Hitting two big birds with a stone, rowing once to pass three islands, business trip and a triathlon event; why not? It is another sweet blend this year after a short course and my involvement in a triathlon event in Tel Aviv. This time is in Agadir, Morocco, just before the Conference of Parties 22 of the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Convention. Such a long wait for doing an olympic distance this year.

I can’t be much happier that I finally did it after the one meant to be was cancelled due to a broken cheek bone and a few stitches two weeks before Bali Triathlon 2016. SAD! Only 10 days before my accreditation for the Climate Conference was granted by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry; then it is firm that it is not Pariaman triathlon where I could get my personal best (PB) this year, but Agadir triathlon. Both took place at the same date. It is my preach that it is so deliberating that work, study and leisure so far get along with doing a tri whenever and where ever possible.

A little story of my journey perhaps gives an insider view on the preparation and the feel of doing study/work/leisure and demanding sports simultaneously – keeping things in balance is hard and often requires extra work, but surely I feel the satisfaction level double or triple when all go well at the end. It just requires some preparation. Hope people get something of what I share in this blog, either small motivation, tips and new pandora of how a triathlon event can be.

Finding an event

Well Mr. Google has always been helpful. After a few clicks, I instantly find an Agadir Triathlon at 5th November 2016 hosted by African Triathlon Union event, just two days before the Climate conference kicked off at 7th November 2016. Lucky me! At the first look the event looks quite prestigious from the website, but it is actually quite confusing after a while. After I checked the website many times, the website is a bit unprofessional. Some information is in english but the registration form is all in French. Frustrating. It is a sign that it is not a fully pro international event. Plus the registration is cheap though, only €35 for non-residence.

It takes me a few hundred clicks to check and email the organiser back and forth and ask for this and that. They are very responsive though. So a good sign. I do ask google translate as well if things in websites are in french. So far so good so I am convinced. Doing two times triathlon in weird countries, I kind of getting used to this hurdle of foreign language registration. Anyway, Medical certification is always asked by any host. The organiser does not really care with the date though. So I guess I need to be ready to have this in a scanned form in my email or dropbox or online storage for a future use.

Pre departure preparation

Thanks God that Morocco does not require visa and it took a layer of burden. Phew! So skip visa queue and form and all. Checking the weather now, hmmm.. it is very unclear how the weather will look like during the event and when I ask the organiser. They are so normative, ‘please use a wetsuit if the water temperature is below 17 degrees Celsius’. Who doesn’t know? So helpful. So just decide to bring mine anyway although it takes so much space in my luggage but apparently it always better to use it when the water temperature is even slightly above 17. A wetsuit keeps us buoyant and many wear it anyway during the day. I also decided to rent a bike rather than bring my own, simply because I need to travel between cities at least two times and renting is cheap and I have found a good bike shop which is cheap, very responsive and they have a bike with my size (slightly bigger but I still can cope with it). I paid US$25 for a giant XS SCR2 + helmet from Argan sports. I bring my own pedals and cleat shoes. I also brought few food supplies (carb gel).

Climatisation and race pack collection

A 20 hour flight with two stops, Doha and Casablanca, until finally I reached Agadir. Quite intimidating by seeing only men around when I did my transfer in Morocco. Only a few ladies almost everywhere. The weather is cold and dry when getting out of the plane. I hoped all be ok. I was quickly following a guy with a helmet hanged in his rucksack trying to get some info to reach the city and the triathlon venue. Apparently, he is a Singaporean elite athlete who has an arranged picked up so I joined him and it is a free lift. Yay! He is good looking but still a very young student and rather quite. 

The next day the jet lag hits and made me waking up early. Immediately I was getting ready and tried to find the location for a technical meeting and a race pack collection. The surrounding and the neighbourhood felt so foreign. Desserty. Quite unsure about everything, but apparently all was ok. The information in the website is unclear so I have to walk back and forth along the coast line until I finally arrived at the location. Nothing was prepared yet and when I asked the race pack collection started at 2pm while I was there at 10am. OMG too early! I had my coffee, my delicious pasta and collected my bike at 12 noon next to the race pack collection point. My first lesson: it is better to make a quick call to verify schedule. The given schedule changed. The technical meeting supposed to start at 4pm and I did not attend due to my jet lag hits. I started feeling so sleepy and I wanted to sort out my in land tickets and go to bed. So I did! Wops. 

  

The race day

I woke up at 6pm feeling so late, but apparently it was still dark. Confused about what to wear and the weather finally I decided to wear my running top and short under my trisuit and left my wetsuit seeing there is a bright sun outside. Different from the last triathlon I participated in Tel Aviv, this one has a separate track for international elite athletes. Also it started very very late. At 8.30am I was so anxious cycling my rented bike and thinking that I would be late for the event and apparently when I arrived at the transition area, I was two hours early. For elite athletes, the event started at 9.30am and the rest started at 10.30am and stretched to 11am. Indonesian is not the only when it comes to stretching the time! Moroccan is worse. 

So I was waiting and hanging around with a bunch of confused age-group triathletes outside of the transition area because we were not permitted to enter the transition area until the elites get out of the water and finished their first transition. I met a brit couple around late 40s who seem quite laid back but surely strong carrying ironman backpack and look so pro. I had a fun chit chat and sharing some ideas about how the race would go. This was my first technical briefing from the people also did not attend technical briefing J but it was at least having a calming effect.

After a long wait finally the first male triathlete splashed out of the water; after 20-25 minutes swim I reckoned. We cheered from far. The first was Belgian; not so sure though. Then the other men triathletes merged out followed by the strong ladies. The first woman was a Spanish. This one I am pretty sure. There are five strong Spanish ladies competing. Until all of them went out with their bike then I could enter the transition area, finally! I felt like a second class here with no possible quick pass for an upgrade. 

 

Swim leg

After arranging all my stuff, taking a few pics, I hit the water and tested it. Freezing cool water and I just figured out that the swim leg is completely new to me. A 1.5km swim with an exit in between forming ‘W’, known as ‘an Australian-exit style’. I don’t fancy it since I hate running on the sand; it hurts my right knee, which is not original anymore after an HCL surgery and another surgery for some reasons. Honestly I did enjoy the swim in a cold water; it feels so fresh and I could not have any complaint, except my own neglect; my sighting ability only last the first 500 meters in which I could swim straight. The rest is very much snaking and loosing my direction quickly. Surely this is what I need to improve quickly. I did the Australian-exit in 41 minutes according to my Strava. I did an extra 100 meter due to my inefficient sighting.

    

 

 First transition and Bike leg

I hit the transition and decided to keep my trisuit on. I grabbed my helmet, had the race belt on stuffed with food supply, still wore my shoes while standing and ate a banana in two seconds, then grabbed my bike and ran to the bike exit. According to some folks we supposedly do four loops of 10km with a little bit of ups and downs. The first 5k is uphill with 5-7% gradient, but the sun was striking and I got drained fast. The 12 noon heat in dessert region combined with salty water could not be worse. But I just kept going on.

 

The loop back after 5km is a down hill and it offers a stunning view of the Agadir bay. That was the moment I felt the joy of coming so far to participate. When the 5-10k loop end, I hated the fact that there will be three more laps to go with three up hills and fuels running out. After two laps my Garmin watch was dead. Stupid me that I forgot to charge it the night before a race (first lesson). I lost the track but I kept my pace as the first two loops. I did not fill in my bidon thinking that I could fill in my last lap.  It turned the water station was closed when I did the last lap. Argghh.. I should stop at least once or just bring a larger bidon (second lesson) The bike I rented was good but of course not as comfy as my own bike plus it is a heavy alloy. I did my bike leg 1:34:05 imagine I could do better than that, perhaps 1:20 if I used my own bike, not a full carbon but comfy enough. I should definitely bring my own saddle at least (third lesson). Three solid lessons for the bike leg.

   

 

The second transition and run leg

I felt that I was one of the last few who entered the second transition seeing many bikes were already hanged unorganisedly. Feeling a boiling day, I quickly stripped my trisuit to run lightly (with running bra and bikini short: highly recommended!), put my Tridear trunk on, slipped my shoes on and start running. A blister on my right foot was screaming. I tried to protect it using a few waterproof band aid but failed. The band aid was off quickly because of sea water and continuously rubbed by my cleat shoe. The running leg started with a mixed feeling between the excitement of one course left and thinking running 10k with a painful blister. I felt so regretful not bringing the other pair of shoes (first lesson). This regret occupied my mind for the first 2k with a lot of ‘ouch’es. After the first 2k, the pain was surprisingly gone so I kept running steadily. The water station is only one at the beginning and at the 2.5km turn. Arghh… I kept running while the sun was striking hot and dry! I tried to catch up with quicker runs. I finished running 1:05:33 I can do much better for sure without the damn blister.

      

I finally reached the finish line and this time I got a finisher medal. No one really cheered anymore because finishing 3:27:20 is considered slow in this ATU competition. I haved to cheer myself with fifth position in my age group. No podium yet, taking a few pics with local guys and get my free lunch and sit with the guys are my present for now and I feel delighted enough. The chat after this race is surely tastier than the food. ;p I recommend triathletes to join this event although I rate this event 7 out of 10, but it is a good value for money and surely you can enjoy it while you visit Morocco for holiday work or transit.