The culmination of 30 weeks of planning and preparation….
So this was it; the big one, the reason that I’ve spent far too much of the last 30 weeks in the gym, the pool, and out on the road. It was a long day and there’s a lot to say (sorry!) and I want to make sure I document it all so that a. the people that sponsored me know what their money inspired, and b. so that I can remind myself in a few weeks when the memories fade that this wasn’t easy and I should hide any credit & debit cards that might facilitate another impulse event fee being paid in the near future 😉 So if you’re at all interested in my exploits, grab the strongest caffeinated beverage you can find and read on…
Ahead of the weekend I spent a few hours putting a list together of the kit required for the mammoth task ahead. Until I did this, I’m not sure I really understood the amount of kit I would be dragging up to the East Midlands. The list covered the key swim/bike/run kit, as well as a large number of spares and sundries (in an attempt to be prepared for the worst case scenario) as well as all the nutrition I would need for the weekend. The list was big (as you can see here) and putting it together and reviewing it only served to add to how nervous I was becoming ahead of the weekend.
This combined with my love of Excel and list writing in general, encouraged me to put together a schedule of events (here) for Saturday & Sunday. There was a lot to take in from the Event Instructions, and a lot to do on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. Assuming I would be stupidly nervous and probably useful for nothing, this would allow me to switch to Auto Pilot and just get the job done without too much thought. It also served to prepare the wife for her 3:30am wake up call on Saturday 😉
Once I was happy with my lists, I packed all the kit into 3 transition boxes ready to go on Saturday morning.
I also started a carbo loading regime as recommended by High 5 (here) which involved drinking a lot of EnergySource and eating a lot of EnergyBars combined with my normal daily food intake. Yummy.
Working from home on Friday gave me too much time to think about what was coming, and too much time was spent looking at the transition boxes and packing / re-packing / checking / double-checking. I was able to get some work done between this (in case my paymasters are reading this) but it also gave me time to print out the spectator information for Claire to take so she could try and enjoy as much of her time in Nottingham as possible. Since she was going to be dragging the kids around I also started to put some thought into my target bike/run pace so that she could work out where to be and when (here).
I left home just after 8 on Saturday (alone – Claire, the kids and the Mother-in-law were leaving later in the afternoon) with a view to getting to the National Watersports Centre (NWSC / Holme Pierrepont) in time for the first race briefing at 11. Luckily motorway traffic was on my side and a quick 2.5hr sprint up the M40/M1 got me to the NWSC in time to run into the briefing at 10:59. Even at that time of the morning, the temperature outside was in the high 20’s and inside the sports hall where the briefing was being held it was even higher. The briefing was long and didn’t give us too much more information than was in the information pack – certainly no last minute changes to be worried about – but it did give me the opportunity to look around at my fellow competitors who all looked significantly fitter than me.
After the briefing, registration took no time at all – in and out in 5 minutes laden with:
– Race Numbers
– Timing Chip
– Bike/Helmet Stickers
– Swim Hat
– Kit Bag
– Swim/Bike Bag
– Bike/Run Bag
Trying to forget about the admin task ahead of me, I had a quick look around the expo as a distraction – I even managed to leave without buying anything, much to the satisfaction of my bank manager (read: wife).
A 10 minute walk back to the car later, and it was time to transfer the content of my transition boxes into the swim/bike and bike/run bags provided (taking the kit bag back to the hotel with me to pack overnight and drop off on the Sunday morning). This shouldn’t have taken long, but I reverted to type and triple checked everything as well as putting my race numbers on my number belt, filling and adding 2 x 500Ml bottles of Energy Source and all other nutrition to my bike and filling another 2 x 500Ml of Energy Source, one for each transition bag. I then set off for transition with bike and bags in tow.
It was only at this point that I looked at my race number and realised it read like a Las Vegas Strip advert for available sexual services (“4-69 Call Paul”). Lovely.
Back at transition, and I dropped my transition bags off at the numbered point in the transition tent before wheeling my bike along to it’s numbered point on the transition racking, 10 metres from the bike exit and 3 from the toilets. Result. I removed all but a little air from the tyres and walked away.
30 minutes later and I was back at the hotel, checked-in, eating lunch and watching the ladies Wimbledon final while waiting for Claire and the girls to arrive for dinner at 17:30.
We all spent an hour or so at dinner (I had a great steak, probably not the ideal choice but hey, I was determined to enjoy my last supper) before heading back to the room(s) to pack my kit bag (with swim gear mostly) get the girls to bed and start to settle in for the evening. The wife will tell you that I was a nightmare to live with both on the Saturday and for most of the week before – I’m ashamed to say that not much entered my head apart from prep for the Outlaw.
By 9:30 I was in bed, having been covered head to toe in P20 by the wife (as much action as I was going to see that evening) and probably got to sleep around 30 minutes later. Considering how nervous I was earlier in the day, I fell asleep surprisingly easy, safe in the knowledge that the time spent triple checking everything had set me up for Race Day.
I woke up with the first of the four alarms I’d set at around 3:20 and rolled out of bed about 10 minutes later. I stuck the kettle on, made a coffee, gave the wife a nudge (“snore/grunt/snore”) and started to throw down some breakfast (100g Malt Loaf, 500Ml Energy Source, 1 x EnergyBar). I then filled another bottle of Energy Source to sip through to the race start.
I finally woke the wife just before 4 and we left the room around 4:15 for the 10 minute drive to Holme Pierrepont. After parking the car we walked down to the race start and I left Claire for 10 minutes while I went into transition, pumped up the tyres on my bike and double checked the nutrition and spares bags etc. I then found Claire again and handed her the universal symbol of Outlaw wives/husbands/partners – the track pump. If the slightly unhappy/glazed look on their faces didn’t give it away, you could recognise the unlucky early rising spectators by their overly cumbersome cycling accessories.
While hanging around transition we met Adrian, an old colleague from PwC days who we hadn’t seen in at least 10 years and Peter & Alistair, friends of another ex-PwC and expw colleague (Wheeler). Hanging out with all of these guys before the start served to take my mind of the day completely and settled my nerves. Peter and I were both Iron distance virgins and we shared our concerns and strategies. Adrian is a veteran (I’m sure he’ll love me using that phrase) and his advice, particularly around the swim start was invaluable and set me up for a great day (see below).
Around 5:20, I made my way into the transition tent to get my wetsuit on, dropped off the remainder of my kit bag (containing my post race clothing) chugged down the caffeinated gel I had with me and headed down to the swim start with Adrian & Peter. At 5:45 we were allowed access to the lake for acclimatisation and warm-ups.
And so it began…
The Swim (1:23:32) – 993 Finishers (3 DNF)
- Target: 1:30:00 (-00:06:28)
- Average Swim Time: 1:19:30 (+00:04:02)
- Position after Swim : 690
At 5:40 all competitors were called out of transition and across to the end of the rowing lake – the race was due to start at 6am and I still hadn’t decided on any definitive strategy for the start. Back in May when I did the Bedford 70.3 I’d had a disastrous swim, so I was conscious that mentally the outcome of the next few hours could ruin my day. The rowing lake is 90 metres wide and split into 4 bays, from left to right; bay 1 for swimmers under 60 minutes, bay 2 for swimmers between 60 and 80 minutes, bay 3 for swimmers between 80 and 100 minutes and bay 4 for swimmers over 100 minutes.
I’d set myself a target time of 90 minutes, based largely on an expectation of a certain level of panic, and just generally wanting to taking it slow and stay relaxed ahead of the long day ahead. According to this I should have started towards the middle of the pack in Bay 3 but I also wanted to avoid the usual mass swim start kicking and punching which could result in a loss of goggles/swim hat and a generally bad start to the day. The organisers suggested that the back of Bay 1 on the far left was an option, since this group of elite swimmers would sprint off quickly leaving lots of room for slower starters to join them. My concern was that since the swim was clockwise round the lake, even starting slower in Bay 1, you’d have lots of swimmers from Bays 2-4 converging across the lake and swimming across you. Adrian, on the other hand suggested the front of Bay 4 would be a good place to start – here I would be assured of being faster than everyone else (assuming I didn’t panic too much) and could swim across the lake to join the main pack, but at a point I was happy with, in a group of swimmers swimming at my speed. This is what I decided to do.
At about 5:45 the barriers preventing swimmers from entering the water were removed and I walked down to the edge of the lake and sat with my feet in the water for a few minutes, put my swim hat on, cleaned my goggles and started to get my head straight. Unfortunately all I could think about was whether or not all my prep was right; had i put all the right kit in the right bags? Did i remember to pump up my tyres to the correct pressure? Was skipping the long queues for the portaloos to “drop off” breakfast a bad idea that would re-visit me later on (*ahem*)….
Then the commentator shouts, “Number 941, your bike tyre blew up, we fixed it, you’re good to go”. Someone had overinflated their tyres and the rising temperature had made one of them burst. This wouldn’t be the last of these before the start, and according to Claire there were a few that burst/punctured as soon as they jumped on their bike out of T1. Something else for me to worry about…
• Video Here: https://www.dropbox.com/sc/j9kukf00hge209x/bET9obzoc1
F*ck it, I thought and jumped in the lake. Two things struck me immediately; the right butt cheek of the bloke who jumped in to my right – pleasant, and how lovely the water was. It was at least 20° and very clear – I stayed underwater for what felt like ages waiting for the feeling of panic to hit me, but it never came. As I surfaced, all worries of kit unpacked or bike unprepped were gone, and I felt completely calm. Completely. So calm in fact that I was able to take a leak in my wetsuit (something I can normally never do) – HOT! – and just enjoy the few minutes before the start (NOTE: I don’t really believe in warming up, so there was none of that!).
The five minute warning was followed by a familiar wave of beeping from a 1000 Garmins being switched on, and then the usual attempts by the organisers to whip ~1000 athletes (and at least 10x that many spectators) into a frenzy (what does “oggy oggy oggy” mean anyway?!). 3 minute, 2 minute and 1 minute warnings followed and then HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT! People are swimming all around me – we’re off! SHIT!
• Video Here: https://www.dropbox.com/sc/6c0qozyn2b7hjub/hCJu7zTaYI
OK, maybe a little too calm at the start! I threw myself into my stroke gave a few powerful leg kicks and sprinted away from the bayfor a hundred or so metres before trying to find some kind of rhythm and settling in to the swim. I briefly switched to breast stroke while trying to sight where I was going to start to swim across the lake to merge with the rest of the swimmers. I can’t quite describe the sight – 1000 swimmers all making their way down a seemingly endless lake, towards a slowly rising sun, surrounded by 10,000+ screaming spectators. Amazing – and I was part of it. Must keep swimming! At about 250 metres I’d made my way across the width of the lake and was swimming on the far right of the main stream of “swimmers”. I’d found another three swimmers all going at a very comfortable speed (not too slow, but not too fast – a maintainable speed) and I sat in behind them for a good 500 metres (studies show that drafting in the swim can save up to 20% energy), switching from feet to feet which I could see easily in the clear water. Helpfully, the rowing lake has regular distance markers at the edge of the lake helping me to judge my pace and effort and understand how far I had to go, as well as lane marker buoys every 25 metres or so which I could use to make sure i was swimming relatively straight. All in all, at this point I was thoroughly enjoying myself!
About half way down the outward “length” I felt strong and the feet I was following had either tired, or veered off wildly. I swam apart from the main group for a while which was a mistake. I could judge that I wasn’t swimming as fast and was putting in more effort than previously. I needed to get back into the mix and find some more feet – there were plenty about 😉 So I swam left towards the bank and got involved, I found a group that appeared to be having their own little race amongst themselves and tucked just into the side of the biggest bloke, hoping for the biggest tow. It was only when I popped my head up a few hundred metres later for a couple of breast strokes (to check direction and admire the view!) that I realised I’d been towing about half a dozen others all in a long snake behind me. Everyone was at it and I needed to keep going.
Having decided not to wear my Garmin on the swim (it was on a quick release and I was worried about losing it) I had no idea of how long I’d been going by the time I reached the turn around buoy. But I’d set a fairly slow target time, felt very comfortable, wasn’t expending too much effort, and just wanted to get through the swim. 10 minutes saved on the swim wasn’t going to make a massive difference in the grand scheme of things (more later). So, I rounded the buoy and resumed the same pace and rhythm which had got me to the turnaround. Also, there was surprisingly little drama at this point, apart from the support canoeists having to shout at a number of swimmers who’d decided 1900m wasn’t far enough and had kept on swimming towards the end of the lake rather than turning back for home.
The next 1800m or so was more of the same, quite uneventful, but I was surprised at how easy I was finding it. I was arguing with myself about whether or not to go harder and faster, but sensibly I maintained pace and headed back to the boathouse and the end of the swim. About 100 metres from the end, all the swimmers were funnelled towards the finish bay, and I ended up swimming quite close to the edge of the lake. It was quite weedy at this point and there was a distinct smell of duck poo which wasn’t so nice! Still, I could see the end now! I could see people being pulled from the lake by volunteers and I could see the clock said 1:20 something, which was a surprise considering how easy I thought I was taking things.
I made it to the ramp relatively unscathed and a nice lady pulled me out. I was finished in 1:23:32 – HAPPY! And alive, which was a definite bonus! What a difference to Bedford! I was buzzing at this point and felt like I wanted to jump back in for another lap, just the small matter of 112 miles on the bike and a 26 mile run stopped me doing so!
So it wasn’t the fastest swim, and I was slower than the average swimmer, but this was part of the plan. I beat my target – nothing else matters!
T1 (00:08:36) – 992 Finishers (1 DNF)
- Target: 00:15:00 (-00:06:24)
- Average T1 Time: 00:07:49 (+00:00:45)
- Position after T1 : 693 (+3)
T1 was uneventful, luckily. I walked (running was out of the question, felt a little dizzy and the gravel felt like needles) out of the lake and towards the transition tent, unzipping my wetsuit as I went. Just before the entrance to the tent I stopped to peel myself out of the wetsuit (they did have “strippers” to help you with this, but I was fine on my own). Once in the carpetted tent, I started to run down to where I’d hung my Swim/Bike bag on the Saturday. I found my numbered bag and dipped into the male change area (they’d screened two areas off for any nudity).
Now my motto for T1 (at least at this longer distance) was “comfort is king”, so I was going for a complete change into bike kit (whereas at sprint distance I’d just run straight to my bike in the tri suit I wore for the swim). In this case I left on the tri shorts I’d worn (I decided that the little extra padding they had would only make the bike more comfortable!) and also left on the compression socks (which helped stop any cramping). I put on my Garmin HR strap (I could have worn this under my wetsuit too, but decided that any further restriction of my chest if I was to hyperventilate could have been a mistake). Over the top I put on some bib shorts and a short cycle jersey. I dried my feet and put on socks and my cycle shoes before putting on my helmet, sunglasses and cycle gloves. I threw my wetsuit, hat and goggles into the swim/bike bag, chugged 500ml of Energy Source and a caffeinated gel and started to run out of the transition tent, dropping my bag off on the way out. I made a quick stop at the loos before I then ran on towards the 5 racks of bikes (being filmed by the Channel 4 camera crew as I did so – that could be embarassing if they air that – running in cycling shoes is not a good look).
I found my bike easily, took it off the rack, ran the last 10 or so metres to the mount line, hopped on, and away I went….
The Bike (6:13:03) – 980 Finishers (12 DNF)
- Average Bike Time: 06:13:44 (-00:00:41)
- Position after Bike : 565 (-128)
- Average Speed: 29kph / 18mph
I was always prepared for a long day on the bike, my training suggested that on a very good day i could average around 27kph for 5-6 hours. The honest truth is that i hadn’t done as many full distance training sessions as I’d like. The Fink plan was all based around time, and although towards the 25-27 week mark he’d scheduled updwards of 5 hours on the bike, i’d only done that once because I had other things to get to, or because driving rain and two punctures forced me to cry off half way. So anyway, excuses out of the way I’ll continue. Having left T2, we did a single loop around the rowing lake before heading out onto the first of two southern loops (which you can see on the map above – links through to my Garmin Connect page for full details of the ride). Heading off round the rowing lake made me aware of two things; the first, how quickly I’d made it out of the lake in the grand scheme of things. Fair enough it wasn’t quick, i was a long way back, but there were still a considerable number of people swimming, and a couple that hadn’t yet made it to half way. I both pitied and envied them in equal measure – it was already pretty warm outside. Secondly, I was amazed by how fresh I felt and how quickly I was rounding the lake. Almost immediately I started to worry that I was going too fast and that I wouldn’t be able to sustain the pace, with an inevitable crash to follow a couple of hours later. But, a quick look at my HR told me that I was well within my Z2 range and my legs felt great so I decided to make hay while the sun shone (and it was seriously shining both physically and metaphorically). Lap of the lake done and it was out of the NWSC and onto the main roads towards the southern loop. Immediately it was clear that the route was brilliantly sign posted and marshalled and, even in some of the out of town areas, very well supported by the locals. Most of the first section was on open roads which were closed in one direction for traffic, or had a single lane coned off for our use.
It felt great not having to worry about traffic for that first section, although my legs felt great mentally I was still coming to terms with everything that was going on and having one less thing to worry about was appreciated! The Southern Loop was considerably more rural than the initial section out of the NWSC, and although the roads were completely open at this point, there was very little traffic. Even on the second loop, a little later in the day, I hardly saw a car. My nutrition plan on the bike was simple; drink a full bottle of High 5 energy source and chug a caffeinated gel every hour or so. This worked well with the layout of the feed stations on the bike course which were every 20 miles or so. For reasons I don’t remember I took 2 full bottles of high 5 with me on the bike but I could have got away with just one, drinking the first bottle in the first hour and taking an additional bottle at each feed station. By the end of the bike I still had the full bottle which I’d carried with me the whole way round, and which by the end of the 112 miles was so warm you could have served it as a mixed berry soup. The feed stations themselves were great and a welcome distraction from the tedium of the day. The first one (and 5th one due to the circular nature of the route) was manned by the Pirates and was particularly amusing. Lots of “aarrgghs” as we cycled past, and lots of enthusiastic skull and crossbones wearing volunteers handing out water/high 5/gels/bananas – they were brilliant. That said, all the volunteers at every station were great, and didn’t seem to mind too much when i flew through one particular feed station too fast and instead of grabbing a banana from the outstretched hand of a nice lady, i slapped her hand so hard i mashed the banana into a pulp. good times. Apart from this, every feed station went without a hitch and I managed to grab all the bottles of energy source I needed, and took an extra bottle of water at one station (which I put in my saddle cage) to douse myself with as the day got hotter. For the entirety of the Southern loop (65km) I felt great, not a hint of tiredness in my legs and HR well within limits. Then heading out onto the Northern loop things got a little tougher. The route was a little less rural, and a lot busier. There was less of the “closed road” feel of the Southern loop and the wind was a little stronger at this point. Additionally, at 80km the only real hill of the route kicked in – Oxton Bank. This is about a mile of gradual climbing (6 or 7%) with a final 200m or so of steep climbing (13% ish). I managed to make it up to the top of that pretty quickly, heartened by the numbers that were walking it! The feed station at the top was a blessed relief, and it was all downhill from there to the village of Southwell – a lovely little village with incredible support out in force! Back onto the last Southern loop and through the village of Car Colston. Although I’d already been through the village twice in the morning, the support had really ramped up at this point. It was as if the whole village had come out to watch, and additionally the organisers were running a bus service out to this point from the NWSC. It was packed, and as close an experience to some of those iconic TdF stages as you can imagine (with supporters in the road and the odd dog crossing!). I’d get to pass through a fourth time, a further 60km down the road, before completing my day and it gave me a real boost when my morale had started to drop. In all honesty, at about the 5 hour mark I was sick of my bike. I was bored of pedalling. My neck and back hurt from trying to stay down on the aero bars as much as possible and my morale was dipping. I had bags of energy, I was just failing in the mental challenge – everything was telling me just to pack it in. Nothing hurt – I was just bored. All the adrenaline which pushed me all the way round the first 150km was gone, and the last 30km was hard going mentally. I started to worry that the neck and back pain I was feeling would impact my run, and that if I was bored now, i’d most certainly be bored of pounding the Trent riverbank. My average speed over the last 30km was appalling, and really took the shine off an otherwise great bike ride. But, finally I made it back to the NWSC (after a perillous final 2km down a private gravel road littered with cattle grids and speed bumps) in 06:13:44 having made up 128 positions. At the time I remember being elated that even with the boredom i’d finished within my target and was heartened by the number of people I’d overtaken. Additionally, even with the last loop slowdown, I managed to average 29kph (20mph) which was great. Next time I’ll remember to take some painkillers with me on the bike which I think would have made a massive difference to my enjoyment of the last few k’s.
T2 (00:07:44) – 957 Finishers (23 DNF)
- Average T2 Time: 00:06:59 (+00:00:45)
- Position after T2 : 553 (-12)
As soon as I got to the dismount line and handed my bike to a kind lady to re-rack i felt immediately better. Just being able to stand up and stretch out was a bonus. Even so, the “ruggle” (1 part run, 2 parts struggle) back into transition was awkward to say the least. Eventually I was back into the tent and collecting my numbered Bike/Run bag. I’ll admit to sitting down for a minute or so at this point with my head in my heads giving myself a talking to – my head needed to be in a better place if I
was going to get through the marathon. That done, I started to change. I took off all my cycling gear (leaving on only my hr strap and sunnies) and put on fresh run gear (I no longer looked and smelled like a vagrant with a penchant for smearing himself in sickly sweet energy gels) – run, shorts, tri top, new socks and trainers and a cap to give me some shade from the brutal sun. I then packed the old stuff away in the same bag before taking a couple of ibuprofen washed
down with another 500ml of energy source from my bag and another gel, hoping that would sort my neck and back out. Feeling much more comfortable, I ran out of the tent, dumping my bag on the way out, followed by the ignominy of being slathered head to toe in sun cream. I left T2 looking like Casper the friendly ghost… I was a little slow in T2 compared to the average, but beat my target time. I think I expected to need longer to “recover” from the bike, and to work out the admin of the huge transition tents.
Run (5:15:41) – 913 Finishers (44 DNF)
- Average Run Time: 05:16:17 (-00:00:26)
- Position after Run : 498 (-55)
I’d never run a marathon before The Outlaw and I won’t lie, the thought of running my first marathon after around 8 hours of constant exercise, and in 30º heat didn’t fill me with joy. That said, starting to run was a blessed relief from the bike and I’d told myself I was going to run as far as I could before failing over to run/walk, targeting a 4:30 run finish. This was somewhat ambitious.
Anyway, the run started relatively well, in that I was actually running. I managed to make it most of the way round the lake, stopping at both of the feed stations only to douse myself in ice cold water and to collect the first of four wristbands I’d need before I could cross the finish line. I felt good for the first couple of miles before my stomach started to slosh around, much like it did back in Bedford. I worried that this would be it for the next 4 hours or so, not being able to consume any nutrition and generally feeling uncomfortable. On my second loop of the lake I took a gel at the first station, collected another wristband, threw water over myself and carried on to the next station. Admittedly, I’d already started to run/walk, the sloshing being uncomfortable, but I was sticking to 10mins run/2mins walk. Through the next station on the NWSC side of the lake, no liquid again.
Twice round the lake done, and twice forced to run past the finishing chute, knowing full well it would be a considerable amount of time before I get to run down the red carpet of dreams. On this lap they’d started handing out ice, which I grabbed a handful of, stuffed down my top and back, and one in my mouth to melt. Lovely. Until the ones in my back got small enough to melt down the small of my back and into my run shorts and the crack of my arse. That’s not an experience I was expecting.
Finally I’d finished my first two laps of the lake (about 6.5 miles), which despite being lovely and flat, was pretty soul destroying. Onwards to the first of two out and back (7 mile) laps along the Victoria Embankment. Thankfully my stomach had started to settle by this point, but I stuck to taking no liquid at the feed stations on the way out. The change of scenery was lovely, and making it to the tow-path and seeing a constant stream of runners both running away from you and coming back towards you, was quite a sight. I was still walk/running at this point but the walk to run ratio was becoming slightly more walk-heavy. The tow-path also provided a little shade which was nice, but didn’t last too long. In fact the longest bit of shade was when running under the Trent End of the Notts Forrest City Ground, but while enjoying that you had a great big photo of Brian Clough staring down at you. Running beyond that as far as the suspension bridge (the wobbliest bridge in the world) before a short circuit on the other side of the river and the turnaround.
By this point I was drinking again, and taking cups of high 5 in addition to the traditional ice water drenching and the occasional gel (had planned to take one of these at every feed station, but I adopted an as needed strategy). Additionally, the feed stations were stocked with flat Coke, ready salted crisps, Jaffa Cakes and orange segments. All of which made a nice change from the sickly sweet gels and energy drinks. I was effectively running between feed stations at this point, or more accurately run/walking to my next coke and crisp fix. The run back to the rowing lake confirmed that I wasn’t the only one who was suffering, literally hundreds of triathletes running in front of me – very little other noise, apart from the constant burp/farting of hundreds of stomachs struggling to process the energy rich foodstuffs being stuffed into them.
Back to the lake for another loop, collecting a further wristband (3 of 4). Two more feed stations around the lake, one more enticing run past the finish chute (people were finishing at this point, most disheartening) and out for another lap along the embankment. Boy, this marathon running is a tough business, and I was failing to overcome the mental challenge again. I had bags of energy, should have been running more, could have been running more, but wasn’t. I’d reached that point of boredom again, and motivation was slipping. I only had to get back to the lake for one last loop and I was done. I was so close!!
On reflection, I think not wearing my watch in the swim was a mistake, I didn’t have a handle on my total time, and was relying on very rough estimates as I ran (I’d probably have failed 11+ maths at this point). If I’d have realised how close I was to a milestone time, I probably would have run a little faster, but nevertheless I carried on run walking, thanking every marshal, volunteer, feed station, and local who shouted my name in support as I went. I especially thanked the couple who were chucking buckets of cool river water over athletes at the turn around point to keep them cool. Legends.
Back to the lake for the last time, collected my last wristband (whoop!) and could see the finish across the other side. The noise had ramped up significantly from the last time I ran around the lake, and the sound of finishers followed me all the way around. Hearing that pumped me up, I ran all the way up the river side of the lake, almost as far as the last feed station at the top of the lake. At this point I ran past Adrian without really noticing and he shouted as I ran past. We walked together to the feed station and discussed the day. I don’t think his day was going quite to plan, but I can only imagine the time he’d have finished in if he hadn’t been forced to walk most of the marathon – pretty impressive swimming and biking Mr Turner.
Two last cups of water tipped over my head (a mistake given that 10 minutes later I’d have my finish line photo taken looking like a sweaty mess), one last gel consumed (grim) and I ran for the finish. 500 metres out and I made it to the large crowd of supporters, enjoying their beers and barbecues (bastards!) and cheering wildly at anyone and everyone (heroes!). 400 metres out and I heard a mention of my name on the tannoy which boosted me no end. 300-200 metres and I’m pretty much sprinting – no hint of pain or boredom, fuelled by adrenaline. At 100m I met the mother in law and Lily & Bella who joined me for the last run down the finish chute. Everyone was cheering my name and shouting encouragement to the girls. By this point I was pretty much dragging Bella, and Lily was dragging me, determined to make it to the finish tape before I did. And finally, the words I’d been looking forward to hearing all day – “PAUL JAQUES. YOU. ARE. AN. OUTLAW”.
I’d only bloody done it! And I finished the marathon in 5:15, which was somewhat off target, but all things considered I’m pretty happy with that!
Overall (13:08:35 – excluding teams)
- Average Finish Time: 13:04:15 (+00:04:20) excluding teams
- Overall Position: 498 / 996
- Gender Pos: 403 / 736
- M35-39 Pos: 81/135
In total, I finished the full 140.6 miles in 13 hours, 8 minutes and 35 seconds. Honestly, I’m over the moon with that time. On the day, I couldn’t have done much better. Fair enough, I could have bettered the mental challenges of the day and that will no doubt have made me faster, but this was my first Ironman event. I was always going to learn a lot about both the event itself, and myself as a swim/bike/runner. There are a lot of positives to come from the day; I wasn’t overwhelmed by the heat, my nutrition plan worked as well as I could have expected, and I ran my first marathon!
But, and it’s a big BUT, I feel like I have unfinished business. There are lots of little areas where I believe I can make up significant time which would make my ultimate goal of finishing in under 12 hours a possibility. Certainly there’s a little time which could be saved at each discipline and most significantly on the run. A little less walking, fewer stops for Jaffa Cakes and Coke, and a few degrees cooler, and who knows what I could have done. And that’s the problem – I need to come back to prove to myself that there’s more in me. I don’t think my journey with Ironman is over quite yet.
That said, it took a lot of hard work to get to this point. 30+ weeks of training, significant kilometres and hours swimming, biking and running. I need to prepare myself to do more of this if I’m to give this another good crack in the future:
- Total: 173 hrs 14 mins 08 secs / 3923.15Km
- Swim: 13 hrs 41 mins 05 secs / 34.97km (1.5%)
- Bike: 106 hrs 23 mins 36 secs / 3358.73km (85%)
- Run: 53 hrs 08 mins 55 secs / 529.45km (13.5%)
It also involved significant sacrifices on behalf of myself, but most significantly from Claire and the kids who were great all the way through. I can’t thank them all enough for putting up with me, I only hope they have it in them to let me have another crack. Hell, it’s cheaper than the Porsche that my Mid-Life Crisis would otherwise be lusting after.
To anyone that got this far, through all my previous posts on my journey, the highs and the lows, leading to this one day; THANK YOU. For everyone that donated and offered words of support; THANK YOU. I couldn’t have done it without you.