Posted: 26/07/2016 at 15:40
OK, before the race report, thanks to everyone this weekend - fellow competitors, feedstationers, and all those at the campsite. Great to meet more of you. Particular mention to Zakalwe for the bike climb up Oxton, and an apology to Cotswold Wolf for being very uncommunicative on the run - I'd reached the thousand-mile stare stage and you'd have had to set a bomb off next to me to get much reaction.
Anyway, a race report - I copied the one I did for my running club, so apologies for the explanations of bits that were obvious if you were there.
There's something very odd about putting on sun tan cream at 5:00 in the morning, but that was how the day started. My transition times are bad enough without doing makeup as well! Once done, it was down to the lake for a final bike check (they warn you not to leave your food box on the bike overnight, as the birds get well enough fed already) and wetsuit on ready for the start.
The Outlaw start is awesome to watch, and slightly scary to do. All 1200 entrants start on the same horn, spread across the rowing lake, and although people are roughly graded into 4 pens there's still a certain amount of working out how fast the people around you are swimming. It wasn't too bad once we'd got going, and after about 15 minutes I was able to swim without bumping into anyone. After about another ten minutes of this, it occurred to me that this was not normal, and I probably ought to check why no-one was anywhere near me. That was about the point I ran aground, and realised that the rest of the world was streaming past in somewhat deeper water. We were swimming into the sun, so sighting was a question of aiming approximately for the far end of the lake. My circular route continued by finally closing the turn marks at about a 45 degree angle away from anywhere else, but at least I'd got there.
The return swim was better, although I was still drifting left and doing the occasional piece of gardening. After last year, when I made the cutoff by 5 minutes, I was nervous when I looked down at my watch at the water exit, but was delighted to see 1:33. If I could learn to swim in a straight line I'd be getting somewhere!
The buzz from the swim carried me through transition and out onto the bike, where I started far too fast. The first 30km blasted past, and overtaking carbon speed machines is always fun, but sanity reasserted itself and shortly after reaching Andy and Sam on the pirate feedstation for the first time, and I realised that drinking and eating might be a good idea. I got into a routine of a gel every 15km, mostly washed down with water or high5 zero, and that seemed to carry me round. I had jelly babies for special occasions, like passing another carbon bike going up the Oxton Bank (the guy had clearly leased his bike gears on the basis that he could return any ones he didn't use, and was out of his saddle riding a massive gear with a pained expression on his face. I decided I didn't have time to explain).
Hitting the pirate station for the second time kept me going, although the speed was falling off. Glancing down at my distance readout, I realised I 'only' had 30km to go, and started planning my second transition before realising that it was still an hour away at best. No, I wasn't nearly there yet after all, and the last haul back to Holme Pierrepoint against the wind felt like hard work. However, I completed the 180km in 6:49, and most importantly this year I was still warm when I finished. Possibly a little too warm, but so much better than last year.