This is a guest blog from Matt Bottrill. As a 30 time national time trial champion, silver medal winner at the World Amateur Time Trial Championships, Matt needs little introduction to anyone who follows UK sport. Matt's move to triathlon this season has been highly anticipated and a lot was written in the triathlon press in the lead up to this race. It's worth remembering though, that apart from a couple of local sprints, this was effectively Matt's triathlon debut - his first race swimming in open water, with all the attendant nerves that brings with it. This race report is a great reminder that everyone gets nervous leading up to swimming in open water. Matt has made massive gains in his swimming and running since I started working with him a couple of short months ago (I won't make any claim to have helped his biking, which was already pretty reasonable :) ) and I really look forward to watching his progress over the coming season.
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Well 7 months of hard work finally came together at the Outlaw Half this weekend. It's been a year in the process of trying to get me there. I remember winning the Men's National 50 miles time trial this time last season and thinking I've now won this event three times it's time for a new challenge. At the same time I was reading on tri247 about Karl Alexander's winning the outlaw and I thought I want to do this. So a few calls were made with help of Kate McNeil, and the next thing I knew I would be doing the Outlaw 70.3 in 2016.
So my preparation started on October 1st, I'd just finished 2nd in the world amateur time trial champs and before I knew it I was into running and swimming with one goal - getting me into shape for Outlaw 70.3. I'm not going to lie; it's been the hardest thing I've ever had to train for, and I've had to suffer a hell of a lot just to get myself into shape. But I'm always up for a challenge and love pushing my mind and body beyond the limits I thought I had.
So, hours of sleepless nights thinking the swim finally came to a head on Sunday. Alarm set for 3:30am and I would be swimming at 6:30am and I was bricking it!
But once the horn sounded I just kept to the right of the swim out of the way of the major swimmers and I was off. A few slaps and kicks but nothing too drastic and nothing like the nightmare I'd dreamt about. The worst part for me was glancing across with around 400 meters to go seeing Simon George and Karl Alexander, ride off into the distance while I still had 7 mins of swimming to do! My aim was 35:00 and I'm glad to say I pulled out the swim alive and ready to race in 34:47 for the 1.2 miles. A long run to T1 I was out of my speedy Huub wetsuit and was on my bike like lightning.
So, we all know I can ride and I'm glad to say I did not disappoint, but deep down I wanted to be the first rider off the bike onto the run. But I knew I had to ride a controlled race and not push too hard with 13.1 miles still to run. I'm not going to lie, I loved the feeling of catching riders all around the course. The new Giant is like a rocket and just loves being pushed. It was a head wind for the first 25 miles so I basically made a big effort riding to an Intensity factor of 0.90 so 10% off threshold. I've done this a thousand times in training so knew there would be no way I could blow! Then once into the tailwind I just let aerodynamics take over. A shout from Daniel Barnett,with 10 miles to go put me into 3rd place! I was on for a 27mph ride until the last two miles. But through the twisty lanes the speed was really killed but I had the pleaser of just catching Karl, on the dismount line with a new bike course record by over 6 minutes in 2:10:07. My plan was 2:08:00-2:10:00 so another boxed ticked. But I'd not managed to catch Simon, who was running for victory?
Into T2 I made the exit before Karl, but that only lasted a few seconds and he was gone! But still holding 3rd place a podium position would be a dream come true. But 13.1 miles is a long way! My game plan was 1:30:00 half I so wanted to achieve this and knew I need to run 6:50 mile pace and that was looking likely every split up to 6 miles to go was between 6:37-7min miles. But I'd been struggling to absorb gels and fluids from around 4 miles into the run, I was sick a few times and also carrying a stitch. But I took the pain and carried on. But then at 6 miles to go the legs just went. And now it was survival. I could do nothing when each runner passed but just focused on getting to the finish. And that last mile of the run felt like the longest mile of my life. But with the support of my family and friends I stopped the clock at 4:22:13 with a 1:33:22 run.
I'm not going to lie - I've suffered a lot doing sport but this was a whole new level of pain. But in a strange way I loved it! It's given me the sense of trying to get faster which I had when I wanted to win the Nationals and set some of the fastest bike splits ever seen in the uk. It's strange!? the same day I did this Alex Dowsett - Team Movistar lowered my 25 mike competition record from 45:43 to 44:29 I was asked straight away would I want to see if I could get closer. My answer was no - I want to help my coached riders exceed what I did, but my focus now is to win one of these 70.3 races. It's the biggest challenge I've ever set myself but that's what I love - trying to achieve new goals that I never thought possible. So onto the next big focus Ironman UK 70.3 Exmoor.