3, 2, 1 the crowd counts down, the horn blows and the race starts!
Race report from Tina Kelly on Lakesman 2019
Rewind 363 days, after having just completed the Lakesman half distance triathlon, when myself, Nikki Renton and Elaine Stroud decided that we were going to register for the Lakesman Full distance! Between the three of us we’d completed more than a good handful of half distance tri’s and we were ready to step up to the full. The training started, for most of us (barring injuries), seven months prior to the event and I think we all quickly realised what a big commitment it was going to be! Our families had yet to realise this! Nevertheless, we pushed through the long, relentless months and completed the training and arrived on the start line in good form and ready to face battle.
2.4 miles of swimming, jeez, I now know that is a really, really long way! I managed to get into a good rhythm and cruised steadily at a good pace, until I reached the last 0.4 miles starting from behind Derwent Isle. At this point we experienced big, rolling waves that seemed to be tossing us around. I kept looking around to try and see the powerboats that were obviously doing donuts to create these waves, but then realised that it was actually the start of a big swell in the lake. At this point though we were on the finishing straight and the inflatable swim finish gantry was in sight, unfortunately the sunrise was also right in our line of sight, but squinting and quite disoriented by this point I managed to get to the shore and with the help of the lovely marshals, I managed to stagger out of the water and engage my jelly legs to follow the matting to the transition tent.
Heaters were installed in the transition tent to warm us all up after a quite cool swim. I didn’t find the temperature too cold, fortunately we train in a similar temperature water, so I was acclimatised to the cold, but plenty of other people struggled and we even heard of some cases of hypothermia. My fingers however, were quite cold and it was at this point that I was starting to regret my strategy or changing out of my wet clothes completely into a full set of dry cycling gear. Once I had squeezed, rolled, tugged myself into the tight cycling gear I was off and out of transition on my bike.
112 miles (actually 111 miles due to a diversion for a collapsed coastal road) of cycling, after all that swimming, that’s going to be tough, but I like cycling and that’s my best discipline … ah sorry, eating is my best discipline, but cycling is a close second! Leaving transition, I realised that mentally I was quite out of it and still recovering from the swim, so I took it quite carefully and actually stopped just outside Keswick to put on my waterproof jacket, hoping that warming my body up quickly would help get my brain working fully. It worked, 15 minutes later I could settle into my tri bars, but it took me a good 45 minutes to become fully compos mentis again and be able to dig in and start to race! You never get lonely on the bike route (unless you are the leader, apparently!) there’s always someone to overtake (queue frantic, competitive cycling), have a snatched conversation with and plenty of aid stations to hone your grabbing banana and water bottle skills! The scenery is lovely, the rain and headwinds not so much! The collapsed coastal road meant that we had two very long out and back sections, I was relieved when they were both over! The time strangely does fly by, well maybe the first 5 hours of the 7-hour ride!! When you pass halfway you get a nice mental boost, but after reaching 80 miles you start to yearn for the end and then you start worrying about whether your bike will hold together to the end, avoiding punctures and mechanicals! I was eagerly watching all the road signs and counting down the distance to Keswick and trying to calculate if I could run to the finish with my bike and still make the cut off if I did have a mechanical! Ha ha, that might have been an optimistic thought! I find running hard enough on its own without adding cleats and a bike into the mix! Finally, Keswick appeared in sight at the end of a never ending A66! I’d made it, the dismount line, woo hoo!
Never have I been so relieved to get off my bike, well maybe also at the end of the Chevy Chase 200km Audax!! After a not so quick toilet pitstop in the racking area I entered the transition tent to a heavenly sight … Neil Ward from my club! A friendly face to guide me to my running gear … actually, his role consisted of holding me whilst I sobbed into his shoulder, not sure if they were tears of relief, joy or pain? He tried to peel me off him several times, but I still had enough strength to cling to him like a limpet. If I held on for long enough I could avoid the run part, yeah? Nope, he finally shook me off and guided me to the changing tent. Ok, I’m ready for the run, a marathon … gulp, how the hell are my little legs going to find the strength to do that?!?!
26.2 miles of running …. Oh Tina, why are you doing this … the cheers and hollers from the crowds of supporters as I emerged from the tent onto the run route, yeah that’s one of the reasons why! I hope they have enough love and support for the whole 5 laps! The half race follows the same route as the full, apart from that it avoids the section affectionately known as the ‘Highway to Hell’, queue that exact song from the mobile disco on the run course! Last year, when we did the half, we were blissfully unaware of the horrors that it would hold! A three-quarter mile stretch of road that you have to run up and down, four times each lap … that’s twenty times in total!! If I never see that stretch of road again it will be too soon! The house we had rented was conveniently situated on the run route towards the end, so the Ponteland support crew were able to cheer all of us on through the very long afternoon/evening from the comfort of the house garden! I don’t think they had any time to rest though with so many of the club competing in the event. The Pont Tri crew who were competing in the half, once finished, then joined in the cheering and supporting of the full’ers! They might also have been busy downing prosecco! The Pont support crew were all a sight for sore eyes each time we looped round, cheering us all on! I managed to adopt a run walk strategy (quickly adopted after my run only strategy seem to disintegrate rapidly!) for the first 2.5 laps, till my usual affliction of stomach cramps reared its ugly head! Everyone in the support team looked very worried when they saw me at the end of my third lap, at which point I had well and truly adopted a speed walk only strategy! Could I do this? I had to do this, I couldn’t face the embarrassment/disappointment of not completing it, the worry of what I would have to do with sponsorship money I’d raised and the prospect of having to go through the whole thing (training and race) again another time to complete my big dream of doing a full distance triathlon! A cup of tea, to ease my stomach was provided by the crew, as I’d requested earlier, much to everyone’s surprise, and this did help! Sure enough, it helped me to spectacularly vomit on the run route halfway through the fourth lap, which helped me feel loads better! The heavens then started to open, and the Pont support crew turned into a finely tuned pitstop crew as I reached the end of my fourth lap …. a walking pitstop occurred with a change into dry clothes, waterproof jacket and woolly hat … plus more tea! One more lap, I could do this especially as I had now been joined by our number one supporter SuDo (Susan Dorani) who kept me company for the whole fifth lap. 23 miles Susan walked that day supporting us all, what a star! Finally, I was approaching the finishing chute, the church bell was tolling nine o’clock at night, somehow, I managed to jog down the red carpet and cross the finish line with the clock showing 15 hours 4 minutes and 27 seconds!
The emotions as I crossed the finish line were everything I had dreamed of and visualised during my training. Joy, relief, disbelief, pain, the whole shebang! I WAS A LAKESMAN! The rest of the night was a bit of a blur, Elaine looked after me (for which I’m eternally grateful, especially considering she had also done the full and in a spectacular time of 11 hours and 27 minutes #machine!) and sorted me out, helping me get my gear and bike from transition and depositing me in the finishers tent for food (the best jacket and chilli and sticky toffee pudding in the world ever!!) and then back to the house to join Nikki (another spectacular result of 13 hours 52 minutes) and the rest of the gang to toast our achievements with a well-deserved bottle of bubbly!