Abu Dhabi International Triathlon March 15 2014.
ABIT holds a special place in my memory, as it was the first ever triathlon I embarked upon 3 years ago as a non swimmer, cyclist or runner, although this year I would be tackling the longer distance of 1.5 swim in the Arabian Sea, 100km bike, taking in Yas Marina Formula One circuit followed by a 10K run along the beachfront in the midday sun.
My aim for the race was to Enjoy it.
We flew out on Wednesday, 7 hour flight combined with a 5 hour time difference accounts for a day.
Seamless transfer & check in to the event hotel meant we were all on track for a 6am risethe following morning to travel down to the transition area for a scope out.
The hotel is a 5 * wonder sat on its own beach, a short walk from the transition areas, with all the race briefings and registrations taking place within the hotel, it makes it very easy to organise yourself.
Added to this the organisers arrange for a bike service centre and workshop to be set up at the hotel, where you can have your bike checked over and serviced for free.
As my mechanical skills are on a similar par to my facebook skills, I took my bike straight down, immediately before the queues.
The hotel is awash with well known names from the triathlon world, as everyone is treated “almost’ the same, you all eat together, get the same lifts, store your bikes together etc which makes for a unique atmosphere if not a surreal one as you queue up for the omlette chef with Johnny Brownlee (Olympian) and Frederick Van Lierd (Kona Ironman Champ) either side of bloke from Blackburn.
Friday: Set up day: The transitions are in tents (To keep you out of the heat and also let the Scandinavians strip off in public and not offend the arabs) so you have to put everything in 3 bags (Swim, Bike, Run) which means that your transitions are not going to be the fastest as you have to get into your appropriate bag and remove your cycling gear and then start putting it on.
I took the opportunity to swim the course early morning, which was very insightful as the sea was quite choppy heading across from the 2nd buoy and also it was a chance for me to check for sighting buildings. I was doing a very leisurely pace, in my own little world as I was the only one out on the swim course, this peaceful tranquility was shattered by a sudden surge of bubbles and activity in the water, not sure what it was really as I thought maybe other swimmers but then realised it couldn’t be as whatever it was, was going too fast for swimmers. I stopped, popped my head up and had a quick look, nothing to see.
15 mins later as I ambled out of the water heading towards the finishing gantry I noticed a bit of a scrum of people, camera’s etc and was somewhat annoyed that Andrea wasn’t there with my gear. She sauntered up 5 mins later, saying “Oh sorry, but the Brownlee’s have just finished a swim practice, so I went to take some photo’s, oh by the way it was so funny watching from the beach with everyone as you plodded along with them steaming up behind you, she then went on to describe a beach full of people laughing as the lone swimmer stopped to look all around him in the wake of the B’s, almost like a scene from a pantomime, indeed someone did shout out, “They’re behind you” I think she added the word “numpty’ herself though !
As the temperature was hitting 95 on Friday, I wanted to leave dropping my bike off till as late as possible (These were left outside in the heat).
At 10 mins to close of transition I dropped my bike off, and put my bags on my peg in the tent, then went for a wander through transition to get a feel for the various directions as 2,500 people would be coming through this area twice so I wanted to know where I was going. It struck me whilst walking through, how many differing approaches there are to a race. I saw a lot of bikes with their nutrition and drinks already on their bikes at 4pm the night before, wow they are going to be cooked by the time they come to use them in 20 hours time.
Quick chat to the transition security to check directions and I felt all was good and headed off to the final race briefing, where they confirm all the course markers directions and the expected temperatures.
Saturday: Race Day.
The hotel starts serving breakfast from 3am (For the long course competitors) so my relatively late start meant an leisurely breakfast, everything was set out and ready so just my tattoos to put on. (Mmmm cue domestic argument as to the right way to do it)
There is a very special feel to race morning at ABIT with the helicopters flying overhead filming and the whole scene portrayed on a huge screen at the beach.
I confess to not having a jot of nerves and I cannot say why, but everything just felt fine.
It became apparent that my decision not to take a wetsuit was only shared by about 10 other people, ah well quicker transition…..maybe.
Hooter goes and we’re all running into the sea, where it seems there is not enough water for us all as the washing machine begins. The swim was eventful only in the fact that it was extremely tight, so lots of kicks and dunks, but I even hear a few sorrys.
Out of the swim and I run up the beach tunnel past lots of people walking & wrestling with wetsuits, through transition tent, passed the obligatory nude scandinavian (Bloke alas!)
Before I knew it I was out on the bike and gel number one was down the hatch.
For my nutrition, rather than 6 gels on the bike, I had opted for some rice cakes (Home made) which I had been using in training, interspersed with gels. This worked fine.
My aim was to try and maintain 30kph for the 100km bike and take on nutrition every half hour. I’d marinated myself in Kids Swim N Play factor 50 bandage suncream prior to the swim, so wasn’t worried about the heat.
50Km marker popped up, just as I finished my first drink, entered the formula one circuit for two full laps giving you the opportunity to hit some speed and dodge discarded water bottles in the pits. (I saw someone come a cropper there)
Out of Yas racetrack and 65Km done and still feeling fine, another boost.
I had a few M dots pass me around the 80km mark, but other than that pretty uneventful.
As we came to the last 3km towards transition I was a little worried that I may have under cooked the bike as I still felt pretty good, and as I hopped off and ran into T2, I had just completed my first 100km bike, again another boost.
Quick T2, a few carefully chosen black and red Jelly Babies, hat on and I was out into the midday sun. The only way to describe it, is that someone is following you around with a hot hairdryer trained on your face.
My aim was the first aid station (Which I knew was 1km in) I would take water & ice cubes and put them under my hat, which worked a treat.
I continued at my own pace, a few people streaking past but mostly people littering the course stopping, walking, cramping and a noticeable number were M dots who to my amazement rarely had hats on, it was 100/104 degree’s.
The run scene was carnage. So many people suffering from heat (I saw fried arms) and or the fall out from the bike. I had never seen so many people shuffling or walking on a 10k leg of a triathlon, so again another boost that I was actually running. (Small things I know)
I had no watch to tell me my pace and went off the distance markers for guides, but I felt ok, no cramps no pains so all good and at 8km marker I knew I was fine and would finish.
Seeing so many people suffering on the run, in a perverse way gave me a boost and as I crossed the line and heard my name, I couldn’t help but smile and this turned to laughter.
Andrea, asked me why I was laughing, I had no idea. But my sole aim for this race was to complete it and most of all Enjoy it, so I think that means I succeeded.
Swim: 31 minsBike: 3hrs 8 mins, 10K: 52 mins. Smile: Wide (Neil Ainsworth)