Thanks to the fuel shortages in the UK, I set off for Thoresby Hall with enough fuel to get there but not back, so I went very steadily to stretch my reserves (I did manage to pick up some diesel at a small BP station just north of Peterborough). Pitched up at the level and decently provisioned campsite, went for a quick test ride and went to rack up. Thoresby Hall Estate are unusually restrictive about access - no chance to recce either the swim or the run (or for anyone to spectate the swim). I did Outlaw X last year, so could remember it reasonably well, but good to bear in mind if you’re thinking of giving this one a go.
The start was a time-trial style off a pontoon in pairs every 6 seconds. Being a relatively slow swimmer I really do not miss the argy bargy of mass-start swims. As in many open water venues, the recent warm weather had really brought the weeds up (all the way to the surface in many places), which made the swim slightly trickier. The swim is about 400m from transition, but it’s almost entirely over grass and firm ground. Plenty of time to wrestle with your wetsuit zip.
At the top of my race nutrition plan I had written Mike Tyson’s famous words on planning: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” (quote borrowed from MyProCoach). Between the timing mat and the bike mount line, I realised that I’d forgotten to put the bento box on my bike, along with most of my race nutrition. 🤦♂️ I bet Mike Tyson never punched himself in the mouth! I still had one salt cap and 1.5l of sports drink though, so I decided to guzzle that and make an unplanned stop at the feed station at 35 miles to pick up whatever they had there (and probably go to the loo).
The ride course is rolling / undulating but not really hilly - only two places where my little chainring saw any action. Scenery is nice enough with lots of pretty villages, not dissimilar in profile or character to my usual Cambridge - Newmarket - Bury stamping ground. There are quite a few places with tight bends in the road, so it’s a definite benefit to be able to corner confidently at speed (Tim Williams has a great web page on cornering). In a flashback to the journey north, I had enough fuel to get to the feed station but probably not to get back, so I went steadily to stretch my reserves. I stopped at the feed station, picked up another drink bottle, stuffed a handful of gels up the leg of my tri suit and jumped back on. The ride back to Thoresby was a bit harder because of a slight headwind that rewarded good aero. The last 7km is one of the more rolling bits of the course, and the road surface is typical UK fare; worth bearing in mind according to your race plan. I let myself work a bit harder now that I had some carbs in my system.
T2 was slower than usual thanks to all that extra fluid earlier, but I was out on the run soon enough. The course is over 3 laps, has a couple of crossover points and a loop close to the event village, so there’s more crowd encouragement than on some courses, and you get a total of 9 opportunities to use the well-stocked feed stations. The course itself is mainly dirt and tarmac tracks with a 200m section over a meadow. It rises and falls gently through fields and woodlands. By the time I hit the second lap the sun had come out for the afternoon and the temperature was around 20C with a gentle breeze pushing you along some sections and cooling you on others. Lovely, in other words! Moderation with the bike pacing was paying off, and I was able to keep good form on the run and then empty the tank over the last 4km. I had hoped that if everything went to plan I’d squeeze inside 5 hours, and I managed 4h58m51 and 8th M45-49 despite the bento box snafu, so very chuffed with that.
Nice chunky medal and a wicking finishers t-shirt, if they’re your thing. I do wish they’d make them optional or out of recycled/able fabric though. You also get a meal and a cuppa included. Pre-pandemic, the entry fee also included a massage at the end. It’s a well-run, friendly event and relatively good value for money. Booking into the campsite was a particular win; sleeping within 500m of transition and being able to shower soon after the race made life that bit more pleasant. Bit of a risk at the end of September, admittedly, but it paid off.