In early January, Ironman held their first 70.3 race of the year in Dubai, UAE – this was a Euro Tri Club qualifying race at which Havering Tri had 4 members racing.
The day proved hugely eventful with each member achieving at least one personal goal – a great start to the year for them, and for Havering Tri.
Below, in our usual Q&A format, are their thoughts on the day, the race and their achievements…
What was the atmosphere like on the morning of the race? How did you feel?
Olivia - The atmosphere was amazing the morning before the race. We had been in Dubai since the Tuesday and race day was on Friday and we had a good few days to chill out and also swim, bike and run in the conditions. This was my first individual 70.3 and what an amazing place to do it. The sky was clear, the wind wasn’t too bad and it was lovely and warm – what else could you hope for. I had previously only ever been involved in one other 70.3 and that was a relay with my husband at outlaw Holkham so I had no idea of what overall time I would get or even if I would finish. I just wanted to finish before the cut offs. Therefore the morning of the event was full of nerves dreading not finishing within the cut offs.
Ben - Everything leading up to the race had been really exciting and over the top, like the race briefing on a massive stage next to the Burj was quite cool! However the morning seemed fairly quiet, like every race I guess… everyone was quietly setting their transition areas out. It was kinda cool to see some of the pros doing their warm ups next to you. There were some pre race nerves, but I was more excited just to get in the water and start!
Brett - The morning of the event always starts the same for me, with nerves. I go through the motions of worrying that I have forgotten something and end up double and triple checking everything. Getting to transition and checking my bike is when it all starts and becomes very real. The place is buzzing and everyone has the same look on their face, excitement. The event organiser, in this instance Ironman, put on an amazing show from the go. The music is loud and is getting everyone pumped ready for this race. I landed in Dubai on Tuesday, 3 days before the event. I managed to complete a run, bike ride and swim half of the swim course prior to the actual event and this made all the difference. This is something I had not done before but will now do every time.
What part of the course did you find the toughest? Which part did you most enjoy?
Olivia - The part of the course I most enjoyed was the bike. It wasn’t the actual course because it was just main roads and desert but it was just feeling so strong on the bike that made it enjoyable. I dread anything bike related and always put myself down as being too slow however I think the endless short interval and long rides on the turbo over the winter really paid off. Despite the headwind on the way out and the constant gradual incline I loved it. I surprised myself with a sub 3 hr (just) bike split.
My least favourite part was the run if I had to choose. I enjoyed it all but this is the leg of the race I struggled most. I had an awful stitch for most of the 13 miles which didn’t help with constant drinks of red bull and fizzy coke. However I must say the support was fantastic and I ran 2 of my laps with Brett and that was just awesome. It was so nice to see him and everyone else on the run course doing so well and smashing it!
Ben - Probably the bike on the way out. Headwinds for the first 30 miles, you really had to battle through it. But having the tailwind on the way home was nice. Think I enjoyed the run the most… when you come out of transition you get that slightly relief that you haven't drowned, crashed, had a puncture etc, and all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other to finish. But I felt really strong when I got onto the run, it just flew by and I loved it!
Brett - The run for me was the toughest part of the event. I tend to run very well off the bike but I found myself running a lot quicker than I wanted to go and forced myself to slow down. This was a mistake, I should have kept going and let me body slow itself down gradually. That said the run was where all the support was. I got shouts of encouragement from all the Havering Tri team competing, high 5’s and ‘keep going’ on every lap. I was lucky enough to run nearly 2 laps with Olivia, this was one of the best parts of the race, having the support she gave me on the run was incredible and kept me going. The sun was at its highest point and the heat was getting unbearable so it really helped. The support from Lisa (my wife) and Spencer (Olivia’s Husband) was outstanding. I’m sure I could hear them cheering all over the run course, yes they were that loud.
Out of the 3 I enjoyed the bike the most, that being said it wasn’t all good. The bike route was an out and back, 28 miles out and 28 miles back. The first 28 miles was into a head wind with what seemed like a constant incline, this was gradual, but just kept going. The last 28 was incredibly fast. On this I had an amazing tail wind and what seemed like a downhill ride the whole way to transition.
How often did you train in preparation for Dubai? Did you focus on improving a specific area?
Olivia - I suppose my training averaged about 9 - 10 hours a week. 2 hrs of swimming, approx. 3 hrs of running and the rest cycling. I really concentrated on the cycling because it is the weaker of the 3 disciplines (not like I am great at the other 2 but a little better). It was a difficult lead up to Dubai due to the time of year and while everyone else was having a break over Christmas and new year I could not afford to. The dark mornings and evenings and cold weather were also not ideal and I often spent my time in my garage in front of Zwift following a number of training plans. I also had a few trips in December and early January which meant I missed training sessions and had to instead make use of hotel gyms.
Ben - Training for the race was kinda tough on the off season. Everyone's partying over Christmas and New Year, so there are a lot of temptations. Had a lot more run sessions which helped.
Brett - I trained regularly, 3 – 4 times a week but didn’t run enough. I did focus on strength training, which I haven’t done before and this really helped. Cycling over the winter is never nice but I got out twice a week and managed at least 30 miles on each ride.
How did the club training sessions help you to train towards the race?
Olivia - Club training sessions are a major part of my training plan and I would definitely not of been as well prepared without them. Not only are they varied but as I am training with my mates they are enjoyable. I structure my training plan around the Monday club run and weekly K.A.S. swim sessions. Due to family and H.C.C. club commitments I cannot often make spin or Sunday cycling but for those who do have that availability I would definitely recommend it.
Ben - Because there was a lot of training over the winter the roads were not great to go out on the bike, so there were quite a few lonely turbo sessions… but it helped me catch up on a load of Netflix shows so can't complain. The Monday night running was very helpful… it’s such a good turn out and there’s always someone to push you and motivate you.
Brett - I only attended a couple of session before the race and now seriously regret this. Since being back I have attended nearly every run session and this really has helped me improve. This is shown with new PB’s in 5km and 10km times.
How do you feel the race went? Are you happy with the result?
Olivia - I think it went better than I could of ever hoped for. It was my first 70.3 and not only did I do it in a reasonable time (6hrs 11 mins) and got my medal but more importantly I enjoyed it. I absolutely had the best time ever with some really close friends and club mates. If you would have said to me 2 years ago that I would have completed at 70.3 I would have laughed at you as I rarely did any aerobic exercise and smoked.
Ben - Very happy! My dream was 4.30 so to go under that and finish 3rd was amazing. Slightly gutted I missed out on a spot for the worlds in Tennessee but it will push me to get a spot in South Africa in 2018.
Brett - Overall the race went well completing it in a PB time of 5:34. Am I happy with the result? Now that’s the question. I had a time in mind that I didn’t achieve, only by 4 minutes, but that isn’t the reason I wasn’t happy. I went into the race and thought I would breeze through some elements, in fact just the bike. This is where I was very naive. The course was a lot more challenging than I expected, with the first half having more elevation than I thought and didn’t think the headwind would be much of a problem. This is where I definitely got it wrong and I won’t make this mistake again.
How did you recover post-race?
Olivia - Straight after the race we went back to the hotel for a much needed shower and relax. We then went to a Irish bar for one drink before heading over to the alcohol free post-race banquet!!! You should have seen my face when they handed my apple juice instead of wine. Despite the lack of celebratory drinks, it was great to see so many people there who had achieved their goals. I got to meet and talk to Lucy Charles who came 10th out of the women pro’s. It was amazing to see that we had help Havering Tri qualify for Barcelona 70.3 in 2018. Ben also placed 3rd in his age group and Mark also qualified so they had their time on stage. It ended up as an early night as we had to wake up early the next morning for the Atlantis Waterpark.
Now going to a water park the day after was the best plan ever. We didn’t rest much but we had a really fun time.
Training only reduced for a few days as I am training for Austria full Ironman in July so needed to get back to the routine.
Ben - I had a lot of food and a little snooze on the beach with my dad. The food tent, ice baths and massages straight after the race helped too!
Brett - Straight after the race I sat in the cold-water pools, in the recovery area, and ate all the food I could. Once back at the hotel I had a bath that I didn’t want to get out of. Had some more food and on hearing that Ben had come in third in his age group I wanted to make sure I was at the banquet to see him get his award. Olivia and I set off to meet the Mark and Ben at the hotel leaving the rest of our group at the Irish bar.
Once at the banquet meal seeing the look on Olivia’s face, that it was a ‘dry’ event, was nearly as good as hearing that Havering Triathlon club had qualified for the Club Championships. This is to be held in Barcelona May 2018. Having to go on stage to collect the award, as a club, was brilliant.
Congratulations to Ben for his 3rd place award and also for Mark qualifying for the 70.3 world champs for the second time.
Do you plan to race any more middle distance triathlons in the near future?
Olivia - Yes. I have Outlaw Half in May 2017 and the Gauntlet at Hever Castle in September. I have Ironman Austria in July which will be my first long distance. I am also contemplating booking 70.3 in Turkey in October and Barcelona 70.3 in May 18.
Ben - 100%… well I have Denmark and Exmoor half booked for June. Also looking to go Portugal in September too!
Brett - Yes I do, as I really like the distance. I have a full distance this year in Austria which I am completing with fellow Havering Tri members Olivia, Chantel, Mark, Leigh and Lee. This is going to be Olivia’s, Leighs, Lee’s and my first full distance and I can’t wait. After that I will end up doing the middle distance more regularly, currently looking at Ironman 70.3 Turkey this year, but haven’t made my mind up yet.
What advice would you give to someone preparing for or contemplating their 1st Middle Distance triathlon?
Olivia - Go for it!
I would definitely recommend getting a mentor or a coach. Either one will give you advice on how to structure your training and picking the best course for your 1st middle distance. I would also say to try an join as many club sessions as possible as that way you can have structure in your plan and you are less likely to miss them.
Lastly I would recommend you speak and discuss it with your family. I am lucky to have such a fantastic support especially from my husband. Without him I could not juggle the training, a 12 hr work day and 2 kids. Not everyone else’s family is going to enjoy triathlon like you do but if you work with them and explain the training commitment it will be easier.
Ben - Try to go to one that you know has other Havering Tri members going! I loved it out in the Dubai, but without Olivia, Brett, and Mark it would have been half the experience!
Brett - Sign up and do it. As long as you put the training in you will complete it. If you need help with any of the disciplines, pay for a coaching session. Also don’t forget to complete strength training and practice your transitions. Having club members, friends and family there with you is a must.