A Triathlete’s Guide to Navigating Asian Airports

Airports.. same, same, but different

Racing in Asia may at first seem very expensive, confusing, and intimidating. Really, the airports aren’t that challenging as long as you prepare for all the hiccups you might face along the way. In fact, the flights locally (jumper flights) can be quite inexpensive with the local airlines. Below I outlined some nuances I learned both after traveling with my bike for races and on holiday with my husband.

Leave Extra Time

There are so many reasons you will need extra time in Asia. The wildly unpredictable traffic. The very small local airports with a large volume of people trying to move through. The actual flight desk closes and the people are simply gone as soon as they’ve started boarding. I’ve experienced it all – missed a flight due to trains not being on time, ran like a banshee for a flight because the customs lines were so clogged, and gone to the wrong airport because of a language barrier.

While the people in Asia are very friendly and want to help the language barrier and not being able to read can really slow down your navigation. Typically in the states I arrive at the airport 1 hr before a domestic and 2 hrs before an international. I know everyone has different comfort levels with this. In Asia I would recommend at least 3 hrs from when you want to leave your destination.

Call the Airlines Ahead of Time

One big factor about racing overseas that I learned from my friend Jayme is that the smaller jumper flights have a weight limit. So they will only take so many bikes and then cut it off because they can only handle so much weight. So if you are flying say, into Seoul, and then taking a small plane down the Jeju for Ironman 70.3 Jeju, I’d recommend calling the smaller airline and making sure they can accommodate both the size and weight of your bike. It was so cool watching all the triathlon bikes get unloaded in Taitung when I was in Taiwan in March 2018. This is also a good opportunity to ask about hidden bag fees.

Long Slow Lines

Like I mentioned before the lines at the airports in Asia can be EXTRA. There isn’t the same sense of urgency and efficiency there like there in the USA. In the US, everyone is go, go, go and move them through! Then add in the language barrier and it can take a long time to get your boarding pass and bags checked. We’ve also found security can take a longer time than you’re used to because each country has different standards. In many countries in South East Asia you can expect to go through security at the entrance, before your gate, and before you board the plane! It’s a lot.

Your Bike Is To Big For… Everywhere

Cabbie assured me it was fine…

Your bike bag is too big for pretty much everywhere in Asia. The trains, the elevators, the hotel rooms, the cabs… see the picture above haha I have never been so stressed. Luckily, I knew we didn’t have too far to go. Try to ask your hotel concierge to order you a mini van if possible. Or do like I do and make new friends by asking a fellow English speaking triathlete to share a cab because chances are you’re going to the same place. I made friends with the most lovely Laura Jane Dennis, an Aussie Pro, this way! And saved money in the process!

Expect Asian Food!

Most triathletes are pretty clean eaters. I typically don’t eat meals on flights but when you’re flying 11, 12, 14 hours you must. If you’ve chosen an Asian airlines such as ANA, Korean Air, or Asiana Airlines expect your menu to be different. A lot of times you’ll get noodles or rice with a meat (usually chicken). You’ll also typically get a miso soup, kimchee side, maybe a side salad and a dessert.  So, if you love these foods – you’re in luck! If you don’t (like me!) be sure to pack a heavier snack load or buy a meal to pack ahead of time. Snacks, lots of snacks.

The Sandman

Race Recap Time \ Santa Cruz’s Sandman Tri

The night before the Sandman I was at work. We weren’t that busy with equine patients requiring care so I spent a good chunk of time researching my biggest worry. Great. White. Sharks. In June, two dozen juveniles had been spotted in the bay. July, a dead white shark washed up on shore. Last summer, a man was bit and killed in the bay. That’s it. I’m not swimming. Then there was the cold water temperature. I was informed after looking online that this time of year was warm between 65-70 F. Spoiler Alert: it was not. It was 58 F.

However, I had roped my college friend Ben into doing this race with me and he was going to be at the house by 5:30am to head up to Santa Cruz. Peer pressure wins again. Honestly, I would have thought I’d be more exhausted after having worked a 10 hour shift. I came home changed clothes quickly and Paul helped us load the bikes and gear into the truck.

Race Morning: 5:30 am

Ben, my friend from my Purdue days, and I before the start

The drive from Monterey up to the state park where the race was being held took us about 45 minutes. This race does have a $10 cash parking fee so be sure someone in your group has some money! On the drive up I ate my usual race breakfast of oatmeal and a banana. There was an intense fog when we arrived, which is very typical for this part of California, and part of me wished the swim would get cancelled. It did not. We squeezed into our wetsuits and then tentatively went for a warm up swim.

Swim Start: 8:05 am

The swim course as swum by a drunk haha

I thought I had warmed up sufficiently, I had not. Looking back this is obvious but the water was so numbingly cold that at the time I could barely stand the 5 minutes I was in it. The men went off first and we started 5 minutes later. We ran into the water from the beach and fortunately it got deep enough to swim comfortably very quickly. I felt like I started out okay but immediately the cold water takes your breath away. Still, I knew what was going on and remember to just take a slower stroke and breathe deep.

I made it to the first turn buoy which was at the end of the historic sunken cement ship. Then my world slid “off screen” like I’d been drinking all night. The horizon was moving all over my field of vision and I felt like I was going to vomit. It was scary and I tried to look around for help but couldn’t see anybody. I felt a little scared but floated on my back for a bit and hoped for it to pass.

Nothing changed and I told myself I had to make forward progress so I tried to continue on to the next buoy. I couldn’t sight for the life of me because everything was spinning. Yet, I made it to the 2nd turn and started heading back towards the beach. It was such a struggle that between the nausea and cold the last thing on my mind was Jaws. Which, is a win. You made a right and swam along the beach for a while. It wasn’t until this point I started to get my stride together. That being said, I still came out of the water pretty disorientated and with my classic calf cramps. I miraculously finished in 19:51 (1:46/100m) … who knows?

T1: 8:29 am 

T1 was a little bit of a struggle. The air temperature was sitting around 60 F and it never warmed up after that. I had a hard time up through the soft sand and an even harder time getting my wetsuit off. Ben had been racked next to me so I could immediately see he was out on the bike already when I got there. I was a little disappointed with my transition time of 4 minutes.

Bike Course: 8:33 am

The bike course felt like a climb the whole time. It started out with a steady climb and continued into one continuous climb-flat repeat. There were plenty of other ladies to give me people to chase which made the beginning go fast. Fortunately, there wasn’t bad wind to deal with but it didn’t warm up either. In the future I will definitely pack a wind breaker or sleeves. Something to help warm me up and keep the cold air off me.

You spend much of the second half of the bike heading back down your big climb which is great for making up some time. Just be aware that right before you come back into transition you will face an incredibly steep downhill that can be clogged with car traffic. They will make you slow way down since there are large speed bumps to go over. If you’re not careful I could see people going over their handle bars. I felt like I was going to!

Overall, the bike course is not closed but you don’t really have car traffic to contend with. It isn’t until the very end that you feel like you’re avoiding cars some.  I was lucky in that I fell in with a guy who I was leap frogging with most of the race. I’d pass him on the climbs and he’d pass me on the downhills. It always irritated me when he’d fly down by me and encouraged me to work harder on the hills.  I finished the bike in 48:47 averaging 16 mph. Not great.

 

 

 

T2: 9:21 am

I felt great flowing through T2. I made it in a great 1:35 but it also helps the transition area was super small.

Run Course: 9:23 am

Swim course is in purple, bike is red, and run course is blue

Newsflash – it was still cold at this stage of the game. I thought the run was going to be through soft sand and I was dreading it! While I was SLIGHTLY relieved to find out that there was a nice hard pack shoulder to run on I was still apprehensive on how it was going to go. Once, I hit the hard pack I was good to go. It’s a simple out and back run (my favorite!). You start going under the pier you swam around and it was especially exciting to see Paul up there cheering. I finished the 4 mile run in 30:33 (avg. 8:15/mile) for a total time of 1:44:55. The run actually went by pretty fast and you run over the ups and downs of the sand & surf. Just look out for any dead marine life like the seal I passed!

Post Race Party … or Nap

I didn’t feel like this was my best race and I finished frustrated that I could have done better. Ben and I posted the exact same finish time… okay fine Ben, you beat my by 30 seconds! I still made it on the podium for my age group which was exciting. I wanted to finish higher overall but I’ll take this for my first and maybe only race in this region. For a cold day filled with cold water and cold air it was fun looking back on it. After awards Paul, Ben, and I went to brunch at Avenue Cafe. There was a bit of a wait and I promptly fell asleep waiting for our table. I was in such a zombie state during brunch I can’t even remember what I ordered. Paul and Ben told me the food was very good however! We highly recommend it for a post race refuel.

 

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead

Race Recap Time!!

We’re going back in time with this post to my very first 70.3 race in August of 2016. It was my first season of racing injury free. At this point I only had 2 olympics and a 70.3 Aquabike under my belt. Originally my plan for my first 70.3 was the one in beautiful Miami! I could drive there from Virginia and it was a place I wanted to visit (always a consideration for a traveling triathlete!). However, as planning progressed I realized it was going to be pretty expensive to fly 3 people to Florida and get hotel rooms for everyone. Having my family there for this big milestone was very important to me. I got on the ol’ google to learn about some races within driving distance of Chicago… like 70.3 Steelhead.

Enter Steelhead

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead is put on in a little beach town in south west Michigan called Benton Harbor. It won an Athlete’s Choice Award in 2017 for Overall Satisfaction and Best Run Course. Upon further investigation I learned it was only 30 minutes north of my Grandfather’s beach house! It was settled. The course appeared flat, always a requirement for me, and fast. The multi loop lollipop shaped run course also would allow my family to see me a couple times. I liked that it was in a lake (albeit one that historically thinks it’s another ocean) with no scary marine life and comfortable temperatures. Plus it was an easy hour or so drive for my friends and family in Chicago. Everyone could stay at the lake house so no hotel rooms were involved. Big bonus. That just left getting me and my bike, Gwen, to Michigan.

With my cousin, her boyfriend, and sister enjoying the local brewery, Greenbush Brewing Co, for some carb loading the night before! Water only for me 🙁 For more local recommendations scroll to the bottom!

Race Morning: 4am

I told my family and friends there was no need to get up as god awful early as I was going to have to at 4am. We decided to split into two groups with my best friend Felecia and my mum doing the early run. While Dad, sister Shea, Aunt Linda, and my cousins came later closer to the start. I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with a banana and started furiously hydrating. The 30 minute drive over was easy and parking wasn’t too much of a hassle. I racked my bike and started setting up my transition area as the butterflies and nerves mounted. Could I do this? Was I crazy? Was I going to fail in front of those closest to me??

Superior Support Crew: Dad, Aunt Linda, moi, BFF Felecia, Sister Shea, and Mummy

As the clock ticked closer to 7am I was more and more concerned. We found out around 6am that the water temperature at Steelhead was sitting around 76 F and was therefore NOT wetsuit legal. This suited me just fine since I didn’t have much experience wearing my wetsuit and felt I was faster without it. My warm up swim was enjoyable and started to garner me some confidence that I could survive the swim.

Swim Start: 7am

Aunt Linda & Felecia made some killer signs

Steelhead has a rolling start meaning the gun goes off for the pros ( around 6:45-6:50 am) and then each age group enters the water to about waist deep and waits for their gun. My wave ended up actually starting closer to 7:40 am by the time we got in the water.

The start of the swim was crazy. There were hundreds of people and bodies and limbs. The term “washing machine start” was in full effect. I kept to the back and outside and just tried to make forward process.
As Coach Cyndi always said “just one buoy at a time” and that is what I did. The swim here, in Lake Michigan, is a triangle course. You swim out, make a right hand turn, swim to the next turn buoy, turn right again, and then head for the beach. I felt all in all the swim was pretty great. Despite a few kicks to the head and being swam over by the men behind me I didn’t find it too stressful. The water was a little choppy but there weren’t any real waves to speak of.

 

T1 : 8:24 am

Gratefully transition was short and fast. You come out of the water onto the sandy beach and run through a sand corral that leads you back to transition. Fortunately you aren’t going far and there were some little kiddie pools you could run through to help remove some of the sand. A great tip from my coach that I used here is to keep a water bottle by your spot in transition just for rinsing. So while I was seated putting on my socks and shoes I rinsed quickly with the extra water to get any extra sand out. I hoped it would help with later chafing & rubbing. As it turns out, it did not.

I was not especially fast in T1 and this didn’t bother me too much in retrospect. My goal for Steelhead was to finish, have fun, and push myself to accomplish something I never thought I’d do. So I took my time and made sure I was comfortable.  Double checking that everything was in working order. Even made a port-a-potty stop on the way out. I don’t remember seeing my cheerleaders but they told me that they could see me. I think I was in T1 for around 3 minutes and I was off on my bike.

Bike Course: 8:27 am

This 56 mile bike is mostly on Highway 63 and while it is not a closed course I don’t remember traffic being crazy. My memory of this course is nothing but a positive one. Steelhead has an out and back single loop course (woo hoo!) was scenic and enjoyable. The local police and volunteers made the turns clear and the aide stations efficent. The Athlete guide says that there is 1262 feet of elevation gain but I honestly don’t remember doing any climbing. All of that gain was gradual small rollers that were quick to hit and roll down the other side.

The worst part of this ride for me was getting stung by a wasp in the neck around mile 15. I wasted a lot of water trying to splash my face and decrease the swelling. Hoping & praying that my throat didn’t swell up. Unless your spectators are willing to drive around to see you they really won’t get a chance to see you on the bike course. My family said they had a great time watching the final swim finishers after I left on the bike. They hung out on the beach and enjoyed the lake until the cyclists started coming back in. Many families will set up a little beach spot and make a beach day of it while their athlete is out on the course.

Heading into T2 like a bat out of hell!

T2: 11:23 am

T2 was a quick and easy transition for me. I changed my shoes. Found my visor and glasses. Grabbed my race belt and rolled out of there. Not before a quick pit stop at the T2 exit to get slathered with some sun screen by the volunteers.

Run Course: 11:25 am

Steelhead Run Course

My run started off strong, I thought I felt okay, … until I didn’t. You start out flat and shaded for about the first 1.2 miles until you make a sharp left hand turn and stare down a massive hill. In my memory this hill was Everest. I remember thinking I am not going to even attempt to run this – walking is the only way to survive. Essentially the entire N. Shore Dr portion on the map below is this deadly hill. Almost everyone was walking. I’m pretty sure it accounts for 80% of the 203 ft elevation gain. Once you get to the top of the hill you are at the base of the “lollipop”. I picked up my run again and thought I’m having fun.

Survival of the Fittest

As I ran through the streets of the neighborhoods in the course many people were on their lawn cheering the athletes which was really fun. One house even had dixie cups of beer! Don’t mind if I do! Around 3-4 miles in (EARLY) I started feeling some discomfort and blisters form in my arches and heels of both feet. So at the first aide station I came to I stopped to put on band-aides. When I stopped both hamstrings and groin muscles started cramping. Eat a banana. Apply band-aides. Keep going? But how?? I shuffled along for a few miles after that hoping that things would get better.

Fake it till you make it

It wasn’t until I hit the wooded park portion of the run through the Whirlpool Campus that I started to feel a bit better. I was sticking to my nutrition and trying to keep my head in the game. There is another short but steep hill that you will hit twice on the top part of the lollipop. Right when you exit out of the Whirlpool park you will begin this climb. At this point my feet were in extreme pain and the blisters were all I could think about. As I approached my second lap I could see my family at the head of the lollipop waiting to see me go by. I knew I needed to pick it up and not let them see how much I was suffering. Seeing them and their fantastic signs was one of the best parts of the day.

Like I said, this group killed it on the sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I was out of eye-shot I resumed my suffering and my internal monologue about how awful this was and how I am never ever doing another one. Why do people do this? So a full Ironman is DOUBLE this distance? Never. The entire second lap I just couldn’t stop thinking about how much pain my feet were in. My legs didn’t feel too gassed but my feet! Good grief! I took out my special coin that I carried with me in honor of my boyfriend (now husband 🙂 ) and imagined he was running with me. Every step of that last lap was a dig deep struggle. I made it down the killer hill and tried to pick it up for that last leg. One foot in front of the other.

Finally into the Steelhead finishers chute and the coolest experience happened. Strangers left and right were cheering for me BY NAME! (Your name is written on your bib, they weren’t all psychics!) I was brought to tears by all these people supporting me (and others!). It was the best most motivating feeling and I realized I had finished! I had done it!

Getting high fives from your BFF is the BEST!

A teammate taught me to always smile for the camera men even if you want to die 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Time Finisher

As I came across the finish line, exhausted, bloody, but proud. I received my medal and through the crowd pushed my sister to give me that first big hug. We were both crying and I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I finished with a time of 6 hours and 1 minute. Spot on my goal/projected time of 6 hours. I couldn’t be prouder. Finishing Steelhead 70.3 was easily one of the happiest days of my life. After the race I immediately took off & trashed my socks (which were soaked in blood – yuck), got a wonderful post-race massage by a blind man, and went to claim my victory pizza.

We drove back to the lake house and spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the memories of the day. All in all, I highly recommend this race to other first timers and may even consider racing it again sometime in the future for all the reasons mentioned above.

Immediate elation with Shea!

Riding home top down with my mum & Felecia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendations in the Steelhead area:

Greenbush Brewery – excellent craft beers, even more excellent pulled pork mac n’ cheese! Definitely worth stopping by on your way to or from Benton Harbor

The Peasant’s Pantry – really delicious post race breakfast or lunch!

Mesa Luna – my fave upscale restaurant in Sawyer! Perfect for post race celebrating. You should go for the cinnamon-honey butter alone!

Bread and Bar – fun restaurant & bar to send your family to for provisions during the race, great atmosphere and view of the river

The Mason Jar – smaller cafe with an affordable breakfast and other meals throughout the day. Super popular in the area so you may expect a wait.

 

(Wo)Man’s Best Training Partner

** Warning: Many cute puppy pics ahead **

We all love our four legged family members and in our minds they would all run beside us like Balto during the Iditarod. However, this is not the reality for many dogs out there. In addition to being a triathlete off the clock, on the clock I am a licensed veterinary nurse (LVT).  Specifically I specialize in horse medicine!! But when a certain ball of brown and black fur named Denali came into my life one Christmas I had to knock the dust off my small animal medicine.

When we got Denali (named after the breathtaking mountain in Alaska) I knew right away that we were going to have another adventure buddy in our pack to run, hike, swim, and explore with. This will be the first installment in a few  doggie related training posts to help you train with your pet the right way. Canine fitness has many facets to it and things to consider so keep reading to learn how to turn your fur-baby into your best training partner!

Is my dog a suitable fitness partner?

In many cases this may be an easy question to answer. Pomeranian? No. Belgian Malinois? Yes. Toy Poodle? No. Golden Retriever? Yes. For many breeds however the answer is more grey: Terriers? Newfoundlands? Great Danes? A good place to start to answer this question is to find out what ‘Group’ your dog’s breed (or predominant breeds) fall into. You can do this by checking out the American Kennel Club’s website.

Dogs that fall into the working, herding, and sporting groups are going to be your athletic dogs. Your dogs who like to run, and are good at it, like to swim, and are smart enough to handle by a bike.  Then you have groups that are a little more unclear and take some deciphering. The non-sporting group has breeds that would love to go out and run with you such as the Dalmation or the Shiba Inu. It also has breeds that will sit on the side walk and stare at you like you’ve grown a second head such as the Bichon Frise or Bulldog.

Next you have anatomy to take into consideration. Dogs that have are heavier built like Mastiffs, Bulldogs, and Shar-Peis shouldn’t be taken out on longer runs. Brachycephalic breeds (the smushed face dogs!) should not be run at all as the stress on their respiratory system could damage their air ways or lungs. These breeds can not take in as much oxygen as their longer muzzled counterparts. Those things said, just because your dog may be small like a Jack Russel or a Beagle doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from a mile at the beginning or end of your workout. 

How much volume can my dog do? How far can we go?

Doggie fitness is very similar to human fitness. You can’t take a dog from couch to 5k without a slow increase in volume. Step 1 is to take your dog to the vet and have a physical exam done to make sure there are no underlying health issues before you begin. Just like with people, if your dog is not very active or is overweight you will want to start slowly and pay attention to your dogs body language. Your dog’s annual exam is a good time to bring this up with your veterinarian to see if running with your dog is something they advise.

To start you’ll want to keep your dog at a pace that is comfortable for them, for Denali (at 2 years old) this is around an 8:30 – 9 min/mile. At this pace she trots comfortably next to me, is not breathing too hard, and her tongue is moist and still in her mouth. This pace will vary depending on you and your dog but if you follow those guide lines whatever pace you hit where your dog seems comfortable will work. All I am saying is if your comfortable pace is a 7:00 min mile there is a good chance you will need to slow it down considerably for your pooch.

When Can My Dog Start Running With Me?

Typically as puppies a dog’s bones are not completely done growing until they are around 2 years old. This will vary by breed to breed but between 1-2 years is the commonly accepted answer. You want to be careful starting running with your puppy as you can cause permanent harm. Damaging the growth plates can also lead to arthritis and joint disease as they age. For smaller breeds you could start a mile or two as early as 8 months at a slow pace. Larger breeds you’ll want to wait as they are slower to mature and develop. I think I started trail running with Denali around 11-12 months old. Always consult with your veterinarian as your puppy grows and goes in for check ups. They will best be able to advise you on when the time is right!

Environmental considerations

Working out outside with your dog can be a fun way for you both to get some time in nature and explore new trails and parks together. 

Winter

When it comes to the cold whether you’ll want to use your judgment and what you know of your dog. Clearly, Tri Dog Denali and I love some cold weather running. If the temperature is above 30 F I will take her out. But, my feeling is if its in the 20s F no one should be out! Keep in mind that if the air hurts my lungs/face it is also probably uncomfortable for her. Be sure to also keep an eye out for ice patches along the road. Remember that the salt used to de-ice the roads can burn their pads. Make sure to clean their paws well when you get back inside. So, in the winter we keep it short, keep it fun, and always make snow angles at the end.

Summer

In the summer months you want to be cognizant of the time of day and sun strength. Especially if you have a girl who never leaves home without her black fur coat like mine! Generally if the temperatures get in the upper 70’s and low 80’s you’ll want to keep the runs significantly shorter. Around 15-20 minutes is all I would take Denali for when we were on Guam. I paid extra attention to how she was feeling and if she was lagging and trying to walk – we would walk. Remember dogs can’t sweat like we do, most of their thermoregulation is done through panting.  Dogs that are excessively panting where their tongues are bright pink and hanging out of their mouths are in the first stage of heat stroke. Click here for more on heat stroke. Also consider the how hot the side walk gets in the summer. You hear every summer about dogs getting their paws burned. If possible do your runs in the early morning or after the sun goes down. I also try to take Denali on more trail and park runs when the sidewalks are super hot.

What workouts can my dog do with me?

Most dogs will love both swimming and running with you. It is the biking portion is where you may have challenges navigating with your dog. Biking with your dog can be very dangerous for both you, the dog, and other people around. I will write future posts on how to safely swim, bike, and run with your canine. Stay Tuned!

Your Dog As Motivator

The most important way your dog can be your best training buddy is by always being psyched to get out there with you. Whether 6am or 9pm Denali is always up for a run with me. Having her and knowing she needs exercise too motivates me out the door. First I think, well I will just do a mile or mile 1/2 with her. Then before I know it we’ve done 4 or 5 miles and are ready to lounge! More often than not, I use Denali as my warm up or cool down for a longer run. This way it isn’t too taxing on her but she still gets exercise. I, in return, get some quality time with my friend and get to relax the pace a bit.

Many a time I didn’t want to do my run or go do a swim but having her got me started. Unfortunately, Denali’s high prey drive (for the wheel spokes… and woodland creatures) makes it impossible for us to bike together. When on Guam we would swim in the ocean together sometimes. But, Denali always felt I was drowning and needed saving which made the swims unproductive. I’m not sure if that’s a comment on my form?? Stay tuned for more articles from this vet nurse on training with your dog!

How to be a champion: Guam Edition

Guam National Triathlon Championship 2017

The capstone event of the Guam Triathlon Federation calendar is the annual National Championship race. This race happens mid-July each year and is nothing short of island extreme. This Olympic distance race features a 1500 meter ocean swim, just under 25 miles bike ride, and a 10k run (6.2 miles). It is a great prep race for athletes who are competing in off island races and draws athletes from Japan & Korea too! However, being able to withstand the heat and hills is not the only requirement to becoming the “champion”. To be crowned the Guam National Championship you need to meet some requirements…

According to the Guam National Olympic Committee you must hold a US Passport and have lived in Guam for 5 years. Being born in Guam qualifies you as well. Even if you don’t qualify to be the “champion” there are still Age Group awards three deep. Yet, before we get to the awards we need to survive the race.

Getting warmed up \ 6am

Starting Strong on the Swim

The race starts at 7am sharp in the beautiful Coco’s Lagoon waters.  The swim is the best part of the whole race so be sure to take it all in and enjoy it while you can. You can’t beat the warm clear water that Guam offers. Transition and the swim take place at the same location as the Coco’s Crossing so if you swam that OWS race you’re golden. There is really no current to worry about as you swim the triangle course. You start as deep in the water as you choose depending on how you seed yourself on the ramp. Your biggest concern is the jelly fish potential – I was lucky to not have any in the water when I raced in 2017. The atmosphere in the starting chute is electric with all the spectators lining the ramp.

Exiting the swim feeling strong

Champion Made on the Bike

The bike course is glorious for Guam. Honestly, you couldn’t ask for a better (i.e. flatter & shaded) course on the island. Considering how hilly the southern part of the island is and how trafficked the northern part is, this bike course is perfect. From Merizo pier you head out south along the 4 snaking towards Inarajan before turning back to complete loop one. You ride this course twice before heading back to transition. Keep a close eye out for boonie dogs (feral dogs), chickens, and children running out on the course. If you can dodge all of these, hold >20 mph, and maintain your hydration as the day heats up… you’re on your way to National Champ!

Champion Earned on the Run

This run course makes or breaks your race… or at least it broke mine. It is a 2 loop 3.1 mile course where the turn around point is at the top of a steep climb known as the “Pray For Jesus” hill. You’ll start out feeling fine, nice and flat, getting sprayed by the mister manned by our awesome US Navy divers. After about 10 minutes you will approach a steep hill where you’ll climb an 86 ft gain to the turn around point where you can load up on cold sponges before heading down the hill. It was the rare person that even attempted to continue up it at a run. As the hour approached 10 am the heat and humidity became unbearable.

Don’t be fooled by this smile, I was suffering!

By the time you’ve run the loop twice you’ve ran nearly 180 ft of elevation gain… almost all of it hitting that hill twice! I had to talk myself out of checking myself into the med tent versus having to hit that hill again! Most people walked up and down the hill – there was no shame on that course. It was tough! Beautiful but tough! To earn the title of National Champion your hill run game has to be unshakable.

While I consider this one of the worst Olympic’s I’ve ever raced, I am so proud I didn’t quit. I wasn’t happy with my times. That said, I was still thrilled to earn 2nd place in my AG with a time of 03:01:00. This race is such a great community event with people from all levels racing together and embracing the challenge. For me this day and this race is about friendship. There were so many people out there that I enjoy training with, racing against, and hanging out with. I even convinced one of my friends who’d never “tri-ed” before to do his first race… and he came in 2nd place overall male! If you’re interested in chasing the champion title click here!