Race: Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon

Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon - finish line

The Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon is a sprint triathlon consisting of a 400m swim, 16K bike and 5K run. The event reviewed here was the third in a series of four taking place monthly between May and August 2019.

Lake 62 is situated in the heart of the Cotswold Water Park, an area of former gravel pits that have become very popular with tourists and watersports enthusiasts. The lake is privately owned and is the home of LPS Events. Here they hold a number of triathlons. swimming events and training sessions throughout the year.

It was also my first triathlon, and what an experience it was! I don’t think I could have asked for it to have been any better.

Words by Kev Lewis

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Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon: Race day

Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon - flatlay

I’d a read the extensive rules of triathlon and prepared all of my kit. It was a surprising amount, and my usual running flatlay was dwarfed in comparison!

[See Zone3 wetsuits like the one pictured here on Wiggle]

I arrived at the lake at 5:45pm. Registration was advertised as opening at 6pm, but when I parked (right next to transition) quite a few people were already there and registration was already open. My pack consisted of a generic white LPS Events swim hat and an envelope. This contained my timing chip, to be worn on my left ankle, a bib number for the bike and run, and stickers for my bike and helmet.

People were already racking their bikes in transition, so I decided to get that sorted first. The range of bikes being racked gave a good idea of the inclusiveness of the event. They ranged from mountain bikes all the way up to ultra aerodynamic carbon fibre triathlon bikes. Most of the bikes were at the far end of transition, but as I would be without my glasses for the swim, I decided to rack my nondescript silver bike opposite a large green van for ease of finding it. Towel and kit laid out – one side for bike kit and the other for run kit – it was back to the car to get ready for the swim.

I was about three quarters of my way into my wetsuit when my very excited friend Mel came running over. She has been a huge influence in getting me into triathlon, having recently completed her first half Ironman in Finland. It was lovely to have Mel’s, and also later her partner David’s, support for the evening. All the photos of me participating in the event were taken by her.

The swim

Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon - swimmers

Once ready, I made my way to the edge of the lake for the race briefing. It was all new to me, and I was very worried about making a mistake that could get me a time penalty or disqualified. I was in the second start wave, so I had one last nervous chat with Mel before it was my turn.

The entry to the lake was muddy and stony, which meant we were slow getting in. But eventually we were all bobbing around at the deep water start, waiting for the horn. The horn went and the faster swimmers were off. It was almost like all the slower swimmers made the same decision to let the faster ones go off first.

The swim course was a simple anti-clockwise 400-metre loop of Lake 62. Which, like all of the lakes in the park, is very clean due to the water being naturally filtered by the surrounding gravelly soil. After the first turn I realised I was pulling away from the group of slower swimmers, and after the second buoy I’d opened up a small gap on them.

I’d settled into a steady rhythm and was swimming at what felt like a comfortable pace, and turned out to be about the pace I normally swim. By the third buoy I had to pause briefly to attempt to adjust my swim cap, which was slipping off. This did little to help, and by the swim exit it was halfway off. On the last stretch of the swim I drifted a bit off course to the right and had to fight through some dense weed. Something I’m not used to as my usual swimming lake is relatively clear of weed. But I got back on course and made it up the exit ramp.

First transition

I heeded Mel’s advice and removed the top half of my wetsuit while I walked to transition, before taking off my swim hat and goggles. In transition I had to sit down to get my wetsuit off. It doesn’t come off over my size 12 feet easily, even with some Body Glide on my ankles!

I put my glasses on, which were in one of my bike shoes, then helmet, socks and bike shoes. I grabbed my bike and was able to run despite the cleats on the grass in transition and the blue mat out on to the road. The marshals were at the mount line instructing competitors not to mount their bikes before the line. I crossed the line and had a moment getting the first cleat clipped in, then I was off.

The bike

Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon - bike leg

The bike course was two fairly flat 8K anti-clockwise laps. Before the first turn was a slight hill. On the way down the other side, I took the chance for a drink of Tailwind. A strategy I kept to for the duration of the bike, taking a drink on the downhills.

After the first turn I saw a couple of ladies ahead and was able to catch and overtake them quite quickly. It was along here that I was lapped by someone from the first start wave already on their second bike lap. I think in all I was lapped by four or five faster competitors.

My watch beeped for a 5K split of 10:10, way faster than I normally ride. I tried to slow myself down a bit, but the remaining splits were all in the low 10 minutes. The roads were very quiet and I was able to take all the turns without slowing down too much.

When I passed the entrance to the lake to start the second lap, Mel and David were out on the side of the road to cheer me on. I had a small panic when I braked a bit too hard for a turn, skidding slightly, but otherwise the second lap went as well as the first.

I unclipped my feet as I approached the dismount line. But had a bit of a wobble when I dismounted, caused by trying to run in cleats on smooth concrete. Once on the blue mat I was able to run into transition, get my bike racked, change my shoes and was out on the run.

The run

Starting the run I was very conscious I might have overcooked the bike. I’d averaged nearly 18mph, way faster than I normally ride. But I pushed myself and settled into a pace of around 9 minutes per mile, which remained fairly consistent for all three laps of the 5K run.

I overtook a few people on the run, but was also lapped several times too. As with running events, I did my best to encourage everyone I met on the run and they were on the whole encouraging in return.

Halfway around the second lap I caught up with a lady who I remained with for the rest of the run. We helped spur each other on and managed a couple of jokes between breaths. Coming into the last 100 metres there were two ladies ahead and I said to my run buddy, ‘We can have these two!’. This spurred her on and we overtook them with 30 metres to go.

I crossed the finish line to Mel and David’s cheers a couple of seconds behind her. They congratulated me and, after seeing her friends, my run buddy came over to thank me for the company and for spurring her on at the end.

Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon - done

Finishing the Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon

My overall time was 1:14:18, finishing 51st out of 66 competitors. Despite coming out of the water fourth from last, I was able to make up 11 places on the bike and run! This was not surprising, as swimming is by far my weakest discipline.

As I said at the beginning, I don’t think the event could have gone any better. I can see why it attracted such a range of entrants. The flat bike and run courses are much less intimidating for beginners, but also make for great racing. I had an amazing time and enjoyed every second of it.

From my perspective as a competitor at the Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon, the whole event went off without a hitch. The organisers, officials, and marshals were friendly and encouraging. They were very patient with newbies like myself, making it an event I can thoroughly recommend.

Cotswolds Lake 62 Evening Triathlon - hat and number