It’s been a while since I’ve written a race re-cap on my blog, in fact I’ve not actually raced in almost a year. I’ve been a bit more selective about which races I do, instead of racing every other weekend like I used to. This year the Lakesman Half was on my must-do list. I’ve been interested in this race since it started in 2016 as a full iron distance, as it has a reputation for being friendly, well organised and in a beautiful part of the country.
Glen and I drove up to the Lake District on the Friday. What should have been a 5.5 hour drive took almost 9 hours due to traffic and the car overheating. Not the best start to race weekend!
On Saturday morning, we went to Keswick parkrun for an easy pre-race jog. It was definitely the most beautiful parkun with waterfalls and forests alongside a disused railway line.
The rest of the day was spent getting ready for the race. We had to rack our bikes in transition the day before which was new to me. Glen and I wrapped our bikes in bin bags to keep them dry in case of rain overnight, then headed over to the race briefing. We heard an announcement that the tyre had popped on competitor 629’s bike which was Glen! Cue a stressful 20 minutes while he replaced the inner tube- at least he could sort it before race morning.
1.2 mile swim- 41:19
The swim is a single lap in Derwent Water with a mass start from the shallows by the boat launch. The half distance started at 6.10am, following the full at 6am.
Glen and I got into the water as soon as possible to try and acclimatise. The water was freezing- although not quite as bad as Bournemouth the previous weekend. There was a beautiful rainbow over the lake, hopefully bringing us good luck for the race!
The water gradually became a sea of green hats as around 400 athletes waded out into the lake. Impatient to get going, I watched the race director on the jetty until finally it was time to start.
The swim goes around a small island in the lake, it was pretty cool to look over at the house on the island as I swam. This was one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever been swimming, I had views of the mountains surrounding the lake every time I turned to breathe.
I stayed close to the buoys although it did get congested at each turning point. Half-way through the swim, I wondered if it had started raining- it’s actually difficult to tell when you are in water!
The swim felt long, it seemed to take forever to get back into shore. I measured it as 2200m, as did several people I spoke to, so we all had slower times than normal for a 70.3 distance swim.
Transition 1- 5:33
My head was pounding and my feet and hands were numb with the cold as I ran from the lake to the transition area.
Transition was set up differently to any race I’ve done before. We had packed our bike kit and run kit into bags which were hung on racks in the tent, then our bikes were racked separately outside. The area around the racks was crowded when I came in from the swim, so I grabbed my bag and tried to find some space to get changed. My hands were still really cold, so I struggled to do up my bike shoes and helmet.
I saw my friend Matt as I came out of the tent to get my bike, and rode out of transition just behind him.
56 mile bike- 3:06:14
The bike is a single lap course going out of Keswick and heading towards the coast. I’d looked quite closely at the elevation profile and map before the race, so there weren’t any surprises. I knew that the middle section of the course had rolling hills, whereas the start and end were quite flat.
The scenery is stunning at the Lakesman, which was one of my main reasons for choosing this race. As I rode past Bassenthwaite Lake on the A66, the sun came out from behind the clouds and reflected off the rippling water. It was still very windy, but at least the rain was holding off.
I’d discussed my nutrition strategy with my coach, and the plan was to eat a ShotBlok and piece of Nakd Bar every 20 minutes. This is a lot more than I’d usually eat on the bike, but I stuck to the schedule to make sure I had enough energy for the run. My top tube bag kept turning upside down which was very annoying- I made sure the zips were fully closed so that I didn’t drop all my nutrition. There were 3 feed stations, but I didn’t need to use them as I had enough with me.
My aim was to PB the bike course, whilst trying to not overdo it and leave myself struggling on the run. I focused on trying to keep my average speed above 17.3mph as I knew that was what I’d done at the Outlaw Half last year.
This sounds really stupid, but ever since I started cycling I’ve never been able to ride with my hands on the drops. I’ve always panicked about moving my hands away from the hoods because it felt unstable and scary to me- it was out of my comfort zone. I’ve worked on it a lot this year- turns out, it’s not scary at all and you instantly go faster- I’m not sure what I was worried about all that time. I rode all the flat sections of the Lakesman course on the drops and definitely noticed an improvement in my speed.
I was glad to see Glen on an out-and-back section and figured he was about 20 minutes ahead of me, which meant he’d had no further problems with his tyres deflating.
I felt strong on the bike and kept pushing as hard as I could on the flat sections averaging 18mph. Particularly on the A66 back into Keswick, I noticed I was overtaking a lot of people.
Transition 2- 4:01
Coming back into transition, I looked at my bike time and was delighted that I’d PBed by 10 minutes. I just hoped I hadn’t overdone it, as I still had a half-marathon left to run. I racked my bike and went into the tent to grab my run bag.
13.1 mile run- 2:13:16
The Lakesman Half run course is 5 laps of approximately 2.6 miles, which are on a mixture of pavements and trails. You either love or hate lapped run courses, but I actually really liked this format as I could break the half-marathon down into smaller chunks.
My strategy for the half-marathon was to run for 9 minutes then walk for 1 minute. I’ve been doing this in training as it’s been an absolute game changer. The walking breaks let me recover so I’m able to run faster as I don’t get as fatigued as when I try to run continuously. Again, it also helps me to break down the distance into smaller pieces. I have alerts set up on my Garmin to remind me when to start and stop walking.
The support on the course was amazing with so many people cheering as we ran through Keswick. Several people must have recognised me from my blog/social media as I heard “go Paddle Pedal Pace” a few times!
Glen ran past me when he was on his final lap and I was on my second. He looked strong but said he was in agony!
I was surprised by how strong I felt on the run. I’m usually really struggling by this point in a 70.3. I knew I’d be on for a PB as this really motivated me to keep going.
We were given a wristband at the beginning of each lap, it felt great to collect each one especially when I had 5 and knew it was just one lap to go.
The weather had actually turned out a lot better than expected, the sun was out and it started warming up. There were 3 feed stations on the lap, so plenty of opportunities to grab a drink of water, Coke or PowerBar sports drink.
Running onto the red carpet finish chute felt amazing. One of the nice touches about the Lakesman is that they put the finish line ribbon up for each athlete, so everyone feels like a winner! I got my finishing time straight away- 6:10:23- a PB of 27 minutes!
Overall, I absolutely loved the Lakesman. It lived up to my expectations in terms of the course, the organisation and the atmosphere. Despite being a tougher course than the Cotswold 113 and Outlaw Half, I managed to get a big personal best. Now I want to see if I can go sub-6 hours next year!