Abu Dhabi Race Report: The Lantern Rouge

Rachel and I flexing some Canadian Muscle day before the race.

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013. Alarm goes off, time to get up to run and get ready to go to Vancouver Island for two days. I grab my iPhone to see what’s going on in the world that day, scrolling through messages and casually scanning emails. A particular message catches my attention, from Simon and Daisy, the athlete representatives and organizers for the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. An incredibly immediate yet light wave of excitement flows through me, as I open it and see the following message:
“Dear Nathan,
We’re excited to extend to you a confirmed invitation to race in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on March 2nd, please respond with the following information……”
I literally jumped out of bed and flew downstairs to report the news to Björn, and at the same time begin to wonder what the HELL I was going to ride?!?!? As you see from my previous posting, that was taken care of pretty quickly by the bike building maestro Björn. Check out the post about the new race rig.
LONG flights took me over some beautiful places
With only 2 weeks until I would be on a plane Abu Dhabi-bound, it was too late to really ‘prepare’ for the race in the literal sense; instead we worked on some fine tuning over the two week lead-up to get me ready. Only having received the new bike 7 days before my flight took-off, I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge.
The ‘Terminator,’ all tuned up and ready to race.
But I do love a good challenge. It’s only 200km anyway, what could REALLY go wrong?
Double-Compression for the long haul
The trip over was epic unto itself, 26hrs being the longest I’ve ever been in transit for a trip (and with only a few very short layovers, most was spent in the air.) Wearing my Compressport Full-Legs and Full-Socks (as I always do,) had my legs feeling very fresh still by the end. The days pre-race were fantastic, I was able to get in the sun a little and do some light training to get the blood flowing through the body. Apart from almost getting run over on several occasions (we ride on the equivalent of the I-5 during the race,) it was fairly uneventful. The money present in the city was completely overwhelming, extravagance taken to the absolute limit almost everywhere you look. One of my favourite places to see this was DEFINITELY our hotel buffet, where we ate like kings. Almost TOO good at times…..
Standard skyline in town, over 80 stories!!
On to the actual race report now: After an oddly restful and extensive sleep (I pretty much passed completely out around 8pm, waking at 3am on my own account,) I headed to the buffet for my usual pre-race breakfast: two big bowls of oatmeal with banana, honey, cinnamon, and yogurt (unfortunately peanut butter did not exist for us there,) along with two cups of coffee and half an 85% Dark Chocolate bar (Green and Black’s is my favourite!) Pre-race warmup went well, I was feeling alive and ready.
The ‘Terminator’ racked in transition
Race morning temperatures (time/humidity/temp)
There’s something to be said when you’re standing at the start line on the beach with Chris McCormack to the left (for those who don’t know, Chris (or Macca as he’s known,) is an Ironman World Champion,) The ‘Caveman’ Conrad Stoltz to your right, World Champion Normann Stadler in front with the start gun, and various other Ironman champions. It’s very exciting, but very humbling. The gun went, and off we went in a massive fray of arms and legs, fighting for a good set of feet to hang on to. I went hard out of the gate, but their speed was just too much for me to hold and they started to slowly pull away. Tenille Hoogland (one of three women representing Canada) came by me in a pack of three, right at the end of the first loop. I managed to hold off the charging main pack of women, but barely.
Coming out of the water in my Nineteen Rogue
Going into T1, I was feeling great still, and looking forward to seeing what the new Teschner could do. Melissa Hauschildt and Caroline Steffen came by me asap on the bike, and I stayed with them for 45 minutes or so, at which point I started to get some ever-increasing pain in my hamstrings and glutes, forcing me to back off ever so slightly, and fall off the pace. I continued on through to the Yas Marinas F1 race track, where we had the privilege to ride three loops of the course. That, by FAR, has been the coolest thing I’ve EVER done in a race, period! Regardless of the incredible pain building in my hamstrings, I imagined I was a race car, flying around each hairpin turn at high speeds (with, of course, all the necessary sound-effects.) Popping out the back-end of the circuit, it was time for more battle with the winds on the rest of the three loop course, which at this point were starting to whip up pretty strong, knocking me around fairly relentlessly. As the pain in my legs grew to agonizing levels, it was all I could do to keep going, and my pace started to decline. Fellow Canucks Rachel McBride (my most awesomely-awesome Team Ossenbrink Teammate,) and Heather Wurtele (equally as awesome, just a bit taller,) managed to catch me. I put in a good effort to stick with Heather for half a lap, but the debilitating pain caused me to fall off once again, and they took off down the road. My smile never left my face though, and I carried on, relentlessly.
Ripping around the Yas Marina F1 Circuit, killer fun! And yes, there WAS car sound effects (VROOM!)
Pulling in to T2, I made for a quick change into my runners and a brief chat with Joe Umphenour (a USA pro whose bike only arrived at 3am ON RACE MORNING!!!) who unfortunately had to pull out of the race. I remember saying something along the lines of:
“Holy Jesus Joe, my legs are KILLING me! This run is gonna suck BAD. But hey, see you at the finish line!” 

With a smile and a wave, I was out on the run course. There was to be no magical run this day, no miracle fancy-footwork that would bail me out and let me run through the field. After the leg-shattering pain from the ride, it was all I could do to just cruise through the run, all the while cheering on my fellow country-folk (who I’m sure appreciated the cheers on the inside, although they gave me this sort of “Oh man I hate you so bad right now” face,) other competitors and volunteers, never letting my big smile fade for even a moment. With 5km to go, I could see Tanille way up ahead, and just piled on what I had left to catch her. Successfully done, it was nothing but the finish line and some massive congratulations for my Canadian teammates and other competitors.

Never-ending smile, happy to be done!
Heather Wurtele put in a massive run to come in 4th, Rachel McBride killed the whole day for 7th, Tenille Hoogland in 8th, and I managed to drag myself across the line as the 13th pro male. Now, you might remember there were a few more men at the start line, 22 to be exact. With an attrition rate of ALMOST 50%, I am just incredibly proud of myself for pulling through and finishing. Anyone who’s ever ridden long and hard knows, that it doesn’t matter how you slice it 200km’s in the TT position will make you hurt. We all know it’s coming. But with the absolutely incredible, unexplainable pain in my legs, I went to some fairly dark places on the bike just to keep moving. When every inch of my being said to just stop, I shouted out the classic Jens:
Literally too; if anyone heard me they’d have tossed me in the looney bin! It was frustrating, knowing there was so much more potential energy in my legs to go harder, but with the veritable rev-limiter slowing me down, it was an incredible grind. The headwind on the last leg in didn’t help the cause much either. But there’s something to be said about slogging on, continuing when all arrows point to ‘stop.’ Just thinking about all my family, teammates, and friends back home, watching their computer screens and cheering me on, kept my head in the game. I was determined to get to the finish line no matter what, if not for me, for all those who support me and were waiting to see those splits as I crossed over the various timing mats. That was one of my biggest motivating factors to carry on.
Post race we attended the awards ceremony, which included Alistair Brownlee, who had won the ‘Short’ distance race. I had the pleasure of a last supper in Abu Dhabi with Rachel, her parents (who flew in from GERMANY just to watch the race!!!) Heather, and Joe Umphenour. It was a fantastic finish to an overwhelming race. Flying out the next morning, I took advantage of the buffet (to the LIMITS!) You see, I’ve been having to pass by all the tastiest treats at breakfast this week, including the croissants, danishes, loaves of delicious breads, and especially the DONUTS! I mean seriously, who does that to a bunch of tapering athletes, leaving donuts out like that?!? I didn’t leave the hotel hungry, we’ll just put it that way. 
I’m incredibly proud of the Canadian women for their performances, and proud of myself for what I accomplished out there. I’ve yet to DNF, and hell if I was going to Abu Dhabi to do it. As I sit here on the plane home, bringing with me a newfound fire and focus for the season ahead, a broader smile, and one hell of a sunburn, I feel content with my early season performance.
Rachel McBride = 7th
Heather Wurtele = 4th

I sure as hell can’t wait to go back next year, with a whole new understanding of what kind of monster I’ll be up against.
Happy training everyone, the race season is baring down on us!!!

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