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The Virgin 70.3 Diaries: The story of Russell's journey to his 1st Middle Distance Triathlon

On 2nd July 2017 Outlaw Triathlon and OSB Events, popular with many of our Club members, set up camp at Holkham Hall in Norfolk. Russell Edgings selected this event to step up to Middle Distance...

A little about me

I have been taking part in triathlon events for about 4 years mainly focusing on Sprint and Olympic distance events. I have been a keen runner for about 10 years and also enjoyed the odd bike ride/ event when I had time so it was only a matter of time before I tried a triathlon. Also my children are all regional/county level swimmers and after spending many hours down the pool watching them train I thought to myself I fancy a bit of swimming as well and being low impact would complement my running.

When I completed my first triathlon it was a real buzz and great experience so I was hooked straight away. I then spent my time reading tri-related articles, buying gear and finding races to take part in.

Move on to 2017 – Outlaw Half

At the end of the 2016 season I decided I wanted to complete a Half and to allow time to train etc. I was hoping for a July race so the Holkham event was perfect for me (also it allowed me to do a couple of Olympic distance events as training/testing beforehand). By nature I’m a committed and focused person so I knew what training I had to in my mind to be in the best position come race day. As well as my regular swim sessions at Hornchurch most weeks I would do a decent run (up to about 15km) and a decent bike ride (up to race distance of 56m in the end). I find small changes to training work best for me and just upping the distance or speed slightly works very well and doesn’t use up a great deal more time. So come race day I felt strong and up for the challenge although I had a niggling issue with my ankle which I twisted four weeks before playing football.

Race day

With the larger events you have to register and rack the bikes the day before race day. This was effortless at Holkham with a well-oiled race briefing to help us fully understand the course and any potential issues. At this time I thought this is now for real so I was starting to get nervous, alcohol free lagers were supplied in the registration room but I needed something a lot stronger. After the briefing and racking my bike I started to relax and do a recce of transition, the swim and remember where my bike was and where the bike in/out exits where placed.

My main concerns at the build up to the race and on the start line where based around the mass swim start and nutrition for the day – do I have right stuff? will it be sufficient? How many people will I be swimming against etc?

Saturday afternoon view of Holkham Hall with the dramatic Norfolk skyline and plenty of loos.

The Swim leg

The swim was a basic 1 lap around the lake which was fairly straight forward. The lake was warm and when the race got under way I soon found some space having started towards the back, I then focused on a good leg kick and long arm stroke (as my swim coaches keep telling me!). The lake was quite shallow so you could at times feel the reeds at the bottom so you had to watch what you was dragging up in case it got caught in your goggles etc. In the end no issues with the swim and when I entered transition I felt refreshed and relaxed ready for the 56mile bike leg ahead.

The lake for the swim before the buoys have been set up

The bike leg

Straight out of transition which seemed half a km long you have a steady climb for about 3-4km in the Holkham Estate, this gives you time to enjoy the scenery and beauty of the Hall and surroundings before hitting the country lanes of North Norfolk. Also there a lot of supporters here cheering everyone along which helps motivate you for the miles ahead. The lanes around this part of Norfolk are undulating and can be quite windy at times, we passed through numerous picturesque villages/hamlets on good, safe road surfaces (the organisers mentioned in the briefing that they had gone out earlier to sweep some flint from the road which was a nice touch). Once I got going the km’s seemed to pass quite quickly with no issues or problems. The feed station was half way so a good time to swap water bottles and re-fuel. My nutrition consisted of gels and jam/peanut butter wraps which went down very well, my aim was to eat proper food early and then use the gels towards the end of the bike leg. This combination seemed to work well for me overall so will be used for future events.

One thing I noticed on the bike was the speed of some of the other athletes at times I’m sure they had motors on the bike going by the noise and whoosh as they passed me, however I kept smiling and peddling on. There is a nice stretch about 15-20km long where the wind was behind us so this was great cycling conditions and the miles disappeared quickly. Before long I was on the road back up to Holkham, I was starting to feel fatigued now but knew there wasn’t many miles left so happy days. Back on the estate the 3-4km uphill on the way out was now down-hill to transition. We had to keep to the left as the runners were on the right going uphill. Not a nice thought up hill running straight away but that’s triathlon – why make it easy. Back in transition now, bike racked and the crowds are all buzzing, cheering, shouting, cow bells the lot. This is best thing about a big event everyone gets involved and there’s nothing nicer then someone calling your name to help push you along.

Transition – Where did I rack my bike again?

The run leg

Straight into the run my quads seized up and both knees were in a little pain, I thought this is going to be along walk, luckily for me other people were also walking so I walked, stretched, light jogged to get my legs back in order. I soon got some proper running movement going and started the half marathon in earnest, there are 3 feed stations on each lap so I made a conscious effort to stop and re-fuel especially as now it was starting to get very hot. The route is 3 laps and on lap 2 I got my mojo back and raced around in no time at all. The last lap was a little slower and I could hear and taste the finish line so that was helping push me on, also I’m thinking I’m almost there keep going Mr Half Ironman. The crowds towards the finish line were great helping me for the final few hundred metres before turning towards the carpeted finish line run. As I run down to complete the half I almost shed a tear as I was so pleased with my achievement and day’s racing, I did manage to hold back though! 70.3 All done and dusted in 6 hours 26mins.

After thoughts

Keep your head up at the finish line. Mine was down and my sun visor covered most of my face so the finish photos aren’t that great.

I need to try and do a few more brick sessions and leg conditioning exercises to help strengthen my legs.

Book your “A” lister race early as I had trouble finding a B&B.

Would I do another Half Ironman/70.3?

Yes of course, I loved it and have already booked the Cotswold Classic in August.

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