Challenge Bahrain, 6.12. 2014

December 6th was the day of my first competitive triathlon experience.  Skipping the sprint triathlon competitions, I decided to go for the half Ironamn distance. Encouraged by my housband Iztok  and a few days after finishing  my undergraduate  medical studies at the University I was mentally prepared, excited, feeling encouraged to try something new-triathlon. Iztok and I have trained enough together therefore the distance was not concerning.  At least that is what I thought.

Iztok, his brother Dušan and I collected our bikes at the Manama airport after arriving happily. The good thing was that we had their parents traveling with us since excessive luggage is really hard for manual transportation. You are always afraid of being informed that your pollished, waxed, race-ready bike will land with another airplane in another country on another continent and you will have to spend hours, days to get it back. Meanwhile, staying at the side of the race track, loaded with carbohydrates as a part of you pre-race preparation (of course not knowing your bike would take another flight). Luckily this has not happened yet, I hearthly hope it will never happen.

Bahrain bay.

We landed in the middle of the night. Of course we had no idea how to get to our hotel. The original plan was to grab the biggest cab, showing the driver a hotel adress… and that should pretty much do it. After finding our way out of the airport, we were pleasently surprised by the Challenge Bahrain organizinig team. They were absolutely prepared for the night incomes and yes they offered a wan and a ride to our hotel. That was a relief. Our hotel was located a few miles away from the Challenge area, the Bahrain bay where the swim start took its place. On a pre-race night evening there was a traditional pasta party at the Bahrain International Circuit in the south. The bus connections were well organized and transparent, they really tried to keep us informed. Pasta party was delicious, combining traditional Arabian cousine with our European dishes. Not to mention desserts. We  really enjoyed our time and got loaded with pasta, bread and potato. Some vegetables too. 🙂

At the T1 area the day before the race start.

A pre-race day was dedicated to bike preparation. We went on a easy ride in the streets in the local traffic. Well you had to be careful not to fall in the sands and since there is a lot of construction areas you never know where there might be glass on the road. The bikes got a bit sandy, covered with dust. We had to transport them to the starting area. Since tourists sometimes make a mistake, we took a ride… on a highway…with our bikes. Driving 15 miles per hour and being overtaken by a giant, oil fueled »road monsters« (since the petrol is really cheap) was not exactly an overwhelming experienced but anyway, we had to get to the next overpass. Anyway, we managed to check in our bikes and gear. The night was coming and it was recommended to get some sleep. I soon realized I can forget about getting any sleep. There were two obsticles: the adrenaline and the outdoor noise made by car machines. They obviously had night time races or something. It was 2 a.m. and finally the sleep came… on the other hand, Iztok aside was totally calm, sleeping as a triathlon veteran, cute as always when sleeping.

The alarm ringed at 4.30 a.m. I was totally awake. Probably my puppils were dilated to the margins, infuenced by adreanalin. There was no sign of tiredness. Of course not, we had a half IM distance ahead.

There is something about race mornings. Some kind of peacefullness,  I can not describe it exactly but it is an addictive felling. The swim start was in waves. My age group started to gather in the water, few swim hits and that was it. We were waiting for the gun shot. I had no time orientation, when the shot should be launched… well it came out suddenly and that was it. I started swiming with the group.

Swim start area.

The fisrt few hits were painful since the water was crowded and I got hit (and probably hit back too) by other competitors. During the 1,9 km swim I saw the World Trade Center which I took for my orientation in the water. It was my first competitive open water swim and I have to mention I had difficulties keeping the swimming line straight. I probably did a hundred metres more. I was looking out of the water occassionally, checking the route and where the others were. At the end of the bay we took a U-turn back, now passing the Four Seasons Hotel. What a view…

Getting out of the water after 40 min and  few seconds was encouraging. I thought to myself that the part I was afraid the most is now over. Legs were soft, I hardly managed to get out of my swim suit. I unwrapped a chocolate (300  delicious callories) and proceed to my bike. It was waiting there on a red carpet with Garmin and helmet prepared on the steer. I felt encouraged by the crowd and once on the bike, I knew that the next three hours chocolates and Isostar were my best budddies. Iztok and Dušan were probably way ahead, since there start took off before my group. We crossed the bridge to the community of Muharraq island. Then we looped back to the spectator areas of T1 and then the bike course headed out of the city to the residential area. it headed south to throught the land of million palm trees, heading to the desert. the wind was strong all the way, sometimes you had to push harder to overcome it. The legs felt ok, reaching the 90 km mark we had to drive a full lap on the Formula one track. I was surprised, I did not know there were so many ups and downs on a F1 track. Really. Well the legs started to feel uncomfortable. It was time to change the discipline, heading for the run.

It took me three minutes to get dressed for the run. The first running steps on leaving the F1 track felt like kicking the stone. I knew this was just a temporary phase and that after few miles the things will get alright. The run lead us to the wild park running past ostriches, giraffes, birds, camels, horses. Later, Iztok reported that he was almost hit by one.

The last miles were so rewarding, I did not slow down. I felt stronger and started accelerating, knowing that the finish line on the F1 track was somewhere there. It tok 5h and 51 min. I was pleased with the result as a first-timer. Well it even brought me a fifth place in my age-group.

And at that moment I must say I fell in love with triathlon finish lines. 🙂