Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sanfo International Triathlon Report.

Over the past 5 weeks, since my last blog, quite a lot has happened since my arrival in the Republic of South Korea. Re-locating to Jeju Island for the summer, or to anywhere is always a challenge. The first couple weeks were especially a “Challenge in Jeju”. Then, I struggled with Achilles tendinitis, which strangely started after I pushed my bike box around the streets, airport and buses, after the my race in Daegu, I must be getting old…Then I got sick for a couple weeks, all the while doing a lot of orientation, mostly on my own, in a totally new and different environment.

Anyway, after finally settling down, it was time to race and travel again, this time to the capital of China, in Beijing. This was for the 17th edition of the Sanfo International Olympic Distance triathlon. This event, incidentally, was started around the time I began to compete in triathlon's in 2000. 

The race had about 800 participants, doing the individual or relay event. It was organized and sponsored by Sanfo outdoors stores, the largest outdoors sports retail store in China, with over 30 stores in the country!

The main branch near the 3rd ring road.
The venue was at Jinhai Lake, about 80 KM outside Beijing. I arrived a couple days before the event, then the day before, I took the organized bus transport to the race venue. It made everything much much easier, especially with the bike transport, which literally meant, that I left my bike at the main Sanfo store in Beijing, then it was at my transition spot on race morning. After the race, I left it in transition, to find it again in Beijing, amazingly easy and well organized!

The race pack involved a big tech-towel, 2 shirts, a souvenir race bracelet, coupons and a fancy silicone CompressSport swim cap!

And of course, a water proof back pack that will be very useful and make me visible out on the roads! 

And I can pack it into a little size, perfect to carry in my bike pocket and then open up when I go shopping at the Seogwipo market on the way back from workouts!

The course according to my Garmin - seems like their software doesn't have a proper map for this location.

One inconvenience, is that we arrived at our hotel a bit late the night before the race, which I guess is to accommodate those who work day jobs. Which meant I did not have a proper dinner, good sleep nor have any idea about the venue. On race morning, I met a few expats who work in the region. I was a bit anxious about the course, 

The view from my hotel room!

Pre-race warm up: lots of stairs going to transition!


Once I go to the venue, I quickly realized that the overall organization was top notch with pre-race entertainment, consisting of “showgirls” dancing in thongs on stage!


Photo credit: race organisation.
I was in the 2nd wave to start, un-fortunately we were not allowed to do a swim warm up…so I started slow, build my rhythm and stretched out my stroke every 300m or so. The water in the lake, or dam, was quite clean and very calm. I quickly swam through the 1st wave and made my way around the counter clockwise course.

The swim course according to my Garmin - not a very good performance or good sensations.
For safety reasons, it was mandatory for every participant to swim with a safety buoy around their waist.

Photo credit: race organization.

Better be safe than sorry!

Photo credit: race organization.

Once on land, I was greeted by 100+ stairs to run up towards transition - it was hard!

Photo credit: race organization.

Then I grabbed my Vellum Phantom and made my way onto the bike course with a fairly long run out of transition.

According to my Garmin - it was like doing intervals.

It was 2 laps of a 20 KM loop, which was completely closed to traffic – completely! The road surface, was as perfect as I have ever seen in my life!

The first loop was pretty lonesome, only the many volunteers shouting *JIAO* to keep me company. Most of the course was zig zagging, with little time was spend in the aerobars. It was never really flat, just constantly undulating with a few lengthy uphill’s.

Me soloing it - Photo credit: race organization.
Then on the 2nd loop, I lapped a lot of athletes from the later waves doing their first loop.  There was people all over the road, because it was closed to traffic, many had no problem in ridding on the left side of the road. Why not? This just made it easier for me to overtake ;)

Not me - Photo credit: race organization.
Once on the run, I started at a good pace, and again enjoyed lots of cheers from the volunteers, crowds and hotel staff, as I ran by my hotel. Similar to the bike course, there was lots of lefts, rights, ups and downs. I focused on deep breathes, staying relaxed and turning over my legs quickly as I started to suffer under the heat of the day. In the 2nd half of the run, my shoes started to fall apart…I was not so surprised, I had add this issue recently with them, because this specific pair spent a couple years in a box in our spare bed room. My attempts to glue them back together, had obviously failed…

Felt like I was having a nightmare - lesson learned, don't leave shoes in a hot room for 2 years!

According to my Garmin, a some speed fluctuations over the various terrain - it felt hillier than it looks on paper afterwards. My SPM was very inconsistent, something to work on the the coming weeks!
I stopped on a few occasions to ripped-off the loose pieces, then adjusted my foot strike and soldiered to the finish line. I came in 2nd place, overall and in my age group, behind a local Chinese athlete, who I was told is former national team athlete. He crushed the course, me and everybody else.

I was surprised to be handed a giant Canadian flag in the finishing chute - Photo credit: race organization.
Afterwards, I hung out with the local expats, made some new friends, discussed various triathlon related things, took some pictures and enjoyed a very good post-race meal, that was possibly the best and well-rounded I have ever had at any race, serious!

GoPro wefie with some enthusiastic volunteers!

FOAM ROLLERS in the recovery area? Wow they thought of everything!

Time to re-fuel.

The post race food was all freshly made on the spot - Photo credit: race organization.

Photo credit: race organization.

Plenty of choice!

International favorites from the USA and Europe!

Various carbs.

Woah! Fresh Tiramisu? After tasting about 8 pieces, I can assure you it was very very well made! 
Felt safe during the whole event, before, during and after!

We then returned to the city with the race shuttle, missing the award ceremonies...But I was able to claim my prize, which was 4000 yuan worth of shopping at any Sanfo store. Funny enough, I was not able to spend it all, I'm a terrible shopper and had limited space in my luggage. Luckily the credit is good until the end of this year, so I can shop again in my next trip to China!

It was great, because they carry the majority of all high quality and major outdoor brands in the world!

My shopping loot included: a pair of Altra shoes, a nice EVO cycling kit, fancy bike gloves, fancy socks, a high quality sleeping "blinder" for my face, a water proof case for  ridding and a travel size foam roller!
Then before my flight, I went around Beijing on my bike, took pictures and tried various street foods. I will definitely be back to go around the famous international tourist attractions.

Selfie with my GoPro after a morning run at Madian park near my hotel

A very bike friendly city - you just have to be alert!
You can even ride down the stairs on a side ramp!

Could not resist it.

Nice architecture all over.

Lots of nice decorations everywhere.

The bird's nest in the day time.

The Olympic tower near the Olympic Green.

It's still very visible that this was a host city of the 2008 Olympic Games. They clearly still earn from it and utilize most of the investments made. Unlike other Olympic city's, which I visited last year, such as Barcelona, London and especially Athens - who didn't seem to capitalize on it as well. They really think ahead here. Incidentally, Beijing will host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games!

Street hair cut anybody?

Much cheaper rent than owning your own store!

The Olympic tower at night near the Olympic Green.

The Birds Nest and THE CUBE at night.

Random but interesting building at night.

Hehehehe - made me laugh out loud and had to take a picture!

This is a ceiling!

A HUGE ceiling!

Lots of tall and impressive buildings.

Always some artistry to see - which seems to look nicer at night.

Typically local street that's bustling with people.

Anyway, after doing this event, there is no doubt in my mind that China has the capacity to host the best and biggest triathlons in the world. They have the infrastructure, man power and attitude to GO BIG!

There’s just a need to iron out a few details and make certain things a bit clearer or simpler for foreigners. This was definitely one of the best organization I have seen and possibly the nicest venue, in  my whole career of racing!

I strongly recommend triathletes in the region to check out this race in the future - it's worth it!

Last but not least, I would like to thank my personal equipment sponsors: Vellum Cycles - Garmin Center Philippines - Rudy Project Philippines - Token ProductsYKK Trading for their support, which makes my racing less expensive, as well to allowing me to represent their brands in various races in the region!