Racing in the Tropics

5 weeks away. 5 weeks training. 2 races. Many unforgettable experiences.

Somehow its already been 5 weeks since I arrived in Phuket, Thailand. I’m now way more comfortable in my surroundings, heat and the local supermarket ;).

Before I arrived I entered the iconic Laguna Phuket Triathlon after doing it in 2016 it seemed like a great time of year to start my journey. And then two weeks later I somehow ended up in Sattahip doing the Thailand Tri league Olympic distance. Both very different races in the tropical heat with differing success.

Laguna Phuket Triathon

Those hills, they never get any easier do they. Its true. During training in the week before LPT the bike course recce took me by surprise. Naithon hills are short sharp and painful. And even worse than I remembered!

The format and location of Laguna Phuket means it regularly features in the top 10 destination triathlons to do. A 1300m sea swim followed by 500m in the ‘soupy’ Lagoon. 50km bike with a fast flat section followed by 10km of hills & views over the Andaman sea and a speedy downhill finish into transition. A two lap 12km run through Laguna Phuket resort and golf course in the heat.

What makes this race so special? Probably the international competition which flies in for the race and beautiful beach location. The school kids who turn out to cheer us through on the bike and the brutal run in 30 plus degrees at the end of it all. Its always nice to be greeted on the finish line by a elephant mascot too!

For Z Coaching this is our ‘home’ race. Many people come back to train with the group and race here every year. So there is always a great sense of atmosphere and excitement in the days leading up to the race. I was excited to race and see my teammates smash it too. In its 25th year there was also a new addition of a sprint race totalling 25km.

The race didn’t start so well for me, a few sleepless nights meant I felt less than lively on the start line. Nonetheless I jostled for a good position in the rolling start and swam hard to hopefully jump on some feet. Unfortunately those around me were not swimming that fast and I swam alone or overtook a few previous waves until my training buddy Pierre came up and I managed to stick on his feet until the beach run and lagoon swim.

After a struggle through the lagoon warm waters I was soon out on the bike. I felt ok until the hills and I knew my power was down (no I don’t have a power meter). I tried to cycle conservatively because I could already tell the run was going to be a struggle. The good news was no other women had overtaken me by this point. On the final hill the overall age group female winner overtook me, but I wasn’t surprised as had been warned about this ex-pro.

Onto the run and I did not feel good, low on energy. I did the sensible thing and started slow 5 mins/km so I could make it to the finish and still hopefully finish on the podium overall. By the 2nd lap I was in full survival mode with the shivers and walking aid stations to make the most of water/ice/coke. Finally the finish line was in sight and thanks to the two lap course I knew I had won my age category again. Unfortunately after that it was a bit of a blur whilst I spent a good few minutes in the medical tent returning to a new temperature. Big thanks to Dimity and Anna for literally catching me as I fell into the pro podium!

Zcoaching smashed it (no surprise!) and we had a good stash of golden elephants amongst all the beer at the afterparty. And as they say what happens at the afterparty stays at the afterparty. Or in this case gets videoed and is shared over breakfast the following day. A great end to my first two weeks in Thailand.

Sattahip Thailand Tri League

Two weeks later with some hasty flights and accommodation booked. Denny, Volker, Freddie, Ray and myself were off to Sattahip. A 1hour flight to Bangkok and a 1hr30 drive south towards Pattaya and Sattahip. Due to the last minute booking we were all in different hotels in the area which made for some interesting logistics.

The day before the race we cycled the bike course. Two 20km laps through beautiful forest with monkeys and around the Big Buddha carved into the side of a hill in gold! It was going to be a stunning race if not tough with a few hills and false flats on both the bike and run course. And the other big difference over Phuket was the heat. It felt a lt more humid, race day was going to be interesting.

Sunday 5am it was time to head to the race in a Thai style minibus or Songtaew. The commentators and music is LOUD. Its almost impossible to hear normal conversation but you can’t fault the Tri League organisation. Police on every turn to discourage monkeys and volunteers everywhere with ample aid stations. Also free race photos!

The overall competitors were to start in the water followed by an age group rolling start. I had entered the overall race which seems to be fairly common in Thailand. Treading water in the lake/lagoon confirmed that the water was not too hot (phew!) but with zero visibility it was going to be difficult to stick on feet. After a rough start being hit over the head and losing the pack I found myself on the national TT Taiwanese champion who I had heard was also strong swimmer. But soon she slowed down or I found my rhythm and decided to make the jump to the group ahead. A small group of two one of which turned out to be Ray (No1 Thai triathlete and fellow Z coaching athlete). The swim seemed to go on for hours, and was confirmed with everyone getting slightly slower times than expected. Climbing out was a challenge with ropes provided for assistance! I was announced as 2nd female out of the water and so raced to get the swimskin off and helmet on ready to bike.

I knew it was going to be tough, but my legs were just not there on the first lap. The first hill came up quickly and it was tough to get going. Soon the Taiwanese and Parys (also ex Ful-on-Tri) overtook me. At the long turn point about 10km in I knew I had a good gap to 4th place and could see the first girl out of the water not far ahead. Soon I made the ump to 3rd place and aimed to keep my position. The second lap went much smoother with better legs and gear changes to keep the momentum over the rolling course.

Energy levels were improved going into to T2 in comparison to LPT so I was excited for the two lap run. the run course was basically 1km flat, 2km up and 2km down, twice through. I paced them pretty perfectly hitting 4.45 min/k on the flats, keeping good cadence up the hill and pushing the down. Nearly posting exactly the same time for the two laps. Freddie (overall) winner passed me on the first lap 500m for the end which was a bit depressing as I so wanted to be finished. I knew I was safe for 3rd and couldn’t seen 2nd place up the road so focused on whoever was ahead to keep me going.

Finish line insight and a final sprint to take 3rd place in my first elite start and even won some prizemoney!! Very happy to share the podium with new friend Lucy who is a demon on the bike! After the race and long prizegiving Denny and myself enjoyed the obligatory beers by the pool in the perfect post race afternoon.

The journey home the following day was eventful with late transfers meaning we didn’t know if we would make the flight. But some skilful (read dangerous) we made it. Overall a fun but mildly stressful weekend!

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In the space of two weeks it seems I adapted better to racing in the heat & humidity of Thailand. Now I’m back into training before Christmas when my parents & auntie arrive!

Happy Training everyone 🙂

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