The Nottingham Outlaw Iron distance – 24th July 2016
Race report by Paul Reynolds
2.4m swim, 112m bike (1,086m ascent), 26.2m run.
National Watersports Centre, Nottingham.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAHL-QYLHjw (2015 Video)
My sole ambition for the Outlaw was to finish. If I finished within the 17 hour cut off time, that was a bonus! I was prepared, headtorch at transition, to be out as long as it took me to complete this challenge.
My first attempt at an Iron, the Race New Forest “Forestman” some 4 years ago ended disappointingly on the bike. The swim was ok, but the across the New Forest moors sapped my energy and willpower. Plus I had a nice holiday booked up for the following week, and didn’t want to be hobbling around for the week!
I chose the Outlaw specifically as it was a straight forward lake swim in a rowing lake, and both the bike and the run were on relatively flat routes.
The training started last December when I endeavoured to limit Christmas indulgences, knowing a month later I would only have to be burning it off again. So from January 1st, I had a rough training plan (plus wall planner!) of how I was going to focus the next 7 months of being in a better physique to give myself the chance of finishing.
Training can always go better, but I set myself weekly training hours, ramping up nearer the event. In total in put in around 250 hours of dedicated time. This included 48 hours of running (some 275 miles), 40 hours of swimming in the pool, lake and sea (45 miles), and 142 hours on the saddle in some shape or form (1,830 miles). I also improved by pretty poor flexibility by stretching… something I really don’t enjoy but actually proved very beneficial. I could actually touch my toes by the start of the race…! Previously it was my shins, if I was lucky!
Following the advice from the event coach in a seminar, I also booked up a physio for 11 sessions (10 plus one free one, to be saved for post-race recovery!) This was to address any “niggles” which developed… the message from the coach was “book it up now and get to know your physio now, because you won’t want to be joining their waiting list when you need it”. It was a fair expense on top of other race costs, and with hindsight I could maybe had done without this. But I think some self-care for an event like this proved valuable.
3 months or so towards the race, I booked every Friday off as leave, and this became my “long ride” day. I found using the various Wiggle UK Cycling events website was really helpful, as it meant I could download the GPS files and use these on my bike computer. Then whilst out and about, I didn’t have to worry about navigating or getting lost, and I could do new routes I didn’t already know. They also gave me a small goal for the training, as it was still a mini accomplishment in itself, rather than just racking the miles up. Another target was a loop of the IoW from home. This was quite enjoyable as the ferry across provided a forced break and a cup of tea opportunity!
In the last few weeks before the event, my plan was to give my confidence a boost by ensuring I could complete the separate distances with some ease. I already knew I can run a marathon, so wasn’t too worries about that having done 3 before. Doing 100+ milers on the bike was a good boost. In one session I tackled the Wiggle “Long One” and in total did some 136 miles and 2.5km of climbing. For the swim I had specific session in the pool where swam 5km, also to boost by confidence.
Pre-race & Registration
I had booked a nice bungalow nearby for 5 nights, to give myself the best preparation and recovery time. The time quickly disappears! I had to go along to the National Water Sports Centre on the Friday to register, pay car parking for the weekend (a further £5 on top), and pick up the numbers and various kit bags for transition.
I also drove the majority of the bike route, to familiarise myself with this. I left out loop 2, planning to leave this until the Saturday.
On the Saturday we had to return to drop bikes and bags off and for the compulsory race briefing. This also was a good opportunity to familiarise myself with the location and transition. I decided in the end not to scope out loop 2.
Race day – the build up
Despite an early 3am rise and other best laid plans to get there early to avoid the traffic queues, everyone else had the same idea! So after the traffic delay plus having to carry kit from a car-park some distance away than we had used to date, an element of anxiety crept in when the time started to fade away. However, good preparation in the time beforehand meant I could trust in my kit and soon enough I was changed into my wet-suit and walking out to the lake… bearing in mind this was still some 0530 in the morning! This was the only point at which I saw Lizzie, another CWTC member as we approached the lake.
Although we all started together at 0600, there were 4 bays for us to place ourselves in. Anticipating everyone else would have the same idea, I put myself into the back of bay 3, when time-wise I should have been in bay 4. But no-one wants to be slowed down by others! I was feeling quite calm given the scale of the numbers of people (around 1,000). It was an amazing experience, heading off 2km down the dead straight lake with the sun just rising on the distant horizon.
The water was pretty warm, as it was also quite shallow.
Personally I didn’t have much of a melee… there was contact, but everyone is in it to finish, so fighting over some space in the water is rather pointless. I tried slipstreaming a couple of people, but soon realised the pace was a little slow where I was and that there was space ahead so made my way forward.
After a little time, I actually just imagined I was in the pool swimming lap after lap, even just closing my eyes and using the time to visualise the rest of the day. This worked well, apart from a couple of occasions where I managed to head-butt some of the distance marker buoys in the rowing lake!
It is a non-technical swim, and I surprised myself when after only 40 minutes I had reached the first turn. It was a 50m swim across the lake, and then just heading straight back to the main building.
Not long after turning again, it was a little shocking as I noticed other competitors already out on their bikes already doing their first loop of the lake!
After 1.5 hours of swimming, you were inevitably a little giddy when getting out of the water, but plenty of people were on hand to make sure you stayed upright. There were strippers (for yanking wetsuits off) and slappers (for applying sunscreen) before we headed out on the bike (once a marshal had helped me located it after having run straight past it, despite all that numbering!)
The bike route consisted of an outward leg to loop 1, heading north to loop 2, and loop 3 was a repeat of loop 1 before heading back home. We were broken in nice and gently, with a lap of the rowing lake. So I really enjoyed the outward section and loop 1… it was flat and fast and I averaged some 24mph for the first 2 hours, well above the 15mph minimum I needed to maintain. (That may not sound like much, but its tough to sustain for 8 hours solid!)
Loop 2 was rather more hilly, and I wished and this point I had driven it to recce it. But I had seen from the profile it was, so wasn’t too concerned. It was certainly far easier than the training I had done on the South Downs.
Heading south on loop 2 to start loop 3 I was getting noticeably slower. This was frustrating as I had done the climbing and should be heading downhill! However a strong headwind had picked up and it seemed a little relentless. Drafting was obviously not permitted, and we were instructed to keep a minimum of 12m space.
I was looking forward to loop 3 to change direction. However this headwind seemed omni-directional! Whatever direction I turned, it was still a headwind! I eventually gave up trying to understand how this could be, just blaming the hedgerows for funneling the wind.
Slowing down, my back was starting to ache and I did stop twice for 10 minutes or so, just to give it a break. I had a nutrition strategy of eating something every 20 minutes. This worked more or less... but I couldn’t face the energy bars I was carrying, and on loop 3 just off loaded 6 of them at a fed station to help save weight.
The return to the lake was via a slightly different route… so it proved to drag out a little more than I had hoped. Yet I made it back in some 6 hours 55 minutes, and was glad I didn’t have to run the extra distance in bike shoes to rack my bike, as this was taken from me.
Suffice to say I wasn’t in a huge rush to start running a marathon! After swimming and biking in my club tri-suit, I decided to go for a full change to get some fresh clothes on. This felt good. I honestly don’t know where the time went… getting some food and drink, some inevitable deep-heat application, but I emerged from T2 some 26 minutes plus later. (In my defence... 10% of the entrants took even longer than that!)
The run took a little building up… spotting my parents and Andy near the start, I took the opportunity to have a bit of a chat with them… (Despite them urging me onwards!)
To help tackle the run, I had broken it down in my head to either 2 half marathons, or 8 Park Runs.
Only the night before, I had read on the web about some research done where runners who run for 4 minutes and walked for 1 actually finished in the same time, and recovered significantly quicker than those pushed on to run the full distance. Although this wasn’t what I had practised in training, not needing much encouragement, that sounded good to me! I applied that religiously. In hindsight, I could maybe have tried to run the first half and then applied this. But my game plan was set.
The run had been well explained in the briefing, and involved circuits of the 2km long rowing lake plus 2 longer “out and backs” into Nottingham along the Trent. Somehow (due to 3 different designated areas – the run start, the loop start, and the finish line), I had convinced myself that every “out and back” was then followed by an additional circuit of the lake. I had started to “explain” this to a marshal at the loop start when he told me I should head out to the loop, wanting not to fall foul of not doing the full distance. But it really didn’t take much convincing of him telling me I didn’t have as far to run as I had thought..! (It’s all relatively simple... once you know how!)
I decided that my game plan of running 4 minutes and walking one seemed to be working quite well, as I was leapfrogging a number of people I was starting to recognise.
I was very grateful to have the occasional and unofficial “outside assistance”… I had had enough of sweet drinks and gels. My training had told me quite often all I wanted was a nice cup of tea…! Mother dearest had been briefed beforehand, and kindly obliged having some cuppas ready just in time for me.
On my second to last run I bumped into Richard, another CWTC member, who was on his final lap. He was struggling a little (as I was!), and so to help him, I offered to race him to the finish line… Well, it worked because he was off, and left me well behind!
It was quite tough passing the finish line knowing I had another loop of the lake to do (or 1 Park Run!), with all the crowds there cheering wondering if they would all have gone home by the time I finished! You also heard over the music and mic the constant “You are an Outlaw” every time someone finished.
A lap later and it was my turn… Finally being able to turn left, and attempt some kind of a sprint down the finish chute, finally hearing those words I had been wanting to hear for 10 months since having signed up…”Paul, you are an Outlaw!”
Post-race & thoughts
I really didn’t feel too bad after finishing… Maybe this was a sign I hadn’t gone as hard as I could have. But I had accomplished my aim of finishing, and not only that, being well within the cut-off time much to my surprise.
There was hot food laid on for participants, but after all the food, drinks and gels I had consumed, I really couldn’t face it. I really didn’t know how I felt…I was rather dazed and it all felt quite surreal… Not sure if I was tired, hungry, on a high! I just tried to enjoy the atmosphere… It had been a long time in the build-up and it was finally happening and I had completed it!
I was very grateful to have the enduring support of my parents, and also Andy who kindly travelled up for the event to support me.
Would I do on Iron again…? That’s the inevitable question. Well, yes… but not next year! The amount of time invested in training was immense, and other aspects of life had suffered as a consequence. I hadn’t even entered any of the usual local triathlons I enter, as it didn’t fit in with my training plan. Plus combined together it was just added expense with little benefit. So no, I haven’t signed up for Outlaw or Ironman 2017. But I am now 6kg lighter than I was in January, so if I can keep that off, then that puts me at a good new baseline for the future.
I do have some events planned for 2017… “Man vs Lakes”, and the “Cotswolds Way 100 miler” (4 marathons in 4 days)… to help the fact that next year I will (somehow!) turn 40. I have decided though that I prefer to do events where the accomplishment is more than just knocking the distance out… but the event itself is something which continues to broaden my horzions.
The Outlaw was a fantastic event. All the organisers and marshals deserve much credit, and the food stops were manned by a long list of local triathlon clubs. It was supremely well organised, and one I would thoroughly recommend.
|Pos.||Bib no.||Participant||Category||Finish time||Swim||T1||Bike||T2||Run|
|251/990||448||Richard Johnson||(M) 35-39||11:38:19||01:00:13||03:27||05:43:10||02:46||04:48:43|
|376/990||118||Lizzie Gerard||(F) 30-34||12:07:18||01:12:48||05:14||05:54:14||07:00||04:48:02|
|845/990||477||Paul Reynolds||(M) 35-39||14:31:49||01:26:06||15:39||06:54:24||26:28||05:29:12|