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Archive for April, 2010

In December 1997, I wrote from Gulu, Uganda (while I was still working for the International Committee of the Red Cross)  to a friend, that we should take a year off  in 1998, buy an RV and cross the USofA and Canada while training for triathlon. In the end, it did not happen. I left alone for a year in South East Asia and he joined me for a month in Bali. 13 years later: Another Dream Comes True. I am riding a time trial down the US255 direction the Great Sand Dunes Nat. Park in Colorado and Isabel is driving ahead with the RV!

This cruise with the RV is the last episode of our trip around the world. It takes us from Denver, CO  to Vancouver BC, via New Mexico, Arizona, South Utah, Wyoming, Montana & Washington.

We are all excited and fear this episode with the RV. On one hand it gives us unmatched flexibility and children have always the same home where ever we are. On the other hand, although we have rented a 10 meter long rig with slide-out, it still is nothing more than a sophisticated shoebox.

After 10 days riding this monster, we have learned the following: RVing is a great way to understand what we, as a family, consume daily in terms of Propane for heating, Gas for cooking & Driving and Water for Washing (all kind) and Dumping (all kind). RVing is a great way to build a hands-on knowledge of sewage and waste management. (A small note here on waste management; there is one thing you do not want: a leaking sewage hose…Well, I have now that one sorted). RVing is also a great way to keep things tidy at their right place. RVing is therefore great, right? Well, it is great as long as all those things do not start to go on your nerves.

Our first joint crisis comes after 8 days. Shoebox Fever! Very, very luckily we make contact at the same time with a wonderful French-European-American family in Taos. Their boundless hospitality and generosity gives us a unique opportunity to breathe outside the RV and discover the “Not-For-Tourists-Taos”.

So far so good. we have now crossed the cold, snowy but utterly beautiful Colorado and its famous Rockies and are relaxing in “springful” Taos, New Mexico. So far, so good…

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Yes, we have a new travelling family member! and this since April 4th, when she landed to join us in Kauai, Hawaii. We love our kids so much that we do not want them to have us around 24/7 . So, for the last three months of our travel we have decided to have a new member to break the “square relationship” and built a more creative “pentagon relationship”. And we struck super lucky. Ramona is on one hand a friend-of-the-daughter-of-my-second-cousin-in-law, on the other hand a down to earth, no-nonsense, Reto-Romanic, first of six pearl. Ramona is also Ski Teacher in St-Moritz and a free soul the rest of the year. Manon, Zoé and we are so fond of her and very happy to have found such a good travelling companion. Ramona, Welcome to our FATWorld*.

*Family Around the World

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We spent the first 2.5 weeks in a vacation rental at the end of the road on the North Shores of Kauai: Wainiha. It rained 18 out of 19 days. I will therefore not spent too much effort describing the toilet-bowl-with-continuous-flushing in which we lived.

Fortunately, we had booked a pavilion on a farm in the community of Anahola, a large indigenous homestead. We immediately liked it. The back is “protected” (in the Feng Shui lingo 🙂 by a nice row of exotic fruit trees (lemon, grapefruit). There is a large well-maintained open garden in the front with two giant palm trees. Further away the ocean. The house itself is a traditional but artsy Hawaiian home. The kitchen is well designed and we feel immediately like doing some creative cooking. The vibes of the living room are very good and calming.

There are many things to see on Kaua’i but we felt so well that we often prefer to spend the day at home. One of the favorite morning activities is to go pick some ripe juicy pink grapefruit and do about 2 liters of juice for breakfast.Another activity is to go in the garden and play with the hose. Manon and Zoé often spend the morning with Ramona (our new travel companion, new post coming up) doing handcrafts. They also put their running shoes on a go for a short jog with me around the property. But the biggest highlight is preparing and celebrating Easter!

Instead of going out, we invite sometime a friends of ours for a good dinner and some late night chat in the living room.

And there is Sissy, the owner’s dog. A very affectionate sheep dog that would play with kids and come to me regularly to check, if I have some left overs to give.

We spend 3 weeks in the quiet haven and it is very difficult to leave it behind us. Here some impressions of our stay there. I highly recommend this place for every one who wants to get away from the commercial side of Hawaii and its vacation condos.

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I waited (and trained) for that day since December 20th, day of my registration for the Lavaman. This triathlon is the second biggest tri event on the Big Island after the Ironman World championship. It is an Olympic distance and happens every year at the end of March. Chris McCormack describes it as follows in his last entry of his blog (April 2nd) “It is a tough, windy bike course and a super hot and difficult run. The entire bike course takes in the most difficult section of the bike course at the Ironman World Championships, and the run is mostly off road and through the thick Lava flows. It really reminds me of some of the early races I did in my career, when these ingredients seemed to be a prerequisite of a triathlon” . 1020 athletes coming mostly from Hawaii and the West Coast of Canada and the USA were gathered for this event. Chris McCormack, 2 times IM world champion was also at the starting line. The race starts at the Waikoloa Beach Resort onthe west coast and the bike course is a segment of the World Championship on the famous Queen K. Highway.

This race was for me the big test whether I had trained enough and done enough rehabilitation after the accident on June 8th the previous year. It would tell me, whether I was ready to train for longer distance and be able to be on the starting line of the Ironman of Frankfurt later this year.

I thought the race would be hard, but it turned out that it was getting there that cost me most energy. My family and I are currently staying on Kauai and I had to take 2 planes (via Honolulu) to get there. The first plane had 4 hours delay, the second was cancelled and the company had lost my reservation…In the end, I just made it in time to retrieve my starting packet, to put my bike together and to test it before sunset. I nonetheless could go early to bed and have a surprisingly good night sleep.

I wake up at 5:00 AM and take a short breakfast in bed. The weirdest thing after taking a shower is to put sunscreen when it is still pitch dark outside. I do that nonetheless, because I know that today’s forecast is 30 degrees, low wind and 86% humidity. I get out of my hotel room, the sun greets me and I take a picture of it in return. Coming to the transition zone, most of the athletes are already there… loud house music is blaring through big loudspeakers and a commentator repeats with eagerness the do’s and dont’s of the day. I get myself ready in the transition zone, get body marked with the No480 and walk slowly to the start at the A-Bay, a beautiful little cove. I enter the water at 07:10 and swim 4o0m to warm-up the shoulders. At 7:36 I start in the 3rd waves (that are Male Athletes 40 and Oooolder). I don’t pace myself. Feeling strong I aggressively make my way to the front of the pack. The real good swimmers are ahead and I can keep a good pace (around 15:30 per km) for the entire 1500 with the pack. I exit the water after 23:20′ and make a 300m dash to the transition zone. The enter of T1 comes at 15:24. I exit 1:31 later to start the bike. At this time, my position is in the  first 75 or 80 athletes. The bike leg starts very well with a 37kmh for the first 8km and suddenly the wind changes. Everyone gets it strong in the face for the next 12km. The average speed drops to less than 32kmh and legs are sore. The mid-point turn comes at the right moment. From then on, it is tail wind and I finish the bike leg in 1 hour 11 minutes, which is above 34kmh avg. I run through transition very fast. So fast that I forget my helmet and have to return to deposit it next to the bike. In the end it is 1:41 in T2. The first 500m run go well and suddenly stomach cramps are coming. Strong ones. I immediately know that it comes from a new sports drink I had during the bike. I work through these cramps for the next 3km. It is hot, I cannot breathe regularly. I am smiling thinking that my knee would hurt, but no, it is my stomach that slows me down. I finally find my rhythm after 5k and start running at a 4:45 pace between km 6 and 8.5. The last mile: it is not hard surface but all lava stones and broken corals. Worse, the last 400m are in soft sand but at this point I see the 2 athletes in front of me pick up the pace and I decide to hang on, which I can and do until the finish line. 20 meters before the finish line, I raise my arms, fist closed, throat thightened. It is a great liberating moment. At this point the total time does not matter anymore. It is the knowledge that my knee held the shock of the race, it is the knowledge that I can race again, that my sports days are not over. I do the run in 50:12′.

Time overall is 2:30’10”. Position 122 out of 1020. Chris McCormack wins the race for the 2nd consecutive year.

The Lavaman triathlon is the best organised and most scenic tri-event I have done. Compare to Europe, I found many athletes very relaxed ready to enjoy the race. The quota of female athletes was incredible, something I have never seen in Europe. All in all, this triathlon is maybe not worth the trip from Europe, but it is a must do, if you are around in March in Hawaii.

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We land on Kaua’i On March 3rd and drive to Hanalei, our place of residence for the coming 5 weeks. We knew we could get some rain on the “Green Isle” but we did not that we would be getting downpours 18 out of the first 19 days. Least to say that it lowered slightly the fun level. We actually became downright cranky.  The two things that gave us joy was a great yoga centre and the opportunity to get better at surfing. At first Isa and I thought we really were too old for that sport.  But when the only thing you can actually do outside without getting bothered by the rain is surfing then you start just doing that. And that’s what we did. We were wise enough to take at first lessons with an instructor. The attempts to learn by ourselves in Australia were frustrating enough not to make the same mistake twice.

Hanalei Bay is known as being one of the 10 most beautiful beach in the world. That did not strike home during the first two weeks as we could actually barely see the Bay due to low clouds and yes…you guessed it….rain. This beautiful beach is not only shaped into a perfect circle, it also provides very regular waves of all sizes. You therefore meet local stars as well as professionals next to first timers. Surfing is the life in Hanalei and we soon got the hang of it. The person that left us all in awe though was Manon. Courageous enough to go out with Chris, the Instructor and standing alone on the board after only a few attempts. A few days later, Zoe accepted to be lifted on a long board too, but stayed on her belly while riding gentle waves. After Isa and I had emptied the battery of the Nikon taking pictures of our little loved ones on the board, we also went in turn and could soon celebrate some success.

It is now the 4th week of our stay in Kauai and we now love this beach above all others around the island. When the sunshine, it is the most incredible beach we have ever seen. It will be, yet again, difficult to leave this place for a new destination.

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