Challenge Bahrain 2014 (Half Distance)

Race Report by Mohd Syafei Ahmad

6 December 2014

This race will always have a special place in my heart. Not only it fell on my 38th birthday, it was my also my 1st long distance triathlon after two years of swim bike and run. My reason to tri started as cross trainings to supplement my marathon training, but soon I fell in love with triathlon. The 4 disciplines are like my four children. Each with different characters, challenges and level of attention needed but I love them all equally.

Cinta (Swim): The most difficult to pleased, always a rebellious, but once you get the rhythm, it will be the most satisfying.

Elias (Bike): The most adorable. The one you like to spend most of your time with but not without its own challenges.

Zachary (Run): The hardest and always angry but the most reliable and loyal,

Kaseh (Nutrition): The most fun to be with, the most important aspect of a triathlon but always being taken for granted.

I thought training for a marathon was hard, training for a long distance triathlon was harder. A lot Harder (the capital H was intentional). You only train 4-5 times (6 if you're competitive) in marathon but in triathlon you train 9-12 times a week. Minimum of 3 for every discipline. You spent probably 9-13 hours a week training outside. For someone with a full time job and a young family, it sounds almost ridiculous. You have to be either selfish or crazy to do this sport.

I went to Bahrain with a big group from Qatar under Triclub Doha aka Team Doha. Being part of the big family, I felt like a national athlete competing in an Olympic. Team Doha was very visible in Bahrain. We were giving other teams from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Bahrain run for their money.

With some of Team Doha contingent

Challenge Bahrain was the first long distance triathlon in the gulf region thanks to HH Prince Nasser of Bahrain, a passionate triathlete himself. It may be my first international triathlon, but I don't think other races can beat Challenge Bahrain when it comes to organization and hospitality. They waived the visa fee (77 USD) and welcomed us with a special immigration counter at the airport for the triathletes and our supporters. You were then escorted to the waiting LIMOUSINE outside the arrival hall. I was not lying, it was my first limo ride! They served espresso on a pontoon set up in the middle of Bahrain bay during swim practice and then there were breakfast buffet in a beautiful majlees tent by Four Seasons. We were treated like royalty! What do you expect when you have a Prince as the patron for the race. The quality of the field was probably the strongest outside the World Championship with around 70 top professionals took part in this inaugural race including the likes of Seb Kienle, Nils Fromhold, Mike Raelert, Tim Don, Tim Reed, Tim Van Berkel (I should name my future son Tim), Miranda Carfrae, Jodie Swallow, Rachel Joys, Mel Hauschildt and the Wassner twins. I was starstruck but too shy to ask for selfies.

Swim (47:29)

I was nervous but excited to swim in my first half distance in the beautiful Bahrain bay. It was also my first wetsuit swim. I loved the fact that you were just float and don't need to tread water for the deep water start. I felt relax on the way out and just focusing on my long strokes but the swim felt really long. Well it was the longest swim in my life after all. I got tired half way and tried to breast stroke, but I could not bring myself under the water because of the extra buoyancy from the wetsuit. I continued swimming but was hardly moving. I made it to the swim out ramp in 47:29 minutes. By the time most of the bikes were already gone. No worries, I was just glad I was back on terra firma.

Finishing almost dead last out of the water
I hope to swim fast like these blokes one day

Bike (3:07:40)

The bike course was point to point from Bahrain Bay to the F1 Circuit in the south of the island. We rode on big 3 lane highways completely closed to motorists. Though we had great time racing, I felt for the locals who were trapped in a massive traffic jam especially near the airport on Muharraq island. I even saw an airline pilot went out from a stationary taxi and ran with his cabin bag. Perhaps a lesson learned for a better planning in the future. I loved cycling around Manama city. The city looks mature in comparison to its new cousins around the gulf like Doha, Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

We were told that we will be getting a lot of tailwind on the bike before the race, but on race day, the wind changed direction and we had more headwind instead. Being a newbie, I was struggling and spent a lot of energy just to ride steady. It was also quite lonely on the highway. I saw many people already started running as I make my way into the F1 track. The 1 lap on the F1 track was an awesome experience, but I just cant wait to stop cycling and start running already.

Run (2:04:02)

Finally, my favorite discipline. I tried to make up for the loss time in the swim and bike and ran like it was a stand alone half marathon. I felt great and enjoyed overtaking other competitors. That feeling did not last. My body just shut down after 8 km. It was like hitting the wall in a marathon. Other than poor pacing on the run it was probably caused by lack of nutrition intake on the bike. I will not let it ruined my day. I then decided to enjoy myself and taking advantage of the luxurious aid stations. The run course took us around Al Areen Wildlife park. I forgot that I was in a middle of a long distance triathlon and really enjoyed my day at the safari. I just jog from one aid station to another, eating and drinking stopping every time I saw an animal. I saw monkeys, ostrich, peacocks, gazelles, giraffes and many more. I was like a kid on a school trip. It was fun. I finally made it back to the F1 track and crossed the finish line in 6:07:09. Seven minutes behind my target (blame it to game watching at Al Areen Park).

Could not be prouder of myself

Thank you for your hospitality your highness

I had the time of my life in Bahrain. I could not ask for a better way to celebrate my 38th birthday and 2 years in triathlon. Thank you Team Doha for the kinship and great memories, but for now I have to rush home to my wife and my 3 children who have sacrificed a lot so I get to attend the invitation from Prince Nasser to his royal ball. I have a lot of catching up to do and make up for all the time lost for training. Thank you also to my coach, Sarah Whittington for understanding my need for training while at the same time considering my time poor limitations. I found love in triathlon but will I do an Ironman in the future? I don't know. Maybe not. My running buddy Joost once said that Ironman races are only for rich, spoilt single dudes without families and work commitment. Next race; Dubai Marathon in January.

The one who responsible to introduce me with triathlon, my mentor Abg Sofian Tiathlete

The hard earned medal



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