The past month has been spent putting the finishing touches to a year of hard work. No cramming, no last minute crazy sessions, or unnecessary rest. The same programme, the same food, just a different location. Straight after the ITU World Champs I flew to the South Korean island of Jeju. Jeju is famed amongst the Koreans for being the No1 Honeymoon location. It is also an international conference venue, hosted the Ironman for a number of years, and served as the holding camp for many Federations before the Beijing Olympics. I first came here in 2003 in a suit, staying in a five star hotel, eating sumptuous feasts and talking to the UN about poverty (yes, the hypocrisy wasn’t lost on me), and then I returned in August last year. Jeju was the site of my first ever Ironman – and my first ever Ironman victory. Wow. It just shows you how the path of your life can change in a short space of time. (although I have yet to come to Jeju on Honeymoon).
Anyway, when the Boss was deciding where to go to prepare for the World Ironman Championships in Kona there was one obvious choice: Jeju. So what makes the island such a fantastic place to train, especially for Hawaii?
First, we have access to great, quiet accommodation, at the Bluehill House Pension (which is actually painted pink). We all have our own individual self catering apartments, with free internet access, TVs (although the Korean channels on offer do not equate to viewing pleasure. unless you like eurovision style programme formats), laundry facilities and even a cleaning service. Plus the beds are hard. Just the way we like them.
Second, we are stones throw away from all the shops, food and otherwise. The supermarkets stock everything you could wish for – and some things that you wouldn’t. For example, pickled cabbage in a range of different, but equally distasteful, styles and raw eel and other varieties of ugly, yet I am sure, very delicious fish products (complete with eyes).
Third, we have a range of swimming pools to chose from, the best being a ten lane, 50m pool, 2km from our door. We also have access to the gym, which has treadmills and a variety of other equipment – including some vibrating machines which would be more at home in the Sex is Healthy Museum (more about that famous tourist attraction later).
Fourth, the ocean is 500m from Bluehill Yet Pink House. It is clean, usually calm and doesn’t have sharks.
Fifth, the roads are quiet, wide, great quality and go here there and everywhere. We have steep hills, grinding rollers, flats, and everything in between. Plus, head winds, side winds and winds that go up your backside. The scenery is stunning, lush forest, endless orange groves, beaches, and 1950m Mt Hana slap bang in the centre. A loop around the edge of the island is 180km exactly. We know. We had to cycle it. Just a warm up.
Sixth, there are endless run routes, paved and unpaved. Up hills, down hills and no hills. Plus there are countless high quality, tartan run tracks, two of which are right next to each other 10km from our Blue Yet Pink House. The venue for much masochism. We have left body parts and fluids out there for everyone to enjoy.
Seventh, the weather. Aside from a few rainy (but still warm) days we have had perfect Hawaii training conditions – heat and wind, and a good dose of humidity to be the sauna/steam room you have always wanted
Last, there are a wide variety of excellent (or so we are told) tourist attractions to visit in our spare time. There is the Sex and Health (renamed ‘Sex is Healthy’) Museum which has a range of rather graphic statues outside, and we understand comes complete with more pictures, videos and toys than a Red Light District (enough to keep all the whole family amused I am sure); Loveland (apparently ditto re the plethora of not-suitable-for-children, toys); Happy Town; the Teddy Bear Museum and the Chocolate Museum. If all these Museums were under one roof (and renamed Fantasy Island) it would be satisfaction guaranteed. Might not count as a ‘rest day’ though.
All joking aside, Jeju truly is a triathlon paradise – a jewel, sparkling in the middle of Asia – and we couldn’t wish for a better place to prepare for Hawaii.
I leave here next week for the Big Island. I am excited, yet calm, and ready for action. I happy, proud and honoured to have worn the crown for the past year, and I won’t be giving it up without a fisty cuffs fight!!!!