Completed the Goa Triathlon in a time of 2h:46m and placed 6th in the Open category in the process! It was good to race on a “normal” course for a change after the monstrous course for the Auburn Triathlon last year (see race report). That is not to say that conditions for this race were ideal. Being Goa, it became incredibly hot and humid from the second half of the bike onward. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and I am very happy with my performance and especially my bike.
On race morning, we first drove to T2 (the bike to run transition area) and set it up with my cap, a water bottle, a gel and some salt tabs. The T1 (swim to bike transition area) and T2 were different for this race, adding more complications in the logistics! We then drove to the start at Bogmalo beach which served as the swim venue and the Bogmalo Beach Resort which served as the host for this triathlon. I setup T1 and proceeded to the beach for the swim start. Participants were scanning the sea waters nervously to check the water conditions. Thankfully, the sea appeared calm with just a bit of chop. The Sprint distance race was flagged off first around 6.30am. We lined up waiting for our 7:00am start while the race director explained the route to us. It was a relatively simple course – swim into the sea for 700m, turn left past the buoy and swim 100m, then turn left again and swim to shore for 700m. The sun was up and it was already starting to get stuffy and uncomfortable. People were starting to get nervous and fidgety. At last, we were flagged off and the swimmers went into a mad dash into the sea turning it into a washing machine.
I took my time to enter the sea and started swimming. After an initial 200m or so of jostling around for space, I settled into a rhythm and before long reached the first buoy. We were required to shout out our bib numbers to the men on the boat at the buoy. A quick shout out, a turn left and off I went towards the second turn buoy. This 100m segment parallel to the shore was again congested as expected but it was not too bad. The course cleared up considerably after the second turn as I swam towards the shore to complete the 1500m swim in a time of around 34 minutes.
It is always a bit of a challenge for me to find your feet (especially on the soft uneven beach surface) and get my bearings (I always feel a bit dizzy) for the first few steps immediately after swimming. I ran across the beach, up the stairs, through the hotel to the big lawn area in the resort which served as T1. I quickly put on the tri-top, unracked the bike and ran towards the mount line to start the bike.
The bike route of 40K starts with a short but back-breaking climb of around 1K to reach the Mumbai-Goa highway where we had to do 6 laps. I saw many bikers already walking and pushing their bikes up that slope. I managed to crest the climb without any major huffing and puffing and then turned on the highway for the “fun” part of the course – 6 laps of relative gentle rolling terrain.
While the course was good and traffic was well controlled, there were 2 speed breakers and 2 U-turns per lap which I found very irritating as they forced me to break rhythm every few minutes. The sun was starting to beat down on us and there was hardly any shade over the course. I held myself back on the bike reminding myself that I have a 10K to run afterwards in this scorching heat. Eventually after good controlled biking, I arrived into T2, having completed the 40K bike in 1h:16m for an avg speed of 31.7kmph. I was quite satisfied with this time and even more so when another participant, on knowing about my bike split, asked me if I was a biker! Well, no, I come from a running background, I told him 🙂
I racked my bike but unfortunately could not find my bag in my area! I searched around frantically for a good 1 minute before realizing their was no point in further wasting time in searching. I would just have to run without the cap, water, gel and salt tabs! The water, I can get at aid-stations, but I would just have to do without the gel and salt tabs, and suffer the wrath of the sun beating down on my head and face.
I resisted the urge to blast out of T2 and took it nice and steady for the first few Ks till I settled into a rhythm at a pace of around 4:30 per K. The heat was getting unbearable; at every aid station I poured almost an entire water bottle over my head for much needed relief and drank the remaining few gulps. The run course and bike course were the same except for one segment where the run course veered off. This segment was particularly tough physically as well as mentally, with hardly any other runners in sight and no aid stations.
I was still managing to hold my pace well. For the last K, the course turns off the highway back towards the beach, going down the same climb that the bike course has in the beginning. The downhill actually battered the legs more at that stage of the race. With the resort looming near, I pushed into a higher gear, finishing strong with a time of 47m:59s for 10.5K (Yes, the course was 500m long!). My watch showed 9:44am as the time, so my total time including transitions should have been 2h:44m (the swim was flagged off at 7:00am sharp!), but the official time later came out as 2h:46m. Strange! Later a couple of other participants also mentioned that they were seeing couple of extra minutes in their race times.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I will be back next year to do this wonderful race for sure!