I have done the Forestman twice before, it was a brilliant event, with the most brutal run I have done, never mind at the end of an Iron distance triathlon. I was toying with the idea of doing it again this year as a pre outlaw race. Then I got an email saying the Forestman was no more, but they were replacing it with a new event called the Gladiator, based a few miles away, and using much of the same bike route, but the run would be flat. (he meant flatter, must have forgotten the last bit!). The swim was also new, a one way swim downstream, making it the easiest 3.8k ever. Then the best bit, as a previous competitor of the Forestman, I could do this race for £140! Took me about 2 minutes to decide to do it.
My training has always been a bit hap hazard due to work and running around after 2 kids that have a social life I can only dream of. Means my swims are at 5.30 two mornings a week, and 9pm on a Sunday. Joining Havering tri changed this a bit, I could now swim till 9.50 on a Tuesday night, then at 5.30 on Wednesday morning. As carefully planned as most of my life seems to be!
I had a month or so off proper training last September, this lasted pretty much till Christmas, I decided I would do a run streak to get my mojo back. 3 miles or more every day for 2 months. Then I got a place in the Roding Valley half Marathon from Olivia, so that gave me a race to beat the time I did there in 2012. New Year’s day I did parkrun, was expecting it to be slow, was about a minute slower than I thought! Not good, but at least I knew what I was dealing with. A couple of weeks later and I was back to about the right time for 5k, but not much endurance, longest run was about 7 miles. Carried on with the streak, did a few rides when I could with a 3 mile run after, Mojo was back. Then I ran to parkrun the day before Roding Valley, went the wrong way, ran 3 miles further than planned, then ran parkrun with my son, he went a bit quicker than I hoped, so turned into a bit of a sprint. 12 miles in total, last 3 at pretty much race pace, longest run of the year, first race in the morning. Perfect right? Yes as it turns out, ran 4 minutes quicker than in 2012, and felt good at the end. These things confuse me! Streak was meant to finish the next day, think I then ran with a mate the next couple of days, and that was that. Time to think about the bike.
I always prefer a challenge when training, gives me a reason to do it, for a race in 4 months doesn’t always do it for me, so next up was a 100 mile or so ride round all of London’s football grounds. Got a few mates together, and on Good Friday, away we went. 16 grounds, 100 selfies, 10,000 red lights. 100+ miles ridden without any real effort. Next up was 1,000 miles in May. Cover 1,000 miles on the bike, on foot and in the pool. A week off work got some good bike miles in, and got there with a couple of days to spare. Suddenly Gladiator is upon us, feeling happy with my swimming, reasonably happy with my bike, and a bit behind where I wanted to be on long runs done, still no matter, this is a practice race, Outlaw is the main event.
Race day, I always try to do something new on race day, nothing major, just something to keep my mind working. Today I blew that out the water by wearing brand new trainers! Swim was fast as promised, I usually do about 1.10, today I did 55 minutes J And it wasn’t short!! T1 was long, and used most of the time I saved. Got on the bike and just took it easy, was a great course through the new Forest, apart from slowing for the occasional Cow or Pony or Pig the roads were empty for the first 50 miles or so. I never really remember details of races, I remember trying to remember a few things, but have no idea what any of them were! The wind picked up a bit on the second lap, and the top of the loop is pretty exposed, meant miles 60-90 (ish, probably!) were quite tough going. Back off the bike in pretty good time, just a flat run to go. I knew after ½ a mile my new trainers would be fine. I also knew I was going to struggle after 20 miles, it took me another 2 miles to realise the course wasn’t flat, and that 20 miles was going to become 17. No matter, get there, not far to go then, I’ll just blag the last bit. Miles 16-22 were really tough going, passing the start/finish twice every lap is mentally tough. Still, as a mate who has done loads of these things (118 as of outlaw!) told me, Walk the hills and the feed stations, run slow if needed, just keep moving forward. I got round in just under 12 hours. Not too bad for a tougher than expected course. The organisers ask what song you want to finish to, so I got to run down the finish bit behind my kids (as they wouldn’t run as slow as I wanted them to!) to whatever song I randomly chose a few weeks before. (If I had a favourite song, it would be great).
A brilliant event, nice and low key, put on by people that really want it to be a success, I think the organiser stays awake for about 50 hours around the race making sure everything runs smoothly. There was a bar within 200m of the finish, and a BBQ put on for all finishers. Unfortunately, due to the way I throw this together, I had to drive home, as I had to get my Son to the pool for 5.30 Monday morning, then go to work, then get my Daughter swimming… The Joys of being a chauffeur!!