Daniel Hughes’ Abu Dhabi race report

Daniel Hughes' Abu Dhabi race experience. Cue rubbing shoulders with Ali Brownlee and Macca, and topping his age-group in his first ever tri


Hello! I’m Daniel Hughes, and I’m aiming to raise £1million for those living in poverty, by putting the first Red Nose (Comic Reliefs iconic symbol) on top of Mt Everest. I leave in just a few weeks time and, thanks to HTC and Inmarsat, you’ll be able to join me live, all the way to the top of the world.


But, in something of an unconventional training exercise, first up was the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. My first ever tri…

Abu Dhabi entry

It’s 11 January, and a friend of mine sends me a link telling me all about the opportunity to share my story with the tri world at the Abu Dhabi Triathlon. Triathlon? Hmmm at the moment, I haven’t swum for as long as I can remember. It can’t be that hard, can it? Entry in.

30th January, judgment day! Nervously checking my emails to see if I had won an Abu Dhabi spot. No email. Knew it was a long shot, but hey, you’ve got to be in it to win it.

Off I went to the Alps, slightly sulking, to go do some ice climbing. Had a good weekend. I was just wandering through the terminal in Geneva to come home, where I saw that I’d won one of the places to go to Abu Dhabi. Amazing!

As soon as I got home, elation went into slight panic. I’m not sure I can physically swim 750m, let alone the 3km that the long course do. Youtube search: “open water swimming”. Rotate and kick from the hips, breathing and head down… doesn’t seem too hard!

My youtube optimism was short lived in my first pool session (under two weeks to go). Fair to say technique Zero, and can barely swim 200m without being completely knackered.

2nd session, 3rd session, still not getting much better and a week to go. I’ve also got to scramble to get all the gear for it (had nothing). Specialized have given me an Aero helmet, Orca an Alpha wetsuit and fitted some tri bars to my Tarmac. I really am going to be the guy with all the gear, no idea!

The off…

All packed up and off to race with the worlds finest. Fair to say, I stick out like a sore thumb with all my branded clothing, and before I know it I’ve been adopted by some fellow triathletes on the Etihad flight over. Must put on my helmet before I touch the bike, don’t mount the bike too early, go steady on the swim, hundreds of tips and rules being thrown at me.

Touchdown… I’m in Abu Dhabi rocking down the highway, going past the Grand Mosque. I had read about it before I came, but wow! This is exciting!

Day 1 – Wednesday

It’s judgement time. I’m down to the beach to try out the wetsuit. It seems that I’m not going to drown after all. Not entirely sure how far I’ve swum, but reckon it was about a 1km, the furthest I’ve ever swum.

From the beach to the buffet at the Khalidia palace hotel. It would be wrong not to eat for two, and before I know it I’m casually speaking to Chris McCormack. Quite amusing really as spend the next few days, speaking to everyone and anyone with no idea that I was speaking to the tri equivalent of Ronaldo or Navratilova! I love the fact that there really is no pedal stool. Just a group of people who love triathlon.

My brushing with the stars continued as I was invited to the lunchtime press conference, where journalists from around the world were invited to interview the world’s finest. I wonder if I could get them all to sign my water bottle? I’d auction it on everestmillion.com to raise more funds…yep, in my mind a brilliant idea, and before I know it I’m casually wondering around the room speaking to Ali Brownlee, Chris McCormack, Frederik Van Lierde, Melissa Hauschildt and more.

Day 2 – Friday

Time for some more swim practice me thinks. This time, I’m going to do the full sprint course to give me some more confidence. I made it but almost careered over when I got out of the water, completely disorientated and actually felt sick.

Back to the breakfast buffet and then onto the bike. It’s time to see how wobbly I am on the tri bars and more importantly what sort of speed do I reckon I could sustain in the 30-degree heat.

Over the last few years, cycling has become a great love so I’m hoping that this will be my strength. 20mph too slow, 30mph yep can do that, but for 50km? I’m loving the tri bars, felt locked on the bike.

It would be rude not to finish off the full compliment, and before I know it I’m off for a quick run in the full heat. Seriously hot… sweat dripping off me and I’ve only run a few km. Enough. Got to keep my energy for the big race tomorrow.

It’s 2.30pm and nervously I’m packing my kit into the different coloured bags. Blue for Bike, Red for Run. I’ve tried to read the pages of rules and it’s time to head off to drop of my bike and gear.

Over 2,000 people were entering the three races, and the bike rack area is enormous. Thankfully divided into waves, but even so must remember where I put my bike! Kit dropped off, time to go and gawp at the pro bikes. Interestingly Ali Brownlee’s bike had lost its decals since the day before, I guess something is going on!

Nothing more I can do now apart from eat and rest…

Day 3 (race day)

The alarm goes off at an unpleasant 5.40am. Fair to say, didn’t get much sleep with my mind racing, and feel pretty exhausted. I’m also bricking it!

I’m down at the start hours before my start (9.05am) to check tyre pressures (everyone was letting down their tyres to protect them from the heat) and do final preparations. I’m set and now standing at the start line. The horn goes, the pros are off. If I could swim at half the speed I’d be happy!

The swim

Time moves slowly, but after squeezing on my wetsuit and donning the Red Nose I’ve got just 10mins to go. Wave 10 has gone, Wave 11 is up. I’m on the start line eyeing up the competition! I’m set and I’m going to give this everything I’ve got.

Brrrrrrrrppp! I’m running into the water along side a few hundred others. Carnage! This is mad and actually pretty unpleasant. How am I supposed to think about my technique and breathing. I can barely keep my head above water. This isn’t swimming, this is battle!

I’m working furiously hard to just try and resemble some sort of stroke and about halfway around, I’m feeling completely exhausted. Little goals… get to the second buoy then re-evaluate! I’m surrounded by even more people now, as we’re mixing with the slower “sprinters” and short-course swimmers. I can see the bottom! Fair to say I won’t be using the pro technique of diving to get through the last 50 meters or so. I’m going to run through this!

The bike

Dry land, I’ve made it! and although not at the front, I’m definitely not at the back. I’ll celebrate this later, as at the moment I’m struggling to put one foot in front of the other and also try to take off this wetsuit. Into the changing rooms, into cycling gear, put on the Red Nose, and of course the helmet! Not the quickest transition, but hey my first!

Did I say that I love the bike? The resonance of the carbon and the freedom… the speedo is reading 29mph and I’m loving this. Swoosh as I glide past other competitors and am counting down the miles. First 25km done, and no-one has past me yet!

50km done and I’m running in with the bike. There are hardly any bikes in the transition area! From 2,000 to a handful. This is exciting, I must be doing alright! Helmet and shoes abandoned and custom Red Nose Nike shoes put on, its time to finish this bad boy off.

The Run

My legs! I can’t seem to move them. It’s stinking hot and I’ve barely run 500m and am just waiting for a stream of people to pass me. For me, I feel like I’m running at snail pace. 1km done and saw Ali Brownlee run the other way… he was destroying it!  Time to buckle up Hughes and get this done.

Probably one of the slowest 5kms I’ve ever done, but I really couldn’t go any faster. I’ve put my gasp of energy in and am over the finish line and it seems my timing is perfect, It’s just me, the Red Nose and Alistair Brownlee starring at dozens of cameras! Click, Click, Click… perfect, this is what the campaign is all about. I’m trying to get a million people to donate just £1.

So how did I do? At this point no idea, as the sprint was in waves of 200 odd, but felt like I must be at least top 50. Either way, time to get out of the blistering hot sun, get some protein and electrolytes in.

It seemed like forever to wait for the results but finally they were in. Chuffed, seriously chuffed! Seems like I should do some more triathlons as I came 10th overall, and 1st in my age group. Pretty ridiculous really!


Finally, this campaign is all about smashing the £1million and helping those living in poverty. Please, please go to www.everestmillion.com to share and donate. Every single penny goes directly to charity.