The missus was off in India doing a Yoga teacher training course over xmas for 6 weeks so it was my turn to treat myself. I’m a huge F1 fan and came across this triathlon after watching the highlights on Eurosport or similar one evening.. The triathlon includes a lap of the F1 Circuit which appealed to me, Ferrari World, which is Ferrari’s Amusement Park is also there and the weekend coincided with the Bahrain F1 Race just a short flight away so that was that.
The Triathlon offered 3 distances and was on Saturday 12th March. A Sprint Distance of 750m Swim, 50k Bike and 5k Run... Now this would’ve been the next logical step up for me having only done 4 Sprint Tri’s to my name, but the Bike stint didn’t include the Lap of the F1 Circuit so that was out. The Short distance which I went for being 1.5k Swim, 100k Bike and 10k Run and also the Long distance which the Pro’s were racing for also being 3k Swim, 200k bike and 20k Run. No chance was I doing that clearly!
I arrived on Wednesday morning, was glad to see my Bike Box come out fast and unharmed and headed through security. Damn they were slow, for some reason they were typing details from everyone’s passport into a computer, so it was very slow. Got through and to ATM for some Dirham (5 Dirham’s = €1) and then got collared by Jonnie the taxi man asking if I needed transport (“taxi sir”)... So I said how much to Hilton Abu Dhabi, 100 Dirham came the answer and as I knew it was a good half hours drive I thought €20 was pretty reasonable so said alright let’s go.
Now we’re going past the normal taxi rank and a taxi organiser shakes his head at me... I shuffle my shoulders and think what harm, he’s small and I’m not exactly gonna be kidnapped here so if it’s a local man making a quick buck what harm. Into an old Toyota Pick up with Bike box and suitcase in rear and sun beaming down on them...
I hope there’s no bumps and all should be fine. On way out of car park, Johnnie says parking 20 Dirham. I do nothing and he says 20 Dirham, I say so you want an advance is it on the 100, no I’ll pay at end. He says no 100 Dirham taxi Plus 20 Dirham Parking. I say no. He says 10 Dirham. Now this is only €2 but point is its my €2 J So i say no, I’ll get official taxi so stop. He says no it’s ok and pays the parking.
So 30 mins later and we arrive at Hotel and Johnnie is a happy man, I am too thinking grand that was a cheap fare and lesson learned. Into hotel and time for the Bike Build.
Get straight into it and with my tape measure and camera phone pictures I get everything back up and all sorted. Job 1 Done. Registration opens at 12pm so I pop down for a bit of Breakfast and then shower and gather my medical waiver and off for a 5 min walk. 5 min’s was 10 mins and in 30 degree heat at the time not too pleasant. Into Hotel for Registration, get my Race Pack, Goodie Bag, Buy a Race T-Shirt as memento, pick up a 2xu Race Number Belt as I couldn’t locate mine at home, a few GU Energy Shots and I’m off for a look around. See Macca on the Turbo Trainer at a decent pace and have a look around. Faris Al Sultan was talking to locals and it was nice to see the Pro’s at arms distance.
Back to Hotel and open my Race Pack and Goodie Bag.
Race Pack contents = 3 decent sized pull bags, lots of my number stickers, race program, Timing Chip and Swim Hat.
Goodie Bag contents = small black logo’d pull bag, medical pack (suncream, plasters, heat packs for muscle strains etc, Nivea shower gel & deodorant, Wipes, Abu Dhabi Tourist Info guide and a Ferrari World Entrance Ticket. Now the Ferrari World ticket looks like nothing but a quick google shows it’s actually worth €45 and gives free access to all rides. So I’m pretty happy with that as have that planned for Friday’s rest day.
Now the Hilton came with free water, 4 Bottles in room and I was flying through them so went looking for a Supermarket to pick up a lot more and a few snacks or so. It’s pretty close and I find the supermarket at a shopping mall with an Ikea store... They get around eh! So stock up on water, apples, mandarins, banana’s and some Pringles equivalent for snacking. Chocolate is a no as it’s lent and myself and the wifey have packed it in. Back to hotel in a mound of sweat from walking with cheap free plastic bags cutting my fingers loaded with water. I start to realise this heat is gonna be quite interesting... So I load the water into fridge, removing the beer and chocolate on offer and head out for a quick look at the Run Course. It’s right opposite the Hotel and goes around a bridge and marina type area before coming back again. I do a gentle 7.5k after warming up and picking up the pace towards the end my legs feel quite good. Back for shower and dinner at hotel then and unpack before dozing in a slight jet lagged state...
Up at 6:30am and drag myself half asleep out of bed... Body not adjusted yet and sleep was intermittent as I got the room temperature right. There’s a practise Swim in the Emirates Palace Private Beach area where the Swim Section and T1 is located. So I head for there at about 7:15 and it’s a good 20min walk and people cycling past on their way.. I’m thinking I didn’t know there was space and security for bikes but it turns out they just left them by railings and took a chance. Some expensive machinery there so mine would’ve been perfectly safe too. So lots of folks in wetsuits as I arrive and head down the beach. I take a look around enjoying the view of the private beach for this 6 Star Hotel, which cost $3 Billion to build and stretches 1km! Seriously impressive... and not cheap to stay. Random fact they use something like 10kg of edible Gold a year on their desserts...
Into the water then and its refreshing which I’m glad about. Start my Garmin Forerunner 310XT to clock my distance and time and head out for the first orange bouy. The swim course has been marked out already as has transition so that was good. I get into my stride fine before sighting and realising I’m off course, more sighting later and I’m not swimming very straight at all. Not the only one as the current was a tad more than it looked. Nice and calm beach area being quite enclosed, but deceptive currents pushing me off course. Get to the half way point around the 15mins mark and think not too bad, heading back and again off course so I stop a couple times and straighten up. Not the best at sighting whilst front crawling but I get there in the end. 33 mins in the water and I had hoped to be faster than that. 1.65k done so whether that’s the course or my zig zagging I’m not sure. I decide to swim again tomorrow and practise sighting more. I now realise I should have bought that TYR Wetsuit I tried in Base2Race but gambled on it being declared non wetsuit and even so me saving a bit in T1 not having hassle of removing and packing into bag.
Out of the water and dry off, down at the Beach I see Dirk Bockel teaching some local tri club some swim lessons and them heading for a quick race with the tv crew filming. I bump into 2 English lads I saw when out for my run yesterday and have a quick chat before back to the hotel for breakfast. I let breakfast digest and then load up my drinks bottles and head out for a bike session. Nothing major but found some quiet roads by the palace and saw how easy it was to get up to 37kph easily and more. Some pro’s were out there too and some photo shoots being done on bikes. I didn’t recognise them but it was pretty clear from the gear/bikes and the photographers getting numerous stone on ground shots.. Look out for me in the background of a sponsored photo soon J
I go for a 1hr 30min bike and then wind it down for the day. Legs still feel good and heat is tough but not the worst when moving. Happy that bike is sound it being my first time having stripped and reassembled it. A shout out to Base2Race here for saving me when my Pedal was jammed a few hours before check in! I also learned I was trying to take it off the wrong way (tightens anti clockwise what’s that all about!), but it was jammed anyway so not too foolish – I may have assisted in the jam however...
So dinner is across the road at the Race Briefing venue and with free pasta/breads for carb loading which was nice. Back to room then a wind down to day 2 then.
Day 3 – Friday
So Rest day starts with a morning swim to get used to open water swimming more and sighting. I don’t head to the Palace which is open for a couple of hours again and instead go to the hotel’s private beach area across the road. Nice with pools as well and a short 200m stretch in the sea. I only do 1k here practising sighting a bit and technique. Shoulder starting to hurt a tad so I know I’m not pulling correctly and using my hand again instead of lat’s/triceps. Now today also see’s Bike and transition drop off’s before 4:30pm so I decide to get done early and head to Ferrari World after lunch. So I load up my bags, put the elastic laces into my runners, and head off to T2 on my Bike. Drop in my Run Bag and have a look around. Changing tents are nicely numbered but no numbers up yet by Bike stands. I wonder if they will be done or left blank and don’t worry about it for now.
Off to T1 in the Emirates Palace now and drop off Bike and Bike Bag/Helmet in changing tent. We were warned not to leave tyre’s inflated in the heat as they may pop, and so I deflate them just as I hear some poor guy’s go pop.. Find myself a decent position near end of a Short Course rack and I walk back to Race Registration Hotel to try get a Hat as I’ve left mine in T2 for the run and figure I’ll need it for the today. Unfortunately the 2XU shop is closed as I arrive but will be open in T2 after race which doesn’t help.
Few Pics from T1:
I head off anyway to Ferrari World in taxi and this time pay just 55 Dirham for a similar length journey. So this is just €10 for a 30min journey and I start to think that’s cheap and also I got screwed by Johnnie the taxi man on Wednesday... The cheek to ask me to pay for parking! Still it was a difference of €10 so no harm.
Into the air conditioned Ferrari World and it’s all indoors so my hat problem is no more. Straight to the Formula Rossi dubbed the fastest coaster in the world. It’s in the form of an F1 Car seating 8 x 2 people and shoots out at acceleration up to 230kmh in under 5 seconds, before going up down around and across like a normal coaster. Not the longest but pretty good I have to say. Onto a few more attractions and I’m starved and need water as I wasn’t allowed bring in my 2 bottles and apple into the indoor amusement park. I drank the water and ate the apple but still need more. So I find a restaurant for some justified carb loading and am pleased to get a spaghetti Bolognese, large pizza slice and water for €15. Not bad considering there were no other options so prices could’ve been higher. Few more attractions after that before heading back to hotel early.
Day 4 – Saturday – Race Day
So with Check in opening at 4:30 – 6am it was always going to be an early start. Fortunately the hotel accommodated all triathletes by starting breakfast at 3:30 and providing free shuttle bus to Swim location at 4:30. Now I made breakfast but as my wave wasn’t until 7:20 I just had to make sure I was there around 5:30 to pump tyres, get numbered and apply suncream before Transition closed. Left the hotel around 5:20 and a 15 min walk was grand. Into Transition before sunrise to an impressive site of Bike Porn, and the Pro’s hanging around as their wave was first at 6:20. As I arrived the announcer said it was already delayed 10 mins so plenty of notice provided. Pumped up tyres, put on my drinks bottles and energy gels and left my sunglasses on the front of bike cables. Left my bag of pump/runners/socks/top I came in on my hanger with my Bike Bag – the organisers were ensuring all our numbered bags would be waiting at end of race. We got 3 bags as I mentioned earlier – Blue for Bike (Helmet, Towel, banana and put in swim hat and goggles), White for Whatever being my pump/runners/socks/top I brought to start and Red for Run Bag which I had left in T2 the day before and had my Running runners, socks, hat and a gel pack.
So I got my number applied on arm, put on my suncream and was good to go. Down to toilets for a quick excess water drain and over to the beach to watch the Pro’s swim. Ian Thorpe was there to start the 2 Pro races which was good. Pro’s sure moved at a solid pace, had 1 x 1.5k lap done in 18odd mins, out for second lap then. Julie Dibens was strong as usual and caught up with some of the mens (womens race started 2 mins after mens).
Ready for my wave and I’m at the front of line of 200 in my wave doing the short course. Quick warm up allowed to check goggles fine and I was good to go. Horn blew and a quick 10m dash to sea and into swim. Swim didn’t go ideal, went off line a couple times on way out, but felt fine. On way back went more off line due to current and started to swim a small bit breast-stroke to ensure I was on line. Back into front crawl then a couple times and tried to up it near end. Up and out of the water looking at my Garmin of 33mins. Exact same as my practise swim and 1.65k – again the same! Damn it but hey, a few mins wasn’t going to change my race by much so into T1 for a fast transition and out to Bike. Good crowd cheering everyone and my jump onto Bike goes perfect and I’m off passing people already and feeling good. Onto main road (dual carriageway) out of city and I’m pacing myself at 37kph. This is quite easy and so I’m tempted to push more but think it’s a long race and my first one at that so best to maintain what I’m at and see towards last 30-40k if I can up tempo. Glad I didn’t push too hard on the 10k or so out to the Closed off Motorway (5 laner, split in 2 for out/back racers). It’s here as we start to go over the bridge that the wind really starts to hit us. The organisers had warned us it was looking like a very hot day and a lot of wind, they weren’t wrong. Kept going through tough patches dropping speed to 21kph or so in places, then back up to 30+. On a nice hill over the bridge I hit over 50kph before a gust of wind jigged me to the side a bit. Kept going as wasn’t too bad and enjoyed the fast section. Into more wind then and everyone is struggling with it. It doesn’t ease off until we got to Yas Marina F1 Circuit at around the 40k mark. So a tough 40k and onto the track, no wind and pure flat, I couldn’t help but put the power down and enjoy the racing line – not many were wise to this and so I made up a few more places. Out of Yas Marina and speed was back up to 37odd with the wind not against us now, and perhaps a bit of a tailwind to assist. I’m thinking sweet this should be a nice return leg but as we hit the motorway again after 20k, the wind turns and starts coming against us again... Not nice! I’m keeping a good pace still and passing regularly, enjoying the bike stint. Back to turning point opposite T2 and there’s 80k done. I feel good and start to push more for the last 20k. Make up a few more spaces and back to T2 in a decent time. I should add it was nice to see the Pro’s coming against us as we were headed to Yas Marina. Man they were fast, and working together by the looks of it!
100k Bike Stint completed in 3hrs 6 mins, so a few mins off my aim of sub 3 hours, but considering the heat and wind I’ll settle for that.
So into T2 then and rack the bike, happy to see not too many others have done the same ahead of me, into tent and on with socks, runners, hat and out the gap with gel pack in hand. I popped my Garmin 310XT off the quick release on my bike and onto my watch strap now and pacing my run. Happy to see I start off in the 4 minute kilometre’s and no jelly legs and I feel good. Aid station see’s me get a sponge down my back and cup of water which I tried to put in my mouth whilst running, got a tablespoon’s worth then just threw the rest over my head! J Managed to shout for a bottle of water at next station and carry that with me for a bit and get more water in my mouth this time! The flat pepsi seemed to help as well and I was determined not to stop and keep going. There were a number of people slowing down and stopping on the run route. One guy passed me early on and looked the slender fast runner build, he must have been doing 3min 30 km’s if not less and was looking damn fast, then just around the corner there he was, bent over and staring at the pavement.. I shouted you ok and he just waved me on. Didn’t see him again.. As I reached the half way 5k point the run course doubles back a bit, and a guy shouted go Pulse as he was on his way out towards me. I had checked and there were 7 or 8 other Irish guys entered so figured he was one and I’d prob chat to him at finish line. That prob made me more determined not to stop and I tried to up the pace, which was damn hard at that stage and with 38 degree’s of sunshine to deal with... Kept it up though and stayed ahead. I was passed by a fast runner at the end and tried to sprint but legs said sorry not now thanks... Crossed the run line in a time of 44:58 which I was very happy with.
Everyone got their medal as they crossed the finish line, and straight into cool recovery room for some cool drinks and air.. Next door then to collect my bags and fortunately I spotted my Pump sticking up in the 600 row and said it looks like the grey pump at the back. It was and all my bags were together so nice and easily done.
I hung around a bit waiting for the Irish guy but no sign of him. The beach was beside so I went into the sea water to aid recovery and it was also nice and cool. Spoke to a few other English lads and then saw the Pro’s enter T2 and head out onto the Run. As they had 2 laps and 20k to do I grabbed my gear and cycled back to the hotel a few mins away. As I headed for the hotel I was parallel to the run route and saw a few of the Pro’s heading out. Then I saw Eneko Llanos (Defending Champ) by the side of the run route and walking back. He didn’t appear injured but had obviously pulled out for some reason... Back to Hotel to drop off my gear and a quick shower and back to watch the Pro’s finish. Premier Timing had told us our times would all be online immediately so I did a quick search on the laptop and my times matched my Garmin and had me at 4hrs 31mins. I knew last years winner was just under 3hrs 30 so I had hoped to get closer to this, but this wasn’t realistic in the conditions and for my experience/fitness being only 7 months into training and my first race of this distance/heat.
Back to The finish area to see Frederich Van Lierde win the Pro Men’s and Julie Dibens win the Pro womens about 20 mins later.. I had heard when Julie won last year she was in recovery for a couple of hours after puking and retching and not having a good time. This year she won the womens by 5 minutes, crossed the finish line, got her medal, then straight into medical puking up again. Why spoil a winning formula eh! Shows how the Pro’s really push themselves past the limit for that $50k Prize Purse.. Fair play. No sign of Macca but Crowie came in 6th and well placed. Turns out Macca pulled out half way through the Bike with a broken cleat of all things... I don’t know what he said to his Shimano Mechanics after that but I wouldn’t be impressed! He had dropped out of the top 10 at that stage anyway though so chances were gone.
There was a Presentation Party with more food opposite my hotel that evening where each of the Age Grouper’s and Pro’s were presented. Unfortunately Julie Dibens still wasn’t well enough to leave her hotel and collect her cheque! There were a few other prizes for fastest lap of F1 circuit, fastest Bike, fastest Swim etc which were good. That pretty much brought my week to a close and I had an early night and then disassembled my bike and packed before chilling in the hotel beach area till I headed to the airport...
It was a fantastic experience, great race and very enjoyable. Seriously nice Route if only the wind had been easier it would have been nice and faster for me. Abu Dhabi is probably a few years behind Dubai and is undergoing a lot of development at present. It’s a very clean city and with polite people so I am glad to have made the trip and complete my first almost middle distance Triathlon.
Feelings after the race were I could have gone faster on the bike, I need to improve all areas of fitness especially swimming and overall what a great experience it was. Most importantly I was happy to get the nutrition and energy right at not having to stop and the energy gels went down fine. It’s made me focus more on training and think more about racing sprints all out with nothing to spare so if you see me struggling on a run or collapsed over a finish line this year, you’ll know why! I’m still relatively new to this sport and 2011 will be my first full season and I can’t wait. Roll on Valentia Island in 4 weeks! I’ve got the bug now and will try follow in Jonathon Lyon’s footsteps of was it 14 races in first season? I have my calendar done up and at the moment 2011 will see 9-10 tri’s, 1 Duathlon and finish with the Dublin Half Marathon and Full Marathon... both my first Marathon’s! Let’s hope I can stay injury free and follow in Johnny’s footsteps. I’ve set some ambitious goals so we’ll see how I do.
Only two downers on the whole trip were Etihad Airways excess luggage charges.. It was a long haul flight but cost €350 for return of my excess luggage. Damn that Bike Box is heavy, but sturdy thankfully. It’s €10 per KG each way above the limit of 23KG. They do allow a decent amount of hand luggage but even so. So I’ll have to factor this into next year!
Total Costs were:
Flights - €540
Hotel - €500
Race Entry - €70
Food/Sundries - €150
Bike Excess - €350
Total = €1,610
The other downer was the Bahrain F1 being cancelled just a couple weeks before. I had Grandstand Tickets and my flights for this on the Sunday but it didn’t happen obviously. Maybe next year...
I really enjoyed the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, training in the heat, swimming in the warm sea and most of all the Race itself. I do plan on continuing this and doing 1 International Triathlon each year all going well. I’ve a feeling the ironman bug will kick in mid next year so we’ll see what happens there.
1.5k Swim - 33 mins (no wetsuit was bad idea)
T1 – 3mins 30 - I’m not that slow it was a large transition area!
100k Bike - 3hrs 6 mins (how hot and windy!)
T2 – 2 mins 30
10k Run - 45 mins (happy)
4hrs 31mins total time.
Placed me a respectable 158th out of 771 entries, with 578 finishers or 135th out of 450 males exc relays/females. Not bad for my 5th Triathlon and first above Sprint Distance!
Happy to report no stopping at all, no injuries and a smile on my face the whole way around the F1 Circuit!
Pro's found their distance tough too (ok it was twice what I did), Macca retired with a broken cleat, Eneko Llanos (defending champ) retired on run with stomach problems from dehydration and Julie Dibens won by 5 mins then spent 1hr 30mins puking and in medical tent recovering! Madness!
Incredible race, Well Organised, tough but very impressive.
I’d recommend it to everyone as although it’s not cheap, it is very different and with a superb entry and organisation.