On New Year’s Eve, nine hardy swimmers assembled on the banks of the Moray coastline to break-up their lockdown with a unique sporting endeavour.
It was a departure for the members of Moray Firth Triathlon Club, who usually meet weekly at Lossiemouth’s indoor swimming pool, in an effort to build up both their fitness and endurance in the hope the sporting calendar will at last return to normal later this year.
Colin McGregor, a former military pilot, is the current chairman of the club.
He said: “As long as you have a bike and bike helmet, some trainers and swimming costume you are ready for triathlon!
“Obviously equipment can vary hugely in price, particularly when it comes to the bike, but you can easily get by on a budget.
“We are a friendly, social club who welcome all abilities.”
And DCT Media staff photographer Jason Hedges, who captured the group’s training efforts, can attest to that.
Recalling his first day with them, Jason said: “I introduced myself to one of the members who made me feel very welcome, and he directed me over to Colin.
“I began photographing the group whilst they prepared for a short swim in the Moray Firth at Burghead.
“Once the group was ready, they automatically began to assemble themselves into a socially distanced group in order to be photographed.
“This made me smile as I usually have to direct almost everyone.
“With a few shuffles here and there and in a short space of time we had the makings of a group photo.”
Including swimming, Jason documented their cycling and cross-country running – the other two sports which make up the modern day triathlon.
He did this in black and white to “set it apart” from his news photography.
“Working in black and white simplifies a picture somewhat, focusing the eyes and brain more on what is going on in an image without the added distraction of colour,” he added.
“I knew I wanted to create images in an artistic, almost graphic style and black and white works beautifully for this style of imagery.”
The triathlon club itself is coached year-round by Colin and three others.
Colin continued: “Members compete is a variety of different competitions both locally and further afield.
“Aberdeenshire Council run a Sprint and Standard distance Duathlon and Triathlon Series every year which are very popular and a great introduction to the sport – and members of the Club frequently feature on the podium.
“Club members have also competed across Scotland, the UK and abroad in sprint, standard, middle and full ironman distance events.
“We also hold our own Triathlon Competition annually in the grounds of Gordonstoun School.
“Unfortunately this was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.”
In better times, former members have gone on to challenge for places in Scotland’s Commonwealth Games team.
And at the 2019 annual Sport Moray Awards, current member Steve Sharpe was awarded both the Veteran Sports Person of the Year and the coveted Overall Sports Personality of the Year gongs.
In 2018, after just three years of competing, he also qualified to represent his age group category (male 45-49) for Team GB at the 2019 European Middle Distance Championships in Targu Mures, Romania.
He took home the silver medal.
“We have also had numerous club members represent Team GB in age group categories at both European and World events,” Colin said.
“Our members come from a variety of different backgrounds and ages. All enjoy the variety triathlon brings with its different disciplines and also enjoy the camaraderie of being associated to a Club.”
But while none of the members have been able to compete since last March, the club has continued to endure – and has even appointed a Covid officer to conduct risk assessments when it comes to continuing members’ training.
Colin, however, is positive things will change for the better.
He said: “Our aspiration, once we return to ‘normal’, is to continue to promote the sport of triathlon in Moray, and encourage as many as possible to join and benefit from a great club spirit.”
Moray Firth Triathlon Club currently has 40 members.
An annual membership is £20, with coached swim sessions an additional £4 per session.