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A Day in the Lakes 70.3 - Race report

This is a race I did two years ago in my first season of racing (2016), coming on the back of Boundary Water Park Tri and Slateman (both Olympic distance Tri events). I was full of enthusiasm that season, but wasn’t training with much focus, and it showed on the day – a 51 minute swim, 2hr 54 bike and a 3hr 2 minute run.

The race is slightly shorter than a standard 70.3 – 2000m lake swim, 54 mile bike over rolling hills, and a tough-as-nails 12 mile run, and it is beautiful! On my first attempt I definitely suffered from tying together the three elements, coming off the bike fatigued and probably under-fed, and then suffering through the whole run.

This year, the swim was done in 37 minutes, which is bang on the money for me (being a slightly less than 2 min/100m swimmer for the iron distance). The water was lovely and warm (19 degrees) and the organisers took the unprecedented decision (in the Lakes, at least) to make wetsuits optional. I plumped for sticking with the wetsuit, as it’s what I had trained in and got used to, and set off with the second wave. The swim was organised into three waves – green hats, for the quicker swimmers, orange for the rest and then white hats for the quarter-iron distance.

Transition was pretty quick, over in less than 2 minutes, and I was out on the bike. I raced the first year with clip-on bars and drop handlebars, but this year I had a full TT set-up, which was very comfortable – it’s my planned set-up for IM Wales, and so I want to get as much time riding that position as possible. The first 20km are fairly rolling, with some draggy inclines, until Shap where the road turns left and joins the A6. At this point, you can start to build the pace and go into full-on TT mode. I was pleased to find that I was consistently overtaking people up to this point, until 6 men on full TT rigs came piling past at around the 35km mark. I felt better from the fact that I had out-swum them and kept them at bay until that point, and this had a good effect on the morale.

I had chosen to have a two-bottle cage mounted behind the saddle for this race (staying hydrated was a priority, as it was a very warm day) and I had an out-front cage mounted on the tri bars. I found this worked well, because I moved the full bottle from behind the saddle to the tri bars, and took sips at intervals (I could also easily see how much water was left). Once the bottle was finished, I put it back behind me and brought the other one up. I used a 2:1 glucose/fructose mix, coupled with chunks of soreen that I had chopped up and rolled in foil-backed greaseproof paper (convenient mouthfuls).

The only slight mis-step on the ride was on the second lap, when I was descending at about 30mph on a section of road which was slightly bumpy. The bottle between my arms wasn’t fully “holstered” and it bounced free, causing me about 30 seconds of delay whilst I went back and retrieved it.

Coming back to transition 2, the road to the campsite was chockablock with cars coming out up to Pooley Bridge, and there were frustrated faces all around, with cyclists stopped behind an ambulance which was trying to squeeze down the narrow lakes road with campervans coming the other way. After about 3 or 4 minutes, we managed to get into transition, and it was into the running shoes and on with the hat.

I’d opted to load up my tri suit pockets with gels before I set off on the swim, so they were there ready. There was also a bottle-drop system in force, where competitors labelled their drinks bottles and these were taken to the 5.5 mile mark in Howtown where we would pause before heading up the fell. I knew, therefore, that when setting off on the run it would be about an hour before I got another drink, so tried to keep moving, conserved energy, kept my heartrate down and maintained a steady pace (uphill) of around 7min/km.

The climb up to the fells takes you up a valley, with a short section of gravel road, a climb onto grass paths, and a steady drag uphill until the end of the valley where it kicks up and climbs up steps to a shoulder. Once up there, it is across the moor, around to the right with Deepdale Beck in sight, descending down a slippery path, a steady climb through sheep fields and then down the other side back to the drinks station. From there, it is down to Howtown and along the road back up to transition, a final stretch of around 4km. I was very fortunate as my cousin, her husband and daughter were in the area for the day, and had positioned themselves at the Howtown junction, lifting my spirits for the last push for home.

I finally crossed the line in 5hrs 58, achieving the goal of going sub-6 hrs, and giving me a good little boost on my IM Wales training. I’d very much recommend the race – it’s really well organised, in wonderful surroundings, but I would make sure that you feed well throughout and hold something back for the big climb from 5.5 miles into the run – it is a killer!

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