Race Report – Hebrides Triathlon 2021 (Andrew)

Would you pay £15k to take part in an ultra run? What if you had a Michelin chef cooking your meals and training tips from the world’s best runners? If so, then Highland Kings is for you!

Highland Kings is a new event, launched in June, which aims to bring a unique premium service to what are normally very simple races – turn up, run for hours, run some more, then run for even longer. Unlike an ordinary marathon there’s no need to close streets as most ultra runs take place in remote locations where the chances of meeting anyone else is as likely as me entering Highland Kings. (Very, very unlikely),.

However, if remote locations, exclusive entries and table service are your thing then can I recommend the Hebrides Triathlon?

With COVID safety in mind, the race organiser wanted to ensure everyone could still have soup, a sandwich and a sweet treat after the race. Rather than setting out a buffet, volunteers took ‘orders’ from your table and brought the food to you. And then brought some more. And then more. And the next thing you know you’ve had soup, a sandwich and six donuts and a muffin and a Mars Bar.

I can see why people might pay £15k for this kind of service…

It was great to take part in a triathlon after races were cancelled last year. It didn’t even feel strange to wear face mask or to use handwash as changing clothes is natural for a triathlete. In fact, I was only surprised, we didn’t have a separate mask for each transition….

The race itself is run by the Western Isles Triathlon Club and has a limit of around 30 entrants each year. It’s a local race for local people but one that’s very welcoming to visitors too. Unlike the Isle of Lewis itself which is still under COVID restrictions which severely limit the number of people who can travel on the boat to get there. I was caught out as I tried to book only to find that the next place available was four weeks after the race. Instead I had to fly, which is easier to book but almost as expensive as Highland Kings. Ouch.

As for the race itself:

Swim

This was my first triathlon in two years. The last one being the 2019 Hebrides Triathlon. This year the swim was changed from a loch to the sea after a bloom of blue green algae.

To make things interesting there was a choppy tide but the organisers changed the course to keep it close to shore and most of the swimming was side on to the waves. This made for an erratic swim as I was constantly pushed from the side but it was good to know that we were never out to deep and you could see the bottom of the bay for most of the swim.

Bike

A strong north wind meant a quick first half as we cycled from Shawbost south and southeast to Callanish. The way back was another story and I was glad to have fitted tri-bars to my bike. Each strong gust gave a chance to duck down and try and avoid the worst of it by using the bars to stretch-out.

Run

A deceptive course – it’s 4km of climbing and then 6km of climbing. You’d expect a course that starts and finishes in the same place to have an equal amount of ascent and descent but I can only think that roads around Shawbost were designed by MC Escher.

Overall

My ‘local’ triathlon so I’m biased but this really is a cracking race with great scenery, challenging routes and while it might not be Highland Kings, it can certainly claim to be Hebridean Kings.

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