So last week I flew to Dubai with an amazing group of friends to take part in Ironman 70.3 Dubai. With the UK experiencing sub zero temperatures we were all quite excited at the prospect of some sun!
We landed on Tuesday morning and I spent Tuesday lazing by the pool in the hotel and generally recovering from the overnight flight.
Wednesday was another lazy day for me, this time on the beach with Adam and my sister Sarah, soaking up the sun and ignoring the fact that there was a major event coming up in a couple of days. We registered Wednesday afternoon and I found my name on the start list… From this moment it felt a little bit more real…
We had dinner as a group that night, before those of us taking part (Olivia, Brett and myself) headed to the race briefing. The race briefing explained the course and the transition areas in more detail, highlighted the cut of times for the various segments and was really quite informative (or scary) depending on how you felt about the race… Cut off was 1hr 10mins for the Swim and a combined time of 5hrs 30 for the swim and bike, all competitors had to finish within 8hrs 30mins.
On Thursday we mainly spent the day preparing for the event. We went to swim practice on Thursday morning and swam on the same beach as the event swim would be finishing at, we took it quite easy swimming buoy to buoy as a group, covering about 1000mtrs and getting used to the water. There was a bit of a current and a few jelly fish were sighted!
We spent some more time on the beach (well, it was our holiday after all) and then collected our transition bags before heading back to the hotel to organise our stuff and get our bikes ready for racking in transition.
Thursday evening we racked our bikes, dropped off our transition bags and then there wasn’t much more we could do! We walked along the beach as the sun set to get a taxi and head back to the hotel for dinner and an early night ready for the event on Friday.
Friday morning – 4.30am alarm!! 4.50am the hotel bought breakfast up to the room and I made a half hearted attempt at eating a few spoonfuls of scrambled egg. 5.30am we were in a taxi heading to the start! Quick check of transition bags, added some suntan lotion to mine, pumped up the bike tyres, filled water bottles and walked to the start ready for the swim.
I totally hijacked the Havering Tri team photo at the start! We arrived just as the swim warm up was finishing so me and Olivia just popped into the water quickly to get wet and acclimatise slightly before lining up. It was a rolling start so people lined up according to their expected finish time and 6 athletes started every 6 seconds. Now some of you may remember I truly hate open water swimming, particularly in a group, so I was doing my best not to panic, and actually managed to walk through the pens and to the start without crying or changing my mind about starting!! Into the water and off we went, the swim wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated but there were still some uncomfortable moments. At one point someone kicked a lot of water over my head as I was breathing and I swallowed some water which made me gag instantly and I genuinely thought I was going to be sick whilst I swam! A few instances of people swimming some very wobbly lines led to me using breaststroke for a few mins to get out of the way but overall the swim wasn’t as bad as it could have been…
Into transition and I sat down and took my time, dried my feet, put sun tan lotion on, then headed out to the bike.
Now the bike section had been advertised as fast and flat… I was quite looking forward to it, and it started well enough, but we soon headed out on a long straight incline through the desert into a strong headwind… this went on for the first 28miles… 28 miles up a hill into a headwind is a long way!!!
Maybe flat got mistranslated? But that elevation profile was definitely not my idea of flat… I had expected the bike leg to take between 3hr – 3hrs 15mins… The first half of the cycle took me almost 2hrs… 1hr 52mins, averaging just under 15mph… if the way back took me that long as well I was going to be a lot slower than I had anticipated…
But the way back was better! Downhill, tail wind, and I even managed to see Adam and my friends husband out on a motorbike ride, they stopped to take some pics and cheer me on which was nice! And gave me a much needed boost.
The 2nd half was much quicker and easier and I was back in 1hr 18mins! So an average speed of 21.5mph on my way back, much better! Total bike time 3hrs 11mins so still within my expected time.
Into transition, trainers on and off onto the run. The run was 3 x 7km laps on a really nice track in front of the beach. It was all springy and spongy and felt lovely to run on, but there was no shade, and it was now about 28 degrees…
I admit, the struggle on the outward bike section made me grumpy, I didn’t start the run in the best frame of mind, I didn’t want to run… And quickly it became apparent that my grumpy head was going to win this battle despite my body feeling quite ok… I jogged, walked, jogged, walked a bit more, drank a lot of water (I very rarely drink when running but it was totally necessary in the heat) walked a bit more, jogged a bit… and realised quickly that this would be my slowest ever half marathon!
Could have something to do with the very short strides I was taking during my jogging attempts?! But Adam and my sister were out cheering on the run and I saw them every lap with a smile and a wave and that made the run more bareable. I also chatted to a few other competitors, someone who had run the Disney marathon a few weeks before (it sounds amazing) and someone who had only learnt to swim 2 months ago!!! Wow! That’s some true dedication and an awesome achievement!
Then it was all over, a short run down the finishers chute and I was handed a medal… Which I managed to lose between walking to get a taxi and arriving back at the hotel! This makes me sad! But I am hopeful that Ironman may be able to send me a replacement… fingers crossed.
I had finished… I expected it to take about 6hrs 30mins… It actually took 6hrs 38, despite my abysmal attempt at the run, amusing really as running is currently my strongest of the 3 disciplines… But it wasn’t my legs or technique that gave up on me it was my mental attitude, Im disappointed and I know this is something I need to work on, I need to be more determined and work hard to be the best I can be, this day I wasnt. But it was still a great achievement, my first ever middle distance triathlon and only my 3rd ever triathlon as an adult…
The next day we treated ourselves to a day at the Atlantis Aquadventure Water Park to relax and wind down. It was great fun and lovely to be able to recover in the sunshine and play on the water rides!
All in all I had a fab holiday with some amazing friends. My race day may not have quite gone to plan but it was a great experience and I have a lot to work on for next time (if anyone has good suggestions for how to improve my event attitude please let me know). In the meantime I have packed my running kit in my work bag and it’s back to training for the Tokyo marathon for me… I wish I had had a few more days here though…