*** many thanks to Arturo Jose C for this race report ***

In memory of Roy Nasr

I knew this day will come and I knew that this, my first race report of my first 70.3, will be a hard task to do. I am really new to triathlon, so I won't be telling you of any magical way to improve your performance come race day or what is the best way to train for such distance, because I don't know. Instead I will try to keep it to the facts of my journey to Aix, so I will break the report in:

- My sport background and how I ended up at TriDubai.

- How has been my journey with TriDubai.

- Training for the 70.3

- Race report

- How TriDubai helped me completing my first 70.3

- I am so grateful

My sport background and how I ended up at TriDubai.

Throughout my school and most of my high school I was not much into sports, it was only at the end of high-school when they started taking us to cross country races, and slowly I got to like it, I started going to any races that were near my place or I went running on my own an hour a week. By the time I got into university I realized that I was not getting any better and that I should train more, so I joined a club in my town and started training with them six times a week. I loved running. At the races I was meeting some runners that were also doing triathlons and I remember thinking then that one day I would try it too and do an Ironman. Sadly after 4 years of running my Achilles tendons started hurting and were more often than not suffering from tendinitis until I was told I better stop running or I would hurt myself badly. It was really hard to leave running.

I started working and stopped exercising. Fairly fast I started putting on weight. Time to time I tried to do some sport to lose weight but I never kept it for long for one reason or another. So by last year I was already 37kg overweight. I started doing some swimming, then I was lucky to meet a friend Brendan Smith who was keen on doing triathlon. First we started swimming, then I bought a city bike (my second bike ever, and the first one never got used much) and started cycling with him as well. Around September last year Brendan found out about TriDubai facebook page and joined and encouraged me to join as well, by October Brendan managed to convinced me to go to Saturdays sea swim and for that I than him!

How has been my journey with TriDubai.

Around October last year I went to my first TriDubai session, there I met Roy, Didge and about a dozen and a half more members. I remember how Roy and Didge welcomed me to the club and how they were competing with each other all the time but always with a smile on their faces and how after we finished the session they took their time to congratulate me on the effort done. I felt so welcome and from that day I have gone to every Saturday swim that I could. Thank you Roy and Didge!

I was not confident about my cycling and although I tried couple of times riding in a group I was not comfortable so I kept cycling mostly on my own or with Brendan.

26th January was my first triathlon, the Jebel Ali Resort Sprint Triathlon, which I thought was ideal for me since there were going to be 50 people or less, I finished in 1 hour 28 minutes and I was so happy to have done it. Again TriDubai members were so supportive to me that day on getting my first triathlon done, thanks especially to Roy and Claire for supporting me that day!

From there I started racing as often as I could to get used to transitions and triathlon itself, all together I did 5 sprints and 2 Olympic distance triathlons from January to April. By that time I was doing around six hours of training a week. The season was over and the sea swims were about to end also so I was afraid to lose the momentum and go back to my former coach potato self. I knew I wanted to do IMSA in 2014 so I decided to register for a 70.3 race to prepare me for it and to avoid taking it easy during the summer. During one after-swim socializing sessions I asked around for a good and easy 70.3 to do after summer to which Vicky replied very enthusiastically (as only she can) "I am going to Aix in September, very nice race, Kenny and Olivier are going too!" And silly me I thought if Vicky is doing it, it should be ok! So I registered first...

Training for the 70.3

...and started worrying later.

It was some weeks after I registered that I bothered reading all the information about the race and I found out that there was a 1.2 Km ascent at the bike course, that for a person that struggles to get to the top of the "al Quadra hills" is a scary thought! I started panicking thinking that no way I would pass the 5:15 hours cut off time for the swim plus bike. I asked around what to do, and most people recommended going training to Hatta. So there I went nearly every week for the following three months, and Hatta really worked. I went from doing only to tunnel one and back at around 19km/h to doing Hatta-Kalba-Hatta at over 24km/h. Autodrome sessions also helped.

I also started swimming more often in order to reduce my swimming time and allow myself more margin on the bike. Sadly it had to be done in the swimming pool, so sighting, drafting and fighting with other swimmers was out of the training and I missed that on the race day.

It was only two months before the race that I started worrying about the 21.1 km running, as I was getting more confident about my cycling. I realized then that running 5-10 km per week was not going to be enough to get me through the race so I started doing a bit longer distance once a week until I reached 16 km. All together I only did four runs over 10 km plus some running off the bike time to time.

By the end of August I was doing around 12 hours of training a week.

The last three weeks I started reducing the training load and intensity gradually, and the week leading up to the race I trained only two hours.

Race "report"

I left Dubai on an early Friday morning, nine days before the race. It was very stressful to fit the bike in the box as it was my first time (thank you for the box Piers). I left it until the last moment since I wanted to get some light training done before leaving and that added to the stress of the moment, the hardest bit was to get the pedals out. Looking back I think I should have stayed in Dubai longer, get some training done on the weekend, pack on Sunday and fly on Monday instead, maybe even later.

I spent three days in Barcelona where I met my family before driving all together up north to Aix. That is something I would change now if I could. It is very difficult to keep a balance between being focused on the race and keeping the relatives entertained for nine days. I think it would have been wiser meeting them the day before the race, get them to cheer for me during the race and have the holidays with them after the race is over.

First night in Aix I put the bike back together and I tested it in the following morning. Everything seemed to be fine.

I had time to drive three times the bike course and see the lake before the race day; however it was not clear where the run would take place.

The weekend came and on Friday I went to register. I met Kenneth and Vicky, Kenneth and I met also for dinner that day which was good to chat a bit about the race and keep the nerves under control.

Saturday went fast as I had to take the bike and the bag for T1 to Peyrolles and then back to Aix to drop the bag for T2, by then parking was quite difficult since most people were driving and the city centre was closed to the traffic. 

Race day came and was nicer than most of the week, a bit warmer and a bit less windy, I think it was around 17 degree C and 10 km/h winds.

Getting ready for the race, I needed help closing the zipper of the wetsuit as it got stuck with the striphanging from the zipper of the tri suit, just what I needed before racing, luckily a nice guy called Norman managed to unstick it and zip it.

Pros started at 7:45 am, followed by the females at 7:47, then there was ten minutes waiting for my start, which seemed like an eternity. Then off we went from the shore, couple of steps on the water and by then was time to jump in, there and then I missed the sea swims trainings as I was slapped and kicked everywhere. All that fighting took its toll after few minutes as I was having problems breathing, I had to stop for a moment, I looked around me and all I could see were arms in the air to the sides and behind me, in front only the sun was visible shining brightly right on our faces. I did not know what to do as I keep having problems getting my breath back. I was feeling very disappointed that the swim was not going well and was getting upset with myself and dreading doing a bad swim time after all the help I got from TriDubai, so I started breast stroking until my breath went back to normal and then I started swimming again. From that moment I started breathing every second stroke and slowly started overtaking swimmers, by the turn on the first kilometer I decided to avoid the crowd, leaving them on my right so I could overtake freely, finally I came out of the water feeling well and full of energy and with a time within my expectations.

I went to unzip my wetsuit and as I feared it got stuck again, a nice competitor tried to help but I was feeling guilty to slow him down so I told him not to worry and I went for help to the volunteers, three of them started fighting with my wetsuit and as they did not manage, all I could think was to get some scissors and cut the zipper open, luckily they eventually managed to get it open without breaking it and off I went.

Bike went well apart from a gel that decided to burst on my hand leaving the handles and my right arm in a very sticky state. Overall I had nearly two bottles of energy drinks and four gels out of the seven I had with me. From driving the course I knew already were to push, were to take it easy and were to be careful. I saw at least couple of guys coming out of the road unable to continue.

Hatta rides had paid off; I did the bike course nearly ten minutes faster than my best estimations.

T2 was very congested and took ages to get through.

I started the run feeling strong and dreaming of a near six hours finish, but then it started the climbs, and then the gravel, and then the cobble stones, and then the steep down hills. My speed gradually dropped.

The best part was seeing my family every lap and the long aid stations. By the end of the second lap it was obvious that I was not going to finish around six hours so it was harder to stay focused and I started taking it easier and easier. By the last lap I was walking up the hills and running down and to the end where my family was waiting.

The run had taken 23 minutes more than expected, but then I was not expecting it to be as hard.

Overall I am very happy with the race and already looking forward for IMSA 2014.

How did TriDubai helped me completing my first 70.3

- TriDubai is full of really nice people, so I had a great time while exercising and socializing with the group.

- TriDubai has a lot of great swimmers, cyclists and runners that shared their knowhow with me for free. Now I can swim in open water, take care of my bike and cycle so much better thanks to the lessons and advice I got from other members.

- TriDubai has sessions throughout the week that suited my training levels.

- There are members of different capabilities so I rarely had to train alone unless I wanted to.

- Many times I received help when I had bike technical problem and many times someone stayed behind with me when I was having a bad day, so over all I felt much safer when training with the club.

- Many times I was praised for the improvement and encouraged to do better, which helped me to aim for higher goals.

- If I was felling lazy usually someone would remind me of the training and help me to get started.

- Thanks to all the above, from January to August I lost 18 kg and training helped me release the stress from work.

In a nutshell I made a lot of friends, learnt a lot, had a lot of fun, lost a lot of weight and I lead a healthier life style.

I am so grateful

I have many reasons to be grateful.

To my wife for supporting me. especially when I was tired and grumpy.

To TriDubai for being there, thank you Roy, Ian, Didge, Christian... and the rest of you that makes TriDubai possible.

To the session leaders: Roy, Ian, Didge, Guy “National”, Paul V, Sean, Hasan, Johan, Christian B, Talal...

To the guys and gals who helped me improve my swimming technique: Roy, Didge, Sean, Talal, Marnus…

To the swimming pals: Brendan & Dany, Hasan, Johan, Talal & Adele, Maarten & Jasmijn, Kieran, Alexander, Huy, Lizel, Dehan & Marnus, Yannick, Bea, Francesc…

To the cycling pals: Brendan, Johan, Andre & Leana, Vicky, Mohamed, Takamasa, Romana, Talal, Huy, Lizel, Andrzej, Tatyana & Norman…

To the Hatta crew: Hasan, Lynette, Guy “National”, Ed & Sara, Vicky & Elaine, Maarten & Jasmijn, Regina & the Wackys crew, Tyrone, Chris de N, Cris Q, Crissy…

To the running pals: Talal, Romana and Tatyana…

To the Frappuccino pals: Patrice, Vicky, Talal & Adele, Bekky, Paulo C, Edgar, Jon C, Giorgio, Merle, Henry, Kenneth, Stephen & Claire, Andrew G, Kate W, Christian K, Alex, Fabien, Mark, Olivier, Aaron…

And to the confidence boosters: Hasan, Andre & Leana, Didge & Kevin, Jacqueline, Claire & Tansy…

I know I repeated some names. I hope I did not forget anyone, although I probably did. Sorry for that.