It’s been a while since I posted anything here! But I had so much fun at the Outlaw Half last Sunday that I wanted to write about it, and share some of the great photos my brother took throughout the day.

 

Short version…

On Sunday I raced the Outlaw Half, a middle distance (half ironman-distance) triathlon held at the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham. I finished in 5:38, a new personal best for the distance.

Here are my splits:

Swim––39:39

T1––3:49

Bike––2:55:30

T2––2:06

Run––1:57:18

TOTAL––5:38

Hoorah!

 

Longer version…

I’ve always wanted to race an Outlaw, and this second running of the half-iron distance (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) race seemed the perfect opportunity. Originally it was going to be a training race for Ironman Wales, but I’ve pulled out of that because of a knee injury. The injury still niggles … but after this weekend, I’m starting to wonder if I was too hasty to withdraw.

Oh well. Always next year.

So, here’s what happened. I was delighted that my brother Nick agreed to come along for the day, watch me race and take loads of photos. He loves photography and takes great snaps, as you’ll see.

I stayed at his place in Melton the night before, and along with his lovely wife Sarah, we found a decent pub at which to discuss race tactics.

4am and the alarm went. I was relieved to set off, I hate all that last-day-faffing with kit. We reached the National Watersports Centre and parked pretty easily, I racked my bike and set up my kit, made a last toilet visit, then it was time to get suited up for my swim. Perfect timing. Nick wished me good luck and I told him that I’d be seeing him, hopefully, in less than six hours.  Over-confidence?  Dunno, but I was feeling good.

I was in the second swim wave, so jumped in early to acclimatise. The water was fine, if a little smelly (trying not to think about the scores of geese, swans and ducks I’d seen, and the amount of shit on the paths around the place, and therefore the huge amount also in the water…), and the weeds were a bit gross. I swam around a bit, constantly having to shakes weeds off my hands.  We all must have looked like Swamp Thing. Not nice, and for someone who’s not totally comfortable swimming open water, not a calming moment.

Soon we were off. The washing machine effect was on low, thankfully, and apart from a knock on the head which almost loosened my goggles (on under my hat, luckily), it was pretty smooth.

 

I had my usual dark moment about 300m into the swim. Always happens. “I can’t do this, can’t breathe, I’ll have to get out, what am I thinking? Why did I even think I could do this?” A silent talking to (“Man the f*** up, Lebbon!”), and then I got into my rhythm, a few strokes and sight, few strokes and sight.

Once at the turnaround I felt a lot more confident, and I actually started to overtake people. For me, in the swim, this is pretty unheard of!

I was out of the water in just over 39 minutes, not super-fast but I was pretty happy.

Quick transition, then out on the bike. I didn’t see Nick at this time, though he snapped me at transition and also on the road out of the venue. I drank and ate, shook myself down after the swim, and quickly settled into the saddle.

The bike went great. It was a pretty uneventful ride on a very flat course. I really hammered the first 25 miles, then realised I was feeling good, so I hammered the rest too. My bike computer told me I was averaging 21 mph (that’s bloody good for me), though my final time of 2:55 tells me the computer’s a bit out. Still, a sub-3 hour 56 miles makes me a very happy bunny.

My bike … I ride a Giant Defy 3, the only road bike I’ve ever owned. It cost me £500 three years ago. It has never let me down, ever, and I love it. And one of the greatest things about this race was the number of riders I started picking off over the last 15 miles, many of them on fancy tri-bikes which probably cost them 4, 5 or 6 times as much as my trusty steed.

It’s all about the engine, and for some reason on Sunday my engine was running well!

A quick transition and I was into the run. I was happy to leave the bike behind, and hit the usual, “Well, almost done now!” moment … before acknowledging there was still a couple of hours left.  Of running.  With a bad knee.

But I was feeling good!

Saw Nick on the run out of transition and threw a few poses, then I was out onto the course. Like the bike route it’s very flat, and I have to admit I found the lake lap pretty soul-destroying. Especially the first time. The lake is about 1.5 miles long, and when you round the top end and head back, the other end is barely visible. You see how far you have to go … and that’s not nice.

I tried a tactic I learned reading Chrissie Wellington’s book. Head down, count to a hundred, repeat. The miles ticked by, and as I passed the finish line (seeing people finishing, and that’s hard too) and headed out on lap 2, I started thinking about how likely it was I’d beat my previous PB of 5:44 (Grafman, last year). And it was looking good!

So I dug deep and did my best for the second and last lap. I saw Kelly from NEWT and got shouts of support, which was nice. Also saw Gareth Hall, running so fast I barely had a chance to say ‘Hi’!  There was also a Pirate contingent who spotted my hat and shouted, cheers and whooped me along.  And I bumped into my mate Kathryn from NEWT, also racing and out onto her run.  Top racing!

One comedy moment at a feed station … I bit open a gel and squeezed, and completely succeeded in missing my mouth. All over my hands, beard and face, much to the amusement of the volunteer there! I giggled along with her, then poured water over myself at the next feed station.

That was the last gel I took. Euch.

And the final stretch! I was looking OK to beat my PB, but I couldn’t ease up. I ran onto the red carpet, looked around for Nick but didn’t see him, and across the line.

Done, in 5:38, a personal best time by six minutes.

A happy bunny, I collected my medal and tee-shirt, posed with a beer (a surprisingly tasty non-alcoholic isotonic beer called Erdinger), then grabbed some food. Buzzing, smelling, aching, it was time for a shower, then a country pub with Nick and family for a carvery. I ate a whole cow sandwiched between two bags of potatoes.

That was one of the tastiest meals ever.

It was a great race. I’m super-impressed with One Step Beyond, who seem to always put the athlete first. It was very well organised and signposted, the marshals were brilliant (aren’t they always?), and I loved every minute of it. Well, almost. You know what I mean.

And as usual after a race, I start thinking about how I could have done better…

The winner of my age group finished in 4:42. That’s a full 56 minutes quicker than me, or 16% of my time.

So … if I saved 2 minutes in transition, that’s down to a 54 minute gap. I was hoping to do the swim a bit quicker, so if I get more confident I’d hope to knock off 5 minutes. If I dropped a stone, maybe I’d drop fifteen minutes on the bike. That’s down to a 34 minute gap.

Hmmm. OK, I’m never going to be a 90 minute half-marathon runner, especially with a dodgy knee. But it’s fun to think about!

I’d love to do this one again next year. And who knows, maybe follow it up with the full distance.

 

 

One Response to “Outlaw Half – Nottingham, June 1st 2014”

  1. Vanessa Martin says:

    What an achievement, well done ! Brilliantly written.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>