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When 29-year-old Mike Stanek finished Events D.C. Nation’s Triathlon last September, he was first excited about his 13-minute PR. Then once he got back to his team tent—D.C.’s Bike Rack Multisport—his teammate told him his 2:10 finishing time won the club challenge, a local race among D.C.-area triathlon teams.
Upon accepting his award, he got one more piece of good news: His club title meant he won an all-expense paid trip through Etihad Airways to compete in the TriYAS by Activelife triathlon in Abu Dhabi in February.
“I quickly went from, ‘Oh great I won an award’ to ‘holy crap I’m going to Abu Dhabi in February!’ Stanek says. “There was no question in my mind about going—I’ve traveled a lot of weird places for work, so of course I would come here. The key question was who’s going to come with me? My teammates were all insisting ‘bring me,’ then my roommate who races said, ‘I want to go with you,’ and then I was telling my mom about it and she said, ‘I want to go to the Middle East’—so mom wins.”
Events D.C. Nation’s Tri holds a special place in Stanek’s heart, as it was the first triathlon he did back in 2010. “It’s so nice to go to a hometown race,” he says. “This was the first year they changed the bike course, and I actually really loved it. It really stayed in the city core. It was a technical course with a lot of hairpin turns and everything, but for as a big of a race as it is, it was really smooth. It was a lot of fun.”
Stanek and his mom, Robin, enjoyed a direct flight on Etihad Airways from D.C. to Abu Dhabi and complimentary accommodations at the Yas Viceroy Hotel. He’ll compete in Friday’s Olympic-distance event at TriYAS by Activelife.
Given D.C.’s brutal winter weather and Stanek’s long hours working at a big downtown law firm, he’s spent a lot of time on the trainer leading into tomorrow. “Long hours lead to some weird training times,” he says. “The approach is to go whenever I have a minute. If I have a break at lunch, I’ll go for a swim. Sometimes that means I do my training at 10 p.m. As my boss says, being able to get those workouts in really helps balance out the rest of my life.”
When asked if he was nervous racing abroad, Stanek says, “Like any Type A triathlete, I have my routine before a race—what I like to do, what I like to eat—but you have to let go of that when you go to a different country. You can’t run to a CVS to buy a Gatorade or something. I just had to prepare myself to let go and see what happens.”
Now in its fourth year, TriYAS by Activelife is a unique event not only for the Abu Dhabi region, but also globally. It starts at dusk Friday, with a swim in the Yas Marina (often home to the yachts attending the Grand Prix sporting events), and a bike leg under flood light on the Formula One circuit. Athletes will run around the Yas Marina Circuit facility and finish in front of the Paddock Club Grandstands.
“From what we’ve seen so far, it’s beautiful here,” Stanek says of Abu Dhabi. “I got in a run this morning around the marina and it’s just stunning. And Etihad was fantastic. I was saying on the way over here that it puts our domestic airlines to shame—the quality of service, attention to detail, I’d highly recommend it.”
For this year’s race, Etihad offered a triathlon package to participants, which combined flights (with free bike shipping!), four nights with breakfast at Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi and entry into the race. Check their website for next year’s promotions soon.