On Sunday 1st July 2012 The Outlaw Long Distance Triathlon returned to the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham for it’s third year. The event was a complete sell-out, demonstrating the success of the event in its early years and helped by the excellent feedback left by Outlaws of previous years. Having taken part in the event in 2011, I was excited about taking part, so to find out how well my training had fared since the last race and to discover how the revised bike course affected the route. With a field of 1,000 competitors, I was aware that the event was likely to attract a strong caliber of athlete and was excited to see what it had to offer.
Registration for the event took place on the Friday/Saturday before the race, and we decided to head over on the Saturday afternoon. The race briefing was led by Race Director, Iain Hamilton, and he clearly answered athlete questions and outlined what we would all expect on Race Day. Everything within the venue was very well laid out which meant we were able to rack up our bikes nice and easily and get off relatively early to go and get in some much needed dinner and rest.
Unfortunately I was unable to fit in anywhere near as much sleep as I had hoped the night before, and was wide awake by 1:30am. Not ideal before subjecting yourself to a full day of intense exercise – but at least I had plenty of time to psych myself up!
We arrived at The National Watersports Centre for about 4.15am, and proceeded to head over to transition, so to check all gear was intact from the day before, and to fill all relevant water bottles and nutrition packs. I was amazed by the friendliness of the volunteers at this early hour, they were all smiles and helpful and supportive throughout. Things began to liven up by 5am, and soon the transition area was bustling, with athletes making final, important amendments to their race set up.
I headed down to the race start for at about ten to six, leaving plenty of time to test the water and get myself in the best position possible. The water was a tropical 18 degrees which meant that it felt quite comfortable from the very outset. The start of The Outlaw is a mass start, but is organized well, with athletes of different speeds starting at separate points. We were all given some last minute instructions, and there was a bit of jovial banter across the different starting groups as well as a clear countdown to the inevitable start.
At 6am the horn went, and we were off. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to settle into a rhythm – the majority of swimmers seemed to be very sensitive to others around them and I was not kicked and shoved anywhere near as much as I am used to. The swim course takes in an ‘out and back’ course – following 1.2miles up the lake and 1.2 miles back down again. I knew from last year that my main concern would be ensuring that I sighted well, as it is very easy to weave around with such a long way to the first turning point.
There was excellent support from the spectators that followed along the bank of the lake, and the conditions were good; we only really experienced a mild amount of choppiness as we reached the far end of the lake.
As much as I enjoyed the swim, it was a relief to reach the shore, and running into transition I was happy to discover that I had chopped 2 minutes off last years time.
The transition area was well laid out, and it was possible to locate my kit and get changed quickly. By having designated changing areas it was possible to get changed with relative ease – away from the hustle and bustle of those athletes that were still coming through.
The bike course starts with a lap of the lake, and I was filled with confidence to see many athletes still in the water as I left the centre. The cycle up to the main road was well guided – and there were several marshals stationed on the corners and tight bends, instructing athletes about where they should be going.
The first lap of the course took in the same route as previous years, heading up and out towards the town of Southwell. This route is mainly flat and the weather conditions were fair, which enabled me to pick up some good speed in this first section. The 12% incline at Oxton Bank did not feel quite as bad as I had remembered it in the previous year, perhaps because I was aware that it we only had to take it on once, as opposed to three times. All turnings were monitored by a strong crew of volunteers, or clear signage, which meant that I was reassured that I was going the right way throughout – even when I could not see other cyclists around me.
Approaching the end of this first lap was when the wind really started to pick up and I began to feel it as the route opened up into the new southern route. Particular attention was needed when passing gaps in the hedgerows and there were sections whereby the headwind hit so hard that I found myself in the small ring of my bike on long flat straights. Needless to say, I found the wind to be a good challenge – it meant that it was necessary for me to adjust my riding position regularly and I think it positively helped me ride more comfortably for this reason – if not as fast as I would have liked.
The aid stations were regular and well supported, and it was good to see the Channel 4 crew out and about taking footage of athletes as they passed through.
Entering T2, I was amazed with how fresh I felt – and to discover that I had chopped 25 minutes off my 2011 time. I discovered that I was in the position of 6th lady, which I was disappointed with as I had hoped that a stronger bike split would have set me up with a better lead (knowing full well that the run was my nemesis!)
The run course was as I remembered it from the first year – ‘fast and flat’, taking in four laps of the lake, along with an out and back route to the City Hall, down in the direction of the centre of Nottingham. It is made up of a mixture of tracks and road which means that there was a nice balance of running terrain, and I started off running at approximately an ‘8 minute mile’ pace, wary of the fact that this was quite a lot faster than I had expected. However, this was not to last – a combination of a poor nutrition strategy, lack of long distance run training and difficult windy conditions meant that my run speed gradually digressed and I found myself being overtaken by more and more competitors.
A special point of gratitude must go to the volunteers that manned the many feed stations across the route. They were fantastic, incredibly well organized and motivating – each one offering support and encouragement to all athletes.
Finishing the race was exhilarating – there was a good crowd present and I got a personal call out which was a really nice touch. Going into the Athlete Recovery Area I was presented with a high quality Finishers T-Shirt and directed to the food and drink area (I did not have to be asked twice!) There was a fabulous array of food on offer, from spaghetti bolognese to chicken curry and from flapjack to sponge cake – all tastes were catered for.
My conclusion? The Outlaw triathlon is a well-organized, wonderfully located and amazingly supported event and I had a wonderful day. I would recommend it to any level of long distance athlete, from those just starting out, to those that compete to a high and competitive level. There is something for everyone, and it is clear as to how the event has won a successive list of top accolades.
Roll on 2013!
The Outlaw Long Distance Triathlon will be returning on 7th July 2013 I’ll definitely be back for more and can’t wait to come back and give it another go – hopefully knocking a little bit of time off my run…
More information about this event can be found by visiting www.onestepbeyond.org.uk/the-outlaw-triathlon.