Tag Archives: Outlaw Triathlon

2.4m swim / 112 miles bike / 26m run

Nottingham Outlaw, Nottingham, Sunday, July 23, 2017

2.4m swim / 112 miles bike / 26m run

Matt Claydon

Eighteen months ago I was sitting on the sofa 3 stone heavier with a cake in one hand and beer in the other and had a sudden realisation that something needed to change. I needed to do a Thing. A Big Thing. I decided I liked the idea of a full ironman-distance triathlon. I think I may have had several beers by this point.

Over the next few weeks I deliberately told many people of my plan, so I couldn’t bottle out. One of these people was Neil Sleeman, whose enthusiasm for the idea was considerable (and who’s help and encouragement was hugely appreciated throughout). After discussing the idea with Neil, and a friend from work, Helen Drinkall from Durham Tri, I settled on the Nottingham Outlaw, regarded as a friendly and well organised event (and a fair few quid less than a well-known alternative). Helen decided to sign up, and Neil’s wife Corrina decided he would sign up too (doubt this would be a welcome surprise in many households!).

The training started slowly – it was a long road ahead. I concentrated on the running for the first few months, to try and regain some basic fitness and lose some weight. Looking back I was amazed to see the sum total of my ‘competitive’ running in 2015 comprised just 2 parkruns. It was here that I began, trying to find the motivation to drag myself out each Saturday morning. I signed up for Raby Castle 10k in May 2016 and managed a respectable 42.26, which lifted my confidence a bit, as did Hamsterley 11M (1hr.24) in the July. A disaster at the Northumberland Coastal Marathon in September was a wake-up call as I collapsed with cramp 4 miles from the end, eventually dragging myself over the line in 4hr.51. I had never suffered from cramp before, but it was a useful lesson in nutrition and hydration.

By the autumn I had shifted a few pounds and was running pretty well. I decided that I would try to use my anticipated fitness to target 2017 to PB in all standard distances 5k-marathon and get into the medium pack for the Harrier League. Over the winter I did manage pretty decent performances in the Harrier League, but not quite good enough – missing out on the medium pack at Thornley 2 by 1 place (and 1 second!). I also managed a handful of fell races (still chuffed to make it 1st strider home at Captain Cook). I had by now actually purchased a bike as well (crucial in triathlons). This was set up on a turbo trainer in the spare room and didn’t actually make it out on to a road until May.

At some point in the spring it was explained to me that there were cut-off times for both the swim and bike. This was a very big oversight as I had been relying on a strong run to get inside the overall cut-off of 17hrs. I realised I might not actually make it as far as the run. The swim cut-off is 2hr, and a further 8hr for the bike. Weekly swim sessions and regular cycling followed. A PB at Druridge Bay Marathon in April (and 1st M40!), a standard Olympic distance triathlon (2hr 52) at the same venue a few weeks later. All felt like it was going well…….

Suddenly it’s 3am on the morning of the Big Thing. I’m in the Premier Inn (very convenient-recommended) 6 miles from the venue at the National Watercourse Centre and it’s time to get up. Gulp.

I meet Helen and Neil in the lobby and we drive across to the centre, having racked our bikes and filled our transition bags the day before. We faffed for a bit and I tried not to think about the fact that I had only lake-swam twice, and only ever managed half the distance in training (even less than half for the bike). The weather forecast had been miserable and I was also concerned about cycling in wet conditions (something else I had avoided in training), but despite a heavy downpour the night before the clouds gradually cleared and the sun shone across the lake.

I necked a gel, a couple of ibuprofen (just in case) and 4 Rennie (I usually feel bloated after a swim from gasping for too much air and swallowing water). Then we were off. The swim course is very straightforward, up the left hand side of the lake, across the top and back down the other side (even I didn’t get lost). I started right at the back and gave everyone 30 seconds head start to give myself some space. There was little breeze and the water was very calm. I knew that when I try to go to fast I mess up my rhythm and panic sets in leading too much spluttering and thrashing about. I set off slow and steady, checked my watch at the turn to make sure I was on time, and knowing I was comfortable, built up the pace a little on the way back. Easy peasy- I actually enjoyed it! Out of the water and there were strippers on hand to drag your wetsuit off, then into the marquee-tented transition. A slow and careful change into my bike kit, another gel and out to the bike rack and on to the next stage.

I did a slowish loop of the lake, getting adjusted to being upright and tried to get comfortable on the seat (impossible for me). The course comprises a mix of open rural roads, closed lanes and a relatively short section on a scary-as-hell busy main road. It was all reasonably flat apart from one hill about 50 miles in, and I managed to keep an average speed of around 16mph. The support on the way round was great. The village green of Car Colston was used by many as a place to picnic while waiting for a fleeting glimpse of their loved ones. The first time through it I saw no one (bit deflated) but second time around I passed Neil coming the other way (1.5-2hr ahead?, never saw him again!). Immediately after I passed both families cheering me on – loved it, what a boost!

Coming in to transition was a huge relief as by now the uncomfortable seat felt like a nail pointing somewhere you really don’t want a nail pointing. I was also very glad to be on to a discipline I felt competent in. A smooth transition and I jogged around the lake feeling surprisingly spritely. Again steady was key, and yet more gels. Feed stations every 1.5miles allowed exhausted competitors to grab whatever, whenever. The route took you around the lake then a double loop (like rabbit ears tying your laces) out passed the City Ground and Trent Bridge. I had many childhood memories from these parts which occupied my thoughts on the last few hours.

I passed Anita Clementson coming the other way, and then Helen. It was nice to see friendly faces after the relative loneliness of the cycle (no drafting rules prevent chatting). The support from the marshals was awesome- Thank you all! After 22miles I could feel my hamstrings getting dangerously tight and decided to walk – I knew I would make it. I walk/jogged the last bit. A guy jogged alongside “we have 15min to get the last 1km done and break 13hr 30. Shall we do it?” Hell yes! So Jim and I ran to the line.

As you reach the last 100m Outlaw allow your children to wait by the track for you, and join you to cross the line. This was one of the best moments of my life, I’m very glad to share it.

Outlaw Triathlon, Nottingham, Sunday, July 27, 2014

2.4m swim / 112 miles bike / 26m run

Richard Hall

Rewind back to August 2013 and I decided to bite the bullet and enter the Outlaw iron-distance triathlon. I had done a few triathlons in the past and with my lack of love for the bike, I picked out the Outlaw with a relatively flat bike course. For £285, an undoubted bargain too? Whilst I toyed with the idea of wanting to do an official Ironman branded event, the hilliness of Ironman UK put me off and an overseas event seemed like a lot more could go wrong just getting there!

My only chance of making it to the finish was if I gave the whole preparation thing a good go so I gave up hockey for the season and pretty much gave up any booze at all from January onwards (I was even more dull than normal on nights out). I thought I would get to the day and think I had done nowhere near the training I wanted but I did pretty much what I set out to do. Everything I read about training scared me in terms of the hours they suggested you did. I did train most days but never really got to any more than 12-15 hours a week even at the peak. I would swim on lunchtimes at work and force myself out to cycle at weekends. It was still the cycling I could not seem to love and the furthest I had cycled by race day was 95 miles. I couldn’t swim 1 length 3 years ago but completing the 2 mile Great North Swim in June gave me the confidence that I could do the 2.4 miles on the day. Running was always the most enjoyable part of the training and I entered a few races as it was always great to get encouragement from the Striders. I had worked up to comfortably(ish) running 20 miles by the time July came around.

So the weekend of the 27 July arrived and I made my way to Nottingham after a relaxing week off before hand. I was in a complete panic about getting injured so close to the event and also panicked about my bike malfunctioning, about being ill for the event and of course the weather for the weekend which I checked approximately 25 times a day from a week out! Registration and bike racking was the day before on the Saturday along with a 1 hour 15 minute briefing (all you do is swim a bit, cycle a bit and run a bit eh?) I paid £20 for my bike to be checked at the venue despite having already had it checked twice in the previous 2 weeks! It was all very slick but my nerves were only increased by the procession of fancy bikes and very fit looking people!!

4am on Sunday 27th July and my alarm went off. I forced down a couple of crumpets and a croissant and headed off to the venue with poor Becky who had a very long and boring day ahead of her!! It was a mass start at 6am and they had 4 bays set out – less than 60 mins for the swim, 60-80 mins, 80-100 mins and 100+. I opted for the 80-100 mins bay and got into the relatively warm feeling water which was a tropical 21 degrees. The swim was a simple 1.2 miles up the lake, around the buoys and then back to complete the 2.4 miles. The water tasted pretty rank and there was plenty of weed in there that kept getting caught around my head. It was also very cramped in parts and I got kicked and elbowed in the face which is part of the fun apparently. All said though the swim went pretty well and I was very pleased to be out of the water in 1 hr 18 mins. Unlike other triathlons I have done there were people to help you out your wetsuit and then a changing tent to get changed in – all very civilized.

So the bike was always going to be my worst bit and the wind was up to make matters worse. The bike involved a flat southern loop on quiet roads before heading up a very busy road to complete a northern loop which included the much talked about ‘Oxton Bank’ (which was apparently the only real hill on the course), followed by a final southern loop. By the end of the first southern loop (45 miles) I was feeling pretty OK and was faster than hoped. They had drinks/food stations every 15-20 miles and so it was easy to keep the fluids topped up. I spent the whole time on the way to the Northern loop panicking about Oxton bank. I had intended to get to Nottingham to check out the course before the day but had not managed it. Oxton bank came and was over with in a flash and a whimper – nothing to worry about at all. By the time I got back to the southern loop (80 miles in) I had had enough of cycling and with the wind at its highest was definitely counting down the miles. Becky had headed out to a popular supporting spot and getting a cheer on from her kept me going to the end. When I made it back to the watersports centre I was delighted to hand my bike to one of the volunteers who racked your bike for you (that must be what you get for 285 quid). The bike course had been very flat but I was still pleased to have completed the 112 miles in a little over 7 hours which was faster than expected again.

I now had 8 hours left before the 17 hour cut off to complete the small matter of a marathon. I took my time getting changed for the run and headed out in to the glorious and very hot sunshine! A quick chat with Becky and I felt reasonably OK as I started the first loop around the lake. They had drinks/feed stations every 1.5 miles and the course involved a 5km loop of the lake, an out and back into Nottingham, a loop of the lake, an out and back into Nottingham and then a final 1 ¾ loops of the lake. I felt pretty good for 8 miles or so but then it was more a matter of survival. I tried to run between each feed station and then walk for 1-2 minutes before running again. It was really hot and I was feeling pretty sick by the 13 mile point and struggling to get anything down me other than water. I tried to force down a few crisps at each station as I was conscious my top was getting covered in salt from my sweating. Nice. Becky was great support again and my running speed was highlighted by her running alongside me for a bit in a dress and flip flops. I did the first 13 miles in 2 hrs 20 but knew I was always going to slow down. By the time I made it back to the lake for the final lap and ¾ I knew I was nearly there and was going to make it, despite how sick and exhausted I felt. The support from everyone there was immense and really helped, much like the support you get from Striders at all running events. I had aimed to finish in around 15 hours but realized that if I could hobble around the last 5 miles at 12 min mile pace I would go under 14 hours.

Now for a couple of miles cool-down ...

One last push and I passed the 25 mile sign and could hear the finish music in the distance. 200 yards to go, yes I am going to make it…. Owwwwwwww, huge hamstring cramp left me stuck in the middle of the path! A few words of encouragement from passing runners and I managed to start running again and onto the red carpet for the finish. I was looking forward to being greeted over the line with the usual announcement of ‘Richard Hall – you are an Outlaw’ but for some reason the announcer was yapping on about a Commonwealth decathlete who was behind me and so that didn’t quite happen. Anyway, who cares, a high five with Becky and crossed the line in 13 hours and 57 minutes and I had done it. Now, who wants to buy a wetsuit, bike and running shoes, I am off to eat pasties.

So on reflection was I pleased I did it? Definitely yes, for the sense of achievement. Did I enjoy it? Kind of. Would I do it again? No chance!!! Sorry this has gone on a bit. If you are still reading this and had even half thought about trying an ironman one day then go for it. I am no super fit athlete, am not a great swimmer, biker or runner. I sacrificed a bit for 6 months but my training was not ridiculous and I made it. I am now £285 worse off, a stone and a half lighter but I have an Outlaw medal/t-shirt/training t-shirt/key-ring/bike gloves/mints and am most definitely NOT (according to Becky) getting the tattoo…