x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The Olympian feat of training through a UAE summer

Olympics 2012: All triathletes live in some way by the motto: 'Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.'

The triathletes begin a swim at Yas links.
The triathletes begin a swim at Yas links.

DUBAI // In the humid darkness of the pre-dawn summer, groups of men and women dressed in bright Lycra and aerodynamic helmets meet on their bikes for a training session each Friday.

Some are preparing for their own personal challenge of a lifetime while others are doing it to keep fit. Some athletes want only to make it to the first finish line, while others want to beat their personal best.

All levels of triathletes live in some way by the motto: "Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever."

For six to seven days a week, 30 weeks of the year, these men and women are swimming, cycling and running to help them get around their next triathlon.

There is a distance for every level of fitness, but an equal amount of dedication. Even if the pain is temporary, each athlete must still find a way to deal with it.

For the 110 competitors in the Olympics triathlon, pain will be a harsh reality. The Olympic course features a 1.5 kilometre swim, a 43km bike ride and a 10km run, and hundreds of residents compete over that distance in events every winter.

It is a spectacle that the UAE's triathletes will be watching avidly.

"I enjoy the Olympic distance," said Garry Whyte, 38, of Dubai. "It's an all-out distance, which is full pace from start to finish."

Mr Whyte is training for Ironman Germany, a race with a 3.8km swim, a 180.2km bike ride and a 42.2km run. He hopes to be in London to watch the Olympians battle for triathlon gold around Hyde Park. The women compete on August 4, and the men on August 7.

"We watch the other races on the internet but I'm really looking forward to seeing these guys this year in London," Mr Whyte said.

The 110 participants are to be confirmed on July 9.

"It's not about the bikes. It's all about the swim and run," he said. "Some of these guys can do the 10km run in less than 30 minutes. They are hand picked at a young age. These guys are in a different class."

There are other factors to take into consideration - being good at swimming, cycling and running is only half the battle.

"It's about lifestyle and nutrition and there's all the psychological factors," Mr Whyte said.

"Quite a lot of it is psychological. When you're on the starting line, even at the amateur level, it's quite a nerve-racking thing.

"You know you have to go the distance and you know you can but then you ask if you can do it well and do it as well as the guy standing next to you."

Triathlon is one of the fastest-growing participant sports in the world and the number of races, and racers, in the UAE has been rising.

The Abu Dhabi Tri Club has seen an increase in membership, especially during the winter months in the build-up to the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon and Tri Yas. Christopher O'Hearn, who runs Abu Dhabi Tri Club, said six months of ideal conditions combine with athletes who can afford high-priced equipment.

"Some people can train on their own, and some find it better to train in a group and to know there are a lot of people out there like them," Mr O'Hearn said. He added that people find satisfaction in training and competing. Some people will face their weakness in one of the three parts. Training, however, helps them get past the trouble spots. They do their first race and start to improve, he said.

"Even at the top level everyone has a weakness."

eharnan@thenational.ae