Words and awesome effort by Daryl Raggatt:
Thursday taxi to AD from Dubai along the ride route:-hot mid 30s, sand blasting across the road. Friday…pre race day was another shocker-very strong blustery winds from the desert. And the forecast was not consistent over various websites during the week, so what conditions will race day spit out for us? Signed and committed so what does it matter.
Friday morning we walked the 3k down for a swim session to get course sightings and was surprised how pleasant and clear the water was, apparently 22deg C, and white sand seabed visible over the full 1500m course. Carbo party ended in a down pour of rain..leaving different thoughts of what would race day dish up??
Race morning was clear, warm and with a slight freeze, but that was 5am. Van Lierde and van Vlerken running along the promenade as we strolled to the start, one way to raise the HR before the start. Long course age groupers race start followed the pro women once they began their second 1500m.
Couldn’t get a front row position but second row suited and within 300m the battle for space was over. A bit hectic at the 500m turn buoy, then found feet to follow to the next buoy and into the beach. One 1500m down in 25 mins, the 100m beach sprint then the second lap. A quick look out the 500m buoy and all I could see was a sea of blue caps!
They had just started the next wave (~200) short course competitors, $@); this was going to be a battle. Yep, by the first buoy I was into the tail end..one dick swimming double arm backstroke tempted to give him a fist to the cruits for going so slow!, then another breast stroking that nearly became a foot in my mouth – $&:5@ dick! All the way around was passing slower swimmer, and not much free space. Swim done in 52 with fairly straight lines and heart rate not too high ..so a first leg (39th of 190 long course starters and conservative as planned given unknowns of this long course).
T1 was quick , not to much time wasted changing wetsuit, adding gels to back pocket, slapping on some sunscreen , then glasses and helmet on the run to the bike. Most of T1 was running to the tent then to bike and another 200m+ to bike mount line. It was a gooding feeling to see the one bike rack for long course competitors was still almost full and cheers from Sue..yep doing ok so far!
HR was only 150 just into the bike, so it didn’t take too long to drop to my planned race pace 130-135.
Once out of town the highway to F1 Yas Marina was a long straight-ish 23k to the F1 cct. It was warming, cross wind was light but again more )$&:holes- who can’t keep to the right. The site of 3 guys within 100m with flats wasn’t re-assuring.
The inbound (to Abu Dhabi) lanes were closed then split for out and back riders so there was 2 to 3 lanes of smooth surface to ride unimpeded, but there’s always the drafting cheat or two. Hit the F1 cct first for the first lap at approx 40k averaging 33. Didn’t take in to much of the cct on lap 1 because the short coursers were everywhere.
Then the return 27 k back toward town before turning for the second return to Yas. On the second lap speed dropped to 32 av. For once per training I was refueling every 10 min to the Garmin alert, and gobbling a GU every 45min. Pro men streamed past me on their 3rd lap, my second at about my 83k mark. Second lap of the F1 cct was free of short coursers with space and time to pick good lines through the curves, did get into top gear and did need to change down a few so it wasn’t a ‘full speed ahead’ cct.
Back to the turnaround then only one to go….and the course was thinning. Third lap around Yas was really quiet no body ahead or behind, the same for the ride back into town, at least here I could see others still riding out, some behind and a few to catch ahead. Started to struggle with cramps at 170k and slowed to find some balance of speed v pain. Last check and av was 30.4 before extracting feet from shoes for T2.
Looking at the rack it was ‘full’ (@$&! had I really lost that much on the bike?), well the first 3/4 was full so obviously had lost time on others (88th bike split so middle of the field, not good but not disastrous). Fumbled a bit in the tent with socks, shoes, rebagging helmet and sunscreen, so it wasn’t as quick as it should have been…seconds wasted add up – always look back at first IM missing sub 11 by 55 seconds (haunting thoughts).
Then not 1 k into the run and my nemesis-cramps kicked it. Somewhat furious at this point as training and racing to a plan; this shouldn’t be happening. Stopped stretched and started ambling onwards until at the 2 k aid station where they kicked in and stopped me dead for a minute or two. Painful enough to consider walking back! Reconsidered that non option after helpful words from the aid station crew and started hobbling onwards. And that was the theme for the next 18 k, run until the thighs cramp, walking or limping if necessary until they subsided then try running. Ugly as it was it got me to the 19.5 mark when right quad and hamstring went at once which brought me to a verbal and instant screeching stop!
I think every body understood my cursing at that point. And while trying to stretch the hammy, another runner goes past…boy this was really pissing me off. Still a sub 10 was on the cards. Surely I could run another 500 m and him down and at least finish looking good, I had the energy. In that last 500 I did catch the guy ahead just at the red carpet, 100m to go and given he looked my vintage he was going to be beaten! As usual the last 100 of he day was the quickest…that euphoric feeling to pass under the finish banner and with a sub 10. (9:57:39).
The frustration of a slowish bike and 2:15 run, hoping for a sub 2:00, was enhanced when Sue said my age group winner 50-59 ( 10 year brackets for this race year!) was 8:23. Further pissed off to find the massage tent had just done their last ‘patient’.
Good points: the bike rode really well after Raoul (luescherteknik.com.au) added a few stiffening Hi modulus uni plies to the ‘stem’; not feeling too sore post race or the next day (stiffened up day 2); and viewing official results with a doubleshot frappacino on Sunday where I was now in the 60-69 age group (age taken at the end of this year, a plus) which placed me second in a small group of 5 starters. Forget the fact I was 1:10 behind the winner! I was still 1:00 ahead of third.
Unfortunately no podium photo as the organisers weren’t/ didn’t bother announcing placings of the later finishers.
Again next year?…I doubt it really need to get a handle on cramping so might try and speed up the 70.3 half IM race time.
And a few notes that have floated back since:
The &*^ hole, (#356), that drafted me and then 2 other quicker guys on the return lap (#356) didn’t finish… deserved that result!
The guy in the hotel lift the next day who said he had 16 salt tablets and 4 aspirin to prevent cramps! It didn’t go down well with Sue..~“ …you’re not going to take that much aspirin”.