Lakesman Full by Graham Rands 9:28.08

After IMUK in 2017 I wasn't really sure if i wanted to do consecutive Ironmans in consecutive years. I'd had what i considered such a good result that i didn't know whether i could top it. I was looking at my splits and wondering whether i could actually beat that time or run or bike faster. I felt that there was no where else to go with my training as i had committed such a large amount of training time and the thought of committing more time seemed impossible. In the weeks and months following I had many discussions with Alex and other respected people in the tri community about where i could take my training and racing and we eventually decided that with the fitness and robustness that i had built up it would be good to have another crack at an IM in 2018 as we could work on some of my weaknesses from Bolton. I eventually chose The Lakesman over Bolton again. The Lakesman was only in its 3rd year of being run this year but had already built up a good reputation for being athelete orientated with an amazing atmosphere and team spirit. It didn't disappoint.

I knew from Bolton what i needed to work on to be able to put out a better result and with Alex Fosters guidance at Tri Fit Coaching, i think we went a long way to addressing some of these area’s of improvements.

Race day was finally here and after some good results with a first in age group at a competitive Outlaw Half and a 100mile TT in the preceding weeks i was going in confident that I could get a good result here.....if i could stay upright this time.

The swim was 1 massive loop of 3.8k which was a first for me. There was so much room across the deep water start that i was able to pick my line and not have to jostle for position. Whilst waiting for the start gun i got chatting to the people around me and was trying to ascertain if i could grab a draft off of anyone. To my delight someone actually confessed they were hoping for a 55 min swim. Happy days i thought, if i could stick with him then it would be a good pace for me and hopefully save a bit of energy in the process. The gun went and i stuck with him at a pace that felt good. Immediately there was a breakaway of about 5 or 6 swimmers from what i could tell with me in 2nd place. As the swim went on i was unable to hold onto 1st place and settled into my own race and rhythm. I eventually exited the water in 2nd place about 1 min back in 58.11. T1 was the same set up as IMUK where you enter a tent to collect your helmet etc and then run out to collect your bike and away you go. No dramas here and upon exiting i got plenty of time splits from marshalls and freinds alike.

Off on to the bike and time to try and make up some ground on first place. Anyone that knows my races knows that they usually follow a pattern...swim and bike to get me as high up the leader board as possible and then run for my life and try to hang on whatever i have got. Today was going to be different, whether I liked it or not.

The plan, as ever was to stick to my numbers keep it controlled and race my own race. All was going well as i moved into 1st place after about an hour. My garmin was set to lap every 5 miles which i find takes my mind away from thinking about how far i have actually got to go. I purposefully don't have distance displayed. After a further 20 mins or so i was overtaken and dropped back into 2nd place. He went past so fast there was no chance for me to try and get a slight draft. Just after this there was a roundabout that we went all the way around and re traced our route for a Few miles. This gave me my first chance to see how far other competitors were behind me and there were about 3 or 4 within a min. Not to worry i thought as there was still a long way to go, head down again, stick to your numbers, eat your food and keep drinking i said to myself. After a couple of hours i was starting to miss my numbers and doubt began creeping in, i just couldn't find the power from anywhere, my Hr was fine and I'd stuck to my nutrition so i didn't make sense to me. I took the decision to stop chasing the numbers and just ride to feel knowing that i had my weakest discipline to come. I was still in 2nd place and i seemed to have shook off the chasers from before so no dramas. I continued to pass the time, head down, eating, drinking and weeing on my mars bars.....yes i weed on my mars bars! It was only after about 3 times that i realised that it wasn't actually raining and that my mars bars shouldn't be soggy! Still, i had a nutrition plan and it had to be stuck to 😂. Eventually i was passed by another competitor who was shifting, after a brief exchange of words so he could work out how many people were in front of me he was gone as quick as he turned up. Mentally that was tough to do deal with as i assumed everyone behind me was making up ground on me and was a real low point of the race for me. With every lap of the garmin my power was dropping and i felt sluggish. The marathon wasn't looking appealing right now but i would be glad to get off the bike for a change. I rolled into transition in 3rd place in a time of 5hrs 08 mins and a few soggy mars bar pieces.

Off onto the run and a pleasure to see some familiar faces of friends and family. Lots of support from them and words of encouragement in the early stages along with the usual adrenaline meant that when I eventually got settled and had chance to look at my watch i was under target pace and was feeling great with my hr comfortably within my target. I was actually in 4th place but had 3rd within my sights and knew it was Joe Duckworth of Team Limitless and was part of the relay, I knew Joe would be running close to 3 hrs so I wasn't concerned about sticking with him. The course is pretty flat and made up of 5 laps with a an out and back run section which is done 4 times on each lap which gives you a chance to eye up the time gaps and see how the competition is looking. The first time I entered the out and back section I immediately saw 1st place who was looking strong and on his 3rd mini lap. A short while after i spotted 2nd place who looked to be travelling slower than me and wasn't too far ahead. Constant watch monitoring was telling me that all was good with my figures and i was still holding under target pace, I decided rather than slowing i was just going to go with it and see what happened. The first lap was ticked off no problem, the second i could tell i had made up a good chunk of time on 2nd place and Joe confirmed this as he passed me in the opposite direction having already overtaken him. By half way on the 3rd lap I had moved into second place, this is unheard of, me making up places on the run and still feeling good. What a massive confidence boost that was knowing I now had a cushion to keep myself on the podium. My attention now turned to whoever was behind me as I could see someone was making up ground on me faster than i did on the now 3rd place athlete. Laps 4 and 5 were just a case of trying to hold off as long as possible and try not to let the pace drop too much making sure I carried on taking food and fluids at every aid station , but no soggy mars bars this time! I eventually got passed and dropped to 3rd on the final lap with about 4 miles to go. A few words of encouragement and a hand slap as he passed me on the final out and back section was a nice touch from him as we appreciated each others efforts. I finally came down the finish chute to cheers and high fives from Kim, family and friends and massive shout out from Alex who had stuck around to support some of his coached athletes. Run time was 3hrs 15mins and a final time of 9.28.08

I would definitely go back and race again as it has so many positives despite not having as much of the glitz and glamour of Ironman. It was cheaper for a start, split payment scheme, deferment policy and who doesn't like free photographs! And a great family atmosphere with everything being athlete focussed.

Thanks again to Alex for getting me in great shape and reassuring me when my numbers were off in sessions or feeling like things weren't progressing during the blocks and finally a massive thanks to Kim who without i wouldn't be able to commit such a large amount of time to training, all the little things that she does add up from supporting me on long sessions to picking me up after I'm exhausted to travelling around the country to TTs and races. She's been there all the way and seen me in some right states!