Lakesman 140.6 - 19/06/2022
By Kev Brierley
It might take you as long to read this blog as it took me to complete Lakesman but I won’t apologise, it is my story and I’m proud of it. You know my history - weak swimmer, novice bike rider, decent average runner with a few triathlons under my belt as below.
Once I had reached half ironman distance I knew I couldn’t leave it there. I would always wonder - could I have completed a full distance triathlon? So in November 2021 I took the plunge and booked Lakesman. I had a shortlist of four events but knowing some TTC mates were also doing this one made it seem the best option. I would have support, advice and camaraderie at hand. My fellow team mates would be Rich, Graeme, Robin and David doing the full, and Luke doing the
The short version is I did it, I found it very tough but I completed it - a full distance 140.6 mile triathlon. I'm still buzzing from it all. It was an awesome weekend that was the culmination of 7 months solid training, which followed on from a previous years training for two half ironman events. If you want the gory details, read on.
I was fairly nervous going into it having never swam or biked that far before, individually let alone one after the other. There were 5x time cutoffs I had to beat - to get out of the swim, 61 miles on the bike, the end of the bike, the end of lap 4 of the 5 lap run, and the final cutoff. I made them all, some by the skin of my teeth, and I finished it with a massive smile.
One worry I have is about rough water in the lake; I’ve had bad experiences in the past. In May I kicked off my open water swimming for 2022 when on holiday in Delamere. Unfortunately the wind was up and the water was choppy. I did 2 Km and found it hard going, getting blown off course quite a lot. This was not a good confidence booster but it is good to practice in difficult situations occasionally.
Leading up to the event, the Lakesman team put on a Q&A session which was quite helpful. The question I was going to ask was in fact asked by Graeme about an Aussie exit half way round the 3.8Km swim, to which the answer was “no” - it is a non-stop swim. I had banked on a rest half way, so this unnerved me. The next weekend I went to Alderford lake and completed 4x continuous laps for the first time ever, reaching 3.3Km in 1 hour 37 minutes which gave me a massive confidence boost.
Two weeks before Lakesman Rich and I went to Chasewater to experience a bigger pool of water. Alderford is good for practicing in but being small it doesn’t really suffer from wind and waves. Chasewater is much bigger and on the day we went the wind was up causing small waves. This time it didn’t phase me and I swam ok albeit very slowly due to the waves, not being able to spot which buoy to swim to next, and fighting with my tow-buoy which the wind kept pushing over the back of my head disrupting my stroke! All good practice. It was the day before Stafford half ironman so as you can see all the signage was up.
Then before I know it, I’ve ticked off my last training session and we’re off to Keswick for the Lakesman.
Thursday - I spent all morning doing my final packing of all the equipment, clothes, nutrition etc. Ticking items off the checklist, then double checking everything. I even printed off a crib sheet of cut-off times, feed station locations and cello-taped this to my bike as an aide memoir - more on that later.
We went up to the lakes Thursday afternoon to check into a hotel just outside of Keswick. Luckily we had a very smooth journey up unlike the rest of the gang who travelled up on Friday. They had an awful journey and arrived late due to the M6 being shut. We wanted a hotel with parking rather than leaving my bike in an unattended public carpark in town so had a 10 mile round-trip each time we went to town or to the race event.
Friday - So much was going round my head that I didn’t sleep much last night. We spent the day just relaxing, had a short walk to Bassenthwaite Lake which was quite choppy with the wind (ominous for my swim!) and listened to the latest Simon Ward podcast "How to avoid the biggest mistakes triathletes make leading up to their A race” - maybe a bit too late for me but quite entertaining!
In the afternoon we (Nicky and I) went to find the event carpark we had pre-booked, so we could walk the route to registration / event HQ where I picked up my number, chip, swim cap, transition bags and rucksack. We then went to check out the swim start and the T1/T2 transition area which was about half a mile away from HQ / finish area.
Saturday - another restless night without much sleep. We went to meet the TTC gang while they registered, then we all went to check out the swim start (again for me). Another quick rest at the hotel then it was time to pack my T1 & T2 transition bags, fill my drinks bottles and go to rack the bike and bags in T1/T2. It was great to meet Craig from club in transition for a quick catch up. He had signed up to be a volunteer at the event and was able to show me where the others had racked up so I could rack with them, although they would be long gone by the time I was out the water.
Another quick trip back to the hotel, this time to prep my nutrition and to put on my budgie smuggler trunks before heading back down to lakeside for the famous budgie smuggler fun run! A whole bunch of nutters stripped off to show off their funny trunks - mine were very boring black & blue patterned compared to pirates, donuts, cactus and hippy flowers the others had on. We spent a very funny few minutes singing daft songs and wiggling our behinds towards the lake to scare away the “Kraken of Derwent Lake”, which was led by a couple of Lakesman old-timers. We then all jogged the 1K run back to race HQ (in our trunks) and then it was time for the race briefing, which thankfully was nice and short.
A risotto for tea (more carbs) and then an early night - which amazingly was better than the previous two.
Sunday - up at 04:00 and I started fuelling immediately with sports drink and porridge bar (better than the pots!). I made sure I had my nutrition, wetsuit, goggles, swim cap and timing-chip then straight off to T1/T2 to load my nutrition on the bike. I mentioned earlier I had cello-taped cut-off times and feed station locations onto my bike as an aide memoir - in exactly the same place where my bento food box would be - doh! I hadn’t thought that one through properly!
Graeme was already there in his wet suit so I got into mine ready for the off and Rich & Robin joined us - no sign of Dave yet.
One of my worries was the dreaded toilet situation so early in the morning and being in the water for the best part of two hours! Too much info maybe, but a last attempt before we went down to riverside was a must. I was grateful Graeme & Rich waited for me so we could walk to swim start together. The lake was fairly calm unlike Bassenthwaite on Friday, which helped calm some nerves. I had the obligatory “wetsuit wedgie” given to me by Nicky & Rich to get it fitting right and we were all set. Dave found us and we all made our way to the water.
Another worry had been the choice of deep water start or trickle start. I had pretty much decided to trickle start because I am not confident in the water, especially surrounded by hundreds of other people, and I also didn’t want to get cold before the off. This all changed after Robin did the practice swim on Friday night where she discovered it was very rocky and slippy at the waters edge and you could waste a lot of time getting in after crossing the timing mat. So that, and the encouragement from Rich and Graeme, convinced me to start deep water. It was helped by the fact that as soon as all deep starters were in the water we were immediately set off.
Within 100 metres I was off course swimming towards the bank and struggling to settle my breathing and rhythm. Nowhere near as bad as at Bolton, but it was something I had to quickly sort out. The fact I had veered off course meant I was alone in clear water, which allowed me time to regain control and swim back on course without others in my way. We had to swim twice around Derwent Island.
On turning the first buoy, we were now swimming towards the far side of the island in exposed waters which became a bit more choppy but I wasn’t fazed and just kept my plodding stroke going. The next 2-metre high yellow buoy seemed miles away - more like a thimble - but I just aimed at it and kept spotting as I went. After the earlier deviation, the rest of the swim was really good and I finished in an impressive (for me) 1 hour 42 minutes. I had beat cut-off #1 by nearly 38 minutes.
As I exited the lake I was beaming and happy. Nicky, Sarah and Izzy were there to cheer me on which was great. I decided to walk the 500 metres up the hill to T1 to lower my hear rate and regain some composure. In T1 I thought I was doing OK - wetsuit off, cycling gear on, eat a banana etc. but the clock was ticking fast and I took an excessive 15 minutes to get out on the bike! Luckily Craig was in T1 again so when I headed to the wrong bike he kindly said “that’s not your bike Kev, yours is over there” and re-pointed me in the right direction!
I’ve only ever ridden one 100 miler before and my training only took me to 72 miles, so I had no idea what would happen “racing” 112 miles. All I knew was that I had to maintain at least 14mph to beat the two bike cut-offs. I had Craig’s words in my head saying “it’s just a long day in the office” and “don’t burn your matches too early”, so I set off at a steady pace and was happy to maintain between 14 & 15 mph for most of the ride.
Whilst the scenery was absolutely stunning, especially along the coast road, we had to contend with a north westerly head-wind which made it hard going. All I could do was hunker down as much as I could on the drops and push on. I couldn’t find any tri-bars to fit on my Giant Defy bike with its hydraulic brake system and oval bars, so I had to do with just the drops which was tough on the triceps.
Things started well on the bike, I started eating and drinking regularly, and by the time I reach feed station #1 at 18 miles I was in need for replacement drink bottles as planned. As things got tougher through a mixture of fatigue, wind and hills, my feeding regime started to falter. Instead of being regimented eating every 15 minutes and drinking every 10 minutes, it started to become “as and when I felt like it” - and the more I tired, the less I felt like eating. I tried to shovel in as much as I could, and I took on extra bananas at some feed stations but I don’t think it was enough. At the last station, nearly 100 miles in, they sounded concerned and said I was looking a bit grey but with only 12 miles of relatively flat and down hill to go I set off again after eating another banana.
I also had to stop twice on the bike for toilet breaks - using the provided porta loos and not going in public which caused others to be disqualified - which added to the time on my bike. Stupidly, I had auto pause on my computer so all these stops were not being recorded. So when my computer said I was averaging 14.2 mph this wasn’t taking it account the breaks. Looking at Strava later I see that I had stopped for a total of 8 minutes.
At 70m miles there is a 17 mile loop meaning we had to go back to the coast road and deal with the headwind again. At least there was a photographer there to capture our pain - I smiled as best I could. I started to be passed by other cyclists who were already on the second lap and wondered if I would see any of the TTC gang but being much faster swimmers and stronger cyclists than me they were much too fast and awesome, and would have been and gone long before I got there.
On the way back into Keswick along the very busy main road I came across a long line of stationary traffic about 5 miles to go. So that I wasn’t in the middle of the road I decided to go down the inside left. There had been a car accident, no injuries, just bashed up broken bits of car and glass on the road. I tried to manoeuvre round the debris as best I could hoping that I wasn’t going to get a puncture so near to the end.
I arrived back at T2 where the chief race referee was waiting and saying “you’ve just made it back with less than 3 minutes to go”. I had no idea I was that close to the bike cut-off. The long T1 and the feed station stop-offs had really eaten into my time. This unnerved me a bit and I thought that meant I had to get out on to the run course as soon as possible. I ran my bike through transition, quickly racked it, into the bag tent, and put on my trainers as fast as I could. What I didn’t do was - calm my heart rate down, vaseline my feet, change my socks, eat some food and take some pain killers for my aching back. I think I was the fastest one of our gang through T2 - which probably added to the grief I was about to experience.
I set off on what everyone was saying was “the bit I could do” - “he’s got this now”. How wrong this was. My heart was pounding and I felt exhausted after just a few minutes. I slowed my pace but still found it so tough, to the point that I had to start walking, which anyone who knows me is not what I do in run races. I knew it was going to be hard, I completed two half-ironman races last year and I know it is different to a standalone run but this was different. I couldn’t maintain pace.
I decided early on that this was not going to be the run I wanted and switched to a Jeffing (run / walk) strategy of run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute. After a short while even this became hard. Was my mind giving up? Or was my body really that tired? I changed to a run 3 walk 2 minute strategy. Again after a short while even this was hard. Again I changed to a run 2 walk 2 strategy. This lasted a bit longer but after about 2 hours I had to change to run 1 minute walk 1 minute strategy, which I maintained to the end. Weirdly the monotony of the Jeffing, the 5 loop course, and seeing other competitors with their own struggles meant the run seemed to go quite quickly.
Part of the route is called the “Highway to hell” because it is a 0.7 mile length of road that you go up, down, up down in coned off lanes. This along with the 5 lap course meant I was able to see the TTC gang a few times before they finished. They were awesome, giving me words of encouragement but all I could do was grunt back in my exhausted state, to which I can only apologise.
The run course passed the finish area twice per lap where the crowds and our own WAGs (WABs for Robin’s Jamie) stood to cheer us on. Everyone was amazing calling out our names & clubs and really lifting the runners spirits. All I could do was nod and grunt - apologies to you folks too.
The feed station crew were amazing as well, really encouraging and trying to make sure you fuelled well. I tried as best I could because I knew I was really struggling. I took on water or energy drink at most stops and tried various sweets and crisps, most of which I didn’t fancy.
On the fourth lap passing the finish area Nicky and Sarah decided to run the small 1 mile loop with me to help me along. I was starting to get a bit worried I might not make the 4th cutoff which meant you had to start the last lap by a certain time. Luckily I mentioned this to Nicky who reassured me I had plenty of time for that, which made me feel much better - I knew if I continued with my Jeffing plan I would make it.
Nicky decided to carry on with me around my final lap, running all 5 miles in normal clothes (but luckily with trainers on) to help keep me motivated. Back at the finish area she passed the baton over to Sarah to do the last 1 mile loop before the finish. Those ladies were awesome, thank you x
And then I was back on the field running to the final turn to the finish straight. Sarah left me to run down the red carpet. I turned the corner and found someone else just about to finish and having their photo taken. Normally I would have raced down to the finish arch but no, I stopped, I might even have turned back a few yards, to allow him to clear the way so I could have my own clear finish photo. They even put up the finish banner to run through which was ace. I had done it. This weak swimmer, novice cyclist, decent runner (ha ha ha) had completed a full distance 140.6 mile open water triathlon. I crossed that line with a massive smile on my face and was greeted by my amazing wife and friends Richard, Sarah, Izzy, David, Jennifer and also Craig who had waited all day to see me finish. I feel emotional just writing this. Thank you all for being there to help me and see me to the end.
Once the gang had gone Nicky decided to move the car closer so I didn’t have so far to push my bike and kit back. While she was gone I went to the food tent and grabbed some goulash to push around my plate - still not overly hungry. A passing race official noticed me and asked if I was OK - I obviously didn’t look ok because she said she was just going to get some food and then she’d come and sit with me. We sat chatting for a while until she thought I looked better by which time
Nicky was back.
Nicky drove back to the hotel. I felt queezy and didn’t feel like lying down so I propped myself upright on the bed and fell asleep. My resting heart rate remained high throughout Monday & Tuesday (as I write this) and I get palpitations if I do even the simplest of tasks. I guess it will take a while for my body to fully recover. Apart from that I’ve got a couple of sore toes and sore knees but that’s about it.
I am very pleased with what I did. I could think of the run as a failure but it was what it was. Maybe I could have fuelled better but I didn’t. The main thing is I trained hard, I got to the start line and I completed it. Some never try, some try and fail for various reasons. I did it.
A big shout out to everyone who has helped me to reach this point giving me advice and guidance - before and during the event, the TTC club and coaches, the LRC club, friends and family members, sports rehab massages from Andy Rose and my amazing wife who has allowed me time to train for it and listen to my constant moaning about body niggles and worries. Love to you all.
Finally, a massive congratulations to my TTC mates who also smashed their Lakesman triathlons. I am very grateful to have experienced this with a great bunch of people and I am in awe of the times you all finished in - I salute you all.
I am a Lakesman :-)
2.4 mile swim =
T1 = 15:38
112 mile bike =
T2 = 5:06
26.2 mile run =