By Nicole DeBoom
ISSUE #19, Winter 2003 – Tim and I tried something new this year. We agreed to do a race after our season had already ended. Normally we would have trained enough so that we felt confident going in. This year, however, we just had too many post-Hawaii, non-racing activities to keep ourselves in race shape. So as we boarded the plane, we made a pact to enjoy the trip, regardless of the race result. We decided to call it a vacation with a race thrown in, just to keep us honest.
I need to start by telling you about our flights. We never fly business or first class, not because we don’t want to, but because we consider it a luxury for special occasions only. So when we agreed to do this race, Tim made sure that we would be flying business class to make the 24 hours of flight time more enjoyable. I felt so spoiled. The food services lasted over an hour each time…hot towels, appetizers, main course, dessert, fruit and cheese tray, lots of wine, great coffee, finally the refreshing, cool eucalyptus towels. I felt like I was in a four star restaurant. Then, we chose personal movies and they handed us our own mini movie players. The entire time I was thinking, “I could get used to this.”
We finally arrived in Thailand, grubby, tired and jetlagged, normally a situation in which we would be crabby and looking for a bed to crash on. However, after the short drive to our resort, the Laguna Phuket Banyan Tree, we were shown to our “room”. This was no normal hotel room. It was breathtaking. If we had to stay in our room the entire visit, I think we would have been happy. Main features included a private fenced yard in which we could walk out our door and dive straight into our own, private pool! This was by far the nicest place we will ever stay. If we’re invited, we’ll go back to that race every year just for the hotel.
The week before the race was very different than most races. Normally we do some training, stay out of the sun and get ready to perform. This time we knew we were out of shape, and since you can’t increase your fitness in a few days, we decided to do everything we normally wouldn’t do before a race. The day we arrived we spent over an hour in the ocean…riding waves. No swimming, just bodysurfing. It was beautiful. White sand, huge waves, gorgeous landscape, and we had it all to ourselves. The next day we swam down the beach to the next resort and found the local massage therapists. Six bucks for an hour! They rubbed us, stretched us, walked on our hamstrings; and all the while we were gazing out at the ocean. Needless to say we started going everyday. One of those days, we walked up in time to see a baby elephant playing in the ocean with a bunch of kids. We had to participate, so we walked over and the elephant put its little trunk up to Tim’s stomach and suctioned on! Another day we rented a motorboat and went island hopping. We snorkeled and saw dolphins and barracuda among some of the most colorful fish you can imagine. We ate a picnic lunch at the most beautiful white sand beach. The sand felt like silk; we spent a long time just lying in the shallows, thinking about the snow and cold of Colorado!
We were basically on the equator (or at least very close), so the weather was extremely hot and humid. I remember looking at the heat index and seeing 115 degrees. The race was going to be a hot one. Add to that the interesting features of this course and this race ranks up there on the difficulty scale. The swim started in the warm, clear ocean waters for about 1200m. We then ran over a sand bank and dove into the freshwater lagoon. I was thinking it would feel refreshing. Instead, I got a taste of hot, reedy lagoon water, at least 10 degrees warmer than the ocean. It was definitely shocking, a sort of sinking, going-backwards sensation which did nothing for my momentum. At least it was a unique swim; I’d never done anything like it.
We then headed out on the bike. We had ridden the course a few days earlier with a police escort since the roads aren’t exactly safe for cyclists. I almost wished I hadn’t done the course beforehand, since it is one of the more difficult courses I have ever ridden, and I was sore from the training ride! The first part consists of more than a few extremely steep hills with very technical descents. I was wishing I had a few easier gears as I could barely get over the top of each hill. After those 20 minutes or so of hilly hell, the rest of the course was so twisty and curvy that I couldn’t get into a rhythm going for more than about 2 minutes at a time. Believe me, this is a course that you should only do when you are in your best shape of the year. So you can imagine the pain involved just to finish when you’re not in great shape.
Last but not least, we hit the run. It was basically flat, but to me it felt uphill the entire way. Not only was the heat a factor, there was also a long, sandy section through the jungle to contend with. It was so hard to keep running. I remember that last year my friend, Lori Bowden said simply, “It was so hard I just had to walk.” Since she’s probably the best marathon runner in our sport, it made me feel better to consider walking out there. I could have been hallucinating, but I remember seeing a family cooking something reminiscent of squirrel on a grill by the side of the run course. I also thought I saw some odd “pets” lurking around the houses on the course. It was only after the race, that Tim told me he had been chased by a pig out there right near the interesting grill site. At least he was a little more lucid than me!
We finished the race in good spirits, and after getting our core temperatures down to normal with a few laps in our cabana pool, we hit the buffet. I remember repeating, “I don’t like racing when I’m this out of shape,” but I think it would have taken away from the trip if we had been gunning for this one. So even though it hurt like hell, I think we would do it the same way next year. Let’s just hope we get invited back again!