Clement conditions turn icy swim into a rather pleasant dip

Swimmers exit St Mary's Loch following the first Durty Tri discipline.
Swimmers exit St Mary's Loch following the first Durty Tri discipline.
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NEARLY 400 competitors took to the hills surrounding St Mary’s Loch on Sunday for the fourth staging of the Durty Triathlon, writes Paul McGreal.

The event hosted the Scottish Off-Road Triathlon Championships, and also formed one of the four legs of the UK-wide Scott X-Tri Series.

The record number of entrants enjoyed tough, hilly and technically-demanding courses, both in the loch and the hills above it, making the event one of the largest multisport races in Scotland this year.

Competitors came from across the UK and beyond – including several from Holland, Germany and France, and even a pair from New Zealand.

Unusually sunny and warm conditions raised the water temperature to more than 20C – certainly not living up to its reputation as the coldest loch in Scotland on this occasion. This meant that for the first time in many years wetsuits were optional rather than compulsory for the swim section.

Several hardy souls took the opportunity to enjoy this to the full, using swimsuits only. The sweltering heat made what is already a very difficult race particularly challenging this year.

The Long Hard Durty Triathlon (1,500m swim, 30km mountain bike, 10km run) was won in two hours and 18 seconds by professional racer Graham Wadsworth (Bristol) – very close to the course record set last year.

He and eventual second-placed finisher Doug Hall (Bath) started the run section within seconds of each other, but Wadsworth dug deep on the massive climb through the forest to open up a gap of just over five minutes by the finish line.

This result means that both triathletes enter the final race of the Scott X-Tri series on level points, and with everything to play for in Surrey in September.

Sean Frost (Yeovil) completed the podium a further three minutes back.

First Scottish finisher was Will Wright (Tiree) in 2.13 for fifth overall place, and he was crowned Scottish champion.

The women’s race was headed up by GB-Pro Jacqui Slack (Stoke). She finished the swim three minutes ahead of second-placed Kerry MacPhee (Stirling), which was just enough to hang on to the overall lead, as MacPhee closed the gap on both the bike and run. Third place went to European-based racer Rachael Gordon (Verchaix, France). MacPhee was first Scot across the line, and therefore is the 2011 Scottish champion.

Local well-placed athletes included Graham Veitch (Kelso) in 18th overall, and Rhoda McPherson (Innerleithen) whose time was good enough to take the Scottish veteran title for the second time. Duncan Sinclair, depute CEO of the BSLT Trust, completed in a credible 3.23.

The Short Fast Durty Race (750m swim, 15km mountain bike, 5km run) results were: 1, Sean MacFarlane (Dollar); 2, Blair Cartmel (Stirling); 3, John Woodrow (Dunfermline).

Women: 1, Ellie Debenham (Chester); 2, Shemane Murtagh (Stirling); 3, Sally Coates (Selkirk).

Other notable Borders performances included Toby Vint, Neil Vint and Kev Murray of the local Border Triathletes club taking the team relay prize, and Nick Jupp (Lilliesleaf) in 29th place overall.

The event was generously supported by Scottish Borders Council, and sponsors Scott Sports UK, Edinburgh-based retailer The Tri Centre, Craft, Honey Stinger and Peebles company Damn Good Jam.

More details on the event are available at www.durtytriathlon.com