This report is by Colin Brown, a very comprehensive assessment of the event-Noreen
You have to hunt for the toilets – not many obvious ones in event HQ but loads of portaloos around, mostly though in places where competitors would need them on Sunday.
Parking, Accommodation etc: Loads of parking, £5 for the weekend. Short walk (max 1k) Camping on site, but I think that filled up in advance pretty quickly. Loads of hotels in Nottingham and surrounding area – we stayed 3 nights in Riverside Travelodge about 4 miles away – cheap as chips.
Event Day: 04:00 car parks opened and 04:15 Transition and bike racking opened. We’d been advised on Saturday, due to temperatures, to deflate tyres, so a bit of a scramble first thing to inflate, put bottles in cages and other nutrition into transition bags in the T1/T2 tent. Plenty of pump sharing going on!
06:00 race start came around very quickly despite the early start – time disappeared in a haze of logistics and mild terror!
I’d met Foss and our own Mel George the previous day at registration and over evening carb-loading, and we grouped together for a bit of moral support as the time neared, and agreed that as we’re of similar swim pace we’d start together in the same ‘pen’. It worked – I didn’t want to be on my own and I don’t think either of them did either.
The Event: Thankfully temperatures were lower than the Saturday, but still forecast mid-20’s though mostly light cloud, and that was how it turned out.
The gun went off. We swam. Decent swimming in a warm man made lake. Poor underwater visibility, but the course was, basically a very long straight, a very short turn and across, a very long return swim. Only 2 turns was easy but the outward swim directly into the rising sun, so I found sighting a bit tough and my garmin measured almost 4.3k!
Dozens of helpers on exit to pull us up the ramp, loosen zips and help us out of suits / very efficient indeed.
Transition was easy – your numbered bags on your numbered pegs in a massive, carpeted tent with plenty of benches provided. Sun tan cream liberally applied by marshals/helpers if you wanted, and off for a short jog to bike racks. All good so far – PB open water 3.8 swim for me.
The bike course was 2 short loops and 2 long, joined by a long straight, so plenty of places for supported to catch you multiple times. Mostly flat/gently undulating but one decent hill on the long loop. Feed stations every 15 ish miles.
I started fast (about 20mph average first 15 miles) and got chatting to a fella almost immediately (a relationship which lasted, off and on, for the rest of the event, but I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember his name). He told me he’d marshalled the Outlaw Half recently and as long by as we stayed side by side we were legal (important in a non-drafting race). The banter really helped pass the miles, even though we weren’t glued to each other’s side all the time, it was great to catch up when one or other slowed up a bit, as happens inevitably, e.g. for some scran (salted new potatoes and jelly babies for me).
I loved the first 80 miles but then needed a pit stop and never really got going again afterwards, not helped by a double figure head wind by that point.
Still good though – 24 mins inside my ‘A target’ time for the bike and only missed the ‘B target’ due to the pit stop.
Run: Multiple 5k Laps around the lake and 2 long laps through park/scrub land, along tracks and out and back along the Trent. 4 times underneath one of the goal end stands of the City Ground (Nottingham Forest FC) gave me goosebumps every time, and does as I write this now – and a little much needed boost. All that history and all those legends in huge photos in the plate glass windows. Twice European champions. Awesome.
The support on the bike was great, but the run support from everyone – marshals, aid stations helpers, spectators, general public, and fellow competitors – blew me away. Miles 14-22 were pretty dark for me, but the feeling you get from someone doing something as simple as shouting your name or giving you a hug (how they managed that when I smelled, frankly, revolting) is very hard to put into words, even 7 days on.
At various points I also struck up some banter with fellow sufferers. My bike friend, a lady called Josie, and a hearing/speech impaired man (using the power of hand signals and facial expressions – mostly pained!) The camaraderie and gallows humour was immense. Bike friend bought ice creams for himself and anyone else around us who wanted one from a van along the Trent on each long lap. Not strictly within the rules but bliddy funny, although I declined both times due to nausea.
So, a diet of Jaffa cakes, ready salted crisps, coke, water, high5 zero, applause, shout-outs and hugs sustained me on the run.
I didn’t see either Foss nor Mel on the bike, but saw each once (I think!) on the run. Foss looked pained but still finished about 55 mins ahead I think, despite being within about 5 mins at the end of the bike.
Mel looked fresh as she passed me on the run, having smashed it and eventually clawed back the 45 min deficit and more or less reversing it. I know where I need to improve!
Overall: Well organised, safe (as can be reasonably expected), reasonably priced, supportive (a Parkrun vibe on a bigger scale). Emotional. Brilliant. Rewarding. Utterly Unforgettable.