I did it! The Outlaw Triathlon, Nottingham, 7th July: a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, then a 26.2 mile run. An Ironman-distance event. This is my report on the Outlaw Ironman Triathlon and diabetes.
It was oppressively hot at 32 degrees which ultimately affected my performance. My swim was so-so, my bike I was quite happy with and my run was more of a walk but I’m ever so chuffed I’ve done it and as a type 1 diabetic quite proud of myself. I set myself a big challenge and I came out on top.
I’ve so far raised £900 for Diabetes UK. Donations are still being accepted on my Just Giving page up until around 7th October, just in case you were wondering … [Post script: As of 9th September I’ve now raised £1,120.]
Here are some photos. Blog below.
I’d registered and racked the day before and checked out the lake and transition area. I was worried the lake would look intimidating and I’d get the Fear, but it looked quite manageable. I’d practised 3km+ swims regularly so knew I was comfortable enough.
Rhodri and Safi had come up the day before and we’d camped next door. I was up at 4:30 having surprisingly had a couple of hours sleep. My sugar level was pretty good at 7.7 mmol/l (139 mg/dl). I thought it would be raging high. Had my brekky of Sugar Puffs, egg sandwiches and a coffee. I didn’t take a bolus shot of insulin as I wanted my sugar levels to be high enough for the swim.
Swim, 2.4 miles / 3.9 km
Safi played a starring role by acting as mother to us both and we handed her our kit before the swim. My mum and sister, Wendy, were also somewhere on the sidelines watching. Couldn’t decide if I wanted the toilet or not but thought I’d better go … and that was the start of my swim problems.
I was last out of the khazi and the compere was already saying transition was closing. My wetsuit was round my ankles and I asked a couple of chaps to help me put it on which they kindly did, telling me not to panic. At the same time I wolfed down a gel only to notice that my wetsuit had ripped on the left forearm!
All of a dither I ran through transition probably a minute before kick off still trying to get my wetsuit right, cursing myself over and over. I was last into the water. What a dreadful start and I felt such a bloody fool.
And gooooo …
I was annoyed with myself. Not good having felt positive and confident just half an hour ago. I’d lost Rhodri when I’d shaken off my breakfast but later heard he’d started in a different bay.
As I set off I felt my timing tag flapping around my right ankle! Oh no! I didn’t want to stop to readjust it as I might have been smacked around the head by another swimmer (there were hundreds behind me) and I would have lost my stride. To add insult to injury a plaster on my other foot was coming loose which was damned distracting so I just swam without kicking my legs which wasn’t good, hitting my confidence and slowing me down as I simply couldn’t swim the way I wanted.
On the other hand I was expecting it to be complete and utter chaos with 1,000 competitors thrashing around. Yes, it was chaos, but I’ve played enough rugby to know what being at the bottom of the ruck feels like and it wasn’t that bad. I suppose we were all in it together. No one wants to fall at the first hurdle and we were quite respectful of each other.
The tag fell off 3/4 of the way round and I thought I might be disqualified / unrecognised if I didn’t have a time.
However, as soon as it fell off my swimming immediately improved, and I noticed the plaster had gone as well. I was kicking properly and suddenly 100 per cent more confident. Just cursing myself over and again for being such a fool.
I took a gel at about the same time which always adds on a couple of minutes – a skill I’ve had to practice. On long distance swims I keep a couple of gels under my swim cap. It might look a bit odd but the alternative isn’t pretty.
As I climbed out of the swim I asked a couple of ladies behind me what time they did. Disappointing at 1 hour 20 mins. I was certainly hoping for 1:15, and if I’m honest 1:10, but only five minutes over target wasn’t a disaster and it was going to be a long day.
One down, two to go.
I told a marshal my tag had come off and he told me not to worry. I’d have an overall time. Just no splits.
There were professional wetsuit-taker-offers which I thought was good. I held on to one as the sun steadily rose above the lake. Did I say it was hot? IT WAS HOT. I later heard it was 32 degrees.
Sugar level 11.3 (203). Perhaps I’d not needed the gel after all.
Transition was uneventful which was good. Tried to force down an egg sandwich but felt a bit sick and ended up giving it to the ducks. Not sure how much they enjoy egg sandwiches. Probably as much as cows enjoy burgers.
I was only carrying two bottles: one water bottle and a tool bottle with gels, a Mars bar, spare blood glucose meter, insulin pen and needles … slowly warming up in the heat. My tools and spare tyre I carried in a pocket in my jumper. I’d wondered how I was going to fit everything else in to my jersey pockets: insulin pump, BG meter, two accessible gels, another Mars bar and big piece of fruit cake.
I’ve tried combinations of a seat bag / seat bottle and cage, but as my seat post isn’t standard (it’s aero!) finding the right combo was difficult and I discovered I preferred riding without an extra kg or two behind my bum and above the centre of gravity.
Solution: I bought a Fuel Belt from the expo the day before – a small bag with velcro straps which rests on the top tube of the bike close to the stem. Brill. I’d tried the Ironman branded one before but it just didn’t cut the mustard and kept falling off to one side. This was sturdy. It was the business!
As I was heading out of T1 one of the marshals stopped me and tugged at the tube hanging out my jersey from my insulin pump. ‘What’s that?’ she asked, thinking it was an iPod or something. ‘An insulin pump,’ I replied. ‘I’m diabetic.’ ‘Oh, sorry.’ Luckily she didn’t pull it out.
Bike, 112 miles / 180 km
I’d turned my insulin pump basal down to 20 per cent for the duration of the event which proved fine, and just plugged myself in after the swim.
The course headed out east through Radcliffe-on-Trent and on towards (almost) Newark. I’m not a terribly fast biker and people soon began to overtake but it was gonna be a long day and I had to do my own race. No one else’s.
I was aiming for a seven hour ride plus time for testing my sugar levels and taking on board food and water.
Simon Picking, whom I met at the Animas Sports Weekend, was also there en famille doing the bike leg for his team, Matt’s Monday Night Swimmers. His version of events is here. It pretty much tallies with mine. LOL.
I’d written down distances between feed stations on a piece of paper and kept it in my pocket. I referred to it during the ride as I find it easier to manage the route in bite sized chunks. Knowing the next food stop or landmark is only 30 km away is far easier to digest than knowing the finish is 130 km away.
Feed stations had a mixture of water, High 5 drinks and gels and bananas. There were six along the way.
Did I say it was HOT?! Well, it was. The sun was now climbing high. I was later told it had reached 32 degrees! It was hot! Damned hot and it felled a few people during the day.
Dare I say it I quite enjoyed the bike ride. I’d driven and biked much of it a few weeks before so I knew it reasonably well. Luckily, apart from the weather, it was pretty uneventful. I was making good time despite the heat.
I generally tested my sugar level at each food stop and took on board gels and bananas as and when needed. One hour into the race I was astonished to see my sugar level at 24.1 (434)! Checked it again immediately and it read 21.9. I was sky high. May have been the nerves and I probably didn’t need the gel in the swim so I took half a unit of insulin and within an hour it had fallen to 12.6 (227).
I had a piece of fruit cake in my back pocket but never ate it. Nor the second Mars bar or all the gels, but I’d rather err on the side of caution and take a little too much.
The bottom half of the course was flat. The top half hilly. While I was being overtaken on the flat I was creaming people on the hills. Probably due to training in ‘ills ‘ere in’t Peaks where I live. I remember whoo-hooo-ing when I reached the top of Oxton Hill. Not because it was that difficult (though I think others found it so). I was just enjoying myself. Nobody else joined in my enthusiasm mind.
Very happy to see Ed and Janet out to support at Oxton and my mum, sis and her two boys at Farnsfield and later on during the run along with my dad. The timing tags were uploading times to the web, live, at various stages. I knew I had a fan club watching online and I knew my family were depending on it so they could be at strategic points along the route so I was still bloody annoyed with myself for losing it in the pond. Nonetheless I saw them at Farnsfield and had a quick word. I later heard Matthew, a colleague from work, had been at Orston but at 10 am the sun had got the better of him and he’d decided to get some shade indoors.
During the bike my blood glucose levels were:
- 24.1 / 21.9 (434) @ 8:30 am
- 12.6 (227) @ 9:45 am
- 8.2 (148) @ 10:40 am
- 11.1 (200) @ 11:20 am
- 6.5 (117) @ 12:20 pm
- 6.3 (113) @ 1:20 pm
- 6.2 (112) @ 2:30 pm
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This is almost text book! Watch and learn kids. Watch and learn.
I filled up with water at every stage. I don’t think I could have physically drunken any more.
This is my bike timing. I turned off the GPS as I didn’t want the battery to run out. I was out for 6:50 and biking for 6:35 so I was quite happy with that with an average riding speed of 27.7 kmh. My bike’s speedo was pretty similar as a cross-reference. My plan had aimed to be back at the lake for 2:30 pm at best, and I seem to remember I was back there on the nose so I’d made up good time. Also no loo stops yet. I’d never done a 100 mile bike ride, let alone 112 miles. The most I’d done was 85+.
Two down, one to go. Now, just for the small task of a marathon.
Not speedy. I’d found the last few miles on the bike tough. Did I mention it was hot?
Run, 26.2 miles / 42.2 km
I’d never done a marathon before. I’d done a couple of 30 km training runs and my long runs were rarely less than 20 km but if I’m honest I was never looking forward to the run with relish. Friends had told me ‘You can always walk it’ and that’s what I pretty much did.
I felt pretty rubbish at the start. I knew I was dehydrated but didn’t want to walk. I wanted to run but knew that walking the first few km wasn’t going to affect my time too much. Filled up with water at each watering hole.
I linked up with Kevin Kavanagh, #476. I’m ever so glad I did. What a great chap to be with for 26 miles. A good sense of humour and chatty and he really helped pull me through. He’d recently picked up an injury and was quite happy to walk. We ran a bit but as he said ‘It’ll be the best seven hour marathon you’ll ever do’ and he was right.
The sun continued to beat down and it got slightly cooler around 8 pm.
And at 10 pm, 16 hours later, we crossed the finish line. Not pretty, but I’d set myself a challenge and I did it. My aim was 14 hours and had it not been for the heat I think that would have been really achievable on this course. My legs and feet were aching. I’d not been to the toilet all day either. Kevin had been several times during the run. Huh? So I went to the medical tent for a check up and was given the OK.
My blood glucose levels were between 6.3 (113) and 10.6 (191) throughout the run.
Rhodri, I found out later, had been defeated by the heat and lack of training. Sounded as though he’d made really good time but his legs gave way 10 km into the run.
Mum and Wendy were still there at the finish line and I’m ever so grateful they hung in.
Without a timing tag my results took a couple of days to come through but thanks to the timing guys: true to their word I was recorded. I came 884th out of 999 starters.
I’m not really that fussed about my splits. Each discipline could have been improved. I’m disappointed with my run but the heat was an absolute killer. I did it after all.
The next day I felt surprisingly good. It was my hangover two days later which floored me – but well deserved I say.
My blood glucose levels were generally fine but for several days after the event I’ve been considerably high, certainly double digit regularly. I can only put this down to my body thinking I’m still doing exercise and my liver’s pumping out bucketfuls of glucose.
A big thanks to my family and friends for coming to support and a big sorry to those who were watching online. I’ll try not to drop my tag next time. Did I say next time? We’ll see …
And finally, a massive thank you to everyone who sponsored me.
By Robin Eyre