Lakesman Half Triathlon – Supporting

Three weeks ago my beautiful wife was competing at the Lakesman Half, a big step up in distance for her. Understandably she was nervous. We’d been round the bike route a few weeks earlier (read about it here), which had mostly helped, although there were a few too many main roads for our liking. Helen had also been open water swimming quite a few times this year and along with a very tough half marathon (read about it here) meant that I knew she would be fine, even if she was still apprehensive.

We opted to camp for three nights a couple of miles outside of Keswick in a truly beautiful, but quiet campsite. Registering on the Friday evening was the smart thing to do, followed by fish and chips, a couple of beers and an early night. My most important role was to keep Helen relaxed and to impart some of my experience so that she didn’t make any of the numerous mistakes I’ve made.

On the Saturday morning I decided to make the most of being in the area by running Whinlatter parkrun, along with a couple of other people from the campsite (read about it here). Definitely the hilliest parkrun I’ve ever done.

Later that afternoon we loaded up the car and headed into Keswick so that Helen could rack her bike, sort out transition and then attend the race briefing. With so many marshalls and helpers in attendance every possible question was answered without any fuss. Any other questions were addressed in the race briefing. Apart from the actual race, Helen was quite relaxed about what would be expected in the morning.

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With the full race starting at 6am and the half at 6.10am, it was an early alarm. I would like to apologise to the other campers if we woke you up at 4.30am. At the lake I was amazed at how many people were there. The conditions looked ideal with a flat lake and very little wind. However I noticed one guy pull out of the full swim after about five minutes, and another who had arrived late and wasn’t allowed to start.

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Helen, on the other hand had a brilliant swim. I wasn’t there to see her finish the swim as I had brought my bike with me and and was planning on cheering her on from out on the course. Family and friends driving onto the bike course can cause numerous problems, so I got to my vantage point before any athletes had got there, and was going to cycle back on the other side of Bassenthwaite Lake.

Standing by the side of the A66 it wasn’t long before the first cyclists came past. I also had the chance to cheer on a few team mates from COLT before Helen whooshed past. I then had a relaxed ride back to Keswick on the much quieter side of the lake. I had only been back at the car park for ten minutes when the very friendly marshall shouted that the first half cyclist was on his way. I grabbed a sandwich and walked into Keswick to find a suitable vantage point where I could cheer on the cyclists and the runners. It was taking Helen longer to finish the bike leg that I expected and I was starting to worry. I was very relieved when her smiling face came into view. It turned out that the last ten miles of the bike had been fairly bad, with too much traffic. The previous year we’d pulled out of a race because the bike route was on busy dual carriage-ways (read about it here). Helen spent an extra few minutes composing herself in transition before starting the run.

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For the supporters the run is by far the best part of a triathlon, and with five laps there was so many places to cheer on my beautiful wife. I grabbed a coffee from a vegan cafe next to the river Greta, but with so many other supporters I headed off to some of the quieter areas of the course.

I absolutely loved cheering people on in the areas where no one else was, especially with their names on the numbers. I also got to cheer Helen on in random places, often when she least expected it. However I misjudged how many laps she’d done and had to run back to the finish line so that I would be there when she finished. Amazingly I walked 15km cheering people on during the run, and I did make it to the finish line to give Helen a big hug. My wife is awesome, beautiful and I love her very much.

Unfortunately, the woman finishing in front of Helen crossed the line with her children and family, completely blocking the finish line, so that Helen didn’t get a photo crossing the line. The organisers had asked people to be aware of other athletes if they intended to cross the line with family. Next year, the organisers have promised to get the photographers to re-take finish line photos if this happens. Also, all of the official photographs were free to download, which is always appreciated.

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I then helped Helen with her bike and stuff back to the car, where we returned to the campsite. A short lie down and then the local pub for some food and a beer. Back at the campsite as were getting ready to sleep the weather turned for the worse and chucked it down. If we had been in walking distance of the run route I would have returned to cheer on the last of the full race athletes.

As an aside, is there anything better than a quiet campsite on a Sunday night.

Helen had wanted to finish in less than seven hours, which she did, with a smile. If it wasn’t for the bike route she would have entered next years race immediately. Ten days later and Helen logged onto the Lakesman website to find out that the half for 2020 had already sold out.My thoughts on the race are that the cut-off time for the bike for the half is unnecessarily tight. With a full race at the same time there’s no reason why the cut-off couldn’t be six hours instead of five. My other thought would be to change the bike route coming back into Keswick to use the A591, which skirts the other side of Bassenthwaite Lake and is much quieter. However, the race is proving more and more popular each year and I for one thinks that it makes a welcome addition to the race calendar, and maybe one day I’ll do it. But, as the half is sold out for next year, we’ve been looking for alternative races for next year, and there are a few interesting possibilities.