*** many thanks to Zeid Massad for this race report ***

  • Index
  • Preface
  • The 80/20 ADIT – the cream (if you’re looking only for ADIT specific advice,  read this and you can skip all other sections that you might find lengthy. Really, I won’t be mad)
  • My Preparation
  • Race morning and morning nutrition
  • The race
  • 4-day epilogue
  • My race equipment
  • Dealing with / preventing injury
  • Targets for ADIT 2015
  • Thanks /closing

Preface

Until mid-way writing this I was skeptic about my relevance as an ADIT 2014 report contributor, mainly due to my awkward preparation that I attribute to my inexperienced dealing with injuries, which cost me over 5 training months  over the last year and a half, 3 months of which were leading to last 10 days before ADIT with no swimming and running, this left me with fairly decent bike training. This time waste triggered me to include a “dealing with / preventing injuries” section in my report. But hey, ADIT still worked for me, albeit at a mediocre timing, since the bike leg is by far the most significant part of an ADIT Short Course compared to most standard races (you’re likely to spend over 60% of ADIT racing time on the bike). I tried to pack as much as other non ADIT advice and lessons learned over my 1.5 year on and off my journey of swim bike run. I found injuries and overcoming physical imperfections the biggest challenge that made my game a bit of house of cards; fragile with more time spent rebuilding than advancing. People facing similar issues might hence benefit from the injury and equipment sections.

My first tri was in November 2012, (Mamzar- sprint), 5 weeks after buying my first road bike. I had casually picked up a bit of cycling when I used to ride a mountain bike when I lived in Washington DC for commutes / leisure rides along the Potomac River/ dirt track rides to waterfalls (I quit between 2008 and 2012). It was not unusual to see me riding on heavily trafficked streets with no helmet, ear buds on and carrying a laptop pack on my back ( now I condemn this as stupid and suicidal). On cycle tracks, I was regularly overtaken by people on uncomfortably looking rigid road bikes wearing ridiculously tight clothing. Even worse, they had their shoes clipped to the pedals! I said to myself no way on earth I’ll ever do any of that just to get a little faster and further.  I picked up running shortly after, I found it liberating when practiced in nice natural surroundings despite it felt like a one-sided relationship with all the foot and back pains I earned from just 5-7km runs. I quit almost all kinds of physical activity between 2008-2011 after a serious back injury that left me with a bulged lower back disc (L5S1), this led me to casually pick up swimming in 2009 as a way to rehab my back muscles and limit the physical deterioration I’d been undergoing from lack of physical activity.

Writing a race report seemed as a way of paying the debt forward at the beginning. I’ve benefited from reading reports written by fellows who took the time to inspire us and give advice (I claim to have a decent ability to do the latter). I remember good reads written by Paulo (his first IM), Arturo & Vicky (their first half IM), Tony H (the human experiment), Hani I (punctures diaries) and David L (I made printouts of his Kona write-up and forwarded to my close friends as an inspirational read).  What I later discovered: write race reports for your own sake as well. Objective documented reflections can help you become better, at many things.

The 80/20 – the cream (ADIT advice)

  • Wear sunscreen
  • On Yas F1 circuit, take the metres before entering the tunnel to rest your legs, no matter how fast you are the road will suddenly narrow with a sharp turn leading to a steep incline, you will risk crashing into other slowing riders if you’re not paying attention.
  • As much as it’s tempting to enjoy the sea and F1 track surroundings on the bike, prioritise your attention towards hazards (falling bottles, people changing lanes suddenly in and out aid stations) , cat-eyes and small stones that could puncture your wheels, a little more attention will save your race.
  • Use dark/polarized goggles for the swim part; you’ll be facing rising sun as you’re heading east back to transition.
  • On the run, you’re likely to overheat, make sure to wear a cap, use the walls to shade you on the way back, use water and sponges on back of your neck.
  • Arrive to Abu Dhabi at least the morning day before the race. Check in your bike the day before.
  • Spend at least an hour the prior day organizing your equipment/accessories into the 3 colored bags handed to you on registration. Think it through, which items in bottom of the bag, which are on top. Visualize what you’ll do/need first thing while you’re running from swim to T1, kind of makes sense having the towel on top?
  • Use at least one water bottle that won’t break your heart parting with and throwing away on the bike leg. You’re most likely to need 3-4 bottles on the bike and you’d need to throw one before getting a fresh cold one from aid stations.
  • Wear sunscreen, wear sunscreen, wear sunscreen.  I can’t over emphasize it. Burns were painful first 2 days post race and it’s almost a week after the race now and I look funny shirtless (see pic!)

My Preparation

ADIT 2014 was my 4th tri event ever (after 2 sprints and 1 olympic). I rate myself as someone lingering at the start of the journey with good advancement on the bike and a lot to be hoped for in the water and running shoes.

  • Bike: fairly good preparation, I tend to ride twice a week, 100/50km group or solo Friday ride in addition to 25-30km Wednesdays. The 3 weeks leading to ADIT I lost 10 days of bike training due to a chest cold. My training average speeds have been 29-30.5km/h (qudra, solo, mild wind) 28 – 30 (autodrome)
  • Run.  Poor preparation, I had been dealing with a foot tendonitis injury since December and been off running, I managed to re-start running 10 days prior to ADIT with some Autodrome and Safa Park running. In an injury-free world I would be running off the bike every Wednesday and pick another day in the week for a longer run (I love Springs dirt track we used to hit on the Saturday runs). I never manage to motivate myself  to run on a tread mill during summer months. I am thinking of using the indoor running track offered at World Trade Centre during this coming.
  • Swim. No preparation. Due to shoulder tendonitis I had stopped swimming since November, and did no sea swims since October. Lack of preparation has reflected in my result, 37minuts. Big room for improvement but I’ll likely need more regular structured work with a swim coach.

Splits

Swim: 37mins
T1: 9m 57sec (now I’m not surprised that my wife dresses faster than I do)
Bike: 3h 11mins
T2: 5m 57sec
Run: 1h 06m

Race Morning / morning Nutrition

Woke up at 4:50, had Porridge with maple syrup, a banana and some mix of raw almonds/whole nuts/cashews. I was already sipping water with Elite electrolytes the whole morning till race time. In the final hour and a half leading to the swim start I consumed 3 dates and another banana. I fast walked to the venue (stayed in St Regis, around a 1km away) and reached race village at around 6:15am. This gave plenty of time to place water bottles on the bike and have a go through my bags I placed in the changing area (ADIT was my first International race, I had no idea that equipment other than the bike can only be stored in the separate changing tent) and get in few swimming drills in the warm-up swimming area.

The Race

Swim:

Waves were around 10 minutes behind schedule. Swimsuits were announced as optional morning of the race. While I had my suit with me I decided to go without, simply because I had bought the suit only a week before the race with zero experience in swimming in one. I tried it once and I hated it, it actually felt slower. Everyone told me it takes few swims to get used to before the effect kicks in. I had no top speed ambitions, I just hate cold water, and water temp was pretty comfy race morning (circa 23c). My swim was slow (expected) and mostly uneventful. Knowing it was my weakest event I started on the far right to the back. I felt comfortable all through and didn’t push so hard being aware that was my 4th swim since December coming out of injury. By time I reached the 3rd buoy I was at the back of the pack and the stronger swimmers of the next wave starting to overtake me, at that point my peace was temporarily shattered by a kick in the jaw by an overtaker. I was quick to recompose; took one deep breath, refit goggles and got back to it. I felt my pace had actually improved towards the final stretch although it was annoying to be right facing the east as sun blinds you whenever you take a peek to navigate. It wasn’t long (in beginners terms at least) before I reached the shore and made my way towards the changing tent (careful a bit slippery on the way). I loved the quick shower on the way and the foot wash pond – shaves a bit of time usually spent flushing sand off your feet. Wiped feet with a towel, ate half a banana and squeezed through a gel and off to the bike rack area.

Bike:

I was buzzing with excitement as soon as I unracked my bike, the 100km bike leg was the longest and the only event I was prepared for, plus it’s the only  one day in the year when Abu Dhabi closes its streets for a 2-wheeled machines to farm the roads. I started at a heart rate between of 162– 165 (86 - 88%) at the beginning till legs warmed and were better able to fire allowing me to take HR  range down to the targeted 158 – 162 (around 85%) range for most of the bike leg which felt pretty comfortable, occasionally climbing to 167 going up the bridges. I fumed for a bit going into Yas Island, another cyclist aggressively veered right too early after overtaking me (despite we had the whole street lane as space), and if it wasn’t for me braking our wheels would’ve likely collided. “hey! careful!”, I yelled. The cyclist zoomed away forward and flipped me the bird. In the heat of the moment I thought of either: 1) try catch his speed to talk him off but might end up burning my HR off and ruining my race as he seemed like a faster guy, 2) a more energy efficient alternative was to pickup one of my two water bottles and aim it towards his head, maybe he’d stop or fall down, and maybe we’d even get into a fist fight and get filmed by Helicopter camera crew! I wrote it off soon as I cooled and decided to continue enjoying the race. Racing sports could be one of those situations where people could either become blessed or doomed once they show their true mettle (I also guess that wearing the TriDubai kit puts extra responsibility to act civil). All I did was memorise his bib# and his navy blue Lufthansa kit and hoped to run into him after the race and talk about he did, that never happened. Back to enjoying the race, a mild side wind on the Saadiyat-YAS stretch meant it won’t be that bad coming back either. If it was anything like the previous windy/dusty day I would’ve added 30 more minutes to my time. I made the turn into YAS F1 Circuit (never been there) and immediately realized it was nothing like the Dubai Autodrome as I had imagined. Much wider roads, some wider and narrower turns, nice speed work in some stretches but quickly realized, unless you’ve mastered the art of bike handling and overtaking, it was waste of energy putting the hammer down in the circuit as you tend not to maintain velocity for so long before you have slow/break for  a turn. I did the two Yas loops and hit the road back to mainland Abu Dhabi on the YAS Highway. I was more than 60km in and still felt great. My nutrition/hydration had gone as planned (Fuel: a gel every half an hour and occasional chomps in between, I was taking in around 200-250kCals per hour. Hydration: Water with electrolyte drops: a bottle every hour, regular sips – no chugging). Once transition area was insight, I decided to overtake the 5 cyclists immediately ahead to avoid getting stuck in the transition corridor bottle neck. I felt much better than expected going into transition, parked my bike, took off my cycle shoes and Cinderellad my way safely towards the changing area (smile, its Christian B shooting photos!). I was pretty glad – 31.3km/h on a touring frame, no aero bars, no carbon wheels.

Here’s the Garmin link to my bike leg.

Run:

Quicker transition into it; squeeze in a gel, tie the Brooks Beasts, put on a cap and blast out of the changing tent to face the reality: without the cycle breeze and moving into mid-day’s sun it felt much hotter. With lack of preparation and being more than 7kg above optimal weight I could tell rough times were ahead. I had to accept a higher heart rate (+165) than the bike leg to get me started at a 5:30km/minute pace, albeit obvious to me it wouldn’t be a sustainable one. I grabbed water to sip /cool my head and  a sponge (which made a nice stress ball) but just 1 km into the run I felt I could get close to burning out if I maintain same  pace for (I tend to burn out and significantly slow down whenever I spend minutes at +167bpm). I took my pace down to +6min/km which I failed to keep up more than 2km further and found myself turtling at +6:30min/km.   I used every aid station as a chance to pour water over my head and neck, towards the end they start handing you handfuls of ice, used some on my head and neck and happily threw the rest in my shorts front. By time I reached the red carpeted area before finish line I was ship-wrecking my way through until till I heard the announcer calling my name.  I picked up pace, straightened my back and faked an unscathed look as I zoomed through finish line where I always find my awesome wife excited to see me.  5h and 10 m, below average but glad, I had expected 5h 15m.

4-day Epilogue

I drank some fluids and sugars and headed to the food station where I downed two burgers (one without bread) and two drum sticks. I tend to feel nicely recovered with the help of high protein + some/low carb meal. Headed to the hotel, 1 hour in sea salt bath, shower, and 1 hour nap. I was actually feeling great except for shoulders and back sunburns. I hit bed by 10pm that evening to go to work the next day (Sunday).  It felt good to feel  normal after a longish race, compared  to 2 years ago when I used to spend 3 days tired  post 10k runs. Monday I did the not-so-wise thing, I donated blood (450ml) and felt low energy for a couple of days afterward, I should’ve waited at least a week post-race.

My Race Equipment and thoughts

- Bike: Scott CR1 Pro race bike (carbon frame, aluminum wheels, no aerobars), CR1s are decent touring / endurance bikes, used in the tour de France in the Paris-Roubaix leg and there it gained its nickname “the cobblestone tamer” due to frame’s ability to mild down rough terrain. Frame geometry more focused on comfort rather than speed. I plan to keep it and shop for a tri bike to enhance the arsenal, I still think it is more practical to train more on a road bike to reduce back stress. 

- Running shoes. Brooks Beast 12. Brooks Beast are the ultimate motion control shoes if you are a severe over pronator, but it is over rigid in terms of limiting foot movement and  brings some challenges:

  • It’s one of the heaviest shoes on the market, geared towards sever over pronators  weighing +80kg.
  • Combining a motion control shoe with orthotics (like I do) could be overkilling it, you might be limiting your foot’s motion range and making it weaker. If you still insist on running in motion control shoes make sure you regularly do foot strengthening exercises.
  • While the previous version of the Brooks Beast did not give me any trouble, this updated model has been giving me pain on the outer sides of my feet, which probably a result of over counteracting pronation in a way putting more pressure on the outer feet and outer side legs muscles.
  • I’m currently planning to experiment switching to Newton shoes. I had positive experience trying them on for an hour but it takes few weeks usually before making a fair judgment. I’ve never done a proper gait analysis, I’m finding it hard to believe it will lead to the optimal shoes (I might be wrong, don’t know) as the people testing you will only be familiar with a narrow set of brands/models. I am following an Edisonial approach until I settle again.
  • Opinions have been pretty split over motion control shoes. See what works best for you.

- Orthotics. I use semi-custom made orthotics from Bauerfeind. I have a collapsing left arch (an X-ray would show I have perfect arch but collapses once body weight is applied, in simple terms: I suffer weakness in my inner calf muscle that is responsible for pulling up the arch). In addition, I also have over 1 inch of leg length discrepancy. This difference is considered very significant, and a reason I regularly deal with people’s comments that I am limping or walking like a penguin. Doctors were implicitly told me that I was not “Born to Run”.  If you see the picture opposite you’ll notice around 1.5-2cm white raise in my left orthotic, this compensates for 50% of the total length discrepancy. Ideally, significant leg length discrepancy would be dealt with using custom made shoes. That’s the most that can be done with orthotics otherwise you’ll have your foot slipping out of the shoes. I am limited to dress and sports shoe brands that have removable insoles in order for me to use my inserts comfortably.  Over relying on orthotics can also weaken your foot. If you have the case of collapsing arch, make sure you combine orthotics with exercises that help mitigate the cause of your problem, not just the symptoms.

- Watch/Computer. Garmin 910XT. In short: It’s the Benz of training watches/computers. 

- Goggles. Aquasphere Cayenne, I always buy 2 pairs, clear one for early morning/night time swims and dark polarized ones for sunny swims. For Tri ADIT, you definitely need a dark pair of goggles. While I like these goggles I notice that they age quickly and start leaking water after few months of use. Not sure how they stack against other brands, I might consider others soon.

- Tri Shorts. Castelli Rossa Corsa, I like them a lot and, weird enough, I find them more comfy than Castelli’s bib shorts. It’s not always about how much/thick cushioning is but rather about its quality and how it’s positioned. 

- Tri top. TriDubai Castelli sleeveless top. I wouldn’t wear any other on a local race, it’s the only way you’d get cute girls (other than your spouse) cheering you along the way. Use body glide though around the sleeveless edge before the swim, your skin could get irritated with the stroke movement.

Dealing with / preventing injuries

If you’re training regularly you’re likely to suffer weird pains and injuries that, many times, doctors can’t properly diagnose / cure despite the MRIs they request every time. Your body  will tell you when you’re going too hard, too soon, too fast or when you’re not doing it right.

Preventing

- Warm-up. avoid starting at high intensity (especially on swims, shoulders are much more delicate than you’d imagine) or high heart rates (you’ll burn out fast and hurt yourself trying to keep up) 

- Don’t do someone else’s workout. Easier said than done as it’s always more fun training with others, pair with people with similar abilities or do the higher performers’ recovery sessions.  

- Stretch. I find my once/twice a week ashtanga yoga classes beneficial for all events with core and flexibility benefits. I also try to stretch at the end of ever training session.  

- Form. Running form became more important that I’d ever imagined, I found the one-off running clinic session that Newton Shoes R&D director offered an eye opener. Here are the best running form advice I accumulated through readings and trials: land your feet under/close to under your hips, don’t go for long strides, keep an upright back position and use your glutes to power your runs; they are a larger engine than your feet and can go longer with less joint stress. 

- Equipment. Not a straight science, you’ll need to experience different shoes and more than one bike fitting to reach optimized results.

- Core / support and control muscles. Abs, back, calves, hip flexors, ankles. Ignore them and you’ll be hurting a foot, shoulder, wrist or other. They are more important than you’d ever think.

- Most cycling accidents (and punctures!) happen either when people are tired or over excited. Tired and excited share one thing: not paying attention. I learned to try avoid riding with 2 kinds of people: 1) sprint freaks, I quit a couple of groups in my early cycling days after seeing people getting concussions and broken ribs trying to win the “finale sprint” 2) people trying to do something way beyond their fitness level, I even noticed it on myself that my risk awareness/avoidance ability decreases when I’m  absorbed with my tired state.

Dealing with injuries

As I mentioned in the beginning, I lost over 5 training months due to injuries. I naively treated injuries solely by “resting” without actively tackling the cause. This resulted in long heeling periods with pain immediately returning once I was back to activity.  Tendonitis was my biggest time waster – I had three; in foot (running), shoulder (swimming) and wrist (cycling!), with the earlier 2 crippling my training. Doctors call them “overuse injuries” with the pain/inflammation being the symptom. The cause is most likely smaller space for your muscle to move within a joint, it rubs against the bone causing it to inflame and get worse. 2 months of rest and 1 month of anti-inflammatory pills did not work for foot and shoulder. I resorted to a combination of icing and physio intervention to increase the available space movement for the shoulder muscle. I had 2 injuries in my foot, side tendonitis resulting from wrong running form and combining motion control shoes with an orthotic,  and a top of the foot inflammation resulting from over-tightening my laces. The latter cured soon after I did proper lacing, the earlier is much better with improved running form and some outer calf strengthening.  

Here are my takeaways:

  • See more than one doctor, find the right physio therapist, my breakthrough was meeting Marcel Schmidt at Physio Art in Jumaira beach road.
  • More often than not it is better to see a physio/doctor who are into sports, they’ll treat you with getting you back to training in mind.

Targets for ADIT 2015

Weight. 84kg to 77kg

Swim: from 37min to 27min I probably need to get a regular swimming coach attention to achieve this.

Bike.  from 3:11 to 3:00 (assuming similar wind conditions and no punctures)

Run.  from 1:06 to 0:55 (I only need to stay at it and lose some weight).

Total targeted time improvement: 32 minutes – seems too significant but possible given  moving from a low base.

Time target for ADIT 2015. 4:39 ( bet most of you did not read this far to grill me if I also screw up next year’s race)

Grateful, Thank you

ADIT 2014, albeit the mediocre timing, has been my biggest physical effort ever in a single day. This long debut report would not be complete without expressing my gratefulness. I still remember by first day training with Tri Dubai April 2013. I double dipped a Saturday swim and a Springs run later in the afternoon. I was greeted by the Roy Nasr warm smile, he was excitedly handing out red TriDubai towels that morning and seemed so thrilled that more people were turning up to the Saturday swim. That afternoon, I met Johan Moolman at the Springs run, he’s one of the athletes I look up to in the group.

I barely exchanged a word with Roy beyond “thank you for the towel”. He sadly left this world on September 6th 2013, the morning of my wedding. I shed a tear that morning receiving the news while browsing Facebook  right after waking up to get ready for my big day. I had to explain to my army father who walked in that I was not weeping over losing my freedom in few hours.

Thanks to TriDubai: founders, session leaders, friends and training buddies for making this possible and fun. Many names to mention, you know yourselves.