For many the end of the triathlon season is approaching. For myself, it is somewhat beginning. After a race in Welland Long Course, I’ve spent the summer training and getting ready mainly for #BarrelmanTri (in two weeks) and Ironman Florida in 10 weeks.
However, this weekend I will return to a race I’ve done a few times, twice as a solo athlete (back when my vision was better) and once as a Paratriathlete.; I’m speaking of the Lakeside Triathlon, held northeast of London, somewhat in the direction of St.Mary’s.
I’m vague on the exact direction as to me this is part of the appeal of Lakeside. Plopped down in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, if you were not looking for it, you’d never know there was such an awesome triathlon venue tucked away in those trees and farmers fields.
You see, Lakeside has a uniqueness to it, a feel to it, like no other triathlon around. It is for this reason I enjoy going back and racing there. I reminds me of when I started triathlon back in 1998, it reminds me a grassroots feel to our sport that I love so much, it reminds me of “home.”
Having been fortunate enough to race all over the world, in big cities, on some of triathlon’s biggest stages, Lakeside ranks right up there in my mind.
As you travel out in the country, making a few turns on some concession roads, a gravel road or two and then make that one last turn into Lakeside; a scene unfolds in front of you that (for those in the sport long enough) reminds you of those early days of our sport.
A small shallow lake, surrounded by trees and fields, with a nice small grassy park on the south end. A safe, calm, warm swim greets first timers, along with a quiet, rural, rolling bike course that takes you past trees and fields and farms. Back into transition you then head out into the back roads, nicely leveled gravel roads where a farm truck, tractor or cow will be your spectators. Hearing the crunch of gravel under foot and the birds and breeze overhead…it is a peaceful way to suffer.
In a day where athletes in all events are looking for bigger, better, more bling, more swag, more, more, more; Lakeside provides “less” in the most appropriate way.
To me it is the PERFECT race for a beginner due to it’s gentle, almost sleepy feel to the pre-race atmosphere. Most athletes are winding down their year and this is a bit of a way to say “goodbye, see you next year” to all your fellow racers. A lovely grassy transition area under some the trees, a compact but effective layout in the park, it just feels “right.”
Do not be fooled though, as for the experienced racer, it still offers a solid challenge. The bike and run course have some consistent rollers to them and the wind on the bike can also greet you on occasion.
When I had the chance to be a “Recharge With Milk Ambassador” this year, Lakeside was what I pictured in my mind when the hash tag #racelocal was rolled out. I gloat about how awesome MSC is at putting on events of various scales (like Barrelman) with huge logistical challenges that they make look seamless, all the way down to Lakeside which is where you go (in my opinion) to get a taste of the early years of our sport. Granted when I started racing 18 years ago, things were much different, as I recall doing a race where “transition” was leaning your bike up against a tree or a fence…but it all was part of the experience.
To any people thinking of jumping in a sprint or Olympic or Try-a-Tri as the season winds down, I would highly recommend you go to Lakeside and “experience” triathlon the way it is meant to be- friendly, welcoming, low-key, grassroots and FUN.
See you Sunday!
Ryan Van Praet- MSC Ambassador