Swim 41:17 5th
Bike 5:17:45 1st
Run 1:16:42 1st
As I sprint down to the water and dive in I find myself with the leaders. I'm swimming right next to Tenille Hoogland. She edges ahead a little and I jump on her feet. This pace feels ok so I put my head down and just concentrate on following the bubbles. I veer a little to the right and accidentally end up on someone else's feet. I keep following what is now a big pack. But as I look up to sight I see Tenille and another competitor far left. Damn! I drifted off her feet and onto a following pack. She gets away. I follow this pack for a while before I decide to pass them and catch up to the next. I soon get onto the next group of girls but the leaders are long gone. As I enter the beach and run around for my second lap I find myself diving in first from my pack. Sighting is hard. There is only two buoys, one on each corner of the triangle. Soon a couple girls pass me so I can now follow. As we turn the last buoy and head for shore I pick up the pace but again I find myself out in front and I cant see a thing. I have two other athletes swimming next to me and we are all trying madly to sight. At one point I think the three of us were all doing polo frantically searching for landmarks.
As we head back with the tail wind again to complete two laps, Caroline takes over. Not very often (only at Abu Dhabi last year) am I in a position to sit in (legal distance apart is 10m) so I'm still not confident of how far back to sit. Again, I play it safe and sit at least 15m back. We have the draft busters as well as camera crew with us almost the entire time. I'm still working hard and several times I get dropped but I manage to keep grinding my way back to within 15m of Caroline. We u-turn again and head out for our last lap into what is now a super strong head wind (the wind usually picks up throughout the morning/day). Caroline is too strong and drops me at an aid station. I frantically pedal to try and get back on. We still have 50km to go. I can't afford to get dropped. There is still so much further to go. I work my butt off but Caroline is pulling further and further away. I lose sight of her and now all the camera men leave me as well. I must be way behind now "they don't even wanna stay with me" I think. When I approach the final u-turn I see Caroline way ahead. Crap! What have I done.
I see Caroline pulling further and further away AGAIN. It's now 20km to go. Lots of time can still be lost so I work my hardest to get back on. At 185km I'm back again and Caroline seems to be tiring. Thank god! Cos I'm wrecked. THEN... Out of nowhere I get almost paralyzed in my right quad with cramping. I never cramp (only time I've ever cramped was at Vegas last year when I went into the race sick and obviously dehydrated). I jump out of my saddle to relieve the cramp but we are now heading back into a head wind so it seriously slows down my speed. I quickly sit back down but the cramp comes back. This time in my left quad as well. I jump up! Sit down! Jump up! I watch helplessly as Caroline pulls away from me. I sit back down, get back on my bars and start pushing hard determined to not let her get too far away. I feel the cramping coming but I decide to stay seated and try and push through it. It doesn't go away. Both quads are now seriously cramping as well as my right hip flexor so I jump back up. The last 15km was a nightmare. How much time will I lose? Will I even be able to run when I get off my bike? I pushed these thoughts out of my head and just kept focussing on that dismount line. 2km to go... This was the longest 2km of my life. Can't it just be short a couple of kms, c'mon I HAVE to get off this bike. Nope, dead accurate! 200km.
I could now see Caroline just up ahead so I backed off a little, hoping I'd feel my legs soon. We passed through 6km and Caroline was only seconds ahead. At 7km I was right on her heels sitting in for a bit. I don't think she knew I was there. I was tucked right in and I land really quiet on my feet. Jared was just up ahead and I wondered if he'd yell anything out. He didn't. I tried to hide a little longer but then... BEEP BEEP! My Garmin tells me a 1km split. Caroline looks back to see me sneaking up on her shoulder. Thanks Garmin... I have to pass now. As I take over, Caroline nicely says "good job". I felt guilty passing her so instead of putting on a small surge I kept it steady and gave her the chance to tack on to me. But I can hear her slowly dropping off. As we get to turn around with 10km to go I start to feel a little better. Maybe because I'm in the lead and my dream of winning such a prestigious race is now looking even better. Anything can still happen though... 10km on tired legs... Who knows...
5km to go and I was getting excited. I'd really extended my lead now and started to feel alright. I hadn't experienced any cramping on the run. To win here in Abu Dhabi would mean so much to me. This is one of my major goal races this year. I wanted to win it so bad that I turned myself inside out to do it. 2km to go and I think I had a smile on my face. I was hurting but I was happy. I wanted to cry, I wanted to laugh, I couldn't believe I was going to do it. It was such a long day and here I was... Now 1km from the finish. As much as I was hurting I actually didn't mind that last km dragging on and on and on. In a weird, twisted way I wanted it to last... As I hit the red carpet I didn't know what I was gonna do when I crossed the line. Hopefully stay on my feet. I started waving to the crowd and then I grabbed the banner and thrust it up over my head. I held it there for a bit then threw it down and put my head between my knees. My legs were shaking. I made my way to the ground where I sat to do the majority of my interviews. My bum was sore, my quads were dead. But I was over the moon!