When people have asked me what’s is like to be back in Australia, my reflex response is “Home but homeless.” Over the last six weeks I hopped and skipped from place to place in Australia. And, I’m signing up for even more of the transient life as I head to South America on Oct 30th.
A hectic pace of my own making
I have no one to blame but myself for the frenetic pace of the first two weeks back in Oz. And I’m not sure I made much of an improvement in the last four weeks.
It seems that nothing can stop me from cramming something into every second. Whether it’s a social event, necessary prep for my South America trip, or even getting enough food, I’ve completed stuffed my largely purpose-vacant life with calendar entries.
This should not come as a complete surprise to anyone who has known me or worked with me the last few years of my life.
During my summer in the US, I began to match the label color-coding across Gmail labels, Trello labels, and Google calendar coloring. It’s terrifying how much satisfaction that gave me. (Some of you who suffer the same disease will ask, “How did you survive with them mismatched?!” I am full of surprising strengths.)
My time in Oz had several big chapters:
Aussie Transplant Games
During the first week of October, I experienced the highs, the lows, the mediums of the 2018 Aussie Transplant Games See my post on the games for more detail.
As the games ended, I headed South, and stopped by to see Andy, Kayte and the girls in Ballina, which went by far too quickly! They are great proof of the wonderful life that exists in the area.
I approached my fourth date with Y*mba in a shy fashion, approaching her slowly, stealing small glimpses and only glances, my heart racing. Would our connection be the same? Would the warmth I felt before still be there, after six months of absence. Could she understand and know how much I’ve dreamt of her when suffocated by crowds or fight upstream against the torrent of city life?
My first night, I visited my one friend who lives in Yamba, and met his family. Everything I’ve imagined about life here could be encapsulated in that evening, with amazing vegetarian food, his son giving me a weather forecast for my upcoming trip to Chile (“windy and rainy”), and enjoying great conversation while staring at the ocean.
My first full day I caught up on the sleep debt from the last week — or was it the last year? I cycled out to Brooms Head and had to stop because a couple of emus were strutting across the road. They glanced at me and seemed to roll their eyes, wondering what strange creature this was.
I took bike rides. I slept late. I started days with no plan whatsoever and let the day evolve.
I ate alone at some amazing restaurants (something I enjoy because I can actually focus on the food).
For a while I thought locals used lazy shorthand for restaurants rather than their proper names. “It’s next to the Mexican,” they would say. Or, “Try the Italian on the hill.” But it turns out those are the names: “The Mexican” is the local Mexican restaurant. And the Italian place on the hill? It’s called, “The Italian On the Hill”. While I had enjoyed a few good meals in Yamba on past visits, I decided to find the best, and became dizzyingly happy with a dinner at Barbaresco in Angourie, a lunch delight at the Beachwood Cafe, an incredible Cochin-inspired curry at the mouthful Indian Fusion Tapas Bar and Restaurant and The French Pan Tree even made a vego meal just for me.
I’ve probably become far too comfortable traveling alone (but I suppose that’s good for my upcoming five months of solo travel), and you can get trapped in your own head at times, but if I can remain present and not anxious, then that fact that I’m solo actually lets me absorb more of what’s going on around me (as well as chewing my food) than if I had other people with me.
Despite keeping mostly to myself on my trip to Yamba, any time I talked to someone, they were friendly and open. The water, the sand, the roads, the emus — all seemed to confirm that this might be the place for me.
Just a month ago, I received an invitation to participate in the Ironman World Championship brought to you by Amazon in Kona, Hawaii. So I flew out to Kona, Hawaii, for the Ironman World Championship brought to you by Amazon on October 13th.
The swim in the Ironman World Championship brought to you by Amazon did not allow wetsuits, but I found a good spot, got comfortable, and settled in. There was very little wind, which made both the 3.8k swim and the 180k bike ride much more manageable, though I’ll admit I became very, very hot during the run.
Though I’m sure it was MUCH hotter for the people who were actually competing in the race. Oh wait, you thought I was racing in the Ironman World Championship brought to you by Amazon? No, no. My participation was purely as a spectator. The invitation was my friend’s wife asking me to come cheer him on as he raced, in the Ironman World Championship brought to you by Amazon.
When I trained for my second Ironman, my “training partner” (the guy with whom I shared most of the long bike rides) was Kieron, possibly the most easy going (yet still very very fast) Ironman I’ve met. Most of us had heard that Kieron was planning on going in 2019, but in early September, his partner and I were chatting and she mentioned this October in Hawaii. Kieron had qualified in Ironman Cairns, and was headed to Kona! So I shortened my Y*mba trip and made plans to surprise Kieron in Hawaii.
The race is an amazing thing, and the super-human feats performed by every finisher are awe-inspiring and fill the city with the wattage produced by thousands of expensive all-carbon bicycles. I’m exceptionally proud of my friends who did the race, and their performances on race day.
WTC, the company that owns Ironman, is a great case study in the first (or final?) stages of hubris. The branding of the Ironman World Championship brought to you by Amazon, and the fact that every time they mentioned the Ironman World Championship brought to you by Amazon, they had to say the full name of the Ironman World Championship brought to you by Amazon, showed the clear priorities for WTC.
The second challenge is the focus on the pros and elites and VIPs versus the other 2200 athletes who come for the race. The awards dinner is a great example of thinking about WTC and not the athletes — the day after the grueling race the awards dinner went on and on for hours. There was good content, but it was surrounded by CEO and VP speeches which didn’t appeal to anyone in the mass population. (Note: I did learn from a conversation at my table that Captain Cook was killed in Kona, possibly from anger over the practice of sex-for-nails trading that his sailors were doing with the locals. There are about 15 different comments I could not keep to myself after learning this fact.)
The final specter that hovers more and more over Kona, as records are smashed two years in a row, is doping. Despite more and more money being poured into pro athlete sponsorships, I have never heard of an athlete being caught for doping. WTC has made announcements about new policies in the past couple of years, but no athlete I talked to could tell me any stories of an athlete being caught cheating. In the modern sports era, sadly, this means it’s happening and nothing is being done. Since WTC is a corporation, I am sure that it lives in fear of a doping scandal and the impact on revenue, but it appears to do very little to expose failed tests, and as a result, each year, suspicion grows more and more among athletes who look at the speeds of the cyclists over a 180k time trial and compare that to clean professional cyclists (who don’t have to hop off the bike and run a sub-3-hour marathon). I have no evidence whatsoever, other than the complete lack of violations, and I am not accusing any specific athlete. But the suspicion among the athletes grows and grows, when no one is ever caught.
Triathlon is a great sport. As it grows, of course the big races will lose the feel of small, scrappy community events. I hope WTC can find leadership who can promote the athlete’s love of the sport and not just chase the $$, but I’m not holding my breath.
Sydney’s Fastest Exec
After leaving Kona, I returned to Sydney, and had the privilege to emcee the first inaugural Sydney’s Fastest Executive race, a competition among corporate leaders in Sydney to raise awareness around global literacy and raise funds for Room to Read, a charity that I’ve worked with for five years.
Thanks to the incredible efforts of the Room to Read team in Sydney, as well as the fundraising and racing by the athletes from all over Sydney’s business community, we beat expectations for our first year in both the number of runners as well as funds raised!
Prepping for Chile
I’m cycling from Santiago to Cape Horn from November through January.
I have not planned my route through Chile. I still have no idea where I’m going to go once I reach Santiago, except “South.” I’ll spend a week in Santiago figuring out the basic outline of the route.
What I did spend time on is the bike and all the gear. My planning brain needed something to chew on, and this was a piece of ten year old caribou jerky.
The traditional approach to cycle touring is a tough bike of steel or aluminum, a triple chain ring up front (to have a third, small chain ring for climbing), and front and back paniers (saddlebags) to carry all the gear you need.
I decided to go a different route — how light could I go, such that I’m not carrying 40 kg of bike and gear, but half of that.
I’ll write another post on the bike and all the gear, but rest assured there’s a spreadsheet with 65 lines in it listing everything on the bike, and often the weight in grams of each item. A bike shop weighed the bike + gear and it came to 17 kg. With water and the tent, 20–22 kg will be about right.
- Everything must be light in weight: If it’s too heavy, the bike won’t go up steep hills with me as the engine.
- Everything must be small in size: The bags on the bike are not large enough to hold much of anything.
- Everything must be able to quickly dry. Because laundry will be a daily thing.
A lot of time, a lot of work, a lot of anxiety went into putting everything together, just so. But again, more about that in another post.
People I care about
The most important chapter was seeing my friends. Staying with Tash & Wendell meant staying with family, and they were amazing to deal with my constant appearances and disappearances, my early mornings and strange sleeping rituals, and just about every other quirk I have. The list of people I was able to see was much shorter than I wanted, but unlike other trips in the past, I was able to be present in each conversation rather than worrying about the next one.
I saw friends over brekkie, lunch, dinner. I took walks in parks. I hiked up to North Head. I rode trains. I teared up at the end of BlacKkKlansmen, because it highlights how a childish, incompetent president is undoing so much of the hard work of civil rights over the last six decades in my former home country.
The time with people I have deep feelings for created a small but dense ball of conflict inside me. While Y*mba is a siren song I am not sure I can resist, there are quiet moments where I wonder why I would consider creating distance between myself and the people who mean this much to me. It makes me ask why I left the same thing in Austin — a community I loved with an incredible set of friends. What am I running from? What harm would staying in Sydney bring?
But, dear reader, these questions will have to wait at least five months. I have a continent to explore.