The condensed version is that I got the BMX back to T2 with 20 mins to spare before the cut off after a 7:56 bike leg! That means I hit the two main targets of the day. To get to t2 in time but to also go sub 8hrs on the bmx. I then took far too long to Morph the marathon and finished overall in 16hrs 33mins and 13 s and not last! In fact it was a 12 mins PB! Everyone went “Woo Hoo” and the fundraising went through the roof! Job done.
If you’re satisfied with that just pop onto www.justgiving.com/bmxbandit - chuck in a few more quid for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and I’ll leave you with a truly sincere thank you for all your help and support! Thank you.
Of course, for anyone more interested in the nitty gritty, there is a lot more to the Outlaw BMX challenge than that. The idea was born out on the bike course in 2013 as temperatures peaked at 34 degrees and I was melting in the Morphsuit. Wondering how this could be made harder and knowing I struggle most with the bike leg, I thought a BMX attempt would be a worthy twist. I mentioned it to Outlaw MC Kyle at the Outlaw half in 2014. He laughed…..a lot but said that he didn’t think I would be allowed. I mentioned it to a few people that know about cycling. Good cyclists. They simply didn’t think it was possible. I respected their opinion, ignored it, got the appropriate permission from the British Triathlon Federation and then One Step Beyond who put on Outlaw. I signed up and then announced to anyone who would listen that I was going to BMX Outlaw as my 2015 challenge. I didn’t know if it was possible. I am a 16 hr 45 mins finisher on a lightweight 18 gear road bike with big wheels, gears (ahh gears…I miss gears) and thin tyres. So, as a challenge for a poor athlete like myself it was pretty huge! For any of the good competitors out there it wouldn’t be as much of a challenge. Lets face it, if you put Lucy Gossage on the BMX she would whizz it round in about 6 hours I reckon. For me though it was pretty huge. I then had to get a BMX and see if I could do it. Therein lay the true challenge. I was now laid bare to potential failure embarking on a challenge that I had no idea whether it was possible.
I did some training. I rode only the BMX for 8 months. My roadie is still tucked away. I got average speeds of nearly 17mph on short rides up to about 15 miles and a steady 15.5mph on a 64 mile hilly ride just 5 weeks or so before Outlaw. If the conditions were kind and if the last 40 miles weren’t too much of a shock ( I only trained up to 72) then the magic minimum average speed of 14mph was there. As long as the 'ifs and buts' were in my favour.
On Saturday 25th I took the BMX to HPP to rack. I took it round the lake first and sat for a moment paused at the finish. Looking down the fenced off red carpet wondering if perhaps I had pushed things too far. If indeed I had set myself up for a massive fall. The possible/impossible dispute in my head had raged for a week. Intensely so. As in flicking between the two several times a second. In the final few days I had lost control of my focus and emotions. Sat there, looking at the finish and in the hope of a moment of clarity that never came, I resigned myself to the inevitable. Get racked, do briefing, keep head down and accept whatever Sunday brings.
That’s when it started, the surge of support that swelled from that point on, that became almost overwhelming, that brings with it a pressure on a new level. I’d avoided people until this point, almost sneaked into registration undetected when straight away I get an “alright Sid, you all set for tomorrow?” He turns to his mate “ this is Sid, you know, that nutter I told you about that’s doing it on a BMX!”. As I leave registration to sneak the BMX into racking and sort my bags out another voice “ are you the BMX Bandit? Can I have a sit on the BMX?” Two rapid looking, fit, healthy and young athletes take a look at my bike and wish me all the best. They are unlikely to see me on the day. They look like 10/11 hour finisher types. A few pats on the back and “good luck you nutter” later and I have only made it 100 yds down by the finish and on my way to rack the bike.
I bump into Kyle. He is already on the mic due to the swimming events on at the same time. He seems chuffed to see me and stoked to have a go on the BMX. He hands it back to me with a look of ‘i truly wish you all the best but I’m not sure it can be done’ on his face. Straight away though he blows my cover (if walking along with a BMX was any cover at all) and announces that I am there, announces the charity and this is my confirmation that there is no backing out now. After a few people have had their pics taken and handed me the change in their pocket for the charity I get down to rack the BMX. It didn’t quite blend in next to the quality bikes around it. The comedy value was priceless but really? Was it really possible to complete Outlaw on a BMX? I still didn’t know.
Briefing was ace purely because of all the great people I met for the first time who wished me well but also old friends who’d battled this course with me before. After a whirlwind few hours I truly believed that every sentence said to me had to end with “ you nutter “ and my favorite phrase was “see you on the run”. Andy Holgate said that to me in 2012 when I had no chance of completing the bike let alone the run……I did of course see him on the run. I struck deals with several friends to see them on the run. Not sure if I was using it to convince myself or to allay fears that others had for themselves.
The bike and kit were sorted, the world, it seemed, was with me and I went home to sort my nutrition and try and sleep. Focus still awry and emotions still too fluid for my liking but safe in the knowledge there was nothing left to do to prepare.
Sunday morning was a quiet drive to Nottingham and as tradition now dictates I sang along to the Joshua Tree much to Michelle’s annoyance. She laughed a couple of times when a tear sneaked down my face. Emotions still all over the place but this was the first time Michelle was going to be there all day so despite the emotions I held no fear for the day ahead!
As we pulled up to HPP the traffic queue was long. Mich gave me a kiss and told me that there was only two ways I was not going to do this. 1. If the bike is broken in half 2. If I was broken in half. With that she booted me out the car to go and prepare as she parked up.
Walking in was weird. A few Zombie like half rubber clad athletes armed with track pumps and kit bags wondered towards the bikes. The flip and flop of their flip flops piercing the sizeable irritability bubble in my brain. The sun was beginning to pierce the tops of the trees, the grass carried the lightest of dew and the smell was the fresh pitch smell of a Saturday morning 1st XV outing some 27 years earlier. A first timer was ahead chatting to a marshal. He was worried about the bike. I skipped past and told him to relax and to stay ahead of the guy on a BMX. If he does that I would definitely see him on the run. The marshal chuckled and I walked down to the bikes.
Checked the bike and offered to swap it with a few of the others. There were no takers. Everyone seemed relaxed. No real panic to be seen. I had a final look at the awesome sunrise over the lake. Emotions settled as I imagined swimming out to the first turn buoy. A focus that had been AWOL for a few days returned. No nerves, no fear just a determination and focus. The only way my day was going to finish was down the red carpet.
Once suited I walked to the start bays. On the way a medical marshal zipped me up and I got a wave from Mich who had parked and got to the start in time for the off. She’s ace but then you all know that because I keep telling you and many of you know that for yourselves. She always says she is with me every step of the way and she really is. As well as my feed station bike times written on my arm I had the Doer of Deeds speech on my calf and a Latin phrase on my knee. It translates to Pride Confidence Heart & Happiness. She is always with me.
Into the water on the edge of bay 2 towards bay 3 and I get a good luck from Chris Bennett and Vicky Clarke. It’s a strange place to meet but a weirdly comforting place to meet. I apologised to those around me as I warmed the water a little, shouted a Hello to the race director Iain who really does think there is something wrong with me and before I knew it we were off. I got into a good relaxed stroke straight away. Took a couple of smacks to the head and had to weave around some horizontalers but other than that the out stretch was unremarkable. The sunrise was guiding us up the lake and warming us at the turn. I found similarly paced swimmers either side of me on and off throughout the swim and at the turn I felt great. No cramps no twinges. Nothing to worry about. Focus was entirely on the turn buoys and then on the finish. I ticked off the metres in my head as the lake landmarks went by. I coughed a couple of times through the water towards the end and did my first ever underwater sneeze but I loved the swim. Loved it. There was a bit of argy bargy toward the exit which meant I was stronger placed in the field than before and I wobbled out to a 1:27 time! 10 mins better than 2013 and an 8 mins PB. Not the 1:20 I had dreamed of but I was happy. Drunk legs got me to the strippers who whipped off the wetsuit and in I went to T1!
In my head I blasted T1 in 5 mins. In reality the scoffing of the cheese wrap, can of Vimto, 3 top layers of kit and everything else had actually taken 16 mins. Something to amuse the IM Talk commentators I have since heard. I ran (walked) out to the bike, got a huge shout out from the MC, loads cheering me on from the crowd and got another wave from Mich. As I reached the BMX the camera crew were waiting ( I later found out they had been there when I got out of the water but had sloped off for a coffee and bacon sarnie because I had taken so long in transition).
MC Kyle came running over and looked so pleased for me. He so wanted me to get this done. He sent me on my way as Annie asked a couple of questions for the camera. I cant remember at all what was said. I stood at the mount line with cheers of “Shift in” ringing in my ears from the PFI crew. Smiled to myself. Got on the BMX and steeled myself for 8 hours of 100rpm cadence 14mph BMX spinning!
How can I describe the bike leg? I think it is probably beyond my limited descriptive talents. It was horrific and awesome in equal measure. I’ve done stuff in the past that requires persistence but this was something else. The bike is heavy and most of the pressure is on my forearms. I lose feeling in my hands after about 40 miles and I get ulnar nerve problems which give pins and needles or a constant smacking of the funny bone type feeling. Ironically named because it is in no way funny. I had to keep the cadence high throughout due to it being single speed so if I overtook you on a hill or incline I promise I wasn’t taking the piss it was just me trying to keep the cadence up. Once the cadence drops it is very hard to recover.
I set off around the lake with a ridiculous amount of support and cheers. My mind was seeking control. Don’t go off to fast! I overtook two roadies on the lake lap both of whom took me back later on. The adrenaline was a little out of control as I left HPP and hit the roads.
I was racing on feel and I had no timing or speed device on me. I could feel I was on the limit but I wasn’t struggling and banked a few fast miles along the undulating outward section to the islands and down to the Pirate feed station. I reached the Pirates but didn’t stop first time round. Slowed to give a thumbs up and grab a bottle but I cracked on. The official time shows I was at 16.11 mph ave up to that point. Ahead of what was required as a minimum and probably a little too quick for the long haul as my legs started to feel tired around the Southern loop. The only real doubt I had was during the first Southern loop. The Nottingham wind was with us and the legs weren’t quite blasting up the undulations like they had been in training. I passed a few roadies, they passed me back and this set a tone for the day. I would guess that off those I overtook at some point 70% got me back within a few miles. The other 30% I didn’t see again.
Two roadies had overtaken me just before the small lump towards the hairpin on the Southern loop. I took them towards the top and whilst one of them got me again just before the hairpin the BMX handling on the fast downhill section was an advantage. It flew down the winding downhill and it was these moments and sections that made the day such fun. Through Car Coulson off the Southern Loop was great as crowds had built up and Mich was there to cheer me through. What a difference it was to have Mich out on the course for me.
As I left the Southern loop the support at the islands was brilliant with Team Bear in full voice and cowbell mental! I blasted over the ridge and began the long road to the Northern loop. I began to feel good, to feel strong. I knew I was still 20 mins ahead of schedule having checked my time at the first two feed stations and I think this was a big help. I seemed to whizz down to the turn off for Oxton Bank. Every shout or thumbs up or double take from the riders going the other way was a boost. I felt great.
I switched the camera on for Oxton bank about a mile out. I was catching a roadie before we had even got to the hill. I think she had already allowed Oxton to beat her mentally before she got there. I was determined to attack it, I have no other option having no gears, but it soon found me out. My memory suggests I overtook 4 walkers and 3 cycling up. The video footage suggests it was two of each but I’ll take that. In the clip you can hear my cadence drop and me having to dig in get to the top without getting off, I tried to overtake Helen Barber but she managed to stay just ahead of me. I was truly chuffed with myself at the top but this was the first indication of a right knee problem. I had felt it strain as I neared the top. I stopped at the feed station at the top to regroup. Take on some fuel. Everyone was so kind and supportive it was ridiculous. A time check revealed I was still ahead of the game. My speed for the last section was down to 14.34mph ave but that’s still ahead of what was required and 15ish overall. Of course I didn’t know this at the time I just knew I was leaving the feed station ahead of schedule. I passed a puking roadie on the way down to Southwell and soon after the rain came. The batch of rain that stayed with me for the next 11 hours!
The Northern loop was a blur, partly due to my glasses being soaked so I could barely see, partly due to the volume of rain and partly due to the heat from my body hitting the glasses and steaming them up. Mentally I was focused and my emotions were in control. I told myself it would still be 13/14 degrees and whilst I was soaked through I had 3 layers on so I was warm. I think I talked myself out of a spell on the side dithering, sadly a fate that befell many out there! I yo yo’d most of the Northern loop with Andy 400, Phil and Easton. The main thing was I kept the legs spinning. On the Northern loop I had to shout at them a couple of times. Left had to take on a little more work than usual because of the strain to Right but each time I felt the effort dropping I refocused and picked it up. My fuel worked a treat and after each piece of flapjack I felt a real boost and return of strength. This year I think I got my fueling spot on.
The camera motorbike filmed alongside me for a mile or so as I approached the feed station. I think I spoke with them and asked how their day was going? Later on in the day someone asked the cameraman what the highlight of his day was. Apparently he said it was interviewing the BMX bloke. Poor fella must have been having a tough day if that was his highlight. The last feed station on the Northern loop was brilliant. They took the bike off me as I requested they check the tyre pressure. They encouraged me, took pics, willed me on and I got a huge shout from Whibbers that is still ringing a little 6 days on. It was a smooth pit stop and off I went towards the end of the loop and the blast back to the islands.
The rain was at its heaviest but I felt good. I whizzed up to the islands passing Pirate Matt on the way nursing a leg injury on the side of the road. I told him to dig in and to crack on and I hoped he would pass me later on. Before I knew it I was through the islands but conscious of a car very close behind that wouldn’t overtake. Eventually it pulled alongside and asked me to turn and give a thumbs up as they had a camera on their bonnet. Not one to disappoint I duly obliged and off they went as I turned for Car Coulson III.
CCIII was brilliant. Hammering with rain but the crowds were still out. The best pic of the day comes from here as Mich is stood at the top waiting for me draped in her supporters flag. The camera car followed me again and before getting to Mich my mates from Team PFI were stood in the road going crazy. I hi fived them all on the way through and it was as close to a TDF atmosphere as I will probably ever experience. I passed Mich and moaned about the rain and blew her a kiss. I didn’t think I would see her again on the bike as she would be bused back to HPP by the time I come back through. She had given me the confidence and a strange knowledge that I would do this.
By the time I hit the Pirates II I was well ahead of schedule still. I felt strong despite the knee and pulling my shoulder getting food out of my back pocket. Drew, Q, Jordy and everyone else were full of beans despite the conditions. They checked my tyres again for me and after another smooth pit stop I was away with just the Southern loop to do. 32 miles and 2.5 hours to do it in. My last section speed was 13.66mph ave but still an overall average nearer 15mph than 14mph.
The last loop was tough. I changed places with Zoe for about the fifth time just after the Pirates. I tried to stay within sight of her as I knew she would be doing a steady sensible pace. The wind and rain was relentless and despite my best efforts she whizzed off into the distance. It did seem to drag but I still felt good, I was still in control and my focus was unwavering. All I had to do was get to the final feed station with 90 mins to go and I would do it.
It took an age. Each turn gave me another long straight rather than a fluorescent ‘feed station 200 m’ sign. Eventually I made it and still with about 95 mins to do the last 16 miles. I asked them to tell me when it was 2:30 and I took a moment to chat, stretch, offer flapjack to fellow riders, check a woman who had fallen at the feed station was ok and then I was off. I overtook 3 roadies I didn’t see again. I like to think they all made it back in time and joined me on the run but of course we all know that not everyone does.
The undulating last 8 miles or so were a test of mind over matter. I kept spinning and dropped another couple of roadies before turning into the Stately Home and then out onto the HPP perimeter road. Pirate Matt flew passed with 1000m to go. I was so pleased for him. My last section speed was 13.07mph which overall gave me an average speed a touch over the 14mph I needed. I was going to have completed the 112 miles on the BMX.. With time to spare. On a BMX. An actual BMX. A challenge that when I set it I didn’t know could be done. Indeed up until 5.30am that day I didn’t know if I could. In the build up, particularly the last week, I had a lot of thoughts about failure, not completing the bike leg. I really don’t know how I would have coped. I was so relieved as I turned into HPP to know it was done. That a challenge I had offered up to the world for failure was done. Ultimately I had repaid the blind faith everyone had in me with their support, encouragement and sponsorship. I had not let anyone down!
I got off the bike, and Mich was there cheering and so was Moo! Lee had brought Moo down and from under her umbrella she was cheering me on. She was on my arm for the event as she is an inspirational young lady battling a brain tumour herself! I waved to the crowd and went into T2.
That’s it. That’s as best as I can describe doing the 112 on a BMX. Its constant, relentless spinning. Its unpleasant and its hard but, and this is the bit everyone needs to know, absolutely anyone can do it. Indeed most could do it better than me. Decent cyclists could have taken the BMX round in a better time with minimal fuss if they were minded to. The challenge for me was my lack of cycling ability and my talent for never quite doing enough in training to be good. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy and it requires a different cycling mindset, perhaps its similar to 8 hours of Turbo training?, but if you wanted to you could. Anyone could.
Amazingly I was still in control of my emotions and now I only had a marathon to run. Before I could change MC Kyle ran in like a kid legging it down the stairs on Christmas morning! He was genuinely over the moon to see I had done it. A crushing bear hug later and some encouragement ringing in my ears he left me to get changed and bounded out of transition. Chris Wild was a star in transition finding me a towel. I dried off, took the decision to Morph and suited up. I took an age as ever but being wet makes it very hard to put a Morphsuit on. I was stoked to see Pirate Poppyfielders Shaun and Justin who went out on the run before me. I thanked the transition crew and stepped out once more in the rain to run a marathon.
Out onto the run in the Morphsuit my legs felt great. The knee was fine, the shoulder forgotten and I felt good. Crisps and water at the feed stations on the lake and a hi 5 fest passing the grandstand. I saw Mich and the kids were there now too. The Titan fan club were cheering me on as were Team Bear who had been relentlessly supporting all day. Every marshal was encouraging, every feed station tremendous and every Outlaw just so kind. I saw nearly everyone I was looking for on the run and it’s a strangely overwhelming relief to see /hear that your fellow Outlaws are smashing it! Even those whose days didn’t go to plan its still a relief to know they are OK. You all know who you are that fulfilled our deals to see me on the run. That hugged me, smashed my arm off with a hi 5, shouted encouragement, gave me a wave. Thank you for sharing your strength as I needed it.
I ran the lap of the lake and was chuffed to see Colin Robertson heading back to his car after snashing the bike leg in a relay. A true gent and inspiration. Then it was out onto the first out and back I crossed the bridge and took on crisps and water as I did at each feed station. I did the first loop along the embankment and as I returned to the station I was in desperate need of a wee. Problem being that I was in the Morphsuit and once wet its impossible to get off and on! I asked if they had scissors or a knife. They asked what for and I explained I needed to cut a cock hole in the Morpshuit so I could pee! They handed me a knife. Much merriment ensued regarding who would cut the hole, who certainly wouldn’t, how big the hole needed to be, whether they should cut anymore fruit with it afterwards etc. It was a truly comical moment as I, with pins and needleated forearms and numb half hands, tried to cut a cock hole without castrating myself. A real pick me up of a chuckle was had. I ran on in torrential rain when a figure in a big yellow rain coat ran over to cheer me on. After some TR24 exploits Simon Reynolds had made it up onto the course to support in the worst of conditions.
The run continued with me running from station to station. The rain was constant, the path now a flood. Marshals encouraging and bright despite the conditions. No one could do enough for me. I hit the lake after shoveling my mouth full of Haribo from James Franco. I ditched my glasses as I couldn’t see out of them anyway and continued. Now unable to make out faces or detail. At the top of the lake I met up with Steve who was relaying the marathon for Team Bear. We ran down towards his finish and had a good chat on the way.
Rachel met up and was going to run Steve in to the finish. I kept asking Rach where Mich was and asked her to point Mich out because I couldn’t see. She assured me Mich was around but before I went right to carry on we couldn’t spot Mich. I knew she was there. Rach knew she was there. As I ran passed the grandstand I thought I heard my lad shout my name. I turned and gave a thumbs up in that general direction but I couldn’t make anyone out. The Pirate contingent cheered me through for another lap and the MC gave me another shout out. I think it was Kyle again. I set off for my last out and back.
By now the brain was mush so any mileage estimations we all over the place. I knew I had this even if I walked. I continued to run up to about 15 miles when I eventually succumbed to temptation and walked. I really wish I hadn’t! I walked from the Trent feed station up to the bridge and over determined to run after the next station. It’s so hard to run again after walking. It’s a mental thing as you’re never as tired as you think you are. Suzy Coates walked a mile with me telling me about Enduroman exploits and this helped as its gets lonely near the back. Back down the Trent and Rachel and Sally had saved me a piece of Pizza at the station. Hands down the greatest piece of food I have ever eaten. Rachel walked me a bit further on and then I started to plod/walk towards the lake.
Down onto the lake and this was it. Just the lake to do twice. Nowhere else to go. It was now getting dark and I couldn’t see anyway. Mich met me on the back straight having been worried I had been out for so long. I walked most of that lap to about 1000m from the grandstand. Mich held my hand while I walked actually trying to transfer energy and strength to me. Her will and determination are unwavering and her belief in me is ridiculous. G man and Belle joined me as well and then Ian and Dave from Team PFI.
We all had a little run towards the grandstand. Mich gave me a squeeze, you know one of those ‘you’ve got this and you’re ace squeezes’, then left me to run on promising to be at the finish. Dave decided he had done enough having had back surgery on the Wednesday!!! Ian told me he would meet me at the last feed station to run me in and I was to be running!
Just 5k left and the possibility of beating my previous times of 16:45! Grandstand gave it loads as I passed. I am sure I hi fived Jordy and Q and loads more. Kyle told me to get a move on and around the lake for the last time I went. Peter Whent....sorry Eminem was blasting from the music system as I neared the top of the lake. Weirdly I had quoted this just days before and a mate had done a video message for me with the song Lose Yourself
"You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yoYou better lose yourself in the music, the moment You own it, you better never let it go (go) You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo"
"Success is the only mother fuckin' option failure's not!"
True enough at the last feed I was greeted by Ian and a 2018 deal was struck…..don't ask! We were joined by Jason, Gary, Jamie and I had a Team PFI guard of honour to run me in. Jamie dancing his svelte like frame with the cowbells, Ian moaning we were running to slow, Jason mercilessly ripping it out of everyone and Gary wondering what the hell he was doing here with a Morph, 3 loons, cowbells on a dark showery summers eve! They all lied that the hut was the 500m point. I didn’t mind because by then I was putting a proper shift in and they were all struggling to keep up. With 1000m to go they all gave me a kiss and a cuddle (added another 2 mins to my time) and sent me on my way past the screaming Andy Holgate, Mel Glover, Hutch and Dave.
I should perhaps explain my team allegiances. I am a proud member of Team Bear #sufferbutNEVERsurrender and Team PFI a bedraggled A Team esque mess, as well as a part time Pirate. I wouldn’t have completed Sunday without the support, phenomenal support of all of them throughout this challenge. To have Mich and G Man and Belle with me as well as Lisa, Brian and Poppy and a crowd full of Poppyfielders (too many to mention) is indescribable. When you add to that the supporters, marshals, MC’s, tri club feed stations and everyone else either there or online and of course the fellow Outlaws you are looking at an overwhelming swell of support. The type of support that actually does push you through the water, it does turn the pedals when they want to turn no more and it does lift your feet when another step seems impossible.
As Ellie and George joined me at the top of the red carpet I was joined by all of you. Everyone there and everyone at home, everyone who had sponsored, doubted, trained me, built the bike, encouraged, clapped and shook their head in amazement. We smashed down the red carpet, we had nailed an 8:42 final mile and we dipped across the line to get the same time as Liam Hatfield 385 and we ruined his finisher photo with a Morph photo bomb for which I have been forgiven!
Everyone has been brilliantly kind to me personally and extremely generous to the charity. I have had a huge amount of praise heaped upon me but that praise lies with all those who are part of this Team. I look up to and I am in awe of all of you and particularly everyone battling a challenge, whether you choose it or have it forced upon you!
For Poppy, Moo, Harry, Kitty, Adam and many many more.
To Michelle, without whom i am nothing, thank you! Truly thank you. Superbia Fiducia Felicitus Animus.