Right, first up let me make this clear: I love the outlaw half ironman race. I love that venue and that course and doing that triathlon. I love the swim, the cycle and the run. I love the memories it brings back of last year. Even though the finish line is a 70’s leisure centre to me it looks better than the Mall. I love meeting all the twitter folk. And watching friends be awesome. And feeling like a superstar crossing the line. Basically what I’m saying is if you like reading warts and all race reports, this isn’t going to be it! Last week I had a bit of a stressful week with work where I had too much stuff on and not enough time to do it. The end result was that I hadn’t really thought about Sunday at all. By the time I got home on Friday and went to a friends wedding I was pretty spent. I packed all my stuff on Saturday morning and was immediately reminded of one of my pet hates about triathlon – the absolute mountain of kit required! I like to think I travel pretty light but looking at the expedition sized pile in front of me changed my mind. Some of my cycling kit hadn’t seen action since last July… So my training. I think it’s fair to say earlier in the year I had done a LOT of running training but I was also on the turbo three times a week. None of these were longer than 30 minutes, but I was doing them in conjunction with a 30 minute run. I hadn’t done one for 9 weeks though, pretty much since London. I’d also pretty much stopped running mid week since Milton Keynes, partly due to time pressure but mostly due to my laziness. On top of that I’d only been swimming outside a couple of times. I knew I was pretty fit still from the running but the cycling and swimming were big unknowns… Saturday passed by in a bit of a blur. Seeing the lake again and the finish line was lovely, the race briefing was fine. I get a bit angsty about going as all the info you need is in the race pack. As I was moaning about this to Pilla on the way I quickly realised I hadn’t actually read the race pack so I guess it’s for people like me! @TheLozzatronspotted me on the way in and so did @doneanddusted. I still haven’t really met James and the angst this must have caused him clearly drove him to absolutely smash his way around Sunday. I had a mini panic when I was packing my bike in the car as the rear wheel was loose on its axle, so Pilla took it off to be serviced during the race briefing. You really shouldn’t do this the day before a race but they sorted it pretty nicely. We had a fun meal on Saturday night with some ace twitter people and chatted to @theironorange in the bar afterwards. I’m generally pretty crappy at tweet meets, but the more I do them the funner they become. Anyway I had a couple of beers which is perfect preparation for a half ironman. As is being woken up at 2:30am by some very loud hotel guests. I didn’t mind this too much as my sleep is always pretty hit and miss the night before. There’s something about setting the alarm for 4:00am that means you never really sleep well. I had breakfast in the traditional triathlon way by eating it perched on the edge of the bath busying myself on twitter. After wishing good luck to a few people I headed off to the venue and got there good and early. The weather was supposed to be pretty nice so I knew the sunrise would be something special and it was. Because the sun rises almost exactly over the far end of the the lake the transition area is bathed in a lovely dawn glow. Anyway enough of that, I took a nice picture but it still doesn’t really do it justice.
After piling all my kit up and eating a banana I was all set. My strategy for the swim was exactly the same as last year. Pen 2 has the over 40 minute swimmers and I thought I would be faster than that, so I plonked myself right at the front so I’d have tons of room and did a few test swims. Bblllllluuuerrrrgghhh!!! The water at HPP was absolutely rank this year. Weedy, mucky and horrible smelling. A guy next to me came up after his test swim absolutely covered in weeds. Lovely! After wishing good luck to everyone around it was time to go. After about 50 metres I was absolutely dying. My arms were sore, I couldn’t get comfortable and this continued for the entire outward leg. It felt like it took forever. Much like last year there was zero bumping around but I just couldnt get comfy. I figured this was because of my lack of training but shortly after starting the swim home I started passing people from the first wave and then I started feeling really good. It was odd – I went from feeling like I’d never swum before to feeling like I was Michael Phelps. That return leg felt like it was over in the blink of an eye and I loved it. Considering I don’t like the swim training that much, I absolutely love the swim part of the race. Anyway I was quietly looking forward to seeing what my time was but I think they had forgotten to put the clock up at the swim exit (or I missed it in my swim daze). Right then onto the bike…
I was expecting it to be pretty long somewhere in the the region of 3.5 hours. My cycling was never that great last year and being ‘ok’ at swimming means that I spend three hours of getting overtaken. The ride is super flat around and very fast. Before I knew it an hour had gone and I was at about the same speed as last year. I was struggling to stay on the bars due to lack of practice and I was generally fairly uncomfortable the whole way round. A quick blast up oxten bank is the only steep bit on the course and even that is pretty tame. You also get rewarded for it by a lovely three mile gentle downhill which is some cracking riding. The northern loop felt like it went really quickly and before I knew it I was on my favourite bit of the outlaw course – the ride through Car Colston. Much quieter today but still fun. I was still on for about three hours which was a bit of a surprise. Before I knew it I was on the horrible bumpy bit back to HPP. I came in just a shade under 3:01.
Onto the run and I felt fairly good. I might spend three hours getting overtaken on the bike but the run is where I get my own back a little and I was jogging along nicely straight away. It was ace seeing Anne and Pilla making some massive noise on the side of the lake but it was getting pretty warm already. This was no surprise as almost every event I do is characterised by it being unexpectedly warm! The first lap out was very fun, all those memories of the trog round here on the ironman flooding back only this time I was actually running a pretty decent pace. I heard a couple of people shout my name, but didn’t really see who they were until round near the boathouse when the legend that is @sidowski spotted me and gave me some decent volume. I think he left me with a ‘give it some!!’. Brilliant. I was still making decent progress around the lake on the he first loop but was getting some stomach issues. Bloody annoying because as soon as I walked at the food stations they went, as soon as I started running they came back. I was busy scouting out decent size looking bushes at one point but thankfully didn’t need them! Back on the out loop I got some massive further support from Sid who told me I had to pick up the pace. I was in a tough spot at this point as not only was my stomach making some funny noises but my knees I were hurting too. I guess this is through lack of training as I haven’t had it before but it was enough to make me keep talking quick walk breaks. I was still pretty happy even if it was hurting and tried to dish out some positivity to people on the the run. I spotted a guy with Neil on his top and gave him a big cheer and it turned out to be @Neil373. He sounded way too happy to be on the run and we wished each other look. At some point I think I bumped into theironorange, but it was all a bit of a blur! When I turned at the far turning point I resolved to try and get in under 1:50. With the walking breaks I knew I’d be close, but also figured once I got round to the lake I wouldn’t be slowing down. I spotted Sid again who ran with me whilst giving me encouragement/abuse and the kind offer of his morph suit. Obviously it was a bit cold for him this year! Anyway I loved that 50m it was probably the highlight of my run! Once I got back to the lake I leasuirely strolled through the penultimate feed station grabbing crisps and coke and high fived the Pilla-Anna support crew combo. How they could still make any noise is beyond me. The loop around the lake is a bit of a battle as it seems to go on for miles but I saw Rach at the far end which was nice and having overtook her realised I couldn’t slack off back down the lake on the other side. I took a walk break through the last station and set off to finish this thing but not before seeing @aboutwild. Would have been nice to go in for the awkward man hug but I wasn’t for stopping! It’s a funny feeling because simultaneously you want it to be over but you don’t often get the feeling of finishing a half ironman so I always want that last bit to go on and on. Down the lake, counting off the metre markers on the the lake and with 500 to go figured I was on for under 1:50. I didn’t have that goal when I started but as soon as I made myself that deal I had to do it.
The finish line at Outlaw is great. There was a good crowd and I was the only one on the red carpet. Brilliant. I got the full tape across the line treatment which I was a little embarrassed at last time but flipping loved it on Sunday. My time was 5:30:52. Three minutes slower than last year when I was pretty much at the peak of IM training. I’ll settle for that!
I bumped into Gareth and @TheBaldyGit in the food tent and had a bit of a chat as I settled in for my now traditional post outlaw event chilli and rice. The alcohol free beer was an excellent touch and one that should be immediately instated at all races in future. Along with chilli. And cake. Anyway the best bit of the day was still to come. After trotting miles back to the car with my stuff I settled in with a beer or two to cheer on the other athletes. I love this bit and it was loads of fun with Anne and Pilla making some serious noise for everyone finishing. We knew a few folks still to come in but were especially excited when Lozza came past looking really strong and looking, in the hottest part of the day, like she was enjoying it. As she went past the other side of the the lake Pilla suggested shouting and her and Anne made probably the most noise I have ever heard. It was ace! It wasn’t long before before we spotted Lozza storming down to the finish and as she passed us on the red carpet the crowd went crazy. I had a great time during the race but the absolute highlight for me was watching someone else be awesome.