Under the current circumstances, postponement of every sporting event I had lined up, I thought I’d take this time to reflect on one race I had on my radar for a while.
Having always wished to compete in an international race, and having a few good friends in Dubai, this made for the perfect 2 birds 1 stone scenario. Having wanted this for a couple years, it was approximately 6 months prior when preparation slowly started to take place. Coming off 2019 race season with the odd social training every now and then, it was time to buckle down and identify weaknesses. Although running wasn’t necessarily an issue, it was a whole different ball game trying to perfect the run off the bike. Sitting down with my coach we (mainly him), decided to improve strength on the bike allowing for easier running off the bike. Thus bike training was no longer the social part but instead a time to put your head down, focus and work hard. Being lucky enough to have access to power whilst cycling, this changed things completely. Every session was specific, tailored to how I felt and what the stats showed, thus proving to be very effective.
A typical training week was as followed:
Tuesday: interval bike with a brick run (run off the bike)
Wednesday: morning run and afternoon swim
Thursday: hill bike session
Friday: morning run, sometimes afternoon swim
Saturday: long bike ride, focus on constant power
Sunday: long run, nice easy tempo
Weather permitting and the way I felt, session were either switch around or altered. With Monday being the only day to sleep in, some mornings were tough. The body is sore, tired and bed is just too comfy. Having team mates around and knowing your goals helped to hold you accountable for your training and with all the different personalities in the group, it was rare a session went by without some form of laughter.
Arriving in Dubai, having trusted the process and dealing with a few hiccups on the way, it was time to taper and start to focus on what was to come. I had a funny experience the one morning. Going out to cycle the route, before starting a fellow athlete having finished asked me which way I was heading. After a few words he concluded by saying good luck, the wind is horrible on the way back. Off I go, minding my own business until it was time to turn around. Having the worst in mind, I turned and started to head back, but where was the wind? What was expected to be gale force winds turned out to be a slight breeze. Having trained in Cape Town prior, the difference as to what one person considered windy to another was definitely noted.
The day had arrived, it was finally race day. My morning routine stayed the same, nothing had changed. Arriving at the venue, the excitement wasn’t helped but the amazing atmosphere. Priority one; insure hydration was on my bike and everything packed in the transition bags. Next was to get ready and line up for the swim start, as close to the front as possible. The gun goes off, waves of athletes starting every 10 seconds, I was about the 7th row in. Swim strategy was simple, start easy, build into your stroke and don’t panic. Hoping for a 28min swim, I was out the water just shy of 29min, slightly off but nothing to worry about as I felt good.
Onto the bike and not even 100m in, I lost a juice bottle. Although nothing major, losing a bottle with your electrolyte and carbohydrate drink can make a difference in the long run. Lucky for me, on course bottles contained the same sport drink I had been training with. The course was fast and flat, with 45km out slightly up hill to turn around with 45km downhill back home. The goal was to stick to the power identified by my coach and not to get sucked in by those passing by. Hoping for a 2hour30 bike, at the turn around I was bang on target and feeling good. Coming home was magical. The slight downhill rolling hills and long straights made for an even quicker second half. Hoping off the bike with in 2hours21, and surprisingly feeling the best I’ve ever felt heading onto the run. It was now time to leave it all out there.
With a 2 lap run course (14km & 7km laps), I was on target, a 4hour40 total time was mine to lose. Settling in on the run, a guy next to me was running pretty much the identical pace I was aiming for, things were looking good. But then the Dubai heat came into play, and it was no longer looking pretty. Fighting to stay on target, gulping down water and electrolytes, the finish line was in sights. Not looking at my watch during the second half of the run, only going by feel made for an interesting and exciting ending. The red carpet was in sight. Running down the finish line is a feeling one cannot describe. Hearing my name being called out, I looked up to see my time, 4hours36min! I couldn’t believe it, the emotions were extremely high. All the early mornings, sore muscles and countless hours had finally paid off. None of this however would be possible without the people behind me, every step of the way. It was now time to enjoy what Dubai has to offer and enjoy what life has to offer.