Tuesday, 11 August 2015 22:59

Can I Become an Outlaw

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Time will tell, but first the a little matter of The Lions Bridge marathon, a wee nimble around the lanes and trails of Leigh. This is one of Malc’s marathons, you know, the ones where you just rock up, register and run. A great day out, that on this occasion was 6 laps of a 4.36 miles or there abouts.

I set off treating this as a long training run, no heroics, just run at a good steady pace and enjoy it, and that’s exactly what I did. I had no issues, felt comfortable all the way around and, had it not been for 4 horses and riders apologetically holding me up for a couple of minutes on the last lap, would have done every lap in 40 minutes. I was very pleased with the performance considering that I had also cycled over 100 miles on Thursday and run 8 miles straight of the bike.

Sooo, Outlaw... A long distance tri, and by that I mean iron distance, 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles on the bike and a wee marathon to finish, and yes it is a full marathon, all 26.2 miles of it. It’s a daunting prospect when stood on the start line, or rather behind a line of canoes in the lake at the water sport centre in Nottingham.

The previous few days had been spent sorting my kit out for the day, endlessly checking the weather forecast hoping for an improvement in the wet weather that was forecast and cleaning and oiling the bike ready for action. My mind is constantly thinking about the race at this point, it just takes over everything. I am thinking about the times that I want to do, the times I think I might achieve if all goes well and then just about finishing. Have I got everything I need, where did I put my running watch, I’ll be lost without it?

112 miles on the bike, ouch, that’s not going to be pleasant in the rain, best take a jacket, but which one?

How many socks shall I take, has the weather forecast got any better yet?

A marathon to run, do I need another jacket for the run, gloves? No, it’s the summer after all, even if I’m wet I’ll be warm enough, wont I?

More questions than answers, how’s the weather looking now, lovely at the moment, 140.6 miles under my own steam.

Before I know it, it’s 6am on Sunday morning, the hooter has gone, I’ve had my good luck kiss from Trudi, I can do no more, time to get on with it. There is a flurry of body parts thrashing around in the water in every direction I look in, and despite my best laid plans to avoid the melee, I seem to have found myself right in the middle of it.

I get a hit on the side of the head, dis-lodging my goggles and letting the water in. I try to stop to clear the water and settle the goggles back on as someone swims into the back of me, dunking me under for a brief moment. Once sorted I set off again, trying to compose myself, I need to settle down and find my rhythm.

Open water mass starts are scary things, I’ve done a few but they just don’t get any easier, I’m having negative thoughts already, I’m struggling to find my space, getting knocked around, bumping into other guys, who are probably suffering like me. I get a kick in the chin, nothing too bad but I need to stop momentarily, I re-focus and drift off to the right, it’s a longer way to go but I find clear water and at last get going at my pace.

Panic over, I let the training kick in and sight the next buoy, I know from the race briefing that red buoys can be taken on either side, orange ones on the right. I have 2 red, 2 orange and then 3 red to go before heading for the blue arch. My goggles are not sealed properly now and are leaking, I have water sloshing around in my eyes but I feel OK now.

I round the two orange buoys without any incident and manage to find some feet to hang onto to get a draft, this lasts for 10/15 minutes and takes my mind off how far I have left to go. Before long I reach the finish and climb onto the ramp, a volunteer pulls my zip down allowing me to shrug shoulders out of my suit. Phew, that’s the swim done, a quick check of my watch tells me that I am slightly down on my schedule, oh well, still 138.2 miles to go. As I reach the change tent I plonk myself on the floor, legs in the air and another volunteer pulls the wetsuit from my legs. A quick change, make sure I have some food in my pockets and, yes I have decided to take a jacket, the forecast is not good!

Once on the bike I settle nicely into a good strong rhythm, eating my first piece of flapjack and making sure I drink some fluids early on. I am surprised at how fast I am going, averaging just under 19 mph. My schedule is to try an average 17 ish mph. If I can manage that I can finish the bike in just over 6.5 hours.

The course is fairly flat, no..let’s be honest, the course is very flat and after 2 hours I am just short of 38 miles, flying along, but all the time worried that I am going too fast and am going to burn out on the bike or the run. Any endurance event is a fine balance of pace against the distance needed to travel. Experience is telling me that I am going faster than I have ridden before for this distance, but I maybe foolishly push on regardless.

Halfway in under 3 hours!!!

What is going on??? Still feeling good, still eating and drinking, if, and it’s a big if, the weather remains ok I might get close to 6 hours. That would be awesome, I try not to think about and just keep the legs spinning at the same rate.

The wind starts to pick up and then the rain comes, it’s colder now and the roads are going to be greasy, I need to take care on the corners and junctions. It seems to have come at just the wrong time as I am heading straight into the driving rain and I know that the road is straight for the next 15 miles. Joy, my average speed starts to drop a little as I battle with the elements, I still feel strong and warm enough but my hands are a bit cold.

I come off the last loop, only 8 miles to go, less than ½ an hour of riding. 6 hours is going to slip by, but I am still on for an incredible ride for me. The last miles are deceptively difficult, the driving wind and rain battling to push me of the road, and the road surface is awful for the last 3 miles, pot holes and loose gravel everywhere.

I finish, hand my bike over to yet another volunteer who racks it for me, and tip toe around to the changeover tent in my cleats. It’s like walking on ice but I reach the carpet without incident, phew! I grab my bike/run bag and peel off my wet shoes and socks, all the time trying to warm my hands up. Three of my fingers have gone white due to the cold and I can’t feel them as I pull on dry socks and my running shoes. I empty any food and rubbish out of my top but still can’t get the circulation going in my fingers. I struggle to do the laces up on my shoes and head out onto the run with my shoes flapping around on my feet.

As I set off, my mind is trying to compute what times I need to run for the marathon to reach my different goals. I know that unless it all goes really wrong I will have a new PB, possibly even run under 12 hours which would be an absolute dream.

Within a few hundred miles of leaving transition is a race clock, it shows 7:45, leaving me 4¼ hours to finish the run for my dream time. My back aches, my feet are flapping around and my hands are freezing, what could possibly go wrong?

After a few miles of flexing and clenching my hands I can finally feel my fingers and prop my feet on a handy fence to tighten my laces, ah that’s better and my back ache seems to have gone, things are looking up.

The only way to describe a run after 7¾ hours of activity is hellish. Legs are tired and struggle to accept signals from the brain, stomach is all over the place, the urge to stop and walk is overwhelming, I’m tired, cold and just want to stop. I know I can’t though, I so want to run under 12 hours that I force myself on, always calculating what time I have left, worried that in my tired state I have made a massive mistake in my sums.

I pass the clock again, halfway. So far my maths is correct and I reckon I have well over 2 hours to finish but I know my pace is slowing. I am taking longer at feed stations and have made a couple of loo stops due to my cramping stomach. The weather is not improving but I am not concerned about that any more, my main concern is to keep moving forward as best I can and get this thing done and dusted. I know I am closing in on the finish but am still worried that it could all go wrong.

I have seen plenty of people really conk out in the last few miles and be reduced to a drivelling mess, practically on their hands and knees, dragging themselves along. Fortunately, not for me today, just over a mile to go, another slurp of flat coke and some water.

I can see the finish. I know how far it is. I know I have time in hand, I know what I need to do.

Head down I plod on, one foot slowly in front of the other, grinding out the metres one by one. The crowds thicken, the noise level lifts as people cheer me in to the finishing area. I reach the finishing chute and Trudi is there waiting for me and runs the final 20 metres with me. Considering she has been up all day and caught up with me at various spectator spots, she looks remarkably fresh!!

My arms raised in triumph I cross the line.

11 hours 51 minutes.


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