*** many thanks to Noel Rossouw for this race report ***
The decision to enter the Turkey 70.3 was after being given the race entry deferment, we had originally entered the Zell Am See 70.3 at the beginning of September and having got slots for the IM 70.3 champs they allowed the deferment, however, it had to be for an event within Europe.
Our build up for this race followed on from the race in Austria seven weeks earlier, we took a short easy period and built up. During the build-up we included some swim analysis in the last 3 weeks and started to work on some specifics to improve our technique and overall efficiency in the swim with the help of Kieran Ballard. Our bike work was more or less the same, consisting of 3 rides per week. The run preparation was still low with no speed work yet, still feeling some issues with the sciatica.
We arrived in Antalya region on Wednesday night, 21 October, the weather was humid and there were storms all around. Arriving in the dark meant we did not see the lay of the land on the way in, maybe it was a good thing.
We had chosen the Gloria Verde resort about half km from the swim start and 5 km from the end point which was in the Gloria Sports Arena. The difficulty with different start and end points is logistics before and after the event, for e.g. T2 was 5 km from T1 and we could not have access to our bags in T2 on the morning of the race. More on that subject later.
Heavy storms lashed the area right up until the night before the race, it was doubtful that we would have a swim on the day of the race, such was the sea conditions. Due to the weather we had been holed up in the hotel almost the entire time since arriving, managing to nip out for a short jog or swim in between storms. No swim course had been set up due to the rough seas. Nevertheless the race organisers went ahead fully intending a sea swim on race morning.
We arrived in T1 at 6am to pump tyres and place our bottles and nutrition on the bikes. In the early morning light we could just make out that the sea was settling although the water was chocolate brown from the rivers flooding into the sea. The swim course was still not set-up. The announcement came that boats were about to pull the buoys into position and that it would be a wetsuit legal swim, relief! The weather looked good, clouds still about but no rain and very little wind. Temperature was about 18-20 degrees and forecast to reach 25 degrees C.
The swim started on time at 8am which was quiet honestly remarkable considering that at 7am there was no swim course to be seen. The organisers had decided to employ the rolling start which means allowing the pros into the water first followed by the age groupers in continuous wave (self-ceding), individual finish times are calculated mat to mat.
I decided to get in with the 30-35 min group although once we started swimming it was evident that some people don’t understand the concept or the obvious benefit to starting according to one’s ability. The two loop swim course with an Australian exit keeps competitors closer inshore and along with improved spectator viewing ensures greater safety. The 1st loop of 1200m was 500m out to sea, right turn parallel with the shore for 200m and right turn 500m back to the beach, exit the water run around a point on the beach and back into the sea for 700m shorter loop, (300 out 100m across and 300m back to the beach into T1). After the first loop I glanced at the time it read just over 19min, I got really motivated by this and attacked the second loop with new energy. Swimming at a good effort out to the first of the buoys in this second loop and then I decided to go all out for the rest of the swim, really started to work on increasing the stroke rate (Kieran drills ringing in my ears). All the extra swim work was paying off as well as the drills we had started to incorporate into the weekly program. I excitedly checked the time as I exited the water, it read 29min and some seconds, in my excitement and haste I didn’t press the lap timer correctly, which meant T1 time was added to the swim time, not that this matters in the overall scheme except that the Garmin download afterwards won’t have accurate splits per 100m swim. Now at this point I have to suspect that while my swim time was greatly improved the course I suspect may have been about 150m shorter than planned. The time spent in T1 was 5min, which needs some attention for future events.
Out onto the bike things started well, everything was almost going to easy for the first 8km straight out along the highway parallel to the coast, almost no wind and a good smooth flat surface. One should’ve known that this was the quiet before the storm. Keep in mind we had not been able to see the bike course beforehand (a blessing in disguise). Up until the day before the organisers were frantically trying to repair roads and finalise a route. I’m sure they will learn from this. The calm ended with a sharp left run under the highway and thump the first of thousands of bumps! The route now headed inland (on fully closed) rural roads desperately in need of repairs. Our route was heading directly for the mountains 20 km in the distance. The weather was cool and the roads wet from a rain shower just ahead of our arrival. Spectators line the route as it wound through the villages.
Just over an hour into the bike my first drinks bottle was empty and I reached behind for the second bottle to find an empty cage, my 2nd bottle of nutrition was gone! I heard a voice from behind me say “nothing there mate” , he had seen my hand groping from cage to cage searching for the bottle that was no longer there. I hadn’t even heard it fall. (Had I heard it fall I would’ve stopped to retrieve it as it contained my nutrition consisting of my own cocktail of carbs and electrolytes all vital for the rest of the bike and the run to come). Fortunately we had developed, through past pain, the benefit of a carrying a backup nutrition plan and switched to the spare gels I was carrying in the front pouch, guarding these with great care now. As a last resort the tables along the route were also generously stocked. I did grab a few pieces of banana to help get energy.
The road surface was horrible, bumps, holes, a cobblestone section, loose gravel section; one had to hold on for dear life. The route was now strewn with competitors fixing punctures. The organisers had even warned competitors to carry a spare tyre! Having raced in Asia we had learned to go for extra tough tyres even if these result in a few seconds more time per km. A long slow 5-6km climb up to the turnaround point ate into the time we had gained. A dangerous fast decent took us back down into the valley and then back across the rough roads to the highway and finally that same pleasant smooth surface into T2. The bike split is 3hr 05min, I’m gutted, where did the time disappear? I really had a good start and must have lost a lot of time on the climb and the rough roads. I’m simply going to have to solve this for future races, a good bike is essential to setting up for a good finish. Note to self. I wracked the bike and sped off toward the bag rack.
Now a frantic search for my running bag, not having access to T2 in the morning meant that we had not rehearsed this section or noted the position. The more alarmed I became the less I saw and couldn’t even work out if the numbers were ascending or descending! It must have been comical to see an idiot scrambling along the line searching with increasing panic! Eventually I retraced my steps took a deep breath and started over this time I found it. A quick change of socks and on with the running shoes, grabbing the last of my nutrition set off to find the pee stop. None available! During the pre-race briefing they had said no urinating in public as this is a DQ offence. I started to run and enquired from the marshal’s officials where the next toilets were, about 2-3 km into the run was the reply! Theoretically that is! By 3 km I was forced into the trees. Later after the event when I complained about this I was told by the announcer and organiser that the porta loos ordered had failed to arrive and thus non on the course as planned (Still in transit from Istanbul). At least I was safe from a DQ!
The run course was an easy mostly flat run of two loops, the turnaround point inside one of the many golf courses. I normally look forward to and enjoy the run and this time was no different. The speed is still not back, but I can feel things getting better and only felt a few slight twinges from the hammy/sciatica. The best part of the run is catching and passing especially the bike speedsters. I’m almost ready to give the run a full burn. Having used up the spare gels on the bike I had to ration the 2 gels for the run leg. (I would normally grab the remaining gels from the bike as I dismount to supplement the gels in my T2 bag). Fortunately the tables were well stocked with water and my old favourite energy drink COKE. The run unfolded without incident and not too much fatigue despite not having enough nutrition as I would normally take. The finish line was great, set up on the athletic track and being greeted in the finish straight by multiple world ironman champion Paula Newby Frazer was really special. (We both hail from Durban in South Africa) Suddenly it was all over. My run time was about as good as I could manage on the day given the level of preparation, 1hr 40min so lots to work on to get back to my target. Seventh position in my age group was not good enough for a slot to next year’s champs.
I feel moved to mention what a great event they put on especially for the first time and considering that triathlon in particular Ironman is a relatively new sport in Turkey. We fully appreciate the effort and the pressure that was going behind the scenes. We are so very fortunate that there are these events and its especially pleasing that IRONMAN is seen taking our sport of swim bike run to new destinations. Well done to all the hundreds of volunteers who worked and cheered all the participants. Races are simply not possible without these people. Thanks to the people of Belek, Antalya including the government authorities to the locals living close to the event who were such wonderful hosts, providing us with closed roads an army of marshals and officers who controlled and saw to it that the roads were safe. I really regret not being able to speak the local language, although I’m sure their English is much better than our efforts to speak Turkish. Congratulations to Ironman Turkey, this was a great race with wonderful and lasting memories. Unfortunately we did not get any slots to next year World Champs in Australia :(
MY RACE SUMMARY
If anyone planning of going to Belek next year, I suggest you check out the Gloria Sports Arena – World Class Sporting facility!