Asia Travel

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENTS - BY KEVIN MACKIN­NON

TRIATHLON IS BOOM­ING in Asia these days. Iron­man has dra­mat­i­cally ex­panded its foot­print in the re­gion in re­cent years (in part be­cause it is owned by a Chi­nese com­pany), as has the Chal­lenge Fam­ily. This is great news for Cana­dian triath­letes who might be look­ing for a good ex­cuse to com­bine a race with a bucket-list trip. So many triath­letes I speak with are hes­i­tant about rac­ing in Asia, though. While I can un­der­stand the con­cerns, with a bit of plan­ning, you re­ally can en­joy an amaz­ing race ex­pe­ri­ence by tak­ing the plunge and get­ting your­self on a plane over­seas. Here are a few in­sights on trav­el­ing to the re­gion that will help you plan your next race-cation in the re­gion.

Des­ti­na­tion events

There are some truly spec­tac­u­lar race venues to choose from in Asia. I haven’t been to all the races over there, but can un­abashedly rec­om­mend the events I have at­tended in Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Ath­letes have long raved about the 70.3 race in the Philip­pines, as they do about so many of the events in the re­gion. You’ll find Iron­man events in China, Ja­pan, Viet­nam, Korea and In­done­sia, too. You shouldn’t just look at Iron­man races, though. Chal­lenge of­fers some ex­cel­lent venues in the re­gion, too, in­clud­ing Tai­wan, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Viet­nam. There’s also in­de­pen­dent races such as the La­guna Phuket Triathlon, which cel­e­brated its 25th an­niver­sary this year and is among the best triathlon races I’ve ever been to.

Travel

There is one down­side to mak­ing this trip: it’s a long haul. I’ve found the most ef­fi­cient way to get to many of the events is start­ing with a flight to Hong Kong. There’s a 14-hour di­rect flight from Toronto to Hong Kong and, once you’re there, an abun­dance of cheap flights to pretty much any­where in Asia. Af­ter more than 15 years of trav­el­ing through Hong Kong, last year I fi­nally took the plunge and overnighted there on my way back, giv­ing my­self a chance to check out the spec­tac­u­lar city for a day. I highly rec­om­mend that as part of your travel.

Do some re­search, too, when it comes to ac­com­mo­da­tions and food for your trip. While some re­sorts fea­ture North Amer­i­can-type pric­ing, it’s not hard to find some very rea­son­able prices quite close to the race venues. Do the same for food, too – a fab­u­lous lunch spot was just a short walk from my ho­tel in Malaysia. When I ex­pensed the lunch, the re­ceipt got flagged by the ac­count­ing depart­ment be­cause they strug­gled to see how four peo­ple could have eaten for less than $10.

Since you’re em­bark­ing on such a long jour­ney, it’s to­tally worth try­ing to take some ex­tra time ei­ther be­fore or af­ter the race to do some sight­see­ing. Build in some time for some rest and re­lax­ation – there are more than a few out­stand­ing beaches to en­joy in this re­gion. Last year, I took an ex­tra day in La­guna Phuket to ex­plore the beach where the race takes place – the 10-kilo­me­tre hike along the spec­tac­u­lar beach was the high­light of the trip.

Qual­i­fi­ca­tion hunt­ing

The sport might be grow­ing rapidly in Asia, but the com­pe­ti­tion isn’t nearly as deep as it would be at events here in North Amer­ica. There’s a rea­son many North Amer­i­cans were get­ting them­selves on planes to com­pete at the Chi­nese races that of­fered Kona slots last year – there sim­ply was no com­par­i­son to the level of com­pe­ti­tion you’d face at one of those events to a race in North Amer­ica or Europe.

Heat and hu­mid­ity

While the com­pe­ti­tion might not be as fierce at var­i­ous races, the con­di­tions you’ll face at an Asian event can be a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially if the race takes place dur­ing the Cana­dian win­ter months. Most races in Asia are hot, and you can find your­self mov­ing that def­i­ni­tion from “hot” to “ex­tremely hot” in no time. Iron­man Malaysia has long been con­sid­ered the hottest race on the Iron­man cir­cuit (tem­per­a­tures reached 44 C one year). While most events won’t get that warm, you can ex­pect tem­per­a­tures into the 30s and high hu­mid­ity at most Asian events.

If pos­si­ble, get­ting to the race site early can be a huge help. If you can, try to ar­rive a week out to give your­self some time to ac­cli­ma­tize. For events that take place in ma­jor cen­tres, look at head­ing to a spot that is more train­ing-friendly for a few days or a week ahead of time. A re­sort, like Thanya­pura in Thailand, is train­ing heaven thanks to its out­stand­ing fa­cil­i­ties and ex­cel­lent cy­cling in the area. If you were rac­ing in China, for ex­am­ple, it might be worth spend­ing a five days to a week at Thanya­pura be­fore you head to the race for the last few days.

Ex­plore

A year ago, I wrote an ed­i­to­rial about my new­found res­o­lu­tion to en­joy the des­ti­na­tions my job gets me to ev­ery year. You’ll get so much more out of your trip to a race in Asia by ex­plor­ing. There are lots of re­sources on­line and through the var­i­ous event or­ga­niz­ers that will help you find some fun ad­ven­tures wher­ever you might be. I found out about the spec­tac­u­lar sun­rise you can see over Hong Kong from Vic­to­ria Peak on­line.

Just rid­ing around the is­land of Langkawi, where Iron­man Malaysia takes place, will of­fer you a once-in-a-life­time look at Malaysia’s spec­tac­u­lar scenery. A walk on vir­tu­ally any of the beaches in Asia will have you think­ing you’ve just stepped into a scene from a James Bond movie. Don’t skip out on those op­por­tu­ni­ties – there is no time like the present to em­bark on the race-cation of your dreams.

OP­PO­SITE Anna Ever­hardt at the La­guna Phuket Triathion in Thailand RIGHT Vic­to­ria Peak, Hong Kong

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