Andy wins 35-39 age group at DIT!

Dubai International 70.3 – November 7th, 2014 – Men’s 35-39 AG

The background:

When I gave up rugby by in late 2012, a year of doing, well, nothing… had resulted in a bit more lard on my frame than I would have liked…  A family visit over Christmas 2013 and a few hundred confirmatory “fat” pictures taken by my mother resulted in me “getting a grip of myself” and making the decision to get my fat arse into gear and start training again.  My wife Jo has been doing some triathlon with TriDubai (and before that T2A) and whilst by then she had all but given up the sport due to injury during the buildup to Ironman Western Australia in late 2012, me starting triathlon meant that we could do some activities together such as swimming and cycling.  Having such a great Triathlon community out here is also fantastic and we now have a great group of friends within it.

Well, shortly after starting, I got the bug.  A little OCD and a “moderation is for cowards” attitude to life in general resulted in a coach, two bikes, a lycra fetish and around 10 hours per week of training in pretty short order.  Oh, and a massive dent in my back balance….  Buy cheap, buy twice!  Only having an understanding and supportive wife who has been into triathlon before and “gets it” has allowed me to do this.  It certainly makes the early nights, 3am starts and impulse buying easier to get away with!

Balancing overseas travel, work and training proved to be a little tough at first but I had selected my coach based on the fact he had been doing the same thing (working overseas) for years as well.  Between us we managed to put together plans which allowed for lack of a bike, pool, gym etc.

Anyway, so Tony (my coach) and I sat down in the early part of the year (I took him on just after Abu Dhabi International 2014 which was my first triathlon) and picked out two key races.  IM 70.3 Hungary was the first, and IM Texas the second.  Everything between that would be a distraction, unless done as a “training race”.

Training for DIT:

IM Hungary 70.3 didn’t go quite as planned.  A bike issue (snapped derailleur at the 20kn point) forced early retirement from the race and whilst I learned a lot, I was very disappointed.   As I had not completed a 70.3, I decided to go for it in Malibu (a huge Olympic distance event close to where we went on holiday this summer) and DIT.  The down side was that I had no breaks in over 7 months and was starting to feel it….

The buildup for Hungary in August had prepared me for the distances (and helped me shift 20kg), so the last couple of months had just been fine tuning and building speed through high intensity training.  Some brutal sessions!  Mentally I was ready and I felt confident I could go well under 5 hours on race day, but I did have a few “niggles” which were annoying.  The importance or rest…..  Oh, and I may even start stretching and watching my diet soon….!

The DIT Course:

Swim: A single rectangular circuit insider the crescent of the palm.

Bike: Out from the crescent onto the trunk of the Palm, down Hessa Street, three “laps” of Hessa Street between Motor City and Sufouh Road, then back to transition.  This would be a very fast course were it not for the speed bumps on the Palm, and the highway flyovers.

Run: 2 laps, going out North along the Crescent.  Very flat, with one bridge being the only incline/decline.

Race Plan: 

Swim: Go hard early and stay with the front runners.  Find a comfortable and sustainable pace after the second buoy.  Target 28.5 minutes.

Bike: No getting carried away; just stay in mid Z3 power throughout.  Go careful on the bumps and turns.  No real target time, but sub 2hr 30 mins would be a reasonable time if windy.

Run: Steady out (4.30/km) for the first 2-3 km before picking up to a race pace.  Last 5-6km balls to the wall.  A time of 1.30-1.35 would be nice.

Swim (Actual time 29 mins 47 secs):

This was a non-wetsuit, deep water start.  Swim conditions were good – water was warm and clear, and turning points were easy enough to see. 

Greg Petersen, Chris Henn and I had a great scrap right around the course.  I really had to bully my way around the turns in order to avoid being pushed too wide, or being forced under the buoys as happened on the first turn.  We started and ended the swim within seconds of each other and would probably all have been quicker had we just found ourselves some water of our own!

All in all I had a decent swim.  It felt like there was a head current on the back stretch (around 600-650m) and if not, there was certainly some chop on the water which affected my stroke.  I didn’t lose the main age group pack though so I figure they all had the same issue.  I was slightly slower than expected, but then so was everyone else in the lead group; even the pro’s.  Tide/current? 

I had a little cramp in the top of my calf towards the end of the swim for some reason.

Bike: 2h 27m, 05s

Aside from a bout of cramp in my upper calf whilst running from the water to my bike, transition seemed to go fairly well.  I was on the bike second in my age group and very high up overall.

Speed bumps and cobbled roads made the early part of the course tricky at times.  I had some issues recently with my aero bars slipping when going over speed bumps so was cautious when going over them.   These were especially bad when on the trunk of the Palm, however the carbon gel I had applied to slightly over-torqued bars seems to do the trick. 

When we hit Hessa Street, it was plain sailing.  There was a great back wind down to Motor City on the first leg which was nice to have when warming up on the bike.  The head wind in the opposite direction wasn’t too bad, unless it was coupled with a flyover. 

For nutrition I had a Mule bar early on followed by a gel every 30 minutes thereafter.  I took onboard around 3.5 liters of water during the ride (I took two and picked up two bottles on the way) which I thought would be enough (in hindsight it probably wasn’t).  One of these was mixed with goo brew and another was an electrolyte drink; the other two were water.  At the end, the cramp in my leg had gone and I felt pretty good.

Run: 1 hr 42m, 42s

Hot hot hot…..

Transition was quick, and I felt good.  Spurred on by some great TriDubai and TRIbe support, I went out fast – probably too fast…..

I cracked the first 10k in just over 40 minutes and could see everyone I needed to beat quite a way behind.   I had overtaken Gijs Olbrechts (who just caught me on the bike) and Chris Henn (who is strong in the water and really strong on the bike) early in the run.  Chris had cut his foot but had continued on - good effort that man!  I could see Didge around 250m ahead of me and figured if I could catch her then we could pace each other at around 4.15/km but…….

The heat then really picked up and I was starting to suffer.  The second half was misery…..  4.15’s turned into 4.30’s, then into 5’s and 5.30’s.  I was running 6’s over the bridge.  My head and heart had to take control as my body was losing grip……

I couldn’t get enough water into me to rehydrate and cool myself, so decided to walk the feeding stations in order to do so, and to lower my heart rate.  I was also feeling very hungry but was nervous about taking too much nutrition onboard when I was getting so dehydrated.   I did however take on one gel at around the mid-way point, and drank anything I could get my hands on.

I could see everyone in my age group and with 3km to go I still had plenty of space.  Luke Matthews had overtaken me at around the 18km point but that was always going to happen (and he is 15 years younger and built like a whippet!).  3km is one lap of the lakes where I live, so mentally I was over the line.  I opted to take it fairly steady for two of them and then go hard for the last km if needed.  I have a decent sprint, but didn’t really want to use it!  Fortunately, I didn’t!

When I finished, the cramps really set in; all over…..  Calves, hamstrings, quads, back, shoulders etc.  Unpleasant.  After a massage and a lot of water these subsided however.


Overall, I was happy with the performance given the heat – at 6’2” and 90kg, I am not built for hot weather events.  I had perspired a minimum 13 liters of fluid over the day and even after rehydrating well after the race, had still lost 6kg when I got on the scales that evening.  I managed 4.41.53 which was enough for an AG win.  I was over the moon with the placing and with the exception of the run was happy enough with the splits and overall time.

Thanks to my wife for your understanding.  Thanks to everyone behind TriDubai for helping me get motivated to drag my arse of the sofa (Triathlon is THE sport to get involved in here in the UAE because of people like Roy, Ian, Didge, Hassan etc).  Thanks also to David Laboucherre for inspiring me, keeping me focused, and reminding me that everyone can be beaten.  And a huge thanks to Tony H for taking me so far so quickly.  Still a fair way to go though!