I’m writing from my hotel room in Sui Province (Suixian) China. I arrived here early yesterday morning after a long trip from LA via Beijing. The trip was fine and I’m now preparing myself for the Asian Cup race that is to be held here on Sunday. It will be my first race since my trip through Europe in July and early August.
However, the preparation to come to China was a bit unusual because I will go straight from here to the Gold Coast of Australia to start work with my new coach. Essentially, I am moving, leaving the US, for the next 4 (or more) years. So, I spent the last week packing up my entire life, trying to make it fit into one suitcase, and selling off pretty much everything I couldn’t bring with me. Thank goodness for Ebay! For one reason, or another, I never really got stressed out about the whole thing, to everyone’s shock. Maybe because I had to come race first and it made it seem like I was just packing, a lot, for another trip to race.
Leaving my “California Family” was quite difficult. We had a goodbye BBQ a few days before I left, which was awesome. It gave me a chance to bring together all of the people who have made such an impact on my time in California (and some who have been in my life for years and years). It was good fun to take some time to thank them all. I am really so lucky to have landed where I did. Now, I keep telling everyone that they have an incredible excuse to take a trip to Australia!
How quickly one forgets the nuances of China! I was on the same flight only 6 weeks ago to come to Beijing for the Olympics. I suppose, it was about the same this go around. Long, but I managed to stay awake at the start and to sleep 10 hours straight to kill most of the trip. So, it was really pretty easy. When I arrive in Suixian, there were, and I kid you not, about 15 people waiting for me. Here I had been nervous that no one would show up and I’d be left alone, in the middle of nowhere in China, boy was I wrong! I was escorted, by my large entourage (many of whom wanted photos with me) out to a car and from there was accompanied by a really sweet woman, an English teacher here, to the hotel which is about 100 minutes away from the airport.
The hotel is the "best in the county" according to the translator. I will say, the staff have gone out of their way to make us feel at home and to take care of us. They have left us bottled water and happily came to change my lights and to bring me pesticide to spray on the bugs that were all over my room. They put all the "english" speaking athletes together, which is nice, and have tried to accomodate our food needs by preparing "western" dishes. Most are still inedible, but it's the thought that counts!
Last night we went to the grocery store to grab some more water and other necessary food, like chocolate. It has never tasted so good before! I felt like I was on "Big Brother" as I had people following me around the store trying to point out things I should buy. I kindly thanked the man who kept pointing at the vegetable crackers and giving me the thumbs up, as I was not really in the mood for them. The women in the fruit section got quite a kick out of us trying to buy 3 bananas as opposed to the entire bunch of 20. I don't think I've ever seen a Chinese person laugh so hard! Funny how something so normal to us is so odd to them!
Training has been great. I slept well last night and am just really getting excited to race. The weather is overcast and quite chilly, but I'm hoping it won't be a wetsuit swim. It is perfect weather for fast racing, so I can't wait!!