Ironman 70.3 Oman Muscat
Members Race Review
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finishers Enzo Fascianato, Stefan Parsons, Andrew Kilshaw, Ewan Cameron in Finishers Area

Reviewer:  Ewan Cameron
Race Name: Ironman 70.3 Oman Muscat
Age Group: 50-54
Location: Muscat
Date: February 21st, 2020
Website link:  https://www.ironman.com/im703-oman
Triathlon Experience:  Experienced, Muscat was my 13th Ironman race and 10th 70.3 distance.


Highlights

  • Easiest Ironman 70.3 to reach from Doha, well attended by TriClub Doha members
  • Scenic bike course through the hills of Muscat; some moderate climbs


Rationale for Choosing this Race

I chose this race as it is close to Doha and many other club members would be joining. Although the bike course is hillier than what we are used to in Doha, with 800m of climbing over the 90km, it’s not crazy. I had participated in the race in 2019, completing in 5:14 and felt I could do better. As I am new to the 50-54 age group, I also wanted to see how close I could get to grabbing a qualifying spot for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Taupo in November 2020 on the rolldown.

Travel to the Race

Getting to the race is easy with many flights on Qatar Airways and Oman Air. I chose Qatar due to their generous baggage allowance thanks to my status. This year I opted to rent a car as I found getting over to the race village, even from the closest hotels to be a hassle and I didn’t want to be walking around as much the day before the race as I had the previous year. I took an evening flight leaving at 5pm and found about a dozen other club members on the same flight, which would leave all day Thursday to get organised for race day. I had booked a smaller cheaper hotel about 1km walk from the Intercontinental as I couldn’t justify spending QR1,200 per night for a room that I would barely spend any time in (noting that it was still a hike to the race village). I found an studio room on booking.com for QR1,200 for 3 nights and QR440 to rent a car from Hertz for the weekend.

Pre-Race

There was the option of practise on the swim course the 2 days before the race so I headed down and swam for 20 minutes noting the spacing of the swim buoys. The water was nice and I didn’t swim in a wetsuit for the practise. I met some fellow club members so we joined for breakfast afterwards before heading to register. The race village was in the Qurum park area, with about an 800m walk from the car park. There wasn’t much going on there besides the usual registration and ironman store. Another backpack and a flourescent truckers cap, similar to the prior year. One issue causing fellow club members some anxiety was the lack of C02 canisters for sale (since you can’t travel with them). Made a note to buy a pump for future races.

Race Gear

I was racing in my first 70.3 since I acquired my new baby, a Cervelo P5 with a disk wheel. I was hoping to smash my bike time with this given I had trained more than the previous year. For nutrirition I mounted a torpedo bottle on the front filled with water, which I would refill during the race, and concentrated energy drink in my smaller bottle on the frame. For the swim, I  would be using my new DeBoer wetsuit. I was interested to see whether this would lead to a better swim time. For the run I was wearing a ratheer light pair of Asics Gel-Noosa, which I planned to run sockless. 


RACE DAY

Getting to the start line

The race was starting at 7:00am and transition was opening from 5am to 6:30am. I set my alarm for 5am but woke at 4:45am. I had bananas and oatmeal for breakfast washed down with a coffee drink as I hadn’t organised breakfast at the hotel and headed to transition. I only needed 15 minutes to get set up but had a minor panic attack as deflated my rear tire trying to use pumps that didn’t fit my disk wheel and hadn’t brought the adapter. Eventually I found a compatible pump and headed down to the beach to have a quick dip in the water before joining the swim start line up along with some fellow members; keeping a lookout for club members who swim a similar pace as me, specifically Andrew Kilshaw and Carla Coetzee. We had 30 minutes to wait in the line which is longer than usual.

Swim Leg

The swim course was a long rectangle-shaped course about 900m out, 100m across and 900 back to the finish line. The water was flat and wetsuit legal (but must have been close). The start was the usual rolling start with 4 Athletes entering every 5 seconds. I started the swim 5 seconds behind Andrew and was determined to stay on his toes for as long as I could. I caught up with him about 20 seconds in and kept up with him until about 100m to go. My final time was 29:57, a PB time. Special thank you to Andrew for "bringing me home" in such a quick time.

T1 

To reduce time faffing about in transition I had tied my shoes onto my pedals using elastic bands, therefore all I needed to do in the T1 tent was get my wetsuit off and put my helmet and race belt  on as and I would not be wearing socks. I was pleased with my overall time of  2:24.

Bike Leg

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I was super happy to get on the bike and get the shoes on without any trouble but a minute later, disaster struck as a small, yet surprising bumpy speed-bump, boinged my torpedo bottle off my bike. I had to stop to pick it up as this was my main source of hydration. I had lost all my water (and about 40 seconds) and I was now stressed that it would be 30km before reaching the next water stop.  I soon got in a rhythm on the bike and felt good. There was one small climb on the motorway followed by a huge curved downhill where I reached 65kph which was super scarey due to some gusts of wind. At that speed it would not be pretty to hit the deck, and some braver nutters were flying past me. At 30km in there is a short sharp 2.3km climb with an average gradient of 6% (Strava segment "Al Bustan to Ruwi") which is a nice test.; it took me about 10 minutes of grinding in my lowest gear pumping higher than ftp watts – trying to limit the damage. After this climb there was a long gradual, less whitenuckle, descent with a top speed of 73.6kph. At the bottom it was a bit firghtening as there was a traffic jam there and cars moving in our lane so I had to ride on the hard shoulder. About 45km into the bike there is a turn where the course takes you South out of Muscat for about 20km. It is a gradual / undulating ascent, most of time you don’t notice, and at the end a u-turn on the roundabout and you have about 25km back to the finish, mostly downhill. I fnished the bike in 2:31:36, an 11 minute improvement on 2019 with a normalised power of bang on my target 200w, so I was very happy with that.

T2

As I slipped out of my bike shoes in the last 200m of the bike, T2 is simply putting the helmet into the bag and getting the shoes on. I was running with the TriClub headsweat cap and sunglasses. 

Run Leg

The run course changed from the previous year to 2 x 9km loops which passes transition and runs through the race village, and then just the 2km from transition to the race village, finisher’s chute at the end. My 70.3 run times are typically between 1:37 (my best 4 years ago) and I’m dissatisfied if I run over 1:45 (5 mins per km). The prior year I found tough and ran 1:48 due to Muscat being warmer at this time of year and little shade on the course. My preparation for the race was curtailed due to a problem with my hamstring which was strained after Doha Triathlon and a sore throat so I’d only ran a couple of times since the Doha Tri (where I had a PB run in olympic).

I started off at my target pace but within 10 minutes was holding only a steady 5:00 per km with a 160+ heart rate. There were plenty aid stations on the run and whenver I could I grabbed a sponge with water (some were super ice cold, others not) and a gel every 30 minutes. I found that I couldn’t go any faster than I was and at times maintaining the base 5:00 pace was a challenge. After an hour I couldn’t wait for the race to finish.

Finish Line / Finisher Area

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I ran down the finishers chute with a slightly dissappointing run time of 1:45:38 and overall time of 4:51:30, a pleasing 10thplace in the 50-54 age group. Over the next few minutes several other club members joined within minutes; Stefan Parsons and Andrew Kilshaw. We had a ice bath to chill our legs and there was some hot food, including burgers and fruit. After about an hour, I decided to head back to transition and started to look for the shuttle buses. However they hadn’t shown up yet which was frustrating as it was 3km back to the transition area and nobody had any cash to pay for the overpriced taxis. I shared a taxi back with a lovely Dutch family (mum, dad and 20 year old daugther who all raced that day).

Evaluation of my race

Overall I was happy with my time given the preparation to the race was not ideal. At the back of my mind I was dissapointed as I know I could have run better off the bike as I’d done 2 weeks earlier at the Doha Triathlon. How much did the sore throat and hamstring affect leading up to the race affect the run? Had I peaked too early? However10th place still gave me a half chance of snagging a spot for Taupo in the rolldown.

Apres-Race

drinksPost race refreshements

A group of club members met up at a restaurant nearby to the race village in the afternoon for some snacks and drinks before joining the Awards Ceremony back at Qurum park at 6pm. There was a huge buffet provided catered by the Intercontintenal Hotel. We were hopeful we might match our second place in the TriClub podium since we were the third largest team represented with 32 participants. Previously the TriClub podiums were awarded based on total points, however this year they were based on the top 5 AGR scores and TriLife.Ru from Russia took 3rd place with only 7 participants, behind TriDubai and Oman Triathlon, the largest teams.

I hung on for the ‘rolldown’ where the 40 slots for the 70.3 World Championships in Taupo are allocated. I was hoping that some of the 9 participants who finished ahead of me in my age group would not be interested in flying to New Zealand in November. 4 slots were allocated to the 50-54 age group and the rolldown started well as none of the first 4 took their slots. A couple of lots were then taken and the fourth and final slot was offered to the 9th place who initially seemed not to be taking it. However, on the 3rd and final call, the last spot was taken….and I dissappointingly headed out to catch up with the rest of the club members who had by this time congregated at the Intercontinental Hotel pub for a night cap. 

Evaluation of Race Organisation

Overall the race organisation was good and better than previous year where the run course ran out of water and nutirition early on. There were many enthusiatic volunteers at all the aid stations. On the bike course I was concerned with a couple of areas where we were very close to traffic (appartently one cyclist got hit by a car.) A minor point was that the swim bouys were yellow and black, which wasn’t idea for sighting given that the swim caps were yellow.

Recommendations/Lessons Learned

This is definitely a must do race for club members. Don’t get too stressed about the hills and don’t kill yourself on the 2km climb. Be prepared for a warmer run than you would typically find in Doha during February. 

There is not much I would do differently next time; besides taping my torpedo onto the frame so it doesn’t bounce off & hopefully next time I would peak better for the run.
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