Just back from a fantastic holiday with the family to visit Paul Faulkner and family in Abu Dhabi and managed to find time to fit in a few runs\races which Paul had very kindly planned into the itinerary.
Having left Edinburgh early Sunday morning, aside from trying to thaw out after C5, the first few days of the trip revolved around beaches, swimming pools, water parks and some very fine wining\dining :-). However did manage to fit in a few local runs with Paul. A 10k run round his local gold course plus a 12 x 400m intervals session which made me feel particularly slow! The Abu Dhabi formula one race track is also open (and free) for runners & cyclists one morning a week, so Paul organised an early morning visit on Tuesday morning. Quite an experience biking round a race track where Paul and I managed 3 laps and Pam did a 1 lap run before we headed back to let Paul get off to work. Thursday was a trip to Fossil Rock in the desert which involved walking over some very impressive sand dunes. The last part of the walk involved a particularly steep sand dune with a Strava segment! It would have been rude not to give it a go, so Paul and I had a sprint up the hill which took just under 3mins. Strava later confirmed a new CR and a honourable dead-heat! A good warm-up for the first official race the following day.
This race is called the Big Stinker (due to the climb I presume) and had a few distance options: 12k, 24k, 42k or a 5k fun run. The race venue was also away from the coast and involved a run up and over a beautiful mountain, with 540m of ascent and descent per 12k loop in the Ras Al Khaimah region of UAE. It claims to be the toughest solo foot race in UAE! Paul had won the 12k race the year before but this year Paul, Pam and I had opted for the 24k option. Marathon training in Pam’s case and boat race training for Paul and I! We were staying at a beach resort near the coast for a couple of days and Paul’s wife Becky had very kindly offered to look after the 5 children whilst we went off to do the race. The race was due to start at 7.30am so an early start was required to get to the start for registration which closed at 6.30am. We arrived in good time and were told the race briefing was at 6.45am, so after picking up numbers we decided to hang around for briefing before heading back to car to get changed. Race briefing finished about 6.55am but finished with surprise (to us anyway) announcement that race was due to start at 7am. Paul had been given a bit of a bum steer with regards race info! So after a panicky run about getting changed, filling water bottles (all runners, regardless of race distance, had to carry 1.5l of water) and most importantly picking up satellite signals on watches, we were lined up at 7am ready to go!
Slightly strange set-up in that all races started at same time and wasn’t really clear who was doing which race. After first 1-2k which was relatively flat, Paul and I found ourselves in a front group of about 5-6 runners. However, we then hit the 540m climb and Paul and I soon found ourselves out in front. Paul was setting a pretty good pace on the climb but not so fast that we couldn’t enjoy the wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. We had decided to run the first lap together and took the first descent fairly steady. Paul had fallen off his bike the week before so carrying a couple of injuries (knee and ribs), so another reason for not pushing the descent. I’ve always enjoyed running in the heat and C5 seemed like a wonderful distant memory as we began the 2nd lap. With the sun well and truly up and Paul carrying a leaky water bottle, I decided to push on during the 2nd climb, obviously after offering a drink from my water bottle first! I figured that if I got out of sight, Paul would give up and save himself for race 2 the next day rather than pushing hard on the 2nd descent, particularly given his injuries. That was pretty much what happened and I ended up finishing a couple of mins in front of Paul but great to see Carnethy score a 1-2 in the men’s race. Pam had a great run and finished a fine 3rd place in the Ladies race so great we all recorded a podium finish.
Rest of Friday primarily involved supervising sand castle building activities back at the beach resort before heading to Dubai early next morning for race 2. This was a 42 floor tower race with a rather unpleasant 1.2km run round indoor car park, slightly uphill round 7 levels, before entering the stair well. This was apparently a bit unusual for stair races which normally just involve a time trial up the stairs and no flat running beforehand. Paul, Pam, Becky and I were all signed up for this one, so after some brief chat re logistics, Paul and I headed to start line with a view to Pam & Becky starting as soon as Paul and I had finished and handing over the 5 kids! They were setting folk of in groups of 5 at 30sec intervals and Paul (who knew the time keeper) managed to negotiate Paul and I starting in first group which would reduce potential holds up/bottlenecks in the race. Paul knew some of the other guys in our group of 5 and warned me they would start pretty fast. He wasn’t wrong as the other 3 in our group disappeared off into the distance. Possibly down to Paul and I having raced the day before and not having much of warm-up (or just down to being a bit older and slower on the flat, in my case anyway), 2 other runners who started 30secs back also caught and passed us before we got to the stair well. However, once we started climbing the stairs it felt a bit more like typically steep climb in a hill race. We managed to catch and pass all but 1 of the runners who were ahead. Paul has done a few of these races before and set a pretty good but steady pace. I managed to follow pretty close behind him for majority of race but then Paul pulled away in last few levels to finish strongly 6secs ahead of myself. It was then a case of finding the nearest lift and heading back down to start to let Pam and Becky have a go. After all runners finished the results confirmed Paul had an excellent run and finished 2nd overall. I finished 5th and 1st in the masters category (over 50s, no v40 category), Becky and Pam had great runs finishing 3rd and 8th in the Ladies event. After a spot of lunch and a rather glitzy pool-side prize giving ceremony, we all headed back to Abu Dhabi for a few more hours at the pool before packing up and catching flight back to Edinburgh early Sunday morning. A really great holiday and thanks again to Paul\Becky for being such wonderful hosts. The races were certainly a lot of fun and would recommend both to anyone visiting the part of the world.
Big Stinker results
Tower race results