ABU DHABI // Seasoned athletes and fitness newcomers will all take to the water and track at Yas Marina Circuit tomorrow for the third annual Tri Yas triathlon.
More than 1,000 competitors have signed up to swim, bike and run in one of three categories – junior, sprint or Olympic.
One first-timer, Rory Fidler, an airline cargo specialist, said his main motivation would be his seven-year-old son cheering for him at the finish line.
He decided to get fit in September last year with a 12-week training regime to prepare him for a white-collar boxing event.
“I’m 43 and I thought I needed to get it together,” Mr Fidler said. “I got through that after I got knocked around the ring for a few rounds. I thought, ‘well, I’ve gone through this much training and pain, I wonder what I should do next?’”
He began training for the triathlon in December, working out for up to two hours a day, six days a week at Haddins Fitness gym in Abu Dhabi.
Mr Fidler said he questioned more than once why he was putting himself through so much torture, especially last week, as he swam laps in his pool surrounded by thick morning fog.
“In the last two months, I have been more productive than the past 10 years,” he said.
His tough training has helped Mr Fidler, who is 1.92 metres tall, lose 10 kilograms. “You feel a lot better for it in the end,” he said.
He hopes to finish the triathlon in less than three hours, and is competing in the sprint distance – a 750-metre swim in the marina, 20-kilometre cycle around the F1 track then a 5.5km run up and down the drag-racing circuit.
“I’m 18 stone [114kg] so I’m not built for a long run,” he said. “To cycle 20km and get off a perfectly good piece of equipment and start running won’t be easy.”
The toughest class is the Olympic – a 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run.
Ian Walker, a double Olympic medallist and Volvo Ocean Race captain, hopes he is up to the challenge.
“To be honest, I have just been using it as an excuse to get a bit fitter over the winter,” he said.
Having completed an eight-month round-the-world yacht race in July, the 42-year-old said his legs were his weakest area and the 40km cycle was his biggest fear. “I’ve been doing a reasonable amount of biking and running and pedalling around Saadiyat Island, trying not to get killed,” he said.
“I won’t say I’m particularly good at any of the bits but I know I can swim for a mile.
“I’ve always been really bad at cycling. As a sailor, you don’t have any leg muscle. When I went cycling after the Volvo Ocean Race, it was so bad. I cycle at about 30kph and when you read about the Tour de France guys, they average about 50kph.”
Mr Walker has competed in a triathlon before, finishing the Abu Dhabi Triathlon sprint distance two years ago.
As a veteran sportsman, one might imagine Mr Walker would find it difficult to compete without aiming to finish on the podium.
But he said the race was “just a little bit of fun for the winter when there’s nothing else happening or going on”.
“I’m not worried about my result,” he added.
“It’s a question of finishing it and it’ll be fun to go around the F1 track.”