2 cancellations, 1 deferral, 1 pandemic, 1 stroke and great support team = Roo 1, Stroke 0
Get ready for a brief description of my experience oftriathlons into the roller coaster, hang on tight journey that took me to completing the Outlaw in 2022.
I started dipping my toes in Triathlons in 2016 with a strongdetermination to just do pool swims in account of my irrational fear of fish. Then came our first LincsQuad Christmas party where all things pleasant was drunk and I won an entry into 2017 The Edge Standard Distance,confidence was flying high that night so out I stepped from only completing in pool events.
So once I had done one open water swim, I got the bug to keep moving up in distance with a goal in 2020 of entering the Outlaw Full. Sundowner done, Outlaw half done, I was well on my way so Outlaw 2020 was entered!
Boom here arrived Covid in 2020, Boris told us all to stay at home, there went the training and the inevitable reschedulingof events from 2020 to 2021. Elective hospital appointments were cancelled there went my heart review for my atrial fibrillation (AF – irregular heartbeat) as the appointment was cancelled. This was okay though as my last appointment I was told that as fit man in my 40s that I would not need preventative medication to avoid having a stroke. I kept up with what I could with running and cycling using the treadmill and turbo to assist when we were stuck in doors, I could still be on target to do Outlaw Full 2021. Game on.
Hello November 9th 2020, my fit body that didn’t need preventative medication decided it would have a Stroke. I ended up with permanent damage to my parental lope and have been left me with version of aphasia (I’m in good company - Bruce Willis and Chris Kamara have recently announced they are retiring from roles that require them to think and speak due to aphasia). I have Broca’s aphasia which has left me with difficulty finding and forming words/sentences. You may find that I speak more generalised or may not speak at all and leave most of the chatting to my none complaining partner in crime for the last 27 years. Fordays I could not even say Catherine’s name, off I started an intense rehabilitation program at home determined to get back and train for something, I just didn’t know what.
We muddled as a family though the first couple months and attended a virtual appointment with my stroke consultation where Catherine asked him the question, “Will Roo ever be able to Triathlon?”, his response was- yes you can Roo, your heart is a muscle, you will have stroke fatigue popping up, listen to your body. At this point I restarted to train as best I could for a half distance and returned to work in April 2021 here I realised that the Full Outlaw would be difficult to train for. So I phoned OSB up and asked if I could defer the fulluntil 2022 and to my delight they could ( Thank you OSB Events!)
The weeks went by and I was just about start for training for 2022, but I’m the kind of guy who just says I’ll do it another day. Catherine decided that after to chatting with Steve about my condition, who was engaged and supportive from the start, went and bought me Off That Couch Fitness Vouchers for Christmas. Anyway the long and short of it is, I decided to use the vouchers to start a training programme with Steve, and I can say it was the best decision ever made.
Training was going well, I entered the Early Brigg Sprint2022 managing a time that was better than previous times and only a week after my holiday too, I was feeling really engaged, training was paying off.
Here arrives the 17th May, where I started with a prolonged AFattack (they normally last about 1-2 days), this left me in a state where I couldn’t walk upstairs without being out of breath, I was constantly a grey tone. I stupidly went for a swim not expecting to be at the start of such a long attack andthis was a mistake, I managed to do 400m (not in one go) and I was jiggered. I finally came out of AF on the 3rd June. I was shattered, the smallest physical effort left me out of breath.
Steve was fantastic changing my training programme to beeasier on the heart, the target was completion not a time and checking in on me regularly. Catherine powered up her assertiveness and insisted that if she was to support me that I needed to get sign off from cardiologist. I guess she had a lot to loose! Out we both skipped from the appointment with the green light to do Outlaw Full (Roo listen to your body was the main quote)
It was the weekend of the Triathlon, and we took caravan down to Holmepierre Point, it was great to pull up seeing Rob Marshall filling up his water tank closely followed by the arrival of friends from LincsQuad. I don’t think I felt nervous at this point, speaking to Catherine she said that it was like I was completing a sprint Triathlon. The caravan was full with our two teenagers, two greyhounds and 2 best friends and their son. I think the hustle and bustle took my mind off it a bit as I supped on my 0% Guinness pint.
Alarm set for 4:10 and one for 4:20 just in case I missed it, up all got on the first alarm. Soaked overnight oats with fruit and off I went with Drew and Claire Hobley, Mark Turner and Simon Leek from LS to go to hang our bags, sipping on a drink as I went. On reflection I probably had a bit much food in my bags, but experienced full distance friends kept saying to me don’t run out of food, so I was determined not to. After transition I went to stand with Catherine, Alex and Roman, Fiona, George and Harry until it was time to get in the water.
The time arrived, there were hundreds of people around meyet I felt alone. I got into the water deciding to go for end of row two as I felt maybe I could control things from there. I managed to speak to a couple of people in the water, which I think it helped me as I waited for the mass start which I was not looking forward to.
I set off with a breaststroke to see where I was going, I’m also not the most relaxed swimming in open water due to my fishfear (Catherine once asked if I would touch a fish to rescue her life and I made the mistake of pausing before I answeredher- oops). I tell myself the fish get out and sit on the side whilst I am swimming. After a couple of breaststrokes I was saying to myself ‘I can’t do this’, until I gave myself a stern talking to. The mass start was a concern as I didn’t want to get hit, I’m please to say this only happened a few times as wasn’t too bad - everyone had stayed out of way, what a result.
Looking down the length of the lake seemed like it was to take forever, I kept looking up arriving at the turn point so quickly. I knew by the length on the lake, I had done more than half, so I just needed to get back. Here it was a little more crowded, however I seemed to have enough room to swim.
I was worried at the end of the swim that my legs would be dead, especially I had cramp when I swam with OTCF gang inthe sea at Cleethorpes the week prior. Delightedly my legs worked as I completed the swim in 1:20:24, wonder what if I had been if I’d not faffed about.
In transition it was great to see Drew and Hinchy getting ready for the bike, in then came Mark as we all wished each other the best of luck. In transition after fuelling I start on thelong walk to my bike. I started getting excited as unless I had a problem with bike (Dan Ellis can tell you how I have fun with tyres on many events due to a fault) I knew I could do this, it may take me the 17 hours but I knew I could do it.Leaving to go on the bike seeing the friendly familiar faces of Jeff and Donna Chappill gave me a right buzz.
The bike leg was fine. I had heard on the race briefing that the some roads had been relaid, well it turned out there was about 500 metres relaid as you hit the first little hill, then the roads started to be a bit interesting to navigate due to damage. On the plus side it was an improvement on the Outlaw Half 2021 as then the road just seemed to littered with water bottles.
Until this point I had never cycled above 85 miles but felt confident I had it in me. The ride is in basically in 3 parts, you do 1 loop of the Northern Loop, and then 1 of the Southern loop before returning to the Northern loop. The first half of the ride went well, I did the first half in less time than I did half in last year (roughly about 3:15) then it started to go down hill from there. The wind was in your face, I didn’t seem to matter where you turned. I remember going from the Northern loop on to Southern loop and I thought this is not too bad because the wind was coming at me but it was okay as down hill. Here I was thinking that this will be great on the way back to Northern loop. Well it wasn’t, by the time I came back to the link road, the wind was basically in my face again, I wasn’t having a ball. I’d told Catherine if I could get an average of about 16mph on the bike, I would be less than 7 hours. Well I got off the bike at 6:59:22, so not a bad guess!
Into transition again, handing my bike to an Outlaw Marshallbefore entering the transition tent for a refuel, toilet stop and change of shoes. I knew at this point that I had got here in about 9 hours, so I had roughly 8 hours to complete the Marathon. Since my stroke emotions creep up on me (this is normal I’m told) at this point I was ready to cry as I knew I could finish but stopped myself telling myself I just had to keep Running/Walking.
I was off on my marathon, and I was determined to stick to what Steve had told me, which was 9 mins running and 1 minute walking, I had practiced this several times ( well Steve had put it on my plan!) I bumped into the familiar face of Gareth Barker an 7/8 time Outlaw Full finisher, it was tempting to run with him but I made sure I stuck to my running routine.
This was where the crowd helped, the cheering you get from everybody is amazing and I seemed to have the loudest crowd with me. As ran round the boat houses, I heard the cheers of OTCF gang (not sure who was where/when but know I saw/heard Ali, Mel, Sophie, Lindsay, Craig, Gem and Dan at some point but can’t remember where. It was great – thank you! I am sorry if I missed anyone, I was distracted :-). )
Then as I went along the side of the car park, I saw my Mother-in-Law, and her husband holding a huge go Roo banner. Further along I found Catherine and Alex and Roman, I am sure Catherine was the loudest person there, either that or my ears homed into her shouting – could be both! Then as I went up the small hill, the rest of LincsQuad gang crowd were there – thank you! and so was Catherine- still shouting her head off.
I was out onto footpath to Nottingham, and I kept my running right I was sticking to the 9 mins run and 1 minute walking. As I went along the path, I saw Drew again, and we gave each other a high five before going on our way. I walked all the drinks areas, as well as my walk for 1 minute, this made it easier for me, because I didn’t have to worry about starting running again. All was going well as I started on the way back on the first lap. At this point I hadn’t noticed the wind on the run but when I came to the footpath run approaching the lake again, the wind hit me, it felt like it was blowing a gale(it wasn’t of course). I dug deep and kept following what I needed , coming to the top of the next hill, I heard Roo being shouted and was chuffed to see Dawn Porter, who ran with me for a bit and took my mind of things for bit.
Arriving back on the lake after walking the drink area, I could see that Mark was ahead of me. Catching him up we walked together on my walk, telling him my plan and we tried to support each other. Sadly Mark was only just over Covid so his body was not playing ball, we managed to run part of the far side of the lake, where Rob cheered passed us giving us encouragement as he went to continue his last lap, untilMark’s after affects of Covid won the battle so I carried on alone.
I was on the second lap long lap running past the car park to hear the shouts of OTCF and LS with Alex and Roman taking turns to run at my side. Arriving at the top of the hill after the drinks stop, I noticed that our two Greyhounds, Bob and Marywere now out giving me their support (I really could do have done with some of their speed even if only for 800m). At this point, Catherine in her poor choice of shoes (flip flops) ran with me, asking how I was feeling and how far I had run (12 miles only 14.2 miles left) At this point I was starting to struggle, having Catherine running with me, telling me thatSteve had been in touch and to tell me my pace was looking good gave me the boost I needed as I was starting to doubt,thinking about changing my run (Thanks Steve – perfect timing there!) so off I continued running the same format.
By the time I got to the bridge over the Trent, my legs were really hurting and made the only mistake I think I made in the run, as I started to change the running format by running 8 minutes and 2 minutes walk before changing to 4 and 1. This change didn’t help with the aching legs, so I decided to go back to 9 and 1.
As I came to the final part of the footpath nearly back into the lake, I was met by George who does not partake in any of this madness but he ran with me for a bit. Then Fiona took over the running with me and this really helped because I was flagging at this point. Fiona only ran with me about 500 metres or so, but it really took my mind off everything. I had a laugh as she shouted when stopping “I love you” at this point a marshall commented “aww that’s nice” at which point Fiona quickly shouted – “he’s NOT my husband, it’s my best friend’s” the look on the marshall’s face was a picture but then Fiona was gone. I only had 1 and half laps of the lake to goand it was getting hard, I decided to walk up the hills in the wind and run down them, for the all of 600 metres. As I came to the drinks stop Catherine turned up again - like a bad penny ;-) with her phone out. It was my Mum and Dad on Facetime, I couldn’t really hear what they said, but it great to see their loving faces.
I was onto the lake again, oh no my watch kept saying low battery- would it last for just over a lap? Well there was nothing I could do if it did or didn’t – I didn’t care I just kept running, I didn’t need Strava - I was to get a completion medal! The wind going down onto the return leg of the lake was harsh, but I kept running just very slowing. The last part of my run seemed to go very quickly. My watch ran out with about half a lap to go, so I just decided I would run to feed station and walk there and then run the final bit.
I came past transition tent and then I saw it - the finish! I peered across at the family area, not expecting our boys to be there (they had said they weren’t coming to run with me, they were told old. I later found out that they soon changed their mind as was so proud of me. They hadseen me very vulnerable after my stroke, when I could just smile at them, nod and listen as I could only make noises). I ran past the shoot for family due not expecting them but got the most welcome surprise to see them shouting I would meet them at the end. The last bit of the run was with my two boys, I mentioned earlier my emotions are hard to control but I was determined not to cry. I had done it. The crowd announced it YOU ARE AN OUTLAW.
As went over the line I could here an announcement saying I had a Stroke 18 months ago, but I wasn’t really aware what was. Mue my Mother-in-Law had done a great announcement for me I later found out.
The boys went up the steps as I went to get my T-Shirt, and tag taken off, to start the the long walk up the steps. Waiting at the top was Catherine, I just said “I did it” as we held each for a couple of minutes unashamedly sobbing.
What an experience I have had, from thinking I can’t this in the swim to the end. There are so many people to thank. Everybody who came to see me. Mue, Dave, Dawn, George, Fiona, Harry, Debbie and Nick, Everybody from LincsQuadand OTCF that cheered me on. Especially Steve, when I needed some less training he obligated, and for putting up with Catherine for messaging him. But most of all Catherine, Alex and Roman. There is nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to.
I have said to Catherine if I ever say I want to do another full distance one, please say no. All she says is Never Say Never. I may be waving a bit now, sush, don’t tell anyone.