I think most of you will know where Kazakhstan is, but just in case you don’t refer to my previous blog here about where Kyrgyzstan was and Almaty is 50k’s north. Easy.
It looked like a good race to do and a course that was going to suit me. I decided to arrive in advance just incase there was any altitude issues like the past race across the border in Kyrgyzstan. In the end it probably wasn't necessary but I got to experience more of Kazakhstan than I may have done, which was great.
Pre race day we scouted the course and did the usual ride, swim and run. The bike course was perfect, freshly laid tarmac, flat with a small rise each lap of which there were 4. The run course was pretty flat, just one short sharp hill at the turn point. The swim…well, it wasn't quite what we expected. With the air temperature nearing the mid 30’s each day we expected something toasty, but no, the water was a cool 15C as it was fresh from the mountains. Chilly and wetsuits for sure. I was happy with that.
Race day came and with an 11am start we didn't have to rush anything in the morning. We could get up, have a chilled brekkie and head over to the venue. We arrived at the athletes’ lounge which was awesome with wifi, food and drink ... the lot! I sat in there and did the pre race admin, signed my life away and then headed out for a run warm up. It was pretty warm, especially after the run when I tried to get into my wetsuit. I was sweaty and looking forward to getting into the water. After a good warm up we lined up and got called out to the start. As number 35 out of 41 I didn't have much choice of where I was going so went to the first place available.
HONK (the sound of the start horn)
I dived into the water and immediately felt pretty good. I noticed I was on the toes of Numbers 1 and 2 so I was pretty happy with that and I avoided being bashed, except for the first stroke I got smashed right on the head, but apart from that, no contact. I rounded the first buoy well placed but then my goggles steamed up and I was swimming blind so I just followed the splash. This probably only cost me a few seconds but every second counts. On the way back into shore I kept getting my arm hit by someone (okay it wasn't quite no contact but close) so I swam the other side of him and that helped.
Coming out I was right in the thick of a big group so I sprinted to my bike took my wetsuit off and grabbed my bike (and helmet, safety first!). I leapt onto my bike within 50m of the leaders and sprinted to get up with them. I honestly have no idea how it happened but I missed the group again. I was so, so close, like I mean really close (but not close enough I know!) to getting on the pack, but two guys in front of me let a gap open and that was that. We chased hard but for the first lap the group wasn't working well and it didn't for most of the ride. Before you know a closable gap became a minute’s deficit going onto the run.
The run. Oh the run. The run started off pretty slow and I was dropped by everyone again. I definitely built into it as the last lap was probably at my normal race pace but the first lap was nowhere near good enough. I can’t say exactly what this was down to but I think while I was in England I lacked quality run sessions as I was on my own, but also I was a but fatigued from 18 months of constant racing. My coach reckons I was a bit demoralised from missing the lead pack again and that probably was a bit true.
I crossed the line in 21st and was further behind the winner than I would've hoped. Definitely outside the time limit for points. Again, I came here for points and missed out, by 30 seconds again.
Points are tough to get, especially as a first year at this level so I’m not totally disappointed when I look back on it, as I know there’s next year. To have been so close as well is hard, especially as I was close twice but that’s how it goes and I am getting closer. Each race my swim is improving heaps and I am getting so much closer to the lead pack which will inevitably help my chances of points. There are plenty of positives to take once again, but after this race it was time to head home and back to Australia for some R&R before restarting the training again.
Before I left Kazakhstan however, I had to make the opportunity to see the amazing mountains over looking Almaty. A couple of mates who I’d got chatting to at the race and from other races and I decided to go up as high as we could. The race volunteers were amazing and managed to get us a minivan to take us to the ski lift and a translator to come with us. We took 3 ski lifts and made it to the highest point (you can get to at least) of 3200m. The views were breathtaking (see below) and it was great to be up there. Once we got back to the hotel we were spoilt with a gala dinner with music and traditional Kazakh dance performances which were pretty awesome to watch! Almaty definitely put on a good show.
So that’s my season done…Oh, is that a question at the back there? Yes…
“What’s next Sam, when are you racing next? “
Why thank you for asking good sir. Not a lot is your answer. Until the 2019 calendar is out I don’t know. I’ll just be training every morning and every evening and job hunting in the middle. Which reminds me if you are an employer in Perth looking to hire a Professional triathlete from Great Britain that now represents Australia with great swim/bike/run capabilities, do give me a call, or contact me here. Much appreciated.
Take care and enjoy your summer…or winter, depending on which part of the world you're reading this from, but yeah, take care,