IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai – 2021, By Tessa

By Tessa Kortekaas, who set a new course record in Kona winning her age group in 2018, since 2019 racing as a Dutch pro triathlete winning IM Malaysia.

More than 16 months without racing, since IRONMAN Malaysia, 26-10-2019. I lost the confidence that there would be any race soon, as they all got cancelled last minute. I didn’t want to make any plans and get disappointed if the plans couldn’t get done. But then this race came closer and rumors went that it really should go on and I was hearing from more and more people that they made their plans to head to Dubai. So less than three weeks before raceday I told my coach: “Get me ready to race!” To which he said: “You are!” Not specifically for a flat and fast race like Dubai, but it should be a great test anyway. I noticed my progression in the last weeks so I couldn’t wish for a better reward and finally get myself tested.

On Monday (arriving on Tuesday) I left my quiet and small hometown Lanzarote towards the big and busy Arabic city. Massive! Not my thing, and luckily I’m not a prototype tourist. I’m coming to get the job done and that’s it, no sightseeing for me.

Wednesday and Thursday I did some very short swimming, cycling and running to wake up the body and get the race feeling. Raceday was going to be hot and humid with (I call it) 0 wind. Because previous editions of Ironman 70.3 Dubai were a wetsuit swim (water temp. 21 degrees), I never thought about taking my speedsuit (special swimsuit to wear over your tri-kit, which is legal when wetsuit is not allowed) with me. I’m not a tourist and tend to travel light. So on Wednesday I went for a swim in my wetsuit and thought: “Hmm.. that’s quite hot..”. Later in the afternoon, during the online briefing, they announced that it should be a non-wetsuit swim for pro’s. S T R E S S !

Orca speedsuit from i-RIDE

The short time I spent on the expo that day, I’d seen the Orca speedsuit that I have, but unfortunately they were already closed so in all kind of ways I was trying to figure out who these guys were. In the meantime Orca told me that I didn’t have to worry because there would be a solution most probably. Well, it wasn’t my best night.. I couldn’t sleep very well which frustrated me because I couldn’t do anything at that moment anyway!

So the next morning at 8:55 I was in front of the expo, like it was black friday sale. i-RIDE was the name of the company. I introduced myself and said: “I need your help, I’m a profesional sponsored by Orca, but I’ve been so stupid to forget my speedsuit. Is it…” “You know what Tessa, we’re just launching Orca so we only have a few samples, but if it’s your size you take it and I will speak with Orca!”

Right.. I don’t like the city Dubai, but the people are quite nice! Lucky girl I was, they had my size. I was one speedsuit and some supporters richer! “So now you can breath again”, he said. And he was right, pfff.. saved by the bell.

Time to get all the stuff ready and get the legs up and rested for the big day! 1900m swim in the Arabic Gulf, 90km bike course as flat as a pancake, the only elevation came from a few bridges, and a 2 loop run course of 21km along the seafront. An exciting field of professionals in which I didn’t really knew what I could expect. I think we all didn’t have a very specific preparation, for one day we were all rookies again. Personally I would never choose a race like Dubai, fast and flat is not what suits me most, but nothing has been how it had to be, so neither is this. I want to race and whether it’s short or long, flat or tough, hot or cold, I don’t mind! It’s just a great test of where I am, not where others are.

Foto credit: Active Images – James Mitchell

The plan:

– Stick on some feet on the swim and just follow.

– Head down on the bike, be aero and smart, don’t push to hard.

⁃ Run a personal best on the half marathon.

⁃ Enjoy!

The result:

We entered the water like dolphins because it was very shallow to start with. I should practice this more, because I saw a pack of girls leaving and I was too slow (call it dumb) to be in the group. Luckily I wasn’t the only one, there were quite a few behind and I was swimming with one other girl. I saw we came closer to a small group in front of us which made me happy. A group of three so we ended up in a group of five in which I was swimming very comfortably, but trying to go faster wouldn’t have made sense, I decided to save energy. No clue how many girls were in front of us but hearing the announcers in the transition zone, I thought we were in place 6-10.

Foto credits: Robert Resto

My transition was not one of the fastest, I was just thinking ‘Do I not forget anything?!’ It’s only about seconds but I lost the connection with two athletes, one was just in front and one just behind. So I did what I had to do: head down and go! Nothing really exciting happened until I saw I was running in on these athletes. At the halfway turning point I caught and passed them. Unfortunately I don’t have eyes in the back of my head and there should be referees for this, but I doubt they took the non-drafting distance serious. I was just telling myself: don’t let this take you out of your focus, if this is how they want to play it, fine! For one moment I held back in speed and power, nothing happened, they stuck behind, well done girls! I stuck to my plan and was happy with my strong performance on the bike. Still ready to give my best on the run.

Foto credits:
Foto credit: Robert Resto

We arrived with the four of us in transition and this time it was me who left first, being in 5th position. But not for long, two of them passed me like I was jogging. I think it must have been exciting to follow the race on the tracker as spots switched all the time. I went from 5th to 8th to 9th to 8th to 7th to 9th, in the first 8km. I was running very stable just a bit faster than my planned pace, not able to go faster, not allowing myself to slow down. I was happy to run with my Naked band with water flasks, which I bought last minute from in the expo, it made it easy to keep hydrated. I got a short flashback from Malaysia, as the conditions started to feel the same. With the burning heat it felt like it could go wrong from one moment to the next, but I saw there was no danger very close. Holding my pace I ran towards a personal best of 1:25:53.

Foto credits:

Good for spot 8 in a total time of 4:13:36 not bad for a long distance diesel! The top 3 with Daniela Ryf, Imogen Simmonds and Sara Svensk was how I expected. I was hoping my performance would have been enough for a better classification, but like I said: it was a test to see where I am. And I’m on the very right track, knowing what we have to work on!


⁃ I did what I had to do (and better)!

⁃ I raced again!

⁃ I enjoyed!

⁃ Coach happy, me happy!

Where we go next?!

Foto credits:

Thanks to the organisation and volunteers for making this event a huge success!

Thanks to i-RIDE and for the special support!

Thanks to coach Miguel Prados for getting me here stronger than ever and for not letting me forget for what we’re working for.

Thanks to everyone who has followed and messaged me! It makes the race feeling complete, I missed you as well!

Thanks to my sponsors Hoka, Orca, CarregUK, PY Hotels and Resorts, Centro Deportivo Fariones, Tribike Lanzarote, Julbo eyewear, Schwalbe tires and Segura Sports Lanzarote!


Thank you Tessa for sharing your race report with us at Sported!! Next time you’re in Dubai we will take you around and convince you that there is more to Dubai than a big busy city with tourist attractions! We will keep our fingers crossed for you for the rest of this season in the mean time!

Posted on 16th Jun 2021