- Published: 31 March 2015 31 March 2015
I'm not sure why it took so long to post a blog about our most excellent race experience at Challenge Dubai. What am I talking about? I know exactly why. I was LAAAZY! I definitely go through stages when I only seem to have the energy to train hard, respond to important e-mails, maybe construct a tweet now and then but definitely not to write coherent sentences or go through the tedious process of organizing and uploading photos to Joomla.
Anyway, here it is. Finally! I've debated catering to the lowest of attention spans with bullet points and photos, but there is just something in me that likes complete sentences. If reading just isn't your thing, there are still lots of photos.
As Trevor's race report video joked, when it requires almost 20 hrs of flight time to arrive at your race destination, the travel prospects can be a bit daunting and the whole endeavour becomes more risky. Arriving a week in advance to adjust to the 12 hr time zone difference, means you've invested a lot more time and money than a quick hop to a more local race. The excellent competitive appeal of the Triple Crown race series, the great prize purse, and the delightfully easy to communicate with people at Challenge Family, definitely made the risk-reward assessment fall clearly on the "we need to do this race!" side of things.
We are so glad that we did! The trip went super smooth, the race organizers took fantastic care of us, the race was tough and competitive, and I walked away with the biggest paycheck I've ever earned in the sport of triathlon. For placing 2nd. In a a half iron distance race. BAM.
The awesomeness started pretty much the instant we landed. Someone was standing at the gate with a WURTELE sign! Rock star status! That was definitely a first for us and we really really appreciated having people from the Duabi Sports council there to guide us through customs, help with our luggage and get us to our hotel.
The Jumeriah Beach Hotel was a few stars up from our usual race accommodations and we looked out our window at the Burj Al Arab (arguably the most over-tweeted pre-race landmark) and the gorgeous Arabian Sea.
The view from the our room ^ The view across the hall from our room in the mornings:
Pre race training was made pretty easy by a 14 km rubberised track, marked every 100 m (the far end of which was the run course) that started on the beach 500m from our hotel. There was a 25 m pool onsite (though our attempts to swim early in the am were always thwarted by pool guys cleaning sand off the bottom... for several hours), and plenty of OW swimming areas. We could also set up our trainer in the outdoor fitness area of the Talise gym attached to the hotel. It's a pain to bring a trainer in a suitcase, but it's key for guaranteeing safe (and properly executed) pre-race rides in areas where the road safely is unknown or questionable. We are always glad when we have it, and get to feel superior and more professional than those who ask to borrow it. :P
A bonus in the trainer ride department was Anis (in the photo below) - a super friendly fitness attendant, who loves cycling. He stood about 3 ft away for my entire 1:30 ride the first day - chatted when I was riding easier, and politely backed away when I was doing an interval. He then repeated the process for Trevor. In addition to constant offers of cold water bottles and bananas it was really inspiring to hear his story, see his passion for sport, and answer all his keen questions about my bike, the sport, how fast I go, how far we ride, Canada....
The only downside of staying a super nice, resort-hotel is that, after you've gorged yourself at the amazing breakfast buffet (included with the room), meals were really expensive. Fortunately, there was the smallest of cubbie-hole shops just next-door where we could get cup-o-noodles and chips to eat in back our room. I've had good races eating this combo before so we could be cheap and stick to routine. Maybe it's the years of living in an RV, but finds like this make me feel like I'm having a more authentic experience. Ha ha. Bonus!
We arrived in Dubai the Saturday before the race, at the tail end of a big sandstorm. The wind shifted, fortunately, and the sand haze cleared out. The weather was surprisingly cool (it was a lot warmer in southern California before we flew over) and there was really big surf and wind up until about Wednesday. Then, it got calm and blue and gorgeous.... that was until race morning! We woke up to SERIOUS wind and the race organizers did an impressive job of changing the swim to a safer 2 loop course, and still getting us off on time.
It was very hard to sight the buoys in the swells and chop, but a large group of women veered toward the wrong buoy at the start. I took my own line, figuring that, in those conditions, it was better to swim less far, than to worry about the minimal draft advantage I'd be able to gain by trying to stay on feet. Good decision or not, I ended up out of the water in 27:29 all on my own. Super swimmer Lauren Brandon (who I had the pleasure of getting to know at UWC Bahamas Tri) crushed it in 23:19, Jodie Swallow was out in 24:37 and I was two minutes down on the main lead group of Daniela Ryf, Helle Frederiksen, Meredith Kessler, Alicia Kaye, and Annabel Luxford.
With the 20 m draft zone* plus the windy conditions, I knew I'd be in a good position to ride my way into the race.
[*Most non-draft legal triathlon pro races have a 12 m draft zone, front wheel to front wheel, which, from lots of personal experience training behind Trevor, does not completely eliminate the advantage that one gets from the rider in front blocking the wind. Riders also inevitability move back and forth a couple metres throughout decreasing the zone and increasing the advantage of riding in a legally spaced "group". With 20m you really know that each rider is truly has her nose in the wind, and has to do an equal amount of work during the bike leg of the event. Strong cyclists who are not in the front group out of the water like myself, then don't have to worry about pack dynamics making it a lot more difficult to ride to the front.]
Sure enough, I caught everyone but Jodie Swallow, Daniela Ryf and Lauren Brandon by just past the half way mark of the bike course. I finally caught Lauren with about 20km to go, and had Jodie in my sights, but she looked over her shoulder at one of the over-passes close to town and clearly put the hammer down to stay away. Try as I might, I couldn't close the gap, and I ended up running into transition in 3rd place, just behind her. My ride time was 2:19:36, which was 43 sec slower, than Daniela who rode the fastest time on the day of 2:18:54. Ah, swimming...
My run legs felt pretty good pretty quickly, and I knew that I needed to run hard to make a definitive pass to get (and stay) ahead of Jodie. I managed it within the first couple km, and set my sights on Daniela, but when I saw the gap at the far turn, I knew it that catching her would be a tall order. A lot can happen in an half so I just kept pushing. Unfortunately the only *exciting* thing to happen was me dropping my Liquid Shot flask and having it go flying thru an aid station, under a table, and needing to come to a complete stop to bend over and fetch it. One spectator said "aw, that sucks!" and I couldn't have agreed more but I figured it was better to grab it than blow my whole nutrition plan. In the big scheme, it made no difference, and if that was the worst thing to happen all day, it was a pretty great day!
It was really cool to hear a lot of support from female spectators during the run. I think that the cultural differences in Dubai make what we do seem that much more exceptional. Whatever the reason, the vibe felt good to me! The only awkward thing was that we (women) weren't allowed to touch the crown prince of Dubai when he handed out the flowers and medals at the podium ceremony at the race and we were all a bit nervous that we'd mess something up!
I really enjoyed the race, white-caps, blowing sand and all, and I was happy to finish second in a time of 4:09:21. You can see all the results HERE on the Sportstats handy website.
The awards banquet (have I mentioned that Trevor and I love good, free, food?) and ceremony were top notch. It was pretty cool for me to get my first ever novelty cheque especially since I was one of the last on our Triathlon Squad to get one at a race! Our shuttle bus driver was pretty excited and blared some quality celebration tunes and got us to take pictures with him when Daniela, Tim, Terenzo and I all showed up with giant cheques after. We all had a good laugh and spirits were high!
Trevor also had a great day, placing 8th overall, and running the second fastest half marathon on the day (next to Tim Reed) in 1:12:48. We are both really looking forward to competing in the rest of the Triple Crown race series!