the hill I was immediately taken aback by how well I was going up and I didn’t really seem to be struggling, I was in my granny ring but it seemed OK! Weary about my knees I kept pushing thinking that if I’d feel out then i would step back, but only when I felt out sore or weird. I seriously felt good going up.
I slowly passed Kedslie on the steep bit, he’d been on holiday for a month and like had no training so kudos to him for getting on with it. I continued to climb. The weather was windy, in your face (as always) but it wasn’t raining at that point, the road was wet though. I got over the climb and started on the moor bit passing the Braes of Foss, this is where the wind was howling and cold and then it started to rain, the heavy rain that had been forecasted was on. But it was only on for a bit! A welcome change to the forecast!
I took the downhills cautious due to the slippy roads and I had no intention of falling off (who does?) but I took it well safe, the no race zone was not being adhered to as the pointy helmet crew overtook me as well as the disc wheel boys!
Down hill bit done, it was the bit that went on forever next, which is the westerly, wind in your face, never ending North side of Loch Rannoch. With no Tony in sight I was beginning to wonder where he was. Either he was making good progress or I was just shite. Feeling like the latter, my legs were burning, especially the thighs, quads and hips. Pretty much was pushing hard and into a head wind. The loch end was not soon in coming and with each twist and turn the loch looked angrier and the end was never close.
Watching instead the KMs increase I was nearing half way and I had the glimmer of hope we’d be turning around with a lovely tail wind. I was hoping for a rest. the end came and I was still no closer to Tony so it seemed. The end of the Loch takes you up a hill and then back round to join the South side. It was here that I caught a sight of Tony and his red Giant handle bars. Feeling a bit tired and dishevelled I decided to hang back, the competitive guy in me, and my own personal race I was having in my head was saying just go for it, get around this as quick as possible, though my head was saying, you’ll never get over that hill if you continue at this rate. I knew that if I’d have overtaken Tony at that point then i’d be pushing harder all the way back which was not a good idea. Hustling away I decided to hang back and just keep a steady pace, the reasoning being that I would be resting up enough for the last climb out of Loch Rannoch, back over to the Tay Side. I say steady but we were averaging 28kmph which is more than we’d usually go on training days. We were smashing the bike.
No sign of Alan and his tri bar machine so I stayed behind Tony for a while and just kept spinning it out, wondering if he’d noticed I was behind him. I eventually decided with 15kms to go that I’d go for it and put the accelerator back on, just at the bottom of the hill. Remembering this hill from the training ride we did, back then it didn’t seem as tough as it should have been, yet driving the course the day before gave me doubt as it is steep with switch backs. I needed to keep momentum. The sun came out, I was warm, huffing and puffing up this hill, then it would level and be OK, but then it would get steep again. Hill done, it was time to sit back and relax and let the wind blow you over the hill.
I took this and enjoyed that moment. I was going hell for leather, fastest I think I’d been on a bike before over that distance so I knew i was happy, what is more, the knees had been forgotten about and I was rolling pain free!
The descent, again taking it steady I stayed behind this bloke who was going a bit slower than i would have done, but then he was also giving me clues to if there were on coming cars.
Finishing the bike in 3:13 I could not believe it. T2 was a blur, the only thing I remember was attempting to put my helmet in the bag but failing miserably, and letting a kind helper do it for me. I managed to get out of transition faster than T1 but that is nothing hard! I started the run, I did the 1st km in 4min 37s, which was far too fast, so I eased off and tried to get into a stride, the feet were becoming normal and the legs too. The undulating course was playing havoc on my rhythm as I couldn’t get into it. I was thirsty and hungry. I wanted it to end.
The 1st aid station came up and i stopped, mainly to rest the knees but the chat with the Rotary ladies was quite nice, offering me bits and bobs from their picnic. This was to be a mistake, as starting again was tough and about 5 mins later my stomach was regretting the sugar, but I was hyper so that was fine.
2nd aid station came and i decided another gel was in order, I have no idea why. I was hyper and feeling ill in about 10mins so this was a really bad idea. I couldn’t wait to get the run over with. My knees were seizing up, only a bum kick would reset them or a quad stretch, it seemed like they just wanted me to stop. I wanted to stop.
I had passed Barney (who was running back the way) relatively close to the start of the run, then Alan and then on my return journey I met Tony, Kedslie, Colin and Rob on the otherside on their ‘out’ leg. It was good to meet folk you knew on the course, it certainly broke up the pain for me and got me focusing on something else.
Running into Aberfeldy, the course goes off on a tangent and brings you back to the campus the long way round. Upon finishing I was sure I was never going to do another triathlon again. How I got myself through Ironman I have no Idea as I felt terrible during this. 5hours 45mins with a run time of 1hour 49mins. The free alcohol free pint at the end was great, even better as they were marketing it as isotonic! 😀
I recommend this race to anyone as it is really well organised, and the course is beautiful and interesting! make sure you sign up for next year! I’m not sure I’ll be back though.