Triathlete of the month: Nial Smith

Nial Smith won the Male Athlete of the Year 2016 accolade at the GTC annual awards ceremony. It was a great end to a fantastic year of sporting achievements for him.

Nial, an electrician, has been a member of GTC for almost two years and still seems quite surprised to find he loves the sport. He says he wasn’t a particularly sporty kid although he was always out and about on his bike.

In his early 20s he started Muay Thai boxing. He says: “That’s when I discovered I enjoyed exercise and I liked the buzz of really pushing myself.”

Nial at Craggy Island Triathlon.
Nial at Craggy Island Triathlon.

Nial’s triathlon awakening came one morning after a boozy night out. He says: “I remember getting up still slightly drunk from a night out and watching a triathlon on the TV and thinking, ‘I could do that.’ So I did! I entered a triathlon.

“Added to that I think I liked the idea of a sport where I didn’t get punched, kicked, kneed and elbowed. My main worry, however, was that I could hardly swim.”

While Nial had taken up running to keep fit for his boxing and he’d always enjoyed cycling, he realised his swimming would need some work.

He joined GTC and attended the Sunday caching sessions. He recalls: “I found it tough even to swim a length of front crawl with my head in the water on that first session.

“But thanks to the amazing coaching and support of fellow members I’ve now progressed to the fastest lane in the early session at the Western baths.”

So far, Nial has completed a few sprint distance triathlons and enjoys the faster pace. He hopes to compete in longer distance triathlons next year.

Nial at the Fling. Pic credit: Alan Kennedy.
Nial at the Fling. Pic credit: Alan Kennedy.

He says: “I like to set myself challenges and work towards them so 2016 was an ‘improving my swimming enough to complete a triathlon year’. I was pleased with the outcome and I even managed second in my age category at the Aviemore Triathlon.”

Nial also set himself a running goal for 2016. He says: “I wanted to complete the Highland Fling ultra marathon race. This felt like a huge challenge because I’d never run more than a half marathon, and the Fling is 53 miles. But I did it and I managed to get within my target time of 10 hours.

“I really loved the event and hope to do another ultra race and to beat my Fling time next year.”

Nial’s other aims next year are to compete in a swim-run event. In the future he hopes he will continue to improve in all his triathlon sports and he is always on the look out for new and exciting races.

Open water swim training with Petya and Mark.
Open water swim training with Petya and Mark.

Nial’s triathlon tips

Don’t worry about having the best of gear. Just get out and try it. Last year, I raced on a 20-year-old mountain bike.

Get involved with the club. You learn loads and training can become a fun social event.

Enjoy it and take in the atmosphere of the race. It’s too easy to get caught up in just trying for a good time.