So yesterday saw me complete my second ever half iron distance and my first race of this year, the Outlaw Half. The event is new for this year and being the smaller brother of the always popular outlaw it looked like a cracking race to enter. I entered this race around November last year and have been looking forward to it since, with Frankfurt literally round the corner this was the perfect chance to practice everything for the big day.
So go make a cup of tea, sit back and read my report on what was a fantastic day.
The race would take place on Sunday 2nd June
Me and Kay drove up to Nottingham on Saturday morning arriving around 1pm, the venue reminded me of Dorney lake Windsor with a vast rowing lake in the center surrounded by greenery and grandstands. We parked up and went to registration to get all that out of the way, visited the expo, bought a few souvenirs and had a general browse around the world of carbon and neoprene. Registration was simple and quick (about 2 minutes), and with my wrist band on and time chip in hand I was ready to race. They had various championship races on that day which we watched from the grandstand, lots of junior competitors racing hard with all the gear, I would have loved to be racing when I was 15-16, I went off to the race brief and got an idea of the race day ahead. The weather was hot on the Saturday which was a little concerning as of my complete meltdown at Dorney lake last year (although 20 degrees is well off the 32 I raced in then).
We left the venue and drove to find our hotel for the evening, a local travel lodge (classy). As we arrived we saw plenty of other triathletes all with bikes going into the hotel which was a welcome relief not to have to leave my bike in the car over night (we are in nottingham!), gear in the room with bike we relaxed and got ready for dinner that evening.
We drove into Nottingham to a restaurant I had pre booked, it was an Italian as I wanted to have pizza the night before the race. The reason for this was my best long training runs and bikes have come after an evening of eating things like pizza and I love pizza :). We parked up in possibly the most expensive carpark on earth (think it was £8:00 for 2 hours?) I mean where are we dubai?! and walked to the restaurant, after wondering around abit thanks to some shoddy satnav work and bad directions from a local we eventually found the Italian. The restaurant was very nice, called the Savai http://www.italian-restaurant-nottingham.co.uk/, reasonably priced with freshly made pizza and garlic bread yum!. completely stuffed we left the restaurant around 8:10 conscious of time because I didn't want to be back late before the race the next day, on the way back I was told we needed coffee and milk for the morning so needed to find a shop... ok so you think center of a city surely its easy to find a shop or petrol station that sells that? obviously not, we drove what seemed to be for 30mins looking for somewhere to buy this stuff, how can there not be a petrol station anywhere? Watford seems to have one every 50 feet! time was ticking and I was keen to get back to the room to shower and go to sleep, We eventually found a SPA which did the job and then finally we could get back to the hotel, got back around 9:15.
Got back to the room and checked my kit for the 15th time that day, tire pressures and nutrition etc, I pinned my race number onto the belt and set everything out for the morning. At around 9:30pm I realised that I hadnt even prepared my goggles for the race, I snapped mine 2 weeks ago in the lake and I was borrowing Kay`s this weekend. I was paranoid about them being too tight or loose so I adjusted them put my swim hat on and sat there watching TV with them on to check tightness or looseness.
I went to bed around 10pm and slept well with only a few wakeups in the night (Kay was woken up multiple times by drunken yobbos in the corridors). I do seem to sleep well before races even if I`m a little nervous which is a good thing as I read that many people before big races don`t sleep at all. 3 alarms set for 4:30am and kit checked a 16th time its bedtime
Awake at 4:00 with excitement and slight nerves, black coffee and porridge pot on the menu and I`m good to go, cleared the room out and took my bike to the car, hilariously as I was taking my bike downstairs some guy was coming up the stairs stumbling everywhere off his rocker, no time to chat tho I had my bike to pack. All packed up we left the hotel around 5:20, a little later than planned but still got to the venue in good time. As we arrived it was a great site to see 1200 athletes checking their bikes into transition and getting ready for a day of racing. The check in was very efficient (running trend this weekend) so within 5-10 minutes I was at my transition area racking my bike up and prepping my gear, even though Ive only done a few races I have a good idea of what I need when and organise myself accordingly. I had been having issues with my wetsuit being too tight around the shoulders in training and gassing my arms out so was keen to get into my suit early to ensure a proper fit for comfort. As I`m in my own little world I hear the call "can the blue caps please proceed to the water as we are soon to start", O dear, Kay had my wetsuit and I had approx 8-10 minutes before my race started, just what had I done with the past 30minutes? A frantic wave to Kay to bring it over with my swim hat and goggles, by the time I got my wetsuit the other wave was counting down the start so was a little rushed to get it on and get ready (exactly what I did`nt want). The blue wave then started which meant I had approx 8 minutes to do my final prep and get into the water, A quick toilet stop and then I heard our wave being called into the water - this was it. The water temperature was around 15 degrees which was actually pretty warm compared to the lake Ive been training in these past months, you can hear people saying "this is my first open water swim and its freezing", I don`t understand why you would train for a race and not even once get into a lake of some type.
The Swim - 32:52
The Wave was separated into two bays (one being faster swimmers and one slow), I knew in my head that I was going into the left bay (the fast bay) but did want to double check that I was in the right bay. I spoke to a few individuals about their swim times to get an idea of placement in the start (I always screw this up so wanted this time to be good), the first guy I spoke to said he was looking for a 45min time and this was the slow bay, ok a little worrying, had I misread the info pack and gone into the slow bay? I asked a second guy who was going for 29 minutes! ok im sticking near this guy! The one minute warning went and everyone prepared their starting position, I was keen to be near the front as I always seem to place myself at the back and have to swim over people. The final countdown proceeded 5,4,3,2,1 and the horn sounded, we were off! The first 100 meters in any mass start is always interesting, imagine being in a washing machine with a bunch of limbs, thats what it like! Jostling for position I found some open water and quickly overtook the 29minute man (now either he was lying or I`m going way too fast). The course was a straight up, 2 right turns and back down so it was just a case of staying in a straight line which was easy enough. The sun was glaring down in front of us which made it near impossible to see the bout up ahead, we continued straight and past a few buoys before we finally got to the turning buoy (I don't remember 1900 meters being this far!) 2 turns later and we were on the home straight with the big red arch in sight on every head lift, by this time I had some clear water although had some guy drafting off me the whole way back to the finish, I only know this as every 5 seconds he would touch my feet! fair play to him using me to save himself energy. We had about 400meters to go and no-one was anywhere near me and then Bang! some guy veers off course and smashes me in the face and nearly took my googles off! a little taken back as I was`nt expecting it I tried to not let it phase me and continued to the finish, the last 300meters all I could think was "I wonder if I grabbed his wetsuit cord and yanked it anyone would notice". I exited the water and began the jelly legged run into transition. Time 32:52 (26 seconds slower than last year)
T1 - 5:01
Jogged through the transition area and gave Kay a wave and the proceeded to try and get my stuff sorted, I felt really dizzy by the time I got to my bike but felt pressure of everyone watching so did`nt want to just sit down and have a minute to compose myself. Wetsuit off and bib shorts on, o wait Ive put them on back to front so took them off and start again. I tried to put my cycling jersey on which with a wet torso is difficult at the best of times let alone while dizzy and conscious about the clock ticking, pulling the jersey down my stomach I heard a rip, o dear I thought but no time to worry about that, I dried my feet and put socks on which again took more time but this was more a practice for Germany rather than a race, number belt/helment and glasses on and I was good to go. I took my time waking my bike in my cleats to the mount line and got on the bike and went. Overall not to bad considering.
The bike - 2:54:50
As Ive been doing lots of cycling the past months with some long rides (112 last weekend) I was confident about the distance and was more conscious about nailing the nutrition on the bike to ensure I don`t "bonk" later in the race, bonking is a term used for when you hit zero energy and have used everything in your body, I`ve done this in training and never want to experience it again. So out on the bike 56 miles of countryside with quite a few road closures I was just going to enjoy the ride and concentrate on eating and drinking when I needed to. The first part of the course was around the lake (just like Dorney) before exiting into the main loop, a quick check at my heart rate, 155, not bad but would want it under 150 really, speed check 19.6mph... ok wayyyy to fast, need to ease the speed off and slow it down, its easy to get carried away in the early stages of a bike. I was just about to exit the lake and felt my heart rate strap come undone, now its a fiddly clip to get it on which either meant getting off (not happening) or trying to go no handed and risk ending up in a bush or on my face, I opted for option 3, take it off and put it in my pocket, the joys of cycling jerseys!.
The bike course was fast, the roads were pretty good condition overall, a few rough bits but that`s expected as we do live in Britain, I decided to turn my garmin screen to show me only the elevation, it seems to work in training so I don`t get hooked on the numbers too much, its easy to get carried away with average pace and current speed and you end up beating yourself up for maintaining a certain speed. The ride was amazing, im not sure if it was the occasion or the weather (or both) but I really enjoyed it, I worked hard on the descents and practiced on my new aero bars that I bought and strapped this week :). The aero bars allowed me to change my postion when I felt like it to get my arms a rest and to get some decent speed into the straights, I remember at one point on a flat section looking at my speedo (29mph on the flat!) zooming along. I did`nt worry to much about the pace as I wanted to exhaust my legs so that when I got to the run it would feel like Ive biked 112 miles rather than 56. The ride seemed to go so quickly as I was taking in all the scenery and watching all the expensive machine wizzing past me, although being a good swimmer is a plus when you get on the bike its always hard as it seems like hundreds and hundreds of people pass you. The course only had one hill (if you`d call it that) a short and sweet 12% which was`nt much effort to get up at all, slightly different to wimbleball last year. My nutrition plan was to eat half a power bar every 30minutes and drink every 15minutes, this worked very well for me, I stuck to the plan and picked up one bottle from the aid station (should have got 2 as they were nice bottles). Before I knew it my Garmin announced that it was 50 miles done, oh only 6 miles to go then? My bike felt a little strange so I asked the next guy in front of me to see if my back tyre was flat, he said it wasnt.. pheww! 6 miles left! by this time all the fluid had gone through me but I did`nt want to stop on the bike as to wreck my bike split (great idea). The last mile or so was through gravel tracks and a manor estate which was great to see but so dangerous as it would be so easy to fall off or puncture. I did`nt look at my average speed until I saw the final turning into the lake 19.6mph... sorry what? yes 19.6mph now for some thats normal but for me who usually averages 16-17mph that was amazing and I felt great and was looking forward to the run.
Time - 2:54:50 My target was 3-3:15ish so to go sub 3 hour was great
T2 - 4:22
When I got off the bike I decided to take my time and not rush in this transition, after I dismounted from the bike there was a walkway which was single file, there was a guy who got off at the same time and was obviously keen but as I was in front walking with my cleats on he couldn't get past (sorry!). I got to my number and racked my bike up, turned on my running watch and put my vest/ hat and trainers on then eyed the toilets! a quick pit stop and then realised that I should have put some sun cream on my shoulders after I got pretty burnt last week, I went back to my box and smothered my shoulders and picked up some gets and block shots also. On to the run!
The Run - 1:54:37
Now Ive been abit worried about this run over the past weeks with all my knee issues etc and was conscious that I could not break myself (or knees) ahead of Germany on this race, it was`nt worth the risk. As I began the run my legs felt really good, considering I have`nt done much off the bike (brick) running in training I was happy that I was feeling good! I have been practicing a run/walk strategy in training that I was keen to test out, 9min run 1 min walk with my watch beeping at each interval. The run was 2 loops of a part trail part tarmac surface with parts being single file up to a turning point on the trail part. My pace was quicker than in training but I told myself that if I felt pain I would ease off, I was running around 9min/mile and felt good, I started working out my rough splits to see what kind of finish time I could possibly get, I started dreaming of a sub 6 hour which would be a huge improvement on last year, little sums like this make the miles just drift by one by one. The aid stations were located every couple of miles and I decided to only have water as my stomach was starting to feel abit ikky after all the power bar and high five throughout the day, this seemed to work well and I stayed hydrated and kept myself feeling good. The run walk strategy worked a treat, the only frustrations are that when you get into a good rhythm and find someone of the same pace to run behind you break that cycle with walking and then inevitably when walking people assume you are struggling and offer support which is great but as you haven't got time to say I`m doing a walk strategy I just smiled and said I`m fine thanks. The run seemed to go quick and I managed to see Kay on each laps which was great to look forward to as it was starting to get warm! The final part of the run goes round the lake and much like Dorney lake there are no reference points so it feels like you aren't actually running anywhere. The final few hundred meters I can see the finish chute and all the crowd cheering and as I entered it it reminded me of last year at exmoor, I took my time on this occasion to savor it and as running up the chute I high fived all the kids and people as I went saying thank you to each and every one! I crossed the line and couldnt resist the mo-bot pose for my finishers picture (can`t find it yet), walking through the finish line to receive my finishers medal and t-shirt! medium the lady says handing me the packet, I reply small please :) knowing they would probably be big anyway! Walked up a set of stairs (how thoughtful) to get out of the finishers section to meet Kay.
Overall Time 5:33:42 - 1 hr 10mins faster than last year, really chuffed.
I was surprised on crossing the line how fresh I felt and how my training is clearly paying dividends, the race itself was fantastic and I`m sure ill be back for maybe even the double next year (outlaw half and outlaw full). Overall great event, very well organized and a great atmosphere throughout, I tried to say thanks you to all volunteers on the way round as without them the race would`nt happen and they are giving up their time for it.
So with Frankfurt fast approaching this weekend had provided me with more of an idea as to where I am physically and how important my race plan is going to be
Swim - I need to get some time in the lake over the next few weeks to loose the rust and improve my technique
Bike - Keep the high mileage and keep working on my pace consistency
Run - Continue my run walk strategy and look to slow it down again for Frankfurt, I would like to be up to 15-16 miles before Germany.
3 weeks solid training left and then a 2 week cut down taper before the main event, will keep my training updates going!