This community (TriDubai) has inspired me to be the best I can be!!

As this is my first race and I am still on a high, please excuse me if this goes on and the blabbing seems to be endless

 I think I started triathlon because I wanted to lose weight; I have always been attracted to the sport but never had the chance to try it. So 3 month before my son was born I decided to buy a bike and start training. I could swim, bike and run or so I thought  :D

1.    Why Cascais 70.3

Well after quite a number of you questioned me about not doing Dubai 70.3 and why do I train like I do. I had to prove these guys wrong, yes you Sipke, that I am not a crazy training obsessed triathlete, the mocking had to stop J. So after Ironman SA, I was so pumped with seeing TriDubai conquer the race, I let it slip to Nathan that I wanted to do a 70.3 and I Cascais looks like a good one. 15 mn later he sends me a message that he has already signed in, booked a hotel and is looking for flights!!! So at that point I couldn’t back out.

2.    Preparation: 

I decided to go with a coach, and I think that was the best decision I made. 4 month before the race I thought that would be the best “upgrade” to help me reach my goals. I went with Barbara from Growings is amazing!!! For me she is the best fit for my personality. I got to the race extremely well prepared mentally and physically, and that I only realize after I have finished. For me that is why she is great, she knew that I was ready and how well I was prepared even when I thought that she was saying nonsense. I only had to trust her word for it, and I did. Thank you coach!

3.    Few days before the race:

I have to tell you a bit 2 days before the race, from when we landed in Lisbon. The plan was to have a swim on Friday and an easy bike/run on Saturday. I don’t really know how to explain what happened, but my luck just turned as soon as we hit the ground. I was already very nervous and restless, and then had problem:

a.     Rental company gave me a smaller car then agreed upon, which did not fit our luggage. So after an hour argument I had to give in and upgrade to the next class

b.     We arrive to the beautiful apartment we rented and we break a glass jar and one of the curtains

c.      I start putting my bike together on Friday, it goes well enough and I plan to ride it on Saturday to make sure everything is ok. (with the few issues already and the bike taking a bit longer than expected I didn’t have time for the swim)

d.     Saturday wake up nice and early, get on the bike, first 4 min are great and then the bars turn and the front wheel stays straight, going downhill. I manage to stop, go back and dismantle the cockpit. Everything looked fine. Put it on again, but that doesn’t solve the issue. Out of frustration I manage to look the cylinder inside the fork. So I go down to the expo, wait for an hour and they finally help me take it off. So feeling confident I could fix it, met with Nathan and got a great 15 min swim in.

e.     Back in the apartment; assemble the cockpit but still the same issue, so I tighten the spindle in the fork beyond repair to the point that I had to find a bike shop at 2 pm the day before the race. I go to the 1st one, closed, 2nd one closed, finally get to a 3rd one around 3:30 pm that was super helpful. Without David, I would have not been able to race.

f.      David starts working on the bike, puts in a new spindle, assembles the parts, and tests it and still the same issue. After 30 min of efforts we realize that he stem is not catching the fork, no matter how much we tighten it. We change the stem put it all back together and I finally have my bike race ready!!! At this point it was around 4:30 and bike check in closes at 7. So we rush back to transition rack the bike, and the bags and at 5:30 I go for a meal, tired from all the running around but relieved that I will race and hoping the bike will hold up the 900m of descents on Sunday.

Silver cylinder inside the fork

Silver cylinder inside the fork

4.    Race morning:

I thought after all of these issues, I will have a great race day, what else could go wrong? Put the water bottles on the bike, check and recheck that everything is there. Go down to the beach; put my wet suit on and Murphey’s law!! My watch strap breaks. So I had to borrow a hair tie from Christine and my wife ties it together and we hope it’s gonna hold!! It did and this has now become my lucky charm J

The rest of the morning went well; Nathan and I were waiting to start singing and dancing!! I am so luck and happy that he was with me for my first race!!  

5.    Finally the race:

a.     Swim – 2020m 36:27

The plan was the swim was to start with the sub 35 and try to draft and hold on as much as possible, the water was a nice 17C so wetsuit :D. It was in the Atlantic in a calm bay so water was not choppy. I really enjoyed it, I usually don’t. I did draft and actually swam straight for me; a 100m only extra is really a great improvement for me. And 36m is also a great achievement, I did want to go sub 35 but was really happy with my time. If we compare to my Olympic races, this would be a PB.

So it is a beach start and then we finish on a boat ramp, all went smooth except the fact that we had a 700 m run uphill to transition!! That took a while and then took my time to change and get on the bike so my 9m+ T1 definitely can be improved. 

b.     Bike – 91K 1,018m elevation gain 2:39:57

The plan was to keep FTP at 85% for the 1st 50K flat then hit the hills, around 17km, at 95% and finally relax down the mountain and the last 10K with a really good tailwind. I get on the bike, and my bike is my happy place, so I thought after a good swim it is the part I worry about the most, I am on for a great race. 200 m after the bike mount, my front water bottles fall down, I hadn’t put the strap on properly, so stop on the right, fix it and then off we go after 2 min of fiddling around, I was hoping that would be the end of it. Little side note on drafting, those who know me, know what I think about drafting, but I have to say now I understand that you can avoid it with these courses, when you get swallowed up in a group, there is really no getting out of it. The referees were all around us but they chose not to act as they understood that it was unavoidable. When it was obvious and blatant, I saw a couple of yellow card being handed out. Back to the race, around 35th Km I catch up with Nathan who had a great swim, and from that moment we raced the whole way together. It was great to have him next to me, made my race experience so much better. And between the beautiful scenery, the monster hills, small conversations with Nathan, the bike section was over… not so fast, as soon as I get out of the Estoril autodrome, my right extension decides that it has had enough, so it loosens up and nearly falls out. So I had to finish the last 30-40 K either on the base bar or with my arm extended under the extension bar. That was while going 60-70kph on the downhills or the last 10k flat doing over 40. I think I have probably lost 5 min there as I didn’t trust my bike to finish. But it did, it brought me home in a time that I thought was really good. And the plan worked perfectly, average power 194W, at around 90% FTP. Transition 2 was like T1, slow and easy with no mistake, again room for improvement especially that Nathan and I came in together but he beat me out of there by about 3 min

My new good luck charm

My new good luck charm

The water bottle that fell and the extension bar falling out

The water bottle that fell and the extension bar falling out

c.      Run – 21.04k 313m elevation gain 1:45:52

I had 2 options for the run depending how I felt of the bike, either run walk or if I felt good it was run moderate the first lap and then 1 k under 5m pace and 2 k moderate. The run consistent of 2 loops out and back of 10.5k. I get off the bike and the crowds were amazing, people lining the streets for the 1st 2 Km, cheering and clapping. I had never felt that before but they carried me. My 1st km was a 4:38 and then kept the pace under 5 until the 5th Km were I thought I should go back to a more sustainable pace. I finished the 1st loop and was still doing low 5m pace and I felt fresh enough to hammer the 1st K of the 2nd loop, then 2k easy and then another sub 5 1k, still feeling good. And then, I see Nathan again, so sprint to get to him and we run and chat for 2Km. he again was having a great run I thought. Then another fast kilometer until and relax until the last 2. I knew that when I come back, the crowds will push me so I held my pace until the last 2k and the hammered it, 4:46 and then 4:34!!! The crowds were still there, they cheered and cheered and I gave it everything!! I finished with nothing left in the tank; I collapsed on the finish line and had to lay there for 2 min to recap just as Nathan came in! it was awesome. I had just PB my half marathon time ever!!!

I just wanted to enjoy my 1st 70.3 so I would have been happy with anything under 5:30 looking at the course. Barbara said that I will do it in 5:15, I dismissed what she said because I thought it would be impossible. So I am happy that I proved her right and finished just below, actually I am ecstatic. With all the problems I had to go through this makes this race even better, it tried to kick my @$$ but I wouldn’t die!! I kept fighting. This was my B race for this season, my A race is Dubai where I make it no secret that I will go under the 5h mark!! And after Cascais, I am registering now as the Dubai has just opened on the 2nd of October :D. Project under 5 is alive and kicking!!! 

6.    Venue and the city:

Cascais is a beautiful city, the bike is amazing!! The views are insane; you really forget how tough it is and just enjoy the views. The run is on the beach road and even midday with temps reaching 27C you still won’t feel the heat as the Atlantic is very generous with a nice refreshing breeze. But for me the best things were the crowds, I have never had that in my life. The whole city came out to party with us. On the bike, people were getting out of their cars and cheering us. One guy was spraying us with water from his gardening hose, the city has embraced the race and it makes really great for the participants.

I would highly recommend this race, organization was ok, I didn’t notice any major issues. Also the area around the city is full of landmarks and great places to visit.

7.    Thank you:

Thank you coach, you knew how to get me to my limits, not only physically but also mentally!! Sebastian has been a great inspiration, he showed me that triathlon is about courage and will as much as about fitness and training; you gave me a reality check when I needed it. The Al Qudra cartel; especially Sipke who I have abandoned the last couple of month. And Rodrigo who kept me going the last month. And finally a huge Thank you to TriDubai, the quick athletes have pulled me and the slower ones have pushed me forward, I wouldn’t be here without you!

Gilles Ghoussoub

October, 2018