May saw me travelling back up towards my home county for the Outlaw Half Nottingham, a 70.3 centred on the National Water Sports Centre at Holme Pierrepont Country Park. Entries sold out in about four days and it’s famous for being a fast, flat, pb-crushing course. It’s also cheaper than Ironman-branded 70.3s, which is obviously a marvellous thing.
On race day, the campsite was full of triathletes so it didn’t seem at all odd to be stumbling around at an ungodly hour. Transition opened at 5 am and there was a steady stream of people pushing their bikes towards the lake. It was super easy to get to and as the lake came into view I was rewarded by an incredible sunrise, reminding me why I actually bother to get out of bed so early for these things.
There were six race waves, with the elite athletes heading off just after 6 am and my wave (number 5) setting off at 6.48 am. It was amazing to watch the elites emerge from the swim and head onto their bikes whilst we were still waiting for our wave start, especially the image of Lucy Charles (Kona silver medallist in 2017) beating all but one of the blokes onto the bike course. Nice work lady!
It was a deep-water swim start and the lake temperature was really quite pleasant, especially when compared with where I normally train in the Solent.They got us going pretty fast and even with quite a small, female-dominated wave it was pretty busy, with ladies swimming all over the place. My age-group buddy from the previous day had suggested following the many small rowing buoys, so I pootled along past them as best as I could for about 900 m; then we hit the turn, crossed the lake, and headed back down towards the exit at the other end. It was a pretty uneventful swim, but nice to pass the stragglers from the previous wave and not see any hats from the next wave pass me.
Despite stripping off my wetsuit as I ran to my bike, like a proper triathlete, it still wasn’t a great transition. I struggled to put on my cycling gloves, which I probably didn’t really need, but then they’re a bit of a comfort blanket in case I come off. It was going to be a hot, sweaty bike, so they would also be handy for wiping moisture from my brow. Ok, so I’m ever going to be a pro with worries like these, but I still think it’s best to be comfy out there.
The bike started with a lap of the lake, which involved stopping briefly for a pack of geese and their honking goslings to cross the path. The roads weren’t fully closed but were being well managed. The first seven miles were pretty pothole-y, and OSB had been out marking especially bad bits with orange spray paint. There was already an ambulance out on the course though and another cyclist waved us past the incident. The bike course wasn’t massively challenging and it was easy enough to find some space so as not to risk drafting. I remembered to fuel regularly. I proudly collected two bottles on the move and gave myself a pat on the back for having improved my bike handling skills. Obviously I was doing better than those who’d dropped bottles, gels, gas canisters and various other bits of cycling detritus along the way. I had a target of 3 hrs 15, and, on my trusty Scott Speedster road bike, without tri bars or especially aero kit or form, I kept just within that at 3 hrs 8. I was fairly happy.
My transition from bike to run was quick, for me. Sensibly I donned hat and sunnies, it was brutally hot and very bright.
The run was split into short, manageable sections. We ran down the side of the Trent for a couple of miles, and then came back and ran around the lake. It’s not glam and some have said it’s boring, but I wasn’t out for a nice trail run, I was grinding out a half marathon at the end of a 70.3, the views were fine for that purpose. There were lots of “service stations”, manned by local tri clubs, which is an excellent touch. Support was also good; I particularly enjoyed one American lady who was super vocal and I made sure to thank her. I ran, and then walked through the stations, taking water, coke and sponges dripping with lovely cold water. I had an extended stroll at 9 miles, during which I told myself I was ruining my chances of going sub-6. But it was hot, and I’m ginger, and I didn’t care. I eventually talked myself around and ran around the lake for the final time and approached the finish.
There was the well-earned red carpet, the now traditional (I’ve done it twice, so that’s a tradition) high fiving of the compere, and the ladies at the finish line held out the finisher ribbon for me to run through. I collected my impressive medal and my tiny t-shirt (later successfully swapped for a bigger size, phew) and it was done.
The post-race food and pints of Erdinger alcohol-free beer were soooooo good. Hanging out with hundreds of people mere miles from my home town with their fabulous northern accents was wonderful, and the whole weekend experience, not just the race, was great.
I finished in 6.02.56. That’s a 30-minute pb, about which I’m obviously really pleased. But the 2 minutes and 56 seconds leaves me slightly disappointed, which probably makes me a bit silly!