After a really fun first year of triathlon, the bug had truly hit and in the Autumn of 2015 I signed up to my first half Ironman distance race – The Outlaw Half. I’d heard great things about this race, and the fact that it sells out the day it goes on sale speaks for itself! So I signed up and spent the winter wondering and worrying, and itching to get back to proper training. A half Ironman felt like a proper serious distance, and it was one I’d really have to think about and plan for, especially making sure my distances were up to scratch and my race nutrition was all planned and well rehearsed.
A winter of itching to get back to training led me to book onto another big first race – a marathon! I chose Manchester Marathon partly due to its proximity to my parents’ house, and partly because the race info insisted it was a flat PB course so it was sure to be easy, right?? Through the winter and spring, the marathon training really gave me something to focus on. I was running most of my long runs with my new run club, and I was loving the social aspect and camaraderie. The weather soon improved though, and by March I was probably doing more cycling than running! I was back loving my bike again and running had become a chore. My training dropped off before the marathon, though I still managed to complete the race. It was someway short of my target 4h time at 4:27. I hated the last half of the run and the spectator support ran out just when I need it most – mile 15 to 21. Once I could sense the finish line though I picked up the pace and bounded across the finish line! It was the first big race my parents and siblings had been to watch, so it was awesome having then cheer me along and ply me with food and drink at the end! Plus I got another free ‘isotonic recovery drink’ (beer) so my Dad and brother didn’t do too badly!
With the improving weather, my love of cycling returned with a vengeance and I was cycling most evenings and weekends. My run training dropped off, but thankfully I still had miles in my legs from the marathon. I was still swimming a couple of times a week, now with a local triathlon club which helped improve my swim fitness and technique no end. Not long after the marathon in April, the May half Ironman rolled around and once more I was driving up to a race venue after a night of minimal sleep ready to throw myself in a cold lake!
At 7am, as the sun rose over Nottingham, we gingerly entered into the cold cold water and waited for the start horn to sound. And we were off! The swim went similarly to London Triathlon – I managed to draft for a while until I got bored and switched to breastroke. This was something I needed to get over! Still, I was happy with my 1.9km swim time of 47 minutes. The cycle ride was smooth and flat. OK, yes, there was one hill, but everyone I had spoken to had immensely exaggerated the scale of this hill. I was up and over it nice and quick, and began the gentle descent back to the T2. I averaged 28kph over the 90km, which I was super happy with. I guess not having to stop at junctions or slowing for traffic/pedestrians makes a big difference! Onto the run, and I paced it well and with only a small amount of walking I finished the 21.1km flat route in 2:10. Another red carpet finish chute (I could get used to this!) and I was done!
I loved loved loved the Outlaw Half! It was the most well organised, well supported (spectators and volunteers) race I’d ever done. After a summer of saying “I think I’ll just do cycling from now on”, it totally reinvigorated my love for triathlon. In fact I loved it so much, and loved the race so much, that come Autumn 2015 I was signing up for the big one – the full Ironman distance Outlaw!