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Archive for September, 2009

The hardest day in sport?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Some people like to call Ironman the hardest day in sport and with that little race in Kona fast approaching I decided to go in search of sportng feats much crazier than some little old ironman.

First off in the incredible stakes is Julie Bradshaw MBE who swam butterfly across the English Channel in 2002.  She covered the 35km in the very respectable time of 14 hours and 18 mins.  Honestly, I struggle to swim 25m of butterfly and find it utterly exhausting.  My Dad told me I look like I am drowning when I try to swim butterfly.  Enough said.  And it’s not only the stroke that causes me concern; theres also the temperature of the water, a balmy 15 degrees (no wetsuit of course), the tides (miss them and you will be swimming backwards or on the spot with land in sight) and the supertankers as you traverse one of the worlds busiest shipping channels.

 

Next comes RAAM or Race (or ride your bike) Across America.  Now to me this sounds great in principle if you take your time and see some sights but to complete the 3000 plus miles (30% longer than the Tour de France with no rest days!!)  in under 10 days averaging up to 500 miles per day with a few hours of sleep per 24  hours, well to me, thats just silly.

 

The third contender is not strictly a sport but they struck me as being completely insane … why would you do that??  A question I have been asked more than once by non triathlete friends when I explain what an IM is.  And the craziness is those insane people who pioneered going over Niagra Falls in a barrell.  Nuts.  Claiming first bragging rights to this feat was a woman named Annie Taylor who in 1901 climbed into an airtight barrell (the air pressure was apparently compressed to 30psi using a bike pump) and over she went and lived to tell the tale.  Then came Bobby Leach in 1911.  His story is a sad one, he broke both knee caps and his jaw in the fall but went on to a full recovery.  However years later apparently while touring in New Zealand he slipped on an orange peel and died from complications due to gangrene.

 

Walker Polly Letofsky is next up.  Taking 5 years and covering over 14,000 miles crossing 4 continents and walking each day for 1825 days consecutively she literally walked around the world.  That is a lot of walking. 

 

Finally comes the Badwater Ultramarathon.  Staged on a 135mile long stretch of highway where temperatures reach up to 135 degrees the route takes the runner from the depths of the desert like Death Valley (85m below sea level) to the top of Mount Whitney at 2,500m.  Trainers have been known to melt during this 135 mile epic and a woman has been the outright winner of the race!!

 

Give me Ironman any day, apparently far from the toughest day in sport and definitely not the most insane!!

A sparkling warm Jeju welcome

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Well here I am on the tropical Asian paradise island of Jeju.  Our pre Kona camp couldn’t be in any more ideal a location … sunny skies, high humidity and an island “breeze”, smooth fast roads with plenty of hills, a fantastic 50m pool, 2 running tracks, intriguing local cuisine (chilli with your pork neck?) and above all a very warm welcome.  What lucky triathletes we are!!

Korean tourism seems based around three simple principles “Korea Sparkling” which Jeju epitomises:

“Sparkling people:  passionate and warm hearted Koreans”.  Team TBB couldn’t have been welcomed here more warmly.  They even wanted to make a film about us and our training here. 

“Sparkling culture: 5000 years of creative and unique culture” On almost every corner, bridge or roundabout lurks a dol-harrubang (or stone grandfather) enormous carvings of volcanic rock sculpted for centuries for protection from misfortune as well as bringers of fertility. 

“Sparkling nature: the changing faces of Korean landscapes to the tune of the peninsula’s four seasons” luckily for us we are here in autumn.  Beautiful warm days and cooler evenings … it even snows here in the winter!

 Jeju  is known as the honeymoon island or Island of Love to Koreans.  People flock here in there thousands to experience the generosity of the people, the scenic beauty of the island and its multiple attractions, and the wonderful fruit (especially the oranges – so so good) famed throughout Korea. 

For us however the honeymoon is well and truly over and the hard work has definitely begun, but what better place to do it?

C’est la vie

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

I recently raced the Gerardmer Tri in France with mixed results.  The swim and run are going in the right direction but the bike descending skills are still a work in progress.  I was 4th again, another day another dollar (just not as many as I would have liked!!!).  Next stop is South Korea.

Our journey to beautiful Jeju went something like this:

 

7pm   Hotel pickup

7.15pm  Turn around and return to hotel to pick up new (late) passenger.

7.30pm  Hotel re-pickup and we’re off …. again

7.45pm negotiations, which train station first, Colmar(for the late person) or Mulhouse (for us)

7.46pm we win, Mulhouse it is.  A spectacular drive along a ridge road at over 1000m, we have a panoramic view of France

8.01pm  Flashing lights and a long queue of traffic. A nasty accident.  A bit of a hold up as a tow truck drags a car out of a 200m deep ravine. 

8.30pm  Re-start with a very stressed out french driver driving somewhat recklessly trying to get us to our train

8.50pm Miss train from Mulhouse, still in van

9.15pm  Miss second (and final) train from Mulhouse, still in van

9.16pm  Driver apologises profusely for missing train, c’est la vie I tell him in my best french

9.17pm Arrive in Mulhouse, unload car, check on train times.  No trains.  Sh*t.

9.18pm Negotiate ride with driver to next major train station which is across border .. .driver has no ID.

9.25pm Successful illegal border crossing

9.45pm Arrive Basel

9.46pm  Realise French driver doesn’t know German word for train station.  GCSE German kicks in, we are looking for the bahnhof (? I think)

9.47pm Try and figure out German ticket machine

9.47pm Buy any old ticket and run for train on slightly hobbly legs

9.48pm Just make train

9.52pm Change trains, platform 1 to platform 33 (unload bags, re-load bags x5 why are lift doors so damn small?)

11.30  Arrive in Zurich, hallelujah, or should I say Wunderbar

11.50pm Train to Zurich airport

1.00-4.00am sleep

4.30am Check in for flight to Hong Kong.  No excess baggage charge.  Phew.

7am Flight to Hong Kong, 2 low fat low cholesterol meals by special request – very delicious actually, 4 films and 3 hours sleep

6am next day arrive Hong Kong

9am flight to Seoul

12.30 pm Bus from Seoul ICN to Gimpo. I call it a bus, they call it a limousine!

4pm Flight to Jeju

6pm Boss picks us up at Jeju airport and takes us to camp

… where the real adventure starts again.