Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championship; Bahrain 2016 - Race Report

Bahrain
10 December 2016

D-2

This was my second half distance race in Bahrain after Challenge Bahrain 2014. The race was held on the same course more or less. I went to Bahrain with my mates from PSY Tribuddies, QA_tri and Triclub Doha. It was a big contingent from Doha.

With Triclub Doha Contingent 
We went to the Bahrain International Circuit in the evening for registration and supporting our friend, Yeen who ran the Irongirl race while the 3M (Myra, Maqeeel and Mishel) did the Iron kids. It was great to see that everyone in Aizal and Yeen's family got involved while supporting their daddy. Maybe I should do the same when my kids are a little bit older. The best thing about this Irongirl and Ironkids race in Bahrain was the presence of many top triathletes in the world (most of them are a member of the Bahrain Endurance 13 team) supporting the event. It was a fun evening for everyone especially us the kids at heart. We just could not hide our excitement and acted like a bunch of teenage groupies when we saw many top pro triathletes that we follow on instagram were there. We managed to talk and have selfies with Daniela Ryf, Jodie Swallow and James Cunnama. There are many others around (those familiar but I forgot their names) but I was too shy to talk to them and did not want to embarrass them (or myself ) for asking their names.

You can tell I was excited. From Top Left: With Daniella Ryf, James Cunnama, Jodie Swallow, Eric Watson, Javier Gomez and Jan Frodeno

The opening ceremony and race briefing was really posh and spectacular with great food and setting only Bahrain and Dubai can afford. Again us groupies were having a field trip. I had photo taken with Eric Watson, Abdullah Attiya, the reigning Ironman World Champion and the fastest Iron distance record holder, Jan Frodeno  but the highlight of the night was when I got the chance to speak and take picture with Javier Gomez!! My triathlon idol which I had a man crush with since I took up the sport in 2013.

Team PSY Tribuddies at the Opening Ceremony

Had a little chat with Javier


D-1

The day started early with the swim practice. It was so windy but otherwise a beautiful clear day.  I only did a short swim and already sense that I will have tough day tomorrow if the condition stays. We hurried back to our hotel and continued with the short bike and run practice around Seef neighborhood where the hotel was.

Swim Bike and Run Practice
We went back to the Four Season Hotel for the Bike Check In in the afternoon. It was a straight  forward process. The Four Seasons was a fantastic venue for the race, it's beautiful and the location was perfect for the swim at Bahrain Bay. The only thing to nag about was the long transition from the ramp to the parking concourse where the bikes were racked, but everyone will go through the same ordeal, so no issues there.

Bike Check in

Race Day

Swim (47:30 71st in AG 568th Overall)

I tried to remain calm despite the cyclonic wind and the talk of strong currents and choppy waters among other participants. The truth is, I was scared. I peed twice in my wetsuit while waiting in the start corral (thankfully no one noticed). I was contemplating on seeding myself in a faster corral but I don't want to risk being swim over by other swimmers so I seeded myself in the 40 minutes plus corral.

I remained calm as I make my way down the pontoon and jump in the water. The swim to the first turn buoy was not that bad. I even managed to draft on the feet in front of me. It gets harder when we turn right directly facing the sun. It was really hard to sight. My solution was, swim towards the sun and it worked.I saw few swimmers went well off course to the left. The swim gets harder and harder after the second turn on the long stretch between second and third turn buoys as the area was exposed to the wind. My pace dropped considerably as we were swimming against the current. At one point I thought I was not moving at all like I was swimming in an endless pool. As I breath on my right, I also had trouble breathing with the chops and swallowing super salty water in each breath as the wind blew diagonally from the right. Somehow I felt this was harder than the swim at Ironman South Africa.

T1 (6:38)

I couldn't be happier to end the swim and climbed up the ramp, ran past a swimming pool, around a beautifully manicured garden, rounding another swimming pool, up the stairs, into the woods, down a slippery ramp, across the shower and finally made it to T1 42.175km later on the most painful and slippery walking path made of sharp stone pebbles .

I grabbed my bike bag on the rack and made my way to the changing tent, removed my wetsuit, put on my helmet and quickly ran up the ramp to my bike.


Bike (2:53:53 64th AG 424th Overall)

I was a bit concerned about the wind since I was riding with a deep section front wheel and did not bring my training front wheel. True enough I was nearly being thrown off the bike a few times from strong gust and hung onto my dear life. Few people fell and DNF including Prince Nasser. Being light, I was struggling to control the bike. My reaction to the near misses were of standard, curses followed by prayers. It goes something like; Sh!t, fuc<, subhanallah, Allah hu Akbar. Being a good boy, I rode conservatively around 130 watt and fueled properly as my nutrition plan. I swore I have never felt 90 km in an Ironman 70.3 race this easy (except the scary wind part). For the first time I nailed the pacing on the bike and I just cant wait to start running feeling relatively fresh.


Run (1:53:48 50th AG 334th Overall)

Here is my favourite part in a triathlon but most often the hardest. Again, I kept saying to myself, pacing, pacing every time had the urge to speed up with an intention to make up for the lost time in swim and bike. My goal was to run at an even effort or around 165-170 bpm HR, never higher. The run to Al Areen Wildlife Park was boring, so I played a little game I called 'Hunt the zombies'. I would focus on a runner in front of me and lock them as my target to 'kill'. It was fun. I 'killed' 90 males and females zombies on the run. I never had so much 'fun' running a run leg in a triathlon before. Certainly a lot easier than Challenge Bahrain 2014 where I hit the wall at Km 8 and walked run till the end. In 2014 I would stop at every chance to look at the many animals and at every aid station, this time around I did not walk a single step of the half marathon. It's nice when you are racing with friends. We exchanged greet and support to familiar faces from Doha and it works like magic. Everyone seems to have great time in Bahrain. I was still 'fresh' when I arrived at the finish line at Bahrain International Circuit. I picked up the Malaysian flag tucked in my trisuit and ran strong proud on the red carpet with the Jalur Gemilang behind me. The crowd support at the finish line was fantastic and my support team and cheer squad were notably the loudest lot. I could not be happier.

Finally a sub 6 hour and a PB after 2 years of trying

This race was not only special because I had a PB and met many of my triathlon idols, but mostly because the people I travelled with. That what truly make this trip special. I even had a surprised birthday from my Malaysian entourage. Thank you guys. You guys were awesome. Bahrain was a perfect end to my 2016 calendar, setting for a nice momentum for 2017. It will be massive!

Icing on the cake for what already an awesome trip. Surprise birthday celebration by PSY Tribuddies and my Malaysian entourage 
 

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