I received many kind words from my last post – thank you for your support and encouragement! My race in Doha did not go as well as expected or hoped but it was still a step towards my goals for this season. I did get significantly beaten by the winners and I hope next time I am racing down the home stretch with the leaders. Although I was two seconds slower than my previous race, it was an entirely different race than at Stanford. The pace was erratic – very fast first and third laps, and a pedestrian second lap. Usually I feel relaxed still going into the bell lap but I was already pretty fried and knew it was going to be a grind.
For the first time this year, I was fully attacked by my friend and foe, Lactate. I was swamped with lactic. It was awesome. The best way to increase lactic threshold is to be exposed to it and I saw it in all its glory. Head spinning, gut retching, staggering off the track glory. What does not kill you makes you stronger so in that way the race was successful.
While in Doha, I learned that one of the most significant symbols is the Falcon, which is revered and protected due to two characteristics it possesses: courage and patience. So that will be my new mantra for the year; while it would have been incredible to set a personal best or really competitive time, I still feel optimistic that the results will come. Patience, my new bird friend reminds me, to wait for the results to come. And courage to take advantage of opportunities.
It is really really really hot over here. At first I thought it was the humidity, then I saw the daytime temperature: 42 degrees! Good thing we competed at night when the mercury dipped to 30C. We went swimming in the Gulf after the race and the water’s temperature was 30 degrees. A good place to do the swim portion of a triathlon, but forget about the bike and run legs!
Having studied International Relations and Urban Planning, I found a few days in the Persian Gulf - especially in light of current global events – fascinating. Qatar is a tiny peninsula state that juts into the Persian Gulf just off of Saudia Arabia and north of U.A.E. It is located in a volatile region, with Iraq, Iran and Pakistan across the Gulf, Syria to the north and Yemen to the south. A predominately Muslim state, at one point I heard a strange chanting noise over the PA and people stopped their activities and disappeared for a few minutes. Most public places have prayer rooms / mosques so I did not actually see it happen but did notice the queue at Starbucks was much shorter as people left to pray. (Yes, they do have Starbucks and yes, I saw Muslims drinking out of ubiquitous Starbucks cups). When I was lying in my hotel room bed the first night I noticed an arrow on the ceiling and it took me a few minutes to figure out what it meant.
Due to abundant oil and natural gas resources, Qatar is a very wealthy ($143,000 per person GDP) and politically stable country led by an absolute monarchy. Obama recently praised Qatar for its role in providing aid to rebel forces in Syria and for promoting freedom and stability to the region. A wealthy nation, the capital city of Doha is under a major transformation with glass towers and crane dotted horizon. A natural desert, what is not concrete or lawn is sand – and it blew around and made me a sneezing machine! The Qatar people love sports and Doha is fast becoming a sporting capital – Doha recently won the bid for the 2022 World Cup and I can’t imagine how much the City will change in the next ten years as preparations are put into full force. They also host a major tennis tournament, the annual Diamond League, the 2010 World Indoor Athletics Championships and are bidding on hosting the 2017 World Athletics Championships.
The majority of people wear very traditional attire, and as such we were requested to wear gowns (or tropical inspired moo-moos?) provided to us to the gala dinner where fifty or so school aged performed songs and dances in Arabic. The lyrics that were projected on the wall startled me with their message: reverence for leaders, protection of nation and land, honour and sacrifice for leader/nation/land: cheery songs about spiders and rainbows they were not. There was one particular song about their leader, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, which had me contemplating how absurd it would be for Canadian children to sing about Steven Harper with such conviction. The Romanian girls at my table said that it reminded them of the types of songs they learned during the Communist era in their country. Reading the local newspapers such as the Gulf Times and Arabian News were also very interesting – as was watching local coverage of the Bin Laden capture, reminding me how close I was to Pakistan. I was grateful to be in such a safe country and even more grateful that I call Canada home.