Stepping it up

Koh Samui offers the ultimate natural challenge for athletes willing to push themselves to the limits

Koh Samui offers the ultimate natural challenge for athletes willing to push themselves to the limits

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Is there anything more enjoyable than that first moment you open your eyes and the realization floods over you, I’m on holiday?whoosh, what a feeling! With a spring in my step, it’s up and out of bed, into my swimmers and off to feel the sun on my face, sand in my toes and probably the best breakfast I have tasted all year.

I step out of my beautiful beach bungalow sanctuary to be greeted by a buzz of excited people gathered along the shoreline, captivated by a tremendous hub of swimmers racing across the deep azure seas of Bophut bay.  I too become rooted to the spot, entranced by this throng, of what I later discover to be 500 triathlon athletes competing in the first International Samui Triathlon.  It’s quite a sight: the stamina, speed and determination of each competitor as they compete with each other, battle against the currents and yet maintain a steady strong pace ― and all before 8am!

Survival of the fittest

With the International Triathlon making its sporting debut, the excitement could be felt bouncing round the island from bay to bay, triathlon fever had gripped Samui and I was immersed in the buzz of the occasion. With the gauntlet laid down and 4.26 million baht in prize money, the Samui triathlon attracted some of the best of the best of elite world-class athletes, many of them already with one eye on the London Olympic Games later this year. Cameron Brown from New Zealand, a ten-time winner of the New Zealand Ironman event was amongst the impressive list of competitors, joined also by the well-known and respected Faris Al- Sultan, winner of the 2005 Ironman World Championship. Intermixed with the high profilers were some very determined and focused amateurs, who had spent months training for this extremely hard event, including five Samui-based competitors, who of course, had huge support.

Upping the ante

A triathlon, in its most popular form, involves the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance events, usually swimming, cycling and running. A truly ‘Olympic‘event, it has competitors swimming 1.5 km, cycling 40 km and running 10 km. A hefty challenge that even the Greek Gods would find a test. The Samui challenge, verging on Ironman status, makes most Olympic events look like a veritable walk in the park, with a 4 km swim, a 122.65 km cycle, which pretty much laps the island twice and a 30 km run around the west coast of the island at the hottest time of the day! It therefore takes a special kind of athlete to even contemplate such a race.

Crossing the line

After 6 grueling sporting hours, the men finalists came into view from the Nathon finish line. David Dellow from Australia finished first in the Men’s Triathlon, completing the course in 6 hours 11 minutes and 54 seconds. He was followed closely by Faris Al-Sultan from Germany, finishing in 6 hours 13 minute and 15 seconds. Caroline Steffan from New Zealand came first in the Women’s Triathlon, completing the event in 6 hours and 50 minutes and 43 seconds with Carrie Lester hot on her heels finishing in 6 hours 54 minutes and 15 seconds, outstanding accomplishments and record times despite the scorching temperatures.

The team of sponsors, including The Tourism Authority and Association of Thailand, ensured that the finish line was festooned with refreshments and supporters for the worthy competitors, as they completed the gruelling course. In this historical sporting moment, the island energy was electric, and the euphoria of the finalists coming into view was contagious amongst the supporters, providing and incredible finish to an incredible day.

Samui is fast becoming known as a top destination for wellness and health. It’s spas, healthy eating and wellness offerings are impressive and diverse.

  • Absolute Sanctuary – a retreat in the hills above Choeng Mon Beach, boasts some of the island’s best Yoga, Pilates, and meditation classes, along with the Love Kitchen, a vegetarian café.
  • Kamalya Wellness Sanctuary deserves its reputation as the island’s most comprehensive wellness retreat. The treatment menu lists more than 70 healing therapies provided by the most experienced of therapists.
  • Art Café, a small and funky café in Bophut offers scrumptious organic healthy fusion foods and mouthwatering juices in a relaxed, friendly environment
  • Vinyasa Yoga – a traditional Thai teak wood house converted into a yoga studio amidst landscaped gardens located in Bophut . Classes run all day offering varying yoga styles from Hatha to Astanga for all levels with experienced instructors. The raw food café in the garden offers delicious healthy cuisine with a passion cheesecake to die for.
  • The Spa – a retreat on the beach in Lamai offering all spa pamperings, daily yoga classes and a fantastic diverse menu of culinary healthy delights, that taste so good, they could almost be naughty.
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