I began the run very steady, I knew I could now make the cut off and so wanted to make it as painfree an experience as possible. I jogged gently round the end of the lake and saw my supporters for the first time, they would be a huge boost over the whole of the run. After I had said thanks to everyone I headed for the marshalls handing out the wristbands. Number 1 of 4 was duely received and I set off for the first 3 mile loop round the lake.
I walked for the first time here, I had hopes before hand of running for 5 minutes walking for one or something similar. But from early on in the run I knew I would be needing to walking much more than that. As I was taking my first walk break, a guy started talking to me, saying it was nice to see someone else walking. I knew I was near the back and so he was probably on at least his second lap, so I looked down at my Garmin and said but I'm only 0.3 miles into my race and I'm walking. We then chatting for a minute or two and he explained he was running for his wife who had died 4th July last year and that he had set-up a foundation called the Karen Green foundation. I had seen loads of other athletes riding with the Foundations jerseys during the cycle today and so it was good to meet the guy who had set it up. After a few minutes he told me to go on as his walk breaks became more frequent.
The first landmark that I was keen to get to was the first feed station after about a mile and a half. The only thing that got me through the last 10 miles of my cycles was the thought of the feast awaiting me at the first run feed station, and it didn't disappoint! There were smiley marshalls handing out Oranges, Bananas, Crisps, Jaffa Cakes, Water and Coke. I took my time walking through grabbing everything I could, I almost went back for seconds!
With some renewed energy I got running again, into the wind on the other side of the lake. The wind was so strong that it blew my hat off, and with weary legs I started running after it, another runner told me not to bother and I told him in a minute I might just leave it. I did manage to grab it though before it got blown into the lake and put it back on my head, a spectator told me to put it on backwards, which I did. Although it didn't work as a fashion piece the backwards hat definately saved my head from the brunt of the sun. I didn't want my race to end prematurely due to heatstroke.
The run, shuffle, walk continued on for the rest of the lap round the lake. I then saw my team at the start of the longer loop which headed towards the city. There was a little slope with an aid station at the top, and in an effort to save my legs I walked this everytime much to the disappointment of my legion of fans wanting to see me run. But once at the top of the hill I ran with my wife down the other side and through the carpark ready to start to the loop proper. Lauren was very excited, and pleased to tell me that she could run as fast as me and I wasn't strong enough to argue.
My support team had shrunk slightly as my brother dropped his girlfriend off at the station so she could get home, but on that first lap my wife, Mum, Dad and Mother-in-law were all there cheering me on. Whilst I was slogging it out on the run they were enjoying a picnic and a good book, but my wife was too worked up with worry for my well being and so just prowled around until I returned.
My steady/slow progress amounted to something like 13.5 minute miles a speed I could never imagine doing on fresh legs it would just feel pitifully slow, but on my weary legs and low on energy it felt plenty fast enough. I slogged on through and with 8 miles on my Garmin I picked up my second wrist band, I checked that I was doing it right because I felt like I hadn't really earnt the first wristband after only running 500m or so but was assured that I was doing fine.
My garmin then decided to reset itself, all that saving of the battery during the cycle for nothing! I left the Garmin off until the 10 mile marker and then reset it again. The stats wouldn't make for pleasant reading afterwards, but it was good to have some idea how far I had left. It was around this point that my brother returned from dropping Amber off, and he would provide invaluable support to me throughout the remainder of the run.
Luke was unimpressed by my run when I want, walk when I want strategy and so tried to get me into a pattern. For much of the second half we ran for 0.35 miles and walked for 0.15 miles. It wasn't all straight forward though, my Garmin again decided to give up after another 8 miles but then came back to life. Whilst my mental state was as fragile as the Garmin. With only 8 miles left I said to my brother I didn't think I could face it, at my slow speed 8 miles was nearly two hours of effort! 14 hours in and I was complaining about another 120 minutes of work.
These feelings of giving up, or my pace slowing would always be when I was hungry, and the spikes of eating pretty much sugar all day were making Simon a moody boy. Luke was brilliant though and rolled with my moods and urged me onwards. The cheer squad were also camped out at the start of the lake and were another brilliant pick me up every hour or so.
I was heading round the lake, coming up towards the finish line and I was struggling when a guy in a black tri-suit came past and encouraged me and told me the finish was just around the next corner. I smiled and thanked him, but looked down at my 3 wristbands and said the finish might be round the corner for you but I've still got a way to go. He looked down at his 4 wristbands, said sorry and jogged off a little sheepishly.
My pace had started to pick up though, and I was starting to feel really strong. I was still taking walking breaks but when I ran I really ran. I was now picking off people in front of me on the last lap, everyone was now in the same boat. Where previously you would have people on very different laps, anyone you now saw was on their last lap and going to the finish.
It felt incredible to be running so strong, and as I passed people they all commented on how well I was running and to just keep going. It was fantastic, and the support from my fellow competitors had been great throughout the day. The impression I got is that it wasn't just us lot at the back, but that throughout the field people were encouraging and supporting each other.
My brother was still running with me and had more energy and brain function than me and so was counting people off as we passed them. He got to at least 15. Out of a field of 1050 that isn't alot. My wife had told me they fished 12 people out of the lake, and we reckoned another 30 or so had not completed the bike, and although it was sad to hear they hadn't completed their race it made me feel a little better. So having beaten perhaps 2 people out of the swim and the same 2 off the bike it was brilliant to have made some progress on the run my strongest of the 3 disciplines.
Throughout the run I was aiming to get myself in a position that I could walk at 20min/miles and still get home for the 17hour cut off. This goal shifted on that last lap and sub 16 hours looked like it may be a possibility, all be it a distant one.
I made a real effort on the last lap to thank all of the marshalls and to top it all off the marshalls handing out the wristbands let Lauren put the final band on me. The moment was spoilt a little bit as I saw the cheering crowds I lost my footing and nearly went face first into the gravel, I managed to right myself though, and then with the crowds massing around me I told them "ever so sorry but I have to go to the loo." I had been dying to go! As I emerged from the Portaloo, Lauren got her moment and proudly put my final band on, a quick kiss and a wave to the rest of my cheer squad and me and Luke were off for a final go round the lake.
Luke and I had chatted throughout the second half of the marathon, talking of the challenge that had been the Outlaw, future plans and all sorts in between. It was brilliant and took my mind off the discomfort and the tedium that is running a slow marathon after 10 hours of exercise as a warm up.
We ate and drank at the last feed station, the cut off was miles away and 16hours had just slipped by so we had time to shoot the breeze. They teased me asking me if I was doing a recovery run in the morning. I told them that wasn't going to happen, the bike was getting packed away and I wasn't doing a thing for at least the next week. I waved goodbye and thanked them for all their efforts then headed off into the darkness to complete my epic journey.
Luke left me a few hundred yards from the end and let me enjoy the run down the finishing funnel by myself. It was everything I had hoped and more, Lauren went ballistic and shouted and cheered at the top of her voice. The video of it afterwards is brilliant, her screams having marshalls jumping out of their skin and her voice has only just recovered. I was so emotional as I crossed the line, an unbelievable end to an incredible journey. There were times I doubted whether I was going to make it. The cramp in the swim, two or three times during the bike and at dark times during the run. But in just over 16 hours I had done it 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 miles of running! 10 days after that fantastic Sunday I still can't stop smiling when I think of the Outlaw.....