BACK TO RACING – First Olympic win and Outlaw Holkham Half Elite Wave………

I’ve not written a blog for a while, I spent around 8 weeks fighting off illnesses after putting myself through the mill in SA and TBH I lost direction and motivation to train.

The break away from structured training has been a refreshing time though and I think after something as intense as an Ironman, mentally and physically you need a to take a timeout.

It seems to have done some good though, I’ve been enjoying a little less structure to some of my sessions and loving a bit of chain gang every Wednesday evening with my local cycling club High Wycombe CC, they’re always a smashfest but great fun with some great guys an gals.

My next main focus for the season was planned as soon as the entries opened last year – Outlaw Half in Holkham. Although I didn’t have a stormer of a race last year, I loved this race; the location, the organization, the support on the course and the massage and food on offer post-race makes this a must do race for any long distance triathlete.

With this in mind I decided I was lacking a little race practice and speed so decided to enter a local Olympic distance race the week before – The Marlow Classic Olympic was on!

I’ve only competed in one other Olympic distance race so wasn’t too sure how to pace the day’s efforts, so I just opted for racing each discipline as their own individual race and just try and go near to flat out for 2 hours.

The swim went ok for me finishing in 25min and coming out the water in 4th which was a bit of a shock, this is not where I’m used to being at this point in the race.

After a swift T1 I managed to come out of T1 in the lead. The bike leg was an out and back course you had no idea how you’re going until the turn around point. I was surprised to see I’d pulled out a gap on 2nd, but was sure there would be some speedy runners to hold off.

57min later, into T2 and on to the run of two 5k laps; by this time there were lots of runners on the course due to a Sprint distance race being held at the same time so not knowing where my competition was I just ran as fast as I felt I could sustain with my theory being as long as no one overtakes me then I don’t need to worry about who’s in the sprint and who’s in the Olympic race! The plan paid off and after a 36 painful minute run I crossed the line with my first ever overall win in a triathlon! Chuft! But more importantly, I felt as though the form was coming for the Outlaw half next weekend.

Back to Holkham…….

This year’s addition of the race included an Elite field which started 3 mins before the first AG wave, I somehow managed to squeeze into this Elite wave amongst some of the fasted domestic long distance athletes in the country, I won’t lie, I was a little intimidated on the start line, knowing I was about to be left behind in the swim with a long and painful chase for the rest of the race!

Swim – 33min

I had a shocker, I never feel too comfortable in the water but within a few hundred meters I found myself alone trying to recover from the mass sprint start and settle into my own rhythm. I came out the water 5-6mins behind the leading pack….not great but at least my weakest discipline out the way.

Bike – 2hr 22min

On to the bike I went about trying to make up some lost time. The bike course is surprisingly lumpy for the Norfolk area and the wind didn’t help to make it an easy first half, having Matt Bottrill stomp past you as if you’re on an MTB with flat tyres, buckled wheels and a rusty chain didn’t really help the psyche either. But with Botrill out of sight and with the winding roads straitening on the return to T2 and a nice breezy tailwind the average speed creeped up.

Coming into T2 you have a good gauge where you are in the field as the last 2k of the bike is the same road as the first 2k of the run. I was pleased to see quite a large portion of the guys in front of me where only just starting their run so if I could find some running legs quickly I was still in with a chance of scrapping into the top 10.

I’d learnt from previous races I was wasting vital seconds in transition’s so this time I opted for no socks hoping it wouldn’t result in wrecking my feet! I was in and out in 57 seconds as opposed to over 2mins in my last 70.3 race!

Run – 1hr 24min

Knowing the course helped hugely psychologically this year, as I knew I needed to save a little in the tank for the final lap as the course consisted of 3 loops of 7k with 2 significant climbs each lap. The legs felt pretty good and I soon started to pass a few of the speedy swimmers. Coming into the final lap 2 fellow competitors ran up to my shoulder and eased past me, one of which was a young speedy Barnaby Palmer who I knew from recent results is getting quicker and quicker, securing a place at the 70.3 WC this year vindicating his potential in this sport. Watch out for him over the next few years. The 3 of us ran together for 2km before picking up a 4th runner with just under 5k to go, deciding I wasn’t keen for a sprint finish I decided to go for broke and put in a dig, to my surprise I opened up a gap on the group, great I thought! Only problem now is you have to keep going for another 4k! Not wanting to look behind I just emptied my tank, surprisingly in the process I caught and past Bottrill again within the last 1k and could see another runner just 200m ahead! 400m to go I tried to kick again realizing I had a slim chance to take him just before the finishing carpet. I don’t think my pace really changed but the gap was closing, 100m to go and I’m almost on his shoulder but just before I get there he looked behind whilst entering the finishing carpet and kicked again, I had nothing left to respond and staggered over the line in 4h: 22min collapsing over the line….but feet still intact!

To my amazement I had run myself back into 8th overall!! I’m super stoked with this result, it’s a big step up from 32nd overall that I managed last year and over 8 minutes faster as well. Against such a strong field I’m really pleased with this one.

Huge thanks to the Cambridge Tri Contingent who once again allowed me to crash their post-race down time to re-live everyone else’s epic adventure during the race, compete at Transition Top Trumps and eat homemade cookies!

Next on the cards is the Long Course Weekend starting tomorrow…..I can’t wait! Fish’n’Chip supper awaits!

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