by Shannon Scovel
Whether planning to sprint, cycle, swim, or in many cases race some combination of the three, athletes gathered behind Scotland’s National Swimming Academy on the morning of October 8 with a flurry of excitement and nervousness.
The entire day’s events, the men’s and women’s aquathlon and aquabike races, would be over in just a few hours with six champions crowned – including one Stirling student – but at the start, anticipation filled the air.
Some competitors, like Stirling triathlon club captain Iona Hamilton, would be racing for the first time and were frantically organizing their equipment, while other veteran athletes zoomed around the parking lot in aerodynamic helmets warming up for the event that lay ahead.
Among all of the commotion, activity, and action, second-year University of Stirling triathlete Shannon Moses stood smiling, one hand gripping her bike and one hand up and ready to wave to her teammates as they too made their way to the race site. With her race numbers temporarily tattooed on her legs, Moses was simply giddy about the prospect of racing.
She wasn’t the only one enjoying the race morning. Recent Stirling graduate, Emily Boardman, smoothly ran through her pre-race routine with little urgency, casually assisting her teammates with their bike prep and race set up. Hamilton, on the other hand, watched nervously, asking Boardman everything from how to attach her bike numbers to the frame to whether or not she should wear sunglasses. For Hamilton, the biggest concern wasn’t the distance or the competition – her biggest worry was making a major mistake.
“I was just nervous about getting anything wrong, like not putting my helmet on first, you know, some of the rules,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t want to get it wrong and get shouted at and fall over.”
Boardman, however, wasn’t worried. She had been here before. And by here, she had literally been on this course, in this pool and on these roads. Boardman was racing on home turf.
For the first time in the 2017 academic school year, Moses, Boardman, and the rest of the University of Stirling triathlon club had the opportunity to show off their talents in the familiar environment of their own campus, and the laid-back nature of the race combined with the familiarity of the environment created a special setting for the club.
As the first whistle sounded at 9:45 a.m. to start the adult aquabike race, the mood among the Stirling triathlon club shifted away from fear of making mistakes or stressed about trying to having the perfect race. All of a sudden, everything became all about the team.
Hamilton, Moses and Carolina Fernandez represented the University of Stirling triathlon team in the adult aquathlon, the first event of the day, while Boardman, who raced for the university last year, still donned the white and green to show support for her friends and former teammates. She and Hamilton took the race out fast, battling each other in the 400m pool swim, and started the bike just a minute apart, with Hamilton in the lead. Boardman’s strong cycling speed, however, helped her overtake Hamilton before the end of the 14km course, and she edged out the Stirling captain in the end by seven seconds overall to capture third place.
“The bike – all I could think about was how much I wanted some water, but I just tried to keep my head down, keep going, and trust in all the cycling training I’ve been doing lately,” Boardman said. “I certainly didn’t realize I had actually placed top three until after the ceremony.”
Fernandez crossed second for the team while Moses capped off the first race for Stirling with a time of 52:40 and a strong cycling portion.
“Obviously having other team members on the side cheering you on really keeps you motivated, really keeps you going, so yeah, absolutely brilliant performance for the whole team,” Moses said after the race when reflecting on her results and the times posted by her teammates.
The team environment also inspired Hamilton, who notched a fourth-place finish in her first ever race and said she looks forward to future events. The team, she said, and the support each athlete has for one another, represents pure “class.”
“Emily passed me on the bike, and she hollered at me saying, like, ‘keep going,’ It’s just like good spirit,” Hamilton said. “It’s just about being together and doing it as a team.”
The team continued to stick together even after the first race of the day. Boardman, Moses, Fernandez and Hamilton, still in their trisuits, hurried into the pool after their finish to watch the next heat of university club athletes, including Luca Fanottoli, Phoebe Lloyd-Evans, Sarah King and Hannah Dry, compete in the aquathlon.
Fanottoli, who used the Scottish Student Triathlon (SST) Aquathlon race as a warmup for another race next weekend, swam out to an early lead and then held off his competitors for the remainder of the 4.5km run. Swiad Worms from Edinburgh closed the gap on the run and attempted to chase down Fanottoli, coming in within one second of the Stirling leader, but Fanottoli found his extra gear of speed and plowed through the finish line to claim victory.
The repetitive run course offered racers and spectators the chance to watch the race unfold live, as the athletes ran laps around the athletic field and race up and down the hill near campus. The course also allowed athletes to easily cheer for their teammates as they ran by them on the course.
Three Stirling triathlon club women represented the team in the women’s adult aquathlon, the final race of the day, and as they finished the swim and started the run, their teammates awaited them on the side of the field, cheering loudly.
Stirling Triathlon Academy member Phoebe Lloyd-Evans dominated the swim, lapping the others in her lane, but came out of the pool just seconds ahead of Dry. Lloyd-Evans, however, then zoomed out of transition, widening the gap between herself and her teammate, and chased down the finish line hoping for a win. Over the duration of the 4.5km run, Edinburgh’s Naomi Lang ended up racing down Lloyd-Evans and pulled off a rapid run to clinch the title just under two minutes ahead of Lloyd-Evans.
Dry finished fourth, one minute short of the podium, and King crossed the line in ninth to round out Stirling’s performances.
Stirling ended the day with three athletes in the Top Three places across three different races as Luca Fanottoli clinched the title in the men’s SST aquathlon championships, Lloyd-Evans earned second in the the women’s aquathlon and Emily Boardman notched a podium spot as well for her third place finish in the aquabike.
The team returns to action in November for the BUCS Duathlon National Championship, but in the meantime, they’ll rest, recover and refuel to refresh their bodies after a grueling day of competition.
After some meals and a long nap, more training looms ahead. Simply put, Moses said the next few weeks will be just “a lot more running, and a lot more cycling.” – a fitting schedule for the university’s award-winning triathlon club.
Men’s Adult Aquabike
1. Andy Turnbell, Stirling Triathlon Club (28:12)
2. Alexander Harris, Stirling Triathlon Club (32:03)
3. Elliot Harris, Stirling Triathlon Club (32:32)
Women’s Adult Aquabike
1. Emma Wood, Edinburgh University Triathlon (32:44)
2. Ingrid Kidd, M3 (33:00)
3. Emily Boardman, University of Stirling (35:53)
SST Aquathlon Men’s Championships
1. Luca Fanottoli, University of Stirling Triathlon (27:20)
2. Swiad Worms, Aberdeen University Triathletes (27:21)
3. Nicholas Allen, Edinburgh University Triathlon (28:21)
SST Women’s Aquathlon Championships
1. Naomi Lang, Edinburgh University Triathlon (30:58)
2. Phoebe Lloyd-Evans, Stirling Triathlon Club (32:04)
3. Mhairi Boyle, Aberdeen University Triathletes (32:23)
Men’s Adult Aquathlon
1. Tom Graham-Marr, Stirling Triathlon Club (27:48)
2. Ben Macmillan, Stirling Triathlon Club (28:52)
3. Gordon Crawford, Stirling Triathlon Club (29:38)
Women’s Adult Aqauthlon
1. Cliona Ferguson (32:37)
2. Amy Ritchie, Glasgow Triathlon Club (34:22)
3. Michelle Green, Moray Road Runners (36:04)