Bangkok triathlon 2015

July 5, 2015

The Bangkok triathlon was high on my to-do list from the day I started training for triathlons: who would not fancy a swim in the Chao Phraya river, followed by biking on elevated highways, and a run through the heart of Bangkok?  My hopes were to join the 2014 edition but due to political protests it was impossible to organize a race like that in Bangkok. Luckily 2015 has been quieter so far so this was my opportunity so scrap another race from my bucket list.

The event poster for the Bangkok triathlon 2015

The event poster for the Bangkok triathlon 2015

To my surprise a total of 418 people signed up for the standard triathlon, 126 for the sprint triathlon, and 161 for the duathlon. I expected less people for the triathlon as the Chao Phraya river has a very bad reputation with lots of pollution. Almost everybody who has ever done a boat tour through the river agrees how dirty the river looks and many stories go round of all the diseases you can get when you only watch the water from a distance. Clearly it is all not that bad. Right before the start of the race I checked out the water and even though there is little visibility the organization kept floating rubbish away from the swim course and it even did not look as bad as the water quality for the Pattana triathlon from May.

The swim course was completely buoyed off which made it relatively save and relaxing

The swim course was completely buoyed off which made it relatively save and relaxing

One thing that was different from earlier races was that we now had 2 transition zones. One was located near the swim course, under the Rama 8 bridge, and the second one was next to Grand Palace where we would switch from the bike to the run. This gave some organizational headache for the athletes as they had to pack their T2 stuff in a bag and give it to the race organizers to bring to T2. None of us had seen T2 and we could only hope they copied the structure of T1 instead of piling up the 500 bags of all participants and telling you to jump in to find your running shoes. Needless to say they of course did not really pile up all the bags, and hands down for how well they had arranged this part on their side. Even airlines cannot manage to get your suitcases into the right plane, which seems a pretty easy straight-forward operation, but here I have not heard of anybody who had trouble finding their stuff in T2.

T1 was located under Rama 8 bridge, T2 was next to Grand Palace

T1 was located under Rama 8 bridge, T2 was next to Grand Palace

Around 6:45AM the pro’s and Thai elite started their swim and the “normal” participants had to wait till they were out of the water before we could begin with 5 waves based on swimming abilities. As we had a jump start I positioned myself at the front of the pack but unlike the Pattana triathlon they did not let everybody start at the same time but split it up further into groups of 10 participants. This was to avoid people jumping on top of each other at the start as happened in Pattana.

The swim course was completely buoyed off and I actually experienced it as a more comfortable swim than one taking place in the sea. Getting out of the river was a pain though as the banks of the river have lots of garbage on the bottom so they introduced floaters which were hard to climb upon.

It was difficult to get out of the water, even though the ramp was let down lower and staff helped swimmers up. I still hav the scratches on my knees and hands from climbing up.

It was difficult to get out of the water, even though the ramp was let down lower and staff helped swimmers up. I still have the scratches on my knees and hands from climbing up.

Next was the biking part which was a whopping 55 kilometers in this race. Normally the Olympic distance is 40 kilometers but I guess they had to compromise this a but to find a place to turn on the elevated highways going out of Bangkok. At first it sounded great to be up there and have a perfectly smooth surface but that prospect was quickly killed when I experienced the strong headwind which slowed me down to about 25km/h. The great part was the route back, on the other side of the closed down elevated highway, as the tailwind brought me to 40km/h without much effort. Needless to say the pain started all over again with the second round, but so did the enjoyment after the last turn when I could fly into Bangkok city.

Biking on the elevated highway sounded like a lot of fun, it was actually a pain with the strong headwind half the course.

Biking on the elevated highway sounded like a lot of fun, it was actually a pain with the strong headwind half the course.

The second transition point was an exact copy of T1 and the running course took us through the busy streets of Bangkok. The roads were closed down but especially at the point where we had to cross the road to go to Grand Palace this led to a pile-up of cars and motorbikes waiting for a gap in the stream of athletes so they could pass. For some reason the organization had not closed down this road completely and thought they could wait for a time with less athletes to let some traffic pass. Unfortunately for them the stream of athletes was continuous meaning more and more cars started to pile up and they did not appreciate their first row seats where they could see hundreds of amateur athletes struggle in the heat.

Running in the heart of Bangkok

Running in the heart of Bangkok

The official cutoff time for the run was noon, but around 10:45 runners were stopped and everybody who hadn’t finished yet was not allowed to continue. The stress for the marshals and policemen at the crossing points must have been so bad that they could not hold traffic back anymore for another hour. While the race had been organized almost perfectly so far, especially given the tremendous amount of effort it must have taken to organize this in the middle of Bangkok instead of on some deserted area outside of Bangkok, this has been a serious flaw in their planning. About half the participants, who all paid 2,500 baht to join this event, were not able to finish even though they were well within the official cut-off limits. I was able to finish, but many people who were a bit slower and were not in the first wave for the swim part were stopped and had to go home empty handed. Thais do not get angry in public normally, but some frustration was noticed under the participants who could not finish.

Relaxing in the cool-down pool after finishing

Relaxing in the cool-down pool after finishing

And don’t forget the ordinairy people who live in that area or had to go through there to reach their job or go to the local hospital? Having such an event in the middle of the city is great for the participant, but I can imagine that overall it would be better to stay out of the city center and organize events like this in more deserted areas.

For the official results of the race:

https://www.sportstats.asia/search-results.xhtml

Pictures of the race are available on the Facebook page of the organizers:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Thailand-Tri-League-Series/1492831330963672

On the Facebook page of Asiatri (links to their own website will be there):

https://www.facebook.com/asiatrilive?fref=ts

And on the Facebook page of Refill Marathon:

https://www.facebook.com/RefillMarathon

And you can find a huge amount of folders filled with pics of the race here:

http://shutterrunning.com/index.php?option=com_kunena&view=topics&layout=default&mode=recent&Itemid=110

For questions/remarks you can contact me at: eric@stuckinthailand.com

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