GTC athlete Hollie Leonard was thrilled to finish the long course (Ironman distance) Lakesman Triathlon in a personal best time of 11:29:17. Even better still – and she reports it was a huge surprise – Hollie, 36, was the sixth female overall and second in her age group category.
She said: “I had such a great day out and I totally surprised myself with my time and finish placing. I guess I don’t believe in myself enough, although my coach Andy Hamilton and husband Dave weren’t surprised, they told me afterwards.”
The Lakesman, which was held on June 20 in Keswick in the English Lake District, comprises a 2.4-mile swim in Derwentwater, a 112-mile road cycle and a 26.2-mile run.
Hollie said: “It was a great event. I was meant to race Ironman Switzerland last year but it was cancelled. I haven’t been impressed with how Ironman have handled race cancellations and I wanted to find a race that was organised locally.
“I was impressed by the Lakesman and I would recommend it.”
An enjoyable swim
With limited time for swim training due to pool closures and general lockdown restrictions, Hollie had been worried about how the swim would go.
She had only been back in the pool for a couple of months prior to the race and the longest open-water swim was 3km.
She said: “I decided that I would take it easy and try to enjoy the swim. Because of Covid procedures only three swimmers set off together and the swim times were staggered by five seconds. This was amazing because it meant I had loads of space for swimming.
“It was my best swim ever. The water was also much warmer than we are used to in Scotland and then lake is shallow so there was no worries about stopping to put my feet down if I needed. I actually swam really well and came out the water in 1:00:38.
“At the time I thought it was a great time and with the benefit of having enjoyed a relaxed swim.”
‘A better-than-expected cycle’
Hollie had done most of her cycle training indoors on a turbo during lockdown with longer outdoor rides at weekends. She said: “While turbo sessions are painful I think they have great benefits for getting fitter and stronger. All my mid-week rides were done indoors.”
Again, she tried to be relaxed with her pace while cycling in the race. She said: “I wasn’t sure how the ride would go and so I went into it in as relaxed a way as possible. I got a huge boost – and a surprise – when I went through the 100-mile mark in 5:30.
“I thought I would smash my best ever time if I could only keep going. I did! My bike was 6:09:41, which I was really pleased with.
“I do wonder now if I was a bit too relaxed with the biking pace and I might have gone faster. But you never know in the end because I wanted to make sure I had something left for the run.”
Running laps and ‘surviving’
The marathon course included five laps and four out-and-back sections. While Hollie liked the laps of the run because “you could see where you were on the run”, she said: “It was really hard repeating so many out-and-back-bits.”
She added: “It was really hard knowing that there were 10 out-and-back bits.
“Really though, the run is just about survival for me. I think this is the part of a long-course triathlon that I could improve the most.
“However, I had been happy with my training and for once I’d managed a consistent build up with no injuries. I finished in 4:09:51, which is a PB for me and I was really pleased.”
Nutritional key to race success
An area that Hollie believes was vital to her overall success in the race was working with Jules Strauss, of Total Endurance Nutrition.
Hollie said: “I knew exactly what I was going to be eating the day before the race and on the race day. It was all set out for me and I didn’t need to think about it.
“I’d tested all the nutrition in training as well. I never felt hungry, thirsty or depleted. Poor nutrition can make such a big difference to how a race goes and I felt it was spot on for me. It really was a benefit to have help with that side of my training and during the race.”
Hollie has praise, too, for Dave “for his support” and for her coach at Total Tri Training. She said: “It felt very strange to be back racing again and I did this long course without any build up through shorter races. It went so much better than I expected and I am really thrilled with my result.”
Her next race is Rockman Loch Lomond Inch-by-Inch Long Course with Allan Prentice, who she met through GTC swimming sessions.