3.45am. After almost a year and a half of training, the day had finally arrived. I was going to attempt my first Iron distance triathlon. After a surprisingly good night’s sleep the adrenaline soon kicked in and I got going with everything I needed to do before the race. Which wasn’t too much as I’d organised everything and set up transition the day before. After porridge, coffee and a final bag check, Andy and I travelled to the event and parked the van. Finding a parking space anywhere in Keswick is difficult (as we discovered the day before) but thankfully we’d pre-booked a space through the race organisers in the local rugby club which was a good decision. Andy would have a good spectating spot with the van on hand for cups of coffee while I was out on the bike.
After a short walk to transition I did a final bike check, sorted my nutrition and laid out my kit ready for the bike leg. (Because of covid restrictions there was only one transition area where had all our kit for bike and run). Then the first of many trips to the portaloo! While getting my swim kit ready I realised I’d left my heart rate strap in the van – not as organised as I thought. Did I need it? I had my power numbers for the bike leg. Better safe than sorry so Andy kindly ran back to the van to get it for me. Just enough time then to get my wetsuit on and make my way to the swim start.
There was no mass start this year (because of Covid) so everyone was entering the water one after the other and as a result we started a bit later than expected. The Half Lakesman swimmers were starting to come out the water so cheering them on calmed the nerves a bit. No acclimatisation opportunity but we didn’t need it – the water was warm (well, compared to Wardie) and there was no wind so the water was calm. I really enjoyed the swim and felt relaxed from the off. Unfortunately, my calves started cramping with about 300m to go so I had to stop kicking, but eventually made it to the swim exit after what felt like a very long 1 hr 6 minutes!
I had decided that in T1 I would change into cycling gear (rather than stay in my tri suit). It meant my T1 took a bit longer but I wanted to be comfortable for 180K. A bit of a faff but worth it.
The first hour on the bike was flat and fast and I felt elated that the swim over. Now it was time to start getting the nutrition in. I’d planned to stop after half an hour to eat a sandwich. Not something you can do easily while moving and I wanted to make sure I had some proper food at the beginning of the bike leg. I didn’t really want to stop but reminded myself to follow the plan! My nutrition strategy was to take in 60g of carbs an hour so I’d planned exactly what I was going to eat and when.
The food stops were ‘grab on the go’ so I exchanged water bottles and managed to grab some Powerbars and bananas from the volunteers to keep me going. At about 90K there was a long flat stretch into a headwind and my legs were getting sore. Kev had advised me to stick to a Zone 2 power for the bike leg so that I wouldn’t burn out during the marathon. I was careful not to go above 150/160 watts but noticed my HR creeping up into Zone 3. This had never happened in training, so I decided to lower the power to keep my HR down. I felt like a lot of people were passing me at this point, especially on the hills, but I continued to take a cautious approach. The second half of the cycle was straight forward, I just had to focus on eating/drinking every 20 minutes whilst trying not to think about running a marathon.
Into T2, SO glad to get off the bike. Another change, more suncream on and I was off on the run. (I was 10 minutes in T2, not sure why it took that long!) I’d decided on the last 10K of the cycle that I was going to walk the marathon and was planning how I was going to explain this to Andy (not to mention Kev!). I just didn’t think my legs would run after 180K on the bike. Needless to say I started running and the first 10-15K felt surprisingly ok. Just a few stomach issues probably caused by eating a bit too much at the beginning of the run. Luckily it gradually eased off and I stuck to eating crisps and coke every 5K and a few jelly babies to nibble on between food stops. By this point I was getting really sick of sugar but I knew I needed it to keep going. The support in Keswick was tremendous, lots of cheering from locals and volunteers and live music which really helped to take my mind off the run. Andy was also shouting messages of support from friends and family which gave me a massive boost! There were 5 laps in total and by the end of the 4th lap I’d had enough. I hit ‘the wall’, shed some tears and decided I couldn’t face the last lap. I’d probably run out of fuel so took another gel and some more jelly babies and got going again. Lots of other athletes were walking by this point but I was determined not to stop running as I knew it would just prolong the agony. Passing a few people actually gave me a mental boost and each mile that passed felt like a mini achievement. I kept going to the end.
Running over the red carpet to the finish line was an experience I’ll never forget. Amazing. I was SO happy to be finished and couldn’t stop smiling! 13hrs 23 minutes of swim, bike, run and I’d done it. I was a ‘Lakesman’!
I can’t thank Andy enough for his support on the day, it made a huge difference seeing him on each lap of the run. He has also been very patient and supportive with my gruelling training regime. I’m also really grateful to Kev for his coaching expertise. He’s given me lots of sound advice over the past year and prepared me well for the race. He’s also been good at motivating me to do the sessions that I sometimes didn’t want to do!
The whole experience was a positive one. It was great being part of an event again and the organisers did a fantastic job keeping it ‘fun’ whilst being safe. Having completed the race I’ve realised long distance triathlon is not just about fitness, but also about getting the pacing and fuelling right. And practicing it over and over again in training is a must to minimise any surprises on race day.
Will I do it again? Definitely!