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Update from Abu Dhabi

Tara Norton Blog #4

Let me start by saying Abu Dhabi is pretty cool!

Bruce and I have a wonderful home stay with Elsa and Raul right in the centre of the city, which is perfect.  Elsa is from South Africa and Raul from Chile originally.  They are both triathletes and will be doing the short course triathlon on the weekend.  We have had a lot of fun getting to know them and hanging out with them and it is great to be able to get the ‘inside information’ from locals who know how things work.  This is especially true in a location where it is quite culturally different!

Bruce and I arrived at Elsa and Raul’s apartment at about 4am on Saturday and immediately upon our arrival took off to go on the hot air balloon ride over the desert to watch the sun rise.  Talk about getting right into the swing of things!

The hot air balloon was the largest in the world with a volume of 12,000 cubic meters.  Our pilot was hilarious and did a good job of avoiding the power lines and showing us an amazing sunset.  It was very cool seeing wild camels in the desert from up above and the sand dunes were amazing.  It’s strange because we went up to 4000 feet and were traveling at 70km/hr but it didn’t feel like we were even moving!  The only way you could tell we were even moving was by looking over the edge of the basket at the ground and you could see that the ground was fast approaching as we made our descent!  We had a couple bumps on the landing but otherwise it was a pretty smooth ride and our basket didn’t topple over on the landing.

After the balloon ride, I did an ocean swim with Elsa and Raul and the water is really beautiful.  We did have to look out for a couple crazy jet skiers (apparently a swimmer was killed by one a few years ago) and a couple kite surfers.  While watching from the beach Bruce saw dolphins in the area right where we were swimming, only we returned from out out-an-back 5mins too late and I missed them.  So sad because I love dolphins!

The training here on the bike is next to impossible!  People ride here at 3 or 4am to avoid the CRAZY drivers and traffic.  People here drive at a million kms/hr and the roundabouts are the most insane chaotic driving I have ever seen!  On one of our drives, we avoided a near accident as we had to brake hard to avoid the guy who flew past us and then cut right in-front of us from the inside lane to exit the roundabout.  Even the race organizers advise you to only ride in the “gym” and say ride the course at your own risk!!!!

On Monday we drove most of the bike course (we were unable to get onto the Formula 1 race track that we will be riding on race day) and I rode about 30kms on the highway with Bruce driving behind me with his flashers on.  Fortunately it is a 10-lane highway (five each side) so there were ample lanes for the flying cars and this made the experience not so scary.  I just wanted to ride some of the course to feel the wind conditions pre race day, so mission accomplished.

I had a good heat acclimatization run on Monday after the bike ride.  I ran along the ‘corniche’ which is the beautiful path along the water and wow, was it hot.  My heart rate was through the roof!

Yesterday (Tuesday) I drove to Al Ain (in the thickest fog I have ever seen) to meet Hillary Biscay (and Maiki, her GCM – German Cycling Machine – who is also racing) to ride 3.5 hours on ‘safer’ roads.  It was a nice ride and worth the drive.  We saw lots of camels including three in the back of a pick-up truck along the way.

After our trip to Al Ain, we drove back (with a wee stop to add coolant to an over-heating car) to go on a desert safari.  This was a lot of fun.  If ever, you want to endorse a Toyota Land Cruiser, go on one of these trips!  The sand dune off-roading was INSANE!  I can’t believe that our car did not topple over numerous times and Bruce captured a photo of me in the back seat of the car hanging on for dear life.  My facial expression says it all!  In addition to the sand dune roller coaster of a ride, we stopped to see ostrich (funny because they are not native to this area), had a camel ride (I can’t imagine traveling across the desert for hours on that BUMPY ride) and some people smoked a shisha or hookah (a smoking device in which the smoke gets cooled and filtered through water before being inhaled) before a very yummy Middle Eastern meal of chicken kebabs, lentils, rice and pita with humus.  I think I will stay away from the lentils now until after race day.

I will try to post some photos soon!