The Outlaw Half Ironman

By PaulChristie on 04 June 2013

So, on Sunday the 2nd June I took part in the Outlaw Half Triathlon, which is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile cycle and a 13.1 mile run, and amazingly completed it in 06:13:13! I say amazingly as I hadn’t expected to do this event, have only ever done two sprint distances before (400m pool swim, 20km cycle and a 5km run) and had three weeks notice to fully prepare.

I have been training for triathlons over the last 4 months, I am a cyclist first, and last September completed the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, so I am used to endurance training and the physical and mental challenge it takes, but until recently have not been a swimmer or a runner. In October last year I signed up for the Henley Iron distance triathlon, and since then have been gradually building up my triathlon fitness.

The plan had been to do this gradually over the eight months, taking part in the Eirias middle distance in August as final preparation for September, then on the 10th May I had an email from High 5 saying I had won there competition and had an entry in the Outlaw! Some people may ask why would I do this unprepared, and my answer would be because I have been challenged! I am part of the NB Heroes team supporting and raising awareness for the Neuroblastoma Children’s Cancer Alliance UK charity, taking on physical and mental challenges like this while wearing their brand is what we are about, and we also get donations from our Facebook.com/NBAllianceHeroes page so the only option was to say yes, and follow my motto “you just have to keep moving”.

I turned up Saturday at the event in order to register and attend the mandatory briefing, and their was a buzz in the air, the venue was packed as the National Champions and World Championship qualifiers were taking place, so after parking I headed along the path to find the lake in front of me, my first though was “what the hell have I done” the buoys were out marking the course and they looked a long way from the start. Previous to this event I had swam the distance in the pool, but had only done two 15 minute swims in the open water, and it was a daunting site, made more daunting when I found out that this was the 750m swim course, not the 1900m one I would be doing the next day. The organisation was fantastic, I was whipped though registration, into the briefing and away again back to the hotel, ready to do my final bike and transition box checks before having an early night.

03:55 then next morning my alarm was going off, I was up, porridge made and eaten and in the car for 4:50, heading to the venue, the nerves were gone, in their place was anticipation, it was on, time to man up or shut up!

It was really easy finding my transition area (there were two), the event staff were on hand to check you in, point to your racking place, and it was time to do my final preparation. Everyone around me was friendly and excited, chatting away, asking about each others experience, encouraging the newbie’s and even helping each other into their wetsuits, al in all, it was a very relaxed atmosphere that instantly settled any possible nerves.

06:20 and we were let into the water to acclimatise and get ready, this was the section I was most worried about, due to both my inexperience with open water swimming, but also it was the first mass start swim I had ever done, and being crowded by hundreds of other people, I had read all the horror stories of broken fingers and lost goggles. Then without further ado, the horn sounded and we were off, yes there were a lot of elbows and legs hitting each other, but overall it was not as bad as I though it would be and was soon getting into a relaxed rhythm. I had some issues with my direction on the return section, actually veering of course (according to Garmin I actually swam and 1.3 miles instead of 1.2) but I was out of the water in 00:42:32, almost eight minutes quicker than my estimated time and was feeling strong.

I was into T1 and on the bike within 5 minutes and then the game was on, this was my strongest element, the course was fast, with only one real hill, and I powered through only slowing for the feed stations and came back into T2 in 03:01:29.

One thing I did try during the event was a different nutrition plan, as I had won the High 5 competition, I was also sent £200 worth of energy drinks and gels, so looking on their site, I followed their recommendation of 1 energy drink and three gels each hour, and I have to admit, it was perfect, I like High 5 as their gels taste great and are not as sickly as other ones I have tried, it kept me fuelled and at no point did I feel lacking in energy, and with this in mind I will be using this for my next half in August and full iron distance in September!

Quick shoe change as it was onto the run, the crowd was awesome, people clapping and cheering, shouting your name (read from your race number).

I have only ever run 13.1 miles in training once before, my usual distance being 8 miles, with the plan to build up from June onwards, so I knew it was going to be hard, but at this stage whatever happened I would complete. The first lap went well, averaging just over a 10 minute mile, but then my lack of training showed, slowing down to 11:30 minute miles, but I kept moving, running without stopping, looking at the people on the side stretching out their legs, punching their calves and in some cases bent over in tears with cramps, but I kept running and then I was half way round the lake, and could hear the cheers, I picked up the pace and the finish line appeared in the distance, the cheers getting louder and with a final burst of energy I ran into the finish to the crowds applause, amazing experience.

I would recommend the Outlaw to anyone, a well run event in a beautiful setting!