Outlaw Holkham – 1st Elite

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Well, where do I start? I’m still absolutely buzzing from the weekend! My 1st middle distance triathlon and 1st win in an elite race!

That was hands down the TOUGHEST race I have EVER done. To be in the lead by over 9 minutes off of the bike in an elite field, but having failed to fuel during the bike, meant I had to FIGHT for 13.3(hold on!) miles of hilly torture to hold off the other phenomenal girls, both mentally and physically! I joke about learning from every race I’m doing, considering I’m still relatively new to the sport, but since Noodles told me he would disown me if I mention any more mistakes, let’s just pretend I had a perfect race and came away with the win with ease and then he can stop reading here.


First of all a MASSIVE thanks to my sponsors. Without you I wouldn’t be anywhere near as speedy (and yes High5 I have already talked to you about strategy!) OR be able to literally say I have all the gear and no idea 😉

@Speedhub for taking me on and being SO FRIENDLY and banterous over the weekend! Felt like I’d known you guys for years! And dealing with my stooped questions (there have been several), you still treat me like an athlete

@Feltbikes for an unreal ride. If this novice can manage 22.2mph on those lumpy windy roads then it must be down to the IA2

@Zoot for the wetsuit (that gives me a fake six-pack and makes me look like a legit pro). It felt like a second skin and helped me chick the majority of the lads

@Aquasphere for the googles. Not once have they leaked or been pulled off. The suction is perfect and the plus is that they are green and therefore I stand out to my spectators!

@POC for the aerodynamic helmet. As a beginner I thought they would only weigh me down or make me feel claustrophobic but I was totally wrong. It was so light, the attached sunglasses kept me focussed on the road and it must have boosted that cycle speed of mine!

@Cobb saddles for a comfy seat for a couple hours…I am very fussy in this department

@High5 for fuelling me sufficiently before and after the race. But perhaps not during. But that is 100% down to me being a muppet! I have been living off of your protein hits as my elevenses (and oneses, and threeses…etc) instead of my usual brownies or tiffin

Lewis Walker (Kyle’s coach) for agreeing to take me on. He is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate and patient with me. I think we are both excited with this result, considering I never got to show my run form and he is a world renowned running coach.


I shall start by what went well and go from there. Coincidentally (not at all), that would be the swim and bike.

At 3.36am on race morning, I woke up naturally (and clearly checked the time). Not wanting to wake up sleeping beauty ugly, I came out of the tent (yep, camping was the easiest option!), stretched out, grabbed some food (I’m glad I had back up to my instant porridge…I forgot you don’t get boiling water on a field unless you have fancy camping stoves (which we do not have). Instead, I had a large pretzel, 2x zero tablets in about a litre of water, a large chocolate flapjack, a banana and some fig newtons. The previous night, I tried to eat as much as I can, and I have recently developed an addiction to Maoam pinballs, which I totally used as my carb-loading excuse 200g later.

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(bikes had to be racked the night before)

I had organised my stuff the night before (yes, Mum, I am listening!) and I headed to transition. Supporters can’t enter that area so I left Kyle to get some needed extra shut eye after driving most of the way on Saturday following his Half Marathon win in Birmingham, beating a Commies athlete in the process…But that’s for another post!

I meant fellow Speedhubber Twigg in transition, and he helped pump up my tyres and kept me calm. More to come on him later! It was super windy so I tried to make some jokes to the people around me, but realising people deal with nerves differently, I made the call to quickly set up my area and grab a coffee at the food trucks instead.

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By the time I got back to camp, it was just before 6 so I grabbed Kyle and we headed to the start area. I felt quietly confident, but was actually the most concerned about the swim. After my bike crash, my shoulder has still been bothering me and I wasn’t sure how creaky it would feel over the swim, and then being hunched over on the bike for 56+ miles. BUT I was trying to remain optimistic, thinking it’s the shortest part of the race and you can make up time on your biking and running – which, you may not believe after Sunday’s result, is actually going really well! It was the discipline I was looking forward to! But those legs decided not to come to Holkham.

Anyway, back to the swim. The elite males and females went off together at 6.27am. I got a spot at the front, which was pretty intimidating as I lost Twigg and swimming with boys scares me. They seem to punch and pull even harder than the girls (although it happens in both!) so I was fully expecting a black eye by 6.29am.

When the gun went off, I sprinted for maybe 35m just to get a wee lead on the majority of the others, then sensible Debbie stepped in (shock, horror) and told me to calm down as we had a long way to go. A lot of guys ended up about 10m ahead as they kept sprinting, but within about 400m I had reeled a few in and started passing them by the time we got to the island. On the way there, the water was so shallow that with every pull, you were grabbing weeds. I REALLY hope I haven’t been papped during the swim as one long reed got lodged in my goggle strap for a while! In training, that would totally phase me and I was do a diva strop, but I quite indifferent at this point.

Going round the island, the sun was rising and was so bright that I couldn’t see a thing! I started breathing 1 in every 4 strokes, just so I could see splashing under the water to make sure I was going the right way! It got worse on the way back, and I had no hope of buoy spotting (a sport I am so good at out of the water…) so just trusted the feet in front of me. Back to the weedy patch, I looked up and noticed hardly anyone ahead of us. I had surged pretty hard, but I didn’t know I was doing this well in an elite field with dudes in it?!

After a couple of confusing weaving (turns out guy in front of me…sorry I have no idea who you were but thanks for the tow for a while…missed a buoy so I think we doubled back) we ended up at the exit. Well, almost. We were about 10m to the left of the exit. The sun was so bright none of us spotted it, so we just sculled over and out we got. By this point there was a lead group of about 5 and I WAS ONE OF THEM!

As I tried to pass a couple guys in the run to transition, the commentator couldn’t work out who/what I was. I was a male for a few seconds, then a Speedhubber, but they know Twigg and there was no one else in the elite field from that team, so there was a bit of an awkward silence until they realised I was a girl. That got the crowd going, and me buzzing, so off I went on the bike beaming with confidence.

So much so that I actually thought I could compete with these lads.

Silly Debbie.

But it is really disheartening when you have come out in the lead pack, only to be constantly overtaken by people (so what if they’re men!?).  In my head, I beat a bunch of men at Suie, so why can’t I beat them here?

In an elite field.

Where a national TT bike CHAMPION is an example of who overtook me.

…What a rookie!

Anyway, I pedalled my little heart out having not the slightest idea how much of a gap I had on 2nd girl out of the water (nearly 3 minutes), and knowing that there were a couple girls in the field that can go sub60 minutes for 25miles, I was cycling like I’d stolen something!

The Tri247 article was correct. You have to remember there is a half marathon to do after the bike. I’d forgotten about this minor detail for the majority of the cycle. Instead I was pedalling on anger, firstly because I’d been overtaken by like 10 guys, but secondly because I saw two or three guys DRAFTING, and not enough motorbikes to police this. If any of you guys are reading, just because you can’t swim and got chicked, don’t cheat your way up the field. Not cool.

The course was STUNNING. So much so that I didn’t care about the brutal side wind for the majority of the course. It passed through Sandringham Estate and some lovely holiday villages and my little tour of the area was worth it! I enjoyed the lumps on the course. They were intense at times, but never lasted long enough so they were almost refreshing and mixed up the terrain! My 2nd half was faster than the first but I think that’s more due to the road quality than conditions because the winds was coming at all angles and we never really got a true tailwind.

I’d meant to take more water at the 2nd feed station, around 45miles in, but stupid me thought slowing to what 15mph for 5 seconds would affect my 9 minute lead. Massive lesson learned as with over 20mins left racing and no water/gels/food, I began to lag a little.

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(when Kyle’s your photographer, this is what you get 😉 …approaching transition and super thirsty!)

I came off the bike on track for a course record with a 2.33 bike split, averaging about 22.2mph. I was happy given the course and conditions. Sub 2.30 I’m coming after you! Into transition, the commentator was BUZZING! It gave me such a boost. I was chatting to a guy who came in ahead of me who had to pull out with a shoulder injury – I hope you get better! This was while trying to put on socks/trainers with my mad Raynauds fingers…it was a struggle! When I finally got out onto the run I was a little dizzy but the crowds were phenomenal and pushed me up the 1st hill towards the fuel stop.

I had a lead biker with me. I’ve never had that before! Interesting fact: I did the Cuba Havana marathon and was leading, but it was a 1960’s American style motorbike that was following me, and with the fumes that omit from them, I was REALLY ill and ended up walking a VERY long way!

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Anyhoo, I HAVE TO apologise to her because I always try to be as polite, courteous and appreciative to all volunteers/helpers/supporters/spectators because without them the race isn’t possible. I usually love the water stops, using lame jokes like “I wish this was vodka” sort of banter.

Well, not today.

Today I was being chased down, running on empty, and the sun was only getting stronger. My Hyde had taken over my Dr Jekyll norm and I was shouting at her for time gaps to second place, and she had to stop/start far too many times, after my stops, walks and strops.

I stopped the 1st time right after I saw Kyle. I shouted at him too! “What do you mean looking good. I look horrendous. Go away.” Haha I am SO sorry to both of you!

Surprised that she didn’t just cycle off, she was still so supportive and even carried extra gels at the feed stations, knowing I was in a bad place. After lap 1, I had lost 3 minutes on my lead. I was hoping the worst was over and now that I had about 18 gels binged down my throat (I exaggerate but I’m not far off). My aim on this lap was to only walk at the fuel stops. Surely that would only add about 90seconds if there are 3 stations.

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(Not my best look)

So that almost worked, but I did walk up the majority of the first hill. So I lost another 3 minutes on lap 2. HOWEVER, at the end of lap 2, just before the finishing chute, the lead bike for the male race overtook me, followed closely by TWIGGY!!!! He passed me, tapped me on the butt with a HUGE smile on his face, and off he went down the finishing chute, high fiving kids and getting confetti thrown over him.

That was exactly what I needed!

My team mate just WON the entire race in a NEW COURSE RECORD!! I couldn’t let him down – I just HAD to go for the double!

This final lap, my actual moving pace was definitely way slower (the previous laps I weirdly could only either run at a decent pace, or not at all. I didn’t wear a watch but Kyle said he couldn’t catch me running 6.40s at one (very short) point). This lap was around 7.30s BUT I only stopped at the water stops, and it was the most mentally painful 4miles of my life! With 2 miles to go, I had 3minutes on 2nd. Doing serious calculations in my head of just how fast one could go, and what the slowest pace I could go to still win, made time stand still.

However, with a mile to go, there was no way I was stopping. I started lapping athletes and – again, apologies as I could not speak a word – they were all cheering for 1st lady.

As the bike reared left so I got the limelight down the finishing chute, I slowed to a walk over the line, lifted the tape, bowed to the spectators (again, you were AMAZING!) and smiled to the photographers!

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Funnily enough, all the pain suddenly disappeared and I was ready for an interview and an Erdinger! I lost my appetite for a few hours, and was a little dizzy for a while, but after a shower and some chill time watching the other finishers, I started to feel normal again.

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(such a fun day!)

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Into the afternoon before the prize-giving, it was like a festival! Food trucks, music blasting, people (ok ok mainly kids) dancing – it was so much fun! Such a family oriented event where everyone was so happy and friendly! If you’re looking for a seaside getaway with a 70mile race thrown in, this one’s for you!

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(a double for Speedhub!)

Thanks for having me, Holkham!

 

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