outlaw half, holkham, 2018

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outlaw half, holkham, 2018

Postby ris » 17 Sep 2018 17:50

Where: holkham hall, norfolk
When: 01 july 2018
Organiser: one step beyond
Course details: middle / half iron distance
Distance(s): 1900m lake swim, 91k single loop bike, 22k mixed surface run
Marshalling: loads, cheery, encouraging plenty of water and sun cream take up.
Facilities: portaloos, changing areas, expo type thing, great big country pile
Technical: Chip timing, rolling aid stations
Freebies: tshirt, nice medal, free massage, post race scoff

thought it would be a laugh to write one of these as i sought to avoid writing more important things.

been a while since i posted here, been busy with work but have been training and racing a bit. managed to do a decent turn at IM Copenhagen last year, but since then it's be a catalogue of woes; a dose of campylabacter food poisoning half way through the offices first manchester to london ride was probably the start - i lost a lot of weight, lost a lot of rhythm, lost a bit of mojo. then my job came crashing in and i've been out of the office 2-3 days a week with meetings since october - no bike commute, no lunchtime runs or swims.

i've got a very positive mindset and was sure my life would be getting back on track any second, so in january i entered the outlaw half holkham with great hopes that it would be alright by then. a chance to race near my mum and thought it might be fun for her to cross the finishing line with me, second hip replacement op in the spring permitting. i'd also only ever done one half in my tri life - swashbuckler in 2012 - and i thought it was about time i gave it another go.

sometimes you don't cop a break, though. work stayed as it was, if anything a little more scattergun with my calendar. I gained a new project to go with the one that was all over the place. it did so many u-turns i think we got dizzy and ended up facing backwards. home life really struggled, and we had the most awful couples-crisis at the end of Feb. very little cycling to work, no energy to go to the gym or do a class. bit of swimming, scant bit of running. not much motivation. i got my run mileage up to 14miles but wasn't able to get any speedwork in. most disappointing was my bike mileage, with about 5 weeks to go i finally got the tt-bike out of the shed and rebuilt it having shelved it after Copenhagen 9 months previously. 2 weeks later i managed a giant 20 miles on my commute.

worst of all, though, mum was poorly again. she finished chemo round 4 in january, but by march they cancelled the planned second hip operation because it looked like the cancer was back, and so she went back for round 5. they tried something a little different this time and for a short while it looked like things were ok. she went past an arbitrarily splendid date (for me) of 5 years since first being diagnosed - her odds of making it this far back in 2013 were next to naff all and she was still with us. the chemo didn't quite cut it this time though, and the cancer started to cause trouble in her bowel, needing surgery to keep her with us. the surgeons worked around it, got her back a bit and she was able to make a family wedding in all her finery - dyed pink hair and all.

but another week or so and it was on to her kidneys, and they all but packed up in mid-june. my untraining unregime got binned as i spent nearly two weeks undertaking night vigils and living in a log cabin in a north norfolk hospital car park. microwave dinners, long drives, massively disturbed sleep, costa coffees - you won't see this recommended in any taper programme in 220. i slept while the world woke, i did crosswords in the witching hours, i lived the lexicon of holidays while my mum slowly faded away beside me. we had innumerable visits from friends and family; kindness on kindness. on one of my mad dash drives back to wiltshire i packed my race kit into the car because who knew when i'd be back and it was now less than a week away.

4 days before the race mum was moved to the beautiful hospice at hillington and the intense 24h family care from my sister, me and my step-dad was able to stop. i went home and then came back for the a couple of days later with all the family - to see mum but also to do the race. she was a bit more with us at that time; brief moments of lucidity, warm humour and love. we drove up the day before racking and popped into see mum, then on to stay with some of her friends in a neighbouring town. i registered and racked the bike and at the briefing i discovered the bike route passed a couple of miles from her home, and about 300 yards from the hospice. i promised her an extra-loud hurrah as i cycled past. i knew the bike would be the hardest part - i just hadn't had the time on the tt bike, or any bike really.

the weather was unreal, days of heat and sunshine, but i'd hardly seen it - iridescent blue skies and blazing sushine don't reach far into palliative care wards. the hospice was different, the garden celebrated and made joyful by the sun, but it wasn't a summer for being out in for me. any other year i would have had a razor-sharp cyclists tan, and be lean with the miles and hours outdoors - instead i was doughy and pale.

i had no expectations for this race, a year before i'd have been chasing a 5h finish, but i knew that with my lack of mileage and poor training and sleep i'd struggle to get to 5h 15 and the heat added another dimension. all that interested me was to finish and bring the medal to my mum. luce and vetty weren't sure if they would come to watch - there was little shade and little to do at holkham and i would have the car - they would need to blag a lift over if they came at all. there was more chance they would see me on course somewhere.

race day was like so many that came before - sunny, cloudless, would get warm and fast. i put on a coat of P20 the night before and another in the morning. my start time was 6.40am - i got there an hour early, squeezed myself into a wetsuit last worn in copenhagen, poured a can of energy drink down my face with 10 mins to go and hopped into the lake. the swim was uneventful, other than my getting a little lost - not used to sighting, not used to swimming. not used to other people around me. it was fine, nothing to too hideous. i knew i'd be slower than i'd have liked, but i wasn't in a place to demand anything better!

transition was a shit-show, i faffed about - socks, shoes, mitts, sweatcap, lid, shoes not on the bike, anything that could be slow was slow. i needed to be comfortable and sod the time. the course is really nice, up a bit of a draggy climb from the lake and then through the house grounds and out into the north norfolk countryside. despite the reputation this area isn't flat, it's quite rolling and often draggy. it's by no means hilly but shouldn't be confused with some fenland landscape of arrow-straight roads and huge skies. i knew the area and knew a lot of the roads. i took it steady and tried not to put too much effort in as i knew the heat would build and the run would be hard enough without taking risks. i'd seen plenty of the local hospital and had no intention of going back there.

with a prevailing westerly wind the course is probably quite fast, particularly one long section of road that goes from hillington to fakenham, but we had a north easterly wind and that bit of road was a slog - a long pace line of miserable, hunched riders trying to shelter themselves from the wind and knowing it would be 15 miles until you turned off. i was good for about 30 miles and then the inevitable aches and pains built up - arms, shoulders, neck, legs, feet, arse. all a reminder that tou can't hide from putting in time on the bike. i made sure i gave that extra big shout i'd promised as i cycled close to the hospice. i was counting the miles with about 15 to go, wishing them away with 10 to go and staring at my garmin with desperation from 5 to go. a watched watch never gets any closer.

i was happy to get off the bike and i'd done a fair job - a smidge under 20mph, which for a doughy lad with scant training was a good show. i just had to hope the run wasn't too savage. t2 was less faffy, but i still made sure i had all the necessary gels and other bits of kit in my pockets. comfort over speed this time.

the run was three laps around the house grounds, 4.5 miles a lap, and aid stations at 1.5 mile intervals. very well organised, super even spacing, and lots of food, drink, gels, bars, crisps etc to be had. they put on some extra helpers with sun cream as well, to try and spare some of the worst abuses of burning. by the time i hit the run it was about 10.20am and it was already well into the 20s in the shade, and there was pretty much no shade. the longer you were out there the more savage it got, the sun beating down and temperatures continuing to rise.

i had no illusions as to what i would be capable of and set off at an aspirational 8.30min/mi pace. i chose to walk the aid stations with an extra minute past for good luck. i tried to keep my heart rate down and keep my fluid intake high. my pace slid to 9min/mi, then 10. i was fine with this, i just needed to finish despite how much i was struggling in the heat. as i came round to start my final lap i saw luce and vetty - who was waiting for me at the supporters pen. i think they thought more of my pace than i did, but it gave me impetus to push on the last lap.

the last lap was a relief, i enjoyed all the extra support on the course more than ever on those last few miles, welcoming the super-soakers and cheering kids wanting high 5s. my feet squleched when i ran from all the water i'd poured over my head, i was slow but going to get round. the last few meters were really wonderful - ducking into the supporters pen to collect Vetty and running hand-in-hand down the red carpet with her. having her with me at that moment was a special moment.

the afters were as expected, weary, hot and emotionally strung out i got some food, had my massage and got all my stuff together before i piled it all into an insanely hot car and drove back to our friends for a late lunch, and from there to see mum at the hospice. i left her my medal, her energies couldn't really keep up with the story of the whole race. and then we headed back to wiltshire so vetty could be back in school, and i came back a day or so later.

i can't say i entirely enjoyed the race - there was too much going on, too many things to allow me to focus on the moment of the race. it is like an incidental event, made tiny in scale by all the other things. it really is a brilliant event - superbly organised, a superb atmosphere and a great location. all the trappings of a 70.3 without the mdot.

mum passed away about a week later, peacefully in her sleep at the hospice. in years to come we will all reminisce about the amazing, long hot summer of '18 and i will remember how i managed to avoid it almost entirely. all but one, baking, day in holkham where i got lost in a lake and ran my slowest ever half marathon and was proud of every moment.
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Re: outlaw half, holkham, 2018

Postby Jimba » 17 Sep 2018 21:38

Blimey Ris, that’s an emotional read. Hardly appropriate to comment on the actual race (although well done!) I would like to say something profound but words fail me. So sorry for your loss and thoughts with you and all your family. :cry:
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Re: outlaw half, holkham, 2018

Postby jonathon.e » 29 Sep 2018 13:06

Truly sorry for your loss, racing is emotional at the best of times, but I cannot imagine the rollercoaster of emotions you must have gone through upto and during the race.
Your mum would be very proud of you Ris.
Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.
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Re: outlaw half, holkham, 2018

Postby Kevy427 » 04 Oct 2018 12:46

It’s taken me a number of stints to read this but my heartfelt condolences go out to you all. I really can’t imagine what you’ve been going through and hopefully the race helped distract you a bit
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Re: outlaw half, holkham, 2018

Postby Jack Hughes » 05 Oct 2018 06:25

Not the race report I wanted to read, but thanks for writing it.

Condolences to you and your family.
Omnia Vanitas

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Re: outlaw half, holkham, 2018

Postby Bopomofo » 10 Oct 2018 20:42

Probably the most heart-wrenching thing I've read in years, Nick. So sorry I missed it for so long after you wrote it.

First, my sincere condolences to you and your family. It sounds like you've been through a brutal time. I've done that lonely vigil while cancer slowly took my Dad. I feel your pain.

Second, my thoughts are with Luce and Vetty who have had to watch you struggle with this.

Third, whatever strain there was on your family, the thing you mentioned in February, the awful time you have had, I really hope you are all OK and are stronger for it.

Finally, well done. Few people could have dragged their backside out there to do a race with all that going on. Particularly the self-doubt. You did an amazing thing.

Keep in touch, old chum. I don't think you're on MyFaceInstaBeBookTube, but you have my e-mail.


You've done well. All of it.
I had fun once. It was awful.
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