Sunday 19th May saw me take part in my first half distance triathlon at the Outlaw Half Nottingham, hosted at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham.
1.2 mile swim, 56 mile Bike, 13.1 mile Run (half marathon).
9 minutes 31 seconds
3 hours 36 minutes
3 minutes 43 seconds
3 hours 19 minutes
8 hours 28 seconds
Weekend Write Up:
Although the race took place on the Sunday, registration and briefings took place on the Friday and Saturday proceeding – I elected to arrive Saturday morning to take care of all the non-racing details.
I also booked into the camp site opposite the start, so I was close enough not to have to rush so much to and from the race. I was looking forward to not having the stress of checking out of a hotel and travelling across Nottingham at 4 am!
I was up early Saturday morning to pack the last items for the weekend into the car (OK, maybe I packed all of the items Saturday morning) and had to make a quick stop along the way. I was running behind schedule but well within time to make it for the briefings. I was lucky enough to have the local police stop me and wish me well for my race, so that was nice.
Although I did not get there as early as I liked, I was well in time for the briefing that was just after lunch and feeling fairly relaxed I signed on, paid my £5 race license for the day and enjoyed some of the racing that was taking place on the Saturday.
I attended the penultimate briefing on the Saturday, and although I got in easy enough it was extremely busy, with only standing room for the last people to attend the briefing.
OSB Events founder Iain Hamilton did an excellent job of keeping the briefing moving, which lasted around 1 hour. Attending briefings is mandatory, and you can always pick up some information you might not have known, plus they update you with any course or rule changes you may not be aware of.
Rob Wilby from Oxygen Addict was also part of the briefing, giving out very helpful advice. I especially was grateful for the advice on getting into the water and acclimatising to the cold temperatures so quickly, as I had struggled with this the previous week in my first open water swim of the year.
After the briefings my girlfriend and I went to setup my tent for the weekend. Prepared as ever, I had purchased a new tent for the racing this year (my normal one for camping is huge and too much effort to put up for one nite) and had not had a chance to set it up prior to the weekend.
Luckily it went up easy enough, with the help of my wonderful assistant, and within 30 mins of arriving at the site I was scratching my head on how to fit the new camp bed I purchased into it (had to go diagonally, head and feet touching the sides of the tent).
With signing on all done, and a place to sleep all sorted, all that was left to do was get some dinner, make sure I had everything in my kit bag for the morning, fill up my water bottles and get breakfast ready for the morning.
With all that done, it was time to start stressing about the days racing ahead of me. my girlfriend did a fantastic job of talking me through it all, reminding me how much training I had done and I was more than ready for this race. We all know though, that we always feel no matter what we have not done enough training, and start to wonder about goggles falling off within 3 minutes, bike punctures and blisters!
As my GF had other commitments for Sunday, she would not be able to attend the race, but obviously she was able to follow me on the Outlaw App with tracking, and although not live, she would still be able to see my progress at key stages. After she left, I had a couple of conversations with other racers staying at the camp site, giving some times and advice that always come in handy.
I also called my good friend Shaun, who although we started triathlons around the same time at a local sprint race, has done a lot more racing over the last couple of years than me. With his experience he was really able to give me a good plan for the following day, and with the worries all gone for the next day I was able to focus on getting the mind ready for the race.
9pm saw me on my own and ready to settle in for the nite and try to get a good nites sleep. Ill admit I watched a training montage from Rocky IV for a final bit of motivation, the day ahead certainly felt a little like having to fight Ivan Drago! I was hoping for a positive outcome like Rocky.
The final thing to do for the day was to set the alarm for 4am, to give me enough time to get some breakfast in the morning, and head over to the start for around 5am. Transition shut at 6am for bike entry, and I wanted to be sure to leave me enough time to enjoy the day and not be rushing around.
Sunday (Race Day)
Race day saw me wake up with the sounds of a car driving past the campsite beeping its horn! Normally that might annoy me, but not today. I had slept through my alarm, and it was 4.30 am! I am not even sure what time I would have woke if it was not for that excited car driver, either on their way to race or cheer on a loved one. So to whoever that driver was, thankyou!
It was a bad nites sleep, the tent was very cold and I kept on waking up, and I already have a list of other items I need to take when camping for these events.
Despite being behind schedule, I still had plenty of time, and quickly ate my breakfast and headed over to the start, whilst reading the good luck messages from my GF for encouragement.
Feeling relaxed, I took the short walk from the campsite with my kit and bike feeling good for the day ahead of me. The lack of sleep did not concern me, the temperature felt ok (though admittedly I had sat in the car with heater on whilst eating breakfast when I first woke up) and there was a good buzz in the air.
As I approached the start there was a lot of people already there, with a trickle of people still arriving. I had plenty of time to find my bike spot in transition, and get on my wetsuit. Everyone was in high spirits sorting out there stuff, and right now everything was feeling in place as it should be.
Just after putting on my wetsuit and sorting out my area I was almost done and ready to race, except I had to pick a lucky person to do up my wetsuit. As if by fate, I saw the marshal that had helped me complete at the last Outlaw Full Triathlon I had done, the one and only James Franco.
Luckily he recognised me (I am quite a bit thinner now) and we had a quick catch up before the race began. He was racing too, so there would be no help from him today I thought, except he was the lucky person to do up my wetsuit (I think its only fair he helps me at every triathlon I do). We did have time for a quick photo though.
6.36 am was my start time for the day, with getting into the water around 5 minutes before the get go. The water was cold as expected, but I quickly got used to it with the tips from Rob Wilby at the previous days briefing (deep breath, head in water, breath out for a few minutes). Thanks for that Rob! Right away when swimming it was fine, and all I had to contend with was the other swimmers. Either they or I had a strange idea over what was the quickest way to the buoy marker for the turnaround point. Yes, this is open water swimming, and you have to be prepared to have your rhythm messed with a little by other swimmers, its part of the race.
I actually really enjoyed the swim, felt very relaxed and could have easily handle twice the distance at that pace I think. Exiting the water is always a bit trickier than what you image, and not only are you going from swimming to walking, I also wear prescription goggles whilst swimming, but for some reason dont fancy wearing them any longer than I have to, so kind of walk / run from water exit to bike half blind, but managed to get there in one piece without falling over.
Transition into bike was around the ten minute mark, not sure how it took so long but I was not worried, still had plenty of time to finish the race in.
The cycle starts off around where you just swam and almost right away I was feeling at home on the bike. There was the usual burn from the legs I feel, but still in very high spirits for the day I was not concerned and ready for the next few hours on the bike.
As I left the transition area and headed out onto the roads, I remembered I had someone at home checking their app right now making sure I did not drown, which really spurned me on for the day ahead.
The cycle was pretty much as I expected it, as I have done the route a couple of times now. It is a flat route except one hill, but anyone who knows or follows me, every minor incline I tend to feel. Today was no different, but I felt the best I ever felt on a bike and remembering the tips Shaun had given me the nite before I powered on keeping an eye on my cadence and average speed.
One thing I noticed most about this ride was the amount of people always around me – on my training rides I do most of them solo and only occasionally catch up or get passed by another rider, but during this race there seemed to always be at least one rider in front of me. Mostly I was overtaken by others on the ride, I was clearly slower than the other participants, but I did manage to keep up with some of them and even managed to overtake a couple back again later in the race.
Near the end of the ride I felt very strong, and up one of the last inclines on the ride I held my pace and overtook a quite a few other riders, which to me meant I manged to control my pace correctly through the race. I was hoping I would have enough energy left for the run!
Running is not my strong point, and certainly I was not expecting any miracles doing a half marathon after the swim or cycle, even though I did feel good. I would struggle if it was just the run on its own, so really for me there is no major pressure when it comes to the run, just give it a go and hope I make it.
I held a run / walk strategy for the run, I felt it was my best chance to make it to the end in high spirits, and it worked. 5 minutes running, 3 minutes walking always helps on the long runs I do, and I stuck with it on race day. The only time I deviated was when a drinks station interrupted the run, but did my best to get back into the rhythm as quickly as possible.
When someone would overtake me (as they frequently did) I would try to hold their pace for a little bit, and surprisingly found myself at times running faster than normal but whilst still feeling ok about the pace. This will be something I work on over the next 2 months leading upto my next race.
The run was slow, but actually not too stressful and although the last mile seemed to drag I felt like it went as well as it could and I was very happy.
The finish line run up was amazing, no fireworks this time but plenty of cheers from plenty of supporters who I have never even met – the crowds at these events are always awesome and I hope you enjoyed the day as much as I did.
In summary the day went well. The support I got from friends and family was brilliant, the support from my girlfriend the day before as well as leading upto the race and knowing she was watching via the app was exceptional and in truth gave me enough reason to keep plodding away all day.
Between now and my next race I will commit to doing more open water swimming and improving my swim time.
As the nights are now longer it gives more opportunity to go cycling in the evenings after work, and I will make sure to do some brick runs straight afterwards.
With regards to running, I will slowly be building up the miles as in my mind I have the full distance in just over 8 weeks time, although the run will probably not be pretty, I want to give myself the best chance possible to enjoy the 6 hours it will probably take me to do.