I’m a Lakesman……….well a third of one

Swim start
That’s me, in there, the one in the white cap and black wetsuit……….

A little later than planned but frankly I’ve been shattered the last couple of days. Who knew swimming for an hour and a bit and then cheering for a whole day could tire you out so much? Anyway, we did it! Team Willows Warriors/WWI finished the Lakesman Iron distance triathlon in 11 hours, 29 minutes and 56 seconds. What a day, what an experience!

I really don’t class myself as a “sporty type”. I was a chubby kid, always last to be picked for sports at school, I even chose to do Spanish in my third year at secondary school so I could get out of weekly games lessons. I often feel like a bit of a fraud when I hang out with said “sporty types”. You know, the ones on Strava with fancy watches that talk about things like their speed per km or which segment they’ve just won. I have to confess I do have a rough idea of what speed I swim at now but it’s calculated manually in my head rather than by a watch/computer/sport pixie. Needless to say I’m sometimes a bit hesitant about big sport events and what the people might be like.

I needn’t have worried. I know some quite “serious” triathletes but I also know a good few “chilled out, let’s see what happens, have a good chat on the way” triathletes. I wasn’t sure if the same applied to such epic endurance events though. I’m very pleased to report the relaxed side to triathlon was very evident at Lakesman. Yes, there were some incredibly fit, focused people going for PBs and amazing times but they were vastly outweighed by the “let’s see if I can actually finish this” gang. The first finisher got round in 9 hours 16 minutes, the final finisher came in in 17 hours 8 minutes. An amazing performance by the winner but, for me, a more inspirational achievement by the final finisher. The thought of moving under my own steam solidly for more than 17 hours is just inconceivable.

The support and love from fellow athletes, the event team and the immense numbers of supporters was mind blowing. Constant cheering and encouragement could be heard throughout the day across Keswick and northwest Cumbria. Much of this was ably led the Pirate Ship of Fools. A group of triathletes who, over many years and many races have formed a collective that support each other, and everyone else, through races every year. They’re the perfect example of what triathlon should be about. Getting out there and having a go regardless. They do it for fun as much as the times and the PBs. Some train incredibly hard, others not so much. A fantastic rag tag gang of all shapes, ages and sizes. They’re also responsible for the “Budgie run” the evening before the race. I’ll let the photo’s explain that one. The Short One has become a Pirate and they were such a welcoming bunch to the Tall One, thanks!

What really comes across at an event like this is the hard work, determination and team work that goes into creating such a special day.

The team behind this event do a phenomenal job of coordination, with a vast army of volunteers to support nearly seven hundred athletes on the day. There were volunteers everywhere. Registering; setting out the epic amount of signage; manning feed stations on the run and bike courses; helping people out at the swim exit; directing people in transition; finding bags and helping people get changed in the transition tent; marshalling the course; giving out information, to name just a few. They all did it with a smile on their faces, a cheer, a hug if it was needed and a general feeling of joy at being involved. They blew me away. Not once did I see anyone a bit fed up or a bit grumbly, everyone was just so friendly.

The supporters in Keswick and those out on the rest of the course were fabulous. Partners, children, friends, fellow club members, coaches, supportive locals. They all came willingly and with a cheer. Many of them will have supported someone in their preparations for the race and were there to see the fruits of their loved ones hard work. It was clear to see the feeling of pride of so many people as athletes started to cross the finish line. As we waited at the finish line for Aidan to come in from the run I was welling up as each competitor, a complete stranger to me, crossed the finish line to huge cheers at their epic achievement.

The athletes. What a bunch of heroes! From the super-fast racers to the steady plodders. They supported and encouraged each other on the way. One competitor stopped to help a fellow athlete who was suffering an asthma attack on the bike course. And all of the cheers were welcomed with a smile as they were flagging out on the final leg of the run. The amount of training that has to go into such an event is phenomenal, not just months but years of training are needed to achieve something like this. Lakesmen, I salute you, you are a truly epic bunch of individuals!

Jac, our chief supporter, chauffer and general provider of love and her two kids Chloe and Danny were waiting for us at the finish line as we crossed together. It really brought it home to me that these kinds of things don’t get done by one person but by a whole team. All of our families, friends and colleagues have been a part of this in one way or another, whether it’s been looking after kids while we train or tolerating our last minute panics, they’ve been there all the way. Thanks you lot!

Would I go back to Lakesman? Definitely! I’ll never do that kind of event on my own but I’ll happily be a part of it again in some shape or form. Lakesman is known as a friendly race and it definitely lived up to its name!

And so, that was the weekend. I’ve just re-packed all of my stuff for our next adventure, our summer solstice summit to sea. Chief supporter Jac is picking me up in a couple of hours and I can’t wait. Fingers crossed I can haul myself up a mountain, down a lake and on my bike tomorrow. If you fancy spurring us on here’s the fundraising link https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/summit-seapha

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