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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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…