ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2015

Oh my GOD! The World Triathlon Series (WTS) is coming to the Middle East, and it is open to the Age Grouper to participate!That was my first reaction when it was announced by the ITU last year. I have not missed following the WTS race last season on OSN Sports, So I was looking forward to see Javier Gomez-Noya, Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee, Henri Schoeman, Aaron Royle, Vincent Luis, Gwen Jorgensen, Sarah True (Groff), Emma Jackson et.al. I wasted no time to register when the registration open and I had to give Challenge Dubai (half distance) a miss.

I went to Abu Dhabi with the Triclub Doha contingent. They were the coolest group of people I have travelled with (other than DBRC and PelariStyloYo! off course). It was great when you feel a part of a team rather than going to an international race solo.  Other than Jilly, Lucy, Ewan, Sofian, Stu Hart, Kim Crawford, Alfons and Alan Sawyer who I already knew from Doha, I also made friends with Kathryn, Dave Walsh, Brian Sullivan, Lindis and Thomas Johansen. I was proud to walk around the race venue and our team hotel at Hilton in Team Doha shirt. We were very visible. Kudos to Ewan Cameron for all his effort to arrange for everything from the shirt, flight, accommodation and our trip itinerary.

D-1

We went to check on the swim course and had the swim practice in the morning. I forgot to bring my goggle but I was lucky that Brian had a spare one I could borrow. The water was calm, clean and surprisingly shallow that I could still see the sandy bottom. It was not that freezing cold and the braver ones of us chose not to wear the wetsuit.
After the swim practice (Picture by Kathryn)
We had a really big breakfast over the buffet before retreating to our rooms to set up our bikes and had a little rest before went back to the race village in the afternoon for Registration, bike check in and race briefing.

Breakfast / brunch
 
Teamwork. Kathryn had a bit of trouble setting up her bike when she lost few ball bearings from her Specialized Amira's fork crown. All good in the end
 
From Left: Lucy, Kathryn, Dave, Jilly, Alan, Brian and me before the bike check in.
I had a chance to have coffee with my ex-colleague who I have not met for 13 years, Azmi. He is now working in Abu Dhabi with a Malaysian company. While we reminiscing on the good old memories when we both worked on a school project in Malaysia, one very familiar athletic looking guy walked in and stood in front of our table. It was Jonathan Brownlee! The former 2012 World Champion and 2014 World No. 3 Johnny! I did not waste the opportunity to have a picture with him and wished him good luck for tomorrow.

With Jonathan Brownlee, Starstruck!

Carbo loading; had a lovely time meeting my old running buddy Peter Whatley and his family.   

The Race Morning

I did not feel the normal pre-race jitters like I always had before a typical marathon race. I was calm, happy and excited. I only feel a little nervous on the race morning. It probably because, I did not set any lofty target other than a new PB and not get beaten by Alan Sawyer LOL. We just walked from our hotel to the race venue at Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club. The venue looks awesome, the course looks good and everything was in place. We went to the transition area to set up our kit before dropping our bags and making our way to the beach for the start.
 
Race morning; after finalizing my transition area

The Swim

I took a place on the far right of the beach to avoid the pandemonium associated with the swim start because I knew I will not be able to outswim my competitors. I just let everyone go after the horn went off before taking my time to run, dolphin dive and started swimming.

Then there was problem. My goggle leaked. I stopped few times to adjust it but it still leaked. It was so uncomfortable and I had to put my head down in the water for as long as possible and closed my eyes when breathing. I thought that was a good strategy to prevent the super salty Arabian Gulf water from getting into my eyes and wash my contact lenses away. But then there was 2nd problem. I had poor sighting of the buoys and zigzagging the swim course. I ended up swimming 150m longer than I should. That was not the end of it. There was another problem. My wetsuit became a little loose after I lost a bit of weight since Challenge Bahrain. It leaked and collected plenty of water. The suit became so heavy to swim in. I even contemplated to take off the suit halfway into the swim.

I felt so miserable, and by the second buoy, swimmers in their pink caps who started 15 minutes later already overtaking me. I could not be happier when the swim was over and the volunteers helped to pull me out of the water at the landing pontoon.

At the swim start wih Abg. Sofian and Dave Walsh (Picture by Sofian)
 
Swim finish
Swim time: 40:31 Total Rank: 450/517 Finishers     


The Bike

Fatigued from the swim, I had a rather sluggish transition at T1. I took my time to rehydrate and downed a pack of gel before pushing my bike to the bike mounting line.  I started off strong on the bike knowing I had a lot to make up for the time I lost in the swim. The bike leg was a two laps circuit along Abu Dhabi Corniche and the causeway to the marina. We had tail wind on the way out from the marina and cross wind along the cornice but it was not too bad. I could still powered up a good bike split (well to my mediocre standard at least). I started overtaking people one after another. My confidence restored and I was actually enjoying it. Riding on the beautiful Abu Dhabi Corniche road was amazing. It was a strike contrast from the uninspiring ride up and down Doha's Ceremonial Road.
Awesome ride

Bike time: 1:17:36 Total Rank: 277/517

The Run

I was still feeling great after the bike. Like a starving lion, I was hungry to hunt for more prey and I could hear my evil laugh inside of me. I couldn't settle into the run rhythm until about a kilometer from the lack of bike-run brick trainings but once I found it, I just locked the gear and set my cruise control at 4:30 min/km pace. I felt really good despite the warm weather. I was so happy and thankful for the opportunity to race in an ITU event. I was literally smiling along the way. I realized it then, this is what I like to be doing; triathlon. I was enjoying my run until km 8 when I had a cramp. That was a hard 2 km and I cannot wait to see the sight of the spectacular grand stand arena where the finish line was. I took out the Malaysian flag that was neatly tucked in my back pocket as I entered the arena and sprinted on the blue carpet with the Jalur Gemilang flying in my back like a cape. I cannot describe how proud I was when I heard the crowd on the grand stand shouted 'Malaysia Boleh'. It was one of the best feeling ever. I crossed the finish line in 2:51:13, a new PB and had overtaken 140 people in the bike and run. Alhamdullilah.

So proud to represent Malaysia in the WTS even if it was only in the Age Group race

Kerana Mu Malaysia

Run time: 47:16 Total Rank : 142/517

Total time: 2:51:13  Rank Total: 310/517

.............................................................

We went back to the race village in the afternoon to see the elite races live from the grand stand. It was totally awesome to be part of the race and watched it live. I cannot wait to be back here again in 2016. Thank you Abu Dhabi.
 

Had a fantastic time watching the elites teaching us some lessons
 
The transition was so quick, you cant afford to blink an eye
 
A perfect ending to my Abu Dhabi experience. The best Nasi Lemak in the UAE  hanks Hazli and Zu for entertaining my crave and Congratulations on the arrival of the new family member.
Will be back here again in 2016, InshaAllah
 

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