Earlier this month, I completed the Short Distance Abu Dhabi Triathlon. (Don’t be fooled by the name, “Short” equates to a 1.5km swim, 100km bike and a 10km run.) Despite the heat, the course played against my strengths and that was the intention. It was flat, very windy and essentially a biker’s race. My objective was simple: never mind the run, focus on the bike and persevere.
It went pretty well. There were no major glitches, the swim was smooth and the wave starts were a refreshing welcome to Ironman Nice where I got clobbered by the crowd. The bike was tough. Long stretches on the highway with 30kph headwinds, sand in your eyes and 40degC heat. The run was also brutal but mainly because of the impact on the knees being on hard ground and fully exposed to the sun. So, will I ever do it again despite it being tougher than my Ironman experience? Yes. Why? Because there is no better feeling than crossing the finish line and knowing you have achieved something. A result. A result to benchmark against previous tests or a result of completion that you can celebrate for the first time. This makes you forget everything.
So what is the feeling like during and after? This depends on the race but for a sprint, your muscles are on fire, burning from lactic acid and you struggle to take in enough oxygen (I find this the toughest of all disciplines). For an endurance race, this is more mental. Lap 1, Lap 2, Lap 3… the marathon for an Ironman never ends. Your mind inevitably goes to a dark place and you begin to think that you cannot finish, that you’ll have to crawl across the finish line if you don’t pull out. Then the end is in sight, you have a new found pool of energy, your legs work again, you recognise the crowd cheering you on despite the fact they have been there all along.
For Abu Dhabi, this feeling occurred twice. The way out of T1 involved cycling into an incredible headwind down a five-lane highway that stretched as far as the eyes can see. It seemed to never end and it was like cycling in treacle. But once we got to Yas Marina, the novelty of riding on a Formula 1 circuit made it all seem worthwhile and the grueling ride vanished from memory.
The second time happened at the usual spot, when crossing the finish line. You feel an imaginary rope appear from the centre of your body connecting you to the finish line. You lock onto it with your gaze, you fly, you across the line and the race is all over. Then you forget all the pain. You are immersed in a pool of endorphins, you understand what all the training and hard work was about.
And just like a goldfish, going round that bowl one more time in the future seems like a great idea. You’re hooked.