Marion Arnold is an Outlaw

So here’s the thing, a year ago I never had any inclination, whatsoever, to become an Outlaw in 2017, completing an ironman distance triathlon in 14hrs 5mins and 40secs.  I had thought I might do another marathon to celebrate my 60th year, but not this!

 Firstly, I should say that without the help of Mark & Teresa, I would not have been any where near as successful as I was, so a big thank you to them.  Nor would I have been so fortunate as to have the support and time needed for training if it wasn’t for Nigel and Poppy, massive thanks to them also.

 Nigel and I travelled up to Nottingham on the Friday, getting to registration in plenty of time and to familiarise ourselves with the layout of the venue (recommended).  It was a cool and overcast day and I hoped this would last to Sunday, it did!

 Once registered, we checked out the bike racking and transition tent, everyone was really friendly and helpful, keen to answer all our questions.  Already, I had a good feel about this event.  Having done triathlons back in the 1990’s we were surprised at the amount of old faces we bumped into, one especially, the race founder Ian Hamilton, after hugs and a quick catch up we proceeded to the expo tent, I bought a race branded long sleeve top to wear after the event, nice.  Then off to the hotel, Premier Inn (London Road) for dinner and an early night.

 Saturday morning, after a cooked breakfast, we arrived back at the venue to attend the race briefing at 11 am (I admit i was a bit emotional standing in the queue to go in, pull yourself together girl!)  The bike needed to be racked by 5 pm, we were nice and early, so after a quick ride to check everything was ok and tyres adequately pumped, I removed my garmin, racked my bike and we left before it got too busy.  Back to the hotel to pack my 3 bags – swim/bike, bike/run, finish kit, ready to take in the morning.

 The rest of my family (support team) arrived early afternoon, we had lunch across the road, then put our feet up for the rest of the afternoon.  Dinner was early, plenty of hydration (water only) then bed by 9 pm.

 The big day!  The alarm went off at 3.30, but I was already awake, a cup of tea and banana sandwich and we were in the car by 4.10 anxious to get going.  When we arrived, the queue was already forming but we were in plenty of time, so no panic. We parked our car about ½  mile from the transition area and joined other sombre athletes and supporters walking towards it. Oh my nerves, I wanted to turn and run by now but the thought of all the hard training I had put in and everyones support, I kept moving forward on rather wobbly legs, get a grip girl! 

 I managed to hang my bags as instructed, in the transition tent, place my food and drink on the bike, back to the transition tent to check my bags were in the right place, change into my wetsuit, went out of transition to stand with Nigel for reassurance (cuddles), he took my hoodie, zipped my wetsuit up and I left to join the throng of swimmers at the end of the lake.  What the hell do I think I am doing!  I should have taken up knitting or something more appropriate to my age, don’t talk daft (Norfolk), get on with it, you’ve trained for this, what if I fail, sort yourself out girl, and so it went on until we were all instructed to get in the water, which looked bleak and cold but was surprisingly warm, I felt much better straight away, huh, of course you’ll be all right, its too late now anyway!  3,2,1 hornblast, we were off!  I took my time standing toward the back of the middle group, keeping my head up for the first 100 metres or so, picking my way through the pack.  We soon spread out, but with all the commotion, several stringy weeds had churned to the surface and I had a face full in no time, I didn’t panic but waited until I had the space to free myself of them and settled into a nice even pace.  I had the foresight to count the buoys to the turn (6) which helped, as I could count them off knowing how much further I had to go.  Being a rowing lake , there were nice neat lines of tiny buoys to keep me in a straight line, I must have been the only one to have noticed this however, as several flappy swimmers were crisscrossing in front of me and even colliding with each other, I didn’t fret, just let them get on with it, kept out of the way.  I took a wide birth at the turn as everyone else headed directly at the buoy, bedlam!  2nd turn then back down the lake to transition, counting off the buoys again.  A short way down I sighted my support team walking with me along the footpath and even managed a wave much to their delight.  By this time I was feeling confident of a fairly good finish, a bit of cramp in my left calf and then in my right, no big deal, a slight flex for a few seconds got rid of it, this happened a few times but I kept the steady pace and was soon in sight of the finish, a quick knee lift exercise to get my legs going in the water I was soon helped out by several strippers.  Yes, you heard right.  One of them undid my wetsuit and peeled it off my shoulders, the rest I could manage myself. 

 Wetsuit off and into the transition tent, I went straight to my swim/bike bag which I had memorised its location, then into the ladies changing area.  A few ladies already in there, we helped each other with clothing, once fully clothed, I filled my pockets with extra nutrition and hunted around for my garmin, where’s my garmin? Perhaps I put it in one of the other bags by mistake, it’s definitely not here!  Back to the racks to collect my other bags, by now the tent was heaving and I had to weave my way in and out of fellow competitors, best thing to do is take the bags back to the ladies changing as there was more room, this I did only to find the ladies changing had filled up (this meant I’d had a good swim and was now wasting time).  I found a corner, emptied the bags, checked them twice, no garmin!  Oh well, don’t panic, just get on with it, put your bags back and get to the bike.  15 mins later, I was on my bike, one lap of the lake, picking up my watch from Nigel on the way round, so I at least had an idea of the time, I could then judge the miles covered.  I purposely hadn’t worn a watch as I didn’t want to place myself under any pressure, not only that, I can’t really see the darned thing as my eyesight’s so bad.

 Within half an hour on the bike I felt my inner right thigh tightening, it got more and more painful until it reached a point where I knew I would just have to endure it to the finish.  An old friend caught up with me, I hadn’t seen him for more than 20 years but he had seen my name on the start list and had been looking out for me, we had a bit of a chat before he pulled away.  I passed the odd puncture repair, please God, don’t let it be me (this was my mantra for the rest of the bike!)  I ignored the first feed station and stopped at the second, a quick stretch and replaced my water bottle before continuing on.  I checked the distance with other riders and was surprised to know that I was further on than I thought, which lifted my spirits. A couple more punctures on the side of the road, please God don’t let it be me. The support on the course was fantastic, the scenery beautiful and the time passed quickly.  I had anther stop at 80 miles for a stretch, some food and last water bottle change. I cycled the last 8 or so miles chatting away to a guy I had played cat and mouse with for half the ride and we shuddered across the rough and bumpy path toward the transition, still convinced that I would puncture and still repeating my mantra.  I made it, no puncture, my praying had paid off!

 My bike was taken from me by a very nice and cheery young man, telling me how awesome I was (blush).  I teetered into transition, careful not to slip on my cleats.  The same bedlam ensued as before, I found my bag, changed, chatted with another girl who had completed an ironman only a couple of weeks ago!  She gave me some advice on a run walk strategy which I intended to use.  I heard a marshall in the tent shouting ‘turn left out of transition’, I was grateful for the early advice and thought this meant turn left out of the ladies changing, someone else ahead of me did the same and I followed him out the wrong way, much to the amusement of my support team who were shouting at me and laughing.  I quickly turned, feeling a complete idiot as I knew right way really, I had done it in my sleep the night before.  Anyway, what’s done is done, fortunately, this gave me time to figure that by the time I got to the other end of the tent, I needed a toilet stop.  Another lengthy transition!

 Out on the run.  Oh my legs, was I really this heavy?  Just jog, it will get easier.  One lap of the lake, still jogging (I couldn’t call any part of my marathon, running) then out on the first loop, I had already made my mind up that a walk through all 18 feed stations would be in order and so I stuck to my plan.  I made a few friends along the way, jogging slow enough to chat, which helped pass the time.  A bit of high fiving with familiar faces coming in the opposite direction.  The feed station volunteers were brilliant, nothing too much trouble and full of praise and encouragement.  Back to the lake for another loop, the support and cheering was amazing, lots of high fiving with the crowd and my support team, then back out on the loop.  The second loop was tough, but I managed to grit my teeth and get on with it, knowing that all my training was paying off and telling myself that once I reached the finish, I would never, ever have to run again.  Cramps began to form in my left calf and right inner thigh stopping me in my tracks, I worked out eventually, that if I jogged even slower, I could keep going for longer and the cramps no longer bothered me.  Back onto the lake circuit, the cheering intense as I passed through for the last time, one more lap and I would be done, this lifted my mood and the last lap sped by.  The red carpet was now in sight! OMG, I got this!  Poppy and Thomas were waiting for me half way down and as I joined hands with them the feeling was overwhelming, I had dreamt of this moment for months and here I was, crossing the finish line with two people that mean so much to me, how fortunate I was to be living a dream.