I did Lakesman in 2016 but didn’t manage to train as much as I’d like due to family illness. I loved the race and was determined to come back and try and do it justice. It’s one of the smaller Iron Distance races, based in the small town of Keswick in the Lakes (my favourite place on earth). Its professionally run but its size gives it a real friendly feel. Going back made this even better as there were so many people I met at last year’s race that it was great to see again!
The weekend started on the Friday. I drove up and registered, checked in to my B&B then headed to the Dog and Gun – which seemed to be the unofficial headquarters for us Lakesmen! Here I met up with a few friends, Sarah Whibley, James Hutcheson, Iain and Sally Edgar, as well as several people I’d met the previous year. After a couple of obligatory G&T’s I retired early – quite pleased I did as it sounds as though the evening got messy after that and I’m not known for my self-restraint!
Saturday was a busy day as I had a friend (Paul Taylor) racing Triathlon X, and I wanted to support him as much as I could, so up and stood on the corner by 8 to cheer him through Keswick, then quick brekkie and off to Braithwaite on the bike to cheer him there. Not much time for a rest before lunch with the gang, then off to T2 in Ambleside where sadly we missed him as we needed to head back and pack our bags and get racked! After racking we had a stroll down to the Lake, an early tea of steak and chips and back to the B&B for some shut-eye. But first, I needed to know Paul was okay – he’d been having a tough time in the heat! We spoke about 9:30/10 o’clock and after that I could finally relax and get some zeds.
Sunday morning’s alarm went off at 4:30 and I was feeling a little tired but excited for the day. First coffee down me the obligatory 2 rice puddings for breakfast. Time for another quick coffee while I tried (and failed) to apply my race tattoos then down to the start line. Walking into transition I met Iain holding a track pump and quickly recruited him for some tyre inflation (thanks Iain). Before I knew it it was time to get in the rubber and head over to the start line. Plenty of joking and messy around with James, Sarah and Maria Greaves as we lined up, then we went our separate ways in the water.
The swim is a single lap and I tried really hard to almost forget about the race and concentrate on enjoying the scenery – Derwentwater is a beautiful place to swim! It was already a very sunny day and the return leg was into the sun which made sighting tricky (impossible?) I think a lot of us did a few extra metres than we needed trying to find the exit! Before I knew it the swim was over and I emerged a little dazed in 1:20 – exactly the same time as the previous year, and a bit slower than I normally swim. No time to think about that, though – need to run to transition and start thinking about the bike.
The bike course has a bit of everything, some flatish main road to start, then it starts to climb when you get to Cockermouth and doesn’t stop for about 10 miles (it feels like). I tried to keep a lid on my enthusiasm in the first flat bit, just spinning along, averaging maybe 17.5 miles an hour. Then I hit the climbs and my speed dropped like the stone I’d failed to lose before race day! Fortunately having ridden the course, I knew there was more flat to come so I held my nerve and just kept ticking over. Out to the coast and my favourite part of the course – long flattish ride along the seaside and time to bake in some speed. Part way along I heard Iain’s voice yelling my name which gave me a boost, but really none is needed on this bit of the course when you feel invincible! There is a small loop where you ride back the other way before repeating a part of the seaside ride. This gave me a taste of the headwind to come, had I been paying attention! I wasn’t paying enough attention though as it wasn’t until I turned and started the climb back to Cockermouth I realised how much of a headwind it was. By now, with the climbing, I was starting to feel the heat as well and my speed dropped and dropped. Finally made it back to Keswick in 6:27 – happy enough with that as it had been 6:58 the year before.
However, it was clear in the final few miles of the bike that the run was going to be a hot one and it didn’t disappoint. Right from the start I was running slower than I’d have liked and it was all downhill from there. Fab to see so many people I knew on the course – seeing others suffering with me definitely gave me a boost and the marshals were fabulous! Especially the guy on the out and back “road of doom” who gave us all a sponge down every lap. He was so cheerful I had to give him a massive hug on my last lap!
The heat meant I broke my usual rule of no more than a coke a lap and suddenly I was drinking one or two at every feed station. Then at the end of lap 3 my stomach reminded me why I have the rule and by lap 4 I was walking and praying for a toilet! It was a good couple of miles before I could sort out my stomach issues (about which the less said the better) and start running again. It was already clear that my sub-13 hour target was well out of the window, but if I worked hard on the last lap I could still beat last year’s time. Sarah ran with me for a bit here, which helped me get my head sorted, then I sent her back to James who was suffering more than I was! Head down and keep shuffling forward and that finish line was getting closer – Paul who had gone for some food before coming to support my last lap found himself having to take a short cut and racing me to the finish – luckily he made it and took some fab pics!
I loved the red carpet and the finish line – overall 12 minutes faster than 2016. Not what I hoped for, but not a bad result on a hot day. Time for some more gin in the Dog and Gun!
Still love the race and still have unfinished business – B&B already booked for next year!