70.3 Phuket 2011 with reruns in 2012 & 2016
This one is a very long time coming, so probably not too many race details. 2011 was my first triathlon season, culminating in a long, hot but fun day out for the whole Phuket community. I returned to a similar race the following year, then again in 2016 which saw a much-revised race venue and course.
Background: I was working at the newly-built and launched Thanyapura, so triathlon was an obvious path to go down. Over the course of the year, my work buddy and I attended several race-expos and managed to squeeze in some races too. The first was a sprint-distance in Singapore, then Olympic-distance races in Hua Hin and Vietnam. We signed up early for the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, as this always sells out fast. Then one impulsive afternoon, I stumbled across this half-ironman race just one week after LPT and dived right in! Training was mixed but those early races helped and I knew I could swim, bike and run the distances albeit on their own. Race preparations weren't so good as I was working the day before - a long hot morning organizing our local IronKids race, followed by bike check-in, a quick dinner and the usual poor night's sleep.
The Race: Race morning started with a nervous energy bar and quiet drive to the race venue. I was soon introduced to the hushed, reassuring tones of MC Whit Raymond as we did last-minute bike checks in a dark and damp transition. Then onto the boats to the race start and the nerves are in overdrive.
Swim: The swim was similar to LPT the previous week - a rough sea swim followed by a beach run before the last 600m in a slow and reed-clogged lake to transition. I was slow, but made it in one piece.
Bike: I knew the bike course well - fairly flat roads through rubber plantations for the first part but the tough hills were always looming. I'd been up them in training, but decided to save my legs and walk them. Not pretty but not the only one. More hills followed, more walking and still not pretty but soon the bike was over.
Run: A horrible furnace of a run followed, before I finally heard Whit calling me down the finish-chute with my girls by my side. It was such a community race that they defied the IM rules and allowed family members to accompany you down the chute. A lovely way to finish my first half-Ironman, and a real community spirit throughout the whole race.
Post-race thoughts: A great event to finish off my first year in triathlon. I hated the bike course and those hills, but looking back, if I was more dedicated to the training, they would have been more manageable. This race has had a few variations since then, and unfortunately there is no longer a 70.3 event in Phuket. If you want a smaller version, LPT is still going strong, and everyone should do that race at some point.
Update 2012 & 2016: I returned the following year with much the same course although a less-focussed training schedule saw a slower performance across the board. Not my finest hour at the 70.3 distance. However in 2016, the race venue and course had changed, as had my motivation for training. Indeed, 2016 was the only time I had trained specifically (and properly) for a 70.3 race, as my 2017, 2018 and 2019 races were all part of Ironman training blocks. As a result, I swam much better in the lake-free swim course, biked faster on a course without crazy hills, then ran my best ever 70.3 run split for my overall Half-Ironman PR. That was my finest (70.3) hour.