AdministratorJune 17, 2019 at 8:51 pm
“Sharon Spriggs – you are Lakesman”
Yes really – me!!??!! You have no idea how many times I’ve dared to imagine that red carpet moment at the end of the Lakesman over the last 6 months – only to give myself a stern talking too because I wasn’t confident it would happen at all.
After the booking of the contingency event in Yorkshire next weekend by Thursday last week there were a few rumblings occurring over doubts the full distance Yorkshireman swim could possibly take place given current UK cold water temperatures. I had booked a practice swim in Ullswater for Sunday, for which I got a warning e-mail that the water temperatures were only 12.5 degrees (that’s cold!!) and that the longer events would have to be shortened. Ok time to get worried again, I e-mailed Yorkshire on Friday morning and queried the water temperatures and having got an answer that more or less said they didn’t know what the temperature was but they would measure and they would decide on distances next week, I made the late and last minute decision to switch back to LM, I had an event on Sunday I had entered and it would be full distance so I should grab it and go with it.
In an ideal world I would have done an easier week of training last week, but it felt like it might be my only shot at an Iron distance event in June and my ultra race schedule doesn’t allow for slotting any others in this summer. In a way it was a good thing – I only had a couple of days to play the can I, what if game in my head and there wasn’t really time to stress on it. And after all the dream started with Lakesman?
So it was a 3.20 AM alarm call to get to Keswick breakfasted and hydrated to gain access to check the bike to put my bottles on and get last minute bits and pieces into my T1 and T2 bags (these were set up at registration on Saturday). Bit of last minute faffing and then covering myself in bodyglide to make getting the wetsuit off easier and into the water, and geez that water was COLD.
I got straight in up to chest and did some bubble blowing and got my head under to settle my breathing as much as possible before the off then suddenly it was a 10 second count down and we were off. I stayed at the back, and stayed wide of the buoys very aware that the half distance swimmers were following us up the course in about 10 minutes and I didn’t want to be swum over by that lot (as it was I made it past their turn off buoy before they caught us).
I was pretty happy up the first kilometre or so of the swim, we were sheltered from the wind by an island and I was sighting successfully and had other swimmers around me so I felt calm, I was swimming pretty straight and seemed to be making good time, I was enjoying watching the little fish swimming around in the darkness below me (what a difference a year makes). Then we got around 400 yards of a taster of what coming down the other side of the lake, we emerged from the shelter of the island and the water wasn’t just choppy it was proper waves with breakers on the top rough. I was glad I had forced myself to finally master breathing happily on both sides as breathing to the right was impossible with the waves, I was slightly impressed with myself for coping so well, even though I could feel that the pace had slowed. We then we got back to some calmer water and things picked back up as I could resume bilateral breathing and sighting no longer required trying to climb so high out of the water to see the buoys you were aiming for.
As we got toward our first turn buoy the shelter disappeared and oh my word it was windy, back to one-sided breathing and the turn buoy seemed to be bent double across the water and shifting around a bit wildly – I gave it a pretty wide berth then hit the head wind across the lake. This is the deepest section of the swim and the water at this end felt positively Baltic, probably not improved by the 45 min or so we’d already been in the water. I didn’t find this section too bad as you could still breath either side, though sighting was tricky as you had to wait until you were on top of a wave to get a view of what was in front of you and find the buoy to aim for. I still has some swimmers around me at this point and I was bit concerned to see the rescue launch hauling a couple out of the water. My first worry was that they had decided conditions were too bad and they were pulling everyone out (another serious indication of just how far I have come – I was actually ok in there – apart from beginning to feel a tiny bit sea sick from being pitched up and down).
After a while I realised people were just stopping and waving to get pulled out so I got my head back down and cracked on. At the next turn to head North back up the lake, getting around the buoy became a bit of a mission, every few strokes forward you’d inch past the buoy and then start to turn to go round it but as you turned you lost momentum and would start to get blown back so you weren’t level with it any more. In the end I swam about 10 yards past it before turning and I still ended up practically within touching distance by the time I’d turned. Getting the cross wind from behind and to the left should have helped but it meant that you were no longer either end on to the waves or side on to them. It meant with every wave your head would be on the peak while your legs were on the trough and you were pitched up and down and up and down relentlessly (I was definitely getting worried for the contents of my stomach), and it meant breathing on either side ran the risk of a lung full of water, I got a couple of lung fulls and had my first ‘moment’ of the day, not a biggie but a definite ‘oh sh#t I can’t do this I’m only just over half way on the swim’. I did a short spell of breast stroke, probably no more than 50 yards and a kayaker came over to check I was ok and at the same time the motor boat was pulling out the guy behind me. I reassured the kayaker I was all right – just slow and I collected myself and got back on with it, I was only getting out of that lake under my own steam – even if it wasn’t inside the cut off (which while I had no real idea how long I’d been in the water I was getting worried about).
The buoys on this side of the lake were in what now resembled a zig zagged line as I’m sure the lines had come loose on some and they were heading east, I could see a white building way off in the distance on the north shore that was in line with the last buoy and I just sighted on that from that point on. I actually quite enjoyed battling down that side of the lake – and I couldn’t help but have a quiet inside laugh that I was doing it, after all of my nightmare swim scenarios this beat them all hands down – and I was ok and I was doing it.
As I progressed towards that house the kayakers would occasionally check I was still ok which was nice, and I could see there were still maybe a handful of swimmers behind me from the proximity of the hovering launch and the kayakers. You couldn’t see any other swimmers heads the waves were too high. I was however starting to get scary cold. I could no longer feel my hands and they were becoming ineffective as I couldn’t squeeze my fingers together to get an effective pull on each stroke, which made me even slower. My feet had been numb from pretty much the first turn but I’d been maintaining a slightly more vigorous kick than I usually would to try and generate some heat, but my calfs were getting a bit crampy so I had to stop kicking other than after a breath to keep the momentum forward. I finally made it to the final turn buoy just as the sun came out and I couldn’t see the finish banner because it was too bright so I just focused on keeping the kayakers to the left as I had to breath on that side anyway. The water here was shallow and the bottom had been churned up by the however many hundreds of other swimmers had gone over it before me so it was a bit like swimming through the murk – but eventually I could see the blue arch and then eventually my fingers hit the bottom of the lake and I staggered out a marshal lifting me from either side. The swim, which has always been out of my comfort zone was done, and that particular swim wasn’t even in the same galaxy as my comfort zone – and I survived it.
Getting upright made me instantly dizzy and I felt like I was staggering along as I had literally zero sensation in my feet and my balance was shot to bits – it was so good to see a slightly anxious looking Mr S waiting there though not so good to learn the swim had taken me 2 hours and 5 minutes – I needed to get my backside through transition and onto the bike before 2 hours and 20 minutes had ticked over else I was out.
They had heaters in the transition tent and a marshall dragged my wetsuit off and shoved my bag at me and steered me into the ladies changing area – full on shiver mode had hit and I was trembling violently – I got my cycling shorts on and my sports bra (seriously getting one of those things onto a still damp body with hands you can’t feel is like trying to thread a needle wearing boxing gloves?) then I managed to get my arms through my short and long sleeved cycling jacket but I could not do zips up – my hands didn’t work I got my socks on and my bike shoes but again couldn’t do them up and my helmet on my head – then I had to get a marshall to zip me up do up my helmet and my shoes – that was it I dashed to my bike and made it to the bike start – the race ref fastened my watch to the handle bars for me and shoved me over the line I had made it with (according to the chip timings) just 50 seconds to spare. I was delighted, I did think I had a little more clear air between me and the cut off than that but hey-ho – a miss is as good as a mile and all that – I was still going – the Lakesman dream wasn’t dead yet…
The weather forecast for Lakesman weekend was looking a bit less than ideal, (southwesterly wind with gusting 20mph inland and up to 25mph on the coast, oh, and showers). I’ve spent the year thinking the weather Gods hate me for throwing exactly those kind of conditions at me every time I’ve even sat on my bike, but now I wonder if perhaps they knew exactly what they were doing. Those were exactly the conditions I’ve cycled in all year.
I had a definite strategy in my head for the bike, with a strong southwesterly wind I needed to conserve energy over the first 30-35 miles heading down to Egremont I was going to be heading directly into the wind. My experience this year has taught me that you can turn yourself inside out trying to make progress into a strong headwind and achieve nothing but shot quads and a pace around 13mph, backing off enough to not kill yourself will still give you 11mph and fresher legs to capitalise on the tail winds. So I didn’t push on the section to 35 miles. I knew that once I got to Egremont I had a few short climbs to Whitehaven then a long flat road all the way to Allonby at 70 miles where we turned inland and the potential for those miles to be fast with fresh legs and a hefty tail wind was pretty high.
In the first 10 miles of the bike the only other people to make it out the water behind me and onto the bike flew past me, I was probably stone last on the road and I didn’t care – they were really going for it on the climbs to Cockermouth, “stick to the plan” was my mantra on the bike. Just as I turned south proper at Cockermouth the heavens opened and the rain came down, horizontal in your face can’t see much through your bike glasses, water pouring off your bike helmet down your neck, full on wind driven rain. Ok that wasn’t in the plan, and it made for some careful cornering to add into the steady don’t push the pace undulating into the winds first 35 miles. But I stayed calm – I got to Egrement feeling good and stopped at the aid station for a pit stop (I don’t care if it’s raining or not – I very definitely do not have the pee in your bike shorts kind of commitment to triathlon!. Though I’ll definitely pee in my wetsuit if it keeps me warm). While I was in the portaloo the chap holding my bike must have obligingly pressed pause on the watch on my bike because about half a mile up the road I noticed the time wasn’t moving – I cursed and un-paused it and then had to keep checking the time of day screen on my watch to see how close to the cut offs I was. I had to be back in off the bike by 4PM else I wasn’t getting to do the run.
At 35 miles mental arithmetic projected if I maintained the same pace over the remainder of the bike I wouldn’t be back in Keswick until 4.45ish – but I didn’t panic – “stick to the plan” – I headed up the coast and as I did the pace soared. From an avge of around 13mph in the first 35 miles the splits hit the late teens and kept on coming (18, 19, 20, 22 mph – even the uphill miles with that tail wind were in the 16’s or 17’s – barring the twisty-turny bit through Maryport), I think I had the biggest smile on my face all the way up that coast and by the time I got to Allonby, the sun was out the roads were dry, I only needed to average 14mph for the rest of the ride to make it back to Keswick with a min to spare. From Allonby I finally started catching people and caught someone roughly every 15 minutes all the way to the end of the bike – it felt good to finally be compensating for the slow start.
From Allonby there was a short undulating stretch inland to Westnewton (coincidentally a road I’d run with Mr S on one of our change of scenery routes – so I knew the hill was a long one with plenty of false summits! Then a very familiar (to me) stretch up to Silloth, then 8 miles heading down coast practically back to Allonby so backing off again and not pushing into that wind then another super speedy ride back to Silloth getting a hefty shove from the weather gods. That was it – time to slog over the hills back to Keswick, the final 25 miles trying to keep the pace high enough to stay inside cut offs. There was a short shower as I headed for Cockermouth but nothing like the earlier monsoon style downpour.
I ate well throughout the bike, protein shake in one of my bottles (the bike is the only time I will use liquid nutrition – it has a less catastrophic effect on my stomach on the bike) was supplemented with chocolate eclaire toffees, flapjacks, liquorice sticks, squashies and shrimps and a couple of caffeine gels – I would be in a bucket if I ate that lot while running but on the bike I need a steady supply of sugar going into my blood stream.
I made it back into T2 with a broad grin on my face and waved at Ian and Molly as I descended to the dismount line as I just spotted them as I rounded the corner (the area around transition and the finish were just a wall of people and noise so spotting them was not straight forward). I was 11 precious minutes clear of the cut off – 112 miles bashed out in less than ideal conditions in just inside 7½ hours, I was pretty happy with that considering it involved a pit stop and some truly sh#tty weather). The plan had paid off and I could finally relax, I’d made the last cut off on the course I was worried about. I made the most of T2 getting fully changed into dry running gear, drinking plenty of water and using the loo before I left.
Well on paper for me the run should always be a formality, but I have vivid memories of the ½ lakesman run last year, and none of them are pretty – my legs were made of lead, my shoulders were agony and I felt a bit sick from not eating properly on the bike. I hated that half marathon and it was painfully slow. On the basis of last years run I was expecting the run to take between 4 hours 30 and 4 hours 45, possibly even 5 hours if my legs were completely trashed off the bike.
I did everything I could in training to mitigate the damage, I did short bricks and longer bricks off the back of long rides, I did back to back days with 100 bike miles on the Saturday and a marathon on the Sunday, and oh my word did they pay off. I hit the road on the run feeling if not fresh, certainly ok and I had the initial target of not having a walk break until lap 3 other than for short stops for drinks (the run was a 5 lap route). I got through the first couple of miles feeling pretty lively and had to reign back the pace to be sure I wouldn’t pay for it later.
The route was the same first 2 miles as the half last year’s half lakesman (exept with less clement weather there were a few less grockles blocking the paths – or maybe I was just in a happier head space and enjoying myself more?) then we hit a section of the course reserved for the Full runners, known affectionately as ‘the Highway to Hell’ (High Hill road being it’s real name) and when I saw it I burst out laughing – there were four lanes marked out with cones and each lane had runners relentlessly plodding (or walking in a lot of cases) in different directions. You came onto the highway at it’s midpoint and ran to the end of it down the left hand side of the road and rounded a barrier at the end and running across the chip checking mat and back down the full length of the highway on the outside lane again. Then you did a little loop round the roundabout at Crossthwaite Church and rejoined the highway to run the full length out and back in the center two lanes before heading back to Keswick. As courses go it’s the most utterly bonkers route I’ve ever seen for a marathon, but in a bizarre way the Highway was the highlight of the course as you ran along chatting encouraging and cheering each other on. That’s a special road on Lakesman day for sure – and a place where a lot of suffering happens (though fortunately not for me this year).
I made it to lap 3 and still had no urge to walk – I did have a short walk to chat to Ian and Molly but only for a few seconds and then I bashed on.
Lap 4 I had to have a short loo stop so that ended up being my slowest lap and while I was in there I had another loo related mishap as I hit the stop button on the watch, I spotted it after about half a mile but this time it wasn’t critical at all – and I walked up the hill in Keswick, (well I call it a hill – it’s a mini bump in an otherwise pancake flat flat course). The last lap of the run I was still moving ok, it was nearly done and I was going to churn out a pretty respectable marathon at the end of the day (it did fall a tad short distance wise but don’t really know by how much and I wasn’t going to stress about it – all those turns on the highway probably disappeared a decent chunk of distance to gps inability to do turns well). It started raining at the end of lap 3 and that had turned to chucking it down by the end -but the wind disappeared and it didn’t get cold.
For the second half of the last lap I don’t mind admitting I got a fair bit emotional , I may even have shed a year, but no one would have noticed in the weather when you’ve obsessed about completing something for so long it’s a pretty special feeling to actually flipping do it. I did manage to mostly hold it together for crossing the line but it was a close thing between crying and not being able to stop smiling.
I collected my medal and my teeshirt and went and gave the crew a big hug – this might have been one day when they were banned by the rules from giving me any help, but the joy of seeing them at each transition and having them pop up here there and everywhere on the run is precious.
It was also lovely to see my ST Kathy at the finish, she’s guilty of planting the seeds of the idea that became the obsession, and I can’t thank her enough for that. It was also good to hear she did a great job out there too!
To say I’ve ploughed a lot of time and effort into the Lakesman is possibly an understatement but the stats over the last 21 weeks look a little like this:
Swim 56 miles
Bike 2210 miles
Run 1277 miles
And that all adds up to 411 hours of training or on average pretty much 20 hours a week invested into getting to that finish line. That probably sounds a lot for someone who was only ever going to finish towards the back of the pack, but when you are as bad a swimmer as me you need to make the other disciplines as bombproof as you can for the day. I did bricks galore to get the legs used to popping off the bike and straight into run mode and I really think that paid off on the day. The hours on the bike in bad weather all paid off for sure (those weather god’s maybe don’t hate me after all?).
Was it all worth it? Oh hell yes, the feeling of crossing that line having fought so hard to get there both in training and on the day can’t be described and the memories will be treasured forever – it’s a day I will never forget. And I still can’t think about running down that red carpet without getting a little something in my eye.
MemberJune 17, 2019 at 8:56 pm
You know all the hard work you put in to this the last 6 months, you know the up & downs, the doubts and the highlights, you’ve suffered the lot so you have every right to feel 9n cloud 9 for finishing this.
Though, I have to say. When you were one of the last out of the lake and looking like you just spend the night in morgue’s fridge it was a tad worrying. (The worse condition on any event do far) But what a transformation through transition. It was like an episode of ” stars in their eyes”. You go through the curtains and come out a different person. It was great to see and I knew then, all would be good.
The next bit, from a crew point is not very good, your gone for 7 hours plus with no hope of seeing you, so its twiddle thumbs time. You hot back though, plenty of time and smiling.
Looked in fine shape for the run and again was in a happy place, you just needed to avoid muppetry.
Seeing come down the red carpet, being told your a lakesman etc, was a sight to see. There is no way you could of done the finish stretch and not be choked up, and smiling insanely at the same time.
It was a tough day, certainly the swim, it’s been a tough 6 months, but you absolutely smashed it out there and deserve to be chuffed for the next 6 months.
Huge congrats Mrs s, I had every faith in you. Xx
MemberJune 17, 2019 at 9:37 pm
Oh my gosh, that is one crazy achievement. Absolutely amazing Sharon, your mental and physical strength are just awesome. No surprise you got a bit emotional … its emotional enough reading it. Hope you get a decent rest. Cor blimey.
MemberJune 17, 2019 at 11:43 pm
Wow oh wow. You are one amazing lady. Super pleased for you. You have put everything into this and it paid off. Absolute legend, huge well done 😁😁👍👐👏💪
MemberJune 18, 2019 at 5:49 am
Huge congratulations on an amazing achievement. All the training and hard work paid off. Well done you 👍
MemberJune 18, 2019 at 8:01 am
Absolutely brilliant Sharnie but no words are adequate for this achievement 😊 The challenge was insane but you are insane enough to go and smash it 😆 No one has more grit and determination than you. Mahooosive congrats ..now wots next ? 😆😆
MemberJune 18, 2019 at 9:11 am
Absolutely awesome Sharnie. What a bloody epic adventure. You are amazing, even if I am running late now because I couldn’t stop reading 😂
MemberJune 18, 2019 at 11:09 am
Sharnie you are bloody amazing, the swim Write up had me gasping for air. 2hrs in cold, choppy, windy, deep water for someone who couldnt swim not so long ago has got to be celebrated. I was reading thinking how bad it must have been to have swimmers getting pulled out around you. You kept your head together and did it, i cant stop grinning 😀 lol at the marshal ripping your wetsuit off 😁 bless you on the shivering, it horrible when you have no control through coldness.
We all laughed at your weather gods during your bike training, yes the weather gods didn’t treat you well but now you know why? they were on your side supporting you for the big day. The plan paid off, cant be easy when others were over taking you, sensible head won.
Then to get the time for your mara after the swim and massive cycle and just sticking a killer hill in and you smash through it, outstanding Sharnie..
Hard work, long hours training on top of a family and wirking full time you really are a iron lady, 😊 a emotional read, every photo tells the story but that one of you soaking wet with the famous Sharnie Smiles says a thousands words.. Red carpet at Lakesman a dream you have had come true, massive congratulations, speeedy recovery. Hope you celebrated in style? Youll swimming the English Channel next 😀
MemberJune 18, 2019 at 12:38 pm
Wow what an accomplishment, not surprised you were so emotional crossing the line, it’s enough to make you feel emotional just reading it! The hours and hours of training you’ve put in for this event has paid off in spades, what a fantastic result for you in pretty horrible conditions – well done Sharnie – think we’re all wondering what “madcap” event you’ve got in mind next 🙂 🙂
MemberJune 18, 2019 at 1:06 pm
Great description of a fine achievement. All those many hours of training have paid off and you have joined a very elite club Sharnie. Also, lovely to see you smiling as you made your way around! You will have to go some to beat this……. I feel a trip to the Leadville 100 coming on!! Well done!
MemberJune 18, 2019 at 7:53 pm
You must of be so proud to of completed The Lakesman. Your report makes interesting reading that swim sounds absolutely hellish. Your training regime clearly paid dividends.
MemberJune 18, 2019 at 9:25 pm
Sometimes there come write ups where I just can’t find the words to respond. Terms like “epic”, “unbelievable”, “legendary” lose their meaning and become just noise in the shade of what youve just accomplished. What can I say Sharnie (and never forgetting Ian & Molly, the crew that so much helped even if just by being there…): you are amazing! Huge respect to every step and pedal-turn and stroke… To be sincere, for the first time since I’ve “known” (through the bug of course…) you, I got seriously scared about you reading the swim description if that means anything… Thank you so much for the write-up and for everything you do and are and for the values you represent…
MemberJune 19, 2019 at 9:36 am
That really is incredible Sharnie. A truly engrossing read – and especially the horrendous sounding swimming leg – the stuff of nightmares! You showed amazing courage and tenacity to plough on even as you were turning blue and other swimmers were plucked to safety. But also cracking, meticulous discipline to stick to plan with your paces on the bike and running. Very, very well done.
MemberJune 19, 2019 at 10:45 am
Oh Sharnie, what a really brilliant write up, I think I could almost cry with you (admittedly I’m a bit emotional atm, but this makes me teary in a lovely way!)
It’s simply incredible and so inspirational. For starters, your swim, feeling queasy and cold (I wear neoprene socks and gloves in the water). You did it…. and that gives me a lot of hope for my swimming. Every time I go and swim now, I will think of you and what you’ve achieved in that discipline, and I hope that I never have to swim in a cold, choppy lake!!
Love the way you kept disciplined with the bike leg and held your nerve. Weather sounds grim, but at least you were used to bike miles in crap conditions.
As for the marathon run, sound so happy and relaxed. Love all the pics too. Huge respect for you. It’s a testament to the training and dedication you put into your sport, and a very well deserved result too. Have to mention Ian and Molly for being super support crew 🙂
Well done lovely xx (my danish has been eaten, now need another one!)
MemberJune 24, 2019 at 8:35 pm
Wow what a superb read this is Sharnie, huge congrats once again, you must be especially proud of that swim as this was your least favourite, showed great discipline on the bike and then finished with a fine run, you truly are an inspiration
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