We all knew it was going to be a more challenging event to years gone by as the drive down to Abu Dhabi from Dubai saw those of us taking part in Tri Yas tackle the poor visibility and buffeting gusts that accompany a sandstorm. There were sections of the drive that were akin to driving through treacherously thick fog and I must confess that I felt a wave of relief as I pulled into the F1 track unscathed from what can, on a clear day, still be a hairy drive. Still, I had left Dubai very early with the intention of making a full day of it, and my car, packed to the rafters, was testament to that fact.
I marshalled at last year’s Tri Yas triathlon and so got to see first hand how well organised and fun an event it was, for both competitors and supporters alike. Given that Challenge Dubai is in a week’s time, and is the primary focus of this season for me, the advice from Trace was to sign up for the sprint distance event and to focus on speed, nutrition and rapid transitions, the latter being something that I have had issues with. The benefit of arriving early was that I had the pick of the parking, collected my race pack at leisure and was first to arrive at our waterside team villa, provided courtesy of fellow SuperTri athlete, JP. Having a base – I did have the option of using the TriDubai one as well, and actually rocked up on the day proudly sporting my TriDubai shirt – made a big difference, as it was somewhere to, first of all, escape the winds and dust, secondly, relax, get changed, check gear, eat before the race and generally prepare well in. Views of the swim course were perfect from our site, with a chance to really analyse the best lines on the swim and observe the pros and Olympic race starts.
In the interests of speed in transition, as was my focus for the race, I stripped my needs for each leg down significantly from the longer distance races. This meant no socks for the bike, saving a huge amount of time otherwise spent drying my feet and fumbling to put said garments on as I wobble all over the place after the swim. I also cut the nutrition down to one gel on the bike and a single bottle of electrolytes, and relied solely on the aid stations for water (primarily for cooling) on the run. I felt a difference and can certainly say that I was faster in both transitions, although T1 still needs some work and I did run past my bike initially – a rookie error that had more to do with faffing with my Suunto than having not rehearsed the transition, which I had done several times.
The sprint race, and especially our age group (30 – 40 year old males), was very popular, with the organisers actually opting to split our wave into two in order to avoid the swim being too much of a brawl. I leapt in at the earliest opportunity, determined to get a good spot at the front on the right hand side so as to take the best line round to the right and onto the first turn buoy. It seems that this was the preferred spot of most of the other guys as well and so the swim start was a little frenetic, but nothing that some determined head-down sprinting and sticking to my line couldn’t overcome. I was very glad that I’d opted not to wear a wetsuit, donning my Sailfish speed-suit instead, and felt so much more liberated in the water, which was a refreshingly cool temperature and certainly not cold. Choppy, on the other hand, is what it was, and as we turned right into the wider marina, the full force of the winds were evident, with some decent chop providing at least two swallowed salt water moments – never a pleasant experience! Coupled with a very brief stop to clear my fogged goggles, those were the only challenges faced in the swim, which felt pretty fast, and as I exited the water I was pleased to see 14 minutes displayed on my watch.
The run from the swim to transition was a relatively long one, which thankfully provided sufficient time to rectify my error in stopping my watch by pressing the wrong button. A speedy on-the-run reset and it was time to lose the swim suit et al, don the race number, sunglasses, helmet and shoes and leg it to the cycle start line with the trusty steed in tow. An initial steep downhill and sharp turn into the tunnel, followed by a reasonable up hill, meant that the gears quickly got tested, before merging with the masses on the track and the first of what was to be four laps for me, totalling 20km of cycling.
The bike leg of the race was very much one of very fast sections, with the wind sitting at our backs, and slower, tough sections when the very strong wind and accompanying dust, was blowing directly at us or, on sections, serving up a tricky cross wind that gave those cyclists sporting deep set rims and discs something to contend with. I was pleased with the cycle, feeling that my choice of lines was efficient, especially given that the “Stay Left” rule was clearly not being adhered to by the vast majority of the field. There was one fast section where I was forced to shout out to a slow cyclist who was veering to the right to get over, but otherwise there were no issues with near misses and it seemed that everyone was able to race well. Nutrition-wise things seemed to go well, with a Hi-5 gel on lap 3 being the only additional energy taken. This seemed to position me well for the run as I glided into T2 in a time of a little over 40mins, made a swift transition to the run and felt swift from the get go.
I can run. It seems to be the one part of this triathlon lark that I can do consistently well. And so it was again at Yas. The fact that it was a single lap of the track (5km for us sprinters) did make it feel easier to head off out of transition confident to push the pace from the beginning, knowing that each section of the course passed was the only time I would have to do so. Psychologically that makes a significant difference. I consciously kept my heart rate at between 183 and 186 bpm for most of the race, only pushing it to 190 in the final few hundred metres. I don’t think I could have reliably gone faster on the day, and was pleased with the pace and good technique that I sustained. The aid stations were, as at other races this season, well placed, and in spite of the overcast and windy nature of the day, it was hot, meaning the cooling effects of dousing oneself with cold water was welcome and contributed to the good pace. It was great to see some fellow triathlon friends out on the run course and as I crossed the line, accepting my medal from the stunningly beautiful Etihad flight attendant, I enjoyed instantly getting to relive the race with friends and coach alike. The other perk of having a team villa was getting to shower, with the swim being one of the saltiest I think I have yet experienced, with salt crystals present on practically every part of me that had gotten wet. A post-race swing by Yas Mall for a cheeky but well earned burger and milkshake followed by a Gold Class cinema experience was the perfect way to round off a cracking day and a generally amazing weekend.
Tri Yas is consistently reviewed as one of the most fun and inclusive triathlons here in the UAE, with first time triathletes in high number. The chance to cycle on a world-class F1 race track and take in the stunning view of the Yas Viceroy as the sun sets and the hotel comes alive with colour are both major draws. The marshaling is also first class and, yet again, they did a sterling job on the day. It was disappointing then to hear that some athletes had apparently seen fit to be rude to the marshals, all of whom are volunteers, but on the whole the majority of triathletes are decent, polite people who appreciate the fact that without such volunteers there would be no race or that the entry fees would be prohibitively high. Thank you to everyone that made Tri Yas such a success and more generally to those who make all races possible.
Final Race Time: (unofficial as the official timers on the day seem to have recorded me as a DNS – Did Not Start – which is clearly incorrect. The times here are based on what I pieced together from my Suunto)
Swim (750m) = 14’40.6
Cycle incl T1 (20km) = 42’02.7
Run incl T2 (5km) = 22’51.7
TOTAL = 79’58.3
UPDATE: They found my chip 🙂 So….. official results….
Swim (750m) = 14’23.0
T1 = 2″59.0
Cycle (20km) = 38″50.0
T2 = 1″50.0
Run (5km) = 22’04.0
TOTAL = 1:20″05
|Category Rank:||9 of 230|
|Your Gender:||8 of 154|
|Your Age:||3 of 32|
|Your Nationality:||5 of 93|