The Other Big Island: Thailand Embraces Triathlon
Are you looking to do your first desination race? Up for a little adventure? The 17th Laguna Phuket Triathlon and the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship will bookend a unique endurance event happening later this year in Phuket, Thailand. The Laguna Phuket race begins the event on November 28, with the Ironman 70.3 Championship event closing it out on December 5.
Laguna Phuket, a resort collection of seven deluxe hotel and villa properties on the northwest coast of the island, will host both the triathlon events. With its stunning location amid 1,000 acres of tropical lagoon-filled parkland on pristine Bang Tao beach plus a wealth of recreational options, from golf to island-hopping, Laguna Phuket is renowned worldwide as the finest destination resort in Asia.
In addition to the luxurious hotel facilities that draw holidaymakers from around the globe, Laguna Phuket is also famed as a venue for world-class sporting activities, including golf, tournaments and the Laguna Phuket International Marathon. The inaugural Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship was awarded to Laguna Phuket for its reputation of staging important athletic events, and ease of travel from all major cities.
The Laguna Phuket Triathlon is dubbed “The Race of Legends” due to its consistent ability to attract the world’s best professional triathletes, including Greg Welch, Mike Pigg, Simon Lessing, Craig Alexander, Paula Newby-Fraser, Michellie Jones, Samantha McGlone and Chrissy Wellington. It is an established fixture on the global triathlon calendar.
Ironman 70.3 Hits Phuket’s North East Coast
The Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship is essentially the Laguna Phuket Triathlon racecourse on steroids. The swim will be a distance-adjusted version of the Laguna Phuket Triathlon’s trademark course, with a section in the salt-water Andaman Sea followed by a beach run-over into a fresh water tropical lagoon.
The bike course features fishing villages, beaches and views of Phang Na Bay. These roads, never used for the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, are accessed by a pedestrian bridge that allows the race to cross Highway 402, Phuket’s main traffic artery.
Highway 402 has previously been a barrier for triathlon access to the east coast roads, but the Laguna Phuket Resort and the World Triathlon Corporation obtained approval from the Phuket government to build a bike-friendly ramp up to a pedestrian bridge. The ramp will be permanent, and local kids will be able to ride their bikes to a school directly adjacent to the bridge.
The ramp traverse will be a highlight adding a cycle-cross element to the event, as athletes will be required to dismount and push their bikes up the ramped foot bridge. The bridge traverse will be done twice, at approximately 17k and 65k. Organizers expect the traverse to be a spectator and photographic signature of the event.
After the second ramp traverse the bike course connects to sections of the Laguna Phuket Triathlon bike course including the race’s signature Naithon hills. In the Championship race, riders will tackle these hills from the opposite direction posing an entirely new set of challenges.
The Championship run course loops through and around the Laguna Phuket resort itself, including the golf course, as well as over off-road sections.
Thai Culture Yet Another Perk
The enthusiastic reception given to athletes by the residents of Phuket is another quality that makes the Laguna Phuket Triathlon so memorable for competitors. Hundreds of young students line the roadsides near their schools waving flags and cheering on the cyclists. The elephant—an icon of Thai culture—greets the leading contestants at the finishing line and poses for photos with the winners.
Additionally, this year’s Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship will be staged during the 84th birthday of Thailand’s revered King, giving Phuket’s residents another reason to create a celebratory atmosphere on the island. The atmosphere will combine relaxation with activities staged throughout the 10-day endurance event. Training sessions, entertainment, and a “meet the pros” cocktail function are just a few of the activities planned, allowing entrants to rub shoulders with professional triathletes—some of whom will be at Laguna Phuket for the full ten days. There is also an open water swim competition, speed golf tournament, a run with the pros, and a pre-race pasta dinner planned, as well as some fantastic after race parties.
Activities for Competitors and Non-Competitors Alike
There will also be endless opportunities to explore Phuket during the a season of blue skies, clear waters, and average temperatures between 23°C and 33°C. Sea canoeing, snorkeling and scuba diving are all readily available, as are the scenic attractions of the famous Phi Phi islands and Phang Nga Bay. If that weren’t enough, the soaring limestone cliffs of nearby Krabi province offer some of the most spectacular rock climbing in Asia.
Back on dry land, Phuket’s jungle interior is there to be explored on safari adventures, either by traditional elephant trekking, or by 4×4 jeep or on top of ATVs (all-terrain vehicles). Buddhist temples and Phuket’s Old Town, with its charming Sino-Portuguese architecture and a huge statue of Buddha, also beg to be explored.
Thai massage is ideal for soothing and revitalising not only the muscles of triathletes, but their families and supporters as well. Laguna Phuket has five renowned spas where massage and other traditional therapies are offered, so that triathletes have no excuse for aching muscles.
Thailand’s well-known cuisine is a major feature of Phuket, available everywhere from simple roadside stalls to top-class dining establishments. And for the culinary-inclined, Thai cooking classes are available at various locations in Phuket, so you can even take a taste of Thailand home with you.
Phuket is easily accessed with more than 90 direct international flights arriving each week, as well as many connecting flights from regional hubs such as Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. In addition, some 15 international charter airlines service Phuket with direct flights, mainly during the high season (November through April).