10 things the Outlaw taught me

Aside from finding out that it’s entirely possible to eat a whole box of custard in one go, what has Matt Kurton's Outlaw experience taught him?


Issue ID: August 2012


What did I learn during the seven months I spent getting ready for the Outlaw triathlon? Well, aside from finding out that it’s entirely possible to eat a whole box of custard in one go, I also picked up a few more substantial lessons. For example…

1. You do have time. For five months of my training I was commuting for nearly four hours a day. My fellow Outlaw Jamie did his longest rides starting at 5pm and finishing at 11pm so he could still spend the weekend with his family. It’s not easy. You will dream about hitting the snooze button. But if you want to find the time to train, you will.

2. You can achieve more than you think. If you want to do this, you will do it. Build up slowly, be prepared to struggle, keep focused on your goal and don’t doubt yourself, and your perceptions of what you’re capable of will alter radically. I remember a few years back thinking that people who did iron-distance races were absolute freaks. I now know this to be true, but I’m also one of them. 

3. Worst-case scenarios are a waste of energy. My biggest fears were very unlikely to come true – swim failure in freezing water, an unfixable mechanical problem, total stomach shutdown. Worrying about them was a waste of time. So don’t be like me. Instead, focus on things that are likely to happen – like getting slightly cold in the water, getting a fixable mechanical problem, or getting a slightly dodgy stomach – and prepare exactly how to respond.

4. It’s not about you. You will be busy. You will be tired. And despite your very best efforts, you will sometimes not be around when you could really do with being around. For this to work, you need an understanding family and understanding friends. And you need to thank them. A lot.

5. It gets expensive. Add up the money you’ll spend on everything from entrance fees to gels to last-minute pre-race panic-buys, and you’ll easily have enough to by a nice overseas family holiday. So it’s your choice – two weeks on the Costa del Sol or seven months of suffering before sunrise.

6. Sharing is preparing. Having a close friend who was training for the same goal was a big thing for me. So was staying in touch with people on Twitter who were training for the Outlaw or had already completed iron-distance races. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, people who know what you’re going through are a godsend.

7. The day after an iron-race is amazing. By lunchtime, I’d had a fry-up, a bowl of cereal, a load of toast, a bagel, two servings of curry, a milkshake, half a bag of sweets, all the biscuits in our B&B room, some chocolate and eight pancakes. By mid-afternoon, I was starving. It’s worth doing the training for this gala of gluttony alone. Although…

8. It’s hard to stop eating after an iron-race. It’s now ten days since the race, but my appetite shows no sign of returning to its pre-training levels. This hasn’t escaped my wife. “You’re going to get really fat if you keep eating like that,” was how she put it. Firm but fair. 

9. This is the greatest sport in the world. Triathlon, I mean, not just iron-distance triathlon. I just love it. And doing all this training and completing the Outlaw has only made me want to keep doing it for as long as I possibly can.

10. If I do another one, it won’t be for a while. People keep asking me what I’ll do next. I’m already training again and am looking at events. But while I’ll never say never, I won’t be doing an iron-distance race for several years –  not least because I’m very happy to let you know that I’m going to be a Dad for the first time next year.

Which goes to prove that it is just about possible to maintain a sex life while training for an iron-distance race. And also means there’s another steep learning curve waiting for me right around the corner…


Photos: Barry Coombs