Thursday, July 26, 2007

realizations re Ironman and international travel

now that i've signed up for Ironman New Zealand 2008, it's starting to dawn on me just what an undertaking i've chosen to make.

it's not that it's an Ironman. i've done 2 now, this will be my 3rd, and i'm starting to feel much more comfortable with the thought of going 140.6 miles...either that, or i'm just numb, ignorant, or delusional to it by now.

it's also not the international travel. i'm used to international travel. i lived in Sweden as a child before coming to the U.S. i've traveled to Europe often, both alone and with family. i consider myself as having basic knowledge of some foreign languages (a little Francais, a little Deutsch, a handful of Svensk) and foreign society. so i'm already sensitive to the issues that invariably come up traveling to another country: visa, passport, hotels, transportation, food, culture, etc.

but the combination of Ironman with international travel is something different entirely. this is going to be my 1st time having to travel to another country to do Ironman. the logistical scale of it is an awesome realization that only now hits me.

here's how:

  • i have to bring my equipment. all of it. that means race gear, wetsuit, and most of all, bike. with bike repair equipment. this means: extra weight (everything, no matter how little, is going to add up), extra space (particularly the bike case), and extra cost (airlines are going to charge me for the bike case, and very likely for me exceeding the per-passenger weight limit) . i could possibly avoid this by using international shipping, but i don't know as to the timeliness or reliability of this.
  • i'm going to have to plan on an extended stay. i don't mean after the race--that is something i want to do, no matter which international Ironman i choose, since i figure there's no point doing an international Ironman unless you also get to the see the country too. i mean before the race--according to some sources i've read, you need to arrive at least a week in advance to let your body adjust to the time difference, acclimate to the local environment, and refuel and rehydrate. that's an extra week of expenses.
  • nutrition is going to be an issue. i don't know if every local scene is going to have the same level of nutrition, particularly the kind of nutrition Ironman athletes have to follow leading into race day. i don't just mean stuff like gels, energy bars, and sports drinks for race day itself, but also high-fiber carbohydrates (for gradual glycogen release), low-fiber carbohydrates (for low bowel activity), and low-fat protein for the fueling week leading into race day. i could pack this stuff, but it would explode the amount of material to take, raising the issues connected with packing my own equipment all over again.
  • i'm going to have family. which raises a host of complexities. what are they going to do during pre-race week while i'm doing my taper workouts? what do i do about wanting to spend time with them? and how patient are they going to be on race day sitting on the sidelines (contrary to what many people think, being a live spectator for a 12-14 hour Ironman is NOT really fun), and the day after race day (when the only thing an Ironman wants to do is eat, sleep, and use the bathroom).

i don't yet have any solutions to these issues. to be honest, i'm just trying to figure out what other challenges there might be that i haven't thought about.

i'm debating the merits of using the Ironman travel agencies. there are several travel agencies i've seen advertised that specialize in travel packages for Ironman athletes, complete with accommodations, transportation, equipment maintenance, food, and activities. i'm thinking they might be able to get better deals via group rates, and that they might be more familiar with local (i.e., in this case, New Zealand) conditions, giving them a greater ability to get Ironman-friendly arrangements.

i dunno. i've got quite a bit of time to think about it (the race is March 1), so i guess i can continue to check things out. i guess i'm just thinking out loud.

i'm open to any comments, suggestions, or advice anybody might have. especially anyone who's used to traveling via air to other countries for races.


Asheem Mamoowala said...

Hey Jon,

International shipping is pretty reliable as long as you
a) check the iport restrictions and custome laws of the country you're travelling to
b) dont skimp out on the insurance and.

I moved from the US to Singapore last year and had all my stuff shipped a week before I left. All of it arrived before me. Undamaged :-)

jonathan starlight said...

cool, dude, thanks!

did you ship the bike separately of load it onto the plane?