Lakesman in Lockdown – by Tony Armstrong


The Lakesman Middle Distance Triathlon is one of the UK iconic triathlons that takes place every June.  Starting with a 1.9 km swim in the cool, clear waters of Derwent Water, followed by a 90 km bike ride in the rolling hills of the Lake District and finishes with a surprisingly flat 21.km run around the town of Keswick.  Such is the events popularity that you have to be mega fast on the internet just to get a place; fortunately I am quicker on the internet than I am at triathlon and managed to get a place for 2020 event.  

Training had begun in February 2020 and it was going reasonably well; I had managed to reverse my lengthening Park Run times, completed the Stanley Park 10 km and cycled the Tour of Lancashire which would have been spectacular had I been able to see more than 5 metres in front of me due to the persistent rain.  And then COVID-19 came along and the Lakesman, along with all the other events that I had entered, was cancelled as more important issues took over. 

As COVID-19 receded and restrictions on daily life eased, the organisers came up with the idea of the “Lakesman in Lockdown” which would be a duathlon as the swimming element was not practical.  The aim was to cycle the 90km from home, follow it up with half-marathon and submit your times via Garmin or Strava.  Fortunately, throughout the crisis the Government still allowed daily exercise and that allowed some training to keep going.  With glorious weather and deserted roads, cycling became my focus and never have I enjoyed cycling in the UK so much; this coupled with the occasional run meant that I was reasonably well prepared.  As the date for the event neared, it became apparent that it was becoming hugely popular and eventually about 1,500 from all across the country entered creating a real buzz across social media.  

To enable as many to take part as possible, you had the weekend to complete the event and to start at a time convenient to you.  After a careful study of the weather forecast, and to create the real triathlon feel, I was up at 0530 on Sat 21 June to begin my cycle at 0600.  The weather forecast was spot on as the previous day’s torrential rain had fizzled out and the conditions were almost perfect for cycling.  With the sun rising behind the Pennines and the birds in full voice, it was joy to be out and about.   I headed north up the A6 towards the outskirts of Lancaster and then turned westwards towards the stunning Lancashire Coast passing through picturesque villages before looping eastwards back towards Preston via the glorious Fylde peninsula .  As I arrived home in just over 3 hours, the temperature had risen substantially and was forecast to get hotter.

With this in mind and keeping to the rules of transition, I quickly got changed and was out on my chosen run route – a simple “out and back” route on the Guild Wheel as it circles the north of Preston.  The Guild Wheel is fully paved set of paths that have been linked up to circle Preston and was fully opened to celebrate the 2012 Preston Guild; it is a cyclist and runners haven. 

As I recovered in the back garden with a well-earned Erdinger Alcohol Free beer (how have the Germans have managed to market this as a sports drink?) and a bacon and halloumi roll, social media was alive with photos and reports from all around the country as other participants reported on their journeys.  And then to cap it off, the Postman delivered my finisher’s T-Shirt! 

Whilst the virtual event could never replicate the buzz and camaraderie of the real thing, it really was a great alternative.  Here’s hoping that the rescheduled event for 2021 can go ahead.

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