We all hear about this high profile race and hope to one day do it. What stopped me previously was that the Abu Dhabi Triathlon was not an Ironman distance race. It didn't seem worthwhile to incur the expense for a non Ironman distance event.
But now, I am only living about 324 km (by plane) away, so there is no excuse.
It is a top event. It is very well organised. It is an opportunity to visit a very modern city located in the middle east. It is a wonderful race location. But the crowd support was the least I have ever experienced in my whole life. I think there wasn't a single clap when I finished, I missed the camaraderie of my running club friends. Everyone seemed engrossed in their own thing, which was to have lunch. Thus I don't rate it as a must do event during your lifetime. In an Ironman, everyone is willing you to finish, you are made to feel special, you feel a very strong sense of accomplishment at the end. But not this time. I guess I have been spoilt by the wonderful crowd support we get in other races.
Its important to quickly study the swim course from the beach. Make a mental note of what the turning buoys look like. More importantly watch out for landmarks behind the buoys. The landmarks are what you are aiming for during the swim. I noticed the earlier wave did not take the shortest route back to the beach, they were aiming for the start gantry which is not the exit point for the swim.
The swim was nice, the sun was shining, the wave start meant it was not a crowded swim, we could always see the city skyscrappers. So it was nice.
26 mins 44 secs said my Garmin. I normally do 29 mins in the pool, either the course was short, the wet suit helped or the training in a Lagoon with my buddy (Emile) had helped.
It was long transition for me. The pavement was slippery. I have fallen before running after the swim, so I ran gingerly. The transition tent was nice with your own pre-numbered spot, wore my thick socks and collected the bike. The red carpet was nice and soft for my problematic feet. A good 150m pushing the bike before the actual bike start. Almost 6 mins T 1 for me. I was very slow.
The bike ride was on 7 lanes (including the emergency lanes) of a closed highway. Incredible. The roads were super smooth. Very adequate aid stations. The ride inside the colourful F1 YAS Marina Circuit was a moment to saviour.
But on the way back I started to panic. I had missed the race briefing thinking the route was just out and back. There was a turning point near the YAS Marina and I didn't do it. Some kind participants clarified to me there would be a "blue turning" which we were to do and head back towards a "black turning" point. I heard some participants took the wrong turning. The "confusing" turning points was the only unclear thing with the course.
I had a good comfortable bike ride actually. The weekly solo 100 km + 11 km brick sessions I did at Lusail for the past two months paid off. Normally in an Ironman, everyone seemed to fly by me. But there were some casual participants this time. I seemed to pass by people when it got windy. Lusail was the perfect training ground for time trialling. Thank you, thank you, thank you Lusail. Thank you Qatar actually.
3 hours 20 mins (averaging 30 km per hour) for an accurate 100km.
I made the mistake of pushing the bike wearing my cycling shoes. Next time I hope to remember leaving the cycling shoes on the bike and run wearing just the socks. 4.5 minutes for T 2. Its slowish.
Run (10km or 9.7 km on my Garmin)
It was hot but not burning hot if you stopped at every aid station. My thighs felt fine so that was a good sign. I did not have a smooth gait for the first 3 km. Then I recalled how my buddy Shawn Delue ran, which is with a very high back kick. So I concentrated on a high back kick and the run suddenly felt smooth. I knew I could then finish but the left calf injury was coming back. If it was an Ironman, I would have DNF.
54 minutes including stops at every aid station. Heck, I was ecstatic as I only managed 53 mins during the recent Doha College 10km.
Total time: 4 hours 51 mins. To be frank I had a very good race. I had been in pain for a good few months and was not quite sure about my physical health. The pain killers I started taking about one week before the race did the trick.
Acknowledgements. I sincerely thank my wife for all her help, the Doha Bay Running Club, Emile Fitzmaurice my training buddy, Bernard from Pad Yak Tri, the bike shops in Malaysia, so many people. Thank you
Ironman South Africa on 14 April 2013. I hope that I finish it within the 17 hours qualifying time.