The first Friday of every November is always my favorite day of the year all thanks to everyone involved with Amman Road Runners for hosting such a well organized and wonderful event. It’s officially the season to be jolly as Christmas and the offseason is nearly approaching.
If you happen to be as Triathlon obsessed as I am and you end up spending most of your days reading articles about either related discipline, Im sure you must have come over the benefits of shamandar (beetroots/nitrate rich/do some research/Gaith would know). The vegetable cursher has been constantly crushing ray ray’s special carrot, beet and ginger mix for a couple of days to a point where my pee was completely red during race week. The alarm clock went off at 1:00am, dead2red playlist on (this year it was full of hard core rock tunes), dancing shoes on, sipped some beet mix, ate my oats banana cinnamon breakfast and my usual morning coffee on the floor outside by the porch while watching Henry chase Dexter (the dogs) for some morning fun shakeouts.
I hopped into the car, kept calm and was absolutely looking forward to squat and smash that hamam el araby by the infamous manaseer gas station near the Arab Potash. This is the most crucial in order to sustain the best possible form throughout the race. It felt like just another day of training. As we got to the registration area, It struck me how much stress was being radiated from the cycling federation people. I also realized how much of a threat we were whether it was Sakinofsky (interesting ink seriously), me or my training partner in crime Yousef. I offered one of the young guns my pump as I heard him asking for one and all he could do is simply reply “mish 3am bahky ma3ak – I wasn’t talking to you”…
This person and the other cycling federation player were my current worthy rivals, someone who is better than me at strategy, efficiency, experience, drafting and even possibly cycling. For this reason, I wanted to learn from them as they would reveal to me my weaknesses and hence my main race goal was not to beat them but to simply stay in the game for as long as possible. My other goal was to maintain my usual 90rpm average cadence +-5 by feel and to finish the race in good form, well hydrated and setup for a good run (I am a triathlete at the end of the day). I usually like to sustain a specific normalized power number but as it stands my power taps interior have completely deteriorated from my alkaline batteries (recently learnt that lithium batteries are the way to go).
Unlike all my previous races, this was now very different, It was like playing command & conquer back when we were kids, a free for all. Alliances are formed and broken. It’s every man for himself if you like it or not. Do not trust anybody, but unfortunately I learnt that only at the very end. The more selfish you are the higher the probabilities of winning your hand. During race week I started doing a lot of research in order to find out what to expect while riding with the front pack. The facts before the race were as follows:-
- This is a “sprinting race” full of sprint attacks or attackat bil 3araby.
- The hills are crucial aspects of the race – This is where the gaps are formed.
- The cycling federation boys rely on the support or “da3im” coming from the relay teams which are expected to arrive at around the 75km mark as they start 15mins later.
- Every player in the front pack is a fucking asshole.
- Turns out these facts were all true.
Yousef and I had planned to control the race at the beginning in order to set our foot down and show them that there are other players in this game as I believe that we are way stronger mentally and maybe we wont get smoked at the first big climb. Sakinofsky ruined that plan as he went out way too hard and most probably over exerted himself as he started riding solo for a long time. Eventually he couldn’t keep that pace and we would take the turns on taking the lead. At some point early on the race bugger thighs bonked after the first big hill (about 24km in)… Shocking to be honest but we got rid of a big backstabber very early on & an insane sprinter. Win #1!
The federation boys sprinting us out at the climb – but we caught up straight after.
The federation boys are all about mind games and conserving power by keeping minimal output to stay in the front pack until their support arrives. They would always tell us to keep a slower pace and relax so they don’t have to push that hard (miles and smiles, miles and smiles). We didn’t allow that to happen. No matter what happens we don’t want the da3im to arrive too soon. When the main climb came up it was the first test. Testing our climbing skills on the TT bikes in order to test when they can sprint us out later on. We caught up with their sprints without any problems but it was obvious that they can be very dangerous. For the first 77km’s we were fantastic. Mostly leading the race with the federation boys by our sides. They don’t have bike computers on them for a reason but they’d always ask about the 70 and 100km marks but thats about the time frame when they managed to sprint us out for the first time and leave us behind. We couldn’t even see them ahead of us. The main group now was federation, Sakinofsky and Nader and apparently that was a planned tactic to sprint us here and it did work (planned between N+JCF but who knows).
Yousef and I can automatically understand each other without speaking to one another even though at one point I wished he spoke some french. There were many times when I’d catch the boys whispering to each other behind our backs and I really felt like talking shit behind their backs too lol. We worked together so well, we pushed hard, kept going fast and consistent and boy oh boy we were flying. We eventually caught up with the main group again and even sprinted them away until they regrouped with us. At about 122km there was a very small hill that I totally slacked on for some reason. Before that I was leading the pack and going really fast. When I got on the climb I decided to take the right lane in order to rest up and I got attacked as soon as I took a right leaving me unable to connect back with the group. That split second cost me the whole race. I was left with captain Nader for the rest of the way. He was in so much pain and was aching the whole way spraying deep heat in my eyes and lungs lol (very dangerous btw).
I was then riding totally solo with Nader drafting behind me the whole time. This is a weird strategy that I need to be more mindful about. Why do we like to take the lead and make people behind us take advantage of us? I mean if he did take the lead he’d put the pace down so much and I would have not been okay with it (as Ali would say bouz el madfa3). We eventually caught up with Sakinofsky and sprinted him out. Thats when he seemed to have bonked. At about 40km towards the end I could see the main pack again being so so close and for some reason I got totally confident that I will reach them now and decided to be a cry baby and ask for more water and food before I get to them and I ended up wasting a good amount of time there instead of going a little above threshold to reach them (My support car was really bad this year and for next year I need to find someone who can offer some real teamwork). At that point all I could see is two super fast sprinters coming out of nowhere (da3im!!) and If I only knew I could have just tried to push behind them to get back there but most probably couldn’t have kept up. Win#2 da3im was way too late!! way too late!! Even when they arrived the boys were so mad at them you can’t even imagine haha… “Bakeer! Bakeer!”
The leading group this year rotating around
This left me with a couple of questions. When the relay team passed me they were only two cyclists. I don’t know how they became more cyclists helping the federation boys later on. Any ideas? Also this whole holding a water bottle for “5 seconds” while the car is pushing you rule where did that come from? Its nothing that I really care about but its interesting to take into account if next year I think about contending for a better position.
I was really worried about Yousef but boy oh boy he rocked it even when these guys arrived. Legendary performance. When I got towards the U-turn to get into Ayla area I saw them exactly opposite to me riding on that insanely windy stretch. I was so happy and proud of that dude. Legend. Seriously bien jouer mec!
At the very end I could have pushed the pedals easily, I was on top form, very happy of my nutrition plan (60g carbs/hour with 20min sequencing between GU water and tailwind), no cramping thanks to my lessons learnt from last year (850mg sodium more or less an hour) and I was thinking I could definitely go for a brick run after!! There was no need to push anymore as my goal was to stay with the main pack for as long as possible and I had no competition behind me anymore and no way to get in second. I wanted to dump all my shit (water bottles and food) towards the end but there was no need. I was definitely convinced and proud of my performance. I smashed my goals and put in my best effort. Two tiny mistakes cost me so much but they gave a ton of experience. Some backstabbing drama towards the end but what a wonderful experience overall.
Racing or anything sporty in Jordan is so different and way too interesting. The competition is fierce. My view is always way too sad but it’s completely true and I do not care if you like it or not. I wish I could express that here but unfortunately I cannot. It reminded me of my experience with the selfish assholes from the Paralympics (long story – but I am now a proud supporter of WBR instead of helping out our own people – all my coaching fees are going for charity), the countless amounts of cheaters from last years 100 cycling challenge as in this race there’s prize money involved. Unfortunately, we mostly rely on taking advantage of each other, cheating & backstabbing for our own ego boost instead of just purely focusing on ourselves and beating our own previous records.
I managed to podium as third place elite rider. What an experience that was. I managed to crush all my race goals and I was really happy about my performance. What really mattered is that last year when I did this race Nassib was driving my support car. It was the first time he witnesses me in action even though during that time he thought I was a complete nutter. He was inspired by how many people were at the start line and how many managed to finish. He bought a bike that same week and finished his first D2R this year with a great result (with some of my coaching skills y0!!). Some of our friends were even quite shocked that he managed to finish yet alone beat some of his rivals. He is now thinking about buying running shoes and is planning to fly with me to spectate the Bahrain IM70.3 race. I couldn’t be more proud. We all started from somewhere and he has officially stepped foot into the danger zone.
The climb was his biggest fear – but he went up looking fresh & calm
Some people might think that we are all bonkers especially when they see how much pain and sweat we like to put ourselves through but sometimes they forget that we are all simply human beings and there are no secrets to success. Anyone can do this. It is simply the result of preparation, consistency and your ability to learn from your mistakes. It makes so me so happy to know that I have inspired this person to officially become a cyclist and possibly a future Triathlete!! (No Pressure)…
PS:- Im leaving the comments enabled in case anyone knows why the teams became four or six players instead of the two players that passed me.