Brief Race Description
The Dead2Red cycling race has become the most popular cycling race in Jordan luring lots of competition within the Middle Eastern professional & amateur cycling communities. The race starts on the end of the shores of the historical site of the Dead Sea going all the way south towards the Red Sea in Aqaba ending at one of the new attractive project sites called the Ayla Oasis.
Given that the Dead Sea is located at the lowest point on earth (about 400m below sea level), the route is a gradual ascent over a span of 200km distance. The race organisers, Amman Road Runners, are by far the most well-experienced race organisers in the country. They always manage to impress us with their quality organisation.
After finishing IM70.3 Antalya, I wasn’t feeling very well. I had a little bit of a down time thinking about how my ankle has been affecting my running form and I wasn’t excited at all given the combination of fatigue between both my IM70.3 races being not so far apart and my slight ankle issues.
Given that I have done this race last year, I knew what was coming up. It’s very interesting to compare my mental and my performance game during both this year and the last as this time out I have really gained a lot of experience in racing Triathlons and cycling in the general sense. It’s a sport where you just keep learning no matter what you do.
Since I only had about one week to “train” for this event, I hooked my bike on the trainer and concentrated on seeing how much power I’m generating this time out since its been a while since my last FTP test. I trained everyday on the trainer with only one actual outdoor ride. I concentrated on simply just getting more comfortable cycling until race day starts and not to get into too much detail about my power data since it’s too late to go all technical on the very last min.
Going into the race I had two main goals:- 1) Completing the 200km distance without stopping once and 2) Qualifying for the “Elite” category in next years race meaning I have to complete the challenge with a time of less than 6:30 whatever the weather conditions (Last year given ideal weather condition’s which meant that I had strong tail wind all the way to Aqaba I managed to complete the race in 6:52).
Pre-race vibes with my awesome support team plus Gaith my fellow trainer partner/teammate
Within the cycling communities the sense of competitiveness has grown exponentially to a point where it’s starting to become a little bit ugly. This time I was savagely competing against myself one year ago. By savage I meant I would really experiment on going harder at the start and keep pushing consistently all the way even though I knew I was risking crashing at the end. The first 20km’s I didn’t go on a moderate pace but I started harder than I usually do. I put in my head that I want to keep going fast at a consistent pace (around Z3 HR) and I will try my best at keeping my average Wattage over 200W the whole way through.
I woke up at 2am, continued my pre-race oat ritual (a pack of oats overnight), and drove all the way down to the Arab Potash and arrived at around 4.30am. I had a support car of my own this time. My friends who are clean energy tech enthusiasts where hands down the best support I could have ever asked for even though I was slightly worried about that beforehand. I had a very cool Tesla model S following me the whole time out without spraying me with the usual diesel fumes.
As soon as the race started, I was thinking come on Rash… keep pushing it and let’s see how it goes and how you will end up feeling later on. After the first 20km’s the cyclist’s started getting filtered out due to this killer hill and I kept going trying to keep a distance from other cyclists. I knew that the hard part was in the first 120km’s and I wanted to push myself during that part where I know that most people will push at the last 80km easier stretch. In my head I wanted to keep a consistent strong pace for as much as I can hold.
The start of the hill at about 20km’s in the race
During the whole route I could have never kept up with these “elite” cyclists so there was no way of dreaming in drafting with them and at some random points during the race I met up with the relay team cyclists for a couple of km’s where I managed to hide from the wind as much as I can. There were times where I couldn’t match up and times where I was better. Whenever I felt that I could go stronger I passed them (usually I can get sucked into a weaker cyclists rhythm) and whenever I felt like I couldn’t I knew I wasn’t able to perform and accepted that and let them get away from my sight.
My nutrition was consistent throughout. Overall I had about 5GU gels, two bananas, two or three dates and water whenever I felt like it. I kept everything in the support car and whenever I needed something I was handed whatever I wanted while moving on the bike. At some point I even kept only one water bottle on the bike in order to keep the weight as low as possible (probably placebo effect but why not). Whenever I crossed any of the main landmark distances I still felt natural and wanted to keep going. I can still remember how I felt by the 70km and by 110km marks and how fresh I was in comparison to last year even though this time out I was pushing harder and harder.
When reaching the last section of the route with about 20km’s to go I had a pre-race deal with myself to sprint it out. At that point I could see the first place candidate not so far away from me but I was starting to burn out. I can still remember at the 187th km I started cramping. Ouch something down there really hurt. In fact this was probably the first time I ever cramp during a competition. I got really stressed, I knew I was doing very well at the time but I had no Idea I was competing for the First Second spot! Deep down on the inside I was telling myself “please not now, please not now… keep going keep going”. That sprint definitely did not happen but what happened is that I used my brain. I was logical enough to get some base salt into my system and hydrate. Somehow It worked fast and my legs were moving again without any pain. I crossed that finish line looking like a warrior. My nipples had been chaffing all this time and I hadn’t realised. I crossed the line and one of my friends was congratulating me on my second place finish. I actually thought he was sarcastic and I figured out that what he said was true about five mins later. BINGO!
Escaping the wind at the last 2km stretch
I definitely crushed my goal. Not a single stop for the entire 200km distance and I banged a time of 6:16:01 which is more than half an hour faster than my previous years performance where the wind direction was ideal in comparison to this time out where we experienced wind coming in from all the different directions literally throughout the span of the six hours.
Happy vibes at the finish line
Personally, that day was just yet another training day building me up for IM Mont-Tremblant next year and I cannot wait to hear these four magic words after crossing that finish line.
Thoughts About Running A Marathon After
There’s a quote that I would love share by Stephen Covey author of the 7 habits of highly effective people:-
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
My first ever podium finish!!
For some odd reason the thought of running a marathon after cycling such a distance still makes me sick but It doesn’t strike me as an impossible task anymore. I can see loads and loads of progress in my mental game and I think the more and more I do learn the less doubt I will have about myself. The hard work is definitely paying off and I cannot be more thankful for all the support around me. This is a great push forward that will support me at keeping fighting forward.