Outlaw Triathlon – Race Report by Stefan Van Brummelen

Outlaw Stats:

  • Swim: 1:02:03
  • Bike: 4:57:46
  • Run: 3:18:29
  • Total time: 9:26:43
  • Overal position 9/1011
  • AG position 1/109

Here is how I got on:

Following on from the Outlaw Half at Holkham and my AG win there I had a real mojo boost going back into training. Keen to expand on the positive feel and energy, I was looking forward to some hard weeks of training with a number of key sessions planned in. Unfortunately work had other plans for me and with some pretty long days and various travels fitting in training resulted in compromising sleep and family time. In addition due to my season being compressed with 5 events in 2 months I hadn’t done as many long sessions as the year before when I had a specific training block of 10 weeks for my first Ironman. All in all I had some doubts in my mind about my preparation, especially 2 weeks out.

At the 2 weeks before the event stage there wasn’t much more fitness to be gained and I resisted the temptation to over train by cramming in lots of training sessions. I did get some comfort from my training data, clocking a number of personal bests. This is also where working with a coach has helped me to get an objective view on my overall fitness. It was nice to get an positive message from my coach stating that I was fitter and fresher than I was before my Ironman last year.

One of the things I discovered during a training ride was that my gears wouldn’t change as smoothly on my TT bike. I therefore booked my TT bike in for a service which confirmed that both my chain and cassette were worn. Not wanting to risk a mechanical issue during the Outlaw I decided to have these replaced and my bike fully serviced.

Race week:

The focus for me was to ensure I had enough rest as well as sufficient short and sharp sessions to keep my fitness. Particularly my running remains an area for improvement so being able to get a few runs in above race pace was a good mojo booster.

Also, to add to the pre-race stress, this was my last week in my home away from home in Banbury so this meant clearing out my flat and saying goodbye to the great people I have met during the 3,5 years I have been there. Not the best combination in the week before an Iron distance triathlon. There are various articles about the impact of mental stress on athletic performance and mentally it was a tough week for me.

As with previous events we had booked accommodation through AirBnB closer to the venue which ended up being a lovely cottage about 40 minutes’ drive away. A must for parents with a young and energetic child is to have a place with outside space. Our little girl enjoyed having the room to run around and play outside. This allowed us some time to plan the weekend ahead.

The Outlaw proved a popular event for the EVO Triathlon team as 11 of us were taking part. In the weeks leading up to the Outlaw we had a Facebook messenger group set up, which was nice and made the build a more inclusive process.

The majority of the EVO team had decided to stay more local in a hotel so we decided to meet up at the race venue.

Saturday was registration and final preparation day and the EVO team all decided to go for the 11am registration. Arriving at the Holmepierrepoint venue is always a nice experience, there were various activities planned on the Saturday and that provided a real buzz from the moment I arrived. Meeting up with my fellow EVO’s added to the experience and it makes a nice change to do the various things together, race briefing, recce of the transition area and then go our separate ways to do our respective final preparations.

Race briefing was another double act of race director Ian Hamilton and Simon Ward, as usual they kept it light hearted and interactive. One of the really nice touches was when Simon asked two of the pros present, Karl and Jo how they experience the race. Nice to hear them explain that it hurts them too and they have the same physical and mental struggles as us mere mortals. Their honesty was very much appreciated and it’s one of the great features of triathlon that we as amateurs get to interact with the pro athletes. It also for me adds to the respect I have for the pro athletes as they compete on the same course and in the same conditions so it allows for a direct comparison and I can see just how much faster they are.

One of the changes between the Outlaw full distance and the half distance is that in transition 2, the event marshals take your bike and rack it for you. This prompted a few comments about not confessing to peeing on your bike whilst being out on the bike course, when you hand your bike in as to not to deter the volunteers from taking your bike.

This is an acquired skill and requires an advanced ability to multi task apparently. I genuinely pondered whether I’d be able to “piddle and pedal” however judging by the responses from the audience there were quite a few athletes that had mastered that particular skill as the loss of time and momentum on the bike makes this a must for the top athletes. It is estimated that this would constitute a 5 minute loss of time which is quite a bit to make back up during the remainder of the bike. As a results all Pros, elites and top AG athletes have mastered this skill ( even the likes of Chrissie Wellington admitted to this in her book ).

Another addition was the presence of changing tents in transition and the presence of “strippers” to help the athletes getting out of their wetsuits post swim.

Race briefing done and having done a recce of the transition area it was time for my pre race BRICK session: 30 minutes bike with several efforts at race target power to judge pacing followed by a 15 minute run just above race pace.

On the bike it was encouraging to see the speed that corresponded to my target power output which was a nice mojo boost. Then on the run my legs felt good at sub 7 minute mile pace which added to my general positive feeling.

After the BRICK session it was time to rack my bike as well as my Swim to Bike, and Bike to Run bags. Having learned the hard way at the Outlaw Holkham Half I double checked and made sure I put socks in my Bike to Run bag as the blisters from my last event had only just healed. Making the most of transition being quiet I physically walked from the swim exit to my bags and then pictured where I would sit on race day to get changed. Based on the weather forecast of showers and 13 degrees Celsius I opted to pack cycling bib shorts and a wind and waterproof gilet into my Swim to Bike bag.

Then I walked to where my bike rack slot was and again memorised how I would go there from the changing tent. I find that little preparations like these make all the difference on race day when the adrenaline is surging in between the disciplines.

One of the things I didn’t allow for was a bike cover and with rain forecasted through the evening and night this meant my bike would be out in the rain throughout. Nothing I could change about it, but it left an uneasy feeling. Normally my bike is kept inside the house ( yes this does drive my other half mad at times ) therefore it felt wrong leaving it outside in the rain. Whilst I haven’t gone as far as naming my bike ( unlike some other athletes ) it still is a prized possession ( read disproportionately expensive ). Note to self, pack a bike cover next time, in the meanwhile I packed an aerosol with spray lube in my morning transition bag to grease everything in the morning and thereby reduce the risk of mechanical issues during the race.

Back at my accommodation it was time for another one of my OCD moments, getting my checklist out and ensuring my transition bag was packed for the next morning. As I have previously alluded to, the ungodly hour that we need to wake up at on race day coupled with the fact that I don’t function in the morning brings with it a high degree of risk of forgetting something critical should I leave it to be done in the morning.

Fortunately my support crew wasn’t back yet from their afternoon out, so I could get organised in peace and quiet.

A nice change this time was that we met up with the EVO team and their various supporting partners, family and friends for an evening meal. Great way for our various supporters to meet and this would also make it easier on race day for everyone to stay in contact.

Race Day:

A 3:20am alarm set on 2 different phones with back up alarms at 3:30 signalled the start of what would be another long day. Despite the early hour I had actually managed to sleep about 4 hours but I still felt tired. Getting into my Tri shorts and Tri suit I contemplated the day ahead. It’s always an intimidating prospect of the suffering that lies ahead during an Iron distance traithlon. I had my usual strong morning coffee to wake up and this gave me time to go through my race plan in my head. As my father in law was travelling with us we had discussed for him to join us later with our daughter which meant that it wouldn’t be such a long day for her. Fortunately on race morning he decided to stay at the cottage with our daughter and join us later.

This was welcome news as this gave me less to worry about in terms of getting to the venue and getting to transition for final preparations.

This also meant my wife and I could travel to the venue together. It was my aim to leave at 4:00am, however our morning routine took a bit longer and we eventually left at 4:20. Arriving at HolmePierrepoint at 5:00 we discovered that most of the other athletes had the same idea and we ended up queuing for 20 minutes to get parked. Note for future events, get there earlier, as by the time I got to transition is was 5:30 which only left 15 minutes to get organised and into my wetsuit.

Transition was packed and bustling with energy as over 1000 athletes were going through their final preparations and to the swim start. I got my bike sorted first, pumped my tires back up to pressure. Despite the weather forecast predicting a few rain showers, I decided to go for dry weather tyre pressure rather than reducing my tyre pressure for more grip on wet roads. With 112 miles of cycling, tyre pressure makes quite a big difference to overall effort needed and I wanted to give myself the best possible legs for the run.

Final preparations done and nutrition added to my race bags I handed my bag and bike pump to my wife for a last bit of encouragement. Then it was time to get into my wetsuit, just when I was about to ask people to help zip my wetsuit up, I bumped into 2 friends from Dubai who were competing as well, so they helped me into my wetsuit and I returned the favour.

The Swim: Target 1:05 – 1:10, actual time 1:02:03

At 5:50 I made my way to the swim start which was already filling up rapidly with other athletes getting in the water. The swim start at the Outlaw is a mass start with all of the athletes starting at the same time. There is a recommended “seeding” of sub 60 minute swimmers on the left-hand side of the start area with the other pens allocated for 60-80 minutes and 80 minutes plus anticipated swim times.

Based on my last 2 iron distance swims, I decided to get into the sub 60-minute group and as I was positioning myself I asked those around me what their anticipated swim times were. 60 – 63 minutes came the reply so I moved forward a bit.

The swim is an out and back course, down the left-hand side of the rowing lake, across to the right-hand side and then down the right-hand side of the lake. This meant that at all times we were swimming with the buoys to our right. As I breathe to my right, I rather swim on the left-hand side of the pack so I don’t have to worry about people swimming into me. My start position ( due to others around me was more to the right ) so I decided that after the start I would try to gradually swim to the left-hand side.

As nearly all of the athletes got into the water, the race organisers were doing a great job in terms of hyping up the crowd and getting us to wave back. A 5-minute notice was given, and I made an effort to scull on my front getting my face in the water to get used to the water temperature and then moving my wetsuit to ensure I had full range of motion in my shoulders. With 1 minute to go, I checked my watch again to make sure it was ready to record the swim and then with 5 seconds to go I pressed start and braced myself.

At 6:00am the start horn went off and we were on our way! Having done a few of these mass starts before, I know that quite a few people go off hard for the first couple of hundred meters and then settle into race pace. This time proved exactly the same and I followed suit ( when I reviewed my data afterwards, I was actually swimming at threshold for the first 3 minutes after which I found a gap to swim into and slowly made my way to the outside of the pack). This paid off and I managed to stay out of the melee and other than a few instances where I bumped into someone swimming alongside me, I soon found some clear space to swim into. Just when I was settling into a rhythm someone cut across me but then stayed ahead of me. A few quicker strokes got me onto the feet of the swimmer in front of me and I could settle again into a rhythm. The swimmers around me started to fade a bit and as a result I found myself moving forward. This was a great mojo boost as my effort felt sustainable and I managed to keep up with the swimmer in front of me. Every now and then he’d slow down and then surge forward again which meant it disturbed my swimming rhythm and pace.

At the turn buoys, I took a wide line in and leaving space on the inside to stay out of the natural pinch point that occurs when all of a sudden jostling for space occurs. This means swimming a few extra meters, which I happily allow for instead of risking physical contact and having my goggles knocked off for example. I have seen various degrees of aggression at the turn buouys, sometimes going as far as people punching the swimmers around them.

In the turn, I lost the swimmer I had been following but still felt strong so I upped my stroke rate just a bit knowing I was past the half way point. Mentally this is always a morale booster knowing that I’m on the way back in. Because I continued to breathe to my right I could see the other swimmers still heading towards the turn buoys and judging by the string of swimmers that were yet to turn, I must have been going well. Eventually another pack formed in front of me, and I managed to catch this pack. For a while we must have been swimming in sync as a group. Unlike other swims, the people around me were quite considerate and there was very little contact as a result. I have my watch set to alert me every 5 minutes as a mean of breaking the swim down. Based on the amount of alerts passed I estimated being on track for my swim target time and decided to keep my pace up.

The swim exit soon loomed ahead and at every race I have done so far this seems to bring out a last hard effort from the swimmers around me and this time was no different. I also consciously kicked my legs harder to get blood flowing to my lower limbs.

My coach Michael was one of the volunteers at the swim exit and I managed to swim up to him to say hi and get him to help me out of the water. A nice touch from the volunteers was that they unzipped your wetsuit as well and then I pressed the pause button on my watch. Swim time 1:02:03 and a new PB by almost 2 minutes. I was well made up with that, especially as I discovered later that I swam the second half quicker than the first half. Position out of the water 126/1013 overall and 16/109 AG

Transition 1: 4:49

With my wetsuit already having been unzipped by the friendly volunteers at the swim exit, I got my arms out and wetsuit down to my middle. At the race briefing they had recommended that we take our wetsuits off outside of the changing tent. As I was trying to get my wetsuit off one of the volunteers ran over and helped. Wetsuit was therefore off very quickly and running into the tent I had no problems locating my Swim to Bike bag.

I sat down on one of the benches, emptied my bag onto the floor (very useful way to ensure you take everything with you!), stuffed my wetsuit into the bag and started getting into my cycling gear. I put my bib shorts on over my tri-suit, gillet on, shoes on, filled my gilet back pockets with nutrition and another spare inner tube. Helmet on, bag back onto the rack (a new change as with most triathlons you drop them in a bag drop area) and then off to find my bike. Fortunately I located my bike quickly and unlike most other transitions it felt that only a few people went past me. I always make sure I pay attention to the mount line (it’s a severe penalty for mounting too early and you get little gain in an iron distance triathlon). Shoes clipped in fine as well and I was away. Transition time 4:49 -> not bad for a fairly long area, change into cycling gear and out again ( Overall position out of transition 122/1013 and 17/109 AG )

The Bike, target 5:15 – 5:30, actual 4:57:47

Getting on the bike out of the swim is always a good feeling for me, as much as I’m more comfortable with the open water swim now, the bike is really my element in a race. I used the lap around the lake to take in some fluids and get past a number of athletes who had a better swim then me. I always start the bike with a higher cadence than race cadence to get the blood pumping into my legs and get my muscles warm. Normally my heart rate out of the swim is high and stays high for the first 20 minutes on the bike. This time however my rate heart was in zone 2 at my target power of 270 – 290 Watt. ( 3.3W/kg ). Just when I was starting to feel quite content with myself, my Garmin head unit displayed a message saying my power meter battery was low. I therefore decided to keep a closer eye on my heart rate so in the event that my power meter would stop working altogether I still had a good secondary target metric to race to.

Being in 122nd position overall meant that there were quite a number of people to chase on the bike. Particularly the dual carriage way out of Holmepierrepoint to the Radcliff turn off is very fast and with 27mph I was riding past fellow athletes. At the turn off into Radcliff I had a word with myself to ease off a bit and take it easier for the first 2 hours knowing I had 112 miles to ride and still a marathon to run. From my previous long-distance triathlons, I have learned that I tend to drink too little on the bike, so to counter this I had a time alert set on my head unit every 15 minutes and ensure I’d pick up a bottle at every feed station.

Despite easing off a bit on the bike and staying at the lower end of my target power ( apart from the hills where I was trying to avoid efforts above 90%-110% of FTP ), I was still catching people. At the first timing station on the bike course at 16 miles I had moved up to 76th overall and 9th AG.

The support on the bike course, despite the early hour was already starting to build. It always bemuses me to see the locals outside of their houses, brew in hand and cheering us lunatics on at 7am on a Sunday morning. Many people had come out to the small hamlet of Car Colston to support the athletes. Outlaw put on a bus service from Holmepierrepoint to Car Colston which ensured support was plenty. The Southern loop is done first and it actually looked like the forecasted rain was staying away. After completing the Southern loop we went back through Car Colston and with that, for the first time I got to see other athletes going the other way. As there were 11 EVO’s racing I was keeping my eye out for a fellow EVO and I did see a flash of black, red and white coming the other way. The first hour of the bike went by and at the hour mark I noticed that I had averaged just over 37km/hour ( > 23 mph ). I reminded myself that it was still early in the bike course with a lot of riding still to do, however if I could keep that up then a sub 5 hour bike split started to become a possibility. ( average speed needed for 5 hour 112mile bike split = 36 km/hr or 22.4 mph )

The northern loop takes in the busy A6097 past Lowdham which remain open to traffic. Despite it being a Sunday and early still, there already was a fair bit of traffic on the road. Fortunately most drivers were alert and courteous and gave plenty of space when passing. This loop also has a bit of a climb in it which you also tackle as part of the Outlaw Half course. On the climb I deliberately held back and used my gears to avoid putting in too hard an effort. This paid off and then this climb was followed by a fast descent into the town of Southwell. It was good that the roads were quiet as I was hitting speeds well over 40mph in aero. At the 64 mile point on the bike, I had moved up to 30th overall and 5th AG. Despite not knowing this at the time it became apparent that there were fewer and fewer people ahead of me. At the end of the Northern loop we joined the A6097 again and with that we saw the people just starting the Northern loop. I saw one of our fellow EVO’s going to the other way gave a shout out. Back onto the Southern loop the support on the bike course was great, a lot more people had come out since I did the loop previously and particularly in Car Colston both sides of the road were lined with people shouting out encouragements. This gave such a moral boost and I picked up my pace a bit knowing this was the last time I’d be doing the Southern loop.

I had a caught a number of other athletes before the next feed station and as slowed down to grab a bottle and fill my hydration system they would come past again. Which actually worked out well as in the gap that followed I could apply some “multi-tasking” which was a sign that at least in this race I was staying better hydrated.

I then caught back up to one of the riders in a colourful team Zoot outfit (Tom), we had changed position a few times and had exchanged a few words every time which was nice. Having someone riding strongly nearby in the latter stages of the bike was a good motivational boost for me as it pushed me to keep to my power band. As it became apparent that I remained on track for a 5 hour bike split I decided to push to the upper range of my power band knowing that my total training load ( aka TSS ) for the bike was going to be lower than I had estimated at a 5:15 – 5:30 bike split whilst still giving me the best possible legs for the run.

Eventually at about 80 miles, Tom had dropped away and I was making inroads to a group of athletes in front of me. By this point I was up to 27th Overall and 4th AG and despite a nagging pain in my right hip and a niggle in my right knee I was still feeling strong.

When I caught the group in front their interpretation of keeping a 12 meter gap to the rider in front appeared out by a factor 10 and you would have been forgiven to think they were out on a group ride. Drafting ( when caught ) comes with a 5 minute penalty and as a result I go out of my way to avoid drafting. Seeing others ride as a group showed that their appetite for risk was greater than mine or they would stand to gain more than 5 minutes by drafting.

Not long after passing the group I got to the 100 mile point of the bike course which is always a nice marker to get to, knowing that after that it is only 12 miles back to transition. The crowds in Car Colston were out in full force when I went through it the last time. I saw Jenny ( one of my fellow EVO’s going the other way and we actually both acknowledged each other ).

Coming back into Holmepierrepoint meant using the estates private road which due to the persistent overnight rain fall was still covered in large puddles. This forced me to reduce my pace quite a bit whilst avoiding the deeper puddles ( with potholes ) and slippery speed bumps. The main manor house on the Holmepierrepoint estate is very scenic and always provides nice race pictures. Then finally on the perimeter road back into transition, taking in some hydration whilst spinning my legs out at a high cadence to set me up for the run. The final turn into transition felt great, and as per previous events it’s nice to know I made it back in one piece without any mechanical issues or punctures.

My support crew were waiting for me at the entrance into Transition 2 which was a great mojo booster. It’s also a bit of an emotional moment as I have this sense of relief that barring any major physical issues, I would finish the event. My wife shouted that I was in 4th position, which I was very happy with, I got off the bike and as I had to hand my bike over to the volunteers ( and being as OCD as I am about my race data ) I made sure I paused my Garmin and saved the ride before I dismounted. I wanted to make sure the volunteer who was taking my bike got hold of it properly so no running dismount this time again. Bike time 4:57:47, overall position 19/1013 and 4/109 AG.

Transition 2: 3:34

Not having to rack my own bike was a new experience and as I ran into the transition tent I was the only one in there. Quickly I got out of my gilet and cycling shorts, socks on ( definitely a must! ) stuff my cycling gear into the bag, hang my bag up again and then a quick toilet break before setting off on the run. Position out of transition 2, 20th overall, 4th AG

The Run, target 3:30, actual time 3:18:30

A quick glance at my watch showed that I started the run at 12:08 ( 6:08hrs since starting the race ), therefore I realised that if I could run to my target of an 8 minute mile marathon I was on target for getting a new PB for an Iron Distance triathlon ( my previous PB was 9:47:52 at Challenge Almere in 2016 ). Any run off the bike always feels tough at the start, despite lots of BRICK runs in training, the first 2 miles always feel hard. Then there is also the fact that my surroundings move a lot slower when running then when I was cycling which further adds to it being mentally tough. My watch is set to give me splits every km and my first km off the bike was done in 4:32. This was good I decided until my second km split came in at 4:19. I consciously eased off and tried to run to a 4:30/km target. In training I had done a couple of 20 mile ( 32km ) runs at 4:30 – 4:45 /km so I knew it should be a sustainable pace for me.

By now the sun had come out and as it was starting to warm up nicely, hydration was going to become more important, as a result and I decided to walk the aid stations to take in water, high5 zero at every aid station. I took one gel at every other aid station to keep my carbohydrates intake up as well.

This paid off and I got through the first 5km feeling good. At 6km however my digestive system decided that it processed my breakfast and nutrition ingested on the bike. Que a dash into a portaloo at the second aid station of the second lap. At least the portaloo was still relatively clean ( I don’t want to know how bad these get as the race goes on ). Getting out of a wet and sweaty one piece tri suit in a portaloo isn’t an easy thing and then answering a call of nature is one of the less appealing experiences in triathlon. I therefore lost 4 minutes with that ( yes I was monitoring my watch as it felt like an eternity ). As I came out of the portaloo and started running again I noticed that Tom ( from the bike course had overtaken me ). I caught him up and we ran side by side for a bit, Tom asked if we could run together and I said yes that’s fine, stick with me. I was quite looking forward to running together for a while after the solitude of the bike course. After a few minutes however Tom said that my pace was too high for him ( this was a first for me ). He was put out a bit when he discovered we were both in the same Age Group and after a well meant “here was me hoping you’d be a crap runner” from him he eased off.

I wished him a good run and carried on running to my target pace. Normally on the run I either go backwards a few places or hang onto my place, therefore I hoped I could remain 4th AG as well as get a new Iron distance PB. The first out and back loop went by well and when I got back to HPP, my wife met me at the towpath saying I was now in 3rd in my AG. This was great news and a much-needed morale booster. Despite my stop to answer a call of nature I passed the half marathon marker in 1:38:18, which meant that I had 1:52 to run the second half of the marathon to achieve my target and still get my PB.

One of the officials was shouting out our names as we came past and as he struggled to pronounce my last name I mentioned to him to I’m called SVB as well. He seemed to like that as every time after that I got a booming SVB shout out.

The third lap was another out and back along the river, across the river Trent, along the water and back again. It was noticeably busier at my third lap and particularly on the tow path this meant having to put little surges in, to pass people. Running up the tow path for the second time I saw Kit Walker ( Male Leader ) coming to other way again ( we had passed each other on the tow path on my first out and back as well ). I shouted some encouragement and he graciously acknowledged them which was great. At the aid station however I took in a caffeine gel and it almost came back up straight away, mild panic moment as I was slowing down and tried to get my stomach to settle. At one point, I thought I’d be throwing up next, however the feeling subsided and I went back to running. I made a conscious decision to just stick to water at the aid stations to help my stomach digest what probable was a high concentration of sugars.

16 miles into the run my legs started to hurt and it became more of a conscious effort to keep my pace up. By now on the 0-10 scale of suffering ( with 0 being no pain at all and 10 being tortured to death ) I was on 8/10 so it took a fair bit of digging deep to keep going.

Still every km split was coming in between 4:30 and 4:50 so I was managing the drop off in pace despite feeling a wave of fatigue. At one point I was telling myself that I was only an hour away from being able to lie down.

I decided to move onto having some coke at the aid stations to get some caffeine and sugars in and that seemed to perk me up again. Coming back down the tow path I saw fellow EVO Jen M coming the other way, a high five and “Go Machine” from Jen was another great motivational boost.

Coming back into HPP for the last time my wife was bouncing on the side of the tow path shouting: you’re first! You’re first!

This actually took a while to register as I had not expected to go forward in the run, in terms of gaining places and I probably only processed this piece of information 5 minutes afterwards. I didn’t allow myself to dwell on it, however running to the top of the lake there was nobody that appeared to be catching up with me and I was still catching various people in front.  After passing the finish line for one last time with another great SVB shout out from the race marshal, I noticed the race clock at 09:04 with 4.7km to go for me. At that point, I realised I could actually break 9:30 for an Iron distance if I could run that within 26 minutes, and with that improve my PB even more. I also was keen to hold onto 1st AG if I could. When I passed the score board at the lake for the final time, my coach Michael and his fiancée Jacqui had been cheering me on as well as giving me running technique tips each lap. I shouted that I could break 9:30 after which Michael told me to go for it, this was another nice morale boost as by this point I was in absolute agony and suffering. Mentally at this stage I repeated the mantra from one of the books I have read a few times: How bad do you want it? I decided that I did want it bad enough to continue the suffering and tried to put another injection of pace into my run.

On the way up the lake I caught up with another fellow EVO Seb and it was nice to exchange a few words as I explained I wasn’t slowing as I wanted to break 9:30. He also told me to push and go for it. The feed station at the top of the lake didn’t seem to get any closer but finally I got there for a last flat coke and some water before setting off on the last 2 km to the finish line.

The closer I got the finish line the more people were on the side cheering us on and that energy was amazing. Especially as people realised I was on my last lap it was great to get the shout outs from those spectating. The encouragement really carried me through the last mile and I’m very grateful and humbled that people cheer us all on, rather than just the persons they came out to support.

Finally the finish chute came into view and I pointed out to the race marshal that I was done by showing my arm bands. Last glance over my shoulder to check there was nobody catching me I decided to enjoy the finish chute experience and consciously look for my support crew. At previous events I had “suffered from tunnel vision” and completely missed my support crew which didn’t sit well with me giving the sacrifices they put up with whilst I train for these events. Fortunately this time I managed to spot my wife, give her a high five and then Michael ( my coach ) had also managed to get to the finish so another high five. With a few steps to go I decided to do a little celebration jump and with a surge of adrenaline I managed to get off the ground.

Going through the finish line tape, the sense of overwhelming relief and achievement was really special. With all my mental energy having been focussed on completing the course, once across the line emotions flooded me. I looked back and this confirmed I had gone sub 9:30 with a finishing time of 9:26:43. At this stage I didn’t know my final position but when I caught up with my support crew afterwards I learned that I had finished 1/109 in my AG and 9th overall ( excluding 2 relay teams which in my view don’t feature in the individual results as they do one discipline each ).

I went for a complimentary massage and then met up with my support crew. 2 other members of our family had come out to see me finish which was a nice surprise. I then had something to eat and a celebratory Erdinger Alcohol free beer after which I felt a bit better. The event had taken a lot out of me and I really had to dig deeper than ever before to finish the run. Great race for me and new PB’s for my swim and run with the bike being within 3 minutes of my previous PB  (although that was on a flat and fast course at Challenge Almere.)

As I walked back to my car along the run course in my tri suit and wearing the medal I got to encourage my fellow EVO’s who were all on the run course as well. Great racing from all of the team. I got changed into some clean clothes and it was actually a relief to peel off my tri suit. We stayed around for another couple of hours to support the rest of the EVO’s and then made our way back to our accommodation as our little girl had enough and wanted her daddy back home. I collected my bike and bags from transition and called it a day.

Back at the accommodation it was nice to relax with my support team and enjoy a few drinks to celebrate. The efforts from the day caught up with me and gradually my limbs became sorer.

The next day we went back to HPP for the awards ceremony, I had taken the day off work to recover although I had not expected to come back. The day after at HPP felt strange as the transition area, tents and finishing chute were being dismantled. It had a bit of a “morning after the night before” feeling about it all. In a way it felt like the bubble had burst a bit as a result.

The awards ceremony was really well done using a room inside the HPP venue, the winners of the various Age Groups also got a winners cycling jersey which was a nice and unexpected gesture. The EVO team were well presented at the awards ceremony with Ali winning her AG and Jenny coming third in hers.

Again a big shout out to the organisation behind the Outlaw, they really have put on a great and friendly event. What a day and what a memory…