Jiang Lin, Liu Xin, Chen Mai, and Yin Qi showing perfect team work during the 6-hour mock race on media day.
Team Mild Seven - Training Camp #2After a fantastic week and a half in Hawaii, the reality of traveling to China hits. It's not so much the trip itself I'm dreading but being away from family and friends for 4 to 5 weeks and traveling during such an unstable time. Honolulu to Seoul. Seoul to Hong Kong. Overnight in Hong Kong and then it's off to Kunming where the local sport's representative meets me for the 5-hour drive to Dali. I'm not sure what kind of deal has been struck but I get whisked through customs with a bike case and 4 big bags filled with white powdery substance - Carbo Pro. Thank God I've got a human hall pass. 48-hours later, I arrive at the Asia Star Hotel at 9pm. With an 8am start to a 6-hour training day, I better get unpacked, bike put together and maybe even a little sleep. Yes, I've been drooling on myself for the past 3-hours of driving but the seat is so small that I feel like I've worked out more than slept.
It's funny how on edge you can feel when traveling in a foreign country but especially one you've been taught to distrust as being somehow worse than others because of it's history of human rights abuses and political system. Then you arrive and realize that the people of said country are all busily working and trying to get by (or ahead) and aren't as different from you as you suspected. This is my fifth trip to China to be a part of the Mild Seven Outdoor Quest (www.msoq.com) and second time as co-coach (with master of pony tails, Roch Frey) of Team Mild Seven. In our first coaching attempt last year, the "A" team dropped out of the race on day one because their woman became ill and the "B" team surpassed it's expectations. This year we hope to guide both teams to an even better performance which, on the face of it, shouldn't be difficult. Then again, this is an adventure race in which the 4-members of each team and the variety of activities increases the # of things that can go wrong exponentially.
Roch came over for 5-weeks in July and tortured the athletes with 4 to 9-hour training days that included a lot of technique on the mountain bike and in-line skates. Now, I'm here trying to sharpen the team's fitness, strategy, and transitions. The first four days were pretty hectic (5-8 hours of training / day plus one hike up to 14,000 feet and a media day with press running around after the team and asking for interviews) for a middle aged, fat, out of shape coach. Combined with a bit of jet lag and a base altitude of 6,000 feet and, by the first day off on Monday, I was a little better off than my first hang over.
The old town of Dali is a little busier than I remember and the number of new buildings is proof of the area's popularity but the pace of life seems to be the same. The rice harvest is in full swing and every day generations of the ethnic Bai people who make this their home can be found working in the surrounding paddies. Nothing gives you perspective like seeing how hard these people can work. I'm sure I'll forget after about a week at home but, for now, I know that what I consider work would be the equivalent of a Club Med vacation for some of these people.
Ever have a month where you mean to get a haircut but never seem to get around to it? Before we left for Hawaii I kept telling myself, I've got to stop at the Solana Beach Barbers and get my hair cut. Then, in Hawaii, I kept saying, I've got to go up to Palani and get a hair cut. Then it became, "Heck, when I get to Hong Kong, I'm sure there will be some place to get a hair cut but I have to do it by then because I'm NOT getting a haircut in China! Well, here I am. Yesterday morning, the team members actually laughed at the state of my hair at breakfast. I'm getting a haircut in China - but that's for the next report.