Laguna Phuket Triathlon

Biggest take away lesson from this race: Don’t rent a bike you plan to race with in Thailand. If you do, don’t expect it to have brakes. If you do, you will likely end up in a ditch… or worse. Luckily, I have a series of priorities that have kept me safe throughout the 50+ races I have raced in the last 5ish years.

Race: Laguna Phuket Triathlon
Location: Phuket, Thailand
Distance: 1.8km swim, 55km bike, 12km run
Date: November 25, 2012

Biggest take away lesson from this race: Don’t rent a bike you plan to race with in Thailand. If you do, don’t expect it to have brakes. If you do, you will likely end up in a ditch… or worse. Luckily, I have a series of priorities that have kept me safe throughout the 50+ races I have raced in the last 5ish years.
They are, in descending order of importance:
#1 – stay safe,
#2 – have fun,
#3 – race hard.
But I am getting ahead of myself… my first ever DNF (did not finish) did not happen at this race. No, it happened a week after this race. This race was actually pretty darn fun, despite the hills. Holy crap. The hills!

We arrived in Phuket on Thursday morning, jet lagged, hot and slightly overwhelmed. The hotel we were staying at was amazing and they got us all sorted out in no time. After we had some food, met most of the Pacific Elite Fitness group (organized by my coach and podcast partner, Ben Greenfield), and got our bearings I decided I should get in posession of my rental bike ASAP. The guy from the bike shop drove it to our hotel and after some minor (and ineffective) adjustments to the rear breaks and front deraillieur, I was holding the bike I was going to race a triathlon and half-ironman on. For better or worse.


Friday morning, the group headed out for an easy brick workout. Graeme, who has done this race a couple times before, took us to the first of two major hills on the bike course. I don’t know what the grade percentage was of the hill but let me put it this way, at least half of the people around me in the race got off their bikes and walked the hill. On our practice ride, if I sat I had to peddle like a muther to keep from tipping over and if I stood, my back tire would actually lose traction and spin out. It was steep, to say the least.

In between relaxing on the beach or by the pool, I would periodically do a short 200m ish out-and-back swim in the ocean. I have done a lot of swimming in lakes and a lot of splashing around in the ocean but I have never tried to swim fast and hard against waves crashing on the beach – I am a prairie boy! I got the hang of it pretty quickly, with the help of a few Aussies in our group.

On Saturday morning we went out for another ride and a run. It had rained over night so the road was wet and slippery. It started to drizzle on our way back to the hotel and the road got even more slippery. So slippery that Ben wiped-out on a corner and took a bunch of skin off his elbow and hip. His wrist was “cracky” and he seemed a little shaken-up… and I was too. I am no where near as good/experienced a cyclist as Ben and if he went down on a practice ride… well, suffice to say that I was worried. But I came here to race!

Saturday night, we went to the “pasta party” which had pasta and everything else you could ever want from a buffet in Thailand. Needless to say, pre-race nutrition was somewhat out the window from the moment we got off the plane. We all headed back to the hotel as soon as we finished eating so we could get a good sleep. We needed to be at the transition area, getting body marked and shuttled over to the swim start line before 6:00am.

I set my alarm for 4:15am, at which time I shot out of bed, drank a big glass of water, a cup of black coffee and proceeded to spent the next 30 minutes nibbling on a banana and a cliff bar and using the lovely hotel bathroom.

The Race:

After an emergency tire tube removal, swap, barter and replace, I was ready to get on the shuttle boat and head to the swim start. I got there with plenty of time to do some deep breathing and some dynamic stretching. Next thing I knew, my wave was lined up and we were off.

The swim…

went really well. After getting kicked in the head a couple of times, the group opened up and I got myself into a smooth groove. It felt great! I came out of the water (and back into the water – with 600m left in the 1800m swim we switched from the ocean to a lagoon – cool!) feeling energized, focussed and ready to tackle those hills.

I finished the 1800m swim in 0:35:51.

The bike…

went pretty well until my back brake decided to start wobbling, shuddering, moaning and not doing its job all that well at all. On one of the more dangerous downhill areas (a yellow flag zone where everyone had to slow to 20km/h or less) I ended up doing a fancy bmx skid-stop, and actually got off the bike and walked through the dangerous zone. There was no way my brakes were going to slow me well enough that I wouldn’t either crash, fly off the road or get disqualified for speeding through the yellow zone. It was the right decision but certainly not the fastest. The rest of the bike was flat and fun. We travelled through gorgeous Thai countryside, funky little towns, narrow alleys, past temples and even a parade (complete with marching bands). Very very cool and very very crazy!

I finished the 55km bike in 2:00:37.

The run…

was challenging. It was flat but took us through boggy golf course grass, muddy trails, huge puddles and some nice road as well. It was very hot at this point in the day and I was suffering but a decent run/walk strategy got me through it. I abandoned my Gu Roctanes and drank copious amounts of water and coke at each aid station. Maybe not the best move but it got me through the second 6km loop resonably quickly.

I finished the 12km run in 1:05:40

My overall finishing time was 3:47:56 (including both transitions). Not awesome but not bad and to be honest I didn’t really care. Not only was it a weird distance race (1.8km swim, 55km bike, 12km run vs. the usual 1.5km swim, 40km bike 10km run) but my rental bike was giving me grief, it was hot and humid like I have never felt, and I was completely out of my element – and loving every minute of it! Like I said on Facebook later that day – “How often does a hoser from Alberta get to swim, bike and run through Thai countryside?” When indeed.


Not much to say here. I wouldn’t use this as any type of case study. Unless it is one that proves you can do alright no matter what the heck you are putting in your body in the days leading up to the race. I honestly ate nothing I am familiar with!

During the race, I had a GU Roctane 5 minutes before the swim, drank nearly two full bottles of Tailwind Nutrition (I love this stuff) on the bike and, after one GU Roctane in transition, I switched to cola and water from the air stations during the run. It was messy and perhaps foolhardy but it worked. Luckily.


I stretched, showered, foam rolled and drank my body weight in beer (free beer as Graeme just reminded me) in preparation for the trip to Railay Bay to relax for a few days before the Ironman 70.3 exactly a week later on pretty much the same course. Mercy…

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