Neptune Steps Race Report

posted 26 Mar 2017, 07:03 by Enquiries campbeltownrunningclub   [ updated 26 Mar 2017, 07:03 ]

By Dom Sharkey

So a while back I heard about a very interesting race taking place in Maryhill Canal, Glasgow. I was so intrigued by this mainly because I lived next door to the exact site of the race for 5 years at University, and have walked and ran along the canal only several hundred times. Red Bull Neptune Steps started at a low point of the canal, and the course travelled 420m along the length of the canal, up 7 lock gates, gaining 18m altitude along the way. The lock gates were traversed via a variety of obstacles, including rope climbs, rope ladders, wooden ladders, and a climbing wall. Also thrown into the mix on a flat bit of water was a clamber onto a platform with a cargo net to crawl under.

The race format included 8 heats of 30 swimmers, top 7 progressing to a Semi-Final, with then top 10 then progressing to the Final. Not being the greatest swimmer, but still pretty comfortable in any triathlon I’ve done in the past I thought - well I won’t be winning, probably won’t make the final, but should be in with a good shout of qualifying for a Semi. I was very wrong.

I was in Heat 3, so walking down to the start line at the bottom I watched the heat 1 swimmers thinking that the guys in the top few positions were looking smooth and comfortable, that’ll probably be what I’m like. And further down, the stragglers at the end looking like they didn’t know how to swim had me thinking, what are those guys even doing here!

The water was pretty cold, but nothing I hadn’t felt before in Campbeltown Loch. I had a short, reluctant warm-up at the start-line, then fell into position in the second row of swimmers, thinking I’ll just draft in behind for the first section and start to move up once it thins out. The hooter went and within 5 strokes my entire world collapsed. I very quickly realised that somehow all the other swimmers were accelerating away from me, and as I quickly drifted to the back of the pack before the first obstacle my expectations rapidly changed.

In short, I spent about 14 minutes (the eventual winner was under 6 minutes – on his 3rd effort of the day!) basically fighting not to die, gradually losing control of my hands, arms, legs and brain, as I forgot all swimming technique I had practised, lost the ability to dive which I had been training at for the last few months, and I don’t really have any clear memory of what actually happened. Trying not to drown as I couldn’t breathe trying to climb up a ladder with water cascading into my face. Climbing to the top of one of the obstacles I had a quick glance back to the depressing sight of no one else behind me. Blindly flapping my completely senseless hands about in the air like wet socks, hoping that they would come into contact with something that I couldn’t see or feel but could somehow hold on to. I am told that I did manage to catch 3 other guys in the final few metres, but on exiting the water just before the finishline, with almost no motor control of my legs remaining, I spent about 10 seconds slipping about on the spot, whilst 2 of those guys overtook me again. Without doubt the hardest race I’ve ever done. But I had fun and learned a lot, and yes, I would do it all again tomorrow if I could.