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written by Tony Bennett

Sunday 30th July 2023

Nottingham Outlaw

So, why did we not let anyone know that we had entered the Nottingham Outlaw, simple really, neither myself or Jim knew if we could complete it. We had planned to do the half distance this year then the full next year, but for some reason we could not get into the half, and we had the very mad idea, why not just go for it and do the full!

But with our injuries over the last few years neither of us could guarantee that we could finish it, so we kept it to ourselves to reduce the pressure and expectation on us. We figured if we didn’t finish, no one need know, it would have just been another training weekend. If we did finish it, well, then we are Outlaws!

So, it’s been a week now since we did the Nottingham Outlaw and I feel that my muscles have now recovered, and I still have that Outlaw buzz... Now it is time to give a report on the race and the weekend.

Firstly I shall start with accommodation, Jim and myself camped at the onsite Pierrepoint campsite which is literally just across the road from the race venue, as it is also part of the watersports site. We stayed the night before and the night after, which is a good thing as campsite checkout is 10am so those that only stayed Saturday night would have had to pack up their tents and move to the race day parking all before they could get ready for the race, and we got up at 4am (along with a lot of other competitors) to prepare ourselves on race day. The good thing about the onsite camping is there is no additional parking fees, and we also paid the £6 for early check-in, meaning we were parked and had our tent up by 10:30ish, all ready to go and check-in for our race info.

Which was a doddle, showed my photo ID, gave my race number, picked up my goodies, asked a few questions at the enquiries desk to clarify a point or two, then went on a quick tour of the ‘village’ before returning to camp to sort our transition bags and label up our bikes and helmets accordingly.

Leaving the dry kit bag with all the bike sustenance and helmet etc ready for race day in the tent, apparently they have hungry crows that eat any food left on the bikes overnight, so no food or drink is allowed on the bikes overnight in transition.

Next job was to take the transition bags and bike to the transition area, making sure that we were wearing our race security bands, no band, no admittance to the transition area.

Once we were in transition we caught the last part of the transition walk through carried out by the race organiser, so we and some others asked some more questions after he had finished his speech. We did our own walk through of the transition area, swim exit to bike bag, bag to bike, bike to bike exit, bike re-entry to run bag, bag back out to run exit.

To be honest we didn’t walk all of that, swim exit and bike re-entry were the same, as was bike exit and run exit, but you still need to prepare yourself for race day so you know where you are going.

A quick question at enquiries to check when the last pre-swim time was (3:15pm) before back to the tent for Jim to prep for a pre-race swim to acclimatise himself for race day. Unfortunately I couldn’t do a pre-race swim as I had forgotten my spare swim gear and didn’t want to have to dry out my race gear the night before. (Little tip, always take spares for this reason, spares for pre-race swims and your race day kit for race day! Sounds obvious to those in the know, not so obvious to those that have not done many races! oopsy!)

Quick nip out to to the local Morrisons for some last minute essentials and snacks, then back for an early night of nervous sleep!

Race day!

Up at 4am, breakfast, toilet, race gear on under wetsuit, bike goodies in kit bag, then the small trek over to transition to prep the bike and drop the remaining kit off in the relevant transition bags. (we had to wear our helmets and show our security bands to enter transition race day) Then clothes in the kit bag and drop that off in the dry kit bag tent before making our way down to the swim start.

The swim.

2.4 miles with only 2 corners to negotiate.

The swim start was split into 4 pens, pen 1 the fastest (red caps), pens 2 & 3 the middle speed, pen 4 the slow swimmers (yellow caps)

Myself and Jim had yellow caps, times were based on your estimated time when you filled in the entry form.

We were allowed in the water 15 minutes before the start to acclimatise, i.e. read that as rinse your goggles, flood your wetsuit and have a wee!

6am, bang and we are off!

All pens across the lake all starting on mass, there were a few arms flailing, so I waited a few seconds before kicking off, you had approx 600m to get inside the first bouy so a nice long diagonal swim from the right side of the lake to the left side of the lake for those of us in the yellow pen. I didn’t push myself, I knew I had a long day ahead of me, so I went at my steady pace. Sighting was good, as in I swam straight, couldn’t really see the bouys, quite small and sooooo far away, so I kept myself the same distance from the left bank, figured that would sort me out. Now, I’m not the fastest swimmer, but my technique felt good, good rotation, good catch, (scratch that, excellent catch - thanks Karen) sigthing down my left arm to keep me straight. And I kept passing red caps! These are supposed to be the fast swimers, and I’m going past them like they are standing still, may have pissed off the odd one of them as passing a red cap I got a smack in the head, which I returned the favour with a discreet kick when I went past him, all’s fair in love and war, or a triathlon swim...

But generally the other swimmers were great, a few tickled my feet, must’ve thought they were in the pool, this is a race darling, if you want to pass, go around me, I ain’t stopping to let you pass!

Though I did have to stop a few times, once to reset my left goggle eye piece which had a minor leak, once to pull my cap back down as it was starting to come off, and a few times when I hit the shallows on the side of the lake, stop, walk out a bit to deeper water, continue swimming. I get to the end of the swim and exit, across the path straight into the transition tent. With no idea what my swim time was, didn’t have a wrist watch thingymabob!

(When I checked the split times the following day, turned out I smashed 20 minutes off my personal best, usually manage two miles in about 1hr40, race day I swam 2.4 miles in 1hr 26min)

Swim to bike transition was 12 minutes, yup toweled myself dry then went to the loo before getting on the bike.

The bike!

Firstly, may I say that I have never ridden a windier bike ride than this. It was relentless.

Organisation was good though, signs marking the direction and a helpful sign after the junction to reassure you that you had taken the correct path. The volunteers were cheerful and helpful, feed stations appeared well stocked, drop off your empty bottle and get a brand ne full bottle (yes, I started with my manky old bottles, now I have some nice new outlaw bottles!)

But the wind, my god it was harsh! Going downhill, peddling like a madman, and I’m only doing 14kph, DOWNHILL!!!

Needless to say that I walked up the big hill on loop2. It was the same distance, height gradient as Vicarage hill near Canvey. But my walking speed with the bike was the same as those trying to ride up it. So who was the winner there, it’s easier to walk up a hill than ride up it. Less energy. Less chance of wobbling into the traffic, and yes the hill was on an open road with plenty of cars queing to get past those tryting desperately to ride up the bloody hill. Got to the top, quick rest then back on the bike, get round the corner and theres a feed station, could’ve rested there if I‘d known.

Now I know the seasoned riders out there will likely disagree with my hill climb technique, but, I really do not like hills. And walking it was best for me on the day.

But at least I was not the only one to walk up it, I was joined by two others who thought walking it was a good idea.

So back on with the course, back to the first loop for a second time, which felt faster as I had some familiarity with it this time. Still bloody windy though, I have never ridden so far on my tri bars to try to help reduce the wind resistance. Had to sit up to eat my gels and drink though, not mastered that on the tri bars yet! But for every gel I had a sugary sweet to keep my sugar levels up, gel, sweet, drink, in that order, always good to have a plan. I learnt that from the ride 100, only had gels for that and had a complete sugar crash at the end, only thing stopped me from passing out that day was a fellow 100 rider who gave me a bag of jelly beans. But I digress, back to the Outlaw.

Having said that, although I was technically racing, I still managed to enjoy the scenery, went past a sign for Sherwood forest, ‘ol Robins hidey haunt’ made my day that did haha.

Plenty of smiles for those sat by the road cheering us on, made you feel good that did. And apart from the wind, I got lucky with the rain too, it rained on the course, but not where I was, so I stayed dry, though I did have to cycle through some puddles at one point.

Back to the water sports centre, different way back in, felt like forever, along crappy bumpy roads/lanes, got to the point of thinking when is this going to end, the sign for the watersports was ages ago... Finally get back to the water sports centre, made my way down to transition, hand off my bike to a helpful volunteer who then racked it for me, and I am off into the transition tent to change for the run.

Bike to run transition was 18 minutes, yeah, stopped off for bacon butty haha...

Is that a record for the slowest change over in club history???

Did have a pee break though...

The marathon...

The original plan here was to run/walk it, 3 minutes run / 2 minutes walk.

What do they say, the best laid plans turn to ratshite when you engage the enemy!

Started running, stopped after about a minute, tried a few more times, change of plan...

Tried run 1 minute / walk 1 minute/ run 1 minute/ walk 2 minutes to keep to my 5 minute turnover plan. Yeah, that went just as well, first run lasted about 50 seconds, second run lasted about 30...Sod it! power walk time, see how long it takes, finished first lap in 2 hours, quick stop to check my aching feet, yup, got blisters on the sole of my heel, both feet. Great!

Tried the run walk method one more time, failed more time...

Luckily for laps 1 and 2 I managed a jog past the camera man, just for the pictures obviously haha, smile and wave boys, smile and wave!

So now I am down to just completing the 26.2 miles in a power walk, that’s three out and back laps, (times at approx. 2 hours) followed by a fourth lap around the lake (which I timed at 45 minutes)

Looking at my watch I can see that I should have between 45 to 60 minutes from the cutoff time to spare if I power walk it. Crack on..

The feed stations were great, first one I took coke (the drink people, the drink!) to replenish my sugar levels, my run sweets were stuck in a pocket that I could not unzip, typical! So I had orange slices and various drink combos. Though I did voluntarily avoid the sausage rolls and pizza that was on offer on the furthest feed station on my final lap. (even the feed station crew can get hungry and order takeout!) I knew that if I stoped I would not want to start again, so onwards with the power walk.

Generally the weather held out for the run, dry on laps 1 and 3, drizzle on lap 2, but light enough for it to be a welcome break. Though it made the small hillock towards the end of the out lap a bit slippy.

Final lap around the lake, 45 minutes to go, it’s dark, it’s surprisingly quiet apart from the music blaring out of the feed stations and finish line. Just a few geese to go past that are casually sitting in the middle of the running path, final straight and I’m thinking, I am running down that finish chute if it kills me, errrm, can I still run?

Now bear in mind that this is one of the few races that allow family and friends to run down the finish chute with you. I don’t have any with me, for all I know Jim has either been pulled out, given up with injury, or is still out there, but in all three laps of the run I never saw him on the run. So I assumed that he didn’t make it.

So I get on to the finish straight, and two young girls come running towards me, oh god, some lil f’cker is going to run past me on the damn finish straight and ruin my finish photo! Nope, turns out they were there to encourage the finishers towards the finish line, once I twigged that it was all smiles as I ran down the finish chute to cross the finish line to the sound of Tony Bennett you are an Outlaw!.

But that’s not all folks, crossed the finish line, got my medal and finishers t-shirt, an Erdinger beer, then off the the food tent for a delicious chicken burger and chocolate cake, then had a thought, if Jim wasn’t around to welcome me, he must still be in the race... I asked if there was a way to see where someone was in the race, there was, they radioed the race official and told me Jim had about half a lap to go, how had we not crossed on the run... I went to the finish line to cheer him on as he came down the finish chute, within the 17 hours. And hear James O’Neill you are an Outlaw!

What a day that was, I became an Outlaw in a time of 16 hours 2 minutes and 16 seconds, Jim became an Outlaw in a time of 16 hours 51 minutes and 35 seconds.

Now all that remains was to go and collect our bikes and transition bags, head off back to the tent for a well earned sleep. Which took a while, as we were so hyped up neither of us could sleep that night, oh the Outlaw buzz, but never again! Completely silly to consider doing that distance again... Well, this year anyway...



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