James and his competition getting ready to go ride.
After all these years a new destination and a whole different race.It may only be the middle of March, but when Jimmy Riccitello threw out the idea of joining him to come to Panama to participate in the Panama triathlon, there was no way to stop me. A totally new destination to a unique event founded by the father of triathlon John Collins. The opportunity to visit the famed canal, spend time in a hot humid environment AND have my first go at riding/racing on a cross bike (even if it is borrowed from Roch and 5 sizes to big).
So - our journey started with a midnight flight out of LAX directly into Panama City - arriving at 9.00am in the morning. With just a couple of hours os sleep the adventure began. Getting settled in a great hotel, quick nap and then get going with the day. Best of all is the coffee shop (ala Starbucks in the lobby serving nothing but lattes, cappacinos - Huddle's dream hotel)One americana and we were off for our first bike ride. Jorge, our guide for the day organised for us to be driven out of the city so we could ride to the Canal as well as make use of one of the amazing 50m pools left by the Amercican military. It was a motley group with a couple from LA, along with the champions of Guatemala and Venezuela. Even more motley is the array of bikes- James on his sleek road bike and aero bars (fatter tires), one straight up road bike, my inherited cross bike and a few various mountain bikes. All of us obsessing about what is going to be the ideal scenario to deal with the mixture of off and on road bike section. Sunday will be the judge of that!
Thank goodness we were 'out' of town - the traffic and cars were still worse than I have ridden in for many years. There is defenitely no emission control down here. It was just a few miles before we turned of and rode into a restricted area, and then BOOM - there was the Canal. We pulled up just as a HUGE freighter was being moved through the lock. There are really no words to describe the size of the vessel carrying literally hundreds of containers, and the ingenuity of moving it through with the changing pressure compartments. When I looked at the ship and realised each container was basically a semi-truck that I see on the road, it boggled my brain. I am truly looking forward to Sat morning when we are going to do a low altitude flight along the the entire length of the Canal.
Then it was on with the ride. As we headed out to the hills is became more and more like riding through a tropical jungle. On the return ride, there was a little 'flexing' by the boys which made for a fast trip home. After an hour and a half on the bike, there was just enough time and energy for a quick swim in the pool. I have not swum in a 50m pool for literally years - after the 'flexing' on the bike, I swear I was going backwards. BUT with Alexander Popov staring at me every time I came to the wall - I stayed in for at least a 1000m.
By the end of all this, it was now 7.00pm and the first 24 hours of the trip was catching up. Jimmy and I decided to opt for a quiet dinner at the hotel and a good night of rest whilst the rest of the crew headed down to the old city. We are planning to visit there tomorrow - I want to make sure and go when the shops are open!!