Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Race Report- ITU Premium Asian Cup- Jiayuguan, China

ITU Premium Asian Cup- Jiayuguan, China
16th July 2011

Hey Everyone,

Well as you know, I travelled over to China last week to compete in the ITU Premium Asian Cup in the small town of Jiayuguan in the Gansu Province. I was pretty excited about this race as it was my first race since I took a month off and I had never been to China before.

Now for every race, there is always a different set of challenges that you have to face and this race was no different. Some of which I managed to anticipate and account for, others I found out about once I arrived. To start with, this race was going to be HOT......and it certainly was, with 35 degrees and a very dry heat it really stung the lungs.

Two of the major challenges that I didn’t anticipate was firstly the food and secondly the altitude. Now I have raced in the Philippines, Japan and Korea all before and I assumed the challenges of food in China would be similar. Unfortunately I was wrong.....I was in far western China, a region of China which has very little influence from western cultures. They eat are large array of animal and cook EVERYTHING in chilli which really doesn’t do it for me. After unknowingly consuming DOG and then nearly throwing it up I stuck to a slightly less than perfect pre-race diet of plain rice and Oreo cookies.

The second challenge which I discovered was the altitude. The town of Jiayuguan lies right in between the Gobi desert and the Qilian Mountains at an altitude of over 1600m. On one side there is sand as far as the eye can see, on the other there are enormous mountains, climbing up to 6000m in altitude which are covered in snow 365 days a year. Unfortunately the altitude was the one challenge which I wasn’t able to overcome during the race.

Now on the race.....It was held over the Olympic distance of 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run with 30 starters, the majority of which were some of Asia’s top triathletes. The swim was held in one of three man-made lakes inside a huge public garden. I wanted to put myself in a really strong position over the 2-lap swim and knew that to do that I needed to reach the first can in the top few guys. I had a great start and really pushed the first 300m, rounding the can in 4th place. This would be great for me, except for the fact that with less oxygen in the air, I really began struggling to get air in. Over the remaining 450m of the first lap I really struggled and went from 4th place and sitting in a great spot and dropped to around 20th. Diving into the 2nd lap I learnt my lesson and decided a much more steady rhythm would be needed. I managed to swim myself back into a decent position but unfortunately there was a break to 6 guys who formed the first pack.

Onto the bike we had 6 very flat laps around the gardens and streets of Jiayuguan. I was riding in the 2nd group and felt quite strong, pulled a few turns and then let the others take over on the last lap to try and freshen up the legs. Our group hopped off the bike with a 2min deficit to the front pack of 6 and again on the run, the lack of oxygen in the air really began to take its toll.

The two lap run course was again very flat, but very exposed to the heat. Thanks to lessons learned from a few races in Asia now I think the nutrition and hydration plan that I implemented worked well and I felt energised the whole way. I managed to build into the run and finish quite strongly but it wasn’t quite enough to crack into the top 10. I crossed the line in 13th place with which I would say I was fairly satisfied. There are certainly things that I would do differently if I had the race over however I’m happy that I am back racing and looking forward to the next one. This was certainly one of the hardest races I have ever competed in and have taken a lot out of it.

Thanks again for all the support and I’ll see you all soon!

Ben Hammond

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