#AVonVoyage to Abu Dhabi – A Maxi Triathlon weekend

Last weekend, I participated in my first ITU World Triathlon Series race in the awesome city of Abu Dhabi. I’m unable to race Ironman South Africa this year, so I thought a Maxi triathlon in the region would suffice. In case you don’t know, a Maxi consists of:

– 1500 meter swim
– 80 kilometre cycle
– 20-kilometer run

This and 70.3 is a great distance for me. I’m able to find my groove, and I know how to pace myself accordingly. When it comes to Olympic distances, I tend to push hard on the swim and the first bit of the cycle. So I get a lot slower towards the end of the race. That’s going to change, though, as I build up to the New York City Triathlon in July (WOOOOHOOOO). Back to Abu Dhabi though.

I arrived in the UAE on Thursday evening. I had a bit of drama with the Etihad Airways ground staff in Doha. They wouldn’t let me take my bike bag and a checked piece of luggage on, even though the agent who works for the airline and who booked my package assured me that everything had been arranged especially for us triathletes. Alas after a bit of annoyance and a broken piece of hand luggage later, I got through. When I arrived in Abu Dhabi, I caught one of the cabs waiting outside the airport… A nice little (not so little) Mercedes-Benz took me to the Centro Al Manhal By Rotana.

Sidebar, nice comfortable accommodation on Yas Island if you’re looking for somewhere to stay. It’s close to the Marina, the racetrack, the mall, Ferrari World. It’s perfect!

On Friday, after a bit of breakfast with a friend who came through from Dubai (45minutes or so), I headed off to registration. It was smooth, a breeze. The one weird thing is that the race briefing was held on the grandstands… Standard really, but there was no shade, and for athletes who are supposed to be keeping hydrated and resting, this seemed a bit off. It was about 28 degrees, so it was hot. First world problems, blah blah, but that was one observation. The one thing that saved the briefing was the ever entertaining and awesome announce, Paul Kaye. It’s weird; I almost feel at home when he’s on the circuit giving us our briefings and throwing in some quips and funnies along the way.

True to the pre-race routine, I checked the old bike, packed the bags, got the bottles ready and hit up a restaurant in the mall for some chicken protein boet. I always say I’ll have an early night, but inevitably land up having a late one, and then I don’t sleep properly for fear of missing the alarm, etc. So by 3 am, I was up and at it. I gave up coffee and chocolate for Lent, so a cuppa tea was on hand to wake me up, lol. My other race must-have is my FUTURELIFE High Protein, trusty and now old faithful ☺

Once everything was sorted in bike-check and transition, I headed off to the swim start. It’s quite a walk from where the bikes were, so if you’re doing the race next year, give yourself enough time to get there. The race was supposed to kick off at 7 am, but due to some delays on the cycle route, they delayed it until 7:30. One gent, who was clearly very anxious, was getting rather frustrated, tried to get me involved in his frustration meets anxious tendency, and I was like BYE! I’m one of those characters who gets really quiet. I’m singing songs in my head and analysing the water conditions. I guess you can say I ‘Zen’ myself, haha.

We finally got going, and so did my swimming muscles it would appear. I haven’t been able to swim properly because believe it or not; it has been pretty cold in Doha. It wasn’t ideal because I love my swimming and I usually do pretty well here, so I was a little worried about that. It turns out muscle memory is a winner – I climbed out the 1500m swim, some 22 minutes later. I believe I was fourth out the water too, so I was pleased, to say the least. That success didn’t last long though because of the cycle, once again, was weak for me. I don’t know why but I just can’t get it right. I think it has a lot to do with bike positioning and the fact that I don’t have tribars. I need some cycling assistance, so if anyone is keen to help a brother out with some tips and guidance, holler!

The cycle route was interesting. We got to ride around the Yas Marina Island Circuit, which is quite technical and isn’t short on turns. We cycled around the outskirts of the circuit and through Yas Island too. So at least there was some reprieve too. The Maxi athletes had to do four loops, while the Olympic racers did two. We were all on the track at the same time at one point, which could’ve gone horribly wrong, but luckily for most, it seemed okay. My suggestion to organisers would be to relook the cycle. It’s just a little too boring for the Maxi I feel. I managed to do the distance in 2:31, which isn’t bad, but still, I need to put a lot more work into it to make the cycle count. The run was grand, and thank goodness for good weather conditions. If the sun was baking down on us, I think I would’ve battled a lot more. The run was a double loop of ten kilometres each. At about 11 km in, I stopped to grab some coke and an orange. I walked a bit, then ran and then walked again. A fellow racer, probably in his early sixties came running past me and said there is no way I am to walk. It’s funny, because this always seems to happen to me, and it’s always the ‘wiser’ gents. So I carried on, and he was hot on my heels, so I just carried on knowing he would curse me if I walked again haha. I managed to finish the race in 4:34, which I think is good? I haven’t done the distance before, but I’m pretty happy with that performance.

I enjoyed the race. I thought it was fun, tough but good. I love pushing myself too. So perhaps that why I felt so shattered afterwards? There’s always a lot of room for improvement, and I’m ready to keep moving forward. I wish I were doing Ironman South Africa on the 2nd of April, but alas this year it isn’t meant to be ☹

Gallery: #AVonVoyage to Abu Dhabi

We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the city too much, but post race, and a delicious burger later, myself and a few tri club friends decided to head off to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque… It’s one of THE most raved about Mosques in the region, so we had to check it out. What a marvellous piece of architecture, culture and a beautiful, calming place. It was busy, full of people from all over the world. It’s a place you need to visit if you’re in Abu Dhabi. As I said, time was limited, but next time I’m keen to hit up the theme parks, and also see more of the city, the souqs and eat more local food. Hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned for #AVonVoyage to Oman, and more races, coming soon. Who knows where to next after that? Well besides Dubai this weekend 😉

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Hello from Doha, Qatar

It has been a while since my long blog post… I think it’s because I’ve been so busy trying to settle into my new environment, my new job, and my new way of life in the Qatari city of Doha. It has been almost four months, and it’s time for my blogging hiatus to come to an end.

A quick recap… A lot of you still may not have realised, but I no longer live in SA. I moved to Doha, Qatar on the 11th of August. I was yearning for an adventure abroad and so when the opportunity to come out here and work on a very exciting project (well four), I simply couldn’t turn it down. It scared me to no end. I mean I knew one old university friend was based here and besides her, I knew of a few people who knew my people in some way. That’s part of the adventure huh? Some of the things I’ve done since I’ve been here:

  • Been a #YesMan… Go meet people from all walks of life because why not? And boy have I met some incredible humans.
  • Use apps like Internations, Meetup or dare I say it, even Tinder
  • Tenpin bowling. It’s not novel, but it’s fun and a good way to let your hair down
  • Go smoke shisha at the Souq Waqif
  • Walk and explore (not in the height of summer because it’s revolting). In my case, it’s run ’cause you know… Triathlete
  • I went dog walking… I love dogs, I needed some attention from our furry friends, and they needed some love and affection too. The fit was right. So fulfilling, special and I met some awesome people too
  • Tried a vegan restaurant. Absolutely delicious!!! IF you ever come and visit the city (or me) we’re going to Evergreen Organics
  • Desert safari with friends
  • Visited the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)
  • Kayaking around Katara Recreation Centre
  • Mall shopping (there are malls for days in these parts)
  • Joined a triathlon club

Some of you might think that’s what I do back at home. Yes, you’re right… For some of these, but for most of the listed items above, I’ve taken for granted. Before coming here, I slipped into a routine, a comfort zone if you like and that’s made me somewhat complacent. Life is about living and I’ve become a strong advocate of the idea of growth only being possible when you’re out of your comfort zone. There’s a limit though and we need to be able to draw the line or strike a balance between what is possible and what isn’t. No experience is ever wasted, but I’d much rather be doing stuff and fail, then to live in a bubble and wonder what if? Or worse, have regrets.

I went back to SA a few weeks back and that was good for the soul. Seeing your family, your friends… Your people is best. Having said that, I was pretty excited to head back here. I think that’s a good sign, right? 🙂

And so with this massive change in my life, I feel like it’s only fitting that my blog content shifts  slightly too. There will be more adventure, more news on health and wellness (my journey in this space), more on the city of Doha, but there will still be entertainment too. I hope you’ll my #DesertDiary and this project I call #AVonVoyage.

A Von Voyage to Namibia for Ranger Odyssey 2015

On a random Tuesday evening last year, I saw an advert on TV that caught my attention. It was for a competition called Ranger Odyssey. The advert was looking for those in search of an adventure of a lifetime and for those who was bogged down by a pretty dull and boring routine. It kinda lit a fire under my ass, but as fate would have it, I missed entering because of this routin and stalling. I kicked myself when I realised I missed it, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles really. It wasn’t meant to be… Or so I thought. Fast track to May, a new job and a new adventure ahead. Luck was on my side and it looked like I would be involved in the Ford Ranger Odyssey, but just from a different angle.

After some initial preliminary judging, I thought that was it, but then I was asked to head to the Karoo to be part of the Bootcamp experience. That I did happily, obviously. It was there that I got a crash course in 4×4’ing and I got a little taster on what the would-be contestants would be doing in Namibia. I spent four days there and helped choose what I thought was a very strong group of twenty contestants from South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. I really thought that was that. To my sheer delight, I was asked to attend the actual Odyssey… for eight days… What? Really? From being a hopeful contestant to actually driving the route and being part of this experience was pretty damn cool to say the least.

My long weekend in the African bush was replaced by eight days in the Namib desert; in tents, a Ford Ranger and an awesome group of people. Sounds awful right? 😉 I am often reminded how lucky I am to do what I do – and this experience was just another one of those reminders. I set off for Windhoek in the wee hours of Monday morning. A quick two hour flight and we landed in the Namibian capital. Customs officials were on as usual on ‘fine form’ making us feel uneasy and somewhat unwelcome, but whatever. We made it through. The nine of us then headed north-west to the camping spot of Purros in a very small and dinky plane. Not my favorite pastime, but the two-hour trip allowed me to catch up on some sleep, which was very necessary.

The experience itself was incredible -exactly what I imagined it would be. The scenery, the various locations we found ourselves in, the food, the content we produced, the people… This really was a career highlight. I think I’ll stop rambling now because I want you to see what I saw.


The winner of this year’s Ford Ranger Odyssey will be announced tomorrow evening. Can’t wait to see who takes top honours.