Glorious weather and warm waters greeted the participants of Dubrovnik’s second Earth Sea and Fire Triathlon on Saturday 12 October. Air temperature of 25 degrees and water temperature of 21 degrees made it perfect conditions to race.
Participants congregated in Dubrovnik’s Gruz Harbour for the swim start at 14.00hrs. Organisers had to wait for the go ahead from port officials seeing out a cruise ship in the international waters before the port was open for competition.
The Super Sprint headed off first doing a triangle swim before heading back to the pontoon at the start of the harbour to exit into transition.
The bike route took riders out on an incredibly scenic 10k flat loop on closed roads followed by a 2.5k run loop finishing at the Gruz Harbour with the view of the Dubrovnik hills in the distance.
There were representations from 24 different nations, many of whom were from Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia as well encompassing 4 continents; The Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe with entrants from Russia, USA, Hong Kong and Germany.
Ava Lee 43, won the Female Olympic distance in 1:40.38 and was competing with her husband. Ava from Glasgow said, “This is my first overseas triathlon and it has been fantastic. This is the most organised event I have ever done. This is the first time that the distances have been exactly what they are supposed to be. My time is bang on.” Ava continued, “The swim and bike course was stunning. It was such a treat to have amazing scenery along the coast whilst doing the event, we will definitely be back.”
The winner of the Super Sprint was 13 year old Jan Peterka from Slovenia in a time of 36.44 and to complete the family achievements, his sister Monika, 21, won the Sprint in 1:12:07.
The highlight of the day was female Muslim competitorIrem Silajdzic from Bosnia and Herzegovina who completed the Sprint in just under two hours in a time of 1:57:58.
This was Irem’s second only triathlon and she took the decision to compete in her hijab which she chose to adopt four years ago. Irem said, “Muslim women have to start wearing the hijab during puberty, but in Bosnia we do not force women to wear it. My 12 year old daughter May, who is here with me today, will not be forced to wear the hijab. I will teach her why Islamic women wear it and then it will be her choice as it was with me.
"The biggest challenge of doing a triathlon is not so much wearing it, as actually it protects me when the sun is strong, but more when I come out of the water whether the organisers have created a private place for me to change? For the swim I will wear a wetsuit and a swim cap to cover my body and then in the bike and run, for modesty, I have to wear loose clothing – a skirt over my tights, long sleeves and then I will put the helmet over the top of the hijab. On a day like today when the sun is hot it is better to have long sleeves and have my body covered and protected."
Irem started running just two years ago and joined a running club called “Trcanje i to” (Running and Stuff) in Sarajevo. The club leader decided to organise a triathlon in Bosnia and wanted some volunteers from their club to compete. Irem said, “I was really inspired by the triathlete Nudzejma Softic who was the first Muslim woman to finish a half ironman wearing a hijab”. It gave me a reason to start running and competing in triathlons. Irem said, “I trained in the local lake and competed at the end of August. I fell in love with triathlons so Dubrovnik was a great opportunity to compete again.
Irem finished her Sprint race sub 2 hours, so was extremely happy. She said, “The swim was a bit hard for me - I did all styles, even butterfly, but still finished under the time I was hoping for. The bike and run were great fun. I will be back next year and would love to do the Brighton and Hove Triathlon but will need you to sort out a visa for me!”
Post-race, athletes were given a great send off with free food and drink at an awards party on Banje Beach.
Pre event preparation for the Dubrovnik Triathlon kicked off the day before on Friday 11th October in the morning with a familiarisation swim with crew and athletes off the beautiful beach of Banje, South of Dubrovnik City. Athletes were treated to free coffee and donuts for their efforts.
Friday night was another opportunity for crew and athletes to bond with a courtesy buffet organised in Dubrovnik old town organised by the Dubrovnik Tourist Office. The venue called Lazareti used to be the historic quarantine site where visitors were kept for 40 days before being allowed into Dubrovnik.
Race Director John Lunt said, “We were delighted with the huge range of countries competing and the interesting stories they came with. This was a wonderful opportunity to bring competing nations together, not just at the event itself but in the early morning fun swim on the Friday, the dinner that evening and then the after party which gave the athletes a chance to meet each other and the crew again. This is what makes the Dubrovnik Triathlon more than just a race, it’s also the social aspect and the chance to take a bit of a holiday too in this beautiful city.”