What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – Ali Schofield

Two days after I’d finished the Helvellyn triathlon, entries for the Outlaw Half opened. In the days before my triathlons, I ran with my very good friend Jane Handy (clarkey) who was into triathlons. I used to think she was completely bonkers – she raved about the Outlaw and I thought why not, let’s give it a go. Entry done, message to coach, let’s do this….

Race Day

4am alarm – no one likes that time of the morning, but I woke up before the alarm, fully rested and feeling ready and fresh –thanks to my wonderful family up the road for proper looking after me.

The planning and preparation for my events gets easier the more triathlons I do. Set up, rituals and routines become unchanged. The thoughts of changing things do happen, but I pull myself back into line and remind myself, that’s what you do in training, this is race day, stick to what you know.

The Swim

The wetsuit went on like a dream. It was the most comfortable I’ve ever known it.  Waiting to start is the most anxious part of the day for me… I slowed my breathing down, long andslow breaths keeping my calm. The previous weekend, I’d been to the Lagoon in Scunthorpe for an open water swim which had been freezing and I struggled to swim with my face in the water, so did a lap of breast stroke. I’d already had a word with myself, whatever happens on race day, you just need to get on with it no matter what. The announcement came to us all, the water temperature is 15 degrees… phew!!

And we’re off…. Kept it calm, only one little panic after I’d turned the corner to come back as I lost my breathing rhythm, but kept it smooth remembering everything coach had taught me. I knew I was off my usual swim pace, but I was cool about that. Out of the swim, mum and dad gave me a cheer as I ran into transition.

T1 – Transition was smooth considering I had a wetsuit to whip off.

It’s bike time…

The smiles were wide. I passed my husband on the bike exit, gave him a big smile and off I went. Having not biked the course or paid much attention to the route, apart from being told it was fast, the most important part for me was hydration and nutrition. First priority on the bike was eat and drink. Then to keep eating and drinking at regular intervals. I continued to do this like clockwork. I was finding myself on the most amazing bike course I could’ve imagined (some of the course was in very poor condition but the organisers had done a fab job on marking everything out) It was fast with a few lumps too. It was perfect. I had to hold myself back, kept thinking I hadn’t run a half marathon since 2014 and I was slightly anxious about it!! I could’ve seriously pushed the power on that route, but did I want to completely smash the bike (body said yes you could) and potentially ruin therun….? Head said no!! I was proper focused. The miles just flew by….

T2 – Yep, smooth as once again. Happy times.

The run….  (honestly I was dreading this bit)

First mile, wow I’m running well, form is good, pace is good, legs feel good… had a quick glance at my pace, ok this was quicker than I would’ve expected it to be – let’s get smooth girl, you need to enjoy this run, not ruin it. Head was in an amazing place. Each feed station, routine came into play once again, one cup of water to drink, one cup to throw on my head/hat (I hate being hot!!) I mentally broke the run into 3-mile blocks. Couple of high fives to Rhydian, fellow OTCF team buddy out on the course and regular ‘’you’ve got this’’ shouts from hubby helped the miles go by. By 6 miles, I thought it was time to see how I was getting on. I took a look at my overall time…. Wowsers, was that right?? Ali, you’ve got 6 miles to go and you’ve got how much time to do it in? Jesus. I was had the biggest smile. I’d worked out, if I continued to run as I was, I still had time to play with, if the worse was to happen, even if I walked, I could still finish this near to my target time. My pace had started to drop off, my body had started to get tired but I kept my form and kept on running… YOU ARE NOT WALKING!! 3 miles to go, it started to hurt a little. I looked at my watch, quick pace check, ok yes, you’ve slowed down, but you are only losing 1 min per mile…. 5k is nothing now, you’ve got this girl. On the last 1.5 miles, I passed the last feed station, same routine as the others, but this time it was different, it was party time, they were playing Kelly Clarkson,’’ what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, this has been my ultimate motivation saying for such a long time…. I had a little sing song and said ‘’Let’s take this home girl’’ Boom, I was going to finish well under 6hrs. I passed my folks with 1 mile to go, big cheers and huge smiles, I was buzzing… watch check, 0.5 to go, I could smell the finish line – the pace picked up, the flags got closer and closer… I was crying. Boom. I’d finished. Stop the watch. I was a little wobbly, focused my eyes on the medal and grabbed fluid…. I needed food, I needed food quickly. Grab a coke, walked up some stairs, bit of a daze and threw my arms around my husband… food, I need food. He knows me far too well in this state, I have one priority right now and that’s to feed my face otherwise my recovery is ruined. I still didn’t know my time…  he said my WhatsApp has been constantly buzzing, I couldn’t really focus on the what, where and when – quick update to coach, then I got a text…. OH, MY FRICKING GOD!!!! Not only had I gone sub 6 (target time) I had proper smashed it and gone sub 5hrs 30 – finish time of 5:29:56. I could not believe it…. And still can’t!!

Behind the Scenes

1. Majorca – the toughest week of training ever… both physically and mentally. But it prepared me for the above and provided me with the most amazing support network I could’ve ever have imagined. Girls and boys, you know who you are, thank you.
2. The mental side – massive learning curves. It’s been tough. I’ve learnt a lot about myself. There has been tears, lots of doubts, lots of highs and lows – but I kept picking myself up and stayed focused to the goals. I’ve found ways to deal with my struggles and had to make some big changes, but it is starting to work. Onwards on upwards (ps. buy Steve’s books!!)

Thank you to my husband – you are my true rock, day in day out. Thank you to my family and friends for the ever planning around my training and supporting me through my crazy events.

And thank you to my coach, he sure knows what he is doing…. I’m proud to be part of the OTCF Family 😊

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