My goals going into this year’s Outlaw Half were fairly simple. To enjoy the race, to make friends with triathlon again after last year’s boiling hot disappointment with myself at The Lakesman, and to execute a race I could be proud of. To me, that didn’t mean necessarily the fastest race, but one where I swam smoothly and calmly, a bike leg where I didn’t have any muppet moments (shout out to me for riding 56 miles with my back wheel rubbing on my frame at last year’s Monster Middle and wondering why I rode terribly), and a run where I ran consistently, even if the weather was hot.
My winter of training had been pretty variable; working in A&E since February has meant an unholy amount of antisocial hours at work, and at times being absolutely exhausted, both physically and mentally, but I knew my run was in reasonable shape from marathon training, I’d had some good power numbers on the turbo over the winter and was feeling strong and the swim… Well, I’d been in the water a few times in 2018. Not quite the 10K a week I was swimming this time last year! But these things meant I was fairly chilled about Outlaw Half- I was just determined to enjoy the race, to make friends with triathlon again, and get rid of the bitter taste in my mouth left by last year’s races. Process goals instead of outcome ones this time!
After a lovely relaxed day before the race, with a local parkrun to shake the legs out, some sprint tri spectating and a belly full of Pizza Express’s finest carbs, we hit the hay early, and sure enough, that 4:30am alarm rolled around pretty quickly. Porridge downed, it was a case of quickly getting everything organised, to be in transition by 5:30am. All very efficient on the part of the organisers, and I even managed to catch a glimpse of tri girl crush Lucy Charles in transition as she headed out to tear up the elite wave start.
Enjoying a rather more leisurely 6:48am start, the lake for the swim was calm, warm and unfortunately, illuminated blindingly by bright sunshine. Still, I managed to relax and swim happily out to the turn, perhaps held up slightly by poor sighting in the sun, but overall not bad. Relaxed and happy, even if not quick. The return leg was easier to see, though mostly just the same woman who kept trying to overtake me and zigzagging into my path, stopping and breaststroking and then trying to overtake me again. Yawn. Not as quick a swim as I’d hoped, but probably a fair reflection of the work I’d (not) put into swimming this winter.
Out onto the bike, and this was where the fun began. I hadn’t got myself organised in time to be fitted and ready to ride my TT bike that I’ve recently converted, so I was on my favourite little Specialized Amira, and we had the BEST time on the bike leg. Compared to my training playground in Yorkshire, it was so, so flat. There’s one climb around 25 miles in, but as I got to the crest of it, I found myself thinking ‘was that it?’- a lot of fuss was made over what was really a very easy climb! We had a great time overtaking men up the climb, and generally riding past people sitting up on TT bikes- breaks my brain to see people riding a TT rig with a disc wheel sitting upright like a granny on a Pashley, but they’re good fun to chick… Aside from the last 2 miles which were a gravelly, potholed nightmare surface, the bike course was bloody good fun and I biked a 7 minute PB over the distance. Happy days. You can see it on my face!
The run. My nemesis in hot races, and Outlaw was no different: the bike leg hadn’t felt too warm, but it was pretty toasty out onto the run. I was determined to run as much as I could, and not end up walking vast amounts like at The Lakesman, and I’m pleased with how I did. The out and back sections along the River Trent were good, as they were a chance to see some Twitter pals who were racing, and see that everybody was suffering, not just me, and the sections around the lake were a good chance to make up a bit of run pace and wave to James. I walked through some of the water stations to take on fluid and squeeze cold water from sponges over my head to cool down, but was delighted to manage a sub 2 hour run split, at last- by the skin of my teeth though- I think this finish chute photo says it all!
Overall, my time was 6:08:10 (a 9 minute PB), and whilst I know deep down I should be well clear of the 6 hour benchmark by now, I’m honestly just proud that my mind and body have held out well enough through my A&E job to even be lining up on start lines- I’d entered the events last year, but was aware there was a real possibility I’d have to defer. Any day I’m healthy enough to line up, race 70.3 self-propelled miles and enjoy it is a good day in my book! I was also pretty chuffed to come 9th in my age group.
Now, roll on The Lakesman Half, which I am planning to purely enjoy, as despite my race last year, it’s still one of my favourite races and one I want to be involved with for many years yet as it goes from strength to strength. And after that, it’s onwards to August, which marks the start of my proper training as an anaesthetist, a much more sociable rota, and plenty of sunny run miles for a crack at a PB at this year’s Yorkshire Marathon. Bring it on. And possibly, just possibly, I’m friends enough with triathlon to do a bit more of it next year. But more on that later.