Turns out only one major thing could go wrong and it did.
The return of the dodgy knee.
Due to said dodgy knee I haven’t run a single step since the 6th July and I knew that the upshot was that baring a miracle I would be in for a long and painful ‘run’ to finish off Outlaw. Having only once done the distance previously I also knew it wouldn’t be pretty.
But the strangest thing happened – I started to run out of transition and everything seemed to be working ok. I heard my support group, which by this time had grown to include my mum and dad, my daughter and to my surprise my sister and her two lads. They were over by the start of the lap and I homed in on them – well if I am honest I headed straight for Zoe with the intention of the getting a high 5, but as I hadn’t seen her since Saturday morning and figuring that 30 seconds wouldn’t matter I stopped and had an uplifting cuddle – it suddenly dawned on me the excitement in her eyes and even as a grown, hot, tired and sweaty man I choked up when she said to me that she was proud of me.
A quick smile and wave to the rest and I was off on my first lap of the lake – I grabbed a gel and a drink of water from the first aid station and then plodded on with the intention of running to the next aid station at the top of the lake. I spotted a lone portaloo en-route and with my first call of nature since the lake brewing I held my breath and ducked inside. I must have got lucky as despite the walls being covered in pee it wasn’t that bad and I was in and out pretty quickly – opening the door to find someone else waiting to go in, hoping he didn’t think the mess was my doing I plodded on hoping he wouldn’t catch me up for a chat about my apparent bodily functions.
So around the lake and everything was going pretty well – I was within the HR zones I wanted to be in and wasn’t feeling low on energy, I had no gut issues and the knee seemed ok – a dull ache rather than anything else. The supporters had moved round to the car park section and as I headed out I got a shout from an idiot lying down – hey budgie…..don’t be shit…… bloody Barnett had turned up to heckle support. At least I got some sympathy from the crowd to his shout and it made me chuckle to hear budgie. I don’t ever hear it out loud apart form at events and to be fair I had a few spot me on the run – probably due to the lack of speed I was travelling at and my size.
Saw the support at the car park section and I felt ok had another chat and some high fives then it was heading down the tow path to the next aid station, again I was surprised how it was going – my god I am going to finish this in one piece in a very respectable time.
I stopped at the aid station and gelled up again with a coke and orange segment thrown in then plodded off down towards Nottingham to the section I hadn’t done before. It seemed weird running alongside the river and in-between normal folk having a nice afternoon playing with kids, or listening to music or having a few beers. I spotted Pete for the first time and he looked amazingly strong – a clear example of if you do the training and put the effort in you usually get the rewards. He was literally flying round and disappeared into the distance in no time at all, I was delighted for him as despite being a blue nose he seems like a decent guy.
By this stage I had nearly nailed all the painkillers I had packed for the run – not a good sign but least it meant I was still moving ok, with this in mind I decided to shift the plan of just running as long as possible to run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute plus walk any feed stations when I came across them. Up and over the bridge to the little turn around points and the change in ploy seemed to be working – I was downing energy gels and either a banana chunk or orange segment as I came across them, this was washed down with a coke and a water over the head, then headed back towards the start.
Then it all fell apart. The running 9 minutes walking 1 minute slowly but surely altered till it was almost the other way round entirely throughout the remainder of the marathon. The knee pain – whether mental or physical at this point begun a lot to bare whilst even walking the course. I had a few chats with myself about keeping going but then to be honest I think the fact that it had all gone so well up to then finished me off.
I worked out I could walk the vast majority of the rest of the course and still be in or around 13hrs and so still hit / be close to the overall goal. Why put myself through more pain than I needed to still hit the goal target? I had lost the will to push on and aim for a time I didn’t ever think possible i.e. under 12 hrs. Looking back this annoys me a little but then it’s easy to sit here and say that as the pain has subsided. I stopped by the support crew again, had high 5’s, the offer of water thrown over me and then I poured some water over my increasing blistered left foot – something I haven’t suffered with for ages – and walked on back to the next aid station.
Where I quickly groped Barnett to pay him back for the abuse an hour before I marched on up and round the lake and back to the grandstand – with the support I broke into a jog through the crowded area and stopped within the shower section to get cooled down again. Picking up my second band I asked for a third to end the pain to which I was told – see you in a couple of hours. Jesus – two more hours of this!
The march continued fairly consistently for the rest of the out and back – I saw Pete again flying along to the towards the finish and bumped into Stu and Dave at various points as well – all seemed in various degrees of pain and discomfort and conversely I started to feel a bit better. Maybe it was the thought of the end approaching or the fact that I saw others suffering or maybe I just came through the bad patch of before but I began running a minute, walking a minute which at least made me feel like I was achieving something and not cheating my round an ironman triathlon.
At this point I started seeing a few people properly struggling – one guy was passed out, with a drip in his arm by the river being attended to by medics out the back of a Land rover. Another bloke was staggering round unable to walk in a straight line before sitting down next to a aid station to get some treatment. Least I wasn’t that bad.
Back up to the lake and had a nice chat with some pirates out on the course and marched on up and around the lake again to get my third and final band – with ‘only’ a lap of the lake to go I attempted to run more than walk, but being honest it didn’t last long and by working out the timing I was well within the 13hr mark of success, so I walked down and back to the last feed station. After which I trotted along for the final time – determined to run at least the final part. As the crowds got bigger towards the end, all the pain disappeared, all negative thoughts vanished and I was eagerly looking out for Zoe and Sue and to finally get to go left instead of right down the wall of noise.
I spotted them out in front and urged them to start running till I caught up but perhaps correctly they waited for me to catch them up before beginning moving. The rest is a bit of blur, we held hands and ran down the end to the finish – I got a couple of shouts from the crowd of my actual name which confused me but we continued through the finishing line, I pointed with my free hand to the time (no idea why, but probably in amazement) and sheer relief at completely something I never thought possible washed over me.
Zoe and Sue were going nuts – I had a cuddle from Sue before a family cuddle including Zoe has held just past the finishing line – where again I was told by the two people who matter the most in the world to me, that they were proud of what I had done.
Struggling to keep my emotions in check we staggered forward to get my medal – I asked the volunteer to give it straight to Zoe, as I normally do, which she did. Zoe for some reason immediately took it off and offered it to me, something she has never ever done before. I bent down to let her put it on my neck and she did, whilst at the same time telling me that she loved me and that I deserved the medal more than her.
Damn how can a 4 year old make you so happy and emotional with just a simple action. By this time I was one cute cat picture away from full on tears, so it was perhaps a relief that Sue and Zoe got directed up the stairs whilst I had to go through the medical tents and towards the dreaded flight of stairs. The medic took one look at me and told me to sit down, I didn’t argue I just sat hands on my bowed head and cried to myself.
Once they established that I was just being a bit of a Jessie they let me go collect my finishers shirt and head up the stairs to the photo opportunity I missed at the half.
I had done it. I was an Outlaw, I felt invincible.
Turns out I wasn’t.