Jac Downham: Race Report, Ironman 70.3 Oman 2020
Ironman Oman – the (3rd Ironman branded event) in the Middle East. For those of you that don’t know, Oman is located to the East of Dubai and can be accessed by either air or road.
Ironman 70.3 Oman is completely different to the other two Ironman events in the GCC (Bahrain and Dubai) because there is no Pro field, the bike course is rolling hills and very scenic. Finally, the run course is hot, challenging and diverse.
The race village is located 2km away from the transition and very different from what you would expect at other Ironman events in terms of size and location in the middle of Qurum park. The race village hosts a couple of local food and beverage outlets, one bike mechanic a small merchandise store and as always, the on course nutritionist who for the second year running was our very own Secret Training. Prior to departing from your destination, I advise you to double check your bags to make sure you have all the essentials you require for a successful race day!
Centrally placed for the race course lies a small green patch of field located next to the sea at the point of the cornice. Don’t expect your Ironman red carpet treatment here but you can expect a great view of the Omani mountains that you know you’re going to have to tackle after the swim.
Transition was full of very helpful marshals and volunteers who tried their very best to assist – while their knowledge and concept is very limited, seeing smiley helpful faces always helps to calm the pre-race nerves.
There was a very different feel to race day morning and you could feel this straight away. Firstly as there was car park access in close proximity to transition which is very unusual for Ironman events. Compared to other races there was a calmness and more relaxed approach about this race and environment and seeing lots of familiar faces who had also crossed the border to race made it feel more like you were doing a local race compared to a 70.3. There were a couple of technical issues with the sound system first thing in the morning which made it difficult to hear important announcements such as when transition was closing or whether it was going to be a wetsuit swim or not. But with it being a small crowd this didn’t cause any big issues and everyone knew the plan of action and was ready to race.
The MC of the race was Warrick McNicol from Dubai, who knew the local triathlon scene very well and knew most people’s names and club names, which also had an effect and the feel to the race making it feel more relaxed but please be assured everyone who was there to race had their own journey and plan!
The swim was declared a wetsuit swim, which most competitors took advantage of, but this probably came as quite a surprise for people who were doing the race for the first time. With doing the race the year on its inaugural launch and with it being the similar time of year I was expecting this to be the case like most Ironman events nowadays. The swim was a rolling start however with the tide being low and the water being very shallow you had to run at least 100 meters before you could start swimming!!! The swim course produced some quite fast times but this was no surprise with the sea being so calm and the tide giving you bit of a push on the way back towards transition you then had a short run up the steps into T1.
The bike course starts by taking you through the streets of Qurum and only being given one lane for the first 10 to 12km you have to get used to packs being formed. Unfortunately, this is out of your control but nothing you can do other than trying to stick to the 12-meter drafting rule as best as possible. Also keep an eye out for cars as you are riding along the main road because you never know when they might appear on the course as the local drivers didn’t seem to take much notice of the red cones blocking off the road!!! At about the 15km mark on the bike course you start going through the rolling hills and seeing the beauty of the Omani ports and towns which where extremely quiet first thing on a Friday morning but made you realise you were in for a scenic treat for the rest of the bike leg!!! 30 km into the bike you approach the first and only real big climb which stretches out over a distance of 2.2km which definitely has an impact on the race as athletes start to weave all over the road and this is the point where you realize that this course is not like the flat and fast roads of Dubai and Bahrain!!
However after a series of rolling hills and false flats you find yourself cruising along a 2 lane highway before descending back into the last 10km on the motorway making sure to pay close attention to your surroundings as you never know when a car may appear on the bike course and this isn’t always easy when your getting yourself mentally prepared for what is going to be a hot run!!
The run course is 2 loops around Qurum Natural park and up and down the corniche. Now the run course is not necessarily full of crowds but there are small gatherings sporadically spread out in various places along the route which definitely reenergizes the body during the dark times. There were 3 / 4 aid stations along the course the first one being as you come out of transition and start to head towards the park. There are shaded areas with slight breezes coming in and out of the park so I advise to make the most of these and as at the start of the race the relaxed atmosphere still continues and the crowds start to build along the finishing chute, which if this was your first 70.3 you knew was going to be a special feeling in conclusion of the run course. It is not the flat and fast run courses you expect in Dubai or Bahrain as it contains a couple of small climbs and few corners and a long stretch along the corniche which I must add is quite an impressive sight.
After doing this race the first year and the second year running I definitely noticed a big difference between the two and it was nice to see the race organizers had taken on board the feedback from the following year to make it a better race!! Albeit this race is far from a PB course and may sound rather challenging compared to other Ironman events on the circuit it is definitely a race I would recommend for people to do and certainly a race I will be coming back to do in future years. From a personal perspective I managed to set a 13 minute PB on this course, take 2nd place in my age group, and pick up a slot for the 70.3 world championships taking place in Taupo New Zealand later in the year.
Farewell Oman – it was a great racing day!