For the third consecutive year, I raced Outlaw Half Triathlon in Nottinghamshire. Entries for the event sold-out in less than two minutes when the race went on sale last August and both my brother and I were lucky to bag entries for this 1900m swim, 91km bike and 21.1km run (half-ironman distance) triathlon.
With 16 weeks between Outlaw Half and my next big target race, Ironman Wales in September, I was happy to take a full taper for Outlaw Half (tapering for around 1.5 weeks for running training and 1 week for cycling training).
Last year I finished Outlaw Half in 4:34:38. This year, I was targeting a sub-4:30 finish time and thought that I could potentially finish in around 4:25 if I raced well and didn’t have any hiccups. My training times and metrics indicated that my swimming and cycling were at a similar level to last year (possibly marginally stronger) and my running speed had improved as a result of significantly increasing my running training volume. For the first 21 weeks of 2016, I had averaged 81km (50 miles) of running per week.
My build-up to Outlaw Half had been very good with consistent training throughout 2016. Six weeks before Outlaw Half, I had raced the European Sprint Duathlon, winning a bronze medal in the M30-34 age group. In the eight weeks before tapering for Outlaw Half, I averaged just over 16 hours per week total training time (including one week of under 8 hours training, the week of the European Sprint Duathlon).
Swim (Time: 28:33 – TBC Individual Placing)
Just over 1,100 individuals and 35 relay teams started the event, staggered over 4 start waves each spaced at 10 minute intervals. I was in the second start wave with 275 others; we shuffled into the rowing lake for the start of the swim just after 6:30am for a quick warm-up in the 16°C water and at 6:40am we were off.
The presence of “blue-green algae” in the water at one end of the lake had necessitated the usual Outlaw Half swim course to be altered slightly the day before the race. It was still an easy-to-navigate out-and-back swim route but after exiting the water there would now be a slightly longer run before the swim-to-bike transition. A benefit of the revised swim course was that it gave spectators a closer view of the swim start. The water appeared to be a strange shade of dark green throughout the swim, perhaps this was the algae!
I got cut-up a little in the first couple of hundred metres but then others around me faded and I was swimming alone for most of the 1900m swim. It felt like I paced the swim quite well. Coming around the final buoy, I caught someone from my wave (they had the same silver coloured swimming cap on as me) and I stayed on their feet for the last 50m of the swim before exiting the water.
I was slightly surprised to be 47 seconds slower for the swim than last year, although 47 seconds isn’t too much over a 1900m swim. Perhaps I didn’t push as hard on the swim this year, maybe the course distance varied between 2015 and 2016 or maybe I just didn’t have such a great swim on the day this year.
Bike (Time: 2:25:08 – TBC Individual Placing)
After a fumbling transition in which I lost a bit of time, I was out on the bike. The bike course was a lap of the lake before it routed around southern Nottinghamshire on some of the roads close to where I grew up. The bike course was relatively flat with some undulations and only one (small) hill of any real note, Oxton Bank.
The weather was dry, overcast and around 12°C, much better than the miserable wind and rain that I had raced in during this event last year. I stuck to my nutrition plan, eating gels, shot bloks, 1.5 bottles of energy drink and a little water. I struggle to eat solid food whilst cycling at half-ironman intensity.
The last few kilometres of the bike course were on a small, private road which unfortunately had several speed bumps and a poor surface. The race organisers put considerable effort into trying to improve the worst of the speed bumps for the event but my cycling speed needed to drop quite considerably for a couple of kilometres to safely negotiate this section.
I finished the 91km bike in a time of 2:25:08, 1 minute and 40 seconds quicker than last year. My normalised power was recorded as 266W and average power was recorded as 257W (variability index, VI = 1.035). I believe that I could possibly have ridden a little harder with hindsight, but there’s no way to tell if that would have negatively impacted my run time by more than the bike time gain.
Run (Time: 1:24:34 – TBC Individual Placing)
After the cycle, I had a much better bike-to-run transition and was then onto the run. The run course was very flat and comprised two laps, each lap with sections along the River Trent and around the rowing lake where the swim had taken place a few hours earlier.
Pre-race, I believed that a sub-1:30 half marathon run would be possible at Outlaw Half, so had planned to start the run at around 4:15/km pace. My Garmin clocked between 4:02/km and 4:06/km for the first four kilometres. I was worried that I may be going out too fast but felt pretty good.
Around 5km into the run, the urge to pee (which had been increasingly annoying over the last hour of the bike and beginning of the run) became too much and I decided to pop into a toilet to relieve myself. This briefly dropped me back to 4th in the 30-34 age group.
There was tons of encouragement from spectators and event volunteers throughout the run, the very best of it from my long-suffering support crew (Lydia and my parents). Still feeling good, and with a much emptier bladder, I picked up the pace a little, clocking between 3:53/km and 4:04/km for each kilometre from 5km to 20km into the run. With this pace, I was able to gain a few places.
My 21st kilometre was a 3:46 and I managed to finish strong to the line to clock 1:24:34 for the half-marathon. This would have been a PB if raced on a verified course; for what it’s worth my GPS watch logged 21.1km.
Final Thoughts (Finishing Time: 4:22:08 – 7th / 1,001 Starters and 2nd in M30-34 AG)
I was really happy to finish in just over 4 hours and 22 minutes (12 minutes faster than last year) and with an “unofficial PB” for the half-marathon. It was really satisfying to be gaining places on the run this year whereas last year my running was much weaker than my swimming and cycling.
The race was won by Karl Alexander by just 8 seconds ahead of Simon George. Karl Alexander collected £1,500 in prize money for breaking the course record with a massively impressive time of 4 hours and 11 minutes. No prize wonga for me, but a nice trophy for finishing 2nd in my age-group (7th overall).
Hot food, a massage and pints of Erdinger Alkoholfrei beer were provided post-race. I thoroughly recommend this event to anyone interested in a half-ironman distance triathlon; the organisation was superb as ever by One Step Beyond Events. Just make sure that you’re quick when entries open!