Getting involved in a triathlon might just be one of the toughest physical feats you put yourself through. As people all over the island prepare for Challenge Bahrain, we find out from a couple of willing participants how much dedication it takes.
In December this year, amateur and professional athletes living in Bahrain and from all over the world will be competing in Challenge Bahrain, an international triathlon event that’s new to the island.
It’s under the banner of the ‘Challenge Family’, a series which features 27 full and half-distance races across the globe including the world’s largest long distance triathlon, Challenge Roth in Germany.
This new course is designed to take athletes on a journey through Bahrain’s history, from its high tech future to its deep and ancient roots, and through the newly announced ‘Bahrain Triathlon City, all while competing for a whopping USD500,000 (approximately BD188,500) prize purse. World champions from Australia, Mirinda Carfrae and Pete Jacobs, will be at the start line, alongside the 2013 Challenge Roth winners, the UK’s leading long course athlete, as well as two-time world champion Sebastian Kienle.
Next to them will also be these two brave Bahrain-based athletes...
Lauren van der Merwe
Have you ever attempted a triathlon before?
No, I have never done any sort of triathlon before. Only a few three- to six-kilometre fun run type events.
Are you doing the whole thing by yourself this time?
I’m competing in Challenge Bahrain as a team with two of my friends. We are an all-girl, all-South African team so one of us is competing in the swim, another will be doing the cycle and I will then be doing the run.
Why have you decided to give this a go now?
I’ve started running a lot more this year and just thought that by signing up for an event like this, it is something to work towards. It’s also very well-organised and an international event, possibly something that can be repeated in Bahrain next year.
How are you preparing?
I’ve joined the Bahrain Triathlon Club who are constantly organising training events and have helped in motivating me. I’ve also started my own half-marathon training programme that increases the distance I run each week during the lead-up to the event.
Have you altered your work-out regime and diet?
I’m definitely running a lot more than I used to and I’m starting to think about what I eat and what impact this will have on my energy levels. I’m starting to feel a lot healthier for it!
What is spurring your motivation to do this?
Not letting my team down and finishing the race as a personal goal.
Would you recommend someone else to do it?
Yes! So far I’ve been enjoying my training and competing as a team in this event because it’s not as daunting. I do think you need to be motivated and have your mind set on your training though, otherwise it will be a struggle.
What do you hope to achieve and feel once you’ve completed everything?
Possibly working up the courage – and fitness – to complete a triathlon on my own, or sign up for longer marathons in other parts of the world.
How many triathlons have you been involved in before?
I only started doing triathlons a year ago and have since done about six local events in Bahrain and three international events.
What made you first get involved with doing these kinds of events?
I got challenged by a few friends last year to do Ironman South Africa on April 6 2014 so it started there. Then with Challenge Bahrain on my doorstep I decided to continue this sport and lifestyle as I have all the equipment and it is healthy having a goal to work for. Besides the healthy lifestyle gets me fit and out of the office at a reasonable time to go and train!
How do you usually prepare for the race?
I use structured training plans that are designed to build up to a major event and these are normally 12 weeks in duration.
Do you change your diet and fitness regime in the lead up to the event?
Yes, definitely. I watch the diet so try and cut out any fatty foods, bread and hops. Training is also normally six days per week with one day rest and alternates between swimming, cycling and running.
What important advice would you offer to people contemplating getting involved?
It’s definitely worth it and if you’re not sure about doing all the disciplines then join a team and focus on only one. I am sure most people are naturally comfortable preferring to swim, run or cycle. And it is a great social sport to be involved in with many training and socialising opportunities with like-minded individuals working to the same goals. The feeling of successfully completing and pushing yourself to success is also very rewarding.
How do you feel when you complete a race?
Well, it depends on the event so after a full Ironman very shattered but also elated at having crossed the line. Then after an Olympic or Sprint distance event, I feel physically much better. However it’s always satisfying to participate and enjoy well-organised events.
Would you recommend doing a triathlon to someone else who might be interested?
Yes, definitely! It is a great sport and also an opportunity to get fit and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Plus it is fun and you get to meet many other people out on the road so there’s a good camaraderie.
The 1.9 kilometre swim takes place at Bahrain Bay, surrounded by the country’s most striking modern architecture. On leaving this area (T1), athletes will cross over the bridge to Muharraq’s community before heading back to Manama and past the Al Fateh Grand Mosque and Bahrain National Museum.
After looping back through T1, the bike course heads out of the city through residential areas. They’ll head south as the course leads them to the desert and past the Dilmun Burial Mounds. Weaving through history, the athletes will then fast forward through time for a lap of the Formula One track.
Finally, the runners will go through the heart of Al Areen wildlife park past ostriches, Oryx and camels before crossing the finish line at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Registration for the race closes on October 31. To find out more visit www.challenge-bahrain.com.bh.