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As we sat on the airport runway for 2 hours, waiting for the wings to be de-iced, and then de-iced a second time, I found myself thinking “what have I let myself in for!” I chuckled to myself though, and not for the first time, after months of training in freezing cold, pouring rain, and occasionally enduring a mind-numbing 3 hour indoor bike ride when the weather turned really bad. However, now I was off to much hotter, drier climates for the 5th edition of IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai in search of a qualifying slot to the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Nice France, which I’ll hopefully be attending for the second year running.
The facilities for triathlon training in Dubai are fantastic. There are dedicated cycle tracks which run for miles which are completely segregated from the main roads. Being next to the road has the added benefit of café stops along the way! I managed to get my long ride in early, taking advantage of the fact the cycle track runs conveniently parallel to the race course, and later hit the famous Jumeirah Beach, with the Burj Al Arab as the backdrop. Again, the running-specific track, free from dogs, litter and vehicles, provides a safe and dedicated hotspot (quite literally when the midday sun is at its highest) to train and keep fit. The past year has made me realise that there is nothing to be nervous about at all when considering a sporting holiday.
I even managed to met up with some of my triathlon friends that I made whilst in South Africa at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships 2018. We all attended the fabulous pre-race banquet together, where I met many other inspirational ladies from a local triathlon club in the Middle East, called The Tri Belles. They welcomed us and made me feel like part of the club instantly – again I met such wonderful and friendly people in the world of sport.
After a week of light training, race day soon arrived and I lined up ready to start the swim, without a wetsuit due to a last-minute decision to swim without it! My reasoning being that the sea in Dubai is very dense with salt. This makes it easy for you to float in, however the water is “thick” and more difficult to swim through, therefore that the normal advantages of wearing a wetsuit are almost redundant.
After an okay swim, I hit the bike hard, knowing that this was my strength and trying to give myself as much of an advantage as physically possible going into the run. I absolutely loved the flat, simple, fast course of Dubai and managed to power through the 56 mile bike leg in 2 hours and 23 minutes – a huge PB for me.
I knew the run would be super difficult in the heat, and typically, it was one of the hottest and stillest days of the week with temperatures around 28-29 degrees Celsius. I took my time at the aid stations and took in as much water and Coca Cola as possible to keep myself going. The support along the way and help from the volunteers was fantastic, making the race extra special, and I managed to cross the line in 5 hours and 2 minutes.
I was agonisingly close to going sub-5 hours, but I gave it my best shot, which is the most important thing and listened to my body to ensure I made it to that finish line!
My 4th place finish in my category was good enough to secure a slot at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships, and I’m absolutely over the moon. Since my first 70.3 in 2016, I’ve now taken over an hour and a half off my time, which is more than I could have ever imagined – the only thing I can put it down to is belief and the persistence to keep going, even when progress doesn’t happen straight away.
I never take anything for granted and, whilst I know I’m not quite hitting the podium spots right now, I’ll never stop trying and always keep believing. Hopefully I will get there (and my first sub-5 hours) soon!
So what’s in store for next month? Lots of relaxing, allowing my body to recover and planning for Nice! I have my first 2019 season UK sprint distance triathlon in March so I will be preparing for that, and making sure I’m entered for as many of The Running Bee Foundation’s running events as possible, as all the funds will be going back into the local community!
Rhianna Parkinson is a Salford-based triathlete and a Community Ambassador for Sports Tours International and The Running Bee Foundation.
In just three years, Rhianna went from her couch to competing at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
Going from strength to strength, Rhianna now competes around the world as well as inspiring the next generation of athletes.
Click here to read more about our 2019 Triathlon Middle Distance World Championships race tour.
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