I was on my bike and away, a gentle 3 mile trip round the lake for starters to let us settle in and get ourselves ready. The sun was out, and I was smiling, legs were fresh and no apparent ill effects from the cramp in the swim. I passed a fellow competitor early on which was a good confidence booster and my speedo was reading 16mph, 18mph, 20mph. Steady on Simon! I thought to myself. But having completed one side of the lake and then turning to go down the other side I realised why the speed had been so high, it was that wind again! Coming back down the other side of the lake was hardwork and definitely gave me a taste of what was to come.
I was now coming up to a couple of tight turns to get out of the Water Sports Centre and out onto the open roads. As I slowed for them, I saw Lauren cheering wildly and that was a lovely little lift as I knew it would be a while before I saw her again.
The first quarter of the bike couldn't have gone much better, the weather was good and there was a small group of 5 or 6 riders who I would see from time to time. Each of us leap frogging the other. There was a pirate, a guy in black, a guy in red with a very expensive looking bike and another pirate called Martin who I would continue to see through out the ride, as well as a couple of other riders.
I had read about drafting before the race and so whenever I passed someone I made an effort to get clear. Alternatively there was a period where I would get passed but they would then slow up and not clear the draft zone so instead of slowing myself down and creating the gap I then decided to take them over again. I was very close to the back through out the ride, but I didn't want to get disqualified and miss out on the chance of finishing the race.
My average speed for the first quarter was something like 16.5mph but it may have gone to 16mph. I haven't got great data because I chose to rely on the bike speedo for the ride and use the Garmin for the run as I feared it would run out of batteries. The speedo is good as you are riding along but doesn't track data at different stages.
I had made it up Oxton Bank the one big climb of the day after about 20miles, and I managed to catch a few riders here and at one point I over took the pirate as I sped past him at the steepest point of the climb at a speed of 4.5 mph :-) I was very grateful for my granny gear there.
I decided I needed the loo at the aid station at around the 33 mile point, I took my time knowing I wanted to be comfortable as I was going to be settling in for my longest ride ever. I turned on my phone in the portaloo hoping to text Lauren telling her all was going well but it was taking too long to get reception so I decided to get out of there and back on my bike.
I had lost a couple of minutes there and as I got back on my bike I could see the last couple of riders from our mini group riding off into the distance. I got back into my rhythm, trying to take it steady and get in plenty of gels, mule bars and drink early in the ride. The wind was now in my face and my average speed was falling fairly steadily but I felt good and the average speed was still above 15mph and I needed an average speed of 14mph to make the cut off.
Lauren had mentioned that the spectator coaches were going to a place called Car Colston to see us ride through, and so when I saw the sign for Car Colston I was welling up for the second time that day. Soon after the sign I saw what looked like my brother Luke on the roadside on the right, and it was! I got such a lift as he ran alongside me seing how I was getting on and wishing me well. Luke and Amber had come up on the day and missed the swim but it was great to see them now around halfway through the bike. As well as those two I saw Lauren, Jan my mother in law and my parents all going nuts cheering me on. There were no other riders around and so the cheers of "Go Simon!" spread from my little support group to what felt like every inhabitant of Car Colston and the wall of noise really did have me close to tears. I flew out of that and felt my second wind coming on.
I was tired, and as I mentioned I haven't got the data to hand but I believe that I went through half way averaging around 15mph I think it might have been 14.7mph showing on my speedo from memory. So I had time in the bank as the average speed I was working towards was always 14mph which equated to an 8 hour cycle. There was some confusion regarding the bike cut-off which added to my stress levels as the bike leg continued. On the race information it had said traffic management would cease at 4 O'clock (10 hours into the race) and that you had to be out of transition and running by half 4 (10.5 hours into the race) I felt this meant I could get off the bike at say 4:15 quick change and be out of transition by around 4:25 lovely. But at the race briefing the event organiser seemed to be saying that 4 was the bike cut off and you then had half an hour to amble about have some lunch and put your feet up before rolling out of transition before half 4. I was working to the 4 O'clock cut off and as the race continued I felt I was in a position to get it.
The last half of the bike course is around two loops and then another 10 miles or so after that to the finish. As I entered the loop for the first time I turned right as instructed and promptly got taken over by the faster lot going round for their second loop. It wasn't as demotivating as I'd expected. I knew that these guys were 25 or 30 miles ahead of me but it was good to have some company finally and throughout my first loop there was a steady stream of riders coming round to lap me. Alot of them were in some nice lines, not worrying about drafting which was something I couldn't benefit from so far down the race on my lonesome.
Whilst on the bike I saw some guys in real states, some stood by the road puking, another was carrying his fancy bike and his day was done, whilst another sat on the kerb with a scrapped up knee. I also saw two pirates by the side of the road, one was puking in a bush whilst his mate waited for him and offered him some support. It was nice to see someone sacrificing their race ambitions to help a friend.
The low point of my day came at the end of the lap. Turn right for the finish straight on for lap two. So whilst the quick boys hung a right I plodded straight on. The second lap was just a blur, it was good knowing what was coming up down the road, and the total lack of cars or fellow riders meant I had free run of the roads. I had got myself into a position where I needed to ride at something like 13.5 mph for the last two hours but even that was proving difficult with the wind and my energy levels were now very low. I only had a few energy gels left and was all out of mule bars. On my return to the Outlaw I will definitely be bringing some more substantial, proper food for the ride to go alongside the gels and energy bars.
I saw my family at Car Colston again just after the 100 mile mark and it was a great pick me up. They were the only ones left and I later found out the coach had waited for them. I really must thank their driver. I felt tired at that point, and my wife and mum later told me that I was very pale and didn't look well at all, and I think they were probably right. My brother and I talked about the cut off dilemma and Luke was convinced that it was half 4 and so I had plenty of time but I still wasn't sure. I had got to the point where it almost didn't matter. I had done my first open water swim, I had swam the furthest I ever had and I had now gone past 102 miles which was my longest ever cycle. Even if they told me I had missed the bike cut off I could have gone home proud of my achievements. But I still wanted to do it and so tried to pick myself up for one final effort.
I had 1 hour to do the final 13 miles but I hit a headwind shortly after that, so that by the time I saw my family with 10 miles to go I probably had more like 40 minutes in which to complete it in time for 4 O'clock. I pushed on and managed to catch a female cyclist, so I at least knew I wasn't last on the bike which was a huge lift. I spoke to a guy out for a cycle and he was there just offering some support to the few of us at the back of the race which was lovely.
As the race neared it's end we had some poor road surfaces to navigate as we went through a private estate complete with some speed bumps, that took my speed down and also had me worrying about punctures which would have been a race ender. But I made it through safe and I was making my way back into the Watersports centre. I was ecstatic and was met by cheers from my family. The Marshall's told me to hop off my bike and took it from me as I ran jubiliantly into transition. I glanced down at my watch 16:00 exactly a full 8 hours since I had left transition. Nobody told me to stop, nobody told me I had missed the cut-off, and I wasn't going to hang around to ask.
I was into transition, much slicker than T1 for me, running shirt, pants, shorts, socks,trainers, cap on. Didn't bother with the sun cream. Grabbed my bag to give in and was told by a Marshall to give it to the cubs, the first one wasn't interest ed in taking it and neither was his mate, so I promptly dropped on the floor. They could deal with it, I hadn't come this far to waste time, I just wanted to get going. Over the transition line and onto the run 6 hours 55 minutes to win or bust....