I've always wanted to do Laguna Phuket Triathlon....who wouldn't want to race in Paradise! Not only is Thailand one of my favorite countries with its beautiful beaches, scrumptious food and stunning scenery but my coach Michelle Dillon and some of the TDC guys, Em, Stu, Todd and Wayne were out there training and competing too. I'd been there several times as a backpacker moving from hammock to hammock and beach to beach, but never to race. Would it be well organised? What would the roads be like?
It was easy to convince one of my friends to join me and take a week away from the UK winter weather especially as I found an amazing deal for flights and 5* accommodation at the race hotel with British Airways. I like to travel with BA as I know their bike carriage policy and it means I can check my bike in as part of my normal luggage allowance. Frankly travelling to Thailand with my bike in her comfy velovault, thanks to www.bikeboxonline.com is a doddle. It’s just the same as going short haul.
Our hotel, Dusit Laguna, was right on the beach by the race start. The race venue was less than 10 minutes’ walk away on the Laguna estate which meant registering, racking and briefing were all super easy. I arrived on the Thursday afternoon with the race on Sunday, so a few days to acclimatise to the 30C heat and get over the jet lag. Friday was a little run round part of the course, build my bike and check out the swim course followed by a pre-race massage on the beach. Saturday I had time to relax get my rubbing brakes fixed by the bike mechanics and do all the necessary pre-race faffing.
Laguna Phuket Tri has been running for over 20 years and is iconic. It’s an olympic plus distance - 1800m swim, 50k bike and 12k run and factor in the heat, humidity and some +20% hills and it’s a going to be challenge. But I can highly recommend it. It was very well organised and in beautiful surrounds, a sea swim with a beach exit and dive into the lagoon, challenging hilly bike on good roads and a flat 2 loop run round the Laguna Phuket estate. It was easy to get everything done, no queues, no hassle, plenty of marshals out on the course, a fun relaxed vibe and best of all a free post-race massage. One of the Thai princesses was also racing. She had her little war ship anchored off the swim course and swam, biked and ran with her entourage of guards.
I hadn't done any structured training since the Worlds in mid-September but had kept myself ticking over with a bit of swim, bike and run. This meant I haven’t put any expectations or pressures on myself. Nice for a change and probably a good thing!
At 6.35am the gun went off and I ran down the beach and threw myself into the sea. The course was a split sea and lagoon swim. A 1300m triangle in the sea followed by a run up the beach and down into the lagoon with another 500m to the swim exit. Emma who had raced it last year had advised that it would feel strange jumping into the lagoon as it wasn’t so buoyant being fresh water and really warm. The temperature was horrid and as soon as I started swimming I could feel my cadence slowing down as the heat got to me. I forced myself to keep going – I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible! I exited 2nd lady and well up the field in 29 minutes and 13 seconds. Nice.
The bike course is on partially closed roads through villages, parklands, rubber plantations and along the coast. I knew it was hilly so I didn’t want to give it full gas at the start, as visions of having to get off my bike and push it up the +20% hills were worrying me. There are 6 hills with the steepest at 22%. Thankfully, as suggested by my coach, I had chosen to race on my road bike so I didn’t have to walk up. I did see a few people coming a cropper on their TTs. Lots of locals were out cheering on the course and the roads were in better condition than they are in the UK. Coming down one of the hills I dropped my chain. This allowed a few ladies to pass me including one I knew was in my age group. Drat.
My transitions were slick and so I managed to pass a couple of the ladies that had caught me on the bike. Then it was out on the run. Mercifully the sun wasn’t out so it wasn’t as hot as Mexico but still uncomfortably sticky. My friend was out on the course cheering and I shouted for her to give me my split to the girl in front who I knew was the one that past me in my age group. 8 seconds she shouted! I knew my pace was pretty slow but maybe it was faster than hers. Right head down and concentrate. I caught her at 3-4k but I need to gain enough time to make a quick loo stop. My body hadn’t quiet got used to the Thai time zone. Fortunately I’d scoped out a bathroom part way on the course during my Friday run. so I could use that. I needed to put in enough time for that! It was! I crossed the line in 3hrs 11 mins and 13 seconds, 1st in my age group, 4th age grouper overall and 10th lady.
After the race there was food & drink for the competitors and a free massage. After sampling all the treats and checking that Em was ok in the first aid tent I ambled back to the hotel. Stopping on the way to cheer on the Thai princess who was racing with her 6 guards – you could hardly see her! Within half an hour I was sitting relaxing in the hotel Jacuzzi – perfect! That evening the organisers had put on an impressive awards ceremony; unfortunately due to the recent passing of the Thai King there was no official after party as I hear its legendary but the ceremony with its buffet, 2 drinks and trophy giving was entertaining nonetheless and I won an Elephant (trophy)!
With 2016 being a disappointing season for me it was motivating and relieving to finally have a good race to end the year. It's definitely helped my motivation for next year.
Other than a little triathlon I had a fab holiday, swimming in the sea, sampling cocktails at happy hour, eating Phad Thai, enjoying beachside massages, diving with Nemo's & Dory's and having a go at paddle boarding and SUP yoga. Sounds horrible...doesn't it ;)
So who’s joining me next year?