On the 1st June 2014 I had the perfect day.It was properly perfect in every way.
Even waking up at 4am didn't bother me.I wasn't too giddy, I wasn't too nervous.
I was just ready. Like in the fairytale.
It was time.
In the weeks up to the race, I had been apprehensive - certain I hadn't done enough training to get me round. I doubted my own ability, I doubted my reasons for entering.I made a fatal mistake of looking at how many miles I had done in training in how many hours. It did nothing for my confidence.
Taper was nothing short of hell - I was an anxious, weepy, murderous mess.And I didn't even have coffee to make it better.
I was already a little bit pissed off with the fact that all the women were in the 7am wave....at the back. The older men had been put with us, as had the relays.
It almost felt like we were a lesser species n not very 2014. More Middle Ages. Nice. Thanks for that.
When they announced in the brief, wave 4 transition was to the side, I was PROPERLY pissed off.... Then when I saw the other transition I was a little bit pleased.... Lots of bike n bits of kit in a small space. Maybe being on the side wasn't too bad after all....
I was still annoyed at the segregation. Mainly for the women who would kick lots off ass. There would be more slower men to wade through.
All through my training I had goal times n a rough plan to race to.Swim 30 min.
Bike 3hrs 30 max, 3 hour aim.
Run 3 hour max, 2hrs 30 aim.
This meant I wanted sub 7 but was aiming for 6.30.
I would have been ecstatic with 6.30.... And if I could go below that... well....
1.2 mile swim
Getting in the water was stinky smelly. The pond weed was horrific n thick. It wasn't gonna be a pleasant swim if it was all like this. There were a gazillion swans and geese on the horizon. Deep joy. Did I mention I hate swimming with ducks?
As we were about to start, the first men were on their bikes n well on their way round the lake. After giving a cheer n a whoop, we were off. This was real.
I knew I could easily go sub 30 for the swim but didn't want to go all out knowing I had 68.1 miles still to travel afterwards. I was surprisingly calm, even when I took a couple a smacks n kicks to the head, quick goggle readjustment n carry on.
I got out of the water covered in pond weed, beaming that my dislike of plant life was cured, but a little bit sad that the swim was over.
The over-taking of the men folk had started before the first buoy, When I exited the water I was 29th female, 8th in my age category.
I could only drop positions as the day progressed!
Transition was crap to say the least. I hadn't thought it through enough, I was slow n clumsy. But that was ok. I was having a nice time. With a few cheers, waves and words of encouragement, I was on my way.
56 mile bike
When I reached the far end of the rowing lake, I was beaming.I had a little giggle at the fact I was *TOTALLY* loving the experience already. I checked my watch. 40 minutes into the day. Here's hoping I still felt like this in 5 hours time.
@Saxelbyhorses passed me and I shouted encouragement, knowing Lucy would be finished long before I would.
I hadn't even hit the main road n I was already singing Imelda May 'Oh My God Its Good To Be Alive'
No matter what happened, I was having a nice time.I was relaxed n loving life.
In fact I was loving life A LOT.
Somewhere on the first section, I realised I had water in my ear still. I think finally trickled out at 20km ish.
The bike was overwhelmingly silent - it didn’t get any louder when the water was removed. Apart from the sewing machine whirring of bikes approaching n flying past, there was nothing.
No voices, no chatter, just silence.I quite liked it.
Even my own inner voice was silent.
I REALLY like this. There was no negativity, no doubt, no bodily complaints.
It confirmed I was having a nice time n life was just about perfect.
Did I mention I was having a nice time?
There were points on the bike where I felt I was travelling at hyper-speed with stars zooming towards me - the reality was, I was going forwards and the wind was blowing dandelion seeds in my general direction.
I sang in my head, I sang out loud.
At 30km my left hip flexor nudged me and started to grumble, by 60km my quads had stabby pain.
I was quickly gaining on a chap who I thought was @TheIronOrange, as I cycled passed, I muttered that I really didn't want to run a half marathon after this. The second I heard the accent, it was confirmed. James sat with me a while and we had a chat - turns out, he sat on my wheel for a while and got a telling off.
By 80km I wanted to get off the bike. I was bored of cycling and I was bored of eating.
I wanted to run. Yes, I said it, I actually wanted to run.
Somewhere in the southern loop, I saw @TheLozzatron and shouted words of encouragement before heading towards the stupid bumpy lumpy road around the Hall. @lornahannahmac went past as we were approaching the rowing lake for the run stage.
I had made a conscious effort to say thank you to all the volunteers and marshals and people who had come out to cheer and support. If I missed saying it to anyone on the course, I apologise.
Second transition was just as crap as the first - After a brief exchange with @theIron_Bear and @mia79gbr who were hanging over the wall in transition, roaring at me and a quick wave at @bigdaveakers, I set off with a wobble.
13.1 mile run
I knew the first bit of the run would be grim.I just had to keep moving and stick to the plan.
Run to the feed stations - walk while taking fluid/fuel, run to the next.
If this wasn't possible, I would run for 9 minutes, walk for 1, gradually reducing 8:1 then 7:1 and so on as needed.
I knew it was hot, I knew I was getting hotter. I didnt like hot much.
I knew my legs were like lumps of lead and refused to move - I figured if I could just keep moving forward, they would come back to life soon enough.
I was doing some messed up shuffle for 250m, shuffle at a different pace for 250m.My watch had gone wonky and I couldn't work out if I was timing myself or not - and if I was, how long had I been going overall.
Actually, I didn't care. I was still having a nice time.
I just had to keep going and I would complete this.
Some form of time keeping would be helpful. I bashed buttons till the timer started moving again.
A number of men around me had been doing the same 250m shuffle dance - we had been offering words of encouragement as we took turns in leading the strange conga.
As we passed a woman stood on the grass verge who was openly peeing, myself and the man who would become my running buddy struck up a proper conversation. We agreed we were both having a run/walk strategy and that it would be probably easier to run together rather than keep over-taking.
For the next 2 hours, I ran and walked with @Martin3Steve.I learned that he is completing 14 triathlons in the summer of 2014 to raise money for Derby Hospitals. More details and donations can be made at http://www.justgiving.com/Tri2014/eurl.axd/9ba3425d4099b144a599bbeae781642a
He told me of how he has juggled 2 small children - not literally (2.5 years and 9 months) a busy work life and training. Of how he is raising money for his friend and colleague who may not see the end of his challenge.
We giggled and grumbled.And struggled.
And somehow, we kept each other going.
I managed to shout words of support at @Lu_Telford. There were words of friendly, supportive abuse towards @Neily_Wilko - who skipped passed me looking as fresh as a daisy. I was screamed at by @pilla_uk and all the pirates.
On the first lap, I received the most amazing hugs from @TheIron_bear and glorious words of encouragement from @mia79gbr.
I was still concerned that hugs constituted as outside help.Surely everyone should have them for it to be an equal playing field?
Running past the finish gantry as others were finishing was torture - but equally it spurred me on, knowing that I would be there soon enough.
One more lap.
The day got hotter, we got slower, the walking sections got longer, the run sections shorter.
Steve learned that my measure of 'big tree' is open to interpretation and we both learned that using people as markers to run to is an excellent or poor idea depending on which direction they move and how quickly.
The dragonflies were astoundingly beautiful.
Then there was the realisation Steve would be coming in close to 7 hours.He wanted under 7 – so we pushed as best we could.
The wake-boarder passed us elegantly, mocking us for the second time as he skipped down the neighbouring lake at speed.I need to try wake-boarding one day, but that's another adventure for another day.
I was still having (and loving) this adventure.
4 minutes to go till 7 hours. The negotiations of how far we would run were getting longer again.I had no idea how far we had left - but I could see the gantry and hear the commentary.
The crowds of people were getting thicker.
The red carpet was there. I saw @mia79gbr and @bigdaveakers as suddenly I found a sprint.
An actual real sprint.
Like an actual runner.
I almost missed Bear as I ran towards the finish.
70.3 miles.6 hours 48 minutes and 53 seconds.
Steve had 2 minutes to spare.
I am phenomenally grateful to Steve for getting me round the run, just as I know he is as grateful for my persistence when the urge to walk became too big.
His presence contributed to my perfect day and won’t be forgotten.
My Outlaw journey was made even more awesome because I had the best Sherpa EVER. Bear made the whole experience as perfect as it was. He helped me remain stress free by taking care of the bike checks, doing the driving, making sure I ate properly in the days up to and immediately afterwards.
He was, and is, nothing short of exceptional support crew and I cannot thank him enough.He is my number one fan and cheerleader extraordinaire.
And for that, I am grateful.
I know how lucky I am.
I just hope I do as well for him when it’s my turn.
In typical fashion, my parents were shitty in their comments. I expected nothing less. In fact, I would have been a bit disappointed if they had strayed from expectation.
I think that 70.3 is my ideal distance – I will go shorter and I will go longer…. Just to check…. Just in case.
I’m not fast, but I can hold my own.
And actually, I don’t care, cos I had the BEST time…. Well, not the best time, cos that would’ve made me the winner.
But I won the race with me.
If I sort the run thing and the transition thing out, I could even be ok at this triathlon lark.Maybe.
I will be back at Outlaw Half next year to go sub 6.
Triathlon is stupid and fun and ridiculous and painful and time consuming and expensive.
I know that it is blessed with lots of types of people…. Swimmers, cyclists and runners who are branching out, bucket-listers and elite athletes who are stupidly talented and blessed.
And then there are those who have bright and shiny souls.You know who you are.