The Hebridean Triathlon is the remotest triathlon in the UK. It was started by the Western Isles Triathlon Club as a trial event for 15 people three years ago and has gradually increased the number of people to almost 40 this year. With a small band of volunteers it’s a small but enthusiastic race.
The race starts and end at Shawbost School and set up and registration is informal and thoughtful – with rain forecasted, the organisers provided everyone with clear plastic bags to store their kit at transition so it would be dry despite conditions.
My legs were still heavy three weeks after Roth but I thought I would still be okay to take part.
The swim leg takes place in a loch about 2km from Shawbost School. A mini-bus takes competitors while bikes are transported to transition. It’s a simple system and easy to manage. Even easier if, like one woman, you don’t even wear a wetsuit.
“Are you not wearing a wetsuit?” someone asked her.
“There’s not much point,” she said.
“Aye,” said the other, “I forgot, you’ve swung the English Channel!”
Which is a bit like Jasmin Paris turning up for 10k. Or Ronaldo appearing at fives. However, as it turned out, the English Channel may have been good preparation as the course felt longer than 1500m. I thought it was closer to 1800m, and even longer for me as I managed to follow the wrong feet almost to the opposite bank to where we were meant to be going!
The water was warm, almost 19 degrees, but very dark, heavy with peat. One of the bouys had blown away but the organisers had roped in (no pun intended) a replacement at short notice. The original bouy was found a kilometre down the road having lept three fences and numerous crofts. Luckily, there wasn’t any breeze for the race and the water was flat calm. Unluckily, no wind meant midges were out in force turning this triathlon in to a quadrathalon – swim, bike, run & scratch, scratch, scratch!
Normally on an out and back course you have a ride of two halves. One fast, into the wind. One slow, as you battle it. However, with no wind, their was only the numerous hills to battle.
The thing you have to know about roads on the Isle of Lewis is that they are lumpier than school custard, including one short sharp 15% at the turning point. Thankfully, the turning point is also the Callanish Stones so you have a cracking view as you make your way back to transistion 2.
Given it was only a few weeks since Challenge Roth, the bike leg felt short. But then, after 112 miles, anything feels short.
I’d misread the run route. I thought it too was out and back. While the first five kilometres are generally uphill, as there’s no flats on the run route either, I thought the second half would be easier as we’d be coming back the same way. The only doubt I had was that I hadn’t seen anyone running back to the start. That should have been a big clue.
Instead of doubling back the route takes a left turn and returns through a single track road surrounded by croft houses.
By the 5km point a few drops of rain had become a downpour and, while warm, it was good to see the finish and, finally, a downhill sprint to the line.
A cracking race that deserves support as it expands. As the remotest triathlon in the UK you do get a real sense of being on the edge of the world as the bike course takes you through crofting towns, views of the Atlantic, and the Callanish Stones.
Plus you get a fantastic buffet at the end!
And with a small field you have a good chance of making the top 10 – or, worse, as in my case, you can be fourth fastest male AKA the fastest loser!