It’s the Saturday of race weekend. Tomorrow is a big day…
Last year I completed three Olympic distance triathlons, a few competitive 10K runs and the odd half marathon. At the end of the 2015 season, I wondered what my challenges would and should be for 2016. A place in the Brighton marathon courtesy of a Tri-Anglia triathlon club raffle gave me something to shoot for, but I also wanted to up the distance on my triathlons. When I heard that the Outlaw Half was coming to Holkham, just a stone’s throw from my home in Norwich, it seemed the perfect place to dip my toe in the water of Middle distance triathlon. A 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run organised by one of the big names in the business, right on my door step sealed the deal.
And now, several months since my entry to Holkham Outlaw Half went in, it’s finally here. Race weekend. Time to pit myself against the course. Time to see how I fare against my club mates. Time to see how I compare to all these other athletes who have made the trek to Norfolk to take on this inaugural event.
Well actually, let’s just pause there and be realistic for a second. Since I finished my marathon training back in April and ran a half decent race, my Tri training has not gone to plan. In fact any reference to a plan is a bit misleading because there hasn’t really been one. I’ve not been structured, I’ve not done enough work and I’ve got every expectation that the course is going to spank me. The very idea of competing in this race is gone and it’s all about completing it instead. I’ve got a number of people who have donated to my chosen charity, the East Anglian Air Ambulance, so I owe it to them to put in the best effort I can, but it is going to be tough .
I’m here with my buddy and fellow Tri-Anglia member Chris. Chris is younger and fitter than me. He has two kids slightly older than my two and he has already done two marathons this year. He also has a Norwich to Edinburgh bike ride on the calendar too. Pretty impressive stuff. He’s clearly got “endurance daddy” credentials too so I’m sure I’ll learn a thing or two from Chris this weekend.
The first thing I learn is that Chris’ trailer tent (which we are camping in) is awesome! It’s pitched in literally two minutes after arriving on the camp site and it’s on its maiden voyage. Chris’ wife hasn’t even camped in it yet, so I’m privileged indeed. I also learn that Chris and I are equally awful at packing . We’ve both forgotten stuff we need, but we’re British – we’ll keep calm and carry on.
We get the obligatory race briefing out of the way where we learn that we can be disqualified for just about anything – no nudity, drafting, littering or peeing in public. Even breathing may actually be off limits. We are also advised to look out for the crocodile in the lake and told that support on the bike leg might take a while to arrive if you have problems. Perfect.
We get the bikes racked in transition before the security lockdown, then it’s time for a wander around the grounds, a chat with some club mates and to get settled down for the night. First start wave (which Chris is in) is 6:30 in the morning. I get a lie in with my 7:00 start time.
A meal of pasta, biscuits and crackers (all healthy options here) goes down well, as does a beer each.
Just before bed, I decide to call home to check on Nikki and the kids. It turns out that Oscar (my youngest) has been spectacularly sick during the afternoon and my family may not be able to come and see me race tomorrow. I’m sad that I’m not there to help out but also because I might not have their support tomorrow. There’s thunder rumbling in the distance and a heavy downpour hammers on the canvas of the tent. It passes and a rainbow forms right above our campsite.
Tomorrow will be a good day…