One of the odd parts of being a professional athlete is it’s a job that requires me to rest – I get to watch a lot of films and have a pretty good recall for movie quotes! So as I jetted east from the continent for the first time, I remembered Sam from Lord of Rings, saying “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I've ever been.”
I’d never flown across the Atlantic before, and my exotic destination of Bahrain would take me to the Middle East for the first time.
In 21 hours. On board three different planes.
My physiotherapist Sean Campbell even had me wear a Humidiflyer and had to give me exercises to do to keep my muscles fresh (which also meant I looked like a transformer and got some strange stares).
And the people, well, they’re not so different than Canadians in their hospitality and warmth. Everyone I met that I asked for help from was kind and generous, and they genuinely wanted to help me out.
|This guy got us through security and customs fast by saying something like "These are not the Droids you are looking for"|
The weeks leading up to this trip ticked along in the way they usually do when I’m training. Every athlete has their ups and downs and elite athletes are no exception. We are also, definitely, not immune to food poisoning as it turns out...
Although I’d been training for full-distance triathlons, preparations for the half distance in Bahrain were coming along nicely, and I was pretty confident about the race.
One thing I hadn’t prepared myself for was the hotel buffet. It certainly beat my own cooking at home – it was unreal. It had every type of food I could imagine. The lineup at the buffet was the who's who of triathlon! It was also pretty neat to see what they all ate in the days leading up to the big event. Rumor has it Pete Jacobs spent 4 hours at the breakfast buffet on day one!
|The most incredible chocolate fountain that hung out in the hotel lobby. Tempting you to get the $27 dessert buffet!|
|Traveled half way across the world only to eat Richmond's finest cereal - Nature's Path cereal (my favorite!) being served at the buffet.|
|Help desk at the Bahrain Airport for anyone taking part in the race.|
|View from our balcony - it was alright I guess.|
The triathlon fan in me was definitely star-struck for the majority of the week. On the first day out to the outdoor pool and Pete Jacobs, Tim Reed, and Tim Berkel were swimming laps. The pool was a tight circle and ended up being perfect for laps.
|The Aussie's getting the work done in the hotel pool.|
|Selfie with Pete Jacobs and Tim Don...|
As fast as I like to think I am, I wasn’t quite at F1 speeds – I felt more like I was in a game of real-life Mario Kart than anything – but it was a dream-come-true.
The run course took us in a wildlife reserve that had ostriches running around. I was looking forward to that experience, too, until I saw some in the corner of my eye. Now I always run pretty hard, but I certainly got a little extra speed when they caught me in their field of vision. Just liek Kevin Hart...
And I’d certainly never raced alongside a prince before! Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa is one incredible guy. He’s actually the reason the race – and even the sport – came to Bahrain.
You can’t help but have respect for a prince who’s not only racing, but investing in triathlon, and youth and sport development in his country. The indoor 50m pool alone is super impressive! The influence he’s had on his people inspires me.
|The Prince and his entourage rolling into athlete registration|
I think one of my responsibilities as an elite athlete is to encourage new people into the sport and celebrate the achievement of all athletes who sign up for races – young, old, fast or getting faster.
The day before my race I met one of the young people the prince has inspired. I went down to the kids’ race to volunteer and cheer them on, and met a 16-year-old Bahraini named Abdulla.
“Abs” is new to triathlon, from swimming. When I was talking to him, I realized he’s been having the same experience I used to have watching full-distance triathlon in Penticton when growing up. And was he ever lapping up the event, just like I did!
He loved meeting all the other athletes, sharing about what he’s been learning and all of his hopes and dreams for his triathlon career. After the race I learned he came out of the water in second place in the relay category – so I’ll be keeping a close eye on his development in the coming years!
|Handing out medals at the Kids Junior Race. Always so much fun!|
|Abs and I at the awards banquet.|
|T1 Race morning|
I was happy with my swim (although an elbow to the eye courtesy of Tim Berkel wasn’t one of my planned tactics!). I went a little harder than I normally would on the bike, but I wanted to take some chances and see what could happen.
I started to notice the Middle East heat on the run, but I figured everyone else was suffering too. I picked off as many athletes ahead of me as I could, but couldn’t quite get myself into sixth place.
But I was stoked to finish in seventh in such an amazing field. I found myself right in the middle of outstanding athletes and triathlon legends.
We also got incredible Challenge Bahrain transition backpacks as well as finisher jackets that looked like something you would find at MEC. Super light-weight, packable and really warm.
Probably one of the cooler parts of the race was hanging out in the doping control tent post race with all of the pro's (male and female) and blurting out to Tim Don that my girlfriend Sophia has told me that his hair should be my hair-spiration...
The party didn't stop in the doping control tent either - Challenge Bahrain put on an unreal awards ceremony followed by the wildest triathlon after-party I've ever been to. Well, lets face it, the only after-party I've ever been to. Akon, Dire Straits, and Canada's own Massari were performing live. Yes, live. For about 200 people. Take what you're imagining this concert to be right now, and multiply it by 10 and you've got it nailed. There was even a dancing robot and the best break-dancer group I've ever seen.
|Akon. Found myself thinking "Oh right, he sung that song too!" all night long.|
I've been home now for 24 hours and I still can't believe what an amazing experience I had over there. Challenge really knows how to treat their athlete's with respect and dignity and are doing great things for the sport of Triathlon across the world and especially in the Middle East.
Still figuring out my race plans for 2015 but you can be sure that it's going to include a few more of these races - this is one to put on your bucket list!
Huge shout out and thanks to everyone who was able to make this trip (and this season) such a success including Mike Brown (Great White North & Challenge Penticton Owner/RD) and Darren Hailes who traveled with me from Canada and were under the watch of the palace with me...we think it had something to do with 3 guys sharing a hotel room together. Everyone at Challenge Bahrain and Challenge Family for all of their hard work getting the race organized and all of us pro's organized. All of my sponsors, supporters, family and friends. And of course, my best friend Sophia who does more for me and my career then anyone could ever imagine!
Until next year Bahrain!!
|Sunset on our last night.|