Thursday, October 18, 2012

Welcome to the ITU Grand Final Auckland

I made it here and had a very smooth trip -- with one teensy, weensy exception. My bike is not here!!

About 10 of us who flew from San Francisco did not get our bikes. From the sounds of it, it might be Saturday before they come and I race Monday so I'm trying not to sweat it. I basically went from plane to plane to plane without sitting down in an airport at all so I can see how it could happen. However, I'm not getting any new information as I track it online and call the airport. It's a bit disconcerting. I'm just glad I did not pack my wetsuit in with the bike as others did.

I slept well on the flight and woke up feeling good and ready for a full day of activity to transition to the new time zone. I checked in, went to the Expo, had coffee and second breakfast at the "Cloud" on the wharf, and then was able to get into our room. A few of us went to the grocery store and a bike shop, then I went for a short run around town. My legs were very happy to be set free for a bit. Here's the map if you are interested:

The Expo is pretty fantastic

The "Cloud" - the hub for athletes

Unique bike parking on the wharf
The bit of view from our hotel room on the wharf.

I still think it's funny that it's yesterday back home!

As I finished up my run, I saw the pros/elites doing their "acclimatization swim." They would dive off the pontoon, swim, and practice coming out of the water and out of wetsuits, running up the ramp. From the US, we have Sara Groff and Gwen Jorgensen racing, with Jarrod Shoemaker on the men's side. Jonathan Brownlee, Javier Gomez, and Lisa Norden are some of the other big names. Pretty cool!!

Then it was time to head out to the parade of nations and opening ceremony. The largest and strongest teams are the Kiwis, Aussies, and British. It's neat to see teams from all over -- Estonia, Tahiti, and Cook Islands - come to mind. A big topic of conversation among our team was how smartly many of the other teams were decked out - Canada, Mexico, and the British stood out. We were a bit on the rag-tag side.

Many of the Team USA folks have been on the team for multiple years. They have jackets with patches from all the races they have done, or race dates embroidered. I learned that great friendships have been forged through these events. Even as a newbie, it's been an easy group to be a part of. Our sport is unique in that it affords us the opportunity to compete for our country across the lifespan, up into our 80's. 

Team USA - Aquathlon, Sprint, Olympic, and Paratriathlon racers
Some of the experienced crew
Donna and I, roomies!
Getting ready for the parade
Teams going across the bridge
Countries queued up to go
Off we go
Coach Mark Sortino, of Multisport Performance Institute and
Challenged Athletes Foundation is the Paratriathlon coach

We turned in around 9 pm last night. Donna headed off with a group for a day of sight seeing and I'm sticking around for the chance to swim in the harbor today at 1:00. I'm headed out for coffee and to check out some things around the city.