So here I am heading to the Outlaw half at Holkham. To set the scene this is the third time I have entered this race and the second time I have made the trip to the venue and I am yet to cross the startline. It’s fair to say I have unfinished business with this race. To add to my excitement this is my first ‘real’ race in 18 months. Can I even remember what I am supposed to do?
The Outlaw events require racking of the bike on the Saturday and race on the Sunday. One of the things I love is they have a campsite on the event site. You get the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the atmosphere from arrival on Saturday. Having found a spot for my tent it’s off to join the queue to check my bike in. This brought with it the opportunity to be star struck as a familiar lady (if you have had even half an eye on pro triathlon) walked past the transition, although only when I saw her dog (Lola) did I realise who it was! (Lucy Charles-Barclay, winner of countless Ironmans, Half Ironmans, swimmer extraordinaire etc… and I still spotted her insta-famous dog first!)
To fit in with the camping theme it’s an early start on Sunday morning, getting up earlier than I do any other day of the year and head down to transition to make sure everything is set up. Luckily this gives me a chance to see the pro’s exit the water and head out on their bikes. This gave me my first and last chance to see clubmate Rosie Weston racing the event as she headed out of T1 at amazing speed. (Rosie disappeared down the road to secure her pro licence with impressive style.)
A 1900m swim; I can count on one hand the number of times I have swum this distance in the last two years. My plan, get to T1 and enjoy it. Given this is a lake swim the navigation was quite straightforward – out, round a small island and back again and essentially involved following the people in front.
The first half of the swim was simple enough, I settled into a great rhythm feeling happy and confident as I rounded the island at the end of the lake. Then on the way back I encountered the weeds, thick and making it feel like swimming through soup. This went on for what seemed like the entire swim, but in reality was probably only around 200m.
As I exited the swim I hit my shin on the ramp, this, I promise, was the only reason for the look on my face in the race photographs. Now the real work could begin!
Ok here we go, the bike; this I am prepared for. Leaving the estate and I kept wondering, why am I going so slowly? After fretting for a good 10-15mins about this the road surface beneath me changes and suddenly I accelerate, this is more like it.
The bike course at Holkham is lovely. A rolling hill course around the countryside of Norfolk. Most of the tight corners are marshalled where they hold the traffic for you, this all adds up to a really fast bike course overall.
Heading back into T2 is lovely as you come back into the estate and down past the crowds who are lining the run course.
The race briefing includes the words “don’t underestimate the run”. Sure, it’s a half marathon but Norfolk is flat right? I grew up in East Anglia and I can confirm it is flat, except for about two hills which are on the Holkham Estate and feature on the run course. About 10mins into the run and I realised this was not going to be quite the run I was hoping for.
Ignoring the two hills, it is a great three lap course round the Holkham estate. With three aid stations on each lap there are plenty of opportunities to make deals with your legs. My favourite is if you can run to the next aid station you can have a gel and walk while I get some water. Also, being a multi lap course there are plenty of people on the run course with you.
I am not sure I can describe the feeling of relief as I turned right on lap three onto the finish carpet. Then on hearing footsteps behind me I thought, no, not at this point and I found some reserves to sprint to the finish.
Outlaw promises a great fun race with PB potential and they completely deliver on
this. I finished with a new PB for the middle distance and a smile on my face. The team hosting the event is one of the most helpful that I have come across and it is safe to say I plan to be back next year.
My results are listed below.
Swim – 50.36 – 1.9 km
T1 – 2.48
Bike – 3:03.52 – 90 km
T2 – 3.24
Run – 2:15.19 – 21 km
Total – 6:16.06