Asia -- Continent #2

Thailand -- Country #3

October 26, 2003 at Bang Na Country Club

November 30, 2003 at Laguna Phuket

 

I arrived in a new place and a new work environment with a preconceived bias of vast quantities of differences. On the first day of work in Thailand my new boss, Randy Fralix, told me to look for commonalities between the Thais and the people I worked with in the States. He also said look for more commonalities in the company’s Thai business model and my understanding of our American business model, then seek out the minimal differences of people and the businesses to fully understand how much alike we were instead of the initial perception how many differences there were between us. This simple piece of advice put a brake on my mind that generated a seemingly endless list of differences with no pause to step back and recognize how many things we were aligned in with likeness. Randy proved to be a great boss in his leadership and managerial styles. He provided a setting of letting the team run the business within the boundaries of our principles and deliver on the financial, operational, and development goals. His guidance went beyond work and Thailand as I applied his wisdom to how our kids compared to other people, how cultures in other countries compared to Americans, how triathletes compared to each other, and more. These commonalities crossover laid the foundation to learn with experience in work, our international neighborhood, and the tri communities around the world to relate to differences in culture.  

 

Having blocked my own road to Kona after Coeur d’Alene, I started mapping out a new way to get there in 2004 and it covered two new continents and countries. It required island hopping travel and two qualifications before arriving in Kona. In early 2003 my well-traveled Aunt Margaret and Uncle Jess who lived in Las Vegas provided some insight about Thailand before we moved there. Before going overseas part of the training incorporated items that should be common but were really different especially around language. At dinner my Uncle Jess said in an overtly loud voice the food was great and Fuckit Island was beautiful. In a much quieter voice he said he knew the Phu in Phuket was pronounced like “‘poo’ as in ‘dog poo’” but he liked to make Aunt Margaret squirm when he pronounced the Ph with an ‘f’ sound like in Phoenix. We left the Valley of the Sun over Labor Day weekend and moved into a rented house in downtown Bangkok. It’s a big city, 6.2 million people. Pulling in the suburbs and greater metro area the population count officially increased to over 12 million people. Our new neighbors said over 15 million people could be counted if a valid census took place. But in the mega metropolitan area not a single active triathlon club existed. An internet search revealed two triathlon races in the fall. One scheduled for late October in a suburban country club and one at the end of November in the resort area of Phuket Island. I signed up for both.

 

The job offer for the Bangkok position came in late June, almost two months after the one day interview in San Antonio. Once given the offer, they wanted me there within a week. I didn’t have a passport. I almost lost the Thailand job before getting there because I could not get to Bangkok quick enough. Perseverance prevailed though. We looked at options to get express passports and within a week, were on a jet bound for Bangkok to meet the employees, find a school for the kids, find a house, and determine how to live halfway around the world. We made significant choices and commitments. Much like what triathletes do to train for Ironman races while working and raising a family. We also did research and planned ahead of time on move possibilities to Bangkok. Before learning Bangkok was a possibility, we bogged ourselves down with self-imposed constraints of never traveling to see and experience much of the world because of the girls’ conditions. We changed our mindset with knowledge of the possibilities beyond our domestic horizon.

 

Our perseverance and planning reached back over a decade earlier when I initiated discussions with key personnel at my first employer out of college on potential expat assignments. Multiple managers told me the possibilities were slim based on my skills and capabilities. When I asked each of them for insight in how to change my odds for the better to earn an assignment, none of them provided feedback. Nine years later I figured out on my own how to be positioned for an expat assignment, move to a different employer. Not surprising, the former employer flamed out over time and got acquired into oblivion.

 

At the company I moved to my boss Doug Hecker in the late 1990’s taught me self-development was not the same as self-coaching. He taught me how to be a person with bottom line profit and loss responsibility. Taught me about how to treat personnel and recognize people who go out of their way to run a business successfully and convince others to follow their leadership or encourage them to move on to other employers. Taught me our purpose was to make money, not complexity nor to create a new buzz word languages that overhead administrators migrated to for self-importance. He encouraged behavior of bonding with people in work and outside settings for stronger relationships. Doug also appreciated people who could relate with the overnight workers all the way up the CEO’s of Fortune 10 companies. When he taught he really coached and provided opportunities. He left the actual development up to the people he coached. His methods were portable to being a better spouse, parent and triathlete. I adopted his coaching style with me and implemented to create new opportunities and thrive in them.

 

Hayes, age 11, and Caroline, age 9, cried long and hard on the first day of school which started on their second full day in Thailand. While comfortable in pushing myself, thought maybe I pushed the kids too hard both emotionally and mentally with the move. Within a few days though, being young and resilient, they accepted efforts to appreciate the opportunity of all the newness exposed to them. With their wide eyes of seeing culture shock unfold right in front of them, they quickly appreciated what Arizona and America offered to them in their brief lives compared to other people in the world. Even with their intellectual and emotional challenges, they learned more about foreign countries and different cultures in the four years of living overseas that would benefit them for a lifetime in the US when returning home. All of this applied for Chris and me too except for not being as resilient or young.

 

When training in this big city it felt like being on an island by myself. I swam, rode, and ran solo. The housing compound we lived in had two pools, one the size of the pool in our former backyard of Phoenix and a bigger pool. The latter one measured seven meters by 17 meters. No lane lines. No lane markers. Aside from a couple of late model Trek bikes in the front window of a bike store across from Lumpini Park, I saw the first race bicycle on a street six weeks after we moved to Bangkok. And that bike was riding around on the roof top of a sports car. Only financially challenged citizens or obsessed expats who were strong of heart and mentally skewed rode bikes on the streets there. Those of us who dared to ride on the roads competed with motor bikes, automobiles, and buses for riding space. Most of the motor bikes were two-cycle engines. All the trucks and buses were powered by diesels engines. My lungs sucked up more soot from engine emissions on a single morning bike ride or run than they did in a lifetime of workouts in the US. The Thais thought I was one crazy farong, slang for white foreigner, when watching me workout on their streets in preparation of two Thai Tris.

 

On the weekend, I would train on the city streets and ride out towards the service roads that paralleled motorways east of city center and just outside the ring of the entire metropolitan area. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I trained on the Kreitler Rollers in the carport of the rental house in the compound. Within a couple of weeks of arrival to Thailand the main orange rubber band on the rollers snapped apart. That scared the shit of me as my cadence rev up to the stratosphere, the rear wheel spun out of control, and the bike went crazily sliding off center and careened into the outside wall of the house. Luckily, I bought an extra orange rubber band each for the rollers and fan before leaving the US. I correctly planned the bands would break after being stressed and aged for over 12 years. 

 

I never felt safe or cool while riding my bike in Thailand. The streets were dangerous to ride whether in a van or car or on a motorbike or bicycle. Thousands of vehicles with thousands of people not paying attention. There was also a pecking order of who had the right of way. In order from top to bottom: big trucks, little trucks, vans, Mercedes’ sedans, other luxury cars, other sedans, motorbikes, bicycles, then pedestrians. I didn’t like riding or running being so low on the food chain.

 

The weather also played into the safety equation. Riders were easily dehydrated when on the road and no water bottle type kept the fluids cool after 30 minutes. Then there was the roller challenge. In hot temperatures, with or without high humidity, I would sweat on the rollers. Cooling fans didn’t help much. Sweat covered the back roller within 50 minutes of a workout. The back wheel would fishtail, slide side-to-side almost uncontrollably. Just like a car with no tread on the back wheels in a wintertime snowstorm. This scared the shit out of me. Still, I stuck with those conditions as it made me develop a more balance and spinning smoothness while pedaling. While slick and unsafe, the rollers were still safer than riding on the streets of Bangkok during the week.

 

The Bang Na Country Club, located in a nearby suburb served as the location of my first triathlon in Thailand. We rode drove 45 minutes in a van to get to the race site as the family slept in. Upon arrival the race director and volunteers pointed us to the transition area. A grassy area with 30 feet or taller canopied trees, all unidentifiable with my US biased Boy Scout knowledge of botany. The trees provided shade for the typical, tropical hot and humid morning. Ropes were strung between trees to serve as temporary racks for our bikes. Temporary to remove after the race to the leave no trace of usage. Also, temporary to rack a bike for the race. Bike after bike, with varying weights and heights, sagged and arched the ropes to make all but the tallest bikes topple over to the ground. My bike rested up-right as I left a bare minimum of equipment needed to ride and run: a pair of shoes for the bike and a second pair of shoes for the run, sun-glasses, hat and helmet. Looking around I realized helmets were optional. I opted in.

 

I left the loosely defined transition area and headed for registration. The most efficient process of any race I competed in. The race director offered two race options, a short one and long one. I chose the long one. I paid the entry fee with local currency, Thai Baht, and was ready to go. No ID required. No federation membership. No receipt. No number for the bike or run. No body markings. No race shirt. No nutrition samples. No sponsors. No pros. No nothing. I renamed the triathlon to the “My-me Triathlon”, translated from Thai to “not have anything for the triathlon”. The Bang Na triathlon was more like a game of pick-up baseball, you know the ones you played in grade school. At the start of recess you ran to the best ball diamond on the schoolyard, did “hands” on a baseball bat to determine who picked first, chose teams from your classmates, and played ball. If you were short a couple of players, you substituted “pitchers hand” for a first baseman. No walks. No called strikes. Everyone batted. Everyone had fun.

 

Five weeks after this pick-up triathlon our family took a one hour flight to Phuket Island for the Laguna Phuket Triathlon (LPT). On our 5am ride to the Bangkok Airport Hayes saw some guy sleeping in front of a closed shophouse, a 2-3 story building with a commercial store at street level and a residence above. She pointed at him and said, “He had too many Heinekens last night.” Chris and I chuckled amazed at what our 12 year old daughter was learning halfway around the world. 

 

The LPT race is called the 'Race of Legends'. I competed there for the first time in its 10th anniversary race. Over the years competitors included the top names in the triathlon world: Scott Molina, Mark Allen, Craig Alexander, Mike Pigg, Greg Welch, Richie Cunningham, Greg Bennett, Simon Lessing, Paula Newby-Fraser, Michellie Jones, Carol Montgomery, Liz Blatchford, Samantha McGlone, Lisa Bentley and lots of others. Lisa kicked my ass on the run during my first year racing there!

 

For me Laguna Phuket Triathlon served as a big time tryout to progress along a development plan to reach Kona. All age group winners in Phuket would qualify for a spot in either Ironman Japan or Ironman Australia (OZ). In 2003, there was only a single Ironman in Australia, Forster/Tuncurry, near the country’s Great Lake Region. All competitors for Ironman OZ needed to go through a tough qualifying process to get accepted to race. Once the race started, all standards reset to get qualified for Kona.

 

On Friday in Laguna Phuket we checked-in for the race at the host hotel. A beautiful hotel with a spectacular Thai theme setting. The hotel employees spoiled us and every other guest there throughout our stay. Sponsor banners were everywhere. I showed my passport, picked up my race number, timing chip, and a swag bag. Laguna Phuket is awesome. The place is a virtual island resort within the greater real Phuket Island. Five hotels make up the lodging for the complex area combined with a country club, golf courses, lagoons, beaches everywhere, great Thai food, and lots of pools. In 1993 a well-known race director and triathlete agent convinced the Resort owner to put on the race. He convinced the owner to put up pros in the hotels for free, award prize money, and fly them in at the resort’s expense. The pros presence would pull in hundreds of amateurs and families for the race and vacation. It would put Laguna Phuket on the radar of every late year sun starved triathlete and their families to come here, compete, rest, relieve their wallets, and repeat. The concept worked. Everyone had fun there too!

 

Mexico was my first foreign triathlon though all the competitors were Americans. In Thailand competitors were like a contingency of United Nations’ personnel, multi-culture reigned with people from all over the world. Throughout our stay there was a high level of tolerance for ambiguity as everyone sincerely sought common understanding of language, cultures, customs, and fair competition plus a unity of triathlete camaraderie. Four mandatory pre-race meeting were held, one each in English, Thai, Japanese, and a fourth by invitation only for the professional triathletes. The speaker focused on the safety aspect of the race. Drink lots of fluids before, during, and after. The weather would be hot and humid. He encouraged us to swim quickly to reduce the chance of getting bit by sea fleas or stung by jellyfish. Speed boats would clear a path on the swim course in the Andaman Sea but not sure how many minutes the clearing would last, so start swimming when the air horn blasted and the boats cleared out. Instructions included more than we expected. All in a good way. 

 

He repeatedly stated to obey the signs at the “No Passing” sections where marked on the bike course. People with red flags served as notification and course marshals who recorded race numbers of offenders for disqualification. He reminded us to ride on the left side of the road and roads were not closed to vehicular traffic so look out for motorbikes, cars, and trucks. Also be aware of free roaming chickens, dogs, monkeys, and water buffalo.

 

The meeting director included off course items too. The race entry fee included a pre-race buffet meal in a 4-Star restaurant and post-race meal and awards celebration in the outside tent. Both required tickets from the swag bag for entry. Adult friends and family could buy meal tickets at 1,000 baht per meal (US $25) with beer and wine included. Kids under 13 years of age ate free. I calculated the race entry more than covered food costs for the kids.

 

Back at Bang-Na five weeks earlier for the pick-up tri, the pre-race talk included we started in the country club pool located behind the building where we currently stood listening to directions. We learned the sprint tri swim leg would be the same length as the long race. All racers would line up at one end of the pool and jump in and swim to the other end, swim back on the other half of the same lane and switch to the next lane and repeat. A zigzag course running longitudinal in the pool. The competitors would snake their way through all lanes and exit to head towards the transition area. The RD said the bike leg for the sprint race consisted of four laps on the paved road that went around this huge field with some dried out plants that were taller than corn stocks and shorter than a two story house. “Just keep turning left and stay on the road, you’ll return each lap”. He added, “For the long race the number of laps would be a lot more.”

 

He continued the run would be an out and back affair along a portion of the bike course road and beyond. “If you do the short race, turn at the turnaround arrow. If you do the long race, turn at the turnaround arrow that is further out.” All true. I could not make this stuff up if I had to for this book.

 

The race started as soon as the first swimmer jumped in the pool. Everyone, whether in the pool or not were recorded with the same start time. There was no organizational attempt to stratify faster swimmers at the start of the line, no timed intervals between competitors, no time to warm-up. Sort of like doing “hands” on the bat to determine starting positions. Get in line, put on your goggles, and sort out the details we go.

 

Spring forward to Laguna Phuket on race morning, as expected the weather was hot and humid. I sweated more racking the bike and gear than on a hard workout in Phoenix three months earlier in the peak of summer. Our bodies were marked with race numbers under palm trees. We walked over to the dock for the two minute water taxi ride across a lagoon to the swim start on a beach of the Andaman Sea. The views were beautiful with no other landmass in sight. We stood side-by-side in a tight space awaiting the start. The race announcer welcomed us in English. The local mayor was recognized and introduced in Thai. The sponsors were thanked to a round of clapping and whistles. The competitors’ adrenalin elevated. The air horn sounded for the race start and two speedboats took off. We dashed across 10 meters of sand and dove without wetsuits into the sea. We stroked like crazy to beat each other and the jellies. 

 

The swim course included a 1500 meter counter-clockwise loop in the salty sea. The water was clean and bright with a pleasant translucent greenish/whitish/blue hue. We saw an occasional fish. Next we ran 50 meters across a sandy beach and plunged in the freshwater and much warmer water of a lagoon. The lagoon contained clear water too but almost opaquely dark due to limited penetration of sunlight. The lagoons were open pit tin mines until flooded, landscaped, surrounded by five hotels and converted to a resort. The 300 meter swim across the lagoon put us at the entry point to the transition area.  

 

Back in Bang-Na I’m 75 deep in the string of racers, some already in the water and others shuffling quickly across the pool deck towards the water. I’m not sure how the race started. No one heard a horn, whistle, or pop. No clocks could be seen anywhere. Times were not being adjusted based on entry into the water. The water looked like a science experience. Algae plumes could be seen on the sides and bottom of the pool. At times the center line was covered with so much crud you could not see the defined black strip, only a jagged shape of black paint and decayed plant material. Homemade swimming holes were cleaner than this pool. No one else seemed to care. I jumped in and started stroking right down the middle of the lane passing other swimmers on my right and brushing returning traffic on my left. At the end of the pool on the first length I turned around and swam back on the same middle line I came down on. Hoped no one else implemented the same race plan so as to avoid a head on collision. I held to that tactic for the entire swim. Secondly, hoped any ameba inhaled or ingested would be killed by repressive heat and humidity before race end. Once entering the last lane of the pool I erased the whole stagger spotted to all other competitors.

 

I headed to the transition area returning there for the first time since racking my bike on the temporary ropes. Fortunately, I brought my 14 year-old Cannondale bike to race on. The bike was smashed to the ground sometime between when I racked it and when arriving back to ride on the bike leg. Seeing the bike prone on the ground didn’t get me worked up. “Mai pen rai” (pronounced ‘my pen rye’) as the say in Thailand. Translated to western speak as: “it’s okay”, “no worries”, “no problem”, “whatever”. After all, when in Thailand, act like a Thai. I put on shoes, followed by helmet, jumped on the bike, and started pedaling.

 

After three laps I realized I didn’t know how many laps needed to complete the long course. Asked another racer who said “11”. For confirmation I asked someone else who passed me but didn’t answer. I figured 11 to be a workable number whether fair, accurate, or just lucky. If you wanted to fall asleep on a bike ride and didn’t want to miss anything, then this would be the race to do. We biked 11, 5K loops of nothing to be seen except decayed plant material. All flat. All on dirty cement. No life except other competitors and a handful family members. No buildings. No water. No parks. We didn’t see the country club’s golf course either.  After I completed 11 laps with my on-board odometer showing 55 kilometers, the same as Laguna Phuket’s distance, I transitioned to the run.

 

Laguna Phuket Triathlon prided itself as a long distance race though unique with legs of 1.8 kilometers for the swim, 55 kilometers for the bike, and 12 kilometers for the run. The bike course resembled a big looping rollercoaster. We took a left hand turn out of the transition area and headed north and quickly covered four flat miles along the coastline of the Andaman Sea. We pedaled by five beautiful resorts, exited the complex, and rolled through an area with trendy cottages like homes. Then started “climbing the tiger’s claw” made up of three steep climbs with descents between them near an outcrop of rock along the Andaman Sea. We ascended a steep climb, rolled over the apex, and pedaled down at a scarily fast speed. Midway down the first drop was a reduced speed zone. Volunteers with red flags yelled at us to slow down and not to pass. The bottom of the downhill treated us with a sharp right hand turn and a steep drop-off if not navigated properly. Volunteers wanted us to finish the race as healthy as we started it. The race procedures to improve safety were developed from bad outcomes at previous races. Unfortunately people were still learning the need to follow them the hard way. A week later, the Thailand Managing Director for Nike who raced said a rider crashed at the bottom of the hill in front of her. He was Air-Evac’d out with a broken body to a major hospital in Bangkok for surgery and recovery.

 

I arrived unprepared for what we faced on the bike climbing. My back wheel consisted of an eight cog cassette, a straight block set-up with gearing too tight to climb efficiently on the 15 degree inclines. By the third set of hills the quads hurt so much my stomach hurt. I thought I would puke. Some of the other bikers dismounted and walked. I kept cranking, then we plateaued. We angled along a winding road through the rubber tree plantations. We passed stray “soi dogs”. A couple of motor bikes came down the middle of the road as we passed through a small town amongst the rubber trees. The small town represented a typical village in Thailand. By western standards people were poor. They survived at poverty level, a much lower standard than what we measure in the US. We rode by on bikes that costs more than a Thai may earn in a year. I felt grateful for my life opportunities.

 

Just before we existed the forest I saw ahead a lone herder leading his posse of water buffalos across the road. I reacted quickly and jumped out of the saddle to pick up the pace to beat the beasts across the road. The guy who had just passed me didn’t see the herd. I slipped through the closing gap beating him and the buffalos across the road to gain an advantage. The other guy never did repass me on the bike leg.

 

Racers came out of the trees and curved northward back towards the southern edge of the resort area. We continued to pick up the pace, spinning full out on a slight descent along a beautiful parkway setting as we returned to town. We passed fewer than 100 spectators, some hungover tourists, and local residents out on Saturday morning doing errands.

 

As we exited town we headed southbound for a short, clockwise rolling loop amongst the countryside. The faster pros were coming straight at us then turned to their left, our right towards the final mile and back to the transition area just before we turned left to climb a hill following their same path. The Laguna Phuket Triathlon course, without doubt, offered the most varied 55 kilometers of riding in any tri race I biked in before or after. We rode by seas, parks, farms, houses, cottages, swamplands, rubber trees, and palm trees. We biked through resorts, plantations, countrysides, and city settings.  We out biked stray dogs, water buffalo, and monkeys.  We biked on private roads, city streets, county highways, and beautiful boulevards. We biked across varying topography of flats, climbs, and descents. We biked amongst triathletes, languages, and bike brands from all around the world. We felt speeds, winds, pains, and pleasures on either ends of the spectrum. All way cool.

 

Back in Bang Na I dismounted from my bike and pushed it into the transition area. The bike rack ropes were taut again. Most of the bikes for the short race were gone as competitors left for home. All of the bikes for the long race were out on the course. Still, I didn’t want my bike crashed to the ground again, I smartly set the Cannondale on its side by the towel that marked my area. I doubted any penalties would be issued at this race. I switched shoes, slapped on some sunscreen, covered my head with a race hat and took off. I ran outbound as slower short course competitors headed back towards the finish line. I ran out beyond the short race turnaround arrow and kept going. I didn’t see anyone at the short race turnaround or beyond. No one saw me. I reached a second U-turn painted on the road, did a 180, and headed back. I spotted people again when approaching the finish line. A simple chalk drawn line across the road. No decorations. No timing clock. No finisher medals. No time adjustments for the strange swim start. This didn’t matter as no times were measured for anyone. No awards for age groupers. A half an hour later, more finishers crossed the line. The post-race meal was Thai food. Cooked on site under the noon time heat. Most of it on the spicy side. Hot. Hot. Hot.  With the long race winding down the race director gave out winning awards to the top male and female finishers. A drawing was held for a free entry to Laguna Phuket Triathlon for one lucky competitor. Recess ended. The pick-up tri ended. Everyone had fun.

 

At Phuket I racked my bike on the steel bars held steady a meter off the ground. I exchanged bike shoes for running shoes, took off the bike helmet and put on a running cap, grabbed my race belt with number, and ran out of the transition on to the resort roads. The course was flat, humid, and hot. With little wind away from the sea, the air smelled stale as we ran through the far north-end of the complex. With so many competitors in the race we were never out of sight of someone else. Most people gave encouragement with a nod, smile, or accented English phases. The pros gave the most verbal encouragement, especially the ones who were racing late in the season after taking some time off from the northern hemisphere racing season but wanted a warm destination race vacation. Getting cheered on by a professional triathlete you just passed was a rush that was remembered. For me though, realty kicked in fast as I held a steady race pace in the suppressive heat and humidity. I heard someone catching me from behind, fast tapping of feet and heavy breathing. Getting closer and louder too quickly for me to out run her.

 

My inner mind kept telling me to go faster, loosen up, stay relaxed, get cool, and lengthen my stride. Most importantly my mind shouted, “Stay with that person as she catches you!” Soon, professional triathlete Lisa Bentley ran by me like I’m almost standing still. She kicked my ass on the run by five minutes. My mind sunk into submission. Within a mile I ran under a tree to get some shade and a branch swiped the hat off my head as if serving out punishment for not hanging on her shoulder for a kick to the finish throw down. I kept running. The course took us along the road to the front of the Banyan Tree Hotel. A well-earned 5-Star designated hotel. The crown jewel of the Phuket hotels. Fences covered with sponsors’ logos flanked on both sides of the road to keep back the spectators. I picked up my run speed as I kicked against myself cheered on by Chris, Hayes, and Caroline. My greatest fans anywhere in the world. I crossed under the finishing arch made up of colorful balloons. Every competitor crossed under the balloons received a finisher’s medal. Every racer received a finishing time. The times were split for each leg: swim, bike, and run plus for the two transitions. We celebrated that evening at the awards ceremony with food prepared by professionally trained chefs. We ate with gusto, laughed with delight, and enjoyed the special celebration of an international collection of triathletes, both professionals and age groupers.   

 

Before dinner a cocktail celebration included pros and age-groupers who qualified for one of the coveted slots at Ironman Australia or Ironman Japan. I earned a spot and chose Ironman Australia. Back then, there was only one Ironman triathlon race on the island continent of Australia and all the competitors were required to qualify for Ironman OZ. I enjoyed a drink, met the race director and picked up my letter to enter Ironman OZ. 

 

Chris and the girls walked by the celebration area and as a family we stepped into the tent for food and headed for a table with four open seats to accommodate us. A Japanese triathlete, his wife, and kids filled the other seats. Age wise, we aligned closely. Both families recognized we were all visitors. All of us smiled, nodded, and quickly realized neither families knew the other’s native language. We did recognize though smiles were universal and triathlon competition allowed for a common bond. Over the course of dinner we “bought” each other a beer. As dinner wrapped up the awards started. The whole event was exciting. Any energy we used up during the race returned to us that evening. Turned out my table companion and I competed in the same age group as we learned when sharing the stage together when the awards were presented. He won last year and came back again in 2003 in an attempt to defend his title.  

 

The sport of triathlon is unique. Name another sport where the amateurs compete side by side with professionals. In many triathlon races, pros and amateurs are provided the opportunity to compete head to head from water line to finish line. The Laguna Phuket Tri was such a race. The pros cheer you on as much as you cheer on your buddy or the pros. Age group triathletes at many races are competitors who watch as spectators while competing in the same event. Pro triathletes are competing for a living but cheering on the age-groupers like they are their best mate on the same club. They eat together after the race. Sometimes share a beer. Each group always shares a story. The Laguna Phuket Triathlon event came to end. Everyone had fun. This race should be on everyone’s American’s pronunciated Phuket List.

 

Results: At Bang Na 1st Overall

At Laguna Phuket 16th Overall, 5th amateur, 1st in age group

Doug Morris

Coach of Exceptional Outcomes

Palm Trees Ahead, LLC

Tel: 1.630.457.7889

dougmorris@palmtreesahead.com

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