Friday, February 18, 2011

41 Days And 40 Nights

For Lent I'm giving up the United States.

For where?  For a place that even I, someone that has been to a lot of places other people have to look up on a map, had to look up on a map.

Specifically: Playitas Resort, Las Playitas, Fuerteventura, The Canary Islands, Spain.

Las Playitas The Town is in the farthest valley; Las Playitas The Resort is in the closest valley, with the grass

Directions: Leave Florida heading East, aiming for the border between Morocco and Western Sahara, pass South of Bermuda, and stop about 150 miles before you hit Africa.

This is pretty much the same path the wind takes to Fuerteventura before it scours everything off of the island's surface. Other islands in the Canaries have lush natural resources and parks, but Fuerte is a place you can train all day and only finally find shade when you collapse in your room.  The islands boasts many goat - or "cabrito" - farms, enough such that the island's official symbol is:

Fuerte is also famous for tomatoes, which taste great, but don't cast enough of a shadow for my tastes.  Other than that, much of the island looks like the moon:

Partly because of their moon-ness, Fuerte and its neighbor Lanzarote, which hosts one of the hardest IM races on the circuit, have become a southern European/northern African destination for triathlon and training.  The roads are smooth and empty, the wind is strong, and the weather is ideal - and consistent to a fault.  Sunny, cloudless blue skies, and 80 degrees does actually get old....I swear.

Playitas is a resort built for sport.  50m outdoor pool.  Fitness classes.  Spin classes.  Full gym.  Tennis.  Golf.  Specialized road bike rental [the resort is the winter training grounds of Team Saxo Bank-Sun Gard, a professional cycling team].  Full-day day care.  Etc etc etc....  Oh and twice-daily, all-you-can-eat buffet meals.  

Why I am going to Fuerte stems from cultural differences.  Americans take winter holidays to beaches, cruises, any place warm, usually with some sort of food theme.  Germans take winter holidays late enough to be early season training camps.  Germans bring their bikes and running shoes, flog themselves silly and fry themselves red on the first day, reload for the next day with non-alcoholic beer ("liquid bread"), and love every second of it.  Even a few quite, ahem, mature women on touring bikes can be seen roaming the roads of Fuerte.  It is just what they do given a choice.  Germans choose Fuerte because it is as far south as they can go in the world without changing their money.

And since The Whip Cracker is German and in the business of sport, he has camps for these holiday-taking age-group triathletes.  I trade my time, coaching, and geographical guidance for the opportunity to train and sweat in warmth and dryness in the middle of Northern Hemisphere winter.


A rebirth is actually a good way to describe what happens after six weeks of training in Fuerte.

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