The kindness of strangers

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Well, I did it. I managed to get round the Outlaw marathon on Sunday, but it wasn’t pretty.  Not by a long shot.  In fact, I would go as far as to say it was a fucking nightmare!  In the run up to the event, everyone had been checking the weather forecast with trepidation.  As the event was in the UK, it would be easy to think the worries stemmed from the possibilities of freezing weather, howling winds and pouring rain, but for once, this wasn’t the case.  As it turned out, the 7th of July was one of – if not thehottest days of the year *insert melted smiley*

 

We don’t do excessive heat in this country, well at least not at sporting events.  Not usually.  Everyone training for the Outlaw Ironman had been training through cold, wind, rain and snow all winter, so to say it was a shock to be competing in 30C in the shade is a bit of an understatement.

 

I wasn’t too nervous in the run up to the day, because I’d done the training, and my two longest runs of 18- and 20 miles had gone pretty well.  I’m  a bit of a slow coach, but I had estimated i take 5:45 – 6:00 hours to get round, and I was happy with that.  The only other marathon I have completed I did in 6:55.  Surely I could beat that PB?  I mean, 6:55 is aaaaaages, so it shouldn’t have been a problem.  Except I didn’t account for the heat, and neither had anyone else.

 

I was almost too embarrassed to put my time up here, but then again the results are public, and all my friends that were there know how long it took me – 8:09 in the end.  Seriously.  Slowest marathon of the day, and that is even including all the men and women who had already swum 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles.  Disappointed doesn’t even come close.  Now I know it was fecking hot, and I still finished, but everyone else had the same conditions to contend with, so I’m not a special case (no comments please! 😉 ).  It almost felt as if it wouldn’t have mattered if i had done any training or not, and the worst thing is I feel that if I could go out and walk 26.2 miles right now it wouldn’t take me that long!!!!  Well, maybe once my blisters have healed…..

 

I had a couple of really low points during the day, but I knew I was going to finish, no matter what.  I’d been in a good frame of mind about the marathon in the run up, so it wasn’t a negative mindset that got to me.  I think I just had no resilience to the heat.  My 20 miler was done in temps of ~22C, so I thought i’d cope with the heat okay, but it really floored me.  My hands puffed up to look like a pack of butcher’s sausages, and my feet felt as though they were going to burst.  I tried to drink as much as i could around the course (there were aid stations every couple of kilometres) but it wasn’t enough, and i know I didn’t eat much – couldn’t face it.

So, what now?  Well, as much as i’m a bit despondent about it, I can recognise the positives – I got round despite the heat, and I finished.  I had a brilliant weekend away with friends – old and new – and I had a lot of good laughs.  If you asked me now would I have done it if i’d known it would be that bad, then I would have to say yes, no hesitation.  Why?  Well, because even though I didn’t achieve what I wanted, it has made me reaffirm a lot of things – that I want, or rather NEED, to lose weight and get fitter.  My body really suffered out there, and my lack of core strength really had me screwed towards the end when I couldn’t maintain good posture.  The extra weight on my feet really didn’t help me, and while I got there, it would have been more manageable, and less taxing on my body if I was 4 stone lighter.  So if nothing else, it will help me sharpen my focus.  However, I need to review my long terms goals in light of the effect the heat had on me – i’m not sure an Ironman in Western Australia in the middle of their summer is such a blinding idea now….. Anyway, that’s for later…..

 

The biggest reason that I would do Sunday all over again, however, is because of the amazing support I got on the day, and in the run up to the marathon.  I’m very proud to call myself a Pirate – a member of a ‘virtual’ triathlon club called the Pirate Ship of Fools.  We all wear bright yellow kit with a black skull and crossbones on it – if you’re a triathlete reading this in the UK, i’m sure you’ll have seen some of us about, and possibly some international triathletes will have seen us too; we get about a bit 😉  Anyway, never have you seen a more motley crew, but never have you met a more supportive group of people.  I can only blame the Pirates for getting me into triathlon in the first place, but secretly i’m glad they did.  I’ve made a lot of fabulous pirate friends int he last few years, and look forward to making more in time.  Running in the kit is a sure-fire way to get support from almost everyone.  It was hard to run (okay, shuffle) a few feet without hearing someone shout and encouraging “Aaaaaarrrrgg!” at me.  I spent some time walking with another triathlete who was really struggling with the heat, but was determined to keep up a strong walking pace in order to finish (he beat me, which I’m happy about!).  He gave me a couple of salt tablets too which I was very grateful for.  Another nameless lady walked with me and chattered for a few hundred meters when I was struggling a bit.  I asked if she had friends or family taking part and she replied “two friends are doing it, but I like to support everybody”.  I was also very grateful to my lovely friend Krista who popped up around the course and always knew the right thing to say, especially when I saw her at a really low point.  I also have to mention all the event marshalls and volunteers without whom the race would not be possible.  They are so encouraging and friendly, and I even got a lovely hug from a volunteer who seemed immune to the sweaty, stinking mess that I was.  Finally I’m ever so grateful to a lovely man called Richard who went out of his way to offer support.  I had been hiding in the shade while I waited for my friend Carolyn to finish the bike leg and hand over the timing chip.  Richard was hiding from the sun too, and I found out that not only had he completed Ironman Austria the week before, but he intended to complete the Outlaw too.  However, the sun was so hellish, that he decided to stop after the bike leg, being too tired to go on.  No wonder after the week before!  Anyway, he asked my name, and said he’d support me on the way round.  So once I set off, I saw him after a couple of miles when he shouted my name from the top of a grass bank, then he wandered down to shout encouragement.  I saw him again further round the course, and he told me to keep going.  The third time I saw him, I was heading out for my second and final long loop, and definitely looked a bit despondent knowing I still had a long way to go, so he walked with me for a little bit, we chatted and I finally found out his name.

 

This is what I love about triathlon, and running events.  People you’ve never met in your puff just look out for you and do their best to help you.  If you’ve ever been out and watched a sporting event and cheered folk on, then thank-you.  It means so, so much.  I always try to smile and say thanks, but sometimes it is too hard to even speak, but believe me, I’m still grateful.  It is no exaggeration to say I wouldn’t have got round the marathon without it.  So despite the utter hellishness of Sunday, my memories of it will be happy.  The pain will eventually recede, then I’ll get back to my plans and figure out what to do next.  I know I swore on Sunday that I’d never do it again, but of course I will, because I’ve got to beat my time, and prove to myself that I can do better.  Most importantly though, I’m looking forward to supporting at future events, because I want to repay the kindness shown to me on Sunday.

Happy days 🙂

9 thoughts on “The kindness of strangers

  1. I was so proud of you..you were finding it so hard.but I never doubted for a minute that you wouldn’t finish xxx

  2. You did it, that’s all there is to it, be proud and wear that medal you earned it

    We love you xxxxxxxx The SA family

  3. Lee – you did amazingly well in that heat. I don’t know if I would have managed it. You epitomise the Pirate spirit – something that I hope to be a part of one day 😀 Work out your aims and if I can help let me know 😀

  4. So brave lovely Lee. The easy choice would have been to quit and you didn’t, you stayed until the end and that makes you a hero in my book regardless of the time. Well done you 🙂

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