The background - I first discovered triathlon properly in 2020 during the pandemic where I dabbled in open water swimming and spent the rest of my free time running or cycling. After finding myself training for over ten hours a week I decided that I wanted to put my training into practice. I had my first Olympic triathlon (Boundary Tri), Half (Outlaw, Nottingham) and full (Ironman UK) all lined up for 2021. The latter event didn't go to plan but this is where my Lakesman journey began, although little did I know at the time. Being a newbie to the world of swimming and with pool closures scuppering my swim training during winter 2020/21, self-doubt started to creep in. Ahead of the event, Ironman sent an email asking participants whether they wanted to “opt out” of the swim. So in a moment of weakness, I replied and I found myself in the starting pen of the Ironman UK “Duathlon” a.k.a the pen of shame, and where I first met Luke. I was delighted with my bike and run legs on a gruelling day in Bolton and immediately after the race I told my partner and my mum that this was a crazy distance and that I would never do it again. Around 4 weeks later I felt I had unfinished business and found myself looking at full distance triathlon events again. By September 2021 I had already signed up to the Lakesman Full.
The training - Fast forward to winter when I started to loosely follow the 30 week Don Fink training plan, with some added goals along the way, such as the XC season and a long-postponed marathon. In the early blocks of training, I focussed heavily on swimming and running, consistently swimming twice a week using structured sets whilst doing track, XC, long runs and even running to swimming. Manchester Marathon came along in April where I was delighted to take a 31min PB and complete it in 3hr 33min. After that, I started to up my cycling miles, aiming for between 100 and 200 miles a week through long rides, brick sessions and lots of hills (and even a cycling holiday in the Ardennes). In May 2022, I participated in Outlaw 70.3, which was my one and only race practice before Lakesman this year. I went all out on the the swim and bike, meaning I had a less in the legs than I wanted for the run but overall delighted to take 16minutes off my debut time last year and finish in 5h 36min. After Outlaw, I continued to focus on cycling and entered the Wenlock Edge 200k Audax as a final test and confidence booster that I could manage the bike leg distance at Lakesman.
Final week - Week 30 of training (or tapering) was by far the hardest mentally. I absolutely loved the physical training involved with the full distance, despite the demands it has on life in general. Fortunately I had a great 6 months of training consistently to give me the best possible chance of finishing. However, nothing prepared me for all the mental stress in the run up – imposter syndrome, the paranoia of falling ill, general race prep and travel worries etc. I apologise to anyone that came across me that week.
Lakesman Weekend – I travelled up with my partner on the Friday through some horrendous M6 diversions ahead of the Lakesman swim on the Friday evening. I signed up for the 1.9k swim (one lap of the island) which was a great event that allowed me to get used to the water temperature, course and surroundings. For me, it was all about trying to eliminate stresses and overcoming the unknowns as much as possible. Saturday was full preparation mode - register, rack, spectate budgie smuggler run, and official race brief. The 4.30am alarm went off on race morning and I ate what felt like my millionth bowl of overnight oats this year but the excitement was back!
The Swim - The Lakesman offered a mass and a wave start. After much deliberation over the pros and cons I decided to do my first mass start with the other TTC guys. I got into a rhythm and broke the course down into different sections, even taking in the beautiful backdrop at times. I was aiming for around 1hr 25min based on my previous swims so I was over the moon to see my watch at 1hr 14min when I was out of the water. T1 felt like it took forever kitting up for the bike leg (well 8m 57s) but I was spurred on by Craig’s enthusiasm in and out of transition!
The Bike- Once on the bike, I started to fuel every 45 minutes and get into a steady rhythm, working to the higher end of heart zone 2 (in the absence of a power meter and learning my lessons from Outlaw half). The miles ticked by, often broken up my fuelling, the incredible scenery and, begrudgingly, other riders passing me by on their TT set ups. I much prefer undulations so found the long coastal flat sections to be the most tiring part of the course. I first started “to believe” once I finished the second small loop after the head wind (c. 82 miles in) – it’s a crazy mindset to think like this when you have another 2 hours of riding and a marathon to go! Anyway, seeing Graeme in the final bike mile spurred me on to go and find Richard and David on the run course. The bike leg was all done in 6 hours and 42 minutes and T2 was all about making sure I was ready for the heat on the run course.
The run – The run was broken down into 5 x 5.8mile loops around Keswick. I was still able to consume gels for the first 13 miles and seeing the other competitors as well as David, Richard, Graeme and Kev and the amazing TTC spectator squad was extremely encouraging! It all got a bit shaky at after mile 18 when I felt really hungry but the stomach started to churn as soon as I would consume anything. At that point it was just about “finishing”. The people on and off the course made a huge difference on the run and I cannot praise them enough for each word of encouragement. The last lap is what I like to call the “victory lap” where I tried to take it all in and treasure the moment, and before I knew it I made it to the red carpet for the finish line – cheerleaders and all! I had no idea what time I had finished in at the time as I swapped between using my watch and bike monitor between disciplines so I was over the moon to look back and see 12h 24minutes on the board. It was all over and I am forever an Ironwoman!!