posted 2 Nov 2017, 06:44 by Enquiries campbeltownrunningclub

By Iain McGougan

2ND of July 2017 was the date that the Ironman juggernaut rolled into Scotland for the first time and set up camp in Edinburgh. After completing Arranman in 2016 I thought Edinburgh would be a gentle cycle through the Lothian county side followed by an easy run around Edinburgh, I was in. 

Arriving at registration on Saturday the 1st of July at Meadowbank Stadium was certainly an eye opener. Admiration and envy of the sheer volume of carbon dream machines hanging off every car soon turned into trepidation followed very quickly by utter panic about the volume of training I had completed or to be more accurate not completed. Completing registration was a doodle with loads of helpful and friendly staff who were always smiling, this helped settle me down again. Walking around the expo spotting what it seemed to be hardened Ironman veterans everywhere almost sparked a complete meltdown but I managed to maintain a calm exterior for the benefit of my support crew (Ruth). Perhaps the panic was more about the thought of a wife let loose in the merchandise shop rather than the next days race.  The pre race briefing was an eye opener not for the cheesy well worn funnies from the Directing Staff but when asked the volume of first timers taking part tomorrow, at least I have had prior experience (yes at my age I know it’s something I’m not lacking in) of what lies ahead. 

Separate transition areas for T1 & T2 meant careful packing of the required bags before dropping them off in the designated areas. So run bag safely deposited in Holyrood Park in the centre of Edinburgh it was off to Musselburgh to rack my silver dream machine and a swim practice. Bike racked and heading to the beach I started to hear the murmers of discontent from fellow competitors. It seems the state of the Firth of Forth was causing a bit of concern for my fellow athletes. On seeing the waves gently lapping (or something like that) I quickly decided that there was no point in having a swim practice. Being dashed back onto the beach by the breakers would do nothing for the confidence so it was off to carb load, AKA stuff as much rubbish down you, you will burn it off tomorrow. 

After the obligatory 4am porridge it was off to Edinburgh to attempt the anticipated hardest task of the day, park a car in the centre of Edinburgh. Arriving back at Musselburgh to hear the tunes pumping out of the speakers at 6am instantly raised the spirits although I suspect the nearby residents were not as impressed as I was. 

In between Sweet Child of Mine (by Guns n Roses for those of you too young to remember) the tannoy was announcing that the swim distance had been halved. This was being welcomed to an extent by many who were crying for their mums not for any sweet child of anyone’s. I suspect that many would have been delighted if the swim had been cancelled completely. Incredibly the sea was even worse than it was on Saturday and even the pro’s were being restricted to 950m. Finally I was starting to feel a bit more comfortable after having a few “special swims” in Campbeltown Loch I was reasonably relaxed that I could cope with the conditions. There was certainly not much confidence reverberating round the starting pen where I was as most of those competing had only experienced their local indoor pool or lake and nothing like what they were looking at this morning. On eventually reaching the starting line it was difficult wading out into the water with the force of the surf pounding in. Swimming was certainly difficult with spotting the turning buoys virtually impossible with only the briefest of glimpses as you reach the crest of the waves if you are lucky. Every open water swim I have ever seen on the TV has had kayaks posted at the turning buoys making sure swimmers turn on the correct side of the buoy, not this one! Every kayak I spotted was scattered about the course with multiple swimmers clinging on for dear life. I was taking on my fair share of sea water but either I had consumed so much I was becoming accustomed to it or The Firth of Forth isn’t as salty as Campbeltown Loch. I certainly wasn’t disappointed to exit the water after the designated distance. I heard later that sixty competitors didn’t complete the swim and had to be pulled from the water.

Surely the bike leg wouldn’t be as eventful. Thankfully I am pleased to report that this was certainly the case.  Drama free yes, flat with a tailwind, most certainly not. The pre race description of a course on “rolling” landscape conjured up a vision in my mind of a pan flat course not a route with the same amount of elevation gain as Arranman. The real bonus was that there was a nasty sting in the tail with a cheeky climb up and around Arthurs Seat just as you think that T2 is just around the corner. Despite the near constant headwind the cycle into Edinburgh was very enjoyable with tremendous support from the locals with cow bells ringing from start to finish. Bizarrely as I approached the village of Cousland there was a piper knocking out some inspiring tunes, not that bizarre I hear you say you are in Scotland. The fact that he burst into “Campbeltown Loch” as I approached was quite the co-incidence and certainly put a smile on my face for once. 

T2 wiped the smile from my face rapidly as I hunted for my transition bag that stored my trainers and almost as important my cherished CRC vest and Kintyre Way “rag”. After five minutes of frantic searching assisted by two very helpful volunteers the bag was found. Special thanks to the special person who moved and dumped my bag at the opposite end of the transition tent. The support on the run leg was again fantastic especially on meeting members of Mid Argyll Tri Club who were there in numbers along with supporters in the crowd. Three loops up and around Holyrood Park, just a run in the park to finish. Beautiful as it is with an almost immediate climb up and around the base of Arthur’s Seat I can’t say I was admiring too much of the views. After the initial climb the remained of the run route was remarkably pleasant with an interesting detour into an old railway tunnel which was a welcome cool section to lower the temperature before hitting the short but steep hill on exiting the tunnel.  Before I know it I am flying down the finishing chute mustering any final strength to put on a show for the cameras at the line and its all over. 

To sum up Ironman Edinburgh 70.3, yes it is a commercial operation but with that comes a very slick and professional operation. There were loads and loads of helpful and friendly volunteers especially at the fueling stations and at the finish line along with masses of food and a very welcome massage.  As a commercial operation this all comes at a cost along with the extra photographs which of course can be purchased for a small fee, not!! Expensive compared to other events yes, but they make sure you have an enjoyable experience from start all the way to the finish line and beyond, just a pity they haven’t mastered control of the seas yet, but no doubt they are working on it.