An initiative to support women who want to try open water swimming was hosted by GTC recently. The idea was launched as part of a Triathlon Scotland project supported by sportscotland.
A six-week course called Women into Open Water (WOW) comprised three weeks in the pool, a week at Pinkston Watersports Centre and two weeks at Loch Lomond.
The coaching team, led by head coach Vicky Begg, included Craig Armour, Alastair Young, Duggie Mac, Alex Rennie, Ruaraidh Wells, Lucy Roberts, Anna Taylor, Rose McIlwhan, Julie Mac and Lochlan O’Sullivan.
The course covered safety, skills, including sighting, breathing patterns and swimming in groups, as well as wetsuit swimming.
Vicky added: “We also had a plan to progress the full group towards a distance-based swim at Loch Lomond, from around 200m to 1km depending on ability, as well as the possibility of entering Swim Loch Tay.”
The main benefits for the 14 participants was a more “formal” fast-track route to open water swimming, although this is usually covered in all club sessions albeit less formally.
Vicky said: “The aim was to build confidence in those who might otherwise have had the desire to swim open water but did not have the opportunity, or the peer group, or skills or knowledge to actually try it.”
Janis McArthur was one of the WOW participants. She said: “I joined the course because I felt it was the only course or training available for complete beginners.
had also signed up for a open water triathlon and then tried some OW swimming
and had a massive panic in the water and this knocked my confidence.
the course idea popped up not long after this incident and I am delighted
because it have me much confidence and guidance. I was then able to put this
into practice at the Mallaig Triathlon.
“The coaches where very patient, encouraging and supportive and recognised when I was panicking in the water and talked me into calming down. They understood my fears and changed them.”
A new challenge
McFarlane also joined the course. She said: “Open water swimming was a personal
challenge. I try to do something new every year instead of having a new year’s
resolution not to do something.
know quite a few people who swim outdoors but I didn’t have the confidence or
means to try it. It’s certainly not something you can do on your own.
other half bought me a wetsuit for Christmas last year as a nudge to get me into
the water and at last I got a chance to use it.”
found the course to be ideal for gradually building up to the point where she
felt confident to get into the open water.
said: “I absolutely hated swimming at Pinkston, I have to say, because I just
couldn’t catch my breath and I was worried that I couldn’t swim without
when we got to Loch Lomond it was a totally different story. It was just so
relaxing. By the last week, I really amazed myself with how far we swam – and
with my head under the water! – and all without touching the bottom.
support from all the other ladies really made the course, too, and there was a
real sense of we are all in this together.
I got out the water I felt on a total natural high and even though it was a
Friday night there was no need for the usual red wine to unwind.
a stressful job, this was the best benefit. I’m now preaching to anyone who
will listen to get them to try it, too.”
Christie has been a member of GTC for just over a year and competes in the women’s senior (25 to 29) age group. She is a principal primary school teacher.
Christie, the youngest of four children growing up in Fife, came to sport in her late teens and after a rough start at university.
She explained: “Sport was not a major priority when I was a child. We are a big family and my parents worked full time.
“My parents were not athletic and they did not have the time, or money, for me to participate in clubs. Additionally, I went to a small high school, with only 360 pupils and sporting opportunities were not something that existed.
“My main focus in my teens was always trying hard to get good grades to go to university.
“When I left home to Glasgow University to study Anatomy I was only 17. Two days later, my boyfriend split up with me. I found this quite hard being on my own in Glasgow at such a young age and I did not feel as though I fitted in with the other girls in my halls.
“To make things harder, my
ex-boyfriend had brought me down mentally, calling me fat and saying I was ugly
without my nails painted and hair up. This had knocked my confidence.
“I started going to the gym
but then I also spent a lot of time in my room at uni comfort eating and then
counting calories and trying to burn these off on the cross trainer or
treadmill and it turned into a vicious, lonely cycle.
“Then, between first and
second year at uni I started working in a care home and I decided I would do
Glasgow Half marathon for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
“I had never done anything
like this before but was determined to finish. My time was two hours 13
minutes. This sparked off something and I joined Glasgow Hares and Hounds
Throughout second year at
Glasgow uni, Christie ran with the club, but she still felt as though she was
classed as one of the “slow, unfit girls”.
She says: “Everyone else had
been in the sport, or active in their youths, with plenty of opportunities for
sport and I felt like I would never catch up.
“It is something I still
struggle with today and triathlon has helped me to not compare myself to others
and be proud of who I am.”
When Christie reached her third
year at uni, she decided to try something different and joined the RAF
She said: “This was a
fantastic experience. Unfortunately, I became unwell between third and fourth
year and had to have an operation to have bi-lateral cyst removal on both
ovaries. This knocked me slightly and, throughout fourth year, I trained mostly
on my own and focused on passing my exams in Anatomy.”
Then, deciding quite late
into her fourth year that she wanted to be a teacher, Christie gained a place
at Aberdeen University to do PGDE Primary Teaching. She said: “I moved back
home and travelled from Fife daily to Aberdeen. It was absolutely mental and I
would not recommend the six hours of travelling each day.
“On boxing day that year, in
2015, I decided to do a parkrun that was on in Kirkcaldy. It was miserable,
freezing and pouring with rain. However, a girl called Alison Sutherland
approached me and convinced me to join Falkland Trail Runners.
“I absolutely loved it. They
were so encouraging and supportive and it was a different atmosphere. I went there
on a Thursday evening and then joined Leven Las Vegas Running Club on a Tuesday
evening. This developed a positive love for running until I moved back to
Glasgow in August 2016 for my probation teaching year.”
After running in Glasgow for
a year and completing her teacher training, Christie developed an injury. She
describes this as a scary time.
She said: “I really valued
my health and training had become a big part of my life. I paid for private
healthcare to be assessed. I had sciatica in both legs and arms and due to this
not improving at one point they considered that I may have multiple sclerosis
and did nerve conduction tests etc.
“Luckily, I did not, and it
was just disc damage that took over a year and a half to improve.
“Half-way during the injury,
my mental health was starting to suffer and I knew I had to do some kind of
physical activity. The only thing the doctor suggested was swimming.
“One problem, however, was that
I could barely swim a length. In November 2017, I joined Glasgow Club adult
swimming lessons and continued these until June 2018. They were fantastic.
“Then, after a summer away
working at Yale University, I returned to Glasgow and I decided to join GTC. My
back was almost 100% and I wanted to be part of a positive club environment
like the Falkland running club.”
Christie joins GTC
Running is still Christie’s
favourite sport. She said: “I think this is because it was the first sport I
got into and the one I have had most success with so far. I need to still
improve my swimming and to get out on my bike more.”
Since joining GTC, Christie
has seen improvements in all three disciplines.
She said: “The support,
coaching and feedback in the swimming sessions has been phenomenal. At times, I
felt insecure, worried and anxious, particularly when the lane times came into
place and while I was still new to the club.
“I felt as though I would
hold people back, but certain club members have boosted my confidence and made
me feel worthy. I have the endurance but sometimes not the speed. I have
progressed so much and I aspire to continue to keep progressing.
“Over the next few months, I
really want to focus on swimming again.”
Her cycling confidence and knowledge
of bikes and riding in a group has also greatly improved thanks to the Bellahouston
track sessions. She said: “I would highly recommend the informal social cycles
Alastair runs on a Saturday. I have only been to a few but these are fantastic
and I like that I do not need to worry about getting lost as I have no clue
about cycle routes.”
Christie reports that Sean’s
Thursday Bella running sessions have also been fantastic. She said: “I enjoy
the four-week blocks and the small informal group environment. Everybody is very
positive and encouraging and Sean is always happy to share knowledgeable
information. Now I just need to try to catch David Hepburn!”
So far, Christie has taken
part in sprint distance triathlons, including Glenrothes Sprint Triathlon,
Bishopbriggs Triathlon and Stirling Double Sprint Triathlon. She hopes to do
longer distance triathlons next year.
Age group place for London
In other sports, she reveals
she ran her second marathon – the Loch Ness Marathon – recently. She said: “I
was absolutely overwhelmed with my time achieving 3:19:49. This was a real
positive for me as I was slightly disappointed after Manchester Marathon, my
first marathon in April, due to running with friends and helping to pull one
friend over the line.
“At Loch Ness, I felt a real
buzz. It was something that I had not felt before and eventually I am starting
to believe I am a runner.”
Additionally, last month Christie
was delighted with her first podium, a second place in the Kilmacolm half
marathon in 1:33. This was a five-minute personal best.
However, she reports that
she feels different when she finishes triathlons. Christie said: “I feel
happier and more relaxed but maybe I am not trying hard enough. I was gutted to
miss out on third place by less than a minute at Stiring sprint double triathlon.”
When Christie has a tough
training session or race she has a way to get through it. She said: “I always
think about what treat I am going to have afterwards. This varies but I do love
chocolate and cake.”
New sports goals
Her goals include “improving
my swimming and continuing to cycle to work throughout the winter”. She added: “I
have recently sold my car to encourage myself to cycle more.”
Loch ness Marathon time means she has also received a “good for age” place at
London Marathon 2020. She said: “London has been on my bucket list since I
started running and I always said I would do it when I was 30, but after the
injury I thought, stuff it, go for it and get a place. I am looking forward to
it but I am unsure if I will enjoy the busyness of the race.”
is also keen to try her wetsuit in open water. She said: “I bought one but
never got around to it this year. Whoops!”
says she is also tempted to sign up to Yorkshire Half with the club group that
is planning to go next summer and perhaps an Olympic distance triathlon. She
said: “I may be more suited to endurance races as I am more anxious over a parkrun
5K than a marathon.”
In the future, she would
like to become an Ironwoman.
Christie said: “Right now,
it’s more about enjoying the outdoors, trying new things and having a healthier
lifestyle. After studying Anatomy I know how complex the body is and everyone
should value being healthy and happy. There are two of the most important
things in life.”
Christie’s tips for
Do not compare yourself to others. Do it for you!
Get involved with a club. Everyone is super encouraging, respectful and supportive.
A team of 28 GTC athletes headed to Ironman Wales to take part in what many described as the toughest but most amazing experience of their racing lives. They were joined by many friends and family, who provided impressive support before, during and after the event.
The GTC members included: Alan Anderson, Philip Burns, Alan Brunton, Annibale Coia, John Conlin, Maggie Darroch, Jeremy Deveney, Alan Duff, Tony Evans, Stuart Gillepsie, Hilary and Paul Glen, Viv Gough, Cat Hirst, Ian Hockey, Tom Kemlo, David King, Jim Lockhart, Gregor Love, Nathalie Jones, Stewart Milne, Neil Pentland, Lochlan O’Sullivan, Ian Ramage, Claire Robertson, Gareth Treharne, Sean Webster and David Wilson.
Many club members thanked Alan Anderson for encouraging them to sign up to the race and over the months they gained a great deal of support from being part of a large group of people aiming for the same event.
A number of the IM Wales team also raised money for charity. Thousands of pounds have been donated to various causes, including Beatson Cancer Charity, Reverse Rett, Simon Community Scotland, MIND, the Butterfly Trust Smileawi and the Rohhad Association.
Here are a few comments from
some of the GTC members that took part in IM Wales.
Hilary, who wrote a blog about her training and the race called Why am I doing an Ironman?, said afterwards: “I am completely thrilled with my achievement and I did much better than I expected. This was certainly helped by having a great team of us all there and spurring each other on, not to mention the training we were able to do together.”
Hilary and her husband Paul had enjoyed a lot of the training togther and on the day the finished just six minutes apart.
Another GTC couple Viv Gough and Gareth Treharne has similar finishes in their respective age and gender groups. While Viv was 14th in her division, Gareth was 15th in his.
Viv was more than an hour faster than last year, finishing in 13:46:38.
Jim Lockhart described the race as “the best day ever”. He said: “It’s the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like a pro. Town – ace, support – ace, swim – ace, bike – ace, run – ace.
“I took longer that I had
planned at 14.07 but every minute that went into the preparation and every
penny spent was worth it.
Annibale wrote on Facebook after the race: “I loved it all and the support was unbelievable, especially from GTC friends and family.”
“I made some brilliant
friends along the way and the resulting event was pure joy.”
Gregor added: “What a
support, what an atmosphere, what a race, what a brutal course. I was ecstatic
to finish and I did as well as I could on the day.”
Maggie, who came an impressive fifth in her age category, wrote: “Behind every achievement, there are so many people who help to get you there.
“I have to thank my fabulous, multitasking husband, who has been Team Darroch mechanic, chauffeur, head cook and bottle washer and cheer leader; my neglected children; Angela McArthur for just being there when needed; Vicki McLaren for being the best training partner, along with the many others who got me out the door including Annibale Coia, Alan Kennedy, Nathalie Jones and Cliff Brown.
“Thank you to all the
coaches at Glasgow Triathlon Club and the marvellous team mates for the
support, belief and encouragement.
“I can highly recommend the
event. ‘Unbelievable’ doesn’t do IM Wales and the town of Tenby justice.”
Lochlan, who shared his
experience on his blog Ironminded,
wrote after the race: “Sickness, pain, exhaustion, sugar-caked teeth and
elation. I had completed this epic event.
“The Dragon wasn’t tamed,
but I had a new-found respect for it and I’d like to think the Dragon had a
reciprocal respect for all of us who tackled this incredible event.”
For David Wilson, a
hamstring problem from half-way through the bike section meant it wasn’t quite
the race he had hoped for but he still enjoyed the experience.
He said: “It was a brilliant
race and atmosphere. Once I had got my head around the race not going as well
as I had wanted, I did enjoy the last three-quarters of the run.”
Sean suffered with a few
mechanical issues. He said: “I had to stop to pump up my tyre four times and then
I fixed the tube, nicked the tube and then replaced it so I lost up to an hour
on the bike section.
“I had a great race overall
though and I felt much better than the previous year. I also took more than 40 minutes off my
run time, which I was very pleased about.”
He added: “It was great to have so many club members at this race and all the GTC supporters, too.”
Almost 30 GTC members headed to the traditional end-of-season ’Gilp tri, the MacQueen Bros Mid Argyll Sprint Triathlon 2019, which takes place in Lochgilphead.
The group came home with a haul of medals and everyone enjoyed a great day of racing and socialising.
Celia Greig was part of the GTC contingent. She said: “The weather was beautiful and it was a perfect day for a race in a gorgeous part of Scotland.”
6 solo podiums
Jamie Glen finished first male junior despite sustaining an injury. Celia said: “Jamie somehow took off most off the skin on his left foot as he came into T2 and this meant he struggled on the run. Tom Kemlo stayed with Jamie for a good section of the return leg to get him back safely.”
Graeme Neagle was first
male, senior. He was also the fastest competitor overall for the swim and the
Louise Ross won the female vets category and she was second female overall. She also recorded the fastest female run. In the male vets, Paul Wallace took second place.
John Kinsella was second in
the male vintage race, while Alan Duff was third in the same age category.
Craig Ross finished fourth male senior.
Two GTC teams made it on to the podium, too. The GTC MurMac Pack was second mixed team while the GTC Retired Auld Gits team came in third in the male senior category.
Other competitors from GTC included David Hepburn, Alastair Young, Sheonagh Law, Darren Morley, Martin Smith, Hilary Glen, Jacques van der Merwe, Lizzie Hamilton, Tom and Hannah Kemlo, Christina Cox, Mike Newall, Jim Elliott, Rose McIlwhan, Julie Macnaughton, Alasdair Ireland and, of course, Celia Greig, our race reporter.
Race day romance
The race was witness to another lovely moment when (non GTC) competitor Dominic Sharkey, who finished second overall, picked up an engagement ring from his shoe in T2 and proposed to his girlfriend during the run as she came back on the return leg in her debut triathlon.
Celia said: “Thankfully, she said yes! And Dominic still ran the fastest run leg of the day.”
‘I’ll be back’
Celia said: “This was my first time at Lochgilphead and I’m so glad I joined others, who have enjoyed this event many times before. I have to say I can see why – and I definitely hope to return next year.”
Seven GTC athletes – and supporters – headed to Arisaig, on the west coast, to compete in the Traighathlon 2019. There were two races, a sprint and standard distance.
In the sprint distance triathlon, Alastair Young finished in third place, with Billy Cameron playing catch up throughout the bike and run to come a close fourth.
Also competing were David
Comerford, Maria Mott and Jenny Gibson.
In the standard distance triathlon, Kirsten Cluley took second place in the women’s race. It was her first triathlon! Mark Cohen also competed.
Great scenery at Traighathlon
Base camp for the
Traighathlon was beautiful Traigh Beach, sandwiched between the coastal towns
of Arisaig and Morar, The views take in the Small Isles of Rhum, Eigg and Skye.
The race organiser states: “Spectacular
white beaches, dramatic shorelines and the changing colours of the Atlantic
Ocean are set against a backdrop of brooding majestic mountains.
“This amazing location, coupled with a great spectator friendly course, make the Traighathlon Series the ideal sports destination for the entire family.”
It was the third edition of the event and all profits go towards a project to refurbish Mallaig swimming pool.
‘Brilliant club weekend’
Alastair reported that the
club had “a brilliant weekend at what must be one of the most stunning
locations for triathlon in the UK”.
He added: “I think you’d
describe the race course as punchy.
“The sea swim was the
highlight for me. The water was perfect, cool and crystal clear. They got the
course measurement slightly wrong and we ended up swimming 1,100m instead of
the 750m but I suspect that was to my advantage as it keeps the younger, faster
folk at bay.
“The bike course is very
undulating, so you can’t really settle into a rhythm because you are constantly
working through the gears while trying to keep the pace up.
“And the scenery is utterly
distracting, with every corner providing another picture-postcard view.”
The run was an out-and-back course toward Arisaig. Alastair said: “There was a bit of a stiff hill into the turn point. But once that was done it was a cruise back to the finish.”
Silver medal in Kirsten’s
It was Kirsten Cluley’s first triathlon and it was made all the more special because she has fond memories of childhood holidays at the Silver Sands nearby.
She said: “I was elated to
podium because my goal had been simply to make it across the finish line.
“The weather was unreal and
when the sun shines in Arisaig, I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Kirsten also liked the swim.
She said: “The water was clear and I felt I got into a good rhythm although the
swim into shore, of the two-loop course, was very choppy.
“I ended up first lady out
of the water somehow. By the second lap of the bike I’d settled a bit more
comfortably as I then knew what to expect.
“Then came the run and I felt
I had little left to give to tackle the same hills as the bike loop. I have
never done a more hilly 10k,
“It was gruelling but I am
so chuffed with the result.”
Both Alastair and Kirsten enjoyed the club outing and the support. Alastair said: “There was a brilliant turnout from GTC on a glorious day.
“The event was very well run
with great marshalling and great support from the community. I’d highly
recommend this for the diary next year.”
GTC headed to Peebles at the weekend for the final race of the Live Borders Triathlon series.
For Fiona Greenhalgh, it was an opportunity to try her first sprint triathlon. She did impressively well coming seventh senior female and 15th female overall.
She said: “I managed not to drown and I really enjoyed it.”
Bruce’s brother Kier Greenhalgh, also Fiona’s husband, competed in the sprint distance triathlon as well. Other GTC sprint tri competitors included Kate Pearson and Graham Cunning.
Kelly Ludwig took part in the novice distance race. She said: “I am super chuffed after completing my third triathlon in sunny Peebles. I was 20th overall in my race, seventh female and third in my age category.
“Thanks to all the great coaches at the club and to all you lovely folk for your support & encouragement.”
Trio of junior podiums
The GTC juniors came home with three medals.
In the Tristart male category, Cory Mcconville was the winner. Brodie Burnett also competed and, as ever, thoroughly enjoyed himself.
His sister, Erin Burnett, had a very close race with Katy Otterson from North Shields in the Tristar 1 females category and ended up in second place.
Erin’s result gave her a first place in the series of three races.
Skye Dick also competed in this race and Connor Birnie raced in the Tristar 1 male category.
Erin Greenhalgh enjoyed her race in the Tristar 2s, while another club member Lucy Donaldson was first in the Tristar 3 females race.
Cameron O’brien also competed in the Tristar 3 males race.
Fiona Mauer – does she ever
stop smiling? – took on the tough Ben Nevis Braveheart Triathlon earlier this
month and not only took a first vet medal but also came fourth female overall.
The weather made the day very tricky and organisers reduced the swim distance to 800m for safety. The run was cut by 15km, too, and this meant that competitors did to get to the summit of the UK’s highest mountain. They reached 786m elevation of the 1345m tall Ben Nevis.
In between was the bike
section that Fiona described as “brutal with winds of up to 75mph”.
In addition, Fiona had mistakenly placed two left running shoes in T2.
Racing for charity
Fiona, who has two children, was raising money for the charity, Buttercups House.
Fiona said: “I entered the race for Buttercups House, a small facility that offers respite care. It has been supporting us through Emily’s chemotherapy while also looking after our severely disabled son, Ethan.
“Everyone had been so generous so that helped calm my nerves in he run up to the race. Also, it was great to see GTC member Mark Cohen at the event too. It helps to be meet with others to calm pre-race nerves. He was camping all weekend in the crazy weather!”
Calm before the storms
The day before the race was beautiful sunshine. Fiona says: “I planned to recce the race the day before and the views of Ben Nevis made me feel quite emotional.
“I was very excited and training for the event had gone okay, all things considering with my family life.”
However, organisers decided to shorten the course when the forecast was for strong winds.
A tough triathlon
Fiona reports that she
enjoyed a strong swim in the swelling sea loch. She says: “My survival
instincts kicked in and I kept my strokes fast and kicked hard against the tide
“The bike had a tailwind out so it felt like I was coasting at 30km/h and then I turned. The headwind was tough but I maintained my pace and came into transition strong and in second place for the ladies.”
It was then that she realised she had two left shoes. She says: “I have several pairs of the same running shoes and stupidly I didn’t check before leaving the house. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.
“I ran for 3.5km with two left shoes until I managed to get to my sister who handed me an old pair of road shoes I use for work.
“I can confirm that running in shoes on the wrong feet hurts and you loose toe nails.
“Then, ascending the steep path up Ben Nevis, I realised it’s a runners’ triathlon. The weather was brutal and the path was surprisingly busy with people on the first half.
“Visibility was poor and when I found the marshals at the turning point I was delighted to be running downhill.”
Fiona was very happy with her result. She says: “It’s an exciting and well-organised challenge race that I would recommend. I was delighted to come fourth overall lady and first in my age category v40.”
Fiona adds: “My sister has supported me at Celtman! and Braveheart and has been inspired to enter a novice race next year herself. That has made me year.”
A group of GTC youths headed to Mallory Park in Leicestershire earlier this month to take part in the prestigious British Triathlon U20s Festival. The event included the final Super Series Race in the National Championships 2019 and the Inter Regional Championships (IRCs) for Tristars 2 and 3.
The IRCs comprise a weekend of racing by regional teams from
throughout the UK at the Under 20s festival (formerly known as the British
Triathlon Big Weekend). Each region
takes a team of 16 athletes from TriStar 2 and TriStar 3 categories (4 male and
4 female athletes from each age group).
Super Series finals
Mia Padmanabhan and Callum Miller raced in the Super Series. Mia was 43rd in their Youth Female race, although she had not been feeling well going into the race.
Callum Miller was 10th in his Youth Male Tier 2 race.
IRC Tristar races
Finlay Adler and Rory Treharne raced in the Tristar 2 boys’ race, while Mirren Stewart competed for the Tristar 2 girls. These races took place on the Saturday. The trio took part in the IRC relays on the Sunday, too.
Mirren was 12th in her TS2 race. Rory Treharne was 23rd, while Finlay Adler was 30th in their TS2 race.
The Scottish team finished ninth region overall. In the
relays, Scotland A team (including Mirren) finished in fifth place. Team B (including
Finlay) was 30th and Team C (including Rory) was 31st.
A report from Triathlon Scotland stated: “All members of the team should be extremely proud of not only their races but also their attitude and behaviour throughout the whole trip. They are a credit to themselves, their clubs and the region.”
Finlay: ‘It was a different experience’
Finlay Adler described the experience of racing at the IRCs as “completely different to any race I have done before”.
He added: “At first, it seemed a bit daunting because it was
on a different scale to any other race I had entered.
“I enjoyed staying with the team because I knew a few of the
others from my club. The coaches were all extremely supportive and encouraging
and I would love to be able to have the experience again.
“As far as the racing goes I thought that I had an okay race
and, as ever, different parts went better than others.
“I don’t think that someone ramming into me on the bike
helped very much but I was really pleased with my run. Just like at every race
I learned a lot.”