Don’t really know where to begin with this one. I was so not up for this, mentally or physically. I did a lot of events in the run up, big ones, but I think part of the problem was being quite ill and still running the Brutal Midnight Mountain Marathon 4 weeks before hand. What is a tough race anyway was made all the more challenging by being unwell. I dug myself into a hole that night that I couldn’t pull myself out of in time for The Outlaw. Although now in print that does sound like a big bag of excuses for what was essentially just me being weak out on the Outlaw course and folding like origami when it got tough.
I was unfit, tired and nervous. I made the right noises before the event to try to convince myself all was good but I was actually quite worried. Any iron distance event is tough and is not to be taken lightly. I thought of pulling out, especially when the best summer I can remember in a long time was evaporating for a windy, rainy, thunderstormy (Is that a word? I think not.) weekend.
Anyway, we travelled up on Friday, got registered and settled in the hotel, Outlaw organisation is quite slick and up there with any IM event I have done, bike racking etc. was also very straightforward and I was all set logistically. We received news that there may be no swim if lightning was striking come race time, and that due to the wind the swim would definitely be three shorter laps rather than the long out and back. All this info was given to us during the briefing where the gazebo was trying to lift out of the ground at the back end. I resigned myself to just getting around at this point. Big mistake. I’d just given my weak mental state an ‘off the hook card’ for tomorrow.
Usual race morning stupid o’clock alarm and off to the race site, it was wet, bastard freezing and I was wearing flip flops. Good move genius! My feet were like icicles! Time went surprisingly quick and I lined up in the middle of the 1hour to 1hour 10 pen. The water was warm, probably too warm for a wetsuit and may have been problematic if we weren’t getting out twice mid swim. It was also quite smelly. I was uncomfortable already. The horn sounded and OH MY FUCKING GOD!!! I have never been in a swim like it, absolute carnage from the off, arms and legs everywhere. It was just people soup, I had to keep a lid on it a few times and I consider myself a confident open water swimmer. There were people heading over to the bank within 100 meters, one guy even stood up near the edge and started wading! I kept saying to myself, “Stay calm it will clear, stay calm it will clear, stay calm it will clear, FOR FUCKS SAKE WHEN IS IT GOING TO CLEAR!” I must have done the Tarzan stroke for 200 of the first 400 metres. I got to the first turn buoy and it was still mental, a guy rolled on his back so I stopped and asked if he was ok, he said “fuck this”. Tug boat style I pulled him sideward on his back out of the crowd towards the canoes and then got my head down. It began to clear a bit but then as I came to finish the first loop it got sketchy again. It was like some weird neoprene clad cross between water polo and a Wild West bar brawl. I had drank a shit tonne of filthy water in the biff so had a cup of coke on the way around the Aussie exit, I looked at the watch, 23 minutes, got in for lap two in slightly clearer water and got on with it. Less traffic now for the last two laps and I had some more coke at the end of the second lap and finished in 1Hr 09minutes. So consistent pace for the three laps, which was good, but already 7 minutes behind my best.
Photo Jon Hendley
I have an easy T1 and then get out on the bike. My legs feel ok, “but why the fuck aren’t I going anywhere?” Onto the roads and the usual script for me early on the bike where all of the good cyclists overtake me. It was horrible from the off. Couldn’t see with my glasses on as it was too wet, couldn’t see with them off as it too windy. “Happy-days” I just have to embrace the suck, get my head down, get aero and set about my effort, HR was spot on, actually had a tail wind for this section too, “but why the fuck aren’t I going anywhere?” First part of the course is a few twists and turns then there is a decent stretch of downhill, head down, wind behind, bank some time, feeling good, “but why the fuck aren’t I going anywhere?” “….and what’s that fucking noise?” I spot a layby and pull over. Lift up the front end of the bike, try to spin the wheel and the right brake calliper is rubbing the wheel. If you know me, you know how much I love the brake set up on the Giant Propel, it’s a piece of art, you know, one of those modern art pieces that display a well used public toilet, all full of shit and used bog roll! I lament my piece of crap brakes and try to adjust them but I can’t get it right. As there are two clips on the calliper I clip the cable on the widest setting and hop back on. This means I’m now cycling in the wet with a front brake that you have to have a grip like Eddie Hall to apply! If this was the Ironman Wales bike course and the descents on that, I’m sure I’d be dead! Anyway the bike seems to be moving better now and as I get a little way in I’m quite enjoying life, then I spot Cr@pTri local branch cheering on. Jon Hendley was out with his camera and got some cracking photos. Thanks Jon. This was a nice lift and I am very grateful for the support on a shitty day, from (probably) the best tri club in the world. At this point I turned more into the wind, bollocks! It was sheeting it down now and my eyes were stinging to the point I had to keep closing them, glasses back on. 5 minutes later, can’t see a pissing thing through smudges from wiping them, I went around one bend which was slightly open and the wind caught me side on, I nearly lost it and thought I best commit that to memory for lap two. With the southern loop done I head to the northern one on a long stretch of A-road which was rammed with traffic, the wind was gusty and I had a heart in mouth moment every few minutes as either a gust caught the front wheel or a car came past less than a metre away at about 60mph. Sketchy AF! It was heart in mouth on quite a few occasions but the wind was mostly from side on so not too demanding in terms of effort. Then came the turn at the top of the northern loop and what was probably the most horrible hour or so of cycling in my life, headwind, hail, rain, speeding cars, shit roads and 60 or so miles in the legs. If you had told me this section took me 11 hours to complete afterwards I would have believed you. It. Never. Ended. Eventually after a time equivalent to the entire Cretaceous period passed I was back onto southern loop and going through Car Colston where there is big support, it’s much busier this lap than the first. I’m almost through the flat section when I see a woman place her still unfurled umbrella on the floor, immediately the wind picks it up and it flies across the road ….right at me. I think I muttered to myself, “You got to be kidding me.” Just as it hit the front end of the bike, then it got pulled under the front wheel to unveil grass in front of me, I had unclipped my left leg and almost jumped off the bike as it hit the verge and I went down. Fan-fucking-tastic. The woman was mortified and couldn’t apologise enough to be fair, and as the bike and I were both in one piece I saw the humour and accepted her apology readily. It was totally un-intentional so no point yelling and shouting about it. In fact, it lifted my mood considerably as I laughed to myself as I rode off “What are the odds?” It was though at this point I think I fully mentally checked out. It wasn’t my day, that was that, excuses poured out and like a little bitch I accepted them all. I put little effort into the ride from that point on and my average pace fell off a cliff. I wasn’t particularly ‘hanging out’ I just didn’t want it. I rode the rest of the lap head down because of the wind but with a smile and well within effort, until that sneaky corner caught me out again! I looked at the adjacent ditch to see a moto ref pulling a rather bashed up guy and his bike out of it. I needed to at least stay alert! The last section of the bike course is akin to a cyclo-cross course, and as we were mid typhoon, it was interesting! As I got to the last mile a speed bump seemingly hiding in mossy gravel awaiting a tired, day dreamy idiot like myself jumped out of the bushes at me (honest) and rattled the eyeballs out of my head. It also managed to dislodge my rear saddle cage, tube and pump which then fell off. I glanced back. My bike time was so abysmal that it would be no harm stopping, but I just plain couldn’t be arsed to get off and walk back. I had, had my fill of the bike, time to get finished and get off. 6h 55minutes. (I rode 6:03 last time).
[Massive shout out to all the aid station crews, they were wonderfully humorous, loud and supportive in sometimes biblical conditions. Thanks so much.]
I had a chat in T2 to a few guys, mostly about how shit the weather was and how sketchy the A-road was. My head had left but the kids were there and that meant no chance of me quitting just because I was having a sulk about my possible finish time. I should have knuckled down and made the best of a bad lot, but I didn’t have it in me. So I started the longest, marathon jog-walk of my life. I saw the kids, Tracey and one of my best mates Karl within a few hundred yards, stopped for a hug, shook hands with Jon and thanked him, his wife Bev (also Cr@pTri) and his family for the support, then trudged off. Steady forward motion. I just thought keep smiling, take on Coke, water and crisps at most aid stations, thank everyone for being there. Accept all high fives from kids, have lots of good chats with fellow competitors (of whose names I can’t remember or didn’t even ask). I gave a shout to the Pencoed and Rhonnda Triers I saw out on the course. The bright pink kit as always got plenty of comments. (Everyone loves the Cr@pTri pink.) There were patches of better weather on the run and the course although it appears complicated was quite easy to follow, very flat, loads of support and some familiar faces from social media dotted around. I’d say I enjoyed it, but there was a weird empty feeling too. I got to the finish shoot and finished with the kids, which is a nice touch with the Outlaw in 5h 36 minutes. My total time being 13:57.
Photo Jon Hendley
Physically after this event I felt ok but the next day I was more beaten up than any other event in my life …and it lasted for a week. The event was a big wakeup call and a completely different approach is required if I am to continue participating in endurance sport next year and beyond.
After reading this piece back it may scan as a little negative but I can assure you it isn’t meant to sound that way, just an honest appraisal of how I think it went. On the whole I quite enjoyed the Outlaw weekend. What I did get from this event, and from the other triathlons that I have done this year, was that after taking some time out from triathlon, I have the bug back a bit and I have quite missed the ‘tribe’, as the vast majority of people who I meet on these adventures are the best people.
Thanks again to Jon, Bev and family for the support and pictures.