Thursday, April 2, 2009


Transition area swamp.

View from the run turnaround - yes, we run from sea level up to here - 3 times!

A break in the storm.

One of my favorite things about international travel is having a chance to soak in the wonderful quirks of another culture. Of course, they are only quirks to me – here they are perfectly normal. For example, I noticed right off the bat how no one is in anywhere near as much of a hurry as in the States. It’s most obvious at the grocery store. At home, it’s a mad dash to see how fast you can unload your cart, help bag the items and pay for your goods in one flash effort. Here, the clerk gently scans one item at a time, chit-chatting away or humming a slow little tune. The people behind you do not breathe down your neck and huff in a passive aggressive fashion – they just wait patiently for their turn.

In that same regard, everyone is super helpful. Whether at the bike shop, the chemist or simply asking directions on the street, people are more than willing to lend a hand. I’m particularly fond of the chemists here (drugstores in the U.S.), where you can buy items over-the-counter which would likely be prescription-only back home. Not that I’m stockpiling a drug supply – I’ve just discovered a particular anti-inflammatory topical cream which is potent enough to have a real impact on my sore Achilles tendon.

Australia also has the world’s best candy. I’m not much of a candy fan, so when MJ talked about the treats that awaited us in the magical land down under I listened with modest enthusiasm. But now I have discovered The Natural Confectionary Co and their range of soft jellie chews, and I may never return to regular food again! Actually, these particular treats are chock-full of real ingredients with a cane sugar base and absolutely no artificial colors or flavors – so they’re certainly not the worst thing I could eat. I’ve also sampled Space Food Sticks (caramel chews developed for astronauts) and a variety of chocolate bunny eggs, but am holding off on the much talked about Tim Tam cookies until after the race.

Another fun feature of Australian culture is the affinity for nicknames. Everyone has one – generally a shortened version of their last name with either a “y” or an “o” added to the end. Thus I would become “Benno,” save for the fact that MJ dubbed me “Hollaroo,” which is even more to my liking.

Yesterday was a glorious day here in Port Mac, due to the long-awaited appearance of the sun. It still poured rain at various intervals, but the sky opened up enough to bring smiles and renewed optimism to everyone involved with the race. It’s muggy as all get out, but that only adds to the tropical feel which I completely enjoy.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for all competitors on race day will be to avoid slipping and falling flat on our bums while navigating the transition area. It’s a normally grassy field which is currently a mud-fest, with several areas full of standing water. We sampled the swim course yesterday and the water is solid brown, with zero visibility and a flavor that inspires you to keep your mouth closed. On the bright side, it’s also fairly protected with no impact from the wild ocean swell that is pounding the coast. Rumors were circulating that the swim might be canceled due to an excess of storm debris and bacteria, but fortunately we received an email last night confirming that the course will remain unchanged. Promptly after my practice swim yesterday I downed a Coke, which is said to help kill and flush any perilous matter from unsanitary water. It seems that with the massive volume of water flowing through the area, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about – but better safe than sorry.

After swimming I went on an adventure with Nicole to a tomato and strawberry farm called Ricardoes. We were drawn there by the promise of a lunch cafĂ© offering farm-fresh produce menu items – and we were not disappointed. Actually, every bit of produce I’ve tasted here has been incredibly flavorful, and our lunch was no exception. We chatted, ate and laughed for a few hours, a significant and delicious distraction from my race week nerves.

MJ’s friends from Sydney – Ryan, Belinda, Damien and baby Olivia – arrived yesterday, with promises of being the best-ever race day cheering squad. We went out on the town for a Thai dinner and a small sampling of beer – just enough to ease us into a sweetly relaxed state. Then it was time for another early sleep in preparation for the final countdown to Sunday.

1 comment:

  1. You are gonna rock it! Can't wait for your finish!