Sunday, 27 February 2011

Christchurch Quake Experience -real perspective!

Tuesday 22nd was a pretty wet and dismal morning, and i had a later than usual start to my day, giving me a nice relaxed hour or so to work on training schedules before setting off to the IM talk 'studios' to record an interview for next (this) week's show. It was good to see john and bevan ,who i'd not seen since last year's Epic Camp, and we recorded about half an hour of chat about my year and transitioning form age grouper to professional triathlete. Quite a lot of focus was around financing this move, goal setting, making race choices and whether to 'target' kona other aspects of the lifestyle that differ from doing triathlon as a 'hobby'. I will write some posts on these areas in the near future.

I left the studio in St Martins around 9am, still raining so, unenthusiastic about my 3hr reps session in the cloud covered port hills I pulled into a mall for a breakfast bun and coffee as the weather cleared up a little. Despite the poopey weather the session went well and I had just got home, made a coffee and lunch was settling in for an hour or so of work on a few athletes schedules before my track and gym sessions at QE2 when there was that familiar rumbling and jolting of an aftershock.

Since our arrival in October last year, these have been a fairy frequent occurrence, and although alarming at first, Steven and I had become quite used to it. They had also been dying down and far less frequent as the months went by. But this one's a biggie, I thought, as the shaking seemed to escalate rather than die down as usual. And the intensity seemed to continue mounting - I was pretty much frozen to the spot with fear on the bed, not that i could have really done much with the room shaking and objects starting to fly around the place as they were! I could hear stuff in the other rooms smashing and crashing around. The reality is that the shake probably lasted all of about 10 seconds, but it seemed like a long time before the world was still again. I tried the door of my room to go survey the damage, but it was jammed in the frame. The windows were on restricters so in order to get outside (which i was pretty keen to do!) I was going to have to break a window, I thought. Still wearing my bike jersey, I had a very useful multi tool in the rear pocket, which i realized i'd be able to use to undo the fixtings that limited the windows...and climbed out to find the terrified dog and screaming neighbours and the road in our cul-de-sac sort of folded up on itself with water gushing up from the depths of the earth. In the house was areal mess and the power had gone out. I set about clearing up and wondering what to do next. There were several large aftershocks during the next hour, which had me running outside again. The neighbors who had also been home that time were also wandering around, shell-shocked - in the street, seeking comfort from one another's stories in the confusion and fear about the rest of their households. Being a tuesday afternoon, Steven would be at the cinema and after an hour or so, decide i'd head out towards there. To my relief, he appeared just as i was leaving - it was a lot worse beyond our own street, with knee deep floods and broken roads and jammed up traffic and it had taken him 90 minutes to walk and wade the 2km home.

We are very fortunate - despite all of us being in different locations around the city, the household are all fine and were soon all assembled in the house. Shaken and a wee bit stirred. We spent the afternoon together, telling our stories, discussing our options what to do now and checking over the damage. An evening reading by candle light and listening with gut wrenching horror as the news of damage and tragedy in the city center slowly began to unfold over a small battery powered radio. Despite being a smaller magnitude than the earthquake that the city was just about recovering from last September, the center was both shallower and closer to the city. These factors all manifest in a lot more surface movement and structural damage to buildings and hills alike - and the fact that it was the middle of a weekday, sadly it was clear from very early on that there was a significant death and injury toll. The numbers are still coming out as communications have made it very difficult for people to contact and account for their missing friends and relatives.

Having decided that without water or power, with rain dripping in through the light fittings and that one doorway totally inaccessible (suggesting that the structural load paths of the building had been sufficiently compromised) we probably should not stay there another night, we packed up and headed to Ali's parent's farm in Ashburton. We were fortunate to have this option, and having driven a low route through accessible roads and crawling traffic that wednesday morning, were able to leave the reality behind and watch it on TV. This made us feel somewhat 'guilty' of course - seeing other's working clear the roads and find water and food for their family. Let alone the hundreds of volunteers with the heartbreaking heavy work of search the wreckage of the city centre for those trapped in fallen buildings. It was actually an opportunity to get to know our house-mates a little and do some training together - a very rare occurrence as they have very busy lives and must usually fit their training around work.

Our return to Chirstchurch yesterday it was a little sad to see the state of the place but also quite uplifting to see how people are really helping each other out - teams digging the roadways clear, those with water (wells or still connected) going around and making sure other have it, even letting strangers in to shower. People giving free food from the front of their house to those working in the streets, writing up signs with information or even just messages of care. There are reports of looting too, of course, but these few acts of incomprehensible selfishness are more news worthy than the millions of acts of kindness we see. The level of organization, sound public information and general common sense is impressive and it seems that on the whole people are reacting extremely responsibly to the difficult conditions.

As the rest of the Ava place household are heading up to Taupo for the Ironman ( Andrew, who's P3 locked in his city center office on Tuesday has been offered the loan of a bike by so many friends and the race organizers have even put him in touch with Cervelo for a loan of a P3) I'm currently staying with his extremely hospitable and generous parents on the west side of town, which has been less effected by the damage. We just felt quite an aftershock just now! but water and power - even internet! - are still connected here. I have withdrawn my own entry to Ironman New Zealand, which was rather a tough call but my recovery/fitness has been questionable since Wanaka and last weeks trauma and disruption really I lost my focus for this race. I feel I'm better saving the cost of the trip and spending some time on a build up for ironman Lanzarote in May.

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