The Brits once again cluttered the top-10, with Rachel Joyce finishing second, Jodie Swallow third, Tim Don fourth and Jodie Stimpson eighth in her first half-distance race.
At time of writing, 220 is waiting to speak to the podium sextet, but we managed to grab Don and Stimpson before the recovery tent came a calling’…
With his luggage only turning up at 10.30pm the night before the race, Don had spent his ‘taper’ buying new kit. Further still, he was recovering from a calf injury, which had seen him reduce his run training to just 30km a week.
Nonetheless, the now-seasoned middle-distance podium botherer and 220 columnist would have a strong day in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
“It was a tough race. The swim wasn’t too fast, got in a good position, and then the first 30k of the bike I was like ‘where’s this tailwind that everyone’s talking about?!’ And then Sebastian [Kienle] went past us, he was just crazy fast.
“But on a course like that we were spread out so early, so I just rode my own race. I ended up with Nils Frommhold and Luke Bell.
“I wasn’t sure how my run was going to go, I’ve had a pulled calf. So I’m really happy with fourth.”
Athletes were treated to a safari on the half-marathon run course as it weaved its way through the Al Areen Wildife Park.
“I saw camels, gazelle and two ostrich ran in front of me! Ha ha!” exclaimed a delighted Don. “This kind of event is so unique and is done so well, so to be a part of it is fantastic. I hope this kind of event stays, cause they’re great for the sport, great for Bahrain and great for the athletes.”
Bahrain was Don’s last race of the year, rounding off a successful season for the former ITU world champ.
“I’ve podiumed in every race I’ve done this year except for this one, so I can’t complain. With that kind of field, those kind of high stakes, everyone was coming here to win.”
NEW KID ON THE HALF-DISTANCE BLOCK
Stimpson, meanwhile, was trying on the half-iron distance for size, a challenge set her by her coach Darren Smith as a pre-Christmas hit-out and before knuckling down for what will hopefully be her Rio Olympics qualifying year.
“It was quite nice not to have to fight so much in the swim, like you do in the ITU field,” enthused Stimpson at the finish line. “It started really fast so it took me a bit to get on feet. I think I was with Rachel Joyce, which I was happy with. But I was quite happy to just come out as I know how fast the other girls are.
“On the bike, all I had in my head was [coach] Darren [Smith] saying ‘pace, pace, pace’. So I just had to concentrate. I think knowing the field was a bit of an error, as I was sat behind Mary Beth Ellis and that’s when the front four got away. But I was feeling fine, I just couldn’t do anything about it at that point. They’d gone. And then as the bike went on, obviously the leg’s started to hurt. I got to 60k and I was like, ‘okay, now I’m hurting a bit. I just can’t cope, just hold on now.’
“I got onto the run and I felt okay, and I pulled in Caroline [Steffen] and ran with her. I couldn’t have done any faster anyway. The pace was as fast as I could go. And then I got to just before 20k, and me and Caroline shook hands and said ‘good job’. We’d pushed each other through. At 20k, though, she had more legs than me and I started to get a stitch, and cramp up. Oh I was in all sorts of trouble that last k!
“When Darren first set this challenge I just wanted to finish the bloody thing! Maybe get top 10. But these girls, they’ve done numerous ones of these, they now how to pace, they know the field. To come into this field, I’m lining up next to my idols really. They’re people who I watch Kona in awe of.
“But I won’t be leaving the ITU circuit anytime soon. This was a challenge, this was something new. I’ve got Rio to focus on. It was a good hit out before Christmas. And now I’m so excited to go home!”