Bobbing around at the swim start with all of the other crazy people who elect to get up at the crack of dawn – well, pre-dawn actually – waiting for the start horn to go off, there is a palpable sense of anticipation and a hunger to take all of the training to date and apply it there and then, in that moment, to race. After all, it is why we do what we do. We are racers. Competitors. Whether we’re competing with others or, as for many triathletes, simply competing with ourselves, to push it further, faster, harder, the start line is where it all comes together.
And so it was that I found myself waiting patiently in the cool waters off Mamzar Beach in Dubai on the 7th February, ready to step it up from the last time I found myself there for the Sprint race, my first as a triathlete in Dubai, and take part in the Olympic distance race. Much has changed since that first event. For a start I found I was having to actively tread water considerably less thanks to my lovely new(ish) tri-specific wetsuit, and I felt calmer, stronger and more focused. After all, I have now been training here in the Middle East for a year and no longer feel as overwhelmed with the sensory onslaught that a triathlon serves up. As if to prove to myself how much more ready I felt, I placed myself at the front of the swim pack, sprinted off for all I had and quickly settled myself into a rhythm, surrounded on all sides by other determined racers, something that last year would have freaked me out.
The swim was a two lap course, totaling 1.5km, and I was very pleased to find myself completing the entire swim without feeling the need to stop, or revert to breaststroke, something that I have ended up doing at every race to date, and which I always mentally chastise myself for. The weekly pool sessions with Tri Dubai and the regular open water sea swims have worked their magic, meaning my confidence, and indeed fitness, in the water has come on.
With the swim completed in a time of 26 mins, which I was very pleased with, it was on to the cycle. Transition is still very much an area in which I can get a whole heap faster, especially given that I choose to put socks on after drying my feet, something which a fellow triathlete friend of mine ribbed me for. Still, bike helmet on, bike grabbed and off we went! Literally as I was leaving the cycle mount area I realised that I had left my energy gels behind – DOH! To turn around or keep going? That was the question. Keep going! I made the decision to be careful about not going too hard on the bike, especially early on, given that I had no easily available energy sources to hand. As it turned out, the cycle went well without the extra kick of a gel or two, and although I won’t be winning any records for breaking the cycle land speed record, I was pleased with my 1 hour 41 minute time, especially when pitched against the super carbon machines that I was well aware of as they zipped past me in what looked like an effortless, weightless blur. One day I shall own one of those super bikes, oh yes I shall!
So, cycle completed it was just the small matter of grinding out 10km of running. I’d have to say that running is probably my strongest of the three disciplines and I derive a fair amount of pleasure from cruising past those super cyclists who had previously overtaken me on their bikes now that machine had been chipped away to man. Like most triathletes, and in fact most athletes, I am fairly habitual – some might call it OCD – about some aspects of my racing. For example, I generally always run with a cap, specifically my white Oakley one, turned backwards like some little league wannabe. I realise it probably looks slightly dorkish but I simply don’t care as in my mind it makes me go faster. My aim for the two lap run course was to post a negative split, meaning that I would run the second 5km faster than the first. As it turned out my pace ended up pretty much staying constant, except for the very brief piss stop that I spent the first 3km debating whether to take – I’m soooooo glad I took the seconds to stop as there is nothing better for your running comfort than not having a full bladder – and the run was completed in a time of 44 minutes, which I was very pleased with. The fact that I found it a tougher effort to put in that obligatory sprint finish at the end suggested that my effort on the run was a good one, and I kept up an almost constant 4:27 pace for the full 10km.
Medal collected, chocolate milk downed and water cracked open, it was time to bask in that fatigued yet wonderful post-race glow, whilst sharing in the atmosphere with fellow racers and friends. That is one of the great things about our sport: the true sense of camaraderie and genuine interest and pleasure taken in the training and race performance of others.
After a quick check-in with Trace Rogers, my coach, who had been out marshaling the event, I loaded my kit up in the 4WD, grabbed a rather refreshing (read FREEZING and very brief) shower and drove off home with thoughts of an awesome breakfast and a movie dancing through my mind.
A great race and a fantastic day – up to the point some reckless driver ploughed into me and my car, but that is a whole separate post.
FINAL RACE TIME = 2:26:25