*** many thanks to Lucy Woollacott for this race report ***
I decided I should write a race report mainly because I just love reading them and thought there maybe someone out there who would enjoy my story.
I guess all wannabe triathletes have to start somewhere and at least one of the 3 disciplines will be a weakness. I am lucky that I wasted my childhood in the swimming pool and have spent the last year doing a fair amount of long distance running so for me my journey to DIT was 'all about the bike'
DIT was my first half ironman triathlon and only my 3rd ever triathlon. I have often thought of doing triathlon because of my swimming back ground and the fact I have recently become a reasonable endurance runner. However, I have no interest and no experience in cycling and to be honest bikes terrify me – I think there is something wrong with my balance but whilst others look totally comfortable on a bike I always feel very precarious and feel I am about to crash any moment (this is often true….)
I know I must have learnt to ride a bike in childhood but I have no recollection of riding one at all in the next 30 years! I checked with my parents and they confirmed that the only bike I ever had was a tricycle and I was pretty wobbly on that. My husband actually bought me one for our first Christmas together (I have no idea why he thought this was a good idea!) - unfortunately we lived in an apartment in central London and it was stolen after 1 ride - I took it as another sign that cycling in was not for me.
Sometime in April this year I decided to bite the bullet and buy a bike. I had been doing a lot of running and was feeling like it might be nice to give my legs a slight rest and do something different. I contacted Trace Rogers at SuperTri and she gave me some advice and Barbara Ihrig came bike shopping with me and with her help I found the perfect bike (a little above budget as everything in the triathlon world seems to be!) It is a Specialized Amira which is a women's road bike and I do think it was a great buy.
So I was now set up with all the gear and no idea. I got carried away and entered DIT having never done a triathlon before. My thought process was that I am ok at endurance running - surely it won't be that hard to learn to ride a bike! I did the DIT training camp back in June with Till Schramm and that was really helpful.
Over the next 5 months I spent a lot of time on my new bike. I tell my husband that on a dirham per km basis it was a bargain! I was initially absolutely useless. I fell off many times when I forgot to unclip my new shoes. My balance on the bike is still terrible and my bike handling is woeful. I have become one of those triathletes that cyclists hate - lots of power and speed but no skills on the bike. I did a few group rides and got dropped pretty quickly. If I did manage to keep up I would not drink for the whole ride for fear of wiping everyone out whilst reaching for my drink bottle. I did one group ride with my brakes on without realising and couldn't work out why my heart rate was at 170 and I was going under 20kph! I was dropped less than 5k from the start unsurprisingly. I had and still do have a lot to learn.
However I did slowly make progress and I entered an Olympic triathlon in the UK in the summer where I finished 2nd female on a rental bike so I began to feel that there was hope, I could perhaps become reasonable at this sport.
When I returned from the UK after summer holidays I signed up for a 3 month DIT training plan from Trace and pretty much followed that as much as possible. This included trips to Jebel Jais and Hatta - I remember setting my alarm for 2.30am one morning and thought surely this should be bed time at the weekend and not alarm time. I really committed to training and joined the ranks of hundreds Dubai triathletes who continually get up well before 5am to train to avoid the heat.
I also got Aero bars on my bike and had a brilliant bike fit from Barbara (highly recommended) and this made all the difference to my speed and comfort on the bike. I was still very wobbly though.
4 weeks before the race I splashed out on some new Profile Design wheels - I couldn't justify the Zipps as hard as I tried. The wheels are amazing and I knew my speed had improved materially because of them.
Swim - 29 mins 41 secs
I had planned to take the swim fairly easy as I didn't want to tire myself out for the rest of the day. The swim went well and was uneventful apart from a jellyfish sting early on (I am not sure how I was the only one who got stung - I saw quite a few out there!) Fortunately it didn't cause me any trouble during the rest of the race.
I didn't wear a watch for the swim so had no idea of my time.
Bike - 2 hours 45 mins 47 seconds
I was really pleased with my performance on the ride. From where I have come from this was a great time. I found all the speed humps down the palm challenging and I did lose a lot of time especially on the way back when I was tired. I nearly knocked out the volunteers handing out the water at Al Barsha and I felt terrible - my bike handling still needs a lot of work. The wind did make it tough but I enjoyed being out on the road in Dubai rather than cycling round AQ or NAS and it went by pretty quickly.
I followed my nutrition plan exactly and ate 2 chomps every 20 mins and also a 'race food' after an hour. I really don't like gels.
Run- 1 hour 45 mins 42 secs
I started the run well and felt great for the first few km. After about 5 km I began to feel a bit weary and got a bit alarmed about the 16k to go! I slowed a little and had a hard time until around 8km when I started drinking coke at the aid stations and after this I felt a lot better. I managed to sustain a reasonable pace which was a bit slower than I had planned but it was very hot and I had gone hard on the bike so overall I felt good. I had nothing left at the end and there wasn't much of a sprint finish but I crossed the line in 5 hours 3 minutes, 2nd in my age group and 6th female overall and I was thrilled.
I loved DIT and the sense of satisfaction on completion was similar to how I felt after the marathon this year. It was a fantastic well organised event and the volunteers were amazing. I have learnt a lot and it has been great to meet new people and develop new skills.
I have to say thank you to Trace particularly for all her help (she even got up early one day to help me practice taking water bottles on whilst on the bike as I was so worried about it!) and also to my husband who has been brilliant at looking after the kids on a Friday morning and supporting me.
So what’s next? Many many more hours on the bike no doubt so that I ensure I don’t knock over the volunteers and spectators at Ironman UK next year! This sport is certainly addictive….