Outlaw Half Ironman Triathlon – 31/05/2015

me after

Most people who know me know of my desire to take part in an ironman triathlon. I’m getting closer to setting an official date for this – likely to be June 2016. So after a couple of years of doing some shorter distance triathlons, I decided this summer would be the time to make the step up to the half-ironman distance. This involves a 1.2 mile swim (72 lengths of your local 25m pool), a 56 mile bike ride and finished off with a 13.1 mile half marathon run.

I managed to coax my good friend Paul Brown (of Challenge Weymouth fame thanks to this blog) into taking part with me in what would be his first ever triathlon. Keen on having the company, I decided not to tell him what a terrible decision this was, or that it would be a day filled with suffering. We’d had a browse of potential events and settled on the Outlaw Half, based at the national watersports centre in Nottingham. I’d heard all the Outlaw events were meant to be brilliant and really well organised so was hoping not to be disappointed.

Katie and I travelled up in the car on Saturday morning, deciding to take in Buckingham parkrun on the way. I’d never heard of Buckingham before, but we found it to be a lovely little village with a very well organised run on a picturesque route following the River Ouse. I was taking it easy with the following day in mind, and Katie was feeling a bit rusty due to a forced absence from running to concentrate on her university exams, so we ran round together – although she did beat me over the line with a cheeky sprint finish at the end.

Post run, we carried on the journey to Nottingham where we’d arranged to meet Brownie for one of the mandatory pre-race briefings. Leaving Katie outside to watch the Nottingham Triathlon (a shorter race that was taking place the day before), I had a great time in the briefing as rule after rule had Paul’s plans for the following day falling apart. He found out he wasn’t allowed to use his headphones during the event (‘How am I going to listen to Britney to keep me going’), wasn’t able to get completely naked in transition (‘I haven’t got one of these fancy all in one tri-suits’) and realised he’d have to leave his house in Leicester at around 4am to rack his bike in transition before the start of the race (‘Katie (his girlfriend) is going to murder me’.)

Luckily I was able to help him out with this last problem as my uncle had very kindly let me borrow his caravan on the Saturday night so Katie and I could stay on the campsite just minutes away from the watersports centre. He took up my offer of a rather small sofa for a few hours’ kip pre-race and headed back to Leicester to grab all his gear. The rest of the day was spent eating and relaxing while I got my bike and various bits of kit ready for the following morning.

The alarm was set for 4am but we were subjected to a rather rude awakening around midnight when it appeared our caravan was under attack by an overseas army. After a few seconds of confusion, we realised that someone had decided an impromptu fireworks display was a great idea. Happy to be alive, I drifted back off to sleep before being awoken what seemed like 5 minutes later at 4. The forecasted heavy rain had arrived. And it wasn’t going anywhere.

The lake before the start
The lake before the start

Paul and I sat in darkness eating our porridge while the girls slept, both quietly thinking about the size of the task facing us. The race was due to get underway at 6.30am, but the transition area was open from 5 to enable you to go down and set up your little allocated space with your bike and other bits of kit. We wandered down in the pouring rain and dropped everything off after making sure it was all in the correct place to ensure as quick (unless your name is Paul) a transition from swim to bike and then bike to run as possible.

Paul feeling confident
Paul feeling confident
The bike is racked
The bike is racked

It was back to the caravan with just enough time to pull on the wetsuits and say our goodbyes to the Katie’s before we were walking back to transition ready for the swim start. Nerves were well and truly kicking in now as we arrived and jumped straight into the cold rowing lake. There were 2 sections you were able to start in; under or over 40 minutes – and we opted to start near the back of the under 40 section. Since the London marathon I’d been working hard on my swim, but that had only given me around 4 weeks of swimming, so I knew I wouldn’t be that sharp. After a quick good luck hug in the water, we waited for the starting hooter to go.

Moron's
Moron’s

The Swim

Triathlon swim starts are usually carnage and this one was no exception. It’s usually just a case of getting your head down, accepting you’re going to get bashed around a bit in the first few minutes, and concentrate on trying to find a bit of clear water. I took a couple of whacks to the side of the head, but apart from that came through relatively unscathed. I saw Brownie shoot past me in the first 50m and tried to just settle into my stroke.

The swim course was as simple as it gets – swim 950m up the lake, turn round the two marker buoys, and swim back. I found a lot of people struggling to swim in a straight line, swimming in front of me almost at right angles as they zig-zagged their way down the lake. I think I swam a relatively straight path up the lake and made a tight turn at both of the buoys at half-way, before making my way back down to the end of the lake and the first transition.

I started to kick my legs a bit harder as I approached the exit ramp to get the blood flowing into them (which apparently helps to avoid cramps), and kept running through the order in which I’d do things in transition so I could try and get in and out as quickly as possible. I stood up once I could feel the ramp underneath me, and was pulled up by one of the many volunteers helping people out of the water. Running into transition, I had no idea of my swim time as I don’t have a waterproof watch – I was planning to put it on as I headed out onto the bike.

Swim time: 39.29

Position: 493 out of 1123 starters overall and 43/51 in my age group.

Transition 1

I gave Paul (who’d exited the water a couple of minutes before me) a slap on the back as I ran past him towards my bike. My wetsuit came off pretty easily, and I’d made the decision beforehand to just cycle in my tri-suit without any further layers, so it was just a case of putting my helmet and watch on before grabbing my shoes and heading towards the dismount line (you’re not allowed to get onto your bike and start riding until you reach this line).

I ran with my bike back past Paul (who eventually left transition after a full 7 minutes – the average man could probably get dressed and undressed about 5 times in the same time period) and reached the dismount line. Some of the more skilled guys already have their bike shoes attached to their bikes so they can just hop on and go – however, not wanting to embarrass myself, I’d decided to pop them on just before I started riding.

T1 time: 3.05

Position: I exited transition in 351st place overall out of 1123 and 31st place in my age group. I’d made up 142 places just getting changed!

The Bike

The best way to describe my bike training would be ‘minimal’. Before London 5 weeks ago, I hadn’t ridden a bike since last summer, so I wasn’t expecting to be especially strong on 2 wheels. I’d managed to cram in a couple of long weekend rides to give me some confidence that I could at least cover the distance, but planned to take it relatively easy knowing I’d still have a half marathon to run at the end of the 56 mile cycle. I spotted the girls as soon as I got on my bike and gave them a quick wave. Fair play to them for;

  1. Getting up so early to come out and watch
  2. Sticking it out on a horribly wet and windy day – you were awesome.

The bike route started with a complete lap of the lake we’d just swam in before heading out into the surrounding villages of Nottinghamshire.

start of bike

The lap of the lake gave you a chance to get yourself settled and sorted as it was a long, straight path. However, disaster struck as I decided I’d take the opportunity to have a quick drink from the only bottle I was carrying on my bike. Muggins here proceeded to drop the bottle and watch it scuttle away across the path behind me. With the first feed station not until the 21 mile point, I made the quick decision to stop completely and run back down the track to retrieve it, watching as cyclist after cyclist flew past in the other direction.

Bottle safely back on the bike
Bottle safely back on the bike

With my drink back on my bike I continued on my way around the lake, watching as some of the swimmers in the water had to be pulled out by the safety boats. Thankfully everyone was ok, but I was glad my time in the water was over and I could concentrate on the road ahead. We exited the watersports centre complex and joined onto one of the main roads heading away from Nottingham.

There were 4 different starts to the race, with mine being the first at 6.30 and another wave starting every 10 minutes after that (Everyone gets an accurate time as you’re required to wear an electronic timing ‘chip’). This meant that some of the good triathletes in the waves behind were still currently behind me, and for the first ten or so miles I was just being passed by cyclist after cyclist. I didn’t mind this too much, I was just trying to concentrate on my own race and make sure I didn’t start off too fast and pay for it later on in the run.

The first aid station was at about 21 miles, and at this point I was definitely riding well within myself. Just before the aid station was the only proper climb of the entire route, and although it did take a while to get up it, it’s nothing to lose any sleep over. I grabbed a bottle of energy drink and a bottle of water and pushed on towards the village of Southwell, where I was hoping to see uncle. He lives there, so didn’t really have much of an excuse to not come out and say hello!

Sure enough there he was, and he gave me a good shout whilst telling me to go easy (apparently some chap had gone straight into the metal railings just before I’d shown up). We’d reached halfway now and I was still feeling really good, and for the first time I was starting to go past people who’d gone off a bit too hard. The rain was still lashing down and there were some strong headwinds to contend with.

bike1

There weren’t many people out watching on the bike course (which with the weather, was probably a wise move), but those that were out were brilliant, offering support to everyone going by. There were also a large number of marshals and volunteers managing traffic at the road junctions so the bikes could pass through without having to stop, who were all in great spirits despite the conditions. I tried to say hello and thanks to as many as I could – without them, there’d be no race.

At about 35 miles in I saw the leaders coming past me in the other direction – they were absolutely flying. It was at this point I also realised I really needed a wee. I’d been told that all the proper triathletes just go whilst they’re riding along, so I thought if this was good enough for them, it’d be good enough for me. However, I found out this is actually much harder than it sounds, and despite giving it a good go, it just wasn’t happening. Reluctantly, I found a good place to stop at the side of the road and went as quickly as I could, but could hear bike after bike whistling past. I’ll have to practice on the indoor bike in the gym.

bike 2

Back on the bike, I tried to make back a few of the positions that I’d lost, and was actually feeling really strong in the closing miles. I’d been swapping places with the same riders for a while and got chatting to a couple, joking about the ‘short’ run we’d got ahead of us. Before long we were pulling back into the watersports centre, and the dismount line was fast approaching. I slipped my feet out of my shoes and jumped off just before the line.

Looking back on the bike leg I think I might have actually taken it slightly too easily. Not knowing how to approach it, I was constantly cycling well within myself, and as a result felt super fresh for the run. Next time I think I’ll go for it a bit more and see what happens on the run. More than 3 weeks cycle training would probably help as well!

Bike time: 3.05.52

Position after the bike: 389/1123 overall and 33rd in my age group.

Transition 2

As I ran towards my racking position with my bike, I heard the girls shouting and gave them a nod and a wave. Some of the other competitors seemed to be taking their time in front of me so I tried to squeeze past them. Unfortunately, the route was quite narrow and before I knew it, my bike had smashed against the metal railings and started to wobble uncontrollably. I got it under control eventually and thought all was well until I realised that when it got tangled with the barriers I had lost one of my shoes which until then had been clipped onto my pedals!

Rather embarrassingly, I had to rest my bike up against the railings and run back through transition the wrong way to retrieve the shoe. The girls managed to get an amusing photo of me running against the tide of bikes.

'Was that my shoe'
‘Was that my shoe’
'What a tw*t'
‘What a tw*t’

Once the shoe was safely back in my possession I racked my bike and took the helmet off. I then attempted to try and put on my socks. In normal circumstances this probably wouldn’t have caused many problems. However, after 3 hours cycling in the rain, my feet and hands were wet and cold and it was a real struggle to pull them on. Once they were eventually on my feet, I quickly pulled on my running shoes, picked up a couple of energy gels I had in my bag and made my way out onto the run.

T2 time: 2.15

Position after T2: 375/1123 overall and 32nd in my age group.

The Run

This is the part I’d been looking forward to most all day and I knew it was where my real strength lay. The run course was two laps, with each lap being split up into two parts – the first, an ‘out and back’ section down the canal towards the centre of Nottingham, before returning to the watersports centre for the second part – a lap of the lake.

I was into the unknown at this point as although I’d done plenty of half marathons, I’d never done one after about 4 hours of constant exercise. It was difficult to know how fast I’d be able to run so I just decided to set out a pace that seemed reasonable and try to stick to that for as long as I could.

Making my way along the River Trent, there was already a few ‘Serpies’ on the run. Serpentine is the club that I run for back in London, and there were over 30 of them taking part at the Outlaw Half. This was great, as on this out and back section along the river we could say hello and offer out support to each other. The highest placed Serpie came in 18th position – not bad going at all.

I was feeling awesome on the run and constantly going past people (probably one of the only advantages of biking so slowly!). I kept myself topped up with an energy gel every 2 or 3 miles and the first lap seemed to go by really quickly. The volunteers out on the aid stations were brilliant, offering loads of support and generally being really loud, while letting you know where everything was positioned so you didn’t miss out on water or anything else you might need.

As I reached the end of the first lap of the lake, you go past the red carpet and the finishing chute, where I watched enviously as a few of the faster boys were already finishing. From here it was back past transition and onto the last lap.

run lap1

Turning out onto the river towpath, the Katie’s were there again to offer some great support and snap a couple of photos. I asked where Brownie was, and they told me he was a bit further ahead up the river. I spotted him heading towards me in the other direction before I reached the turnaround point, and shouted so he’d spot me. I gave him a high 5 and I told him to keep pushing on – I think he was struggling without his Atomic Kitten.

I got to the turn point and was now heading towards the lake to complete one more lap before I could finish. Just before I got there I went past Brownie, this time the both of us going in the same direction. I gave him a pat on the back and slowed for a second to see how he was. Happy he wasn’t about to collapse and die, we said our goodbyes and I headed for home.

run 1

Things started to get tough on the last lap of lake, but I knew I was nearly home and concentrated on each person ahead of me and picked them off before moving onto the next one. I’d made a subconscious decision at some point during the run that I wasn’t going to absolutely bury myself. I’d got plenty more events on the horizon, and I really wanted to enjoy my first one and take in the atmosphere at the finish (unlike London).

I turned at the top of the lake and ran straight through the last aid station and lobbed my last gel in the bin – I wouldn’t be needing that anymore. There was a fierce headwind running back down towards the finish line, but I had a massive smile on my face knowing that the end was in sight.

I came into the finishing chute and noticed that it was completely clear ahead of me, so I had the finish to myself. I spotted Katie and Katie on the left hand side and exchanged a couple of high fives, before crossing the line to finish my very first half-ironman.

finish shoot

finish 1
Happy camper

finish 2

I’d managed to run a 1.33 half marathon, which to me, suggests two things.

  1. I’m in great run shape at the moment.
  2. I didn’t go hard enough on the bike!

Run time: 1.33.47

Finish time: 5.24.28

Finishing position: 190/1123 overall. 22nd in my age group. I’d made up 199 position during the run and overtaken 11 people in my age group.

After the run I was handed my medal and t-shirt before (rather cruelly) being made to trudge up a rather large flight of stairs to get to the food tent. However, this was more than worth the effort, as there was an assortment of hot food as well as tons of cakes and biscuits to get stuck into, as well as a celebratory pint at the end.

By complete chance I bumped into the girls as I was leaving the food tent and we popped back to the caravan to get me some layers to keep warm, before heading back to the finish to wait for Paul to come home. It was great to have the chance to see him finish, and it’s safe to say it was the most emotional I’ve ever seen him! When we hugged after he’d got his medal he was on the verge of tears. What a man.

In all seriousness though, it was a fantastic effort by someone, who I’m sure won’t mind me saying, did little to no training up until 4 weeks before, and then panicked and did too much, injuring his knee in the process. The best thing to come out of this is that he’s caught the triathlon bug and I think I’ll be seeing him at races in near future.

The real heroes of the weekend though were Katie and Katie, who put up with an early start, awful conditions and hours without food just to watch us swim/bike and run round a lake. Luckily Paul and I are probably two of the most handsome men going, so I guess they’re just lucky to have us. Post-race consisted of a lovely pub lunch with the four of us being joined by my uncle and auntie, a perfect end to a great weekend.

As always I’ll end a post by telling you that I won’t be easing up any time soon. It’s a 90 mile cycle round the Brecon Beacons in 2 weeks’ time, followed by another half-ironman 14 days after that. Living the dream.

me + katie after

7 thoughts on “Outlaw Half Ironman Triathlon – 31/05/2015

  1. Great Report and a very impressive off the bike Run even more so for your first half. I’m pretty sure you will have past me on the run I was in the Pirate Yellow and Black check out my own race report on my blog if your interested.

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  2. Well done – I kid you not, I was DQ’d last time I stopped to have a pee on the bike in a half. It wasn’t in the rules or briefing for my race, but it was definitely mentioned in briefing for this. Just don’t get caught – draft buster rolled up to me and said it was DQ, literally could not believe it. Checked my race pack when I finished, nothing in there, had it out with officials, they wouldn’t listen

    One marshal told me anyone peeing on bike while moving also DQ, which would cover half the field.

    Ridiculous rule, just letting you know so you don’t get done like I did!

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