Holkham Estate is the setting for the Outlaw half; it’s a beautiful location and the hall itself provides a spectacular backdrop to race HQ. The race briefing takes place in the house in a room which used to be a bowling alley!
The Outlaw Half at Holkham is in its second year; I raced Holkham last year and was so impressed, not only by the race course and surroundings but also by how the event was managed. From start to finish, the whole event, its organisers and volunteers were all so professional and supportive. I was feeling very ill when I finished the race last year and sat in the food marquee unable to eat any of the fabulous freshly prepared meals, cakes, hot drinks and biscuits on offer. I remember a volunteer asking me if I was ok – I must have looked ropey as well as felt it – she kept checking back in with me now and again to make sure I was still ok, which was really kind of her. I finished the event on a high and as soon as I could enter for 2017 I did.
This year drew a larger number of entries than last year, and the Outlaw event actually received more entries than the new Ironman 70.3 in Edinburgh, which was taking place on the same day. I think people who have raced an Outlaw event wouldn’t be surprised by this; Outlaw has lower entry fees than Ironman but you still get that big race feel – all the bells and whistles, an awesome chunky medal, a t-shirt, as much Erdinger as you like, and an incredible food marquee at the finish line, (I know I’ve mentioned the food marquee already but it deserves a second mention – it’s awesome!).
You can also camp on-site at race HQ, which I think is a great idea as it means there are lots of supporters out on the run route and lots of people milling about making for a great atmosphere. Last year, and this year, my partner Karl and I stayed in a nearby town, Wells-next-the-sea, at a place called Bang! It’s a great little place to stay – it’s about a 5 minute drive to race HQ and the owners are so helpful and friendly. They even let us stay for just the one night when it’s normally two night’s minimum. The stay includes breakfast, so whilst I’m racing out on the bike route Karl pops back to the B&B for breakfastJ.
So, this year the aim was to try and beat last year’s finish time; I got myself a coach at the end of January after having had some success following a generic training plan I’d bought from the same coaching setup. It’s a long story but basically it didn’t work out with the coach and after discussing with my team mates the coaching issues that I was experiencing I decided to call it a day with the coach. It was a week out from my first sprint triathlon of the season and about 5 weeks out from Holkham. Not great timing but I didn’t want to waste another penny on something I felt just wasn’t working for me.
It was in discussion with my team mates where I was pointed in the direction of Blair Davies Coaching. I completed an enquiry form on Blair’s website and I think it was the same day or the following day that I received a call from Blair himself. It was a welcome surprise and I really enjoyed talking to him. My motivation had taken a nose dive but after speaking with Blair I felt the positivity beginning to return. First impressions were so good that I signed up for the two week free trial offer with Blair and he led me into the sprint race feeling much more positive and raring to go. I ended up having a great race coming second in my age group and sixth lady overall. I was excited to see where the training would go from here.
With only 5 weeks until Holkham, I had to be realistic. The aim was to get to the start line with confidence and the motivation to race as hard as I could. I am happy to say that aim was achieved, thanks to Blair.
The race itself went really well – I gave it all I had on the day and finished feeling satisfied with my performance. I didn’t beat last years’ time but that was ok (not right away, but eventuallyJ). I was really pleased with my swim start – I didn’t panic at all and got into a good rhythm right away. My transition times were much better this year – last year I got lost in T2 and couldn’t find my racking placeJ. Out onto the bike where I was hoping to make up some time, however, there were very strong winds this year and the bike course had been changed slightly – apparently it was a little more technical than last year. The wind really impacted my bike time and I think it had a knock-on effect with my run. It was so hot on the run and people were really suffering but there was plenty of water, energy drinks and wet sponges available on route, which came as a welcome relief from the blistering heat. I managed to keep going in the heat, which I’m really pleased about but I did suffer with some serious sunburn afterwards! You can still see where my race tattoos were J
I finished the race knowing I couldn’t have given any more. I was initially disappointed to have not beaten last years’ time but with all things considered I did pretty well coming 9th in my age group amongst some seriously fast and strong ladies. I even managed to enjoy some post-race grub in the food marquee this year (yes, I know that’s its third mention but it’s seriously impressive). I had one of my faves, mac ‘n’ cheese J
I really did enjoy the race and the much needed rest days that followed. I didn’t enjoy the sunburn so much!
Next up is Weymouth 70.3 in September; I’m excited to be working with Blair in the lead up to the race to see what can be achieved in such a short space of time. I just wish I’d found out about Blair sooner but there are always next years’ races to target!