Wild Wild Best

“Don’t expect best time but expect the best views”, was announced at the race briefing for the Ironman South Africa in Port Elizabeth. The so called windy city and its long distance triathlon race are one of the toughest on the circuit. Choppy waters, strong winds and hills await the athletes on the course sections but you are motivated by the heartwarming South African spectators that are clapping and cheering you on, in conjunction with a great views and beautiful coastal landscape. So, why not race and enjoy this long standing Ironman race? The race organization is superb – 100% professionalism guaranteed.

Emirates takes it all
The usual suspect airline is Emirates. If you travel from Europe or the Middle East – Dubai is the central hub to fly down via Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. Bike boxes arrive safely while the athlete is enjoying nice treat in the cabin of the Emirates plane. When booking, ensure you announce your bike box to the operator, and then no extra fee will be charged. Usually the connection in Johannesburg is via South African Airline. But it is code sharing to Port Elizabeth – in short “PE”. The airport lounges in Jo’ burg provide you with the carbo load you are looking for the race. On the return trip home you can enjoy a few well deserved beers for cheers.

The place to be and to stay
The accommodation to book is “Sunport 1’. Together with my Saudi Triathlon friend, Mo, we joined that little, cozy place. Sharing is cost caring. The spot was just 2 kilometers away from the swim start and the Ironman exhibition. The special deal: It was directly next to a bike shop with a charming café. You can have your bike mounted and fixed for the race while having breakfast – great stuff! A supermarket, a pizza restaurant, and a bar were less than 100 meters away. Even with all these facilities the nights were calm and sleep was guaranteed. One of the best race accommodations I have ever stayed. All you need was there.

Chop chop hurray
Race briefing: Not the typical blah blah with transition, passing, drafting and so on. This time one information special came extra: 3 different options for swim adjustments: Cancelling completely, Shortage for all, or only shortage for the age groupers. Apparently so they made windy experiences in the past and the swim could be too dangerous for some athletes. However we will see. Forecast for PE: Windy as usual. And so it comes: 30 minutes before race start in the morning they announced the reduction to 1600 meters. Lots of people were disappointed. Not a real full iron distance today. Especially the first timers didn’t like that decision. However even in that choppy water conditions you need to fight. And some athletes fought they last battle. The conditions were very rough. 2 people died unluckily, lots of people dropped out. My triathlon buddy Mo managed the swim as it was pretty flat – swim business as usual. For me all things went wrong: Seasickness lead to disorientation, dizziness and forced me to swim breast stroke to see the horizon and to breathe calmly. I had learned it once I was on a cruise to Antarctica from Argentina riding 2 days through the Drake Passage. But with a neoprene breast stroke is not fun: The legs hang flying at the water surface due to better bouncy. The grip got lost. In addition the wet suit zip broke and the back was open. And if that was all not the worst one of the co-athletes in the water hit me by mistake on my ear. Days after the race the pain wasn’t gone and my ENT doctor recognized still a damaged ear drum with rest of blood. However my focus in this toughest swim of all my Ironman races was just the next yellow buoy. It was like the light at the end of the tunnel. In my mind: I will not quit. I will not give up. Either they pull me out of the water due to cut off time. But I will never surrender. Next back up plan after switching from front crawl to breast stroke: Resting at one of the safety boats. But we were not at this point yet.

Spitting but not quitting
Remember when you had the worst party night and you could not hold the straight line forward. Yeah. I think I never had any of these experiences until I came out of the water on that day. I saw the audience, the gate, and I was happy but couldn’t walk straight. I had to stop to sit down and had to puke. OMG! So many people, cameras there as well. What a shame. But in moments of crisis – you don’t give a shit. You rather give a puke. A motion sick man has to do what he has to do. Immediately Ironman staff came and asked if I do need help. Directly I wanted to know if I take help the race would be over for me, because I wanted to continue. I knew: I could maybe recover with medication or whatever and I still have cut off time 15-16 hours left. Never quitting, never giving up. The race continued. The race doctor confirmed that the motion sickness will last a bit but will pass. At the beginning no food just water as an intake. Ha – the nutrition plan of the day spoilt right away. I didn’t think of any time to beat anymore on this day. Just to finish. At least to finish my longest Transition time ever – nearly 30 minutes.

Bike coastal chase
The first hour on the bike was very lonely. In fact I didn’t know if I was on the right track. No one was in front of me. In fact I was one of the last people out of the water that finished the race overall. Start: 2000. Finish: 1700. But that I only got in the results days after. Now blue sky, light tail wind, energy still low, but out of water and dizziness slowly went away. 1600 meters to climb, wind to come after 3-4 hours, some nice hills and steep descent – but always at sight the white beaches, the beautiful waves and the blue sky. And monkeys from left, weasel from right? What? Yes! Correct. Like in Ironman Langkawi, Malaysia there were monkeys watching the cyclists. Did they wave even? No, no! That was the lack of water and my stupid mind I guess. But definitely a little weasel crossed just a meter in front of me. I didn’t see that coming. Luckily for both of us we didn’t meet. At the end the wind picked up and I lost too much time. Out of all 7 Ironman worst bike split ever. But enough power left to run the last 42 km to the end. I still dreamed about a day light finish. But we will see.

Cheers and beers on the run
Finally on the run: 4 laps, all in parallel to the coastal road. Right and left of the running track the local community cheered the runners up till the last man and woman running deep in the night. Lots of them had prepared little BBQ with beers – As longer the run went on, as more drunk but funnier the crowd became. High fives from adults and kids pushed each athlete a bit more. On my first 5 kilometers I spotted Saudi friend Mo looking strong. At that point I guessed he must be around 2 hours in ahead of, considering a normal swim and his first timer motivational backed bike split. On each loop we spotted each other twice, gave ‘high fives’ and the typical: “Push it baby!” It’s nice to race with people you know. Even at the far side of the world you feel the comfort of being home. Sharing the pain is half the pain. Sharing the glory is double the glory. Especially when the race is over. Then you can celebrate together.

You are an Ironman
On the finish line: “You are an Ironman” – I heard that already several times. But it is always heartwarming telling you that you are done for today. Mo was waiting at the finish line. We went for the typical after race treatments: Finisher Medal, T-Shirt, Burgers, Ice cream, Pizza, Bike pick up, hotel. For me extra: Dismounting the bike, packing my luggage since next morning flying back home to the office. Quick recap while packing and energy fueling: Mo finished in fantastic 11 hours something in daylight, while I had more than 2 hours later for arrival. He was very happy. Next goal for him: Ironman Barcelona in ½ a year to be even faster. And for me? At the end I finished in my 3rd fastest run split on Ironman distance races. Overall: I was happy to have survived the swim, but I was totally disappointed about the bike split. However – No muscle pain on that day or in the next days. If you don’t have pain you didn’t push it hard enough, I guess. I felt I could do another race the next day. I felt pretty fresh. It is a good lesson learnt for upcoming multi day races – keep the intensity low to race day by day without injury. That was my take away from that race. Plus: Normal Ironman number 7 done. Ironman on African continent done. Only North- and South America to do in November (IM Cozumel) and December (IM Argentina) 2019. So I will have completed a full Ironman on each continent. Let’s do this.
Thomas Brackmann

In the Heat of the Night

Race Report Ironman Triathlon Langkawi, Malaysia – by Thomas Brackmann

There are many Triathlons which label themselves as a “race in paradise”, such as the Ocean Triathlon in Mauritius, the Laguna Phuket Triathlon in Thailand, and the Ironman of Aruba. Among these great races, Ironman Langkawi in Malaysia definitely fits the bill. So, in November this year I decided to take a holiday to experience it for myself. This is my story.


Race Preparation 4 Weeks Build Up

To balance out all my other hobbies I believed due to experience in training and nutrition, that I needed to pull out a good 4-6 weeks training before the race. Even having some setbacks with catching a cold and other excuses would be enough to finish in around an easy 12 hours (ish) time, and of course I’m always dreaming about a personal best. Experience, mental strength and craziness would help make it. In any case: holiday race mode was on for Ironman finish number 5.

Travel with the Bike

Unlike in Challenge Wanaka (January 2017) or Ironman Mallorca (September 2016) I planned to take my own bike with me, even knowing it’s a flight from Riyadh via Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur – just for 3 days. A longer weekend with 2 days extra paid leave. Since there is always room for failure with flying and having lack of trust to the airlines, I ordered as backup a rental bike via phone beforehand. In addition, I took TT handlebars in my hand luggage. Just in case. Travelling only with hand luggage and bike case is fair enough. Most important equipment that I didn’t want to buy or rent if luggage gets lost: bike shoes, helmet, tri-suits, goggles, compression socks, charger for phone and race watch etc. All in hand luggage. Better safe than sorry.

Race Conditions

On arrival: own bike didn’t come through, and case got stuck in Abu Dhabi or Kuala Lumpur. I was unlucky like so many other triathletes from around the globe. Backup solution comes into play. Rental bike marsh, marsh! Planning is everything. Weather: 30 degrees Celsius, with 90% humidity. Forecast for rain nearly every day. It will be the sweaty, wet, tough race I presumed. On a happier note: monkeys and friendly people all the way. On the same day 70.3 and the full distance were conducted. Nevertheless, the beauty of the hotel resorts and beaches gave a push for the upcoming race.

Calm Salty Swim

Swim in open water. No wetsuit. 28 degrees Celsius in salt water. Bay protected swim course with Australian exit after 1.9km. Swim was a rolling start, meaning people right next to you had a similar expected swim time. This makes it smoother and easier to find your pace. In fact, for me as an average swim performer it went well. Water was as nice as it could be: clear, warm and no waves. Great! Australian exit with 20 metres beach run in a good time of around 40 minutes. The organisers provided drinking water on the short run part. Good stuff! I was happy, since I was on the way to my best time in swimming. Had a good start on that day! Even cramping up after around 2.5km I bypassed others which indicates I am speeding up, or they are slowing down. New PB after swim: 1.25. “Let’s build up on that”, I thought. But I knew that the day would be long, and triathlons are not won just by swimming. Running at the end will decide, like in so many other races.

Monkey Bike Leg

Jumping onto the bike. Plan: every 5km drinking, every 20km gel, bar, or banana. Plus, every average 20km taking the aid stations with extra isotonic drinks. Hot and humid conditions were harsh. Very important to fuel with minerals and liquid in the right balance, otherwise either pie stops or vomiting would follow. So far the plan was all ok. I could keep a descent bike pace above 30km an hour on the hilly rollercoaster course. Flying through little villages with the smiling faces of the Malay people, jungle like regions with monkeys next to the road watching the cyclists, and permanently changing scenery of rice fields and palm tree filled yellow beaches. Rushing through paradise.


Too Much Rain Over Paradise

Soon the clouds went dark, darker, and darker. Between 120 and 160km it started raining. Cool. But dangerous as well. Now the little pot holes on the streets were full of water and not easy to spot. Flying with 60km or more downhill combined with rain splashed sunglasses. Not a good idea. Sun glasses came off and praying whilst speeding downhill. The breaks for the carbo wheels didn’t work properly. Fast and furious feelings came up. A crash would lead to hospital and an extension of stay. Breathing was heavy, sight was limited due to hard rain. I never saw people pushing their bikes up the hills. Maybe a sign of weakness. But cleverness as well, pushing the bike is sometimes faster, plus energy saving because at the end, as long you go forward that’s the most important thing.

All in on the Bike

In all my previous Ironman races I had to stop minimum once on the bike part for a pie stop, but on that day only once during the running later on. That showed me that all the fluid I took in on that day, the body needed desperately. However, I slipped with my timings away from my best bike time I had booked before. Nevertheless, it was the 2nd personal best on my bike in all my 5 Ironmans. Still in happy mode. Last bit my strength, the running part would come.

Ice Bucket Challenge on the Run

I planned a running time below my personal best of 4 hours, but I could only beat the virtual pacemaker on my GPS watch on the first kilometre after Transition 2, coming out of the big AC cooled building. Soon I realised I had to use every aid station for a little walk. Every 2km apparently. All the time taking 2 water bottles, 2 sponges and taking a handful of iced water out of a big bucket. Cooling down the body was key, especially as my thighs were in pain and needed cold water, and even cooling spray. The volunteers at each aid station had them ready for the athletes.  My pace was more than 1 minute slower than I wanted. It was just the heat and the humidity that caused the slow pace. In moments like that I was wondering how I could have survived the Double Ironman last summer and how I will manage the Triple Iron distance in 2018. But when I looked into the faces of the other triathletes I quickly realised: when I suffer, the others do as well.

Results: Bad but better

When you go to an Ironman race you have different goals: best time, just finish, or winning. But at the end it’s also enjoyment. Depending on race conditions (flat, hilly, wetsuit – non wetsuit, fresh vs. salt water, etc.) it has an impact on your time and performance. Even when not having the best day, your competitors can have a worse day. At the end you can end up with a very good result. If you suffer – they might do as well. So I finished with a slow run pace and a overall disappointing finish time, 30 minutes behind my average Ironman finishing times and 1 hour slower than my personal best. But in the end I finished with the best result in comparison to the triathletes in my age group. 48 out of 200. Maybe the others had to suffer more than me. Perhaps the competition in Asia wasn’t as strong as in other regions or I just improved overall? However: the positives to take away are a personal best on the swim, 2nd best personal best on bike and top 25% overall in my age group. This was a good result and I have some great memories of this beautiful weekend vacation race.


Summary and Outlook

If you aim for a holiday and closure race season, Ironman Langkawi is the place to go. It’s not necessarily a course for getting a new personal best, but it may offer better chances of higher rankings, especially when you are used to the heat. Only some expats and triathletes from Europe take part. But these fellows had experience of more than 10 Ironman races in their career already. I had nice talks with such peeps about blood, sweat, and tears. Even when the Asian competitors qualify for Kona they might not go due lack of holidays, money or other reasons. The organisational team does a great job based on Malay hospitality, experience and Asian efficiency. Best is to spend around one week in the place to enjoy all the beauty of the nice island. Next Iron distance will come for certain. It looks like in 2018 aiming for Ironman South Africa in spring, Challenge Roth in July and / or Ironman Cozumel in November. But highlight will be the Triple Iron distance end of July. Sounds crazy. But after speaking to a guy having finished a DECA-Iron distance anything seems possible.

Thomas Brackmann


The beauty but the beast

by Thomas Brackmann

When you read books about triathlon races that you have to finish once in your life there are races such as Challenge Roth in Germany for its great atmosphere and fast course. Or there is the dream destination of Hawaii for all those that are good enough to qualify to race at the World Championship. But then there are also smaller races with stunning landscape in combination with a challenging course such as the one at Wanaka on the South Island in New Zealand.

Race Dream comes true

Since I started Triathlon in 2015 I always wanted to go there to take on the fight with the nature and myself. In February 2017 I did the long trip from Saudi Arabia to the Pacific to combine a wedding participation at the beginning of the trip followed by visiting some countries before the race (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Cook Islands). Otherwise it would have been too expensive travelling such a long way. Disadvantage: Continuation of race preparation while travelling and using a rental bike on the race to travel more light.

Preparation with Swim – Run focus

I seriously started just 6 weeks before travelling to New Zealand with the focus on Swim and Run since I believed the choppy 15 degrees water will kill me (as a bad Triathlon swimmer). I trusted my running strength would bring through the Trail Run with 300 m ascent by training regularly 50 km in the Diplomatic quarters in Riyadh. For the bike I just pulled out some 300 km weeks at mostly flat terrain or on a gym bike since the ascent was described as just 1000m. I strongly believed I could handle it with mental and physical strength to make a personal best by finishing in sub 12. Go big or go home.

Just before the race – Shocking news

On Arrival in New Zealand just 2 weeks before the race I met a pro Triathlete that raced the course 6 times before and he predicted that it will take me around 3 hours longer than my personal best. In these days the temperature and the chilly heavy Kiwi winds would demand everything from the sportsmen and women. He gave the advice to get neoprene gloves and shoes and even a second neoprene cap. For the bike and running leg he recommended to have several layers that are wind and rain proof to stay warm and dry.  “You have to eat more than ever, and you have to wear warmer than ever”, he said. He made a bet for a beer that I will finish in 15 hours. He was so sure about it that I lost my confidence at all and I regretted that I didn’t train more, harder, better. I felt like before my first ever Ironman: Unsecure, excited, and nervous.

Sharing the pain is half the pain

Luckily I could join my feelings about the race together with former Riyadh Triathlete Joanna Bolton that prepared the last 4 months for her first long Ironman distance. Together with the support of a nutritionist and coach she was very well prepared but still excited about her first long distance adventure – especially for this tough one. Usually first timers go for flatter courses such as Ironman Austria, or UK, or Challenge Roth by chance. But her debut would be a real killer. Of course the reward for all upcoming pain would be the stunning landscape with lakes, mountains covered with snow, and green Italian style trees.

Keep it small and simple

The Challenge Wanaka festival saw around 2000 participants for the kid’s races, the Half Iron Distance and the Full Distance. But for the full Ironman distance  only 150ish people joined. That was a bit disappointing when waiting at the start line. Maybe the reason behind was that Ironman Taupo (on the northern Island was set up just 2 weeks later). Also the cheering audience alongside the course was quite small. Nevertheless they supported the triathletes with joy and happiness.

Good weather conditions on race day

For days Joanna and I were following the weather forecast. And we were really lucky. On race day morning there was nearly no wind and 9 Degrees Celsius Air temperature. That meant no waves in the freezing 15 degrees water. Neoprene wet suit was allowed – same as neoprene extra cap, hand gloves and shoes. We had only the extra cap on to minimize the heat loss. Imagine crystal clear, flat water surrounded by mountains where the peaks are covered by snow. Fabulous! Nevertheless the cold water felt like thousands needles in your hands and feet.

Brackmann (1)

Surprisingly the swim went extremely well and I could pull out a personal best – side by side swimming with Joanna – per coincidence. Together we also mastered the T1 – Transition, put 2- 3 long sleeves on in expectation of the cold wind on the bike.

Rollercoaster on bumpy roads

Everyone was happy being out of the cold wet and was seeking to get quickly warm on the bike ride. Aside of the layers when riding the bike it was also an obligation to have a thermal layer in special needs bag since the weather conditions in New Zealand can change very quickly.

Brackmann (2)

After a short while I realized the road conditions were not as great as they seemed by riding it by car. The surface was very bumpy. So the whole body shook up all the time. There were some peaks on the bike course but I felt ok. “Damn I should have made more hill training”, I shouted when it came to even more hilly terrain. Nevertheless the track was similar to the profile of the Humps course in Riyadh. But the beauty of the lakes surrounded by green hills and snowy mountains covered up all bad thoughts. Joanna was in a great shape and lost only around 20 minutes against me on her TT Bike. Always having a smile on when I saw her at turning points. That was the indicator for me that she has still resources left on the run and her anxiety before the race were obsolete.

Trail running as its best

I felt great prepared for the run course since I made several sessions in Diplomatic Quarters, made best times on short races in Riyadh. So what might happen? Coming from the bike I directly felt its not easy today. Legs felt not fresh as in my previous triathlons. But I started ok on the trail run with ups and downs but soft graveling surface – just like the material in the Riyadh DQ. Aid stations were around every 2 kilometer with banana, water, mineral drinks, and salty crackers. People were friendly and made a great job. Even I know when they shouted: “You look great” – I knew different being covered by salt and sweat.

Up and downs with big surprise

The first 7 km were pretty flat and I had a good pace. Personal best would be possible. But I got trouble with nutrition. Couldn’t eat the carbo gels anymore and tried banana instead. But it felt not the same. In addition the terrain changed and the next 10 km were a permanent up and down, full of roots and big stones. The run was not easy anymore. But this part was close to a river with fabulous blue color. In all the pain I thought – that’s the reason why I came here for. Great! I was so happy after this ups and downs. But the joy lasted only for 1000 Meter.  After around 18 Kilometers there was a steep hill on a road. I thought: “Are you kidding me? That cannot be”. I remembered the Dirab Bike training from the past with such challenging hills. It was such a great effort to run this hill. After I mastered this piece it was a pleasure running downhill to see the lake again and finishing the loop on the trail. In the finish area lots of people were cheering the triathletes.

Beer will be waiting

Out of the blue the pro athlete that I made the beer bet with before the race called my name and was impressed by my performance. “I want that beer”, I shouted to him happily since I knew I will win the bet and even believed I could have a great second loop. On my turn I saw Joanna just 30 minutes after me performing in a great way – still with a smile on her face. It was her day!

The second 21 kilometers where too much and I was disappointed by my favorite discipline. While having 2.10 hours on first loop I lost 10 more minutes on second loop. Due to the challenging terrain and not enough carbo intakes I finished the marathon only in 4.30. Not acceptable! Nevertheless on finish line I got the beer, the medal and a bit of sunshine at Lake Wanaka. In the moment on finish line I am always happy that the pain is over.

Lessons learnt for future races

For future (not only Iron distance) races I need to check up the whole race details over and over to be better prepared – especially when trying to get hard and towards personal best times. In addition I strongly believe that before spending thousands of Dollars for a superb bike better spending couple of hundreds for a superb coach. That makes you faster, leaner and meaner on each race track. So I can start now for the next races in 2017. Highlight will be Double Ironman distance in June. Ambitious goal: Sub 24 hours.

Brackmann (3)

Reflection on RRR 2011-16 & life on “the other side”

Dear All,

6 months out from the sands of Arabia, the dust is settling on my return to the Emerald Isle. The week before the season ending 5km, I was informed that my employment may be ending and so the end of my stay had begun. As I said at that night’s pre –race speech, I landed in Saudi Arabia in February 2011, without RRR, I’d have departed in March 2011. Was blessed to meet Marc Krouse on the second day and this was a direct introduction to the club.

My first race was a 30km on ROC Compound, 6 loops of the American owned property. Mukhtar reminded me it was the only race where he beat me!!!!

I was thrown into the mix running my first of 6 marathons with the Club, 14 days later. This event had a total of 40 runners.

That season was completed in the normal fashion before the summer break where my focus was on the next season and in particular the Dublin Marathon in October. The DQ loop was a blessing and despite the heat it was a regular trail run. Back in those days RRR had running groups out on a Thursday Morning. Claes Spong a regular, along with Margo Benning and a group from Salwa Compound.

The new season and a new rival, the one and only JP (Jean-Pierre Berthiaux). Getting the better of him on a 5 miler on Eid Compound (Race #2) definitely touched a nerve. He was irate at this newcomer beating him and not sure what to think, however the friendly banter and a good relationship grew. On that particular season on the second 5 miler, it was a prediction race. The clock was covered, race watches banned, each runner wrote a predicted finishing time pre- race. To my amazement I completed to the exact time 32:40.

The DQ training definitely showed as I completed Dublin marathon in 3:08, 11 minutes quicker than the previous year.

Dubai Marathon in January 2012, RRR sent a strong team of 20, crossed the line 3:05- a stress free run in 96th place with Mo Foustok on 2:52. Liz Laughton, the then Chairperson was the first female home. RRR got 5th place in the team event. The following week I won the 30km in 2:08 at the ROC Compound, a winning margin of 12 minutes. Margo Benning was a great encouragement on the day.


The marathon that year was a tough one in the rising heat. Highlight was getting the better of Gathon, a French national who was extremely competitive. We were together until I let loose at 37km to beat him by 7 minutes. Joined the committee at the end of season party.

Summer again and the DQ, with the same objectives. The famous Camp JP (Third Airport) was a regular outing. Chris Dennison a regular running partner at that time. Dublin went well with a PB 3:03.

A season highlight was getting past Gary McGregor in the marathon. Passing at the 34km mark was a great achievement as he was saying pre- race 3:10 was his target. Another great rival which was in good spirits of course.

My fitness slipped the next two seasons, combination of an excessive work load and life in general. Saying that in 2013, put 7 marathons together. Bahrain Road Runners in February, London and Boston within 8 days of each other, the   notable ones. The Boston Bombs and the distress caused will be etched on my mind for ever. The races came and went as the records will show. Working on the committee a real highlight and meeting so many people.

Another highlight was the 5km run at Kingdom Compound in 2014, where for the first lap went toe and toe with “big beard” before breaking him to win by 23 seconds.

People came, departed and some returned, Gary in particular a welcome renewal of the rivalry.

Getting past Gary on the 2014 Dubai at 28km, his only words were, “Cusack you’re a machine”. JP finished 100 metres in front of me, and of course he beat me, the only thing was he started at the front (the exact frontline), I was 31 seconds in the lead, something we discussed on the flight back….. JP was aware that  I was close as Richard Slater was shouting my name from the grandstands. JP just looked around at that point. JP was impossible to beat the next season however only getting the better of him once. Last season I beat him each time, something I was aware off entering what was to be my final race (for now at least). JP you’re a legend in my and other people’s eyes and a huge thank you for the memories and training tips.

Then there was Thomas Brackmann, who transformed from a 3:55 Dubai in 2012 into a total different animal. He once told Mukhtar he enjoyed beating me. Thomas I recall you walking up the hill in Dirab not so long ago, see you at a race in the near future, inshallah. Fair play you showed the Iron man mentality.

My nearest and dearest friends Mukhtar & Claudine, “the good woman”. Words cannot describe the contribution and the friendships formed to get through the challenges of the desert. Long may this continue.

Then Chris Nixon, a likeable character, who thrived in the art of running, leading to Chairperson. Getting the better of me at the 10km finishing line in Al Bustan in 2015 was upsetting. Decided to put 30 minutes between us at the Dubai Marathon the following week. Records show it was 31 minutes!!!!!! It took Sandra to settle him down (Dubai 2012 wink wink).

Mo Foustok is someone we all look up to, those DQ runs together really brought me on in leaps and bounds. I recall meeting him early on the run and completing the loop in 1:14, the legs had been stretched just a little. Thanks Mo, congrats on the new arrival.

We lost a former founder Paul McPartland in the summer of 2015, being a fellow Irishman his loss to all 3 Clubs and his contribution will never be forgotten, rest in peace Paul.

Apart from Dubai, there was Abu Dhabi Striders and RAK half marathons, all very enjoyable. The undoubted highlight was Wadi Bih 2016 – a 72km trail run in Oman, with an elevation rise of circa 1300mm. As this was a challenge beyond any limits, Claudine, Pierre and 2 others travelled from Riyadh. The training from October until February was ramped up, with 250km clocked up in January.

The inspiration behind this was Chris Denison, a former Chairperson based in Abu Dhabi. Off we went, camping on the beach for the night, waking up at 3:30 before starting the journey an hour later. The first 2 hours in darkness under the guidance of head torches. Getting to the summit and u turn in 20th place, eventually getting across the line in 11th, 7:27, the idea of resting took on a new meaning. It was as close to putting my life on the line, the direct midday sun for the last 8km a breaker for the best prepared.

20161120_171637Since my return in July, have completed 11 half marathons, 1 of these in Manchester where I up with Mukhtar and Victoria. 5 x 10kms and a 5km. All good fitness tests partly in the lead up to the Chicago Marathon on October 9th. This race arrived too early, with a hectic work schedule, jet lag, turned up at the start line with little motivation and feeling drained. I ploughed on for a 3:33, a race for most, I found it to be a complete struggle where I just couldn’t lift it.

Working in Dublin, the natural place to train during the week is the Phoenix Park. With a “running boom” in the country, the amount of runners is just a joy to watch. The long evening are a challenge to be honest, thankfully this winter so far has been quite mild with little rain.

For 2017, my plans are sketchy. Lots of regular events at home. Abroad eyeing New York in November and Berlin (If Mukhtar goes as planned!!!!).

The Christmas break will give an opportunity for the long runs, not ruling out Dubai or Muscat in the very near future.

In contact with the Ultra runner Chris Denison, trips across the Irish Sea a definite.

A day rarely passes with thoughts on RRR, the people, and the continued success and joy it brings to your hearts. It’s a great product and dovetails as a much need outlet in the kingdom. Running on Ranco Farm, my favourite by a long way, there is something unique on the course, with the hanging branches being a real feature.

A thank you to all, committee under the leadership of Richard, past committee members, fellow runners and others I cannot name all (apologies), but you know who you are. The continued success and growth will ensure a healthy future.

In summary, without RRR my stay in the kingdom would have been short lived. Highlights on my 6 seasons was meeting my now wife, Cristina Gelasin, having two gorgeous children, Oisin & Einin.

RRR second on the list with so much to look back on, followed by the Hash, Tri Club & Naomh Alee GAA Club.

God bless you all, don’t be a stranger, your always welcome to this part of the world. Best wishes for 2017 and let the journey continue.



00353 870637396


Thomas Brackmann – Ironman Mallorca

Ironman abroad but at home

If you want to combine a nice challenging Ironman Triathlon Race with the spirit of vacation but still having the being home feel – then Ironman Mallorca is the best option for an average Riyadh Triathlete expat. Nearly 80 percent of all participants in Mallorca are either British or German. No wonder the island of Mallorca is a favorite touristic spot for both: Germans and British for their summer holidays. In 2016 Ironman Mallorca took place for the 3rd time on 24th of September. For me it was perfect because we had a long weekend due to Saudi National Day.

It should have been my 2nd Ironman Race in 2016 after Frankfurt in July. But after terrible accident I had to cancel my planned personal best time in Frankfurt and I wasn’t sure if I can get recovered from my collar bone injury until Ironman Mallorca even. Despite of having a break of any kind of sport activity in June and July I believed my body would heal and I could catch up with all training that I assumed to have in for having a descent finish. From previous Ironman races I knew how to quickly getting back into shape, balancing the progress to prevent injury but also keeping an eye on the healing bone.

Final preparations

Knowing there will be an open water ocean swim and considering swim my worst discipline plus constraints because of my damaged shoulder I tried to put more effort in swim preparation. I ended up with a weekly mileage of around 8 Km in the pool.  The longest shot was for about 5 kilometers. Similar I did my training with the bike. Mallorca is quite hilly and has an ascent of about 1500m in total. Therefore I trained in Dirab and made as well long shots with a day mileage of up to 200 km. Weekly mileage for 3 weeks in a row: 300 km. Plus I trained with our best bikers in town: Irish Powerman Gareth Gallagher, Swedish Kona hope Kris, 3 x Ironman Finisher Katharina, and Wheelers Chairman Clemens. So I could steal some tips and mental support. For Running I didn’t put that much effort in. I had max only 60-70 km on the weekly clock. The muscles and the limited time were the constraint here. In total I focused on long shots. No sprints, no intervals, pure mileage here. Even with running hero Majed I had only a coffee for psychologic preparation.  So I felt ready for my third Ironman. I knew: When I enter the water I will finish the race and get the medal. I aimed to finish in around 14 hours considering all constraints that I faced.

Arrival and rental Bike

I arrived 2 nights before the race at Palma Airport and I had pre-arranged a personal driver that should bring me to a bike rental place (Palma on bike). There I ordered a Carbon race bike since Riyadh Airport still were not able to transport my bike, a shipping were too complicated and anyways I wanted to return via Algiers (Algeria) to get a country point. So I thought overall racing an Ironman on a descent Road bike should be ok. I made the fitting just as a quick 5 minutes job (saddle height, breaks, gears) and fixed extra TT Handle bars. So it was sorted. My hostel was only 500 meters away from the Expo Area so I could walk to Start, Finish, and registration. Basically that’s the good point in Mallorca that a lot of accommodations are close to the race area. Furthermore lots of them have a connected restaurant in pedestrian area with sea / harbor view. Perfect for the after race party / drink.

The day before – Business as usual

The day before the race is business as usual: Easy peasy swim together with a Triathlon buddy from Germany in the clear water of the lagoon of Alcudia. Surprisingly I had a great swim. No pain. We tried both: Swimming with and without wetsuit. Afterwards I had my traditional Pizza-before-the-Race for lunch plus a glas of red wine. Per coincidence I had a glas of red wine before Ironman 70.3 Bahrain 2015 and Ironman 70.3 Busselton in Australia 2016. In both cases I had fast races the following day and was very happy about my overall result. So I believed in the power of pizza and wine. Never change a running system. Strangely in the evening before the race management announced no wetsuit competition. Usually the announcement takes place on race morning 1 hour before the start.. Nevertheless I was prepared for all. Early bed time, lots of water, and alarm clock set for 5 am. Excitement? Yes. Ok. A bit. Nothing major. Not like before other races. I didn’t expect a personal best time – too much limiting factors were in place. But I also knew I will finish. Period!  The question was only in what conditions I will manage the pass the finish line. Lack of training, training in a rush and still not yet 100% recovered. But at least the head was fresh and ready for action.

Ready steady go and swim

I had the best sleep ever before any triathlon: Deep and long. I was quite relaxed. I knew what’s coming now: Preparation of Bike with bottles and final check of transition bags with running shoes, gels, sun glasses etc. Then the surprise: Wetsuit allowed. For me as injured bad swimmer it was great. So: Quickly back to hotel and getting ready. Wetsuit on, warm up, stretching, waiting. Finally the start. It was in waves. Bad swimmers start at the end of the field. The top crowd at beginning. That should reduce anxiety for beginners and makes it smoother. It was straight 1.2 km out and turn towards the land again and having an Australian Exit at km 2.4. Meaning:  You have to run out of the water and run into the water again. Luckily I didn’t have any pain and could do my steady pace. Typically I lose the direction but this time it was quite ok. Extra turns as usual. I idn’t get cramps like in my previous ironman races. So I could swim without any interruption. I ended up with 1.36 hour. In the field it was still a bad time. But for me only 6 minutes slower than my best time. Surprise. That gave me encouragement for the bike.

Bike – Raining Ironman

My plan was to have an average pace of 30 Kilometers / hour during the bumpy and hilly roads on the first half to save energy for the big hill at km 105. It has an ascent for around 10 kilometers and a curvy downhill. After up and down at 120 Kilometers I planned to speed up and to see how much reserves I still have left since I couldn’t really train hill training before and was still a bit afraid of going downhill. Even riding on this road bike and not my own TT Baby I made good progress and everything was according to plan (Drinking every 10km, a Carbo gel every 20km, taking minerals at each aid station etc.). I passed all people in front of me because my swim time was that bad.  Then I entered the hill and was surprise about the climb. It was ok. So my training was enough apparently. But I also saw the dark clouds coming up and suddenly it went dark. A thunderstorm came over us with heavy rain. I was not looking forward to the downhill if the rain sustained. Luckily when I reached the top the rain stopped. All people I passed uphill got me when it went down. I was so afraid of falling again, also having a bike that I am not used to. However the curves were really narrow. I saw behind the little walls of the curves. It went straight down 400-500 meters. If you don’t get the curve, you will get the dead. For sure. The pace went down to 5 Kilometers per hour. That was my average speed sometimes. I hoped to speed up between 120 and 180 km to clock sub 6 hours. But reaching the valley the rain started again. I was meanwhile 45 minutes behind schedule. Wet all over. The socks, shoes – all drained by water. Luckily it wasn’t that cold. But the rain and the water on the streets cost an average pace of 4 – 6 km / hour.  The roads made people fall since it was very slippery. Meanwhile the sight was just about 30 meters. So I had to slow down again. At the end of the 180 km I still felt fresh. 6.27 Hours.

Dark Man running

Somehow I dreamed to make personal best still (sub 12). After bike I had only 8.10 hours. If I could run far below 4 hours then I could make it. Even feeling not that well prepared for the final Marathon – the temperature was just around 20 ish degrees and the rain stopped in meantime. So I started off quite nice. Unluckily my watch didn’t show me any pace anymore. Maybe it is not water proof anymore, or the battery died. However I couldn’t control my pace. Stupidly I had to ask other people about the pace they have to get a kind of clue about mine. Somehow I got tired and didn’t have my pacemaker watch with me so I made a just- run- through- Marathon out of it. But also being happy that I reached this far. At the end I could finish in 4.12 having 10 kilometers an hour. With a proper watch could have made maybe sub 4 hours. End result 12.29. Personal best times in transition. Aside of no injuries and shoulder pain free after the race – a positive result.

After an Ironman is before an Ironman

After having some days of break I start preparation for Challenge Wanaka in February 2017: More speed work, more intervals. I believe I can make it in below 12 hours even it’s a hard race since the water is choppy, hilly bike leg and the marathon is more a trail run. But people say the landscape and views are stunning. That could balance out the harsh conditions.

by Thomas Brackmann

2016-17 race 3 report

Foustok and Maclean make history repeat itself

Mo Foustok and Tannille Maclean won the Riyadh Road Runners’ 10km race last Friday and in doing so repeated their victories at the same venue in January 2016.

Foustok was imperious as ever in his race to the line, however in the women’s race the spectators were treated to an exciting sprint finish, as the previously undefeated Carolyn Paajanen and her young rival Tannille Maclean battled for the win over the final 200m of the race, with Maclean snatching victory by the tiny margin of 3 seconds.

Maclean had taken an early lead in the race, with the split times indicating that she led Paajanen by 30 seconds in the early stages. However Paajanen was not about to give up her unbeaten record without a fight, and fought back over the second and third laps to pull level with Maclean. The leading ladies ran the final lap together, with Paajanen opting to continue despite visibly suffering from a torn soleus muscle. On the athletics track which marks the final 300m of the race, a sudden burst of speed from Maclean opened a gap between the runners which her Finnish rival was unable to bridge. Maclean’s overall time was 45:52, which was excellent considering the hot and dry conditions. Maclean’s victory was all the more impressive when one takes into account that she is still competing in the Junior (under 18) category. In third place was the ever-present Claudine Roghi, who ran four consistent laps to finish in a time of 47:36 and put the finishing touches in place for her Ultra Marathon in Jeddah next weekend.

In the male race, Mo Foustok won in 37:20 to maintain his unbeaten record for the season. In the end the victory over newcomer Samuel de la Rochebrochard was by quite a wide margin, however de la Rochebrochard was pleased with his time of 39:44 which made him the only other runner to dip under the magic 40 minute barrier. Seasoned ultra-runner David Dubois completed the podium in 40:28. Dubois is another Riyadh Road Runner who will be representing the city and the club in the Hejaz 50 Ultra Marathon next weekend – good luck to the Riyadh contingent.

The RRR would like to thank Carrefour Tala Mall for providing the runners with water, fruit and juice, as well as Al Bustan compound for their excellent venue.

Male race – 1. Mo Foustok (KSA) 37:20, 2. Samuel de la Rochebrochard (FRA) 39:44, 3. David Dubois (FRA) 40 :28

Female race – 1. Tannille Maclean (NZ) 45:52, 2.  Carolyn Paajanen (FIN) 45:55, 3. Claudine Roghi (FRA/NZ) 47:36



By Richard Slater

2016-17 race 2 report

Foustok and Paajanen take early season honours

by Richard Slater

On a warm September evening, 130 runners completed a challenging two lap course under the solar powered floodlights at Kapsarc compound, the club’s newest venue. The winding course, which includes two short ascents, is not a venue to set personal best times, nevertheless many runners demonstrated promising early season form. The race over 8km and themed “green and white” to celebrate the Saudi national day.

In the female race, Carolyn Paajanen shot off at the start and went unchallenged throughout, beating the reigning club champion Claudine Roghi by just over one minute. This extended her unbeaten start to the season, which she will defend again on October 7th over 10km. In third place was Alanoud Ali, which meant that the female 1-2-3 from the inaugural race was replicated at the second race! Both Paajanen and Roghi placed in the top 15% of overall finishers and look to have the ability to finish even higher once the longer races get underway. Just off the podium, Nikki Layne and Mia McDowell finished in a dead heat to seal joint fourth.

In the male race, the familiar figure of Mo Foustok made his season debut and proved too fast for all-comers. His closest rivals, as on several occasions last season, were Hamad Ozaybi and Gareth Gallagher. Ozaybi matched Foustok stride for stride throughout the first 5km, however he was beset by stomach cramps towards the latter stages and Foustok maintained his high tempo to seal the win in an excellent time of 28:53. Gallagher, who recently represented Ireland in an international Duathlon, showed his outstanding stamina in finishing third, as he had already completed and won a Triathlon club race earlier in the day. Race 1 winner Sam Richards was pushed down to fifth place, with David Dubois performing well on debut to finish fourth.

The club would like to thank Carrefour Tala Mall for their provision of fruit and water for the runners, as well as Kapsarc for the excellent venue and barbecue.

Male race: 1. Mo Foustok (KSA) 28:53, 2. Hamad Ozaybi (KSA) 30:43, 3. Gareth Gallagher (IRE) 30:52

Female race: 1. Carolyn Paajanen (FIN) 37:08, 2. Claudine Roghi (FRA/NZ) 38:18, 3. Alanoud Ali (KSA) 42:22


2016-17 race 1 report

Richards and Paajanen earn breakthrough wins 

by Richard Slater

The Riyadh Road Runners kicked off their season with a 5km race in hot conditions last Friday afternoon. An excellent turnout of 125 runners showed up despite the temperatures in the mid 40s to enjoy the fun and competitive environment of Riyadh’s largest amateur sports club.

In the men’s race, Sam Richards claimed his first race victory in Riyadh, surging into the lead at the 1km mark and leaving all other participants trailing in his wake. Richards maintained the good form he showed towards the end of the last season, managing to complete the course in an outstanding time of 20:03 despite the mercury showing above 43 degrees.

Behind him, club stalwart Jean-Pierre Berthiaux held off Taleb Alessa to claim second place, showing that his intense summer training has paid dividends. Taleb, from Al Ahsa, paced his race to perfection and made his way through the field on the last lap to clinch the final podium place.

In the ladies’ race, Carolyn Paajanen, newly arrived from Helsinki and racing with the RRR for the first time, proved far too strong for the competition and cruised to victory in an impressive time of 22:09, which also placed in the eighth overall. Behind her was reigning club champion Claudine Roghi, who continued her good form which dates back to 2014. In third place was another first timer, Alanoud Ali, who beat several more experienced athletes and looks to have a lot of potential for the future.

The club would like to thank Carrefour Tala Mall for providing fruit and water for the runners. For full results visit www.riyadhroadrunners.com .

Male race: 1. Sam Richards (UK) 20:03, 2. Jean-Pierre Berthiaux (FRA) 21:27, 3. Taleb Alessa (KSA) 21:31

Female race : 1. Carolyn Paajanen (FIN) 22:09 , 2. Claudine Roghi (FRA/NZ) 24:06 , 3. Alanoud Ali (KSA) 25:23



Padraig’s first Ultra Marathon – Wadi Bih Solo 72, Feb 2016

Foundation for this event emerged with an email sent to former Club Chairperson Chris Denison, currently based in Abu Dhabi.

Arrived in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday evening. A gently 6km run the following morning to the beach and back kicked off the day. Departed for the coastal village of Dibba, Oman at lunch time.

The 3 hour drive took us to the border crossing checkpoint, where our visa’s were awaiting. The rising mountains were a daunting sight and the reality of the challenge suddenly dawned. We took the short trip across the border to the Golden Tulip Hotel. We set up camp site on a quiet part of the beach. We met up with fellow RRR Pierre and Claudine. After collecting race packs we had an evening meal, before getting our things ready. The alarm clocks set for 3:30am.

DSC00663-compressorRace Start duly followed at 4:30am, off we went running under the guidance of head torches. First section on tarmac was relatively flat, and then came the first climb. Stayed with a group of 5,to avoid being isolated. The tarmac turned to a gravel trail on 6km’s with a steady gradient. Daylight arrived 2 hours later at that stage we were into the groove and thoughts on reaching the summit arose. On 19mile we hit the most difficult section, a zigzag road with a 15 degree gradient. No choice but to walk the 2 km section. Met Chris near the summit running in 6th place, a position he went on to maintain. Further hill were greeting us and eventually reached the summit, with another downhill to the “turn around point”. Counting those in front of me was in 20th place overall.DSC00657-compressor

With little appetite to eat much, a handful of jelly beans and camera were taken from the “my drop off bag”. Climbing back to the summit and meeting Claudine/ Pierre at this stage, the adventure continued. The decent took in the scenery and the sense of how far we had actually climbed 1200metres in total.

Freewheeling downwards, I soon caught up with a front runner, leaving him for dust. On it went, taking the all essential photographs, soon was over the 42km mark. With the thoughts of another 30km to go, the ability to relax and pace myself was essential. The valley was part shaded, part sunshine. Reaching the food station with 25km to go, I was told I held 11th place. Inspired I galloped on setting a target to complete with a sub 7:30. As I reached the bottom section, the shade turned to full exposure to the unforgiving sunshine. On reaching the tarmac, the last big hill appeared. Getting across and getting over the line with a sense of relief, completely exhausted, having put myself through the mill. Clock showed 7:27:01, and 11th overall. A delighted Chris congratulated me, himself have completed in a respectable 7:06.


Coca Cola and water was served as I lay on the shaded grass surface. A sense of dizziness was felt; the 40 minute rest was much needed. After some much needed food, greeting Claudine and Pierre crossing the line.

Glad to have taken on the challenge as a maiden ultra run. It will bring treasured memories from my current stay in the middle east.

Padraig runs Dubai…. again!

Running for the 5th consecutive year, it kicked off at the earlier time of 6:30am. Motivation going into this one was for a sub 3:15 and a potential place in the 2017 Boston Marathon.

With the daylight yePC Dubai 2016t to emerge, I went out hitting the first km at 4:30 pace, this trend was to continue throughout. It soon became apparent I was under 3:15 completion, closer to 3:10. As the km’s clocked up, the watch was key in maintaining a consistent pace. The mathematics were in my mind, steady and not to wilt under the rising sun.

Hitting the halfway point at 1:35, feeling strong, I soon reached the 24km mark. At this point I start to count down, a strategy that has generally worked in the past. At 30km the sun was belting down, lucky enough it wasn’t blazing into my eyes and that the sunglass weren’t required.

On the final stages the sense of isolation hit home, no one next or near me. At 40.5 km my watch flew off my wrist (troublesome strap), I picked it up and ran with it in my pocket.

The finishing straight was a clear road with a nice atmosphere. Looking up at the clock confirmed that my initial target had been achieved; it was a delightful feeling crossing the line.

Stopped the watch 3:13:39, 129th place &. 5th fastest, of the 26 completed so far.

Now it’s on to Wadi Bih, a 72km solo run on February 5.