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  • Writer's pictureDarren Last

Ocean Lake Aquathlon - 11 August 2021

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

I have done many triathlons, but never an aquathlon. Ocean Lake Triathlon club put on excellent events. My first triathlon was an Ocean Lake event back in 2014 up at Leybourne Lakes in Kent. The huge lake is in a country park amongst a number of surrounding lakes.

If you are looking for a first triathlon then this is for you. It's very welcoming and extremely well organised with a friendly vibe. Suitable for all levels, in particular beginners, the lake is so big you won't get caught up in the swim as there is plenty of room which is perfect given this is normally the discipline people are most wary of.

Anyway, Ocean Lake regularly run triathlons which I do each year and they also run aquathlons which I have not done. The aquathlons are in the week, which is probably why, as I have the hassles of work interrupting time.

Last night I did the 750m swim and the 5km run aquathlon for the first time at the Leybourne Lake. Having done triathlons here I knew what I was getting into with the swim, the run and the organisation. True to form it was an excellent event and hugely enjoyable.

It started at 7pm with registration from 6pm, I arrived about 6:30pm wondering how the transition would be and the set up given I was used to bringing a bike, and today, no bike of course. It was, as I had assumed, exactly the same but without the bike. I found a spot, laid out my gear, towel, runners and number belt. Far less gear needed for this than the normal triathlons but as ever my OCD kicked in before leaving home to check things a dozen times (as well as a quick pull over in the car to check for the 'dozenth' time).

I had the dilemma of wetsuit swim or not, given it was a very warm evening and the lake temperature was 22 degrees. I opted for wetsuit on the basis of being a bit quicker and also, I desperately need the practice in transition of getting a wetsuit off quickly (something that as far away from mastering as ever it would appear).

I put on my wetsuit and my zip broke....again. It's easily fixable but it means that I have to take the damn thing off again to fix the zip. It's a temperamental zip and given its still pretty new it’s fair to say I am pretty fecking frustrated with it. 'I need to get this fixed properly' I tell myself.....again'. I think about ditching it and swimming without it but give it another go and success, no zip breaks.

Once finally wet suited up we listen carefully to the most excellently delivered race briefing and then it's into the lake to acclimatise ahead of the start. Within 5 minutes we are off. I reckon there is about 50 athletes in the event with the majority doing the 750m swim (rather that the option of 1500m). I find my space and my rhythm. I can feel a bit clunky swimming in terms of technique. Some days it feels lovely and other times just clunky. Today feels ok. The water is lovely and the sun is shining, as I say earlier, the lake is huge and you are not crowded with other swimmers.

I finish swim just under 13 mins, rip the hat and goggles off me (everyone always seems to do this with more grace than me) and start to take, or drag, the wetsuit off.

Next, I put on the trainers. I had another dilemma with the trainers, I run in the Nike Alphafly but not the easiest to get on quickly and tie the laces. I thought I would try this tonight to experiment. I spent far too much time messing around with getting them on and lacing up, also felt odd putting the runners on straight away after being soaked (normally in triathlon you have the bike to dry yourself, and feet, before the run).

After a (long) minute and half I am ready and head out for the run, two laps round the lake. It's a country path some surface can be a bit gravelly and muddy in parts, certainly uneven. After the initial strange feeling of running with wet feet and therefore wet trainers, I find my pace. A very good pace, it feels good, and as the run goes on I feel strong (it must be the Barry's track fact it is definitely Barry's track sessions). Normally I am struggling to keep the pace on the second lap round here but it's I am running well, feeling strong and manage to speed up for the final straight, through the gate and down to the finish. I cross the line in 20 mins 40 seconds, happy with that. I take a few minutes to catch my breath and head back to transition to get my stuff and go.

As I pass the finish line en route to transition I am told that I have finished third? 'What?....I’m sorry, did you say I finished third?' I was shocked, delighted, over the moon. I never think I'm going to get anywhere near finishing near the front so it was a lovely surprise. I was happy with the race but this was a nice added bonus.

I quickly mentally check there were more than 3 people in the race and yes, third, excellent, I will take that for sure.

Maybe it’s a good time to retire from aquathlon with that result.

I gather my stuff, have a natter with fellow 'aquathloners', share congratulations and a post mortem of the race then get on my way.

Big thanks to the Ocean Lake team, another great event, as always. I will be back Sunday for the triathlon.

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