Outlaw Triathlon 2011 race report

mhowoodby mhowoodJul 26th 2011
Outlaw Triathlon 2011 race report
...or, How Not to Take Long Distance Seriously.
WARNING: this is epic in length, but I'm reliably informed by Nathan that this is how it should be.

Also, to save you all scrolling to the bottom, I'll tell you the time first > 11:34 hrs.

Excuses next?
I hadn't made the start line of any of the races in my 2011 diary. 
My training hadn't gone as planned. Life had seen to that, but I was ready as I was going to be¬...

Early in the New Year I'd asked, fellow Thames Turbo, Tom Bennett to look at some FTP data I had from a test I'd done for St.Mary's College last summer, with a view to using these zones with my Tacx Flow turbo trainer over the winter/spring months.
After my face-plant off the bike in May (see previous Blog post), and with only 8 weeks to go, I approached Tom again to help me structure a 6 week bike plan that could be done indoors. Knowing of his 'Team T2' successes with Thames Turbo PowerBar members, Ollie, Pete & Hugo, I wanted a 'less is more' approach to training and one which would be more 'family friendly' than long Sunday rides. We settled on 3 turbo sessions of varying intensity, which included a longer weekend 'ride' that could be split over 24 hours if need be.
Between the accident and Outlaw I only strayed outside twice on the bike, once with Nathan and a commute. Everything else was on the turbo. I should note that this isn't reflective of Tom's advice, just my preference.
During this time I wasn't running either, as I'd been referred for an MRI with a suspected stress fracture of the metatarsals. In fact I first laced my shoes up again on the 29th of June, the day after the MRI results, and my longest run before race day was 1:30. Perfect marathon prep then!

In a nutshell, my last 8 weeks of Build & Peak phase looked like this:
Injured foot = zero running. Bike crash = Ambulance + stitches. MRI for foot. Children with chicken pox * 2. New job. Dead Dad + funeral arrangements in Scotland. Kids ill (again!). Me ill. Race week...
The week before the race I spent a fair amount of time researching the bike and run courses, identifying distance between aid stations, as well as what each offered. 
As I was travelling up alone, and by train, I also wrote list-upon-list of exactly to take, and then packed, and repacked my transition bags (shopping bags).

On Wednesday it was clear that we had two snotty kids at home and in our bed.
By Thursday both them and Sheela were at the Doctors looking to get antibiotics for possible tonsillitis, and by the evening Seth had been referred to West Mid for German Measles tests! Happily, he was okay. He'd just taken a bad reaction to a virus, so soon after the chickenpox.
I'd not managed to dodge it either, and was dosed to the eyeballs with VitC and Cold&Flu capsules.
As I dragged myself home from work on Friday night, I knew I was in state. I was exhausted.
Saturday morning I was just trying to get my head round what was going on.
I was trying to think it through. I admitted to myself that I wouldn't have gone to the lake feeling like this, and I was in no state to even think about a Parkrun. Yet I was still considering participating in an ironman?! 
I drank coffee. I sat with my head in my hands. I tweeted for advice. Hell, I almost called Roland at 7am get him to talk me out of it!

After everything thrown at me in the last few weeks, I was becoming convinced that The Universe didn't want me to go to Outlaw.

I felt shitty about it. I don't think I'd realised quite the journey involved in taking on 3.8km/180km/42km. It's a long road to get there. 6 months of training both physically and mentally, all the early starts, all the missed mornings with the kids. To top it all, there was all of life's-little-setbacks.

At 8am I decided, 'F*ck It. I'm going' . After all, the race, train and hotel were paid for. 
I reasoned that I could DNF but be damned if I would DNS.

10:30 - I got the train to Nottingham on the Saturday, and after seeing KingsX for the first time in years, "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It¬'s the only way to be sure."¬†
Anyway, got into Nottingham eventually and cycled over to Holme Pierrepont (HP), taking the opportunity to go via the towpath we'd use for the run to reassure myself I could get away with using my racing flats. Registration, briefing and racking were all at the HP complex, and we'd also be handing in our transition bags on the Saturday. Handing in the 'special needs' bag a day early scuppered one of my nutrition plans, but I knew this in advance and I'm happy with what I went with instead.
The Race Briefing took an hour, with plenty of questions being asked - very different from the pre-race vibe you get at a sprint or olympic.

I stayed at the Swans Hotel, a mile from the start. Perfectly nice and only about £110 for 2 nights. I'd stay there again.
I'd heard about the Swans from Deon's mate, Jamie Wardell, who was also staying at the hotel. Jamie raced Outlaw last year, narrowly missing a sub-10 by a couple of minutes, so there was no surprise where his focus lay tomorrow.
An early dinner of pasta at 6pm was the plan, and I was tucked up by 8pm and out by 9pm (take earplugs).
Even so, I felt like I was up half the night going to the toilet. The downside to trying to shift a cold is amount of fluid your taking in, and the extra Vit C was causing it's own stomach distress!
I was up by 3:15am and forcing myself through a second bowl of muesli before 4am.
Jamie and I were at HP for 5am, so just enough time to check over and load the bikes up with bottles, have yet-another portaloo visit, and get the wettie on, as we all had to be across the matting and in the water 15 minutes before the start.

SWIM 3.8km
Although this was only the second Outlaw, but both the swim and bike courses had changed slightly this year and not for the shorter.
There was only one wave and swimmers were 'penned' by ability: sub-60 minutes, 60-75, and above (me).
I actually snuck into the middle pen, as although I wasn't fast enough, I reasoned that at least it'd mean that no-one would be climbing over the back me. 
It worked, because when the horn sounded I had one of the most relaxed swims this year. In fact, I've had rougher nights at Hampton Pool.
Still, after months of 10km+ swims, it's demoralising to look across and seeing somebody doing the bloody breastroke!
It was probably too relaxed, as I came out the water in 1:30 and 505th (that's not a typo), almost 10 minutes down on where I expected to be. I found out later this wasn't too bad, as many of the faster swimmers found around 5-6 minutes added to their times from last year.
Outlaw Triathlon 2011 race report
BIKE 180km
Not wanting to load my expensive carbon TT bike down like a shopping cart, I chose to ride light with only 1 bottle at any time. With the looping format of the bike course, Aid stations where never more than 14 miles apart, so this was never going to be a significant problem. Throughout I used a couple of bottles of High5 but switched to water for the second half of the bike, to avoid bloating before the run.
Fuelling on the bike was an exercise in Pavlovian simplicity: watch bleeps every 30 minutes, lycra-clad-idiot takes a swig of gel.

Nutrition on-the-bike:
750ml bottle with High5 or water (sorry Jon - it's what they had on the course)
500ml bottle containing 10 PowerBar Vanilla gels with water to make it up to 12 fluid oz (1oz per 1/2 hour = 2 small swigs)
2 caffeinated gels - for 'pick me ups', used prior to the headwind sections
That's it. Nothing else, and I think there was a gels worth left in the bottle.
I had a flapjack bar and a few of the kids mini-rice cakes, in a bento box but didn't even look at them.

The two main Aid stations on the 41km loop (x3) where manned by The Pirates and TFN. The Pirates won hands down, as they had 'signs' out for a couple of km either side. My favourite was 'Bike Sale Sunday 3pm' Photos > http://www.pirateshipoffools.co.uk/?p=1398
There was one village in particular that we passed through that had some great spectators all cheering us on too.

As for data, I set my Garmin 310XT to only show cadence and heart rate. There was no point chasing speed, time or distance. I could only do what I could do on the day, I wasn't even supposed to have gotten this far! In fact, Sheela was holding off leaving Twickenham until she knew I was actually onto the bike, via the online Outlaw Tracker (not to be confused with Athlete Tracker for legal reasons), otherwise I'd be getting the train home.
The reasoning behind the HR / Cadence combo was this:
- Firstly, stay in Zone 3; for me that was between 139-156bpm (aiming for mid 140s). However, I did let it climb as high as 160 for short times on hills.
- Secondly, and probably most importantly was not to hurt myself. I knew I was ill and shouldn't have been out there, I also knew the potential long term damage you can do to your heart under these conditions. I reasoned however that this was probably more dangerous in a proper race situation, and if I stayed in low Z3 and avoided in spikes or stretching myself I should be ok.
- Thirdly, if my cadence wasn't 90 then my gearing was too high or low.
The data was simple and it worked. I'd definitely use this method again.

The wind had turned and picked up at some point in the morning and our promised NW tailwind had become a 25mph headwind for long sections. Being light and not particularly powerful, this really wore me down.
On lap 1 of the bike I was wooping, Lap 2 I was swearing, by Lap 3 I was just praying for the return leg to HP.
My laps were consistent however, and I saw no significant drop-off in pace. Each was within a 2 minutes of the first and any deficit could be blamed on toilet breaks (read: peeing in trees), or collecting my tools when the bumps eventually unzipped them all over the road.

I'm pleased with my bike leg. I'd gone into it prepared for a 6hr ride at a conservative 30kph, and at 5:52 that's pretty much what I got. I think it could be called 'well executed', as my nutrition went well, I suffered no GI problems, it was evenly paced and I overtook around 300 people.

Throughout, Helen's old Ceepo Venom performed great. I put together a pretty good bike if I say so myself. Fit was good and I don't think I experienced anymore discomfort than anyone would stuck in the TT position for 6 hours, and I didn't need an ISM saddle to do it.
Outlaw Triathlon 2011 race report
RUN 42.2km
Checking with organisers in advance, I knew that water and High5 was limited to cups on the run, so I opted to put a run bottle in my T2 bag. This works well for me, as I had cramping throughout 2010 before discovering Nuun (one hungover morning in Glasgow - thanks Nicky). I half-filled this a couple of times from the Aid stations (4 cups), and took a gel roughly every 45 minutes. My watch was bleeping for me to eat every 30minutes but by now fuelling was dictated purely by what I could stomach.
The run was essentially 3 loops of the HP lake with an out-and-back run to to Nottingham Forest football ground via the towpath on the River Trent.
I did have a naive strategy, based on a 3 hour marathon at Brighton, I'd hoped to run at 5min per km for 14km, then 4:45min per km and then 4:30 for the final 14km, giving me a 3:30hr run split.
This was not to be, as it became clear 10km in that I wouldn't be running any faster than 5min per km, despite forcing myself to run slow at the start. Looking back now, I can see from the Garmin data that I was struggling to get my HR above 140bpm. I was pooped! To put that in perspective my average marathon HR is 170bpm.
Sheela (complete with Turbo gilet) had by now arrived with my boys, Luca and Seth, so I got to see them near the finishing chute for the next couple of laps. Seeing the kids was a great boost but I felt bad that they'd have to hang around for an hour between laps. 'Run faster, Daddy'.
By 20km I felt shambolic, and I was having to intersperse running with 30-60sec walk breaks. It seemed to be working. I wasn't getting any slower, and although not perfect, it felt sustainable and my form was good. The only downside was knowing in advance that I was looking at a 4 hour marathon, with 2 hours still to go.
I'd heard great things about the healing powers of flat coke but didn't get to sample it this time. Outlaw organisers, take note, fizzy coke isn't the same - all it does is bubble in your stomach!

After running past the finish line for 3 laps, and 4 hours on my feet, I finally got run down the finishing chute with the kids.
I know. I know. It's SUPER cheesy, and probably one of my IM pet hates¬... but until you're there after a long day, with no PB to beat or podium to climb, it's really nice to share it. Happily there was no-one near me, so the 3 of us got to milk it a bit and soak up the cheers!

Outlaw Triathlon 2011 race report
I rode through around 300 people on the bike and past another 100 on the run, to move up from 505th to 134th, and finished in 11:34 hrs. 18th in 35-39 AG.

Outlaw 2012 is on July 1st. Will I be there? I'm not sure yet, ask me in a month!
I'd be interested to know what I could do under better circumstances, i.e. if I'd trained more than 8 hours a week and was healthy.

As for Challenge Henley, in September¬... the jury's still out. ;)
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