Thursday, March 17, 2011

A new race on the circuit: 70.3 Ironman San Juan, Puerto Rico

Here I sit, on the balcony of my cushy room in the Hilton Caribe, listening to the waves coming ashore and having a Medalla Light. Even at $9 for a six-pack of these 10-ouncers, I know that I am supporting the title sponsor of this new race, for which I am the Head Referee. I suppose $9 is a small price to pay for a late afternoon of Caribbean bliss.
The Hilton Caribe, host hotel for the race

After arriving here last night around 7:30 p.m. after a 4 1/2-hour flight from DFW (once again I was lucky and was served G&Ts and a real meal up front), Marty and Steve—two USAT officials from Florida who are here to assist me—picked me up at the airport in the rental car with which the race organizers have provided us. We had a late-night creole fish dinner, accompanied by a few cervezas bien frias, in one of the seedier parts of town, but who cares, right?
Steve (l) and Marty—Charlie C. wouldn't approve

This morning we met with the organizers and then had a look at the transition area (in a huge, seaside stadium) and then the bike course. Things were a little bit dicey with all the traffic, but on Saturday—race day—we will have full police support in shutting the traffic down. From what we understand, the city government is totally behind this race, and even this morning we saw workers patching the road and others painting and landscaping the stadium. Well, they should embrace this race: Almost 1,600 racers are registered, and many, if not most, of them don't travel alone but with spouse, non-married honey, and/or kids. The economic impact must be significant, because most spend at least four or five days down here, if not more. You do the math, not only at $9 a six-pack!

Once the course leaves the San Juan sprawl it becomes incredibly scenic, leading right along the beach and the blue Caribbean. We had been told to look out for dead iguanas that have been flattened by the cars, and no kidding, there were lots of carcasses! But those, too, are supposed to be cleaned up before the race.

For lunch, we stopped at a small roadside restaurant, for extremely garlic-laden chicken (or was it iguana?), creole rice, slaw, and yummy beans—and a couple of Medallas.

La comida ...

... y los varones
When we made it back, I assembled my Ritchey BreakAway and went for a beautiful 2-hour, 30-mile ride. Instead of going west (the way the race will head) I turned east. Many years ago, when Judy and I rode halfway around the island on our Bike Fridays, we had ridden out of town on the same road, and I remembered the beautiful vistas of beaches, pines and palms, and the blue sea. I wasn't disappointed. As so often, memories welled up. Damn, Judy and I did so much cool stuff together!

North coast just east of San Juan
And now I'm back at the hotel. In half an hour, Marty, Steve, and I will head for Old San Juan. It may be a bit on the touristy side, but WTF. We don't get paid that often to come to a place like this and enjoy it.

Tomorrow I will have a day full of meetings and briefings. The two Floridians (who are more like Click and Clack, the car guys, having lived in the North East and sounding like it when they want to) are a nice addition to an otherwise already outstanding beginning to the race weekend.

Stay tuned for another update in the not-so-far future.


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