Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Abu Dhabi International Triathlon 12th March 2011

3k sea swim 200k bike 20k run, temperature – 108oF
Swim 51:18  T1 03:24  Bike 05:44:33  T2 03:10  Run 01:24:30   Finish Time 08:06:15
2nd in my Age Group and 10th Age Grouper overall

What an amazing venue; the beach of a hotel that cost $3bn to build and a star studded line up of the world’s best long distance pro athletes.
I selected this race to test out my biking ahead of my IM St George in May. I viewed it essentially as a long bike with a bit of a swim and run thrown in which is exactly how it turned out.
The swim was great; two laps of a 1500m loop off the hotel beach, non-wetsuit for the Pros but optional for the age groupers and I, like most, needing all the help I can get opted for the wetsuit. We set off in waves of about 150 so it was pretty civilised compared to an M-dot race but the downside was that there were very few friendly feet to draft. It ended up being a 3k TT for me with a sprint along a beach half way round, quite fun really.
On to the bike and off into the desert, 40k out to the Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit. It was a hot and windy bike TT up the motorway to the circuit but it was worth it. I cycled round with a grin a mile wide as I pretended to be racing round, forgetting I still had 100miles of cycling left I should have perhaps ridden a little more conservatively. On the way back into the city we had the wind blasting sand onto our backs rather than into our faces as we sped to the turnaround for the second lap.
By now the field was beginning to thin out as I counted just a handful of riders ahead of me; I could now start to work through them. Quickly I passed a couple but then ahead of me was a shimmering empty expanse of tarmac with not a rider in sight and this is how it remained pretty well for the remaining 120k. It was no longer a race; it was a lesson in mental conditioning and battling dehydration and mineral depletion. Over the course of the bike I consumed over 10 litres of fluid, 15 salt capsules and 20+ gels which just about kept me rolling but the midday sun was unforgiving. By the time I hit T2 my quads had all but locked up with cramp as the fatigue and conditions took their toll despite my best efforts to stay in shape. To start the run with your legs already toasted does not auger well for a day out running round the local marina!
I broke into what can best be described as a hobble come run as I set off to complete the final, and my favourite, discipline. As each kilometre ticked by I fought to keep running with the bizarre incentive that the quicker I ran the sooner the pain would stop! I had planned to run a fast sub 80min 20k but it turned into a battle of survival and in hindsight, a useful lesson in toughing it out. The last 2k seemed to go on forever as the sun beat down but at last I came to the finish line; there was no triumphant flourish as I crossed just an ugly stumble and stagger then medics buzzing round to check I wasn’t going to melt on the spot.
I quickly found some shade, a bucket of ice and a pizza then things started to look up. A pretty tough day at the office, now for Ironman St George...

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