Monday, July 4, 2011

Euro Tour Part I

We’ve had a bit of  turbulent time over the last couple of months. We had done a big training block to build into IM China in quiet 'between season' Niseko, then they cancelled the whole race and we had to choose another one. Incidentally we heard a rumour that the race was cancelled because the Chinese didn’t want the large number of Japanese competitors contaminating their lake with their radiative bodies – hence the swim was cancelled first; then the taxi drivers told the mayor they didn’t want Japanese in their taxis so they had to cancel the whole race! Not sure if it’s true or not but the way many people of all nationalities reacted to the media coverage it wouldn’t surprise that superstitious Chinese who think eating tigers testicles will make them more virile would be prime candidates for that sort of thought process. Not mention them loving the chance to sink the boot into the Japanese given half a chance. 

Anti Ironman Campaign banner launched by Tianxing residents - cleverly combining the Japanese flag and their concerns.

We had a number of options for replacement races – most people went to Ironman Korea as it’s close and that is where the Hawaii slots went, but it was one week before our race in Roth and we’d already bought a non-changeable ticket to Europe so that was out for us. Checking the result from Korea; Ness would have almost certainly qualified for Hawaii there and unless something went terribly wrong so would have I, but apparently the organisation was pretty bad. After consulting with coach Woody he suggested we go and stay near him in his new locale – Fuschl Am See in the lakes district just outside of Salzburg Austria, and sign up for IM Regensburg, 4 weeks after Roth and only a 2 hour train ride from Fuschl. We decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up and went for it and booked a 6 week stay in Austria.

We had a long, long journey from Sydney to our final destination. First flying overnight to Tokyo on our trusty QF21, checking through customs and posting a bunch of stuff back to work. We had three hours before our flight to London so we decided to sneak in a 30 minute run around the airport. Narita airport is not exactly the most beautiful airport and the running environment around it matches the interior. Never mind, we found the Airport Limousine bus car park and busted out 8 laps of that with a few pick-ups. We went through check in and customs a bit smelly with our travel clothes over the top of the running shorts and got a sweet shower and freshen up in The Qantas Club lounge – before our flight to London. That Life Qantas Club membership is the best investment we ever made – or did I bore you boasting about that before – sorry! 

Sweaty Narita gaijins - I'm not smuggling anything sir it's just my natural aroma.
The long flight to London on BA was tough one, although they had good entertainment and OK food, it made us appreciate how easy the Japan - Aus flights are. I got a fair bit of my Triathlon coaching assignments done, so was not a total loss. Once again we had the lounge in Heathrow to look forward to – it is the best of any that we have access to and after some good food and wine, I slept all the way to Geneva. We had a night there and then two long train rides to Salzburg, with two bus rides on either ends – all with bike bags in tow….. 

A train journey in Europe in Summer = pretty cool......

But 48 hours of travel will do this to you.....
There was a pretty crazy storm hitting Salzburg when we arrived and we missed our bus connection, being stranded on the road while cars dived under trees to try and avoid hail damage. 

We  finally arrived in Fuschl to meet our coach Woody face to face at last. After having this close relationship with him for two and a half years; it was really cool. He greeted us with wetsuit in hand and we went straight to the Lake for an open water swim. The Lake water is drinking quality and great for training.

Fuschl Am See (on the Lake) is our new temporary home and right outside of the Lake-side village is the global home of Red Bull., housed in suitably luxurious looking glass buildings we mistook it for some up-market rehab centre at first. Maybe we'll get to see a cantankerous Amy Winehouse roaming the grounds while on a run; I thought. But we later found out the truth and it did make sense. The influence on the local economy is noticeable with staff and various sponsored athletes and teams coming into the town as they all have to have their medicals done by the Red Bull doctor and eat lunch in the village.
Red Bull gives you $$$$$$

Our first morning we were woken by church bells (getting used to that as our window looks out onto the church) and some dudes in knee length suede shots firing rifles with trumpet style nozzles next to our window and some dolls pinned to a large religiousy pole. Welcome to Austria! It turns out it was some religious public holiday that requires celebrations involving guns with trumpet style nozzles, lots of dudes in knee length suede shorts and a religious parade through town. The dolls on the pole were not special occasion dolls, but permanent fixtures. An interesting start to our time in Europe nonetheless!

That bloke Jesus sure must have been able to spin a tale. They still dig him here too!

God told the guy in white (in private) that he was the most important and should be dressed so everyone is aware of his importance. He also wanted him protected from the sun at all times. The guys in red bought it.
 We’ve been really enjoying ourselves and have quickly become big  fans of Austria and this area. Maybe we’ve been in Japan too long or am getting old, but I've decided I like sharing space with considerate people who give a shit about things that they do that might not directly improve their own situation. The day to day interaction with strangers are more pleasant; things work and get done on time. I’ve been through Western Europe three times now and for similar reasons Germany was my favourite in the past but now I reckon Austria is they are just a bit more chilled out than the Germans and it's cheaper. The locals here dress in traditional outfits even in their normal daily life (as it usually includes a large dose of cleavage for the women it’s fine by me - reliving some 'Heidi' fantasies as a teenager). The area is also cheap compared to Japan, other parts of Western Europe and Australia, with a bottle of soft drink costing $1.50, main meals around $10-$15 and a big glass of beer in a restaurant $3.50.  Wunderbar!

Pretty sweet setting for a 9pm meal
Woody had entered a triathlon in Innsbruck, three days after arriving about two hours drive from Fuschl, so we joined along for the ride. It was cool to be able to show up and enter in the morning for 30 Euro, not like Japan where it's $200 and entries close three months before the race. Despite being in the middle of a training block we didn't want to miss out and the timing was good being two weeks before Roth. It was 1.5km/43km/10km. It was a pretty cold lake but they thought it was barmy enough to make it a non-wetsuit swim (21 degrees). Poor Ness got hypothermia again and had to pull out. I had a pretty solid race, and finally busted under 40min for 10kms.
Swim and transition area for the race in Innsbruck - very nice!

Me Woody, his girl Doro and transvestite triathlete in Doro's club who won a female AG. Controversial!

Woody and other pros stealing us poor AGer's silverware....but I'm not bitter - I've got weight restriction issues and not much more trophy shelf space left at home anyway- so there.
  We've been very very fortunate to train with our coach Woody each day and share plenty of time with him his girl Doro (multiple IM finisher) and their friend (national cyclist Yvonne Marzinke). Woody knows us back to front and has structured our preparation perfectly, and has gone to great effort to make us welcome here. It was great to see he coached his first IM winner in Korea last weekend (Balazs Csoke) he's also taken over top Italian Massimo Cigana and is definitely a coach on the way up. Don't forget about us poor age groupers when you have a stable full of pro studs though Woody!
Cold blooded organisisms have adapted over the ages to scout out optimal positions for drawing heat out of their environment.

A neoprene-clad, well-evolved, heat-drawing organism post Lake swim

Big Sunglasses. Beautiful and fast wife.
 Our digs at the Hotel Mohrenwirt are excellent and affordable. The Mohrenwirt has been in the same family since 1864 and the owner Jakob has recently been bitten by the triathlon bug and has worked hard to make his hotel the centre for cycling and triathlon that it has become.

The man Jakob, just popped his IM cherry; busting out a sub 13 hour Ironman Austria.
He includes a season pass to the pool with your stay, has a big secure room to store your bikes, complete with repair stands, top notch tool sets, and cleaning equipment. You can also borrow a GPS unit to clips onto your handlebars with all the best cycle routes pre-programmed into them so you just choose one that matches how far you want to ride and follow the blue line. You get to ride on beautiful, quiet country roads without the worry of getting lost.

Lots of sweet roads like this to ride on. Flat and hilly - a good mix.

Those little touches make a big difference to the stay. The weather has been pretty variable with us having to cancel a ride due to doing a long descent in cold rain early on. As Woody put it "You pay for the scenery with the variable weather".

 Our dining room and drying room. Triathletes need a very efficent laundry system.Check out the dolls pinned to the pole.

Overall we’re loving it here and the buffet breakfast everyday is terrific, but not ideal for trying to achieve optimum race weight. At least I have that as an excuse if I blow up terribly on the run.....that bloody crispy bacon!!!!!

The Fuschl nightlife is gnarly. These guys got loose.

 On a low training day we caught the bus into Salzburg to take a look around. It's a pretty cool city. Lots of tourist sites mostly centred around Mozart and the Sound of Music. The have a Mozart museum, Mozart's birth place and some Sound of Music information centres. We went to them all; stood outside them and decided we could'na be assed and to go for lunch instead. We're dead cultural 'n that.

Salzburg- fruit and veg market in a church  yard. One dispensing health and goodness to nurture the local population in many ways, the other.......

We've managed to get in a quick trip to catch up with our friends Ben and Monique from Tokyo and we're going to watch the Australia vs. Norway women's world cup on Wednesday with them. We only need to draw to progress, it should be an exciting game. After that  we're off to Roth for a swim, bike and run, then back to more training in Austria, before Regensburg on August 7. We'll then go to Prague for some re-hydration and a quick trip to Verbier with Rich, Emi and the gang which we're really looking forward to.We've enjoyed ourselves so much we just signed up for IM Austria 2012 so looks like we'll be back in Fuschl for a stint next year too.

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