After getting in to Seoul Friday night and feasting at the "Broadway Diner" (right below the "Yankz and Mettz Grill") on imitation American food, consisting of butered Atlantic Salmon (quite far from the Atlantic), mussels, sushi, sashimi, kimchi, bread, meat balls, korean bbq ribs, rice, fried rice, azuki bean rice, rice rolled in bamboo shoots – in other words, not very American, but certainly not Korean.
Shortly thereafter, we hit our pillows at mach 6 and didn’t move for another 10 hours. We awoke to breakfast that consisted of the above, minus the ribs, and with the addition of eggs and dumplings (out of 25 dishes, maybe 5 were different from dinner). Not real exciting, but maybe they had leftovers to get rid of.
Eager for adventure, we put our bikes together, and set off for the race course. about a mile away.
The river was buzzing with people. thousands of locals were playing games, dancing, riding bikes along the path, skating on a concrete speed-skate track, playing music, walking, talking, eating, and enjoying the haze of the warm and humid day. Within the last week spring had turned to Summer in Seoul, and as the rain quit, the temperature rose steadily.
What freaked me out was that a good portion of these people – enjoying the weather, the park, their friends.. – were wearing face masks to protect them from the thick smog hanging over the city. The race pamphlet told us that the river was known around the world for its "length and girth" (inevitably the source of a great deal of humor), but the only thing making it appear wide was the thick haze that grayed the opposite bank. I’m sure we were breathing more than most of the park-goers, yet we were the ignorant ones without respiratory guards.
At 1pm we met for the race briefing. I was amazed at how well the Korean Triathlon Union had organized the event. It seemed every detail was taken care of. Throughout the weekend, we would discover that this is typical of Korean culture. They don’t plan in an anal retentive way – they just think about who they are planning for, and the guest always seems to come first in priority.
Finally, we were allowed to swim in the river – though the Aussies and Kiwis chose to find a pool. The water was cool (~65 F or 18 C), but with the heat of the day it was a real struggle to slip on my old Blue Seventy Helix Wetsuit for the first time of the season (Greg already has the 2009 version, but I have yet to try it out). By the time we hopped in the water seemed far too hot for neoprene. Despite some floating garbage, and a little debris, the 27 month cleaning program the city had done with the river seemed to have been a success. It was far cleaner than my expectations.
The only strange part of the 2 lap swim course was that there would be a yellow lane line connecting the buoys. I figured this would make drafting easy, but the full effects were not realized until race day. As for Saturday, a nice but uneventful welcome dinner finished the nice, but uneventful day and sent us into another deep coma. (well, it was a great night’s rest for me anyway, Chris had a sinus infection blooming and spent much of the night spewing phlegm.)
If you really can’t wait for me to post about Sunday, check out the results. The swim was miserable, the bike was awesome, and the run was fun. The course was completely flat, but as much as I hate to admit that wasn’t a true 10k time, I don’t think Thompson ran a true 29:30 – the course must have been short.
Right now I’m curled up in bed (back in Seattle) with a stomach bug I got on the airplane. My fever is dropping, and is almost below 100, and I haven’t visited the porcelain gods in about two hours, so I’m hoping I’ll be better by tomorrow – certainly before I leave for San Francisco on Wednesday. Please forgive me for not having written more, I need sleep.