*** many thanks to Nic "Chops" Potter for this race report ***
Let me give you a little insight and context first, as a cardio sportsman I’m weak as best, up until last year used my strength and size in sports that suited it, life time weight lifter come rugby player– which 4 slipped discs put paid to. Doctor’s advice was simple, lose weight or undergo surgery, choice was easy. (Dubai’s Friday dining choices hadn’t helped and I found myself tipping the scales at 122kg!)
I decided on triathlon as I get bored easily, and training for 3 sports seemed better than one, amusingly I have done two sprint triathlons in the UK before, hated them, was terrible at them, came dead last in the swims and to the amusement of my friends swore never to attempt them again!
So at the end of last summer I changed my diet, changed my priorities and set some targets. Fitness would be mine once again! Slowly but surely everything improved, the weight fell off, distances and times got better, I felt better and my goals evolved. Things progressed so quickly that inside 6 months the goal changed from completing an Olympic distance triathlon to a 70.3 – Half Ironman. A 70.3 (the mileage total) consists of a 1.9k Swim, 90k Bike and 21.2k Run. Full of confidence/stupidity I set a date and committed to the Malaysian 70.3 in April. Kuala Lumpur had always been on the “to visit” list, so it was two for the price of one!
Buoyed on by completing my first marathon in Jan I jumped two feet into the challenge of a big triathlon, a few mouse clicks later and the flights were booked, race paid for, and the understanding of my goal starts to dawn on me, I can’t swim 2k!! Relentless last minute training is crammed in, I have quite literally never done this much cardio training in my life, but it doesn’t seem enough. Nervous doesn’t begin to explain how I feel about this . Seriously, what was I thinking, I swim like angry drowning gorilla, this will not end well!!
And then I found TriDubai, a very welcoming Dubai based triathlon club, who host training sessions for all, and even beginners swimmers session for the likes of me! A few weeks later and some confidence is found. I still swim like a gorilla, but at least not one that looks in fear of its life.
12th of April finds me sat in my hotel in Putrajaya, just outside Kuala Lumpur, I’ve just checked into the race and picked up my race number – first observation is how alarmingly fit everyone looks, I could immediately understand I was mixing with some people in the top of their game, my second observation is how alarmingly I do not look fit, and right on queue the butterflies arrive in stomach and stay there until 5am the next morning!
Race morning! I was in transition at 6am, preparing myself and my kit. In the lead up to this event I did 5 or 6 triathlons, the race morning set up had been well practiced, organisation lessons learned, food and drink carefully chosen, so it didn’t take long to set up and concentrate on psyching up.
After a painful half hour delay, we got under way. First the pro’s, then the first half of my age group, 5 minutes later I dived in for a rather warm open water start in a fresh water lake, I scoped the course again whilst bobbing about in-between the 50 odd other people in my age group. Conclusion, I cannot swim that far! Dammit!!
The horn sounds and off we go, 350m meters later we round the first boy and field has really opened up, the lead group has near disappeared from view and I’ve found myself in a nice open space to swim at my own pace, just as I'd hoped. Several hundred metres past and my rhythm is disturbed by a dull ache setting into my cumbersome shoulders, I’m getting tired already, how is this possible, Ive got a long way to go, but I’ve been here before, too many times, so it’s time for the secret “Finding Nemo” mantra to start being sung inside my head, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”. And slowly that is what I did, occasionally bobbing my head up to check the progression, and course (never far enough and always swimming in the wrong direction). After what seems like an eternity later I see the buoy that marks the end of the long back leg, now its only a 400 or 500 meters left, I am genuinely happy! I go for a big final push and a strong finish, but that makes me horribly out of breath, so I slow down again to make sure I actually reach the shore. I am SO happy to put that behind me! 55 minutes including transition, I had hoped for 45 minutes, but at least I made it.
Now for my favourite part! I quick 2 minute whizz through transition and I’m on the bike, I actually enjoy the cycling part so I’m happy to be pedalling away on the open road. My target pace is 30 Km per hour, which should take me 3 hours dead. Thankfully my body has woken up, and I quickly set into a nice rhythm on the clear tarmac road. The cycle course is two laps of main roads around the countries administrative district, the roads are new, and clear, cycling here is fun! There are some long inclines breaking up the fast course, but the road surface makes them a smooth ride, so I concentrate on keeping my average high as I pump my legs into any oncoming challenge. At the half way point I’m a few minutes ahead of target and ecstatic, the swim is a long distant memory. 85 minutes later, and 8 minutes ahead of schedule I roll into a great reception at transition, great noise and great support, and as usual my wife’s support rings out above them all. 2 hours 52, happy with that!
Another quick whiz through transition and I’m on the road, smiling again as I listen to my wife’s booming support as I exit down the gangway to the lake side run route. I settle into a comfortable stride and lap up the atmosphere, the course around the transition area is abuzz with people and it really helps to put a smile on my face ahead of the 21k task ahead of me.
Then it happens, 15 minutes into of the run and all I can I think about is the heat, it’s around midday, 35 degrees and the humidity is in the 70’s. My head is pounding already, my limbs, my head, everything is radiating heat, it’s all I can think about, this is not good, this is really not good. I’ve been running 30 minutes and so far I've thought about quitting twice. The heat is unbearable, I can’t let this stop me so far into the race, but this HEAT IS UNBEARABLE. I dig in 500m at a time, but around me people are dropping like flies, either walking or sat head between legs in shaded spots, every aid station has a casualty resting under the protection of a tent. Then I find my saviour, cups of ice down the front of my trisuit, thanks to the tightness of the suit I can position the ice over my heart and its seems to gives almost immediate relief. So the rhythm is set, slower than usual plodding interspersed with ice stops at the many aid stations, along with the obligatory cold water over the head. I'm well aware that my pace is a lot slower than usual, but there’s nothing I can do about it, the heat is crippling me. Hitting the half way mark was torture, I ran within ten metres of the finish line, only to have to take the left lane and the next 10k that came with it, in the finishers enclosure I can see the pro’s and super fit who have long finished, this makes me very jealous, but happy than I would be there myself in an hour. The last hour took a lot longer in my head, even longer when the aid stations ran out of ice, no more in suit cooling, and only warm water to drink, when will this end!!
70 minutes of plodding later, the end is in sight, for the second time today I go for the strong finish, I love to finish a race with maximum effort, but for the second time today it betrays me, the push cripples me and by the time I cross the finish line I'm in bits. The commentator achieved his desired outcome by making me break out a huge smile by highlighting the state of my unhappy face as I cross the line.
I’m elated, its done, I’ve made it. All that hard work, all the training, all worth it. Knackered, mentally tortured, but over the moon.