Monday, October 13, 2008

Hawaii Ironman 
2008 11:11

It felt hard from the start.  I struggled in the swim, I was tired on the bike and I didn't even consider the run until the bike was over.  I guess I knew at the end of the bike that I would need to make a decision if I wasn't going to run.  I guess I also knew that I couldn't really make that decision, so I did it.  I clocked my longest ever Ironman time and I raced home against the sunset.

It was a tough day on the bike and I had to look hard for good moments.  We were being battered by the wind and I was gripping my handle bars trying to think "low thoughts" so as not to be blown over the rainbow.  I decided to mix some happy thoughts amongst my low ones.  I looked along the coastline and out at the blue ocean, I imagined a time when I would have new bikinis and be frolicking in the ocean like any other sensible holiday maker.  Just then I caught up to Belinda Harrison, another female athlete from Australia we swapped stories of pain and suddenly I was laughing.  It would have been nice to battle back to town together but the laws of drafting have the unpleasant side effect of making the event a bit antisocial.  Ah, well, I thought, maybe she'll catch me in the run.

I battled the headwind into town feeling really tired and attaching my focus to one happy thought, sitting down in the transition tent.  All I knew was I was going to get to that chair and I was going to enjoy it.  I didn't think about the marathon, only the chair.

When I finally got there, I spent less than a minute in my chair.  I was happy but overwhelmed.  I'd made it and yet....there was something more to do.  A set of tears started to well, I grabbed my hat, my sunglasses and I left.  I ran or shuffled or somethinged out of transition. 

I didn't run well but I kept going.  The kilometer marks were never really on my side and I realised that's because it's a marathon. It's always going to be longer than you want it to be.  I would walk if I had to but not until the last 8km.  I couldn't imagine walking more than 8km.  It would take forever!  I thought of my favourite placard held up by a specator at Wisconsin Ironman "If it was easy, I would be doing it." 

I needed to generate some positives from this experience.  I started looking for my happy thoughts again.  I thought about some of the lovely people I'd met here in Kona, the positive energies around the friends I have in this sport and how much I like certain things about certain people.  People I look to for inspiration.  Then I thought to myself, "that's all good prue, but you've got to think what's good about you."  It felt strange to be racing badly thinking good things about myself but it seemed to work. I started to feel a little lighter in the legs, a little prouder in my not so fast run andmost importantly, I was kind of amused.

I took the learning with me to the finish line. The cheering was unbelievable. From all directions "good job, well done, you're amazing," smiles, the biggest ever. Americans are such incredibly enthusiastic people.  At first I thought I didn't deserve it, I haven't done this as well as I should but that's not what it's about.  I got to finish and I got my experience and the next day I frolicked in the water in my new non sensible bathers like any other sensible holiday maker.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Training in Yucatan - Mexico
Oct 2008- Chixulub 

After the Cancun Half Ironman we made Chixulub, a small fishing village on the Yucatan Peninsula our home and training base for 10 days.  We had originally planned to base at my sister's house in Merida but an important person at the local 50 metre pool wouldn't let us swim there.  So David, my sister's great friend and professional "problem solver" suggested we relocate to his cousin's beach housed to peddle between the villages, run on the beach and swim in the sea. 

We lived the high life for those ten days in the village.  We hired a scooter and our little house came complete with a dog (or maybe even four), a gardener (he appeared one day and offered to fix the garden for a small fee) and running water (most of the time).  

In between outsmarting mosquitos on the hammock we peddled between farming villages, mangroves, sleepy fishing communities, pink flamingoes and cenotes.  If you ever mention you are travelling to Yucatan to someone who has been there they will tell you about the cenotes, and I can see why.   Temperatures were generally so hot that the  notion of bike riding for fun seemed slightly obsurd.   I reasoned against this by selecting a cenote as the object of every ride.  To be honest I only actually got to the cenote about half the time, as something unexpected would often change the course of the ride. But the strategy worked well and I peddled many miles in those few days.

I want to share these experiences of training on the Yucatan Peninsua because I found very little information on the net about cycling in this area, and after going there I'd highly recommend it to others.

What I loved about cycling in this area on the Yucatan Peninsula.  For starters, I peddled on some of the quietest roads I've ever ridden.  I spent a lot of time pondering how the roads could be so good and yet so little utilised.  Jeff suggested it was because there were no cars on them and that seems quite a plausible answer.    

My longest ride was about 190kms. I followed the coast for 75kms through tiny villages until I got to the beautiful fishing village of Dzilm Bravo.  When I turned to the sea I looked out at about 30 little wooden fishing boats, gracefully sleeping in front of the town, then I looked west and must have seen another hundred boats.  In each boat I saw a family and an honest if small income from the sea, but in the whole fleet I saw an industry, quietly providing for the village and the other villages inland of this town.  My camera wasn't with me, but I won't forget the image of the boats at Dzilm Bravo. 

From here I peddled inland to a village called Gonzalas.  There was something happening here. A small bullring was constructed in the main square and festivities were going on.  Ignorant me, with no understanding of Spanish, had to peddle through the town in awe and wonderment about the goings on.  Maybe the festival only lasts a day, but I'll always think of that village as the festive on. 

I suspect that at least one of the roads was an old Mayan one as it was perfectly flat, straight and free of potholes despite being built through a mangrove.  The highlight of this road was the Pink Flamingos. The road went right through their munching ground.  At first they just didn't seem real.   I had heard of a Pink Flamingo but quite honestly I thought it was an alcoholic cocktail. I am better educated now.

A wrong turn at the end of my ride took me through one more village and brought me home in the mozzie hour, just before dark. I'd spent most of the day out there exploring and it was a wonderful feeling to come home with some many images gathered.  I though out there on my ride, that this was how I wanted to see the world, from my bicycle.   
In some ways I blended into the local Yucatan scene better than I did to some parts of America.  In America, me and my bicycle were always drastically outnumber by cars.  In Yucatan we were in the majority.  On some roads I saw more bikes than cars and in the villages the standard family vehicle was  tricycle.  Admittedly there were no other Felt B2's around, and I'm quite sure I didn't see much lycra but because bikes and motos are very common in this, even the cars that were there were extremely curteous in sharing the roads. 
Training in Mexico City and Cancun
Sep-Oct 2008

Fresh, or maybe not so fresh after doing Wisconsin Ironman we headed to Mexico City to see my sister and to continue training for Cancun Half Ironman and Hawaii.  There was not a lot information around about training in Mexico so my sister Verity, who is fluent in Spanish, initiated the investigaitons. 

The Mexican Triathlon Association were extremely helpful in arranging for us to train at SportsCity in Mexico City and Cancun.  The facilities at these gyms were really amazing.  In Mexico City it contained a 25 metre swimming pool and a fully enclosed 400 metre running track.  By using the gyms daily we were able to maintain training whilst exploring the city.  A big thankyou to SportsCity for their assistance.  
Merida Mexico to Kona Hawaii
October 6th

Yesterday morning we woke early and we woke hungry.  We were staying at my sister Verity's house in Merida.  The house contained a king size bed, a hammock and our luggage strewn across antique tiles in the rooms of the old mansion.  No fridge and no food so we lycrad up and peddled into town to have breaky at a traditional Mexican Restaurant.  I ordered the hotcakes.  It did seem strange that the best hotcakes of this trip were had in that little Mexican Restaurant whilst I had my best Mexican meal in  a little town called Lebannon in Portland.

So after breakfast we peddled south to explore the villages.  We found Haciendas, gorgeous little villages and our first road with hills and bends in Yucatan.  The hills must have been less than 5 metres in elevation but it was so fun to peddle up and feel a buzz of speed on the way down.  For two weeks we have only had the wind to play with and this was something different.

We spent about five hours in our last peddlig exploration of the Yucatan penninsula.  Once more we found the roads to be quiet and smooth, giving us freedom to choose our path amongst the tiny villages. We peddled back into Merida and the same traditional Mexican Restaurant.  We ran into David there, a friend of Verity's who runs bird tours.  By this stage I think we were definitely locals.

Our bus left Merida at 11pm, it got us to Cancun by 3am and from there we made it to the airport.  We arrived there at 4am.  It might seem strange to some that in Mexico they request that international traveller's arrive 3 hours before their flights whilst the airline staff (who check you in) arrive two hours before the flight.  We had an hour in an empty airport to consider this.

From Cancun we flew to Houston, from Houston we flew to LA, from LA we flew to Honolulu, from Honolulu we flew to Kona.  At Kona we picked up a hire car and drove to this lovely little condominium up the hill and looking over the sea.