Nottingham Outlaw – 28th July 2019
At the end of last year I sat down and worked out which races I wanted to do in 2019 and the Outlaw was top of the list. I had competed in a few of the Half Outlaw events in Holkham and Nottingham over the last few years and felt like I was ready to take the next step and have a go at the full distance. However I knew that I wouldn’t be able to just turn up and compete and that I would need to put in the work and train properly.
A number of people in the club (Thanks Caz Kay) pointed me towards Don Fink’s ‘Be Iron Fit’ book, so armed with this I put together a training plan with the target of getting under 12 hours. The first few months of training went reasonably well and I put in a great performance at the Clumber Standard Distance Duathlon before setting a PB at the Sheffield Half Marathon in March. It was around this point that the real world started to get in the way. My wife changed jobs and that changed my opportunities for training.
The Nottingham Half Outlaw came around in May and off the back of a solid foundation phase I managed to set another PB. What I should have realised at this stage was that I needed to re-plan my training because over the next few weeks instead of getting into the bulk of the build phase of my training my hours reduced and my previous motivation to train evaporated. A last ditch effort to put some miles in on the bike by taking part in a charity bike ride from Bristol to Glasgow at least reassured me that when push came to shove I could reduce my pace and I would be able to keep going.
Fast forward to race day and when my alarm went off at 3pm there was a heavy drum of rain on the window. Luckily I had remembered to pack waterproofs and cover my bike when I had racked it in transition the previous day. The drive down to Nottingham was mainly wet but at least it had stopped by the time I pulled into the car park at Holme Pierrepont. As the race start time got closer the rain returned but the first leg is a swim so I would be wet soon enough anyway wouldn’t I. As we got in the water the rain got heavier and, as the 10 second count down went for the race and the fireworks that the organisers had put on to mark the 10th running fizzled into life rather than exploded, it reached monsoon status. The first lap of the two-lap swim went ok. I glanced down at my watch as I exited the water and saw 50 mins on the timer, which was pretty much on target. On the second lap I struggled a little bit with the fingers on my right hand and I’m fairly certain my stroke wasn’t that efficient at that point but I made it around the last buoy and on to the last leg. I exited the swim in 1:46:55, which wasn’t amazing, but given my lack of training I was happy with the time.
Now my swim isn’t great so I was expecting to see people heading out on the bike leg at this point, so the absence of people on bikes at this stage got me wondering what was going on. It was at this point that we all found out that the bike leg had been cancelled because the bike course was flooded and there were trees down blocking the road and that we would be starting the run at 5s intervals from 9:00. While I don’t think I can class myself as a Uber biker, the bike leg is one of my strengths so it was a little bit disappointing after having put the effort in over the previous months to not get to do the full event. During the wait for the start of the run I saw a video clip from the bike course of the floodwater breaking over the bonnet of the car sent around to check it so I absolutely agree that it was the right thing to do. Still maybe I could set a new marathon PB instead.
I started the run around 9:30 and started to set a very measured pace to try and get around. My normal half Marathon pace is around 4min/km and I was aiming to run at 5min/km pace but to walk through the feed stops to ensure that I was eating enough. The first short lap around the lake went ok but then the rain came back with a vengeance as I set of on the 1st longer lap out to Trent bridge and I was glad that I had started with a waterproof on. Things started to go wrong as I got back to the lake for the second time and my lack of recent run training came back to bite me. As I was running back down the lake I started wonder what the point was completing the race because it wasn’t going to count and I very nearly pulled out as I crossed the line to go out for the second long lap. Luckily I managed to convince myself to continue although my pace dropped off and from then on it was all about finishing the run rather than setting a decent time. I ended up breaking down the run into blocks between feed stations but in the end the lake came back into view and I then just had the final 7km around the lake to complete. This spurred me on a little bit and my pace picked up again. Coming past the final feed station I knew that I was going to make it and by now I wasn’t going to get any wetter so stripped off my waterproof so that I could at least get some photos in club kit as I crossed the line. My run time ended up being 4:33:03 for a total time of 6:19:58. Not exactly what I was looking for at the start of the year, however in hindsight its probably about right based on the amount of training that I managed.
OSB always organise a great event and despite the weather I don’t think I could really fault them on this one. They put in a mammoth effort to sort out the logistics of how to continue the event when the bike course became unusable and had to reorganise the entire timing system to make it work for 900 people setting off at almost the same time rather than spread over several hours. The volunteers always make an event for me and they went out of their way to cheer everyone along and get us through to the finish.
Overall, while it didn’t go as I had hoped I think I learnt a few things about myself and how to train for this type of event. I will be back at some point to complete the Outlaw because it feels like I have unfinished business after this year’s event.