Swim 44:45 (9th)
Bike 5:01:35 (3rd)
Run 1:14:16 (2nd)
As I stand on the white sand looking out at the crystal clear waters of the Arabian Gulf I glance over the swim course one last time to make certain I can sight all the buoys. The water is nice and calm and so are the competitors around me it seems. It’s a strong field of girls on the start line. Past world 70.3 champions, past and current world long course champions, podium finishes at Kona, you name it, they're here!
The siren goes and I bolt down the beach and into the water. I'm in a good position as I dive in but within seconds I’m being trampled from every direction. Still not quite fast enough at the start. It's not long before I'm in clear flat water. After 1.5km we run out of the water, across the sandy beach before diving back in for the second lap. About 200m from the end of the swim I catch up to Nikki Butterfield (eventual winner) and we run in and out of transition together. As I'm running my bike out of transition I see a raised square under the carpet that an official is standing on so that the athletes
avoid tripping over it. Nikki and I are both running on the left hand side of the official and then somehow my still wobbly legs guide my bike straight for the lump. My bike takes a tumble, my drink bottles fall out and my chain comes
off. Not a great start! But the official kindly helps me on my way.
lap. At 123km I finally catch up with the front girls - Jodie, Caroline, Angela & Nikki. It was a long hard ride to catch them but I'm finally on. I was feeling a lot more confident now and I got the feeling the other girls were concerned that I was up there with them. All I have to do is stay within sight now, I think to myself.
- twice, followed by a shorter out and back lap. As we head back in after our second lap I have a close call with an age grouper and a volunteer, almost taking a stack. If that volunteer is reading this I sincerely apologize for yelling at you! I brake heavily and briefly lose contact but I manage to get back on. We then approach the turn-around - a tight squeeze around a cone. Angela makes her move coming out of the turn. Caroline closely follows. Jodie is in front of me and takes the turn very slowly. I panic as I watch the girls getting away. That was it, that was the break, contact lost. I work hard trying to keep them in sight but they are too strong. At the final turn-around we head back into a now very strong head wind. I'm struggling to hold a solid pace.
I see the dismount line, jump off and run the long transition. I rack my bike and am quickly on my way. Jared yells out 6min to Nikki and 3min to Angela and Caroline. Usually I'd be confident I can run this gap down but with a less-than-ideal run preparation I know it's going to be a big ask. Even so, I still want the win badly, so I convince myself "you haven't lost any fitness" and decide to take my chances and head out at the pace I would usually run and the pace required to win. After 5km my legs aren’t feeling as good as I was hoping. It’s becoming clear that wishful thinking might not be enough to magically make my running fitness reappear. "I'm in trouble" is the thought that flashes into my mind. I quickly dismiss it and keep pushing, hoping that if I start catching the girls it'll give me an extra burst of energy. I run through the first lap in 35min. Perfect. I want to run 70min for the 20k. But my legs are screaming. The second lap is tough. Caroline is only 30sec up ahead. My mind was telling my legs to move faster but my legs were defiantly saying no. I eventually crossed the line in the same position I started the run leg - 4th. I had caught up time on the lead girls but not enough.
Finally, Thank you to all the race organizers, officials, race hotel staff, commentators and volunteers for their amazing efforts in putting together a fantastic event. Abu Dhabi is a spectacular place and the race itself is incredibly unique, don’t get me wrong, it’s a long, tough day out there…but it’s well worth adding it to your to-do list.