A few shots from Dubai International Triathlon 2014…
Triathlon Just Got Bigger!
The inaugural Dubai International Triathlon, the brainchild and labour of love of some very forward thinking local triathletes and RaceME, finally arrived on Friday the 7th November, starting and finishing at The Atlantis Hotel, Palm Jumeirah, about as grand a setting as one can get. Every one of us training, racing and generally immersing ourselves in the tri scene here has been eagerly awaiting this race for many months, and you could certainly feel the buzz of excitement as the final days of waiting approached. From chatter about the potential bike route to concerns about the threat from jellies, the digital lines were humming with everyone talking about just one race.
The first wave to head off from the deep water start included the pros, with a 10 second lead, and were swiftly up on the first of the buoys, one of only two left hand turns on the flattened mushroom-shaped swim course. This may have been the only thing I would have personally suggested changing as there was unfortunately insufficient distance between the start and buoy one to get good separation between athletes. As such, there was some serious congestion at turn 1, the only point where there was any kind of issue. I too found myself caught up in the pause and scramble around the buoy, quickly recovering to find my stride and ultimately have a really great, smooth, comfortable swim. Sighting still remains a bit of an area for improvement and with the back straight of the swim being a fairly long stretch, I know that I swam a deviated course and emerged from the water having covered more than the prescribed race distance. Still, all things told, a good swim and a vast improvement from where I was even a year ago.
Run…. And Sweet Victory!
A looped course does offer the opportunity to see various friends out on the run, although being across a road, it was difficult to be able to engage too closely with runners heading in the opposite direction. There were a few people I was looking out for but didn’t see, although plenty I did. Stand out examples included Hasan Itani, a real figurehead of triathlon in Dubai, who was looking so strong on the run; Lynette Warne, of Skydive Dubai, always an impressive athlete and once again on the podium; Merle Talviste, who stormed in to win her age group in an awesome time. So many examples of impressive athletes to be inspired by that it is almost inevitable that one improves as a triathlete by simply being in the same airspace as them! Other memorable racers include the guy who I saw running very impressively whilst wearing a cycle helmet. I had initially thought that he might have simply forgotten to remove it in T2 and was just so in the zone that he wasn’t fussed, but later learned that he had apparently had recent brain surgery so was wearing the helmet for essential protection – hardcore indeed! There was also Nick Watson and his son Rio (Team Angel Wolf), who looked to be having as much fun on the day as his dad – a lovely story and, again, an inspiration to us all. Within Super Tri we had heroes, with Rafat Shobaki and Edna Coetser both completing their first ever half iron distance races and doing so in impressive style, being relatively new converts to the great sport of triathlon.
Given that this was the first event of it’s kind staged in Dubai, and the first organised by the company behind it, RaceME, they would certainly have been forgiven for some slip ups. However, the race was, in my humble opinion, planned, organised and executed to absolute perfection. No stone seemed to be left uncovered, from clear pre-race instructions, to humorous but unambiguous and unmissable signposting, to well located, stocked and managed aid stations, to the medal (OMG, the medal! HUGE is the only way to describe it. I love it!). I sincerely hope the organising team gave themselves a massive collective pat on the back because they deserve it and I for one eagerly look forward to their next event.
It seems now is a particularly great time to be a triathlete in this region and with Challenge Dubai announced the day before (mind you, rather odd timing I must say) and Challenge Bahrain fast approaching, and which I look forward to racing as well, the scene is set for some really classic races and great experiences. Ultimately, however, kudos needs to go to Dubai International Triathlon for lighting the fuse on this exciting movement.
FINAL RACE RESULTS:
Swim 1.9km (incl T1) = 0:38’28
Cycle 90km (incl T2) = 2:56’12
Run 21km = 1:45’01
TOTAL TIME = 5:19’43
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