Loch Tay Sprint Triathlon – Fiona Miller

At the beginning of this year my husband Donnie challenged me to enter a sprint triathlon. It had been 5 years since I’d last completed a triathlon despite being a member of E#3 for a couple of years. I’d done a couple of Try a Tri events and one sprint triathlon in the past but after an ankle injury I’d changed my focus to swimming events and the odd running one.
So – challenge accepted I had to find a triathlon to enter. As luck would have it Durty Events had added a new race to their calendar – the inaugural Loch Tay Sprint Triathlon. It was to be held the day before the Aberfeldy Middle Distance Triathlon and was billed as suitable for beginners and experienced triathletes alike. The event would be based in Kenmore and involved an open water swim in Loch Tay.
This event sounded perfect! As a family we holiday regularly in Kenmore so it would be a familiar and ‘happy’ place to don my trisuit after a big gap. Also – the open water swim appealed to me as my previous triathlon experiences had all involved pool swims – so, good to try something new. And I enjoy open water swimming normally (more on this to follow!) having taken part in a number of the Great Swim Events over the past few years.

The day before the race the forecast was for winds gusting up to 40mph. Oh well, I told myself – the BBC news app is often wrong, lets just wait and see. As I’d hoped the forecast for race day improved overnight – to 20mph winds. Walking to the swim start at Taymouth Marina the water looked ‘a little choppy’ – but I put that out of my mind reassuring myself that I have swum in windy conditions before ………………

I was starting in the 2nd wave of competitors and when it was our turn to enter the water by the Crannog and swim out in position for our deep water start we were immediately pummelled by waves hitting us head on. It was a struggle to get in position to start. Trying once again to put a positive spin on it I told myself the waves were probably just being generated by the Rescue Speed Boat which was busy collecting some competitors from the first wave. I chose not to focus on the ‘rescuing’ part of that thought! Once the boat has gone the water will be calmer, I told myself.

The klaxon went and it was time for my wave to start. It was quickly apparent that – the waves were NOT a temporary feature caused by the boat and that sighting was almost impossible towards the first buoy. I struggled to get into any kind of rhythm and changed to breaststroke as I tried to figure out what to do. I slowly inched towards the first buoy having swallowed a lot of water.
It was at that point my positive spin on the swim deserted me. I’d been complacent mentally about the swim as I enjoy swimming, and having completed the 2 mile Great North Swim in June – 750m in Loch Tay was relatively short. The bike and run were the parts I was nervous about as I’m not a very experienced cyclist and a tortoise when it comes to the run. 

In the middle of Loch Tay, as the race began to look like a scene from the movie Titanic, with competitors clinging onto safety kayaks and even some disconcerting cries for help, I would have not have been surprised to see Leonardo Di Caprio floating past on a crate. How on earth was I going to complete a triathlon when I was making such heavy weather of what I felt was my stronger point?
Thankfully the end was in sight and I started to make some headway back towards the Crannog. I staggered out the water – surprisingly managing to get my wetsuit off fairly quickly – ironic as this was the part of the swim leg I thought I’d mess up!

Before I had a chance to consider throwing in the towel I found myself off on the bike leg. All the adrenalin from the stress of the swim and a great tail wind in the middle section of the course made for a faster bike split than I’d anticipated. I even managed to overtake a few people which was a first for me on the bike (hopefully these were fellow competitors and not people out for a wee cycle).
All those tough Thursday night club spin classes paid off and I pushed myself more than I would have previously. The bike course was exactly as described – gently undulating on quiet roads with great scenery.
I entered T2 so glad to be almost finished that I totally forgot where my run kit was waiting (despite having walked my self through it earlier). Thankfully a very helpful marshall pointed me in the right direction and I was soon in my trainers to head out on the run.
My legs felt awful (should have done some brick sessions!) but I was determined to keep going – and finish before our dinner reservation that evening. The run was more of a walk jog but the route was lovely as it takes you through the grounds of Taymouth Castle. I thought I’d reached the halfway point on the run when there seemed to be a bush playing the bagpipes next to the castle. I was wrong on both counts – cruelly it wasn’t quite halfway, and there was actually a piper standing behind a bush and not magical shrubbery!
Despite the tough start I did complete the triathlon. I was so phased when I crossed the line that I blindly joined a queue of fellow competitors at the back of a van. Oh good I thought – this must be coffee or beer I’m in line for. Sadly it was just the wee print of my race stats.
So – in summary:
Would I do another triathlon? Definitely! I’m unlikely to be bringing back any silverware for the club anytime soon but I will be providing a necessary role in any race – someone to overtake!
Would I recommend Loch Tay Sprint Triathlon? Absolutely. Great setting, well organised. You can’t control the weather and I learned a lot from the experience
Has it put me off open water swimming? Strangely no – it’s made me determined to learn the skills necessary to cope with rough conditions. And thankfully as I’d entered the Great Swim at Loch Lomond the following week I was back in the water before I could think too much about it! (that was a far more enjoyable swim and the small amount of chop felt very manageable after the triathlon).