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Amy wins gold at Aquathlon World Champs

GTC member Amy Ritchie (age group 20 to 24) triumphed in the 2019 Pontevedra ITU Aquathlon Age Group World Championships in Spain this month. Another club member Arlene Lewis (45 to 49) took silver.

Amy finished the 1km open water swim and 5km run in 37:14. She won gold more than than a minute and a half ahead of the second placed female.

Arlene was just 11 seconds behind the gold medal winner in her age category and finished in 39:18 to take silver.

The GB age group finished with a total of 25 medals, including 10 golds, in Pontevedra.

Both Amy and Arlene also competed in the 2018 Glasgow ETU Triathlon European Championships last year. Amy was 12th in her age cat while Arlene was 24th.

Last year, Arlene also qualified for the 2018 Ibiza ETU Aquathlon European Championships coming 5th.  In 2017, she was 22nd in the Düsseldorf ETU Sprint Triathlon European Champs.

Amy’s bid for qualification

Amy qualified to race at the world champs in February. She competed in Porto in Portugal as part of a holiday with her parents. Amy said: “I enticed my parents with  the idea of good food, wine and weather, rather than the racing. We ended having a week’s holiday and I qualified for the world champs, too.”

Amy with her mum and dad.

Racing in the world champs

The world champs race took place on May 3. Arriving in Spain on May 1 gave Amy enough time to recce the swim course, which was a 1km loop swimming against the current, turning around two buoys at the far end and swimming back down to transition with the current.

Amy said: “The water temperature was around 14C, which I felt was warm after the 6C of Neptune Steps in Glasgow in March. I don’t think the Australian competitors agreed with me though!”

Amy had been suffering with a cold the week before the event and had been unable to run for much of March so she said she wasn’t expecting to do too well.

The race start

Amy’s age category started the race with five other female age groups. She said: “This meant it was pretty choppy in the water with lots of accidental punching and kicking.

“My main aim in the swim was to find space, which I did by about the turn point, and then power it back to transition.”

She described the run course as “fairly crowded”. She said: “This meant I had very little idea where I was placed, but I felt strong and I was pleasantly surprised with my run time.”

Amy’s podium delight.

Amy wins gold

Amy had no idea that she had won her age group until her boyfriend, who was checking the results at home, texted. He wrote: “DID YOU JUST WIN?! OH MY GOD, YOU’VE WON!”

Amy said: “Overall, it was a great experience of racing abroad, topped off with a World AG gold medal. It also happened on what would have been my gran’s 100th birthday, which made it even more special.

“All of the other athletes were incredibly friendly and supportive, and it was great to have my parents there to watch me win.

“This time last year having only done two triathlons, I definitely didn’t think I could even qualify for Age Group World and European events, so I can’t thank the GTC coaches and training pals enough for helping me to believe in myself. I couldn’t have done it without you all.”

Also read: Arlene wins silver at aquathlon world champs.

GTC athlete of the month: Fiona Roberts

Fiona has been a regular at GTC since 2016 when she joined up with her daughter Lucy. However, she did come along to the club between 2010 and 2012, but found it difficult to make sessions because of childcare difficulties.

Her first triathlon was the Durty off-road, which at the time was held at St Mary’s Loch in the Scottish Borders. Fiona says: “In 2010, a judo friend suggested I give this race a try. I had done no open water swimming in cold water and virtually no mountain biking, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Fiona’s main sport from childhood until her 30s was judo. Unfortunately, she was abruptly forced to give this up after an injury in 2001.

Fiona and daughter Lucy at the Dundee Aquathlon.

She also started running in 1996 after a year working in Chicago “because I didn’t have a car”.

She says: “That year, I did my first women’s 10k at the beginning of the summer and the Glasgow Half Marathon at the end of the summer.

“I have done both every year since, apart from 2000 when I was pregnant and I missed one half marathon due to illness.

“I ran the last two 10ks with my daughter Lucy. They were her first two 10ks.

“I’m totally gutted the women’s 10km has been canned this year.”

Fiona, left, and friends at the Glencoe Open Water Swim.

I like two out of three sports

Fiona was initially attracted to triathlon because she likes swimming and running. She is still not sure about the cycling!

She says: “I really enjoy the swimming and running. I like them equally I think. I also like open water swimming and I did a Glencoe swim and a Corran Narrows swim with some old judo friends last year.

“The part of triathlon that I still struggle to like is cycling, which unfortunately, as I have now learned, is the key component.

“However, there is to it than that for me. I like training and racing – I prefer aquathlons for obvious reasons! – with a mixed group of ages. Other than moving between hospitals, my job as a histopathologist, is relatively sedentary so triathlon is a good way to keep moving.

“I am always happiest when I am exercising outdoors and I think the post training and race endorphins are highest when the weather is the most challenging.”

Since joining the club more recently, Fiona has seen an improvement in her  swimming. She says: “Last year, I knocked a minute off my 750m swim time, although then I added 30 seconds back on at the Glasgow University Aquathlon last month.

“It’s still a 30 second gain overall though and I do really enjoy the new swim squad sessions.

“My running has also improved, although perhaps not so much in speed but in strength and stamina.

“Last year, I did the Berlin Marathon and I was amazed that I was pretty much back to normal within a week. I feel like I push myself much harder at GTC sessions than I would if I went out for a run on my own.”

Fiona’s favourite GTC session is the winter rugged runs.  She says: “These are always worth getting up on a Saturday for – and they are even better since I have been bringing our dog Lilly. She seems to really enjoy them, too.”

Fiona assists with the guide running at the club. She says: “It is great that our visually impaired runners can join in with the group. It’s a new challenge for me because you have to be alert and pay constant attention to your surroundings.

“I would like to guide a full triathlon at some point but I will need to improve my cycling first.”

Fiona, who races in the supervet category, was third lady vet (vet and supervet combined) at the GU Sprint Aquathlon.

Sporting achievements and goals

Fiona reveals her best achievement in sport is representing Scotland in judo at the Commonwealth Tournament in 1994.

She was also ranked third by Triathlon Scotland for off road triathlon in 2012.

She says: I was surprised and amused to be ranked third by Triathlon Scotland for off road triathlon that year. I entered three events and I think I was almost last in all of them.

“Anybody that has seen my mountain biking would find this hilarious. The message is clear – you’ve got to be in it to win it.”

She started this season with a podium, too. She was third vet in the GU Sprint Aquathlon.

Fiona’s main goal for the coming season is to improve her cycling. She says: “I have been going to a spin class and I do a longer outdoor cycle once a week, as well as commuter cycling. I am also looking forward to the track sessions starting. Now that’s in writing, I will have to go regularly!”

She plans to do the Five Ferries Cycle Route with her sister next month and a couple of sprint triathlons, one with Lucy, plus the Bikeless Beastie (an aquathlon).

She says: “In addition, I have entered some open water swims with my friends from judo and then I’ll do the Knockburn Standard Distance Triathlon in September. I haven’t done a standard distance for six years.”

When it comes to lifetime aspirations, Fiona says she is inspired by older people still taking part in sport. She says: “At one of my first duathlons, I was chatting to a lady beforehand. I thought that she might have been in her late 50s. She was 75!

“I also met an 89-year-old skier on holiday this year who was still taking black runs at speed. My lifetime aspiration is to enjoy sport and triathlon as long as I can.”

Mum and daughter take part in the Glasgow Women’s 10k race.

Fiona’s tips for triathlon

Add some strength training to your workouts. It will help to stop you getting injured, especially as you get older.

Never think you can’t do anything (within reason). Just work out how you can do it

Sign up for training sessions well in advance. That way, it’s part of a plan and you have to go. You will enjoy it when you get there and reap the benefits.

A test: TT bike vs road bike with TT set-up

Club member Alastair Macnaughton has carried out an in-depth test to compare a TT bike against a road bike in a TT configuration.

While some people swear by the pure time trial (TT) bike for speed, others reckon you can gain as much advantage with a road bike set up like a TT bike. Alastair decided to put two bikes to the test.

He writes: In an attempt to shave a few seconds off the bike leg of my triathlon races, I decided to buy a full blown TT bike for season 2018. Up to this point I did what many other triathletes do, I “aero’d” my road bike as much as possible.

My initial hope was to save off around 40 seconds in a sprint triathlon and 60 to 80 seconds in a standard distance triathlon using a dedicated TT bike.

However, having bought the TT bike and taken part in club time trials and triathlons I had the distinct feeling I wasn’t any faster.

In fact, it appeared I was slightly lower.

The two bikes.

I initially put this down to one, or a combination, of the following:

  1. I was a year older (VO2 Max can drop circa  0.5-1% per annum)
  2. My bike fit was poorer on the TT bike
  3. I wasn’t technically capable of riding the TT bike and less confident.

As the season went on I was able to address all of the above and eliminate them as possibilities

  1. My VO2 was very similar to the previous year and some of the TT times were around 4% slower. This accounted for higher then the typical degradation for age. My FTP had also improved by 5% from the previous year.
  2. I had a professionally conducted bike fit on the new TT bike. In general, the TT bike position was more aero and felt more comfortable than my aero’d road bike that I’d set up myself.
  3. It was true at the start of the season that I wasn’t technically capable on my new TT bike, but as I rode it more I was able to race at full gas, especially on straight flat courses
The power pedals.

Many more variables

I was aware, too, that there were many more variables associated with comparing a new bike from its predecessor a year apart. Even on similar courses, weather conditions, training load etc play a big part.

So, I took the decision to try yo run a trial of one bike against the other on the same morning. What follows is an account of those findings, not scientific, but potentially enough to make an informed decision for my specific situation.

The test

The plan was to do a number of pieces (three or four) on a course that would hopefully reflect a typical “real- world” scenario. The plan would be for me to swap bikes between each piece and to record as much data as possible (Garmin 735XT plus Assiamo Power Pedal).

The plan was also for me to try to maintain a similar effort for each piece. I left it at three or four as I wasn’t sure if fatigue would start to play a significant part.

The course.

The Course

I used part of a locally recognised 10-mile TT course (along the A77) for the trial. It is undulating with slight bends and one U-turn at the halfway point. It is 5.4 miles (8.67km) in length with 33 metres of elevation. I thought this was enough variability to present a “real world” environment.

The cyclists

My daughter’s boyfriend, Frank Murray, joined me for the trial, in part to provide someone to chase and to also provide some invaluable input.

I’ve been taking part in triathlon for seven years and I could probably be best described as an aspiring age grouper.

Frank had just recently moved into cycling in the previous four months from performance rowing and he had never been on a TT bike before or tried a time trial.

We are also the same height and weight and so he could use my setup on both bikes.  

Cyclist comparisons.
Bike comparisons.

The following data was gathered from my rides on the different bikes.

The results.

My results

The road bike ride was the fastest overall with a slightly lower pulse, slightly higher power and slightly higher cadence, although all the results are probably within a margin error that would indicate little difference.

So, for me, it would indicate no significant difference between the two bikes and therefore no benefit for the expense of owning a TT bike.

As our initial plan was that Frank would be involved as a motivating factor, we only had limited recording of his data, namely the time taken, the average speed and heart rate. 

What was interesting, however, was that Frank was significantly faster (by more than 30 seconds) on the TT bike than the road bike.

Frank’s results

In trying to understand this, the only conclusion we could come up with was that Frank’s additional speed was having a bigger impact on the marginal aero advantages of the TT bike.

This was further confirmed when breaking down my own splits per km as shown below and looking at the gradient of each section.

This seemed to confirm our findings in that the downhill sections were faster on the TT bike, when the speed was higher and the aero effect maximised.

TT vs road bike: The conclusions

  • The benefits that I had been looking for in a dedicated TT bike versus a TT’d up Road bike only occur if the rider is capable of speeds averaging between 40-50 KPH (or an FTP of 300W plus).
  • I discounted any lack of flexibility on my part, in that the power output for both bikes were comparable and within the margin of error.
  • I concluded that I was better off selling my TT bike and going back to the flexibility of my road bike that can be configured into a TT bike when needed.

And Frank? He is now the proud owner of shiny new TT bike.

Podiums for GTC trio at Glasgow Uni Aquathlon

Nineteen GTC athletes participated in an early season race this month. The  Glasgow University Aquathlon returned for the third year to Ballahouston Park with two events:

  • Sprint Aquathlon: 750m pool swim and a 5k run.
  • GoTri: 400m pool swim and 2.5k run

The weather was testing with cold temperatures, heavy rain and hailstones.

GU Sprint Aquathlon podiums

The club scored three podium places, two in the GU Sprint and one in the GoTri.

Amy races to a first place.

Amy is first female

Amy Ritchie was the first female and fifth overall in the GU Sprint in a time of 32:25. She races as a senior.

She said: “I was pleased to win and I’m hoping it’s a sign that I’m in good shape for my other upcoming races.

“I knew there were a few girls who had potentially faster swim times than me but I had a pretty solid swim and I was out of transition first, so knew I just needed to hold on for the run.

“The weather was pretty awful – character building? – and I’d also been struggling with a recurring Achilles problem the week before, so it wasn’t my best run but it was okay given the conditions.

“Having Brian and Craig B to give me a cheer at the lap mark and at the finish definitely helped. It’s always nice to race with other club members and to see them doing well.”

Next on Amy’s race schedule is Red Bull Neptune’s Steps, the Alloa Half Marathon and then the World AG Aquathlon champs in Spain in May.

Fiona smiles despite the cold.

Fiona’s is third vet

In third place in the female 40-plus age category in a time of 43.36 was Fiona Roberts. She says: “It was a nice surprise especially as it was an amalgamated category of 40s and 50s and I am over 50. Also, there were more than three people in our category!

“My expectations were low going into the race and I had a terrible swim with two young men who kept overtaking then pulling on the brakes instead of just doing the work for me. I am joking!

“The first lap of run went okay but during the second lap I felt like I had borderline hypothermia. I guess I should have run faster! The hailstones were sore, too.

“My times were slower than my last aquathlon but it’s the first of the year so there is room for improvement.”

Fiona was also pleased to see all the other GTC competitors and her daughter Lucy, who is now racing for Dundee Uni.

She says: “The Glasgow Uni team were great and stood out in that miserable weather for a long time but still cheered us on. It was a great event.”

Fiona’s next race is the Monikie Sprint Triathlon in July.

Lynda was delighted with a GoTri first place.

Lynda’s GoTri triumph

Lynda MacDonald made a return to a multi-sport racing for the first time since being 14. “That’s 34 years if you must know,” she says. She picked up first place in the GoTri event in a time of 22.26.

She says: “I’d entered the novice race because I felt that doing a multiple-sport event once every three decades didn’t qualify me as experienced.

“It is a long time since I swam competitively, too. I last swam at a decent level when I was 17.”

A fractured shin bone last summer saw Lynda return to the pool because she had a ban from all other sports.

Lynda took her transition preparation seriously. She said: “On arrival at Bellahouston, I carefully laid out my running shoes, with half a bottle of talc inside them, along with a big man’s fleece. This was the only top that went on easily when I’d practised wet out of the shower at home.

“I had my race number belt in a carrier bag to keep it dry and noted that the person next to me had a personalised towel and I immediately felt inadequate.”

Lynda says she does not have much recollection of the swim. “It was all a bit of a blur,” she says. “I’m guessing that my technique went to pot and that I used the turns as a chance to gulp in air instead of an efficient turnaround.

“I’m guessing this because my time for the 400m was a full minute and half slower than I’d done in a timed practice in the pool a week before.

“I came out the pool at the same time as ‘personalised towel Mary’ and we ran off together. At this point I realised I was still wearing my swimming cap and had a woolly bunnet over the top.”

Margaret MacIntosh also raced the GoTri event.

The run was also a bit of a blur for Lynda. She says: “I’d been advised on good authority to just sprint it – so I did. To be fair, I didn’t notice the horizontal sleet or 1C wind – probably because of the rubber and wool hat combo – and it was quickly just me and the cyclist route guide.

“When we reached the hill I looked behind me and couldn’t see a soul so I decided to just walk for a bit. I’ve never done that in any running event but I was suddenly a bit spaced out and my breathing was erratic to say the least.

“Once we got to the top of the hill I ran the rest of the way and I was delighted to see a familiar face – Ray – at the finish line.

“I was pleased to win, of course, but it all happened so quickly and when I was asked at the time if I enjoyed it I wasn’t quite sure, but looking back now I think I did.”

Lynda’s next race is the club’s own Bishopbriggs Tri in May.

GTC race GUAquathlon

Rose takes on the sprint aquathlon.
Jane Grant was happy to be racing, even in in the tough conditions.
Another race for Brian Kelly.

Congratulations to everyone from GTC who raced. Here are the results.

Scores in the GTC champs league

GTC athlete of the month: Lochlan O’Sullivan

Although Lochlan has been with GTC for four years, he did not attend many training sessions until the start of 2018. Since then, there has been no looking back for the veteran age category athlete.

Lochlan has thrown himself into training and racing and he is an enthusiastic coach.

He says: “It took me a while to build enough courage to regularly come along to the club sessions. However, when I did I really saw the benefits.

“At last year’s winter training camp, I also recognised I wasn’t good at swimming and that performing well at cycling and running required a bit more investment than just turning up on the day and giving it a bash.”

Sporting background

Growing up, Lochlan played a variety of sports, including squash and tennis, and he ran cross country. He attended a rugby school and played to a high level until a nasty head injury ended his contact sport career.

Lochlan says: “At the time, I believed rugby, especially in my school and city, defined me socially and I felt very lost afterwards. Apart from occasional challenges, I drifted in terms of sport for 20 years before my first triathlon.”

It was the “joined-up nature of three very different sports in triathlon” that appealed to Lochlan. He says: “I also had a preconception that triathlon is a difficult sport. Like any sport, it’s only as difficult or challenging as you want to make it.

“I like the balance between pushing hard to maximise performance in your strongest discipline, while also trying to minimise losses in your weaker one.”

Lochlan now enjoys triathlon for several different reasons. He says: “Bizarrely, I enjoy the immediate demand on your body to adapt to differing physical requirements of each discipline.

“I really like transitions as well; the necessity of organisation, clarity of mind and speed.

“And while triathlon is principally an individual sport, there is great camaraderie, especially in GTC.

“I’m pretty sure I got a repetitive strain injury from all the high fives at the triathlons at Mid Argyll and Lochore Meadows. And being cheered on by the GTC juniors at Craggy 2017 when I really just wanted to quit after the bike was amazing.”

Cycling, running, swimming

By a process of elimination, Lochlan reveals that cycling is his favourite sport of the three, followed by running and then swimming.

He says: “While not much of a descender, or climber for that matter, I love the speed on the bike on the flat.”

Running has felt like a chore to Lochlan, although he has seen improvements. He says: “Running to me has often been laborious and more like a trudge than a flow. I have never understood – and still don’t – how some people can run with Zen.

“Yet my running has become much better thanks to regular training.”

It is in swimming that Lochlan has seen the most gains. In the beginning of his triathlon career, he describes his swimming as  “more akin to wrestling and I always lost”.

Thanks to GTC swim coaching he has seen some great improvements. He says: “Technical skills and fitness have made me a faster swimmer, yet while expending far less effort. However, I still have plenty to work on. In my head I swim like Michael Phelps, but video evidence sadly says otherwise!”

Going forwards, Lochlan is determined to train more. He says: “I want to mentally embrace training more and not to view it just as a ‘necessary evil’. Racing then becomes more of an opportunity to demonstrate the results of quality and regular training.”

A podium for Lochlan as part of a relay team.

Race highlights

Lochlan’s first two triathlon races were standards in 2012 and 2015, followed by a middle distance in 2016. It was only in 2017 that he really got into the competitions.

He says: “My average of three races every five years jumped after taking part in four sprint races in 2017 – and I haven’t looked back since.”

He reveals some of his proudest moments. He says: “It was 35C at the Budapest Half Ironman 2016. So, I was very pleased to finish in 5:28 and, in particular, I liked my bike split time.

“However, 2018 was my best and most consistent year. I made considerable improvements from all my 2017 race times and enjoyed a couple of podiums, although one was as part of a relay.”

Lochlan is undecided about his favourite race distance. He says: “I have done various distances but I think the sprint is the most fun. You can hammer the bike and the run isn’t too long, so that’s probably my favourite.

“Also, a sprint relay is flat out and the team nature makes it definitely worth trying.

“Later this year, I will do Ironman Wales. I’m extremely confident it will not become my preferred distance.”

Lochlan will race for Ireland at the World Champs.

Lochlan has a few goals for this season. He says: “There is room to improve again on all my times from last year.

“My goals are to continue to improve my swim times and technique; to be stronger and have better endurance on the bike; and to improve my 5km run from 19 minutes to closer to 18 minutes. All of the above will be fantastic if I achieve them.

“I’d also like a few more podiums this year and to perform well at the World Age Group Championships in the sprint distance and also at Ironman Wales.

“However, both are hilly courses so they are not best suited to my cycling and running.”

The rewards of coaching

Lochlan is a level two triathlon coach. He has found the process of coaching to be “immensely rewarding”. He adds: Coaching has also been very helpful to my own well-being. As well as the technical aspects, helping members with their confidence and self-belief is very satisfying.

“Coaching the juniors, a very different dynamic, and witnessing their growing aptitude and enjoyment for the sport is also fantastic.

“I would strongly recommend coaching to other people. For me, it has probably been the single best aspect to participation in triathlon.

“It has been a privilege and I want to continue to coach, both adults and juniors. “

Triathlon should be fun!

Lochlan’s top tips for triathlon

Nothing beats attending the club’s sessions.  All three elements are technical in their own way and you will improve exponentially by going to regular sessions. Always train with focus and, importantly, fun.

When it gets tough, in training and races, break what’s ahead down into smaller chunks. For example, swim to the next buoy or lap, cycle or run to the next tree or lamp-post. The brain is a resilient beast and successfully pushing through will definitely add fortitude to your athletic arsenal.

Embrace your race nerves – they show you care. What percentage of the population get to the start line of any triathlon? Race nerves are a privilege, earned from all your training, belief, desire and perseverance.

Never think one element of your life defines you (be that your career, pastime or sport). We are all a lot more than just triathletes, though this sport does make us all an interesting, quirky bunch.

Cath’s winning month of free training with GTC

Cath Macneil was the GTC AGM 2019 raffle winner. She won a month of free training sessions.

The free training throughout February came at a great time for Cath. She says: “As it happens, my training plan for the Berlin half marathon on April 6 started on January 14, so free training meant I had no excuse for not trying. 

“In total, I attended four running sessions, three at Huntershill and one at Bellahouston, as well as four swimming sessions, one at Maryhill and the others at Scotstoun, in the first three weeks before jetting off to the club training week at Playitas.

“I also joined in the spin classes on a Wednesday at Glasgow Caledonian Uni.  These were the only sessions I paid for in February because the money goes directly to the uni. They are still very good value.”

Cath (3rd from right on front row) joined GTC’s annual winter training camp.

Swim session benefits

Cath found she enjoyed the swimming sessions at Scotstoun. She says: “The time of the session meant my dinner could settled prior to the swim.

“I also discovered that even in the development lane the distance we cover in the pool is meaningful. 

“I believe we had a different coach each time but the sessions build on each other and each has a theme.  Dougie and Nial focused on sculling, which in turn allowed Lochlan to focus on the catch. 

“I think I learned a bit, although I think it’s difficult to teach an old dog! However, my right elbow was certainly higher on the final week than on the first. 

“I may have been faster too, however, everyone else in the lane is also getting faster, so the effort is neutralised.”

Cath, second from left, at the Barrathon, the Isle of Barra Half Marathon.

Running faster

Cath has seen a build-up of benefits thanks to GTC running sessions. She says: “The track sessions are great and I know I am getting faster as various sections are timed. The track is in good condition and puts an extra spring in your step. 

“Vicky usually takes this session and again there is a theme, building up, week-on-week to improve different aspects on the run. We all have things that need to improve, despite some being faster than others.

“The team spirit at the Monday night sessions is second to none and the fact that you can’t get lost or left behind is brilliant.”

Cath’s final free February session was at Bellahouston, coached by Sean. She says: “He was focusing on hills, which I had started practising on my own. 

“The difference between going to the sessions and running on your own is marked.  On my own, I ran up and down a fairly tall hill close to the house five times and within half an hour I was back home with my breath back.

“With the club, the session is an hour and you can stop if you want but you don’t want to. You want to prove you are as good as everyone else. 

“The hill was not as tall as the one at home, but I ran faster and for longer and I really felt it the next morning.  Typically, you don’t realise you are slacking when training on your own, but you do when you train with others and it is only by going hard that you get better.”

Cath concludes: “Stronger and tougher – that’s what winning the raffle has meant to me. I hope I can show at the Bishopbriggs triathlon that the club’s investment has been worthwhile.”

GTC athlete of the month: Alastair Young

A few years ago, GTC member Alastair Young was trying to cope with a very tough period of his life. Faced with a redundancy, struggling with his mental health and overweight, he wondered if triathlon might be a way to “get back on an even keel”.

While the sport seemed like an impossible task – “I couldn’t swim front crawl, I hadn’t really ridden a bike since I was a kid and I didn’t like running,” he says – Alastair thought the shock-and-awe approach might be the perfect solution.

Alastair adds: “That essentially was the attraction of triathlon. If I could undertake something like this and get anywhere with it, even if I could just finish a race, I would take that.

“Amazingly, it has gone better than I could have possibly imagined.”

The bike section of the Bute Tri.

Joining the club

Alastair, who joined GTC two-and-a-half years ago, is married with twin boys, who are now in first year at university. He works as part of a management team for a post-production facility in the film and TV industry.

Sport has often been a part of his life but in the years leading up to becoming a member of GTC he was less focused than he would have liked to be.

He says: “I’ve always been an enthusiastic participant in team sports but I was nobody’s first pick.

“At school I was lucky enough to have had the chance to try lots of sports, including football, rugby, cricket and athletics. I also enjoyed racquet sports, particularly tennis.

“Oddly, although I was taught to swim at school, I don’t remember ever doing front crawl.

“I’m definitely not a runner and have tried to avoid doing it at all costs.”

It was through university and the start of his career that Alastair began to lose focus with sport. He says: “Apart from occasional gym sessions and playing five-a-side football fairly regularly the demands of my job and frequent travel with work, and then starting a family, made it difficult to fit much in.”

Then, three years ago, a friend who was already a member of GTC suggested triathlon to Alastair.

Over two years of training and two seasons of racing, he is delighted to have lost weight – two stones so far – and become much fitter than he could have hoped for.

He says: “I was very cautious when I first joined the club, partly because of my own self-doubt and I figured that it would full of super athletes.

“I very quickly discovered an amazing community of excellent coaches and supportive club mates, a fair few of whom where new to the sport and on the same pathway as me.

“It is entirely speculative, but I suspect that triathlon might extend my life. I’m not sure that I have ever been fitter and I have a much more positive outlook on life; essentially I am in a much better headspace.

“A big part of this has been GTC.”

Proud to be part of the club: Alastair at St Mary’s Loch Triathlon 2018.

Growing love for triathlon

Alastair says choosing a favourite triathlon discipline is like being asked to choose a favourite child. He says: “I feel like we should love and loathe the three sports in equal measure!”

Alastair believes he saw most progress in swimming in the first year with GTC. He says: “When I started, I could hardly swim the length of myself.

“Beginning in Duggie’s Sunday night ‘try not to drown’ session, I then got knocked into shape by Hannah, Rose and a few other coaches and eventually found myself in the quicker end of the masters squad.

“The second year I put more effort into running and by getting along to the GTC run sessions regularly – special mention to Craig Armour and the Thursday night crew – I saw a massive improvement through the year.

“I effectively took seven-plus minutes off my 5k time.

“I just need to sort the cycling out now.”

First years of racing

Cautious about racing too far too soon, Alastair took a methodical approach to competition. In his first year, he did a couple of novice races and a few sprints, then last year he did a few sprints and his first standard distance.

“This year I plan to do a few standards and a middle distance triathlon,” he says. “It seems like a logical approach. I have tried to mix it up with events, such as pool-based, loch and sea swims, road bike, MTB, trail runs and road runs.

“I can honestly say I have enjoyed them all, well, aside from Craggy Island Triathlon in the teeth of a hurricane with a cracked rib!”

Alastair, who is in the Vets category, has been thrilled with his achievements. He says: “I managed my first podium last year – over a sprint distance – which was a complete shock.

“But, really, the thing that I have taken the most pride in is seeing my consistent improvements across all the disciplines, from a complete novice to transforming my mental and physical health.

“As well as losing weight, I have I have regained a deal of confidence and well-being. I’m not quite there yet but I now have a better understanding of what I’m capable of and I keep finding new goals to aim for.”

Alastair also values the new friends he has made through the club. He says: “While triathlon is an individual sport, being part of GTC means there is a community of people who swim every stroke, pedal every turn and run every step with you.

“This is in combination with the excellent coaching we have at GTC, which means that you go into races and training session with the necessary skills and understanding of what is required to see it through to the end.

“And to be honest it is fun! It has to be fun because I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.”

Podium finish for Alastair, right in the Arran Sprint Tri 2018.

Alastair’s triathlon goals

Alastair has a few goals for this coming season. He says: “My aim is to keep improving and to keep enjoying it. I realise that I can’t sustain my current trajectory but small increments will suit me fine.

“I’m just about to make the leap from Vets to Super Vets, too, as I have my 50th birthday in June. Apparently the level of competition is just as intense but the bikes become more expensive.

“I want to put something back into the club, too, and to that aim I have just completed my Level 1 coaching course, so I hope to be poolside and track-side passing on my encouragement soon.

“And then there is that small matter of trying to get round a middle distance triathlon intact.”

As to the future in triathlon, Alastair is philosophical. He says: “I’ve no idea where the sport will take me. When I started I just wanted to make a positive change in my life – and so far so good.

“Now I have the triathlon bug and I have discovered myriad race options and opportunities associated with the sport, I’d like to keep trying new things. I’m curious to see if I can actually coach.

“Overall, hopefully my mind and body will hold out and the adventure will continue.”

Bike section of the Aberfeldy Sprint Triathlon in 2018.

Alastair’s tips for triathlon

Sign up for a race: Even if you have just started out, a race gives you something to aim for and the euphoric feeling of crossing the finish line on your first event will stay with you forever.

Volunteer:  Helping at club events is rewarding. The first thing I did before even going to a club training session was to turn up at the triathlon at Bishopbriggs, to try to get a sense of what the sport was all about. It was a great introduction to the sport.

Go to the club sessions: You will get the most return for your time (and money) by doing the coached club sessions, even it is just a couple a week. You get a great workout, learn loads and they are an absolute bargain.

Ask away: There is no such thing a daft question and with 500 members and some of the best coaches around there are so many people who can offer advice and support. Don’t be afraid to ask because people want to help.

Buy club kit: It could be one item and it doesn’t need to be anything expensive, maybe a hat, buff, vest or whatever. It is scientifically proven to make you 10% faster* and you get great support on the course from your club mates.

*this might not actually be scientifically proven…

GTC competition and raffle winners

Enthusiastic club members enjoyed two recent contests, the GTC Big Bobble Hat Selfie Competition and the GTC Flapjack Competition. There was also a raffle as part of the AGM.

GTC Big Bobble Hat Selfie competition

There were three winners in the GTC Big Bobble Hat Selfie competition. They all win… another Big Bobble Hat!

Mark Cohen: Cold water swimmer extraordinaire.
New baby Rowan. (Hat to be collected by mum Jo Gemmell).
Margaret MacIntosh, who posed for her selfie with sister Anne O’Hagan.

A winner was chosen each by Sarah and Jenifer, who look after the club’s kit, and Beatrice, who came up with the idea for the selfie competition.

Did you know that to date almost 200 GTC Big Bobble Hats have been bought? The company’s owner, Ian Hockey, has also joined our club in preparation for Ironman Wales

GTC Flapjack Competition

At the AGM, Caroline Lund won the GTC Flapjack Competition and took home a bottle of prosecco for her triumph.

The contest was judged by James Streetley, a GTC member and Triathlon Scotland technical official of the year.

Unfortunately, president Sean has wiped photos of the winning flapjack from his phone… Caroline, you will need to make another batch so we can see how delicious it looks.

AGM raffle winner

The AGM raffle saw Catherine Macneil win a month of free training. She has been busy attending as many sessions as possible in February.

Catherine with GTC member and husband Richard.

AGM news and report

A full report will be sent out by email to all members. In the meantime, the headline details include these roles, which were agreed for a further year:

  • Sean Webster as president
  • Bob Newton as treasurer
  • Derek Somerville as secretary.

The committee remains the same with the addition of Beatrice taking on a new club communications role. 

The AGM also featured presentations from Sean, Bob, Derek and head coach Vicky Begg, as well as Craig Armour, who outlined a new club champs.

Time to renew your triathlon club membership

If you are already a Glasgow Triathlon Club member, it’s time to make sure you renew your club membership. Please do so by January 31.

For those who took advantage of the 15 months for the price of 12 months deal last year, you do not need to do anything.

But for anyone who joined as usual last year, it’s renewal time. See entrycentral for details of how to rejoin GTC for a great annual price of £32.

If you have been along to a few sessions and have so far not joined, we would also encouraged you to take advantage of the many benefits of GTC by becoming a member. See club discounts and read on for further membership benefits.

10 reasons to join GTC

1 Great value for money

The cost of membership is just £32. That is just £2.66 per month. For this small amount you gain a host of benefits.

2 Expert coaching

The coaching programme created by our head coach (level 3) Vicky Begg. This changes according to the time of year and focuses, loosely, on a racing season and non-racing season.

We operate a system of training squads so that sessions are designed to suit a range of athletes and aspirations.

The training sessions in swimming, running and cycling are led by qualified club coaches (from level 1 to 3). They are closely overseen by the head coach.

The club aims to keep the cost per coached session as low as possible for members.

3 Superb support

GTC  has been awarded an accolade for Outstanding Contribution to Triathlon in Scotland. Part of the award recognises the fantastic support that the club brings to many different types of athletes.

4 A club for all

GTC has more than members with an almost even split of males and females.  Membership crosses the decades, from youths to the over-60s.

There is a place in the club for all abilities. We have a well regarded para tri section and a dedicated youth squad.

Do not worry if you think you won’t be fit enough or you worry you will be too old or too young. You won’t be. It’s a club for everyone.

Happy club members!

5 A friendly club

You’ll meet new and likeminded people at GTC. Many members will also tell you about the fantastic friendships that have been made in the club.

6 Training trips at home and abroad

Training in a new place, especially the annual winter warm weather trip abroad, brings many benefits, both socially and in terms of  improved fitness.

Members can benefit from subsidised training camps, such as the  trip to Playitas on the island of Fuerteventura in February.

7 Discounts on kit and training

The club has a range of equipment, including wetsuits, bike boxes, racing wheels and power taps for bikes, which can be borrowed or hired for great rates.

There is also a special GTC discount for members who want to supplement their training at one of 22 venues owned by Glasgow Life.

There are also discounts at sports shop.

8 For top tips

If you have a question or a query about triathlon there will always be people in the club who will help you out, or point you in the right direction.

9 To be part of something

As well as training with a brilliant bunch of people, you will have the opportunity to volunteer at some of Scotland’s leading events.

The club hosts its own club triathlon and junior aquathlons, and also plays a major role in European and World qualifier triathlon championships.

10 To have a goal

Whether your aim is to lose weight, try a new sport, do your first sprint triathlon or try an Ironman, the club gives you a focus and realistic goals. There will be someone in the club who has had a similar focus at some point or who has the same goal as you now.