I’d entered the Aberfeldy Middle Distance Triathlon on a whim a few weeks ago, after some gentle goading on a Monday night swim. Last year I finished the Standard Distance, and this year I was hoping to do a Middle Distance but things didn’t really work out and forgot about it. So, after seeing that there were still spaces available for Aberfeldy I signed up, and hoped that some last minute cycle training would be enough to get me through the race. The middle distance is also called a half Ironman, or “70.3” (total miles covered), and consists of: 1900m swim, 55mile cycle, and a 13.1mile run. This was the Scottish championship race, too, so lots of serious faces would be attending. I wasn’t quite ready for it, but eager I suppose, and hoped to improve…em…everything in the three weeks remaining. Unfortunately for me, some hydration training with Graham after a Wednesday night run resulted in me flying over my handlebars whilst searching for a kebab shop at 2am. The bruised ribs and cuts persisted until race day, which wasn’t particularly ideal, and also caused problems for my last minute training and kebab eating. No matter, fortune favours the brave, or so they say.
Come race day, I met with new Carnethy member Noel, and also Blair from a Monday night swim a couple of weeks back. Noel’s done the race before, but Blair and I were Aberfeldy newbies. Last minute hiccups with forgetting my race number belt was quickly solved by cutting apart my pants and using the waistline as a replacement number belt. This actually worked well, albeit at the cost of one of my favourite pairs of pants. So, pants aside, to the event…
The swim start was on the banks of Loch Tay just after sunrise. The water was cold, but calm and clear, the air was warm and the weather forecast looked great for the upcoming day. Starting the swim in waves, we set off on a single lap of a triangular route near the Crannog Centre. The swim was picturesque, but unremarkable, and featured lots of splashing and colliding with people who ping-ponged round the course with only a general feel for where they were going. Well…either they were not swimming straight, or I wasn’t. Or maybe both? I dunno, it didn’t seem to matter too much I think. I think there was a girl who deliberately punched me in the face, it seemed too good a punch to be accidental. I probably deserved it though, I wasn’t paying that much attention and was maybe weaving around. A stunning left hook, though!
For me, the cycle was where it all happened. Or didn’t happen. At the start I thought I was cycling well, I really did, but within seconds some guy flew by, wearing a complete time trial outfit of Aero bike and pointy helmet. Then another a few seconds later. Then another. Then another….and so on, for 55miles. It was clear then, more than ever, that three training rides and using a cyclocross with road tyres was not going to cut it in the competitive world of triathlon. Sigh. To be fair, things weren’t so bad after about 30 miles, when the headwind round Loch Rannoch was replaced by a tailwind on the return, but it didn’t matter that much. People still cruised by with ease, but at a lower frequency than before. With hindsight, tri-bars would have been wise, and maybe a proper road bike, but it was too late by that point so I just had to pootle along and take in the (rather beautiful) views. Also, my backside wasn’t used to the saddle, and so spent the majority of my afternoon cursing every bump and shifting myself around, and occasionally eating sweeties to cheer myself up. So not all bad, really. The roads were very quiet, practically free of cars, which made the cycle route even more spectacular, and as enjoyable as it could be! The best part was certainly the descent towards Aberfeldy, a fantastic winding ride down from Schiehallion, as fast as you dare!
The Aero bikes, pointy helmets, cycle experience and tri bars are all very good, but they don’t help much on the run. Finally something that I could do! I was lacking in food, and a wee bit dehydrated, but made good progress on the run and got by a good number of folk. The half marathon out and back was well marshaled with a good number of aid stations, so at least I got some support, and the cola at the turning point made a massive difference. The aid stations all had powerbar gels, which I can’t cope with, so didn’t have anything until the cola. What I would have done for a jelly baby, just one! Anyway, I managed to catch Noel, and spotted Blair when running back on the return leg. We finished in that order, but Noel had a later swim wave so despite me finishing ahead he had the better time and won the honours for the day (5hrs 35mins), with Blair (6hrs 08mins) not far behind me (5hrs 37mins).
A fantastic day out, in a beautiful part of the country, and really well organized with a great army of volunteers to help out. Thanks to all involved! I’d strongly recommend it to anyone.