*** many thanks to Lucy Woollacott for this race report ***

I will try and keep this report brief – others have excellently described the ‘challenging’ conditions faced at this race so I will just summarise my day and lessons learnt from the toughest race I have so far faced in my  limited triathlon experience.

I had hopes going into the race of beating my time from Bahrain and targeted under 4:45. I have a new fast TT bike which I knew made a big difference and had been swimming and running very well in training so my confidence was high.

However, on race day morning I realized that it was not a day to think about PB’s – it was about survival. I left all expectations on time behind and decided to try and ‘enjoy’ the day. I didn’t realise quite how difficult that would be but knew I would do my best.

It is hard at times but I do try and keep these things in perspective – we chose to do it and it’s not the most important thing in life. My husband would say I often need reminding of this.

The swim (31 mins)

The sea did look brutal. I am a strong swimmer but I do very little open water swimming. I am usually found in the pool at DMSC and I didn’t relish the look of the rough seas. I watched the pro’s go way off course and knew it was all about sighting.

The first lap I realized quite how hard sighting was! With the swell it was so hard to see the buoy. Amazingly the first lap I swam pretty straight and didn’t feel too bad. Going back to the beach I had to stop and clear my goggles a few times and had a good look at where I was trying to head. I think this helped as although it probably cost me a bit of time I did swim straight into the correct place on shore for the turnaround.

So I set back off for the second lap feeling confident that it was not possible to swim too far left, the current would take me to the right. I sighted the big red buoy better this time and off I went. It wasn’t until I got reasonably close to the buoy I saw the other big red buoy a long way to my right and realized I had swam in a perfectly straight line to the wrong buoy. Cross with myself I then swam quickly to the correct buoy, back to the buoy I was next to, and back to shore.

Lesson learnt – SIGHT! It doesn’t matter if you have to come up an extra 5 times and have a good look – it will save you minutes.

Anyway, I was out and into T1 and only saw 2 girls ahead of me so hoped it hadn’t been too costly.

The Bike (2 hours 43 mins)

I purchased my S-works Shiv about a month before Challenge and I knew it was fast. For everyone out there thinking of getting a TT bike – my experience is that it will save you at least 10 minutes compared to a road bike over the half distance.

What I am not sure about is how much of that difference is mental. Now I have the great bike I feel I have no excuse not to be super fast so it has made me a lot more confident.

I set off aggressively with the wind behind me knowing that I had to get the minutes in the bank as coming back would be tough. I was going along nicely and knew no females had passed me until Merle went past at the 50k mark so I was pretty sure I was having a good day so far. I don’t have a power meter (yet!) and my heart rate and cadence monitors decided not to work so I had no visibility on the effort I was putting in which I did realise could cause me problems later in the day.

The bike course was anything but scenic – I can’t quite believe it was the best option. For everyone visiting the amazing city we live in it really did not show it in its best light. I can also totally understand how so many went the wrong way – it was poorly signed and very disorientating.

And then I turned back into the headwind and probably the worst 30k of cycling I have so far experienced in my limited triathlon career. It was horrendous and I went from thinking I would finish the bike in 2:30 at worst to thinking that 2:45 was really not that bad!

However, I kept telling myself that it’s the same for everyone and that I am strong – this seems to be my mantra when it gets tough and there was no choice but to grind it out.

After what seemed like an eternity I finally got into T2 feeling absolutely shattered and with no idea whether I would have anything left for the run. I have never been happier to get off the bike.

The run (1 hour 42 minutes)

In my elation to get off the bike I forgot to take my Garmin off so ended up doing the run with no indication of time or pace whatsoever.

This may have actually helped me as I quite enjoyed the run and felt very relaxed throughout. I wasn’t as quick as I had hoped though. Before the race I was confident of going sub 1:40 on the run and I am not sure why I couldn’t do this but with no watch on the run or heart rate monitor on the bike it is difficult to analyse where it didn’t quite go to plan!

What I have learnt from my previous 2 half ironmans in the last 4 months is the need for me to keep fuelling while running. I am lucky and now seem to have trained my body to be able to eat bananas and gels during the run with no problem so I do this for the first half before switching to coke for the last half.

The support was great on the run and although I got tired I knew I was maintaining a reasonable pace so as I neared the finish I was feeling very happy – I had survived!

Overall time – 5 hours 1 minute (1st in Age Group!)

I had no idea when I crossed the line what my time was but wasn’t very surprised when I found out. It would have been nice to go sub 5 but I had done that in Bahrain and I knew that in these conditions I had put in the best performance I could have done on the day.

I finally won my age group – in my first 5 triathlons I have always come 2nd in some shape or form so it was nice to move up a place.

Probably more importantly though I feel like I gained a lot of confidence from this race.  When conditions are tough you learn a lot about yourself and I was very pleased with the way I kept battling.  My new bike has given me belief in my cycling ability so now I need to work on the run.

The inaugural Challenge Dubai was one to be remembered - I for one hope for a slightly calmer day next year.