For 2018, I decided it was time to have another go at a half-Iron distance triathlon. My last race of this distance was the Cotswold 113 in 2016- I wanted to see if I could improve on my time after two years of working on my swim, bike and run.
The Outlaw Half in Nottingham has a great reputation for being friendly, flat and more affordable than some of the larger branded triathlons. The race sold out within hours of opening for entries, so I was lucky to secure a spot. It’s always been a popular event for my triathlon club, with a big group of members heading up to Nottingham for the race. This year was no different- we had 8 individuals and a relay team taking part, plus several friends and family members supporting.
Being so early in the season, race day came around very quickly. I had put in a decent block of training and felt confident that I could achieve a PB.
There is an option to camp very close to the venue, but Glen and I decided to stay in an AirBnB to hopefully get some decent sleep before the race. We travelled up on the Friday, so that we could register, attend the briefing, test our bikes and relax before the big day on Sunday.
I don’t usually suffer too badly with pre-race nerves, but this time I felt sick constantly on the days leading up to the Outlaw half. I’m not sure if I had a stomach bug or maybe I was just putting too much pressure on myself.
We ate an early dinner with our clubmates on Saturday evening and prepared everything for a 4am alarm.
1.2 mile swim- 40:12
I was in the 6.48am wave, made up of females aged 19-49. We got into the lake and spent a few minutes treading water, waiting for the start. The feelings of nausea had finally disappeared and I felt relaxed and confident.
The swim course is a simple out-and-back in the lake, it reminded me of racing at Eton Dorney. I positioned myself to the left side close to the bank, hoping to avoid being caught up in the ‘washing machine’ start- no such luck!
The swim was really congested throughout. I was surrounded by bodies on each side, so I could only swim as fast as the person ahead of me. My hands and feet got scratched. The sun was so bright, I couldn’t see a thing even with mirrored, polarised goggles.
The general consensus was that the swim course was too long by 100m-200m. It doesn’t concern me too much, as I rarely find that the swim distance is accurate in a triathlon. I was pleased with my time considering it had been a pretty rough swim!
Transition 1- 4:48
As I staggered out of the water, one of the volunteers unzipped my wetsuit for me which saved me the job of fumbling around. I couldn’t find my bike in transition and realised I was on the wrong side of the racking, so had to backtrack. I hoped no one had noticed until I heard my friend Brett shouting and laughing at me!
I’d decided to wear cycling gloves and socks, which again added a little extra time to my transition but I felt it was worth it for the added comfort.
56 mile bike- 3:16:05
The Outlaw half bike course is one lap of the lake, then a figure-of-eight shaped route through the Nottinghamshire countryside. It’s fairly flat throughout with only one sharp hill at 20 miles.
Birds seemed to have it in for me on the bike course. On the lake lap, a family of geese walked out in front of my bike, then later I had to swerve to avoid a giant crow in the middle of the road. Finally, a magpie dive-bombed me down one of the country lanes.
My Havering Tri club kit does attract some attention. There was a supporter waving a flag over the road on the hill climb- he spotted my kit and commented that I must be a Southerner. Another cyclist almost shouted ‘come on Essex girl’ as he overtook me.
Crawling behind us up the hill was an ambulance. It’s never a good sign to see an ambulance on triathlon bike course. Unfortunately, there had been an incident up ahead and I saw the medical team attending to someone at the side of the road.
I also had a bit of a hydration fail on the bike. I took out two bottles on the bike which were full of water and electrolyte tabs. I’d finished one by the feed station at mile 38 so I threw away the empty and started drinking the second one. Two miles down the road, I dropped my water bottle! I was frustrated that I’d have to ride the last 16 miles with no fluids meaning I’d start the run feeling dehydrated.
I’d heard a lot about the final 2 miles of the bike course from friends who had raced the Outlaw before. You ride through the grounds of Holme Pierrepont Hall on the approach back into the watersports centre. The road surfaces are notoriously very poor- gravel, potholes, speed bumps- really not suitable for road bikes. I slowed right down and prayed that I wouldn’t get a puncture!
I really enjoyed the bike route, despite the potholes and dropping my water bottle. My Liv Envie felt great to ride and my time was 6 minutes faster than at the Cotswolds on a slightly longer course.
Transition 2- 2:52
My second transition went smoother- I hung up my bike, changed my shoes and helmet and headed out.
13.1 mile run- 2:34:02
The run course is made up of an out-and-back along the River Trent then a lap of the lake, which you repeat twice. It’s completely flat and the surfaces are gravel tracks or concrete paths. In theory, it sounds like an easy course, but I found it extremely tough and mentally draining.
My family had arrived to support and I saw them as I headed out on the run course, which gave me a boost. I ran the first few miles feeling pretty good, I saw Glen and lots of my clubmates on the course finishing their second lap.
The feed stations are placed very frequently on the Outlaw Half run course, every few miles you would pass tables with water, Coke, High 5, crisps, Jaffa Cakes, gels and suncream. The volunteers were all fantastic and slathered me in suncream! My plan was to walk through the feed stations and attempt to run the rest of the course. However, I didn’t stick to my plan for long and started walking more and more.
The run is where I always struggle in a triathlon. I continue to work on improving my running fitness and strength, but it’s the mental side which lets me down. It was an ongoing battle between slowing down or pushing myself to keep running. I came up with excuses as to why it’s too difficult. I got frustrated with how slow I was moving- time was slipping away and so were my chances of a PB. The lake lap felt never-ending, I was tempted to just swim across to the finish line!
I picked up my pace as I passed by the areas with most spectators. Lots of my friends had already finished and screamed in support. Pro-triathletes Lucy Charles and Reece Barclay also called out to me, which was massively appreciated- they had finished their races hours ago! I trudged on, willing myself to keep running. The weather was getting hotter as the day went on, I cooled myself down by pouring cups of water over my head at the feed stations.
The red finish line is a blur, I was very emotional and relieved to be finished. I was a Half Outlaw!
Bizarrely, my finish time was exactly the same as the Cotswold 113… 6 hours 37 minutes. At least I’m consistent!
Sharing the weekend with my friends from Havering Tri is what made the Outlaw Half so special, despite my disappointment at my finish time. Everyone got the support and encouragement, no matter what time they finished.
Have you ever done the Outlaw Half triathlon?