I took 2:38hrs but it was a bloody tough course, especially the bike. Here’s a full report below for anyone thinking of having a go next year.
I would say the first thing is not to underestimate the course, it may “only” be Olympic distance but it is by far the most difficult tri I’ve done and was a bit of a wake up call. There are plenty of also rans there with fun runners etc but with over 10,000 athletes still plenty of serious compitition in each age group. The organisation is excellent in a very British way (including having the army man check points and feed stations) but no t-shirt ot towel which I thought was a bit crap, was looking forward to adding to my collection. The finishers medal is nice though.
The water was pretty murky and a little cold (18 degrees) but sighting on the course is excellent from the building on either side of the 1 lap course. With between 300-500 people in each wave there is a little argy bargy at the turns but nothing too serious unless you get an unlucky punch. At one point I was sandwiched between a guy build like a Geordie Doorman and bloke with giner hair, if ever there was a recipe for mid water shaningans it was a Geordie Doorman, a Scot and a ginder dude but apart from some “friendly” shoving and encourgement to find out own swim line it was handbags at dawn really. I was mid pack and as you know in Dubai I tend to be at the back so I suspect that most of our guys would be well out beyond the nonesense pretty quickly in case. In short although it’s busy in the swim no one is out to deliberately tonk anyone else.There is pretty good viewing for spectators along the full length of the course for your loved ones to follow along. For me it was probably the best swim venue I’ve done.
The transition hall is huge so definitely worth checking and double checking you place, I was fine on T1 but actually messed up T2 as someone had kindly dumped their bag on top of my stuff so I couldn’t find it, next time I will wrap so black or lumious pink tape around my bike rack.
There are two bike routes in the morning they cycle out to Westminster, this is an easier route as the second half along the Thames is flat. The shorter loop in the afternoon has five clims along the 10km length, 2 fairly easy, 2 tough and one a bit of a beast coming out of Blackwall Tunnel (about 400-500m and what seems like 15% gradient). You loop the course twice so this means 20 climbs for anyone on this route (8 easy, 8 tough, 4 ouch my legs hurt). The course is aslo quite technical, narrow and twisty particularly around the Excel Centre intself and the road surfaces while not disasterous are definately not up to Dubai’s standard and you do have to keep your eyes open. There are also a lot of inexperienced people on the course to watch out for but this wasn’t a major issue. For me the climbs were the real issue and it was easy to see we don’t get enough hill practice in UAE so I think a few sessions in Hatta\Oman etc might be worth doing before the race. I found this course much more difficult than Antwerp and even although it was only 40km lon my legs were pretty shot by the end of the bike.
It a 2.5km loop you complete 4 times so 1.25km out and back. It is very easy to get you bearings where you are on the course as there are a lot of drinks and gel stations so although the distances aren’t marked very well you can pace yourself pretty easily. The track is narrow though so you do get baulked on the odd occassion when overtaking fun runners, charity athletes, prop forwards and guys who look like they could be hookers for the all blacks (the hookers are the worst as they are slow, take up 98% of the path and just about impossible to shove out the road!), I think this probably cost me around 15-20 seconds overall so not disatrous but again worth taking into account. They have some funny plastic matting at a few points which is on a camber, my ankles certainly felt this by the end of the run. It was dry when I was running but if it was raining I suspect this matting could get quite slippery so you would need to watch your feet. The run loop ends with a nasty little 50m ramp that takes you up into the exhibition centre itself and around past the crowds, the finish is also in the same spot. It’s not a killer run though and I think you could do a pretty decent time if your legs aren’t shot from the bike, I think I did something like 45 minutes but haven’t seen my splits yet.
In short I think I underetimated the race, it took more out of me than any other race I’ve done including Abu Dhabi and Antwerp. It is a good race to experience though, not the most scenic but for the expo, organisation and just taking part in something that big it is a worthwhile event. Shame about the t-shirt though…….