On Saturday Chris H and I made our way to the sunny Borders for the St Mary’s Loch Standard Distance Triathlon. I’d bullied Chris into entering a couple of weeks ago, dismissing his claims of not being an experienced enough swimmer to do it. He’d been to a couple of swimming lessons a week prior, so I figured he’d be alright for it. Triathlon can be a little daunting, I think, and sometimes you just need that little push from…em…a caring buddy that only has your very best interests at heart. So I pushed in my usual overbearing way. You’re welcome, Chris! On the drive down I was hoping that the weather would make it all seem worthwhile, but the relentless rain and drizzle made us both wish that we hadn’t entered at all. It really was a day for sitting under cover, drinking tea, and snoozing. It certainly wasn’t a day for splashing around in a loch, then skidding around on your bike, and then sploshing around on a run. The only kindness shown by the course was a warm water temperature – a surprising 16°C, exactly the same as the air temperature.
The race started well, the warm water certainly making a difference. It feels like breathing is easier, that my lungs feel less tight, but that may just be my imagination. I managed to sneak to one side of the main group which kept me away from the stramash of bodies, flailing arms, and feet looking to kick your face off. Easy breathing, steady swimming. It was relaxed! In fact, it may be the first triathlon swim I’ve really enjoyed. I can only put this down to an increase in the amount of open-water swimming that I’ve been doing. Anyway, no sooner had it started then the 1500m were all over, and I was gingerly trying to haul my sorry carcass over the stony waterside.
The bike was also alright too, strangely. I was concerned that I was going to get cold just cycling in a tri-suit, but the air was mild and made for an enjoyable cycle. Well, not cold, at least. The cycle heads south west-(ish), out then back, along the quiet roads of the A708 to Moffat, 40km in total. At the heart of the cycle is a hill passing by the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfalls. On the outgoing leg it’s a fast, winding descent – it’s just the right descending angle to lift your fingers off the brakes and let yourself fly! It was glorious! St Mary’s loch is essentially at the top of this hill, so on the way back home it’s a long and desperate grind. The flying outward leg soon turned and I was facing the climb back, and I quickly realised that the headwind that I thought I was pushing on the way out was actually a tailwind. Aaaargh! All I could do was just keep my head down, wobble my way back uphill, eat fistfuls of ShotBlox and drink some juice.
Finally the run section, along the Southern Upland Way beside St Mary’s Loch. No real climbing, just undulations and thin trods for the outgoing 5km and then turn around and do it all again in the opposite direction. I think all the eating at the end of the cycle paid dividends for the run. It felt quick, for me at least, passing lots of people on the way.
Once over the line, I spotted Chris standing, fully dressed. I automatically congratulated him on beating me in the race in true Scottish form – by insulting him and generally calling him names. Not so! He’d taken 4 strokes on the swim, and decided that he didn’t fancy the race after all. He then turned for the tea tent instead, got a brew, found some shelter in the car, and then went for a snooze. I really couldn’t blame him.
All that was left for me was to analyse my stats, get a burger and juice, and then head home to maybe get some beer. Looking deeper into the numbers I was 25th overall out of 150 finishers. It seems my swim is pretty rubbish (25:18 – 82nd), my cycle was pretty good (1:16:53 – 27th) and I’m really happy with my run (41:28 – 6th). Chris also got a PB on his tea drinking, so it wasn’t a wasted journey after all!
All in all, a nice wee diversion from hillrunning, which can be nice sometimes. A grand day all round!