Balbirnie House Duathlon – 28th June 2018

Balbirnie House Duathlon, organised by Glenrothes Triathlon Club is one of those races that is a bit out of the ordinary……

A race on a Thursday evening is unusual, however you know an event is going to be good when despite the day and timing, over 100 athletes from pretty much all over the country, and even a few from England, turn up and toe the start line. It was also voted event of the year by Triathlon Scotland in 2017….

This event had been on my radar for a few years following some comments from Donna McHugh who raced it previously and the fact my parents house is less than 10 mins drive from the stunning venue. For those who don’t know Balbirnie Park House Hotel is probably one of the best hotels in Scotland and the race starts and finishes on the front lawn. The hotel hosts the event and provides the catering as well. More on that later.

To say the conditions on Thursday evening were different may well be the biggest understatement of the season. The hottest day for several years meant making sure you were hydrated was the first priority, followed by liberal applications of sunscreen.

The race itself follows the standard sprint duathlon format. 5k run/20km bike/2.5 km run. The run is a 2.5km lap through the grounds of Balbirnie Park, a mixture of paths and off road trails and most definitely NOT flat! I had been pre-warned by my Mum (who has been a coach at Fife AC for nearly 30 years) of “heartbreak hill” which she uses on her athletes. Roughly 1.5km into the run, you turn a corner and go up what seems like a cliff face! When Donna raced here previously she turned the said corner and swore profusely. Personally I did the same despite the warnings. You probably couldn’t get up it on a Mountain bike it’s that steep. Fortunately it only lasts about 50m….. if you’ve done Stirling duathlon it’s WAYYYY steeper than that hill….. at least you only do it 3 times though….

So first 2 laps done and out onto the bike course. 1 loop only however this is also quite an unusual course as it is pretty technical. I had the TT bike but personally when I do this race again I’ll take the road bike. It’s best described as lumpy with a few sharp 90 degree bends that you don’t get a huge amount of warning for and one very long uphill drag just after the half way point. The other unusual part is the 5 x RIGHT hand turns. They are very well marshalled but I had to stop and unclip twice . Once for traffic, the other where it rejoins the route on the way out and you have to cross over other racers heading out… Again the course is very scenic, winding it’s way through the Fife farmland and countryside.

Back into T2 and then one more lap of the run course, including THAT hill, and then into the finish area……

Timing is by chip and after crossing the finish line you are provided with a very nice engraved medal, a selection of fruit and an ICE cold Erdinger alcohol free beer (or 2 if you wish!). This is provided by Balbirnie House who also laid on a huge spread of large burgers and a massive pulled pork hog roast at very reasonable prices which the spectators can also take advantage of. I struggled to finish mine it was that big. Leslie Bike Shop are also in attendance for any last minute emergencies as well.

This has to be one of the friendliest and laid back races I’ve had the pleasure of doing. The venue and course is amazing and challenging in equal measure, the organisation by Glenrothes Triathlon Club and Balbirnie House is second to none and what I really liked was transition not re-opening for people to remove bikes until after the last competitor had finished, ensuring everyone was around to cheer everyone else home and ensuring lots of chat between competitors and spectators. This was the followed straight away by some “spot” prizes being handed out (funkiest outfit, biggest smile, loudest running shoes, you get the idea) followed by the main prize giving.

All in all, a great fun night out and I would recommend this whole heartedly to anyone. 90 min drive from Glasgow roughly, take an afternoon off work and still be back home for around 10.30pm, or in my case, back to my mum’s house for a shower and in bed by 10.30pm……

Personally I’ll probably be back next year……..
posted by Steve Ellison on