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Three Lochs events (near Stranraer, Scotland)

13th June 1999
National Quadrathlon Championships (mostly!)

2.5m swim, 10km Kayak, 60km cycle, 10km run

Words by Keith Scrivener
Photos (and lead kayak) by Meryl Scrivener


In true "sod's law" style, Scotland's heat wave ended a day before this year's championships and on race morning the clouds were an ominous shade of black. In the post-dawn light, the loch stood still as a millpond.

In the midst of the pre-race expectation, race organiser Harry Waugh, was telling everybody to check that they knew the course from start to finish. Some did, some "sort of" did, and others left it to the Gods - a bad move.

As it got nearer to the start time, right on cue the wind got up, the rain came sheeting down, and the Loch developed a series of lumpy waves. Faced with such poor conditions, as many of us as was humanly possible crowded into the organiser's tent for the race briefing - mad really, considering that we were all already in our wetsuits!

With the very best British elite competitors taking part, this race was going to be very competitive, with the world ranking stars being the most likely to dominate. As usual, the mass swim start was fast and furious, with athletes madly jockeying for positions and people getting knocked about in the all-encompassing frenzy. Nevertheless, we had soon sorted ourselves out into some sort of order behind the lead canoe.

Initially, Veteran Leyshon Williams and Dai Richards, made an all-Welsh lead group, but Keith Longley was reeling them in and was soon leading the Welsh men. The second pack, comprising of Phillipe Jumeau, Mark Laithwaite, Michael Gradwell, Chris McSweeny and David Clark, was only just off the pace. Fresh from his win at the Pendle Quadrathlon, Veteran Paul Belcher, was also in contention here.

Further down the field, Arthur Puckrin and I were becoming detached from the main group. However, considering the quality of the field we were still putting up a brave fight. Or at least we were until we ventured a little off-course when my shortsighted partner, Arthur, spotted what he thought was the next white buoy. It was only when it moved away from him, that he realised he tried to swim around a swan! Then, before the kayak leg could even begin, transition proved to be rather fun for the onlookers, with at least one competitor getting stuck in his wetsuit!

Stevens, from the Royal Marines Relay Team, dominated the kayak leg from the start moving up from a slow swim into second place, behind Leyshon Williams. However, it was behind them that the real battle was taken place. Chris McSweeny, Dai Richards and Marc Laithwaite were hunted down by Keith Longney, (who had been forced to mend his hull with tape) and these four fought it out for the whole 10km. Phillipe Jumeau and Paul Belcher then led the next group. Still towards the back, Arthur Puckrin had tried his luck by using a sea kayak instead of his Kl, and was so relaxed that he spent most of the distance chatting with me.

The cycle course had it all - rough tracks, loose chippings, narrow passes over the hills, and dozens of cattle grids. Harry Waugh had recommended that athletes use mountain bikes, although some chose to risk road bikes for speed. I, however, decided to follow Harry1s advice, as the rain was pouring down and some roads were like rivers.

Mark Laithwaite was moving fast from the start, with Sven Ward (Richmond) and Mark Reese (Royal Marines) going at breakneck speed. Meanwhile, Chris McSweeny was having an epic battle with Keith Longley, with Dai Richards just behind them.

High speeds were causing incidents all the way round the course, with many of the road bikes punctured as they hit cattle grids and their tyres were crushed against the rims. Daz Wilson was one such casualty. He got his puncture 8 miles out on the course, and could not repair it as he had forgotten his pump. However not one to give up, he ran the whole way back, getting another competitor to tell marshals he was still coming! Another unfortunate was Jack Newbigging, who actually punctured twice. If that wasn't enough, after mending the second one he lent his hike against an electric fence! Not realising what was going on, he then grabbed it again and got a hard shock to the kidneys.

Whilst crossing one of the passes, I came unexpectedly across a young bullock. The animal took off in fright, and quite refused to leave the single-track road. I followed it over four miles, until it veered off to rejoin its herd. As a result I also missed a turning and did an extra 30km loop! Other casualties included John Schofield who was slowing after an attack of cramp, and Arthur Puckrin who had punctured again.

The 10km run course was partly on the road, but largely on forest tracks, which does not help fast times. Bob Whitlock (Royal Marines) finished the fastest in 35:l7min., closely followed by Mole (Richmond) in 36:22min., with Laithwaite, Richards and David Ogg also going under 40 minutes. This was good enough to secure Laithwaite and Richards first and second respectively in the individual race. The fact that both McSweeny and Longney were both suffering from cramp and perhaps dehydration, may have allowed the front two runners to get away.

At the end of the run we were welcomed by a friendly Red Cross volunteer, who was doing a sterling job treating Laithwaite's blister, massaging McKinnon's legs, and treating the many cases of cramp!

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