So this is going to be my first attempt at a race report. The reason for my writing it is two-fold; the first being surprisingly little information online by way of reports and blogs for this particular race; the second being a promise I made to one of the race organizers that I would do it - and the reason that I promised her that is because I really feel the race is worthy of as much praise and adulation it can get. So here goes – my report for the 2012 Bintan Olympic Distance Triathlon held March 26th, 2011.
Though I have lived in Indonesia for 13 years, this was my first trip to Bintan. Flying in from Jakarta was a breeze, inexpensive on Lion air. Even the over baggage fees for my kit were more than tolerable. From what I understand, the folks coming from Singapore have an easy go getting to the race with just an hour ferry ride separating Singapore from the Bintan ferry terminal, which, is a stone’s throw from race headquarters at Nirwana Resort. I did hear that you definitely need to make sure to book your bike spot on the ferry, failure to do so can affect your planned travel times. It takes about an hour for to get from the airport to the race area, no real taxi service available, especially considering there’s a bike in tow, so prearranged transportation is a must – cost for me was about USD$40.
I cocked up my hotel reservations by clicking the wrong button on AsiaRooms.com and ended up on the other side of the island. After I got that all sorted (great customer service at AsiaRooms and Bintan Cabana Resort, btw), I headed out to check my options closer to the race. While driving the hour long journey, checking online, my options evolved to be the Nirwana and Angsana, both essentially at race center – but both sold out and expensive. 15 k in the other direction was another group of resort hotels – namely Bintan Lagoon and Club med. Again, being resorts, somewhat pricey and a slight touch out of the way.
I was told about the Bintan Lodge. Truthfully, when I first arrived there, I had one look and left. I am not a hotel snob, it’s just at first site (and smell) the place was a little lack luster – quite literally. At $79 SGD for the first night and $65 package rate for the subsequent nights, the price was ok, but the place felt a bit uncomfortable to me. So I left in search of something else. It wasn’t long until I was back. There was absolutely nothing in that area. Besides, the Bintan Lodge was listed on the Bintan Triathlon Site as a partner hotel to the event, and offered shuttles to Nirwana on a regular basis, so I guessed they would have been triathlete friendly and there would be other athletes arriving soon. I was right on both accounts.
I decided to stay. Eventually I got used to the smell. The rooms were quite like small apartments – two bedrooms in fact. A living area, kitchen and dining area, full AC. As I mentioned to a mate – it really has everything you would want, only that seems left over from the late 70’s, after a small nuclear fallout. Also, you are TOTALLY self-reliant, nothing to speak of in terms of amenities: that meant no wifi. You get two towels at check-in. They don’t make up your room. There were some small shops down the road to buy some bits and bobs for the fridge. At the end of the day, I would say I was satisfied with the stay, especially after I got my bearings straight and became resourceful. Yes, I would and will stay there next year.
I rented a motorbike, that made all the difference in the world for me. Lack of transportation will have you stranded and at the will of the shuttles. Also, anyone traveling with kids, there is nothing for them to do there.
On to the race. Never one for blowing out my legs before a race, but being an information hound, I took said rented motorbike on the bike course recce on Thursday. The course was amazing. Roads in incredible shape, rolling hills course, a few long and steady climbs, some faster down hills and nice long flat straights. By comparison, I have raced Phuket (Olly and 70.3), Bali, Singapore, etc. I would say this might be my favorite due to the speed, slight challenge, and the beautiful roads. Great course. Technically: I rode a disk, and was the only one I think. It wasn’t needed, but didn’t hurt (especially on the down hills). If the wind picked up a bit more, there was one section that I might have been caught a little trouble. If you are thinking of bringing one, perhaps leave it home.
The most challenging part of the bike course is a 50m hill right outside of transition. You need to decide if you are going to try a flying mount with the shoes in the pedals or if you will get into your shoes at T1. Lots of people did both. I chose to put shoes on in transition. First time I did that, not sure if I saved any time. I think next year I will keep shoes on bike, and get to the top of that hill, then put feet in shoes.
Another technical part of the bike that needs awareness is the roundabout inside the resort – cobblestones. When wet, as they were in this race, they are slicker than a New York street vendor selling fake Gucci glasses. Take these SUPER slow. Crawl through them. They are massively slippery. The guy behind me wrecked something awful, leaving me with the fading sound of smashed carbon and adult groans in the air behind me.
Aid station at about 15k. Yadda Yadda. Few speed bumps/lazy policeman. But they are the long kind, not the super short and annoying kind. So you can take them at speed – keep the bike straight though and as normal, if raining, be extra vigilant, cause these suckers become slick as well.
One final detail to be aware of is that the dismount is at the bottom of that hill at transition. If you’re gonna come out of your shoes, do it well before that hill and watch your speed coming to dismount, again, super slow does it here, otherwise you will definitely over shoot it, and wreck – right in front of the largest gathering of spectators who are seemingly gathered there for that very purpose.
A note on the bike – hardly any marshaling. Some people might like the opportunity to cheat, but I think it sucks really. There were some folks ahead of me enjoying a little draft. The temptation is there for sure, but I hope that people can keep to keeping it fair. Sure, work as a group, but with in the rules.
Oh, shall I talk about the swim maybe? 1500 meters, straight up hill with aid stations at the first buoy. Ok.. nah. Crowded swim start. Shuttle was 15m wide. 350m (ish) to first buoy and seemed to be crowded the whole way. Clear water. Easy sighting, big buoys. Left turn, swim across 200m (ish), turn back towards beach, swim in, exit, run on beach 20m total around sign, back into water, out, over and back in. Pretty straight forward. Lane markers the whole way. If anyone happens to see a Garmin 610 on the ocean floor next year, it’s mine, please return it. HA. Oh, jelly fish – yes .. I got ripped by one in warm up and saw a few on the race. Scattered, not littered. It’s a crap shoot, just hope you are not one of the lucky ones to get one on ya. Sadly, no fish. No coral.
Transition area was set up a little tight, numbered slots, but the numbers on the back of the pole were in line with the numbers in front, as opposed to them being staggered to give more space. But everyone was respectful and made due. Bike exit and run exit on opposite sides, as should be. Carpeted all the way to mount/dismount. Water trough and shower coming from swim. Proper stamp body marking. (more on organization later).
Lets run. 10k. Two loops. Out of transition you run along a path through a little resort with a nice contingent of beer and wine swigging spectators cheering ya along the way. From there you are to the main road of the resort, and down the backside of the transition hill, and then back up it – takes a few steps off your stride for sure. More pavement, then onto a very well covered path, for some very small (1-2 meter (height)) undulations/rollers. Then onto some grass, some sand, more grass (totaling about 150m), turn around and head back on paved path for about 50m, then into the jungle for some trail running (it’s an ATV trail) on packed dirt, a little loose sand and, and in our case this year, a mushy combination of them all. Mostly downhill. Hot and humid in there - 300m about. Out, pavement again. Down to beachfront in the resort for about 750 meters, and back through start finish to start lap 2. Aid stations everywhere you would want them. Isotonic, Water, sponges at each. Not the fastest run in the region, but a nice one on the mind with the different sections.
We almost there yet? Almost! A few quick bits and random thoughts.
Starting Friday there was a bike mechanic available. More importantly there was BikeHaus there with a stand selling bits – Gels (powerbar, honey stinger and others), they had pitstop, other energy bits, bottles. I don’t remember seeing Co2. But they probably had it. In other words, those basic things that we always worry about if they will be there or not, they had. But as always, if you are ever in doubt, bring it yourself. A few other stand and booths, but it wasn’t exactly a full on expo.
Post race massages, fruit, etc. all available. The vibe after the race was ok. Could do better with outside venders selling more quality/healthy foods. Or even a slightly better athlete refueling station .. they did have some fruit and what I think was.. cake (?). Also, buying anything in the resort. eg, at the race, somewhat expensive and normally in Sing Dollars. Live results in a tent post race was a nice touch, also sms and online live tracking for friends and family a bonus. They need to work on the medal, one of the worst. Sorry, I AM a medal snob. I am also a tee-shirt hound, Att: race organizers, simple cotton tee with a nice cut, and minimal print, goes a long way. These polyester things are mostly unwearable and a waste of your money.
Gotta shout out the volunteers – great job and THANK YOU!
The race was extremely well organized. The Metasport folks gave lots of consideration to the racers and their travel, etc. And they were all really down to earth, cool and accommodating. I listed to some people ask the most mundane questions (that a simple read of the race brochure could have answered), and they answered them all with an encouraging and genuine smile.
Never a need for bathrooms or water or any of those pre or post race worries. Plenty available right next to the start/finish/transition area. That said, I didn’t see any bathrooms on course, outside the main area – then again, it was an Olympic, normally not a feature anyway. Swim safety crew was visible the entire course (thanks to them as well).
Our race was slammed on by a storm about half hour before the start. Things were in doubt by many participants. We had about a 45 minute cold and soggy delay. The officials kept us very well informed about what their plan was and got things moving along swimmingly (pun intended) when it was time to get things running (again, pun intended (I can do this forever) but I’ll break this cycle (…) now.
On a competitive note – the race was uber-newbie-friendly, with heaps of folks taking to the distance and to tri for the first time. And that was great and the atmosphere and laid back vibe of the race played towards that. There was a notable absence of stick- up their ass, Ironman hat clad, compression wearing wannabe’s and idiot “be’s”. And I hope to see this race remain in that ethos.
Now all of that said, competitive racers should not underestimate this race as some frilly newbie event. The competition in all age groups is fierce, and fast. This is a must do race for any level and the only thing that is keeping the pro’s away at the moment is money, which, the organizers are trying to change.
In a nutshell (though we are far past that point), as an Olympic, I would rate this the best in the region – for my style racing. Yesterday I did :28, 1:06, :50 (of course as any self-absorbed triathlete will do, I will offer an excuse for my slow run – I am coming off of knee, foot and toe surgery 2 months ago). But this report isn’t about me, its about the race – gave my times just so you know my level and so you can compare my take to what yours might be).
It baffles me how this race isn’t more popular – it really has everything triathletes of all levels could want. And, tack on the family weekend, with a swim time trial the day before, a sprint distance race, a kids and youth race, yoga sessions and heaps more, its really has something for everyone.
So, shall I see you next year?
And no, I am not part of MetaSport and they haven’t paid me for this fabulous review --- Train safely, race with a smile.