So I did it. I can call myself an Outlaw. 2.4 miles paddling, 112 miles pedalling, 26.2 miles plodding, and then, finally, it was done.
Crossing that line felt incredible and here’s my guide to a few things you might want to avoid doing in the week before an iron-distance race, and during the race itself…
1. Changing your routine – I always run with insoles in my shoes, but forgot to pack them for my final run, four days before the race. Still, I thought to myself, it’s only a 15-minute run, what’s the worst that can happen? The answer to that question is that you can wake up the next day with a very sharp pain in your badly bruised heel. Up until the day before the race, every footstep I took hurt quite a lot, and I made sure to tell my wife about this every time I took a step. This was not ideal. For either of us.
2. Mistiming your toilet stop – Going for, er, a sit-down toilet in a tri-suit isn’t possible without taking off all of the layers you have on top. Before the race, it took me so long to do this in one of the mobile toilets that I was one of the very last people to get into my wetsuit. Transition was about to close and I was still wearing a t-shirt and jogging bottoms. This was not ideal, but it might help to explain the next point.
3. Packing things in the wrong bag – The transition process at the Outlaw flummoxed me. Instead of just dumping everything next to my bike, I had to separate things into a kit bag, a swim/bike bag and a bike/run bag. This proved rather too complicated for me, which explains why the items I discovered in my bag for the bike included a coat, a jumper and a pair of jogging bottoms. In turn, this may explain my 11-minute transition time. Neither were ideal.
4. Swimming past the massive great big orange buoy – The swim at the Outlaw was great. The sun was shining and because it’s a straight line, I could keep in the right direction by just looking at the shoreline. Sadly I did this a bit too enthusiastically, and swam about 50m past the halfway buoy before I realised everyone else had turned around. Apparently someone managed to go 200m past it, though, which makes me feel better.
5. Gulping down water – I’ve drunk the water in the Docklands. I’ve drunk the water in The Serpentine. And now I’ve drunk the water at the National Watersports Centre. Twice. Both times I went to breathe and had a nice, big mouthful thrown down my throat. It’s a good thing all those swans and geese in the water always go to the shore to go to the toilet, eh? Eh? Oh.
6. Forgetting you’re in a race – I often find myself singing during long bike rides, but try to avoid doing this while in company. During the Outlaw, however, such was the quality of one of the snacks I’d packed, I found myself belting out a reworked version of Land and Hope and Glory, with the title words replaced with ‘cheese and marmite sandwich’. The bloke who overtook me at this point looked, quite rightly, genuinely scared. But it was a very good sandwich.
7. Taking things from your supporters – It turns out you’re not able to collect anything at all from supporters. My sunburnt shoulders are proof of this. When I took some suncream from my wife, an official came over and told me he could have disqualified me. ‘Taking Boots Factor 30 from a spouse’ would’ve been a rubbish reason not to finish, but thankfully he let me off.
But if could have been worse, right? Nobody’s perfect, and, hey, I finished. And so will you, if you put your mind to it.
I’m going to blog again next week about a few things the whole experience has taught me, but one thing I’m sure of is that – no matter how many mistakes you make – if you want it enough, you’ll do it. Just try not to sing about your lunch along the way.
Photos: Barry Coombs