After living in Singapore for six months we decided we needed an antidote to the urban jungle so we booked a weekend away on an island paradise.
If you’re thinking that we lay on the beach letting the warm, blue sea lap our toes, or sipped cocktails by the pool, you might be misled by thinking this was a relaxing trip. I decided to enter the Bintan Triathlon, and packed my bike, running shoes and family cheer squad.
I like sport, and I like active holidays, so combining this with travel is the perfect solution. And the Bintan Triathlon is a little different. Yes, it’s full of adrenaline-pumped athletes, with jangling nerves, and pent-up anticipation. But it’s also a family event and a great way to introduce your children to the sport.
I took part in the Sprint event, which given my speed, I’ve always thought was a rather inaccurate description. After a 750m swim and 20km bike ride, I managed to break a record in the run; for the slowest time I’d ever recorded. I blame it on the environment. The scenery is breathtaking, and therefore rather distracting, with swaying palm trees and sun bleached beaches. And it was rather hot and a little hilly compared to Singapore. Like every athlete I can make excuses for my lacking performance.
The Bintan Triathlon isn’t a “turn up and go” event. It takes a little planning. You need to book accommodation and a ferry ticket. You need to get your head around the logistics of where your bike should be. But it’s well organised and a great weekend away for the family. After all, you need your children to be on the sidelines so you can high-five them on the way round. Although, I wasn’t exactly chuffed when my four-year-old sprinted down the finishing chute, beating me across the line, and claiming my medal.
While I was huffing and puffing around the bike course the children were well entertained, building sandcastles on the beach, riding elephants (what other triathlon can claim that?!) and wallowing in the produce of a huge foam machine. They also got to taste the excitement and feel the electricity in the charged atmosphere that makes events of this kind so compelling.
It’s not necessarily about being the fastest. It’s about the camaraderie, the shared experience and the achievement of reaching a goal.
I won’t push my children to take part in triathlons when they are old enough, although I hope they enjoy sport and keep healthy, but if they understand the importance of making a goal and working towards it, sport has taught them something.
If you fancy taking part in a triathlon, take a look at our kit list. Have we missed anything off?
Celebrity interview: Chris “Macca” McCormack
The start line is a unique and exciting place to be, with nerves and energy at straining point. This year we shared our start line with sporting royalty. Two-times Ironman champion Chris McCormack joined the race. He couldn’t decide whether to race in the Sprint or the Olympic race – so he ran, and won, both.
Macca, a Aussie, started his triathlon career when he took part in his first race at the age of 18. He’s now 41 has three children of his own, aged 10, seven and three.
He said: “I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life. I love it. I forced myself because I have a dream to chase. I encourage my kids to find their way and I’ll support their dreams. It’s a great way to get rid of adrenaline before settling down to study.”
The practical bit:
Several companies operate ferry services to Bintan. Your choice will depend on your destination; there are several ports on the other side depending on where your hotel is located. The Bintan Lagoon Resort has its very own terminal and immigration staff. Your hotel will often help you with your booking. The ferry leaves Singapore from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal near Changi.
Bintan is part of Indonesia so you’ll need a visa, which you can buy on arrival in Singapore or US dollars. Indonesia is also an hour behind Singapore.
If you want to take your own bike to Bintan you need to pre-book it onto the ferry. Remember to take off all the bits that you hang on your bike so they don’t fall off: water bottles, pump, fluffy dice.
The Bintan Triathlon celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Over the past decade 11,113 people have taken part; 509 athletes joined the race in 2005. This year there were 1,300 competitors. For more information on the Bintan Triathlon: www.bintantriathlon.com
We've just put together a triathlon kit list to help you get your stuff together on race day. Have we missed anything?