Mentally I had prepared myself for the possibility of a hot race at the inaugural Challenge Dubai. What I had not prepared for or expected was the extremely windy conditions which I woke up to Friday morning. As I walked to the transition area the wind was unbelievable, flags and signs where blowing in all directions and I felt a sense foreboding – dreading to imagine what the sea would be like.
There was a lot of tension and anxiety at transition, high winds can send you a bit mad as everything was blowing every where and I could hardly hear myself think. A short walk to the beach confirmed my suspicions that the seas would be rough. The swim course had already been changed to account for the rough seas and was now a 2 loop course. There wasn’t the normal excitement on the beach, this had been replacement for most people by shear terror at getting into the salt water washing machine that awaited. As usual before I knew it I was somehow in my wetsuit and standing on the beach looking out to the first buoy that all of a sudden seemed so far away – contemplating my race.
Bang – next minute I was diving into, under and over waves. I imagined that this would only be like this for a few 100 meters and then calm down. I was wrong. The swell and waves continued to beat against my head and left side for the 350 meters till the first buoy. At times I would sight and couldn’t even see the buoy due to the swell. I just tried to keep swimming, and to keep the saltwater out of my mouth. I’m not going to lie, I had a few moments where I was starting to get a bit freaked out – mostly as I started to feel a slightly sea sick. This passed though and before I knew it I had reached the first turn and the waves were not quite as bad heading horizontal to the shoreline and on the way back in, for the most part they were not quite as rough. I did have to do it all again though – it was actually quite hard to come out of the ocean and then get back in to conditions like that. The second loop was no different to the first, and I was more than relieved when I started to head back in to shore. Happy to have finished the swim in 37 mins considering the conditions, but already wondering what the bike leg was going to be like.
Transition was quick and I was on my bike in no time. I felt pretty good and settled in to the bike straight away. I could immediately feel the tail wind, and decided to go as hard as I could while it was behind me – I knew it wouldn’t last. The first 50km’s (31mi) were reasonably nice and I was averaging between 36/38kmph (22/23mph). There were a few turns that took us into the head wind which got me a bit worried about the 40kms (25mi) back into transition. I reached the turn around and was feeling very solid, and happy with the time I had made up on the bike. Then BOOM – the headwind hit me like a freight train. I wasn’t expecting it to be quite that strong. My average pace dropped significantly – I felt like I was pushing up hill and struggled to find the right gear to not be grinding but still be moving. The gusts of wind were hitting the bike so hard I had to come up out of aero at times just to stay upright. I heard later that the winds were combing through at up to 50kmph (31mph). It was like this with no break for about 40kms (25mi). At this stage I didn’t know it but I was in 3rd and had been following 2nd place for quite some time. She seemed to have a lot more power and endurance for the headwind section and pulled away out of sight. I managed to pass a few other people and not get passed again – with about 20kms (12.5mi) to go I started to mentally come undone. I was getting frustrated with the constant wind, and sand in my face. I felt awful and grumpy and just wanted to get off the bike. It took a lot of strength to keep pushing those last km’s and I really wondered what I had left in me for the run leg.
Another quick transition thanks to some great local girls in the changing tent to got my shoes on for me, cap on my head, drink and off I went. Legs felt pretty good and I decided to try and hold a just above a 5min/km pace (8min/mi). I was determined to break the 1hour50min mark for my run time, and I felt like given the time I lost on the other 2 legs today I was gonna just go for it. I had nothing to loose. I settled into about a 5.05min/km pace and just held it there. 5km down, pace still on, 10km down, pace still on, 15km down pace still on, time to pick it up a bit. I dug a bit deeper and tried my hardest to get a sub 5min/km pace going. I had a guy on my tail who I could hear running about the same pace as me and as he passed me with 2km to go I decided to go with him – it worked and I was able to hold on, sprint out the finish and get a flat 1hour45min run. I had unfortunately dropped from 3rd to 5th place on the run when 2 women in my age group flew past me – I couldn’t have been happier with my run time and truly couldn’t have given it any more. The swim and bike were another story and I wonder if I had not lost the mental edge on the bike maybe I would have had a bigger lead on these girls and held my spot – who knows. That’s racing right?
The next best part after crossing the finish line is then getting to be there when my friends and teammates come through the finish line. It’s always a celebration and a special moment to share, especially with the first timers! Great to be there with some amazing FitChicks who amaze and inspire me with their dedication and hard work!
Will I be back for Challenge Dubai 2016 – heck yeah, it was a great race in an awesome city.. and I want to do this race without the wind!
I want to thank my coach who has taken me from “an ok ” triathlete to someone who now believes anything is possible. Liam Bromilow www.t3coaching.com.au you rock and I couldn’t do this without you! Amanda Borlotti – seriously I can see us as old ladies and still doing this together, the races mean so much more when you’re there! Luis Quiñones – thanks for creating team OnEndurance – seriously meeting you guys changed my life!
Now on to Ironman Texas – 9 weeks to go!