Gullane Beach Tri - Race Report

posted 3 Aug 2017, 05:10 by Enquiries campbeltownrunningclub   [ updated 3 Aug 2017, 05:11 ]
By Ewan Swith

An Open Water Triathlon has been on my bucket list for a while. I'm not 
sure why; much as I enjoy swimming in the sea, I'm not very good at it 
and cycling largely means meandering to Kilberry on a Sunday afternoon at a sedate pace.  But the Gullane Beach Tri appeared on my horizon just 
after the Glen Scotia Marathon and as an injury prone runner it looked like the very thing to provide a fresh challenge and lift me out my 
comfort zone.  I entered with no pretensions. Just to finish would be plenty.

Gullane also has the advantage of being far away so if it went pear shaped nobody would be any the wiser.  So for that reason and no other I 
was a bit nonplussed to see the names of Stephen Whiston and Rebecca Helliwelll from the Mid Argyll Triathlon Club appear on the entry list.  
In the event, I was very glad of their company.

And so to the swim.  There was a fair wee breeze with a degree of messy choppiness from the west but I felt I'd swum in worse.  However, when 
you swim in Loch Fyne all you need to look out for are scowders and the odd seal which might be peckish or sexually frustrated. This is not a 
great preparation for entering the water with 70 other people.  The first leg was heading into the wind and soon I was struggling to keep my 
stroke and pick my way through the melee. Though to be honest the melee was moving forward faster than me. I began to realise just how out my 
league I was and seriously considered dropping out.  However, Rebecca had said her daughters were coming to cheer her on and I could hardly 
have it going back to the school that I hadn't lasted 5 minutes.  I rounded the buoy for the long leg east and while you couldn't say I was 
swimming well it was at least better. The first lap passed and going back into the water for the second lap was easier as the crowd was much 
thinner.  It was too choppy to see if there was actually anyone still behind me but I passed a couple of swimmers, one of whom was wearing a 
red cap meaning he had been in the first wave which had set off 5 minutes before us.

Eventually I sprachled out the water having swallowed more air than the Michelin man. But the "swim" wasn't over,; oh no. The "swim" included a 
lengthy run up a steep path to the transition area while trying to unfasten a wetsuit.  Transitions are a thing if you're a proper 
triathlete but on the one occasion I tried running without socks I lost a week of training until the blisters healed and if you've ever studied 
my running you'll have noticed that anything involving the degree of coordination and balance required to put on shoes while pedalling a bike 
is just no heppnin.

The big boys with tri bikes, deep rims and tribars were pretty much all away when I set off with my Chain Reaction sale bike complete with 
compact chain set.  The first 5K were cheuch with quite a headwind and I reconciled myself to the idea that the bike leg was going to be a long 
haul. The countryside was pretty though and I realised I had only seen cornfields full of poppies in pictures before. Nonetheless, I had passed 
a few folk and then I turned a corner and not only was I out the wind but I realised we had done a fair bit of climbing.  Now there was a long 
descent; I was away like cheese and a sub 3 hour finish suddenly seemed possible.   The rest of the bike leg was mixed with tough headwinds at 
times but I was passing more folk than were passing me. The nondrafting rules mean you shouldn't be within 10m of another rider which is not 
that straightforward but a bit of common sense might have told me that they were unlikely to be too concerned about checking up on a tail end 
Charlie.  Rebecca and I had passed one another a couple of times and when I saw her ahead of me on the home straight I knew what needed to be 
done and sprinted past  My joy, however, was short lived, Rebecca was having none of that and passed me for a final time yards from the 

The run was supposed to be the bit I could do.  It began with a run up a steep grassy bank where I passed a guy who had passed me on the bike 
several times.  At the top I thought that was the worst past as we made our way through the streets. Then we reached the golf course...  Blue 
noses of Neil John's vintage and up will recall that Gullane was where Jock Wallace took Rangers to toughen up and I began to wonder if he had 
designed this route too. The Tarbert 10k is nothing to thon.

Soon it was downhill and into a trail section where in the middle of the trees a wee guy and his pals were ringing bells.  If they had been in 
orange I would have said they were Hare Krishna.  I couldn't work out what they were doing and I was more concerned about where the route was 
going next. Then I remembered. 2 laps. Back up the grassy bank. Back to the golf course. This time there were a number of folk walking and 
feeling like Derek Johnstone after a summer of pies, I ran and walked to the top somehow managing to pass one hardy soul who was trying to run 
the whole way up.   Shortly after this I was pretty certain I was going to spew - probably due to a breakfast of sticky buns, Yorkie bars and 
the litres of air taken on in the swim but I was damned if I was stopping and it passed.  Soon I was back in the woods where I finally 
realised that Hare Krishna man was not signalling peace on earth but the final K.  And so in 3 02 52 it was over.  77th place and 12th old fla. 
Not great but I'd finished it and that was what I'd set out to do.

  So assuming anyone is still reading, would I recommend it?  If you're looking for a challenge, yes, certainly. I've nothing to compare it with 
but I would suspect it's not a pb course but it is certainly enjoyable and well organised. Would I do it again?  I don't know. Yesterday I 
would have said no, I just wanted to do it once.  And then there is the bike thing; if I spent money on it would I go faster?  I suspect the 
answer might be yes and I don't want to go there. On the other hand I've spent today thinking of various improvements to my technique not least 
better breathing in the swim. And then while my swimming might still be crap, two and a half years ago I could do exactly 30metres of freestyle 
so progress is possible.  And then a sub 3 hour finish is still out there.  Waiting...