I received an email this past weekend from a fellow triathlete asking if I was planning on racing Ironman Wisconsin or Florida in 2013. Between the two, I lean toward the Land of Cheddar (I like cheese). But then, I look at a much larger calendar, the international race calendar. That very same weekend is Le Marathon du Meduc. Now we are talking about make a choice between wine and cheese. To have to choose between 140.6 miles of dairy farms through Wisconsin and running the vineyards of Bordeaux, France while tasting some of the best wine in the world. Wine or cheese? Wine or cheese? This is part of my thought process as I choose my races for a season.
I am a triathlete. I am an endurance athlete. I am an adventure seeker. I am a travel junkie. It is through my passport, pocketbook and triathlons; that I travel the world, race in exciting destinations, meet new people and experience different cultures.
As I look back on some of the races I have done in the past couple years, I have had the opportunity to fill my passport with numerous stamps. When searching for my first Ironman I took this approach: if I were to do one and only one for the rest of my life, where in the world would I want to go? Where would I want to go to make my one and only the greatest experience of my life? There will never be another first, so why not take that experience and live it out to the fullest?
I chose Africa. To start my very first Ironman standing on Hobi Beach off the Indian Ocean with the sun rising over Shark Point Pier and the drums beating behind me as if I were departing for my last battle is a priceless memory embedded in my soul.
Other places that have left footprints in my memory include:
Racing my bike around the Formula One track on Yas Island in the Arab Emirates. It was the first time I have ever done a race where the athletes were stopping to take pictures of other athletes on their bikes. The twists and turns and the need for speed overcame us as we entered the track. I would have gladly done the entire race on the F1 track.
The Paris Marathon, my first (standalone) marathon. I had been to Paris many times before, but never had I traveled so many miles by foot throughout the city. You get the most amazing tour of the city, where each step takes you through centuries of European history. The start at L’ Arc de Triomphe is only the beginning as you pass by le Louvre, l’ Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and along le Seine River. Crowds yell, “Allez, allez allez!” whenever you start to feel down, and hand out wine in the last 10k to help you celebrate your final stretch. My heart still skips anytime I look back on the memory.
le Marathon du Meduc. Not only did I start my year off with a marathon in France, but I finished my season with one there as well as I took on 26.2 miles through the wine region of Bordeaux. Now that was an unforgettable trip! Mostly French, the race was so much fun as we took to the vineyards, tasting not only wine but an amazing food spread that led you to believe you were not running a marathon but rather on a day-long fall food festival as you finished the last 3km with a 6-course meal, starting with oysters and finishing with ice cream! And don't forget the massages at the 13.1 mile marker. The most luxurious and fun marathon ever!
It is memories like these that leave me thirsting for more. What brings the excitement of the race to me is getting to enjoy what goes on around the course. Anyone can show up for a race and swim, bike or run. But it's not just about the race, it's what comes with it. The people who stand next to you at the starting line - they have a story. The countryside you pass through on your course - so many others have traveled it before you.
We as humans connect through experience, and I choose to connect with others through the sport of triathlon. My curiosity of the world and what lies outside my 60611 zip code is what leads me to all corners of the world. I pick a race in a foreign destination knowing I will immediately find a connection with people there, wherever it is. And when I step outside of the race I know that my real journey begins - after all, isn’t life more about the journey than the race? 30 years from now I want to be able to look back and remember not what place I got in whatever race, but experience I got out of wherever I was.
In 2011, racing took me to the Abu Dhabi Triathlon, Ironman Lanzarote, the Delhi Half Marathon, and the ITU Sprint World Championships in China. As the 2012 race season begins, I have already stamped my passport with Ironman 70.3 Panama. Swimming in the Panama Canal is without a doubt the most exciting swim I have ever done. I'll continue to collect stamps as I travel to Germany for a half marathon in April, Italy in June for a 70.3, Copenhagen for the KMD Challenge in August and then take flight to Asia later in the year for a few road races in India and Cambodia.
As you pick your races for 2012 and 2013, do you put thought into races you choose that goes beyond degree of course difficulty or what placing qualifies you for a championship of some sort? Why don’t you consider a destination race? I promise it will create lifelong memories after the thrill of the race is long over.
In good times and in good races,
"Wish You Were Here" is a travel racing segment by Kimberly Shah, seeking out the world’s hidden racing treasures. Kimberly has been a triathlon and marathon coach since 2005. As an athlete herself, Kimberly has traveled the globe competing in triathlons and road races of all distances from 5k to Ironman; in 2011 Kimberly was part of Team USA and competed in the ITU World Championships in Beijing. She is also part of the 2012 Rev3 Triathlon Team. Aside from her coaching company, njoy racing, Kimberly is also the Coach and a Master Trainer for Star Trac Fitness where you will find her on the new E-Series Treadmills, coaching you through runs. She is also a Master Trainer for the Schwinn Indoor Cycling Program, where she teaches continuing education in the fitness industry. Kimberly has studied in Chicago, New York, England, Austria and Germany. She is a Level 1 Certified USA Triathlon and USA Track and Field Coach, Level 3 Certified USA Cycling Coach and is ACE and AFAA Certified. She also has a background in Asian Bodywork Therapies. Learn more about Kim at www.kimberlyshah.com or www.njoylifestyle.com.