Having raced in Ironman 70.3 Thailand in November 2017, my training during December was a little lighter; January comprised of a few random training blocks as I had the opportunity to attend both the Faris Al Sultan Tri Training Camp as well as a training camp with my coach and Pro Athlete, Pedro Gomes. Both camps were held at the Barr Al Jissah Shangri La Resort in Muscat, Oman. It was a great opportunity to train in the hills and swim against the current in the lazy river which is both great for training, are challenging and fun (and I would do it all again!).
This threw the schedule off, and I did not feel I had done a consistent, solid training block for the weeks leading to the Ironman 70.3 Dubai race. I also had 2 consecutive work trips to Jordan to train the team.
Honestly, in the week leading into Ironman 70.3 Dubai I felt like a bit of a zombie and had no idea where my fitness was for the race. I was intrigued to see where I would be racing in the new age group though (maybe this is the one advantage of getting older?).
The Evening Before the Race
The evening before the race, after the bike was racked, I felt like there was something missing – I guess this is since these crazy races become a little more routine it does not seem as complex as it did before.
I didn’t find anything missing and went to race morning comfortable – was happy with where my bike was racked (opposite Ironman 70.3 Dubai winner, Alistair Brownlee) close to the bike exit.
I put the nutrition and Garmin (bike computer) on the bike, checked the blue and red transition bags were still in place and got my bike shoes to place on the bike – with the rubber bands as practised in Pedro’s Transition Clinic!
Once all set, I went back to the car and got my wetsuit on ready to race; had my breakfast #2 which consisted of Argi+, Fast Break & High5 gel – yum! A quick jog down the road got me both warmed up a bit and down to the swim start – with a couple of stops for social chats on the way wishing all a great race.
At the swim start, I tried to position myself as much as possible in the correct position according to my ability. Once I got started I passed many people on the way out of the marina – so far so good for the race. Then we got out to the open water and the waves were rolling and choppy – as Pedro said, there has never been so much elevation in the swim of an Ironman race – I had no idea where the boys were so was just following other’s arms and legs. This lack of direction takes confidence, even if with less power/speed but I was comfortable – even though I was a bit disorientated!
I was able to follow the feet and see a few orange buoys on my right so knew I was headed vaguely in the right direction! There seemed a bit of a current so I headed back towards the orange buoys whilst still following the people ahead of me. As I finally hit the beach there were a few waves to ride in a little, I aim to get as shallow as I can whilst still swimming before I try to stand as it is hard work to run through water (although riding the waves I got a cramp in my left calf!).
Run up the beach – there are lots of Fitness First colleagues cheering so I figured I had best keep running even if a bit dizzy from being rolled around in the water. So T1 went smoothly; got the Blue Bag, emptied, decided it was warm enough to have no socks on the bike – a debate I was still having with myself until that moment (cold feet vs time to put socks on?). The decision was made because it wasn’t so cold and it is slow to put socks on when wet, then they need to be changed after the bike anyway since the socks are wet by the end of the bike from the ocean water still dripping off you, and you can’t run with wet socks (dramas of Triathlon racing). So this left only the race belt and helmet to deal with and to re-pack the bag.
Got on the bike and got shoes on easily – felt the power and was riding.
At this stage in a race, many male athletes pass me fast as I am out of the water quite early but don’t have the same bike power as them. It was nice to see some friends come past me and so far everyone seemed happy with the race.
I kept my power where it should be and it felt surprisingly comfortable. I was concentrating on making sure I consume the nutrition I had planned which consisted of High5 gels and PowerBar Powergel shots.
At approximately 30 kms a large pack seemed to form around me. I tried to not get engulfed and not get slowed down too much. I kept average power but somehow lost rhythm. A couple of male athletes went past and then stopped pedaling – I might have let them know I wasn’t very happy about that! The rest of the 90 kms was just about staying away from the other athletes, out of the draft and maintaining my watts!
Into the dismount line I see Kate, an Ironman referee, informing all athletes to dismount, surprisingly quieter and more mellow than normal – I had a little giggle to myself. I racked the bike and ran to the Red Bag. Helmet off, socks on, shoes on, grab the gels and get out of there!
Planning an easy start to the run I was happy to be this far through the race and so far felt comfortable. I was not too aware of many other female athletes in front at this stage other than the usual suspects with whom I no longer share an age group, but hadn’t really concentrated on this long enough to check either. I was happy racing my race as per my race plan. I saw a camera and found myself being playful bouncing around.
My quads soon gave me a nudge that they weren’t very happy but we had a chat and they went quiet…for now.
In my head I broke the run into 6 x 3.5 km phases so I knew where I was in the run as 21 kms is a daunting distance to a non-runner (a.k.a baby elephant)!
The run was 7 kms out and back, and then 3.5 kms back out the same way and then back down to the finish line. I ran from aid station to aid station to get cold Coke and water for the sugar and caffeine to take me to the next supply, as well as some cold sponges to cool me a little. For the first 14 kms I really enjoyed seeing friends, colleagues and fellow athletes, unfortunately I wasn’t so sociable towards the end.
In the 5th section of 3.5 kms, the cramps in the quads came back but I was running following a tall man in yellow so focused on keeping up with him.
The support on the run was the best I have know it in Dubai – lots of cheers from supporters to motivate the athletes on the run, although by the final 3.5 kms the legs didn’t want to play anymore and I could only think about one foot in front of the other to keep moving forward to the finish line. I was slightly worried that if I stopped they would not start working again. Luckily, 3 kms isn’t too long and soon I was on the red carpet and at the finish line.
I was very happy to be there and the friends who saw me finish took a picture of my happiness!
Always great to be in the athlete’s village to chat with others and see how their race went, discuss what went well, what didn’t go so well and what’s the plan for the next race.
One of the other athletes I spoke with was my coach, Pedro. He checked the results online and told me that I was 1st in my age group. Then we discussed if I would/should take the slot for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in South Africa on 1st September 2018. He recommended that it would be a good lead into the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii which I qualified for in Thailand. Now the training starts for these 2 races later in the year!
I was happy to receive 1st place for my (new) age group.
So now to make the plan to have fun at my #11 Ironman 70.3 Race in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 25th February!
National Aquatics Manager
Fitness First Middle East & North Africa