What to expect from the region's only twilight triathlon
Love swimming, cycling and running? Then challenge yourself with a triathlon around Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island. For the fourth year running, TriYAS, the region’s only twilight triathlon, is back on February 28 – and this year it’s bigger than ever.
Keen to develop a community programme, Yas Marina Circuit launched the event in 2011 in a bid to engage local residents with the Formula One track.
Keen triathlete and TriYAS organiser Nick McElwee explains, ‘We want residents of Abu Dhabi to use the Yas Marina Circuit like New Yorkers use Central Park, or Londoners use Hyde Park. That’s why we organise free weekly running, cycling and walking events. TriYAS is an extension of that programme. We launched it as a call to action, to challenge residents’ usual exercise routine and to make keeping fit more entertaining.’
For safety reasons, the initial race was capped at 650 and it soon sold out. In fact, it went so swimmingly numbers were pushed up to 900 the following year. It grew again in 2013, and this year there are 1,300 available places.
Racers start in the water, with Yas Viceroy to their left, before looping around the marina. After a quick pit stop in the Formula One garages, the triathletes then jump on their bikes and hurtle under full floodlights around the Grand Prix track – a la Sebastian Vettel – before running the final leg around the perimeter of the track, under the illuminated lights of Yas Viceroy.
Last year’s winner, Faris Al-Sultan, an Iraqi-German professional triathlete, crossed the finishing line in one hour, 50 minutes and 24 seconds – an all-time record for the race. But Faris isn’t competing this year, so Olivier Godart, who came second, and Omar Nour, who came third are the name most people are talking about when asked who is favourite to take down the 2013 title.
But Nick is keen to stress that the race isn’t just for the pros. It’s open to everyone with the emphasis on participants achieving personal bests – or PBs for those in the know – whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned veteran.
In fact, the organisers are doing everything they can to make the race accessible to everyone – which is why triathletes will benefit from free massages, a pre-race pasta party and entertainment provided by cheerleaders.
If that’s perked you up, read on to find out how you can get into the swim of things... To register for TriYAS, visit www.yasmarinacircuit.com (02 659 9800).
What to expect on the day
Nick says, ‘The night before the race, on February 27, there will be a race briefing 6-9pm in the Yas Viceroy ballroom to give participants a chance to ask questions and to put their minds at rest. Over 500 or so are expected to attend, so it’s also a chance to meet other triathletes and socialise as well. It’s essentially a pasta party – the one time of the year when you can load up on carbohydrates without feeling guilty.
‘On the day, the gates will open at 2pm. Upon registering, triathletes will be given timing chips to wear around their ankle and colourful swimming caps. It’s mandatory to wear them – only during the swim, obviously – so lifeguards can identify swimmers in the water. Wetsuits are optional, but if the water’s over 24° on the day, they’re not allowed. There will be time to change and check equipment before the race starts in the water.
‘The biking stage is next. If you don’t own your own bike, you can hire a road bike in advance for around Dhs40 – the price hasn’t yet been confirmed. The track is 5.5km, so the 44km Olympic race is eight loops while the sprint racers do four laps. The duathlon participants do a special route.
‘Triathletes will then have another quick transition by the bike racks, where they will have chance to have a drink or snack while changing into their trainers. But the clock doesn’t stop during the transitional periods – so you’ve got to be quick.
‘The run is the last part of the race, which is expected to finish at 7.30pm. One thing that’s new for this year is a team of cheerleaders from Active Stars UAE Active Sports Cheerleading Club in Dubai will be cheering you on as you cross the finishing line. After an express massage to soothe your aching muscles, you can browse stalls from local triathlete clubs, meet your kids in the play area near the media centre or celebrate with DJs from Radio 2. The party will wrap up around 9pm.’
You never know till you tri
Triathletes can choose to compete in one of the following four categories based on their age, fitness and ability • A junior duathlon for 11-14 year old individuals involves a 5km cycle and 1.5km run, and costs Dhs50
• A junior duathlon for 15-17 year old individuals involves a 11km cycle and 3km run, and costs Dhs50
• The sprint category is for people 17 and over. This involves a 750m swim, 22km cycle and 5km run. Individuals or teams can enter for Dhs300 or Dhs575
• The Olympic category is for people 17 and over. This involves a 1,500m swim, 44km cycle and 10km run. Individuals or teams can enter for Dhs375 or Dhs630
Sink or swim
TriYAS is sponsored by Activelife, a healthy lifestyle initiative by Daman. For motivation tips and advice on how to get fit, visit the The Olive’s Triathlon 101 blog by Olivier Godart. www.yasmarinacircuit.com
The Abu Dhabi Triathlon Club hosts year-round events. Whether you’re a first timer or veteran ironman, the club has swim, bike and run sessions to suit all training programmes – you just turn up and have a go. Email Daniel Hughes email@example.com, www.abudhabitriclub.com (050 180 0774).