I’m not entirely sure what it is that pushes someone to attempt a full “Ironman” race but in my case I had raced a couple of half’s and had decided that I wanted a fresh challenge, so on the 16th September 2015, I bit the bullet and entered the “Outlaw Full Ironman Race” to be held on the 24th July 2016. I had shopped around, talked to several people I new that had competed long distance and with the balance of cost and location “Nottingham” settled on this race. At the same time I also booked a hotel in Nottingham (Jury’s Inn) for the night before, recommended as the local hotels get booked up really quickly, so book early to avoid a long drive on race morning.
In the following weeks there was some debate over which was the better event, Branded Ironman or another full distance race, I’ll leave everyone to make there own mind up on this one, my personal view is that anyone that complete the 140.6 miles, regardless of event and location has found something special and trained there socks off for the best part of a year showing something special that few will ever do.
Registration, Racking and bag drop the day before was really easy and straight forward, well organised and very helpful staff to guide even the most confused triathletes, good exhibition with stands waiting to extract your cash, I managed to come away with the bank balance relatively unscathed, but sporting a new jacket and hat.
On the Saturday I had planned a short run and a quick blast on the bike to do a quick mechanical check and make sure all was ok, but the temperature on Saturday was high 20’s and so I decided to ditch the run and just do my bike check, all ok, although with the soaring temperatures that day there was lots of warnings about popped tyres overnight and suggestions that I should take some pressure out of my tyres, I decided that mine were not high enough to worry about, unlike the pointy hat bridge that had what looked like tyre pressure gauges getting the psi to the nearest .1 of a psi, and didn’t let any air out, fingers crossed I didn’t turn up to blown tyres the next morning.
Race Day – Started at 3.30, on leaving the hotel dressed in my best Lycra, eating my porridge and accompanied by my number one supporter, Lucy, we were faced by a group of girls eating kebabs on the steps of the hotel, it was temping to sit and join them, but Lucy wasn’t keen !!! The hotel was only 15mins away, so arrived on site just after 4, after checking my tyres after the warnings the day before, phew, no issues for me but there were quite a few frantic tyre changes going on so think I had a lucky escape here.
There were plenty of toilets on hand and after several nervous toilet moments, decided it was time to get into my suit and get my race prep underway. I’d planned to get a couple of gels down before the start, to be honest the first one was a bit of a struggle, but with Lucy’s best support, of suck it up Dad and just get It down, I had little choice but to man up and just swallow…!!!! The second went down easier, followed by ibuprofen, paracetamol and Imodium, I wasn’t taking any risks with the latter ;-o.
The swim is a mass deep water start, the water quality was errrrrr, OK, I’ve seen better, I remember holding up a clump of weeds much to Lucy’s amusement who was watching from the bank. At 6.00am the horn went and 1200 frenzied swimmers set of. The start wasn’t to busy, I’ve certainly had worse, a little pushing and shoving but nothing you wouldn’t expect. The course is pretty straight forward, 1.2miles straight up, 50 meters across and 1.2 miles back. Swim was quite uneventful on the first leg, sighting wasn’t great but there were enough landmarks to pick out a pretty straight course. At the turn, things got a little tasty and the group I was in bunched up as everyone tried to get the best line for the turn. Then the turn for home, sighting was easier on the way back as you can clearly pick out the tower on the horizon next to the swim exit, again this was pretty calm and quite easy to find clear water, there did seem to be quite a few people zig zagging at this point as fatigue kicked in, mind you it could all have been down to me!!!!
There was plenty of help exiting the water at T1 – with the welcome addition of “strippers” have to say was a welcome distraction, hahaha, not what you think. A group of very nice ladies are there to help you out of your wetsuit which after pushing yourself for 2.4 miles and feeling a little dizzy was a real help. The rest of T1 was pretty straight forward, well organised and plenty of room. Went for a additional pair of cycling shorts over my tri suit for better padding and off to the bike.
Bike, a 3 lap affair, 2 Southern and 1 Northern route. The route itself is not really that hilly, there’s a bit of a climb on the northern lap, Oxton Bank, but nothing to bad and at least your rewarded with some downhill section when you get to the top. Although not what I would call hilly after training around the Cotswolds, the route is pretty full on, with no real major up sections your pretty much pedaling the whole time your on the bike, what tends to happen is that in the morning the region is pretty still with little wind, but as the day progresses the wind picks up and there are long sections of cycling into a pretty strong headwind, zapping the legs as you get very little break. There are plenty of feed stations that are manned by very enthusiastic helpers who are only to willing to help, on the last southern loop I stopped for a quick toilet stop and when I had finished the guy holding my bike had changed both water bottles and had a selection of gels ready for me to take, result. I had planned to fuel every 30 minutes, but on talking to the oracle Mr Ian Dickens, a few days before my race I changed to every 20 minutes, this went really well for the first 4 hours, Hi 5 gel, pork pie, Hi 5 Energy Bar, a mix of water and High 5 energy source and salt tablets to try to ward off the dreaded cramp. I have to say after that it got pretty haphazard as my tolerance and enjoyment for sticky sugary stuff started to drop. I mainly stuck to fluids in prep for the run, although again a tip from Mr Dickens, I did manage to some of a packet of mini cheddars that I’d crammed into my back pocket at T1.
Leading up to the event I’d had thoughts of a new bike, especially when I dropped it off at cycle studio in Redditch for a service and they had a very nice Cervello S2 in my size, but sense prevailed and I stuck with my trusty steed that had served me well during my training. On racking my bike on Saturday, all I can say is that I had serious bike envy again, there was some serious kit on display and I felt like I was walking into transition with a penny farthing and felt very out of place.
On leaving T1 I have to say I felt great, Lucy was waiting to wave me off right by transition which gave me a real buzz, even if she was a little emotional, I set of around the lake, waved at every camera I could see and settled into the bike. As I mentioned earlier, it was still quite calm with no real breeze and there were still people on the return leg of the swim as I headed off, which again made me feel pretty good. Road conditions were good in the main, a few potholes but they had been well marked so difficult to miss. I was very surprised to find that whilst I’d got serious bike envy, as I settled into my pace I was passing more and more of the pointy hat brigade on their time trail machines, I think much to the surprise of most. I did try to have a bit of banter with one chap, we’d passed each other several times, and as I rode past him for the 4th time, I commented that it looked like it was going to be one of those days, you chase my arse and I’ll chase yours!!! Well he certainly didn’t see the funny side of that, grunted and I never saw him again. Maybe he thought I was trying to chat him up……!
As I finished the first loop and got back to Car Colston, I was amazed by the crowds that had built in support of the race, it felt like I was on “the tour” with people both sides of the road offering amazing support, and the legend that is Sid Sodwski (completed Outlaw on a BMX last year amongst other mad ideas) dressed in a waiters morph suit cheering every rider on was a real boost. The climb to the northern loop was never ending a long steady climb and a good headwind was now in play, other than Oxton bank, it was pretty uneventful, I’d decided against chatting anyone else up and got my head down and ploughed on with the task at hand, pedaling. I had a few darker moments where my mind wandered and I started to think this was a little crazy, but to be fair, the weather was OK, sun was shining and I’d trained hard, so told myself to man up.
The final loop was going well, until about 90 miles, when a mixture of cramp, pins and needles and all round pain had started to plague my right foot. To be honest I really wanted to stop, but I told myself I only had 22 miles to go and I could rub my foot all I wanted then. I tried all sorts, slackened my shoes, wiggled my toes, even unclipped and tried to stretch but nothing would make it go, I watching my average speed drop over those last few miles which was frustrating, but lesson learnt. Not sure what I was thinking but I put on two pairs of socks in transition thinking it would be more comfortable over that distance, reality was that it was to tight and gave me cramp in my foot, lesson learnt stick to what you did in training and don’t try anything different on race day. Mind you, always good to have a excuse to but a new piece if gear, new shoes my thinks ;-)) The last mile as you return to Holme Pierrepont is down a track, with a cattle grid and speed humps to tend with, this did focus the mind somewhat and was a bit of a challenge at the end of the long bike.
As I entered T2, they collect the bike from you at the dismount line and rack it for you, letting you have a clear run into the change tent, the only thing on my mind was taking my shoes off, which was bliss, and I ran into the change tent in my socks giving some blood flow back to my foot. I took my time in T2, I’d stashed a couple of mini mars bars (another Mr Dickens tip) in my run shoes and I munched these happily as I readied myself for the run, made a change from those bloody gels. As I left T2 – No strippers this time 🙁 , but a very helpful lady helped me pack my bag after I’d changed and whisked it away for collection later. I left transition having resuscitated my feet to be met with “Slappers” could the day get any better, strippers and slappers in a race, code word for very nice ladies that will apply copious amounts of sun cream should you give them the signal. I was a little cautious after watching the guy in front of me who was, let’s say thin on top !!! Leave this area with what can only be described as a sun cream toupee!!!, I had chuckle to myself and let the Slappers apply a small dose to my neck, which distracted me for the best part of 5 minutes whilst I tried to rub it in.
A multi lap affair, 1 lap of the lake, 1 large lap out to Nottingham and back, 1 lap of the lake, 1 large lap out to Nottingham and back and a final lap of the lake after collecting band number 3. I started well as I left T2, my feet felt surprisingly good after the pain on the bike, as I rounded the first corner I was met with family and friends cheering me on, they were well spread out and I had loads of high fives on my way down the line as a set out on the first lap which gave me a real boost. Feed stations are pretty much every 2k, and are well stocked with Water, Coke, Hi 5 Energy Source drink, oranges, crisps, Jaffa cakes and more Gels!!!. My plan was to run between 2 feed stations, drink eat then on again, no bloody gels though, after the bike if I saw another gel it would not end well.
For the first lap and big lap this pretty much went to plan, I wasn’t setting no world record pace and when in the park watching people drink frappuccino’s and eating ice creams, it was almost worth mugging some unsuspecting child for something different to eat, I resisted the temptation as at my current pace I would have struggled to outrun any angry parents. I arrived back at the lake to collect my second band and start my final long lap, by now I was running/walking between each feed station and the wheels were starting to fall off my plan. As I entered the lake area, Rosie was now waiting for some moral support, soon joined by Lucy & Jake with general encouragement to just run bloody faster and they managed to run along side the path and cajole me onto the next lap of the lake, it was great to see a friendly face/s and gave me a welcome push to carry on. As I passed the finish line for the second time, heading out on my 2nd lap, I was met by a display of fireworks and general excitement, sadly not for me, but the first male finisher had just crossed the line.
There was a feed station at the start of long leg 2, and Diane was waiting for me there to give me some support, I think my face said it all. At this point I was a little emotional and the offer of a hug whilst very welcoming almost pushed me over the edge, so I quickly made a lame excuse and shot off down the track, back to playing my game of how many bands has that person got to pass the time. I was surprised how many people still only had one band, at this stage knowing I was better off than some was a real comfort.
As I progressed through the latter stages of this lap, I was really struggling. Now walking more than running I’d hit a bit of a wall, and it had become more about finishing than the time. I was having a real dark moment as I left one of the latter feed stations along the river, I looked up to see a t shirt that I recognised as one of the ones in my collection from a race I’d completed last year, it then danced on me that I recognised the guy wearing the top, John Legge. After racing himself that morning in Driotwich had made the trip up to Nottingham to support me and had followed the path to see if he could see me. I’ll struggle to put into words how I felt when seeing John and to this day I’m sure he’ll never know how much it meant to me to see him at that point, as he stretched out his hand I almost leapt on him and gave him a huge “Man” hug, I’m sure he was thinking get the hell off, as you can imagine I was not in a good state of repair and I’m sure was smelling a little sweaty to say the least, but those of you that know John will know he is such a gent and seemed only to willing to oblige. With John was another good friend Gordon and together we ran, well slowly jogged, down the path towards the lake where more people were waiting for me, David, Lucy, Rosie, Amber, Jake all managed to run with me for a few hundred meters and help me on my way. I was a little worried as we had been warned about pacing at the briefing the day before, but by this stage I was just so pleased to have some company and support and the couple of marshals I passed smiled and seemed to encourage me and my little entourage along.
I left them as I entered the lake for the final time, got a grip and trotted on, it seemed to take forever to collect that final band, but once I did I was on the home straight. As I rounded the lake for the final time I could hear the announcer and the crowds cheering as people crossed the line and that really pushed me on to finish. The 1000 meters to go marker appeared and I pushed on, the end was close, 500 meters to go, I was in pain but it was close now. As I saw the red carpet appear, Lucy and Rosie were waiting either side to cross the finish line with me, Outlaw is a little more relaxed than branded IM events and do let you run over the line with max 2 people. As they grabbed a hand each, all of my other supporters shouted and cheered as the accelerated down the red carpet. It really was a amazing yet surreal experience running towards the line, not only because they were running so fast that I was trying my best to not face plant the red carpet, but the crowds and support was something I’d never experienced before.
Collected my medal, hugged the girls and after a few minutes of catching up they had to leave me. You then pass through the medical tent, where someone quickly glances you up and down and as long as you look OK, quite what the benchmark is for OK at this point but I passed muster and then on to T Shirt collection, this was now never leaving my side and has pride of place in my wardrobe.
As you exit the area, there is a fantastic food tent for competitors, but but before you negotiate a ramp that seems to last forever, that was cruel at the end of such a tough event. I collected my pint of Erdinger non alcoholic beer and got some food, to be honest didn’t eat a lot just wanted to catch up with family and my supporters.
Thanks to Diane, Lucy & Rosie for putting up with all the hours of training that I put in and them fitting around me, in a way you’re family when you train for one of these events are just as, if not more important than the miles, mine are truly the best and being there for me on the day was amazing, THANKYOU.
John Legge, for being my running partner and coming all that way to support me, you really are one of life’s true “Gentlemen” and I’m sure I’ll never really be able to say how much it meant to me to see you on that run.
Lucy, having you with me on the day before was great and to share that experience with you was really special, my partner in crime. Sandra & Gordon for coming to support me and playing chauffeur to the potter clan, couldn’t have made all the logistics work without your help, Gordon I’d never seen you run before, maybe a new training partner.
Olly for being there with Lucy and stopping me pulling on the lane ropes ;-))
Mike, Pauline, David, Katie, Amber & Jake to have you all there on the day meant so much to me.
Finally, Ian Dickens for being the fountain of all knowledge and giving me some guidance for the day, really helpful.
There’s been plenty of others that in your own way have pushed me on, please don’t feel left out because I haven’t mentioned you by name, you can take my thanks that you’ve all helped me in some way shape or form.
So What did I learn, anything is possible but don’t underestimate the training put the miles in and you can complete this, train hard fight easy as they say. Will I do another….. Absolutely, loved every minute of it, including the dark times on the run when I never thought it was going to end.
Right, back to training……
– Martin Potter