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I am back from Abu Dhabi and the only way to sum it up is to say is that it was an experience of a lifetime. Something I will never forget and something I will more than likely repeat!
Logistically and practically I didn’t leave myself much time from the moment I reached Abu Dhabi until the race the next morning.
My partner was still putting my bike together at 1am when we had to be up at 4am! Everything from then onwards was a blur. Next thing I know I’m standing on the Corniche Beach ready to start my wave.
I felt prepared and confident for the swim and spent three to four times a week in the pool back in the UK working on distance training and other techniques to help me on the day.
As I stood at the start line I could feel the tension, excitement and adrenaline amongst all competitors.
This was it, this is what I had worked so hard for and now was my time to prove to myself what I had set out to achieve.
I started off at the back of my wave and to the right of the swim knowing that I just needed to get through this part of the race. I started off quite well and calm but then I felt myself panicking and losing control of my breathing.
So many thoughts circled through my head such as why I was doing this, what if I couldn’t make it back and if it was all worth it. I had to focus and knew I had to get this swim done. My only solution… back stroke!! I ended up doing back stroke the whole 750m swim…. has to be a first in an International Tri! I wasn’t in the least bit bothered though as I was more relaxed and focused. I just had to make sure I kept going strong as the beach finish became closer and closer.
I got there in the end and as I came out of the water and onto the beach stretch it was comforting to see people cheering along until I reached the changing tents. I dried off, hydrated and got ready to pick up my bike from the transition zone. The adrenaline really started to pump now and this was physically where I started the race, mentally it was long gone somewhere in the water!
The bike was tough with a combination of 30 degree heat and winds. Yep, where did the winds come from! Strong winds from the dunes were quite a surprise. I just went with the flow and loved the attention and encouragement from the crowds.
I got quite emotional mid-way through the bike, not because I found it a struggle but because I couldn’t believe that l was riding on this course. I was SO happy just to be in this place and realised that everything I had been working so hard for was paying off. Seeing the elites racing and passing me on the bike and being on the same course with pro’s was beyond exciting!
I felt really strong on the bike and as the end neared I prepared myself for ‘jelly legs’ and this is where the brick training should pay off. I took my time getting off the bike and getting back to transition. My legs felt dead but not as bad as I anticipated so a quick run to the changing tent, lots and lots of fluid and sun cream (I was quite roasted and burnt by now!) and off I went onto the run.
I was hot, tired and as I started the run it felt like forever. The run was along the Corniche with spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf – simply breath taking. This somehow made the run more manageable. Many of the more experienced triathletes had finished my course, which was the shortest of the three races on the day, and were on the side lines shouting out encouragement.
There was a real sense of togetherness on the day, not only from spectators but other athletes. Simply amazing to see them cheering and helping us get past the pain.
I passed Faris Al Sultan coming the opposite direction on my run which was thrilling! He came in second on the day and a lot of the media hype was around him. I was running side by side next to him, ok only for about two seconds but exciting none the less.
By now I didn’t want any more discomfort or pain and to stop would have been the easiest option. I didn’t want to walk at any stage or give up, I was extremely adamant about this so seeing Faris spurred me on to keep going and keep strong mentally.
The finish line was a matter of metres away and as I crossed it I was more than emotional. I received a huge hug from a young girl local girl who handed me my medal. The recognition really touched me.
I was shocked to find out that I had actually underestimated myself quite a bit and beaten my target time of three and a half to four hours and completed the course in two hours 53 minutes.
This was really an accomplishment for me. I did myself proud and have pushed myself every step of the way to get here.
This race has been an adventure. All the hard work, 5am training sessions, sore legs and doubts in my head had been worth it. The course itself was magnificent and the organisation and preparation on the day was flawless.
There was no doubt this was an international event with a standard to match. The atmosphere at the finish line was buzzing. Everyone was still waiting around for the elite men to come through on their course (3km swim, 200km bike and 20km run).
For me the race didn’t finish when I crossed the line. My boyfriend was also competing on the day in the mid distance course so I waited around the finish line to see him finish.
This was probably the highlight of the day for me… he proposed at the finish line. I said yes of course!
With only two days to go before race day, excitement is now taking over my nerves. I am pleasantly surprised that I have not had any major freak outs yet!
I have had to deal with more preparation for equipment and my kit than I anticipated and this has taken up more of my spare time this week. Luckily it is taper week which means training is less intense and rest and nutrition play a pivotal role in preparation for race day. I have been carb loading which so far has been my favourite part of training!
Over the last six weeks I have felt pressurised to fit in my training sessions despite a hectic work schedule so just to add a little more on, I am not flying out till the day before the triathlon. Logistically and practically this is a not the best situation to be in. I am working up to the evening on the day before I fly… I really need to work on the work vs. life balance!
I land at 8.30pm on Friday in Abu Dhabi and will most probably be at the hotel by 10pm. I need to register for the race and pick up my race pack at around 4.30am on Saturday. This means I have 6 hours to do the following:
- Unpack essentials for the race
- Eat a good carb dinner and digest properly
- Re-assemble bikes from bike boxes, adjust height and position and inflate tyres
- Re-pack everything I need for race day and pack into allocated bags for the swim, bike and run
- Relax and unwind before bed (ok strike that point, no time to relax!)
- Get good sleep (recommended eight hours)
- Eat a good breakfast to fuel body for race and hydrate throughout the morning
- Ready to race?!
I have not mentioned before but my partner is also taking part in this triathlon. It has been great to have support from someone who is in the same situation as me and going through the same training regime.
We have somewhat different approaches to training (if I explained this it would mean writing a whole new blog!) so we have been training through the week on our own and weekends training together. So luckily we are in this together (not sure he knows that bit yet) and both have six hours to get ourselves sorted.
There are a lot more practical elements that you need to consider taking part in overseas events and I guess as a relative newbie to the sport these are things that I wasn’t aware of. The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon does encourage all levels but the information provided has been at a higher level than I expected.
There are 12 waves in total on race day starting with the elite racers at 6am and finishing off with the shorter distance at 9am, yep that’s me! Temperatures are due to hit 29 degrees by midday so the last stretch of the run along the Corniche is going to be tough so the quicker I finish the less burnt I get!
Despite so much going on before I fly, I have butterflies every time I think about the race and feeling so excited. I will be swimming in the Arabian Gulf, cycling around the impressive Yas Marina F1 Circuit and then finishing off by running along the Corniche. WOW, can’t wait to do this now.
I am going to give it everything I have both physically and mentally but most of all I think I’ll be having a lot of fun along the way. I can’t help but appreciate and be in awe of such a magnificent course and opportunity. Lucky me indeed
I am really looking forward to updating you on my arrival back from Abu Dhabi!
I have been waiting patiently all week for my new bike to turn up. I purchased a turbo trainer last week and so far it has been left in its box, no use really without a bike! After a mix up with the delivery date, it finally arrived on Saturday.
Somehow in my head I had an image of a delivery man wheeling my bike to my house and handing it over ready to ride off. It came boxed and unassembled, obviously! After an hour seeing me struggle to work out what tool to use and where to start, my very handy Dad took no time putting it all together.
I am lucky to live five minutes away from Dorney Lake, which is the official Olympic rowing site. It is such a beautiful location and perfect for bike training as it has a flat 5 km circuit. The weather over the last few weeks has prevented me from being able to bike outside so I headed out on Sunday to get used to the feel of the bike.
What a difference compared to the bike I have been using, it felt so nice to ride and much more comfortable. I suddenly felt more confident and had the feeling that I can actually do this! I still need to get used to the gears and other mechanics of the bike, but a real confidence boost.
I did stretch my budget to buy it and the expenses are adding up, but without a doubt this is the best purchase I have made for this tri.
I only lasted about 20 minutes before not being able to feel my fingers, it was freezing! So will head out next weekend for a longer ride and get used to a longer distance.
During the week I found out that the temperature of water in Abu Dhabi is 22.5 C. Nice and warm for a beach holiday but bad news for a tri! If the temperature reaches 23 degrees wet suits are not permitted.
You will all be familiar with the fact that swimming is my weak point, so I consider a wet suit as my security blanket! It gives a certain amount of buoyancy and extra confidence in the water. My bikini would not be suitable, or professional for that matter, so I sensibly invested in a tri suit.
I can wear this for the swim, bike and run without having to get changed in transition. Looking good is the least of my concerns in this triathlon but at no point did I think I would be wearing a skin tight one piece suit throughout the race! It literally sticks to every lump and bump I have so this might take some getting used to.
I am getting really excited about the race now and feeling more prepared, however during the last week I have felt quite anxious about how I am going to get on.
I have always gone into this race simply to finish. It is a once in a lifetime experience for me so to compete would be a huge accomplishment. That changed slightly when someone questioned my intention ‘just to finish’. They rattled my cage with the comment ‘You can’t be last though, can you?’…..but why can’t I?
I did take a sneaky look at last year’s results and my heart dropped as I kept scrolling and scrolling till virtually the bottom of the list! It confirmed that I would be at the back of the pack.
I have mentioned before that the level of competitors in the Abu Dhabi Tri is exceptionally high and few beginners in the sport take on this event. This did not deter me from entering and in fact spurred me on to progress and push myself even more.
I just needed to be reminded of this and why I entered in the first place. This is a personal journey and I have set myself an individual target, to race against myself and not others.
For women who don’t consider themselves naturals at sport and are not competitive minded, I want to encourage them to take part. Being hung up on your time, position or how you are doing in comparison to other people shouldn’t be the focal point.
For anyone new to sport taking the jump to enter any race or event no matter what the distance or level of difficulty is a huge step and something I admire and have the greatest respect for.
I hope that by competing in this triathlon I am testament to my beliefs.
Unfortunately I didn’t train as much as I wanted to this week. My body was feeling tired which might be a result of last week’s training. It was pretty full on for my level of fitness and felt I really pushed my body.
I was upset as I am quite anxious that I have still a lot more to do however I have listened to my body and rested. I think it’s important to keep my targets realistic and getting the balance right with training. I’m now rearing to go this week!
I did manage to attempt two brick training sessions to help me transition from the 50km bike to the run. My first session consisted of five minute intervals alternating between the run and bike for 40 minutes. I actually enjoyed this workout as it was more varied than the training I have normally been doing. I do think I could have pushed myself more however I didn’t want any further incidents on the treadmill after nearly falling off last week! The next brick session was much tougher… and painful. I cycled 20km at a good pace and then ran for 5km. I found the run really tough and could feel my muscles struggling from after the bike.
I think I need to continue with the brick in the next couple of weeks as I still have a way to go but mentally I feel stronger and more prepared about this transition. I now know what to expect on the day and hopefully the wobble in my legs won’t be so much of a shock!
I have finally ordered my new bike and am very excited. I can’t wait for it to arrive and am looking forward to testing it out this week and getting comfortable in the saddle.
As the weather has been so unpredictable I can’t rely on cycling outside to get used to the bike so have invested in a turbo trainer. A turbo trainer is a piece of equipment that makes it possible to ride my bike inside while it remains stationary. I also found out this week that I need to be able to attend to my bike myself if anything goes wrong in the race such as a puncture. I haven’t got a clue what I would do so that definitely goes on my ‘to do’ list!
Three more weeks of training to go and I need to squeeze in as much as I can. The last week is a taper week which means the workouts are less intense to prepare the body for race day. I have set the last week aside to sort out the logistics of the race and prepare all equipment.
As the race is in Abu Dhabi there is still a lot to organise and a lot more practical elements to take into consideration. I need to organise all equipment at this end and arrange to take my bike with me – not quite sure that fits in the suitcase so need to get in touch with the airline as soon as possible! So much to do!
Want to know more about the race I am training for? Just check out the video below.
It has been quite a full on week in terms of training and organising, with only four weeks until I fly out to Abu Dhabi there still is plenty to do, but I feel I am really making some progress.
I managed to fit in three early morning swim sessions before work and found that my body actually is quite alert in the mornings, to my own surprise. I have never particularly enjoyed swimming and over the years progressively spent more time in the jacuzzi than the pool, which seemed like the right balance at the time!
I had to really push myself and at the end of the week managed to reach race distance. This has been a real struggle as I am not a strong swimmer and getting my breathing technique right has taken some time – but it looks like it is finally falling into place. I still have a fair bit of work to do on my technique and also prepare myself for the open water swim which is totally different environment to a swimming pool.
I have swum open water before and it scared me senseless! I panicked and swam the distance with my whole head above the water as I feared not being able to breathe. As I am getting more comfortable with the swim and the distance I am hoping my confidence will also increase and the fear will lessen. Swimming open water is probably the most challenging element of the race for me but I am going to tackle the open water swim head on with a strong, positive and ‘can do’ approach.
I felt quite chuffed with my swimming progress but conscious that I didn’t want to neglect the bike and run so planned a weekend bike ride at nearby Dorney Lake, which has a flat circuit ideal for bike training. Unfortunately heavy snow on Sunday meant the bike ride was off and although the thought of staying inside and having a snow day in my warm cosy flat was such an inviting thought, I didn’t want to make an excuse. So wrapped up warm and plodded my way to the gym in my wellies.
I completed my race distance of 50km! That was a real boost for my confidence. It was tough and I found the last 10-15km particularly hard and struggled to find energy. I needed to know in my head I could complete the distance so mentally pushed myself through the pain barrier till I reached the 50km mark.
I think completing the race distance had gone to my head as I decided (foolishly) after completing the bike that I wanted to see if I could run straight after. After all, this is what I need to do on the day so hard can it be? I stretched out a bit, took in more fluid and started off slowly on the treadmill. I felt quite strong so sped up the pace into a slow jog and… buckled! My legs just couldn’t take it and it was such a shock to the system that I had to stop immediately. This is where brick training comes in and where I should know my limits and train safe. Buckling on a treadmill is not safe.
When you stop the bike leg and start running your legs feel heavy (this is why they call these workouts bricks!) as the body tries to switch the blood from flowing into the muscles used for biking to those used for running. I am going to introduce brick training into my plan this week by starting off with a lower distance and alternating between the bike and run to get my muscles used to the switch.
Despite having a lot on with training, arranging the logistics around the event and also preparing my race kit; I am still excited and enjoying the run up to race day. My ‘to do’ list for this week is to buy a new bike (quite important!), experiment with energy gels and brick training. Looks like I have a busy week ahead!
My new year’s resolution for 2012 was to push and challenge myself both physically and mentally. When I heard about the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon (www.abudhabitriathlon.com) it was an opportunity I just couldn’t miss. In less than five weeks’ time, this challenge becomes reality.
I have opted for the sprint distance which is made up of a 750m open water swim, followed by a 50km bike on the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit, finishing off with a 5km run through the city of Abu Dhabi.
It is not the distance of the tri that I find daunting (although it is pretty horrendous!) it is the hype around the race itself. Last year the race attracted athletes from over 51 countries holding 50 Ironman titles and 24 World Champions. The standard is extremely high, not just with the elites but across all competitors. I am sporty, exercise regularly and teach various fitness classes; however I do not have a competitive nature nor train for a specific sport. I have only completed one triathlon, and at a fraction of the distance, so to say this race is a challenge is an understatement!
Since the beginning of January I have found it a struggle to find time to train due to an obscene amount of work commitments. I know – excuses, excuses, excuses! My work load is not going to get any better so something had to give. It all changed this morning when I crawled out of bed at 5.30am and somehow found my way to the gym by 6am. After a cardio and swim session, I am now feeling positive and motivated for the week ahead. Just the kick start I needed.
This week I will be concentrating on my swim, my weakest discipline by far. I plan to visualise myself swimming in the beautiful, warm and calm Arabian Gulf… rather than my local swimming pool in not so sunny Maidenhead. Fingers crossed this is the motivation I need to reach my target distance comfortably and confidently on race day.
It might seem that I have bitten off more than I can chew, but I couldn’t be more excited. Sport to me isn’t about being first or shaving seconds off my PB but pushing myself and setting individual targets. Most importantly I want to have fun and ENJOY this journey. I know with determination and a positive attitude this can become one of my most rewarding accomplishments.
Hope you enjoy reading my blog in the next coming weeks leading up to race day!