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Ironman ambitions - Part 7

by Paul Hayward
Friday 5th June 2015
Tags  Paul Hayward   |   Outlaw Half   |   Triathlon

Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward has been inspired to become an Ironman. Although he overcomes his fears of the water, the first big test at the Outlaw triathlon doesn't quite go as expected

Ironman ambitions - Part 7

If you would have told me what would happen at the Outlaw Half, I would never have believed you. I still can't quite believe it now, bar the fact it has happened and I made it to the finish line due to the kindness of a fellow human being called John and the team at One Step Beyond.

Leading up to the Outlaw Half my preparation could not have gone better. I had a final swimming lesson on Thursday and then two clear rest days with lots of sleep and I had eaten properly all week. My coach Scott had told me that I was ready for the swim and he thought I could do it in around 45 minutes. This, Scott said, was 'quite an achievement' as when we first met and he began to teach me to swim I was certain to be a DNF at Wales.

I dared, at this point, to dream about what time I could achieve once I made the swim. Scott and I worked out that a 45 minute swim, three hour bike and two hour run would put me dangerously close to a sub-six hour finish time. Do not get me wrong, I just wanted to finish and get through the swim, but for the first time ever I began to believe that I could make the finish line and do well!

Fortunately I was grounded pretty hard on Sunday morning when staring out across the National Water Sport Centre 1 mile loop that made the Outlaw Half swim. I have seen 750 metres at Blenheim Triathlon but this swim, in comparison, seemed just gigantic. The buoy that you turned around at and made your way back from was a small blip in the distance. How was it even possible?

After racking my bike and getting changed into my Zone3 wetsuit, I took the '40 minutes and over' lane and began to wade in the water. Fear filled me once again, however, by some surprise the water was not as cold as the lake I had trained in and it felt okay.

Ironman ambitions - Part 7

On hearing the horn, at 6.30am on a Sunday morning, I was released with my 270 or so fellow athletes into the swim. I had followed the advice of staying at the back but this does not mean it is any less scary, as people swim by, over and under you it is simply the craziest moment I have ever experienced and was non stop for the first hundred metres.

I had no room to move at points and I was reduced to breaststroke to calm me down. However when I had space I was able to front crawl and I did so a lot more effectively than a few weeks before and made it to the first buoy, then the second and then the count was on.

On making it to the last buoy and the end, through a mixture of front crawl and breaststroke, I climbed out of the lake and I looked at the marshal. I expected him to shake his head and tell me it was over but he pointed to transition. I had made it. I had actually made the swim!

The excitement filled me and as I got changed I forgot simple steps, such as putting my garmin watch on, despite plugging my heart monitor onto me, or putting my cycling gloves on. The weather was cold, with the rain crashing around me, but I did not care. I would soon be warm and I stuck with my tri suit under a cycle top and shorts. On the lead out to the main road I was that cold that I dropped my bottle of High 5 and I was faced with the first 21 miles with half a bottle of water!

This, it transpired, was the least of my worries. For around 15 miles I was flying and I felt more alive than I have done in years. I was pushing other riders and I was overtaking a lot of cyclists. I was absolutely beaming until the strangest thing happened.

On overtaking two cyclists I suddenly felt that I was on a railroad and the ground was much harder. I cycled a little bit more, hoping it was just the road, and the sensation became worse and I knew something was not right. I just did not feel competitive anymore.

I checked my rear tyre and it was flat, I just could not believe it.

It was fine though - I had a spare inner tube due to advice from Mr Shanley and an oxygen pump to get the inner tube pumped up. I could change the tyre and be back on the road in no time. Or this is what I thought as I tried and tried to do the tyre, but it simply would not come off and I could not even get it open.

The rain began to take its toll and the medic, a really nice young lady, began to get increasingly concerned. She tried to lift my spirits and asked me questions to keep me talking. At this point my world was falling apart and all I could say is 'I am going to miss the cut off, I am going home'.

Although she continued to talk to me, and kindly rang the support crew which was supplied by One Step Beyond, in a bid to cheer me up, my frustration got worse and worse and I acted like a 14 year old boy confronted with a beautiful girl and I could only mumble, give her one word answers in return or say “I am not normally like this, sorry”.

I just had nothing to say and I was despondent. On taking my helmet off and not being able to stop shaking, I felt it was over. I had made the swim, my biggest worry and the cause of no sleep Saturday night, but I had failed on the bike. I could feel the tears coming and I continued to mumble to the medic. At the point of giving up, a man swooped in, later introduced as John, on his Cervelo, and asked if he could help.

I explained that I could not change my tyre and he simply said “I’ll do it”, which was my cue to be packed off into the warmth by the medic and he changed my tyre in what seemed like minutes with the help of the mechanics from One Step Beyond’s bike crew. John confirmed it was done and it would do for now. "You can race.”

Ironman ambitions - Part 7

I did not know what to say, other than continually saying thank you to him and apologising to everyone else for being a pain, and I was back on the road. This man, with the help of the support team, had taken me from going home to being back in the race and I was so thankful.

As I caught a number of the bikes, on their own and clearly having a hard time racing in the rain, they would shout “go on Paul” or “keep going”. These people were clearly battling hard to even cycle, yet they shouted at me to push and it gave me the push to do this, to make the run and I really hoped they'd make it too.

I made the run and I set off in a blind panic, forgetting my gels and my Garmin. I am not sure if it was the anger or the adrenaline in me that pushed me forward and made me go so hard but I managed to do a 2 hour 2 minute run to the finish line. Stupidly I did not take on any gels at the aid stations and I was running as to how my body felt.

On reaching the red carpet and seeing all the crowds screaming I just wanted to see my girlfriend and let her know I was okay, I had made it to the end somehow. On seeing her smile I was, to be honest, back at the point of tears. I had done it, I had made it to the finish line and I was so lucky that she was there and she had not given up as I so nearly did.

I squeezed her hand, smiled and charged to the finish line and I crossed in a time of 7.18.54. Even now I am struggling a little with my emotions about this race. I did not want to fail, I wanted to do my coach, family, friends and girlfriend proud. I think I did this, I made the finish line and I did the race to the best of my ability. In addition I learnt a lot about myself. I was on the edge of giving up but I came back and I came back hard to make the finish line.

I have got a 100 days until Ironman Wales to learn to change tyres more efficiently, spend more time in the lake and train as hard as possible to do double the distance. The Outlaw Half had been a massive test for my fitness and my mental ability to keep going. I nearly failed, but thanks to an act of kindness from John I made the line - I cannot, even now, say how thankful I am and I honestly hope I see him again to let him know this.

Had he not helped me to succeed at this test, then I do not know how I would now feel about Wales or the challenge facing me.

Ironman ambitions - Part 7


About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 

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