I first came across Outlaw triathlon as part of a relay team (with other AVTC members) back in 2012 (and 2013 and 2014 and 2015!) and I can honestly say it is one of the best races I have ever done, so when I was looking at doing a full distance race, it seemed the most obvious choice seeing as I knew the course and that I could complete two thirds of it already. Below is a lot about the course and the race and then a little bit of insight from me as to my race and how it went. The organisation for the race is excellent, with email confirmation as soon as you have entered, various chat groups on social media and communication in the run up to the race (just to reassure you that you have actually entered….and there is no getting out of it now). The race is based at the National Watersports Centre in Holme Pierrepont, Nottingham and is easy to navigate to off the motorway and takes about 2 hours to get there from Abingdon/Wantage/Didcot. There are also plenty of services on the way up for those nervous stops. We stayed at the campsite which is opposite the race start and has all the amenities a campsite should have including a decent shower block, play area for kids, quiet areas and those fancy sleeping pods. We’d hired a campervan for the weekend so that if it rained (after all those sun filled days in May, June and July this was a little overkill but I did book it in Feb!) then at least we would be warm and dry and have somewhere to hang out.
Registration is on the Saturday, so you do have to factor this into your plans, but it’s simple enough and you get your race pack along with the most excellent event backpack. You’ll see mine at all swim sessions as it has a waterproof pouch in it.
Race briefs and swim practices happen throughout the day on Saturday, along with a couple of side events including the Big Swim (1.5, 2, 5km swims) so there are people to watch and other swimmers to keep you inspired for the following day.
The swim is completed in the rowing lake so it’s 2km up, a short swim across and then 1.8km back – the bike is then out on a mixture of open and closed roads starting with a lap of the lake so you can see your spectathletes and you do one loop in a southerly direction, then a long straight to get you to north Nottingham to do a loop up there, and then back down the straight to do the southerly loop again, and then home. It’s pretty much as flat as you can get for 180km.
The run is a lap of the lake, two out and backs to Nottingham centre – all flat apart from one tiny incline across a bridge(with a couple of lake laps in between) and then finally a lap of the lake to finish down the red carpet.
That’s the basic info of the race, this is what happened………
Turn up in the campervan (oh yeah, check me out looking so cool) – book into the campsite with no issues (and no need to book in advance) and head straight to registration.
At this point, no-one actually knows I have entered this race; I’ve been training in secret and massively avoiding answering the question of ‘what are you racing this year?’. A quick count tells me that I know at least 12 people who have entered, but that’s ok…..a race of over 1500 people; I doubt I will see them. Within 10 minutes I think I had seen them all. Some made the assumption I was doing the relay again, but a few eagle eyed athletes noticed I had orange wristbands of a solo competitor and not the grey of the relay teams. Sworn to secrecy, they roll their eyes at me and go about their business.
I rack my bike but am a little concerned as the wind has picked up and it’s starting to look cloudy……I haven’t seen a cloud in the sky for WEEKS! Why is this happening to me!! I’ve got a large plastic cover for my bike and put this on, but am really not sure whether it will be there in 10 minutes as it was acting like a huge parachute – oh well!
Onto race briefing (where they are serving free ErdingersAlkoholfrei for all competitors) where they talk through the race and any changes. As they talk, the wind starts to batter the marquee and we all go silent when we hear a rumble of thunder. What the actual hell ☹
Due to the predicted 40mph winds and the current wind speed, the organisers decided to change the swim course to 3 laps with 2 Aussie exits so that we don’t swim at the far end of the lake where there is no protection. The ducks are currently body surfing on the waves that are up there. No joke.
I completely understand the reason to change the course and am pleased that it is still the 3.8km but am disappointed that it is now loops. One reason being I think it is a major accomplishment to swim that distance without stopping and two, loops means no chance to string everyone out, which means bunch swimming, which means lots of carnage. Great, my favourite way to swim. However, it is what it is and I have 15 hours to get over myself.
We’re also told to go back and rack our bikes by the handlebars so that the wheels are touching the round and there are more points of contact with the racking as bikes that have been racked by the saddle are blowing around and moving off the racking. Disc wheels are ‘heavily’ encouraged to not be used.
I rack my bags with ALL my kit in them as I really don’t know what the weather is going to be like in the morning. Luckily I had thrown a long sleeve jersey into my bag – I feel sorry for the lady next to me who had a sleeveless trisuit and nothing else.
I spend the rest of the day lounging around, reading, snoozing and generally asking myself what the hell I was doing. It’s really important to get in and out of transition/racking as soon as possible. You can easily spend all day walking around and not resting – I heard reports of someone doing 20,000 steps on the Saturday – that’s not my idea of a rest!
The commentators are ace – the music in the morning helps with the nervous chatter, race start is a mass start at 6am with the swimmers able to spread across the whole start of the lake and seeded with faster swimmers on one side and slower on the other.
I pass my flip flops and jacket to the best spectathlete in the world, kiss him goodbye, burst into tears and then head to the start (filling your goggles up with tears before the start not only impedes your vision, but also dehydrates you. It’s not recommended).
The swim happens……I have to queue to get out each time I have completed a lap as the organisers have done their best to create an exit where they hadn’t planned one, but it is what it is…..the buoys were crazy with legs, arms and heads everywhere but no-one was deliberately getting into anyone else's way and by the third loop I had found some space. Oh – and it had started raining by this point. And raining hard.
Out of the swim – saw the Chief Spectathlete on the way out gave him a smile and a wave and headed to the transition tent – one of the good things about Outlaw is that they have wetsuit strippers who will pull your wetsuit off you! Amazing.
Into the tent, tipped my bag out onto the floor and put on all the clothes that were in there. It’s only 14 degrees at this point….and still raining.
Out onto the bike after a quick shout out from the commentators and off to tick off 180km. The bike course is flat apart from one hill (and it’s not that bad, it’s like going up Bayworth Hill) and I just get my head down and ride. There are 6 feed stations along the route, each one manned by a tri club so I remember to say thank you to everyone and take nutrition and encouragement. The road surface is pretty ok although some people think it is awful…they should train round here.
One section of the bike passes the same point 4 times – Outlaw being Outlaw have put on busses to get spectators out to this point. The first time I went through it, there wasn’t anyone there and I must admit I was really disappointed (it’s still raining and I could have done with seeing a friendly face), but the other times it was full of people with bells, whistles, drums and so much cheering and noise – I looked forward to that bit each time and wasn’t disappointed. They line the route and make you feel like a Tour de France rider.
The bike happens without incident and I arrive back into T2 – again, Outlaw is one of those races where you get to hand your bike to someone and they rack it for you; heaven!
Into T2, grab my bag and tip it out onto the floor, taking off my wet jersey and socks and replacing the socks for dry ones and dry trainers. It’s stopped raining at this point and is starting to warm up thank goodness.
I jog out of T2 and very slowly make my way onto the first lap of the run (unbeknown to me, at this point my brother and the very very few select people who knew I was doing this race start to go nuts. I’m 14th overall and 3rd in AG – my phone starts ringing in Dai’s pocket, which he doesn’t answer because it’s not his phone….and he thinks to himself ‘why are THEY ringing her, I am pretty sure they know she is racing at the moment’. Each one is ringing to ask Dai to shout out encouragement to me from them – note to self; tell spectators to answer your phone if it rings!).
My spectator is nowhere to be seen and I’m feeling like I’ve got a looooong way to go so fingers crossed I see him at the end of the lap. At the end of each lap you get a lap band as well as passing the finish – I take a good look at it and vow that I will get there – just two more lap bands to go. I literally just have to tick the km’s off and embark on my run/walk strategy – there is nothing shameful about not running the whole distance, and quite often you can still maintain an excellent time by being measured and carrying it all the way through rather than running, dying and then shuffling and then walking the last 10km.
There are 18 aid stations on the run course and I take something from each one, including saying thank you and joining in some banter. As the run course is out and back, you get to go past all the other competitors – so I see all my friends and we exchange high 5’s and words of encouragement, I actively look out for them and hope that they are all having a good race. It’s also started raining again.
The run sort of happens – I don’t really remember too much about it as it was just a sequence of running for 200 breaths, walking for 20 and then back to running again, but I do remember turning to run my final lap of the lake….this is it….this is what the training has been for….I dig deep and try not to look too far ahead. There are markers counting down the last 1km, 500m and 200m of the run and I have a little fist bump with the lady next to me when we get to the 1km to go mark.
We agree we aren’t going to sprint finish each other for the line, and Outlaw being Outlaw, allow you to run down the finish chute with your kids/family/friends, and she has some kids she wants to pick up…she goes ahead of me and collects her children and runs down the chute. I stop and hug my spectathlete as hard as I can manage at this point and make my way down the red carpet to the commentator calling out my name and shouting ‘You Are An Outlaw!’
Collect my medal, t-shirt and then go and find the main man to grab some food, massage and a shower (what a spectathlete! Has brought a towel, shower gel and dry clothes for me to put on!).
There is a reason I have done this race 5 times – it’s one of the best organised ones I have ever been to and is very beginner friendly – the majority of people doing it are first timers.
It’s their 10th anniversary in 2019 and entries have just opened – anyone in for a relay team?!?!