Athlete of the month: Ray Loughran

It is always interesting to find out about different club members and this month’s chosen athlete is Ray, who has been with GTC since the early days. Over the 21 years as a club member, Ray has always been a keen volunteer and is often one of the first to put down his name to help at races and events. He has made many friends through GTC, too.

Glasgow Half marathon
London Marathon 2001.

It was in 1999 that Ray, who is now retired, joined the club after spotting an advert in The Herald newspaper.

He says: “The advert caught my attention because the club had recently formed and they were looking for people to join.

“What attracted me to triathlon was my decision to try swimming and cycling, to enable me to keep my fitness when I suffered a bad running injury.

“I also thought: ‘You don’t have to be a surfing dude in California to do triathlon, so I’ll join GTC and give it a try’.”

Ray did his first triathlon in May of the the same year. He says: “It was the Stirling novice race and I even won a prize. I didn’t let this go to my head though because, sadly, I was never to reach such giddy heights again.”

Ray has always enjoyed running.

Football and running

Ray had always been a keen athlete and before GTC he played football in his teens and then discovered a love of running. He says: “I joined my local athletics club, the Shettleston Harriers, in 1982 and never looked back.

“The club helped me to train for the first ever Glasgow Marathon in the October of that year. From there, I competed in events from 100 to 5000 metres on the track, road races up to marathon distance and also cross-country races.

“I even threw the hammer – the world record was never under threat, I can tell you! – to help to score points for Shettleston.”

A cycling outing.
Ray among GTC friends.

Running, swimming – and the plank

To this day, Ray’s favourite discipline is running, although he reveals that he gets the most satisfaction from swimming and he has seen the greatest improvement in this area of his triathlon career. 

He says: “I remember my first night at the Western Baths when I found it difficult to swim  to the other end of the pool. ‘Room for improvement’ was the considered opinion of the coach and I thought that was being kind.”

Ray compares a good swim to running a personal best race. He says: “When swimming clicks and goes like clockwork, as it did in the Gourock sprint triathlon last August, it feels great, although that doesn’t happen too often.

“It is like running a PB when it does come together.”

Ray considers his best sporting achievements to be running PBs across a range of distances, from 3k up to half-marathon. Many people in the club have been impressed over the year by his record-breaking plank holds.

At a GTC training weekend a few years ago, he held a plank for an incredible eight minutes and 15 seconds. Only recently, despite being in his 60s, Ray held a plank for some five minutes at a GTC circuits session.

His secret? He says: “I do the plank whenever I go to the gym, which is three times a week.”

Ray’s favoured race distance is 10k for running and sprint-distance triathlons.

He says: “If I can recover from my current running injury I might think about stepping up to a standard triathlon distance.

“I’d say that my lifetime aspirations in triathlon are to stay healthy and to continue to enjoy the training with the odd race or two for motivation.”

Ray’s top tips

  • Train smart
  • Train consistently
  • Be the best you can be 
  • And, above all, enjoy what you do.

3 GTC podiums at first triathlon of 2020

Seven GTC members made the start line of the Edinburgh Triathlete’s New Year’s Day Triathlon 2020 – and three won podium places.

The traditional January 1 event includes a 400m swim in the Royal Commonwealth Pool, a bike ride of 16.5km and a run of 5.6km.

The club members who competed in windy conditions included, Craig Armour, Johannes Courtial, Celia Greig, Alasdair Ireland, Kathleen McLachlan, Maria Mott and Kate Pearson.

Kate finished second in the female senior category, while Kathleen was also second in the female veteran category. Alasdair took third place in the male super vets.

5th time lucky for Kate

It is Kate’s fifth time taking part in the NYD triathlon. She says: “I used to live in Duddingston and train there so it feels like a local race to me. I even did it when I was pregnant and it was the first race I did when I came back after having to take three years off with injury.

“So, it’s a special race to me.”

Kate was thrilled to score a PB this year – and she was delighted to make it on to the podium.

She says: “I tried to take it easier on the swim and bike, which I normally over-reach on. The hill definitely feels harder now that I don’t live there and train on it every day.

“The podium was a big surprise. It is usually a very fast race but I noticed it was a bit quieter this year and I spotted many of the usual fast women working as marshals. Perhaps this was because it was their 25th anniversary.

“I feel like it was good fortune to take second place and it was the first time I have won cash so it was super exciting.”

She added that she really enjoyed the race, saying: “It was really good to see the other club members on the course and I thought the whole event was great.”

See results.

£500 Scotmid grant for GTC juniors

Glasgow Triathlon Club has won a grant for £500 to support the junior section. The award is part of Scotmid’s Community Grant scheme and will allow for the introduction of timing chips at the 2020 Allander aquathlons.

The community grant scheme helps deserving causes across Scotland. Since 2012, the scheme has supported hundreds of projects.

Scotmid Co-operative extends to 300 retail outlets in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England. Their businesses include Scotmid Food, Semichem, Funeral Directors, Post Offices and a property division.

GTC athlete of the month: Hilary Glen

Hilary Glen has enjoyed another fabulous year with GTC, culminating in winning the Most Improved Athlete of the Year. It’s always interesting to find out more about club members, especially when they are relative new-comers to triathlon and, indeed, sport.

Hilary reveals that she wasn’t a particularly sporty child although she did play a bit of tennis (because the tennis club was located behind her childhood home) and swimming (although this was not competitive).

She adds: “My dad took myself and my two sisters swimming once a week. This usually consisted of Catriona [Padmanabahn] swimming 200 lengths while Rosi [her other sister] and I did a couple of races then mucked about and did handstands.

“I did try out for an Edinburgh swimming club once and got in, but when I found out training was at 5am I declined the offer.”

Hilary has made lots of friends through GTC.

During her 20s, Hilary, who has been with GTC almost four years, completed a couple of 10km runs – “very slowly,” she says – and a half marathon.

She continues: “But then exercise took a back seat after I had children, while also working full time and doing a PhD etc.”

Hilary with her dad.
Hilary and her children.

‘A mid-life crisis”

When Hilary, who is a consultant medical oncologist at Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, turned 40, things suddenly changed.

She says: “I think I had a bit of a mid-life crisis. My husband Paul and I had finally gained some control over our work-life balance and the children were a bit older and more independent so we found we had some spare time.

“The Beatson had launched its new charity and I thought I might mark this, and my 40th, by raising some money for them. Things kind of snowballed and I ended up taking on a year of sporting challenges, including 10ks, half marathons, Tough Mudder and finishing with the Edinburgh Marathon.

“Looking back I trained badly and without much structure and I spent half the year struggling with injury. I limped round the marathon to finish my goal and raised lots of money but I wasn’t especially impressed by my sporting achievement.”

After completing the marathon, Hilary agreed to take part in the Beatson Charity’s “Aim for the Skye” event, which involved cycling from the Beatson to the Isle of Skye over three days.

She says: “I had never been on a road bike before and a very kind friend donated one of hers. I could barely make it to the end of the road due to anxiety and balance issues, and very quickly I abandoned any hopes of ‘clipping in’ after ending up in a stream (still attached to the bike).

In a ditch!

“But with the help of my dad (a much better cyclist than me) we made it to Skye intact.”

Then came triathlon

Now that she had a run and cycle under her belt, triathlon seemed the natural next step. By this point, Catriona’s older children were members of the junior section of GTC.

Then Hilary’s son, Jamie, became a member. She says: “I decided to take the plunge and joined the club. I met my now great friend Michelle in our joint first session in Duggie’s lane at the Western Baths and the rest is history.”

When Hilary started doing triathlons, she tended to rotate the discipline she liked the least. She says: “I’m not a natural at any of them and certainly at the start I was equally as bad at all of them. Seeing your improvement through training really helps the enjoyment though.

“Now I alternate my favourite discipline. When you are out cycling in the stunning Scottish countryside on a beautiful day with good friends and family, you can’t beat it. But then when I’m having a really good run, with great tunes playing, it also feels great.

“The biggest surprise for me is how much I enjoy open water swimming. The first time I did an open water triathlon I had a massive panic attack and thought I was going to drown, until I realised I could actually walk along the bottom as we were in a very shallow part of the loch. I now prefer open water races to pool.”

Hilary reports that she has improved in all disciplines since starting with GTC. She says: “I could hardly finish a length of front crawl when I started. Like many in the club, I tentatively started in Duggie’s lane on a Sunday night and progressed from there.

“I am much faster than I was to start and my endurance has changed enormously, but it is a slow process and you need to not get disheartened when lots of swimmers leapfrog past you into faster lanes.

“I’ve also gone from being barely able to balance on a road bike and certainly not able to get up any hills – I fell off going up Schiehallion during my first Etape due to extreme slowness – to being clipped in, down on my tri-bars, maintaining good speeds for long hilly rides and loving getting out on the bike.

“And my running has changed completely. I am now running speeds I never thought possible.”

Hilary enjoys the variety of different race distances. She says: “They all test you in different ways. Earlier this year I did my first super sprint relay at Monikie, which I absolutely loved. You are absolutely flat out for the short distance but it was quite thrilling and I felt the extra pressure of trying to do the best for the team.

“But then, at the other extreme, I’m not sure anything will compare to the test you put your whole body through in an Ironman, with the unbelievable sense of achievement at the end.”

And it is Ironman Wales that Hilary reveals as her best sporting achievement yet. She says: “This time last year I had done one standard triathlon, which nearly killed me, and I was practically last.

“I could not have dreamt that an Ironman was remotely possible and in the end I managed it about two hours quicker than I’d hoped.

“The whole experience was like nothing I’ve ever done before and I absolutely loved it.

“But it’s not just the race that was the achievement, but the year of sacrifice and dedicated training leading up to it. During that year, I also raced my fastest shorter distance events and realised that if you actually put the work in, it is amazing the results you can see.”

With Maggie and husband Paul at Ironman Wales.

Tips and advice

Hilary has lots of tips and advice that she has learned through personal experience.

Training tips

Set a goal. I always have the next race booked up. It doesn’t matter what distance it is, nothing will get you out training more than having something to train for.

But make sure you aren’t put off by comparing yourself to others. I just ran a 10k race with lots of other teammates and was last out of all of us. But I took 2.5 minutes off my previous PB and so was thrilled.

Have a training plan and stick to it. Ideally, if you can, get a coach to make a training plan for you!) It is very easy to put off a run, swim or cycle if it’s not written down (for me anyway).

Using something like Training Peaks is great as you can plan your week or month around your work/social life.

Sign up for group sessions. If you’re signed up, you have to go. And once there, you will always be pushed harder than you would push yourself. And you meet great friends and have a bit of fun while your training.

Get some training buddies. Having a lot of the club doing Ironman Wales was great because there was always someone up for a joint training session. With marvellous folk, such as Viv, Paul, Maggie, Jim, Gareth, Lochlan, Neebs, long, hard cycles were always much more manageable.

Exercise is a great mental healer. Beyond the physical fitness, which is so important, we cannot underestimate the importance of exercise and the part it plays in emotional wellbeing. In my job, the vast majority of my patients have terminal cancer and I look after them until they die.

With the improvements we are making in the treatment of cancer, I often treat people for many years before they reach the end of their life and get to know them and their families extremely well.

This can take a huge emotional toll and when I started as a consultant I really struggled with my own mental health to the extent that I nearly gave it all up.

While many things helped to finally turn that around, I find exercise enormously beneficial in helping me cope with the stresses of the job. And my lovely patients, who have far bigger battles than me to fight, which they do with great courage and humour, spur me on.

Because I do most of my big races for charity, I get a lot of donations from patients and their families which also helps drag me out for a training run when it’s cold, dark and wet and I’d far rather be curled up in front of the telly.

Racing tips

When it comes to racing, as long as you have done a reasonable amount of training, you can physically get through any race. But the biggest challenge is always the mental one.

There are lots of tools you can use, such as breaking the race into sections, spotting someone ahead of you that you try to keep up with or overtake, visualising the finish etc, but the most important thing is to completely believe in yourself.

If you tell yourself you can’t do it, you won’t. Also, if you’ve done any “big” races, you can draw on that on all your subsequent races. I frequently tell myself. “if I could get through Wales I can get through this.”

Goals for next year

Hilary is keen not to lose the fitness and progress she made in the year leading up to Wales. She says: “While I don’t have plans to do another Ironman (at least for the foreseeable future!), Paul and I have signed up for the Yorkshire Half Ironman next year to keep us going.

“Having seen the difference actual training makes, I’m also keen to keep improving my speed in the shorter distance events and, in fact, we have kept Crawford (Project 3) on to help with this.”

Hilary’s lifetime aspirations are simple: “I just want to keep enjoying it.”

She adds: “The benefits are so huge, from general fitness, improved mental health and wellbeing, meeting friends for life, encouraging our children to keep fit and active to the sense of achievement when you achieve a goal.

“I also have a slight inkling that I might like to take on coaching, but I’m making myself have a bit of a rest before embarking on that…”

More tips from Hilary

Join a club. None of this would have been possible if we hadn’t been in the fabulous GTC. I used to be a solitary trainer and didn’t think I liked training with others. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Believe in yourself. I have said this before, but it’s important. You can totally do anything you put your mind to.

Set yourself goals. It doesn’t matter if they are big or small, without a goal the likelihood of putting in the training is much less. And achieving the goal is hugely satisfying.

Don’t put things off until a rainy day. Life is short. Today is your rainy day.

The winners: GTC Club Championships 2019

More than 110 club members took part in an inaugural GTC Club Championships 2019. Organiser Craig Armour compiled a list of 18 races, spread across the season. Scores were awarded for each athlete’s best three races to reveal the winners in each age category.

See all names and places:

The winners


  • Junior: Jamie Glen
  • Senior – Craig Armour
  • Veteran: Alastair Young
  • Super Vet: Alasdair Ireland
  • Vintage: John Kinsella


  • Junior: Mia Padmanabhan
  • Senior: Amy Ritchie
  • Veteran: Arlene Lewis
  • Super Vet: Sharon O’Leary
  • Vintage: Julie MacNaughton.

Congratulations to all.

Glasgow Tri Club Awards 2019 (and sponsors)

Every December, Glasgow Triathlon Club comes together to celebrate a great training and racing season and to kickstart the festivities.

The annual awards for adults and juniors are also announced and presented. This year, professional athlete Beth Potter, who grew up in Bearsden, was invited to present the awards. (Thanks to Alan Anderson for organising this.)

The awards were also sponsored.

Sean reads out the results and Beth presents the trophies.

Female Athlete of the Year 2019

Sponsored by Annibale & Lynne Coia’s company, Coia & Associates Dental Practice. Their aim is for good oral health and a bright confident smile.

Winner: Rachel Hunt.

Male Athlete of the Year 2019

Sponsored by Vicky Begg Coaching & Sports Psychology. Helping athletes to achieve their potential through discipline-based programmes, combined with sport psychology support and counselling. Email:

Winner: Craig Armour.

Best Race performance (short course) 2019

Sponsored by Alan Kennedy’s company, Surface+. Offering to source, supply and professionally install bespoke timber, stone, natural fibre and microcement flooring.

Winner: Amy Ritchie.

BEST Race performance (long course) 2019

Sponsored by Crawford Whyte’s company, Project 3. An experienced triathlon coaching service, offering coaching plans, technique analysis and endurance specific training sessions. New training centre coming early 2020.

Winner: Bruce Greenhalgh.

Most improved Athlete of 2019

Sponsored by Fiona Maurer’s company, Fit + Fabulous, Fiona is an experienced qualified personal trainer, helping clients succeed in juggling a busy home and work life with healthy living. 

Winner: Hilary Glen.

GTC Coach of the year 2019

Sponsored by Paul Gallagher’s company, Keys Galore. If you need an emergency locksmith, an extra set of keys, lock repair or a new safe, Keys Galore can help.

Winner: Vicky Begg.

Ongoing commitment to the club

Sponsored by Sarah Heward’s The Real Food Cafe. An award-winning cafe in Tyndrum, serving a delicious handmade and carefully sourced menu. There is a GTC discount button on their till.

Winner: Sean Webster.

Best Volunteer 2019

Sponsored by David Wilson ‘s company, OLA. He offers a full range of architectural services, from inception to completion, providing a personal service and bespoke design solutions. 

Winner: Duggie Mac.

Junior Awards 2019

These were presented at an earlier social event.

Best Female Athlete

Sponsored by Catherine Macneil’s company, Adamswell Business Consultants. They have more than 20 years of experience in management systems.

Winner: Mirren Stewart.

Best Male Athlete

Sponsored by Crawford’s dad at Salen Bay Campsite. The Isle of Mull’s newest campsite offers sea and mountain views. It has 10 fully serviced hard-standings, two electric grass pitches and a further 28 standard grass pitches.

Winner: Rory Treharne.

Most Improved Female Athlete

Sponsored by Mark Cohen’s company, Mark’s Deli. It is the only kosher deli & cafe in Scotland with an unrivalled selection of kosher delights in store. Also, the supplier of buffet at the GTC Christmas party.

Winner: Erin Burnett.

Most Improved Male Athlete

Sponsored by Ian & Tamara Hockey’s company, The Big Bobble Hat. Having spent many years trying to find the perfect beanie or bobble hat, both on the ski slopes and in the great outdoors, it finally occurred to them to create their own. 

Winner: Findlay Adler.

New club captains

Sponsored by Alan Anderson at The Rotunda Comedy Club, which is Scotland’s biggest comedy club. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday you can dine in one of four restaurants, enjoy a two-hour show featuring top award winning comedians, then relax late into the night in the cocktail bar.

  • Male junior captain: Callum Miller.
  • Female junior captain: Ellie Wallace.

Thanks to David Wilson and Paul Glen for the photographs.

GTC awards in Triathlon Scotland Ranking Series 2019

Triathlon Scotland has announced the results of the You Can Sport Ranking Series 2019 with many GTC members winning awards. There were plenty of GTC names in the lists, too, which means our club’s participation across a list of races in the past year was very good.

The You Can Sport Ranking Series recognises and rewards consistent participation in various permitted events. Members gain points while competing in You Can Sport Ranking Series events and these points lead to overall and/or age group prizes.

Overall, in the large club section, GTC was second of five clubs with 651.83 points, behind Fleet Feet Triathletes with 1109.20 and ahead of Fusion with 514.70.

In the youth club rankings overall, GTC was second on 1475.99 points behind Fusion on 1736.05.

There are a number of different triathlon ranking categories for the adults.

There was also a Triathlon Scotland Awards ceremony , which saw professional triathlete and runner Beth Potter, originally from Bearsden, awarded the Elite Performance of the Year title.

Cross Triathlon Series

GTC athlete Juliette Linford took first place overall in the female rankings and first place in the senior age category.

Juliette says: “I was surprised to be ranked first. I wasn’t aiming for a ranking place, but I love cross races and I happened to do those that qualified.”

Another GTC member, Romy Beard was third overall and second in the senior age category.

Juliette was 2nd and Romy was 3rd in the Cross Tri Series.

In the men’s results, Nial Smith took fourth place overall and second in his senior age category.

Neal Padmanabhan was eighth overall and third in his super vet age category.

Duathlon Series

Craig Ross came 23rd overall and ninth in the senior age category, while David Hepburn was 29th overall.

In the Triathlon Sprint series, Craig Armour was 25th overall and 10th in his senior age category.

Craig Ross was 40th overall and 13th in the seniors age group.

John Kinsella 73rd overall and 6th in the vintage age group

In the female races, Celia Greig was 17th overall and fifth in the vets, while Louise Ross was 24th overall and 10th in the vets.

Alasdair Ireland, Alistair Young, Lochlan O’Sullivan, Stephen Macintyre, Martin Smith, Juliette Linford, Hilary Glen, Laura Henderson and Jane Grant also ranked overall.

Beth Potter and congratulates a young member of GTC.

Youth Aquathlon Series

Cory Mcconville took first place in the TriStarts (aged eight) category.

Joel Adler was fifth, Brodie Burnett was sixth and Ruben Devlin was seventh.

Cory says: “I love doing triathlon as it is so much fun and I get to do lots of swimming and running that I am good at. I was so happy and excited to win the aquathlon series and I am really proud of myself.”

Isaac Findlay also ranked in the Tristar 1 (9-10 age) group.

There was another first place, in the age category Tristar 2 (11-12) by Findlay Adler. Rory Treharne was third and Fraser Donaldson was fifth. Euan Lockhart also ranked.

Charlie Treharne was second in the Tristar 3 (13-14) category, while Cameron O’Brien was fifth.

In the Tristar Youth (15-16) male category, Jamie Glen was fifth and Callum Miller was sixth.

In the females age Tristar 1 (9-10), Erin Burnett was fourth, Isla Amon was sixth, Skye Dick was seventh and Ferryn Stewart was ninth. Anna Ross, Jodi Abel and Eilidh Grenhalgh also ranked.

Mirren Stewart first in the Tristar 2 (11-12) age group and Islay Jackson was eighth.

Calli Abel, Ella Lockhart, Eilidh dick, Lilian smith, Erin Grenhalgh and Mariyah Kareem also ranked.

Amiya Patel was second in the Tristar 3 age cat (13-14) and Lucy Donaldson came sixth. Holly Glen also ranked.

Holly Smith was fourth in the Tristar Youths (15-16).

Youth Triathlon Series

In the Tristarts, Brodie Burnett was third and Mcconville was fourth. Isaac Finlay also ranked.

In the Tristar 2s, in third, fourth and fifth places respectively were Rory Treharne, Fraser Donaldson and Finlay Adler. Also ranked was Euan Lockhart.

Charlie Treharne was third in the Tristar 3s. Alasdair Padmanabhan and Cameron O’Brien also ranked.

In the Tristar Youths, Cameron Miller was seventh.

In the female Tristarts, Talia Padmanabhan was second.

Ferryn Stewart won the Tristar 1s and Erin Burnett was third. Skye dick was seventh, Isla Amon was ninth and Eilidh Greenhalgh was 10th.

Mirren Stewart won the Tristar 2s and Nina Padmanabhan was fifth.

Islay Jackson, Erin Greenhalgh, Mariyah Kareem, Calli Abel, Eilidh Dick and Ella Lockhart also ranked.

In the Tristar 3s, Lucy Donaldson was fifth. Amiya Patel also ranked.

In the Tristar Youths, Mia Padmanabhan was fourth and Rachel Smith was fifth.

See all results and details.

Bruce smashes Ironman World Champs Kona 2019

GTC member Bruce Greenhalgh qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona at Ironman Wales 2018. Earlier this month, he headed to Hawaii and after finishing in an impressive time of 9 hours 53 minutes and 27 seconds, he described the race as “the highlight of my triathlon life”

In the run up to Kona, Bruce, who competes in the 40 to 44 age group, employed the help of a coach. He worked with Graeme Stewart, from Inverness.

After finishing Ironman Wales 2018.

Bruce says: “Training kicked off fairly quickly after Ironman Wales. The qualification for Kona had left me buzzing and I was eager to get started on training for Kona but I wondered what I could do to improve after mostly organising my own training plan for previous years.

“I thought that working with a coach would allow me to see how I could do things differently. Given that it was 13 months from Wales to Kona, I think that working with Graeme was useful because I probably would have over-trained earlier and burnt out way before the race.”

Ups and downs of training

Graeme adjusted Bruce’s training plan, including a focus on bike pacing. Bruce says: “I also did a lot of work on slower cadence cycling to build leg strength. This is the opposite to what I had previously been doing and this really helped to improve my efficiency on the bike.”

Bruce entered Ironman Lanzarote to break up his year of raining but things did not go so well. Bruce says: “Lanzarote was meant to be a way to practice racing in similar conditions to Hawaii. It turned out to be a brutal race, however, due to mistakes I made nutritionally.

“I finished in 11 hours 59 minutes and it did leave me wondering how I was going to cope with the heat in Kona.”

As Kona loomed, Bruce also started to feel intimidated by the reports from other people of the heat, wind and generally brutal course that he could expect.

Bruce says: “The athlete guide also suggested arriving in Kona three weeks before the race to acclimatise. But that was never going to happen.

“I arrived the Monday before the race and I was actually pleasantly surprised by the conditions. I got out and cycled a big chunk of the course. I also managed a couple of training runs, which helped to settle the nerves a little and gave me a better feel for how to pace the race.”

Bruce described the Kona race week as “a bonkers place”. He says: “It gave me a feeling of being an imposter, seeing all these athletes who looked like they were straight out of some photoshoot for the next Olympics as they galloped past me.

Sharing transition with triathlon star, Daniela Ryf.

“Seeing it all for real though was amazing. I checked into transition next to Daniela Ryf [the Swiss athlete and four-times Ironman World Champion], which was crazy and then race day, seeing all the pros getting ready, was incredible.

“The organisation at Kona was brilliant with the number of volunteers and the assistance for each athlete.”

The Kona swim

Bruce describes his Kona race, starting with the swim.

He says: “This year’s race was a staggered deep water start, which I think worked quite well. It meant there was a lot more space for competitors and it was probably one of the least violent Ironman swims I’ve done.

“Kona is always non-wetsuit, which really worried me because it’s not something I could train for in open water in Scotland so it was a big unknown.

“Thankfully sighting was quite good and it was a one-loop-clockwise course, which helped given I breathe only to the right-hand side.

“The sea is beautiful with coral reef fish and turtles. However, on race day I didn’t notice any of this apart from the coral, which strangely you could use almost like lane lines in the pool.”

The race reported that there was a sea swell and it was apparently worse than in previous years but while Bruce could sense it he said it was not as bad as a choppy day on Loch Lomond.

He was also delighted to catch up with some of the swimmers in the wave ahead and he completed the swim in 1:02.

He says: “It was a good  start and I was pretty elated after that going into T1. I definitely had to pinch myself having seen T1 on the TV for so many years.”

Kona bike course

The bike course starts with a hill and Bruce saw some fellow age groupers stopping at the side of the road with technical issues. He says: “This didn’t help to settle the nerves because you are always worried about what could go wrong in a race.”

Bruce remembered his race plan and, for once, he held back taking the hill calmly, letting people pass and then settling into the ride.

He says: “My bike power data seemed a bit weird but my average speed was way better than I’d expected. My power seemed well down on what I was aiming for but given my speed I decided to stick with that and my perceived effort.

“The staggered start had helped to spread out the field compared to previous years and although there were a few big groups on some of the uphill undulations it wasn’t too bad at all.

“I was nervous about getting a drafting penalty, though, so I never really hung around and it felt great to be powering past people.”

Bruce felt the bike course played to his strengths. He says: “It’s not a technical course, like cycling in Scotland, and I rarely needed the brakes.

“The crosswinds were a bit challenging but certainly not as bad as in Lanzarote. People seemed to feel it was a tougher wind day than last year but it certainly didn’t slow me down too much and I arrived back in 4:55, which was about 20 minutes faster than I’d thought I would go in my best case scenario.”

Bruce describes T2 as brilliant. He says: “Someone grabbed my bike to rack it. I got given my bag, sat down and then a chilled towel was draped over my shoulders while I put on my trainers.

“I felt good and way better than any T2 previously and I set off with a spring in my step.”

Bruce runs to sub-10 hour

At this point, Bruce knew that a sub-10 hour Ironman was possible but he found it hard to work out the maths for his pacing as he ran.

He says: “I simply settled into my plan for five-minute kilometres and hoped I wasn’t going to blow up with the heat. Crikey, it was it hot.

“Thankfully, the aid stations in Kona are about every mile and sometimes slightly closer, which is good. They give out cups of ice, which were invaluable. I was glad to have on my one-piece trisuit because this meant I could put ice down my suit without it falling out.

“At each aid station I walked, getting in the fluids and the odd gel, but it was the ice I valued most.”

Bruce was also grateful for the nutrition on course. He says: “It was incredible and although the taste of the Gatorade is minging it didn’t give me any issues and due to the volume I was taking in I didn’t need a great deal of salt tabs or gels on top.”

The Kona run course is essentially a long and undulating out-and-back loop.

Bruce says: “The run does have a hill comparable to Wales but you only do it once. I deliberately walked it having read a lot about how you can overheat there and then never cool down after that. This worked and going through the famed energy level was tough but I was really pleased with how I managed to keep knocking out at relatively the same pace.

“There were certainly plenty of casualties and I went past a lot of people hunched over or walking. Getting back into town was fabulous and I knew I was sub-10 then.

“I slowed to savour the moment and what I’d accomplished.”

Bruce has a sit down after Kona.

‘Dream come true’

Bruce reveals that it was a dream come true to finish Ironman Kona in a sub-10. He says: “I was only eight minutes slower than my Copenhagen Ironman PB, which given the toughness of the course, I was super chuffed with.

“I think I could have taken more risks and gone quicker but that could have led to the wheels coming off and then there would have been so many regrets.

“To finish like I did was a highlight of my triathlon life. It felt amazing to be in amongst it all and seeing all the pros during the race. Having my family there was the icing on the cake.”

What’s next?

Bruce still has racing ambitions but he says it is difficult to imagine that he can surpass his Kona result. He says: “However, there is still a hunger to do more racing.

“I do think I need some time off though to get some brownie points back in the bank. I plan to have an off year but keep training to a degree.

“I think I might plan for Ironman Barcelona in 2021 and try to go sub 9:30 but it depends on my motivation nearer the time.

“I don’t think I’ll ever go back to race at Kona because it’s a massive cost on a variety of fronts but to have done it is a dream come true.”

WOW course rated a big success

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.”

From pool to open water swimming.

Confidence builder

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.

“I 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.

“Thankfully, 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.”

…To Pinkston
…To Loch Lomond.

A new challenge

Morag 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.

“I 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.

“My 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.”

Morag found the course to be ideal for gradually building up to the point where she felt confident to get into the open water.

She 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 panicking.

“However, 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.

“The support from all the other ladies really made the course, too, and there was a real sense of we are all in this together.

“After 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.

“With a stressful job, this was the best benefit. I’m now preaching to anyone who will listen to get them to try it, too.”

4 winners in GTC Run4it parkrun competition

An inter-club competition launched by GTC president Sean Webster to score the best age-graded time at parkrun has been won by Bill Totten, Alasdair Ireland, Sharon O’Leary and Grainne McGrath.

The Run4it parkrun contest was held at parkruns on October 5 and 12. The top two age-graded times for men and women won a £25 Run4it voucher each.

Age grading takes a runner’s time and uses the world record time for gender and age to produce a percentage score. The higher the score, the better the performance.

GTC parkrun scores

Bill Totten 84.75%

Sharon O’Leary 77.78%

Grainne McGrath 75.13%

Petra Sambale 75.04%

Maggie Darroch 74.79%

Alasdair Ireland 73.88%

Nial Smith 72.77%

David Hepburn 71.21%

Annibale Coia 70.15%

Alastair Young 70.07%

Andrew Cruickshank 69.85%

Stephen MacIntyre 68.55%

Tom McGuniess 67.57%

Dougie Holmes 66.27%

Jim Lockart 65.42%

Sean Webster 63.89%

Hilary Glen 63.58%

Michelle Donaldson 63.11%

Ray Loughran 61.26%

Lizzie Hamilton 61.14%

Janis McArthur 60.57%

Judith Macgregor 59.57%

Margaret MacIntosh 59.11%

Mary Donaldson 59.05%

Manish Patel 58.86%

Julie Macnaughton 58.36%

Kelly Ludwig 55.72%

Bob Newton 53.71%

Mark Darroch 51.40%

Caroline Findlay 43.90%.