Friday, 5 September 2008

Race build up in Mad Town



After 3 days I’ve about got my bearings on Madison and really starting to dig the place – when all of a sudden The Ironman has arrived and taken over the town in a frenzy of Ford advertising, M dot merchandise and inflatable Gatorade bottles!! Not to mention the lean, tanned and logo’d up influx population strutting around the place….though as Steven quite rightly points out – sure that we look just as intimidating to them. I think probably more so ;o)

Although it’s the state capitol there’s a real small town feel about Madison – friendly and relaxed. Arriving on Tuesday afternoon, it was a very muggy 90 F and dead quiet, almost to the point of being spooky. We did the usual fruitless and exhausting wandering in search of basics – cheap places to eat and/or buy picnic provisions took us around the dead quiet back streets – even the student areas seemed very quiet. It was a little unsettling. Jet lagged and tired I was suffering the usual dis-location anxiety that I experience on arrival a t new venue. A feeling of being ‘out of sorts’ and mildly depressed. Perhaps it’s plain old home sickness – though I surprise myself to say that, and would tend to put it down to lack of control – not knowing where I am, or the best place to go for such and such leaves me feeling a little helpless, for a day or 2 until I’ve sussed it out.

We have since found the more lively spots, but I think that in usual circumstances this is what you’d called a pretty sleepy part of the world. This is tempered somewhat by the large student population, making it a rather more liberal and outward looking community than the surroundings, I imagine. People are extremely friendly, and I mean genuinely friendly and interested – rather than the typical ‘have nice day ‘ sort of consumer friendly that I’ve experienced elsewhere in the states. Most find it pretty amazing that we have travelled so far to come here- and a number of the locals we’ve talked to have never been very far beyond the area (and why would they – it’s nice here!) it’s very refreshing.

Chatting to a meat farmer on one of the stalls in the market on Wednesday, he was pleased to hear that we were from London, since he’d traced his family back 12 generations to an Englishman who had travelled over in with the pilgrims from London. He recounted passages from his 11th grandmother’s diary describing waving the ships out of the port in London, knowing that she’d never see that line of the family again…what an incredible sense of history and family connectedness.

We’ve been out and checked the bike route. Fantastic scenery – nothing like I’ve seen before wide open and vast, dotted with ‘typical’ mid American rural farm or homestead buildings. Beautiful large timber houses among the long rolling roads. Mailboxes and star spangled banners adorning the acres of lawn. Very little else for most of the 40 mile loop that we’ll travel twice during the race. The glacial landscaping has left and interesting terrain – constant undulations as the road travels over drumlins and other glacial formations make it a very technical ride which will call for good judgment on gearing and exertions to get round it without busting the legs by halfway through lap 1. It’s the kind of riding that will not reward too much aggression, in the long run! Noting steep, but constant change of grade. Plenty of nice fast sections though! Being very open, a wind day could make this exceptionally tough, as do the terrible road surfaces (last night a t dinner I was told that this is GOOD for the states, since the government put more funding towards the area, being a route for dairy good transportation. Cant imagine how terrible it is elsewhere!) I think that I will try to save myself from blow-up with a ‘stay seated ‘rule for the first half of the route, at least. Though I know that if it’s exciting racing, I may not be able to be this disciplined!!

The swim is lovely to – warm water, and I’m really enjoying the new Snugg wetsuit. Its just that bit more buoyant than the old QR, which takes a bit of getting used to and does seem to result in a bit of an ache in my lower back due to having legs higer in the water, but it certainly helps off set the sinking feeling that I’ve been experinceing recently in the pool due to low body fat at the moment!
We swam on yesterday morning, in miserable weather and there was quite a bit of chop due to the winds – it made for hard work and a bit of random breathing on the shoreward stretch of the swim, but this morning was an entirely different experience – flat calm and fast swimming.

As we thought – it’s really the randomness of the weather that is causing the most uncertainty about this race – in the last 3 days we have seen it al – humid and unbearably hot, Tuesday, just about perfect on Wednesday, torrential rain and cold all day yesterday and today it is again race perfect conditions. We are obsessively following weather reports and asking the locals for predictions for Sunday – they are, of course, mixed!

As for the run route – it’s very meandering, I guess the idea is to run us through all the districts of the town; we pass through Capitol square, down the main street with al the cafés and bars on, around some resi blocks, into the football stadium for a lap, picking up a path around by the river and back through the middle of the student campus! With this many twists and turns, changes in surface and a few decent climbs, a fast marathon is unlikely but I think it’s going to be a fabulous atmosphere, judging by the enthusiasm with which all the locals, and IM Wisc vets describe the event.

Having finally slept a full night and seem to have shaken the mild tummy upset that has bothered me since the flight, I’m feeling a lot more motivated about the race than I have been up until today (as I said - I think I was just a bit out of sorts for a number of small reasons) and a short ride with a few cheeky little bursts thrown in, in the sunshine, is just what the doctor ordered.

Plus, we’ve found a great little, typical American diner.

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