Sunday, August 5, 2012

The end of the holidays is nigh

I haven't been posting lately which is a good sign in that I have been enjoying my holidays but not so good from a training point of view. But this time I decided to take a real holiday and allow myself to fatten up a little bit for when things pick up after the summer.

It's hard for even me - I feel more Spanish than English in many ways, having had some of my most important life experiences in Spain - to not feel extremely patriotic right now. An Englishman has won the Tour de France - and one who likes to say "cunt" a lot, something that particularly pleases me - and, at the time of writing, Great Britain is third in the medal table of the Olympics with 14 gold medals, behind the USA and China. If the medals were per capita then GB would be leagues ahead (although I'd have to check the population of Kazakstan to be sure). I was proudly telling my half English and half Spanish children that this was the result of the lottery funding of the past few years and my eldest remarked that it could have been spent on something more useful. He has a point, of course, but after food, shelter and sanitation, I think that culture (be it music, art or sport) has a fundamental importance in society. At least the money wasn't sent on superfluous airports, backhanders and bank bailouts as has been the case of Spain (currently in 36th place) which, by the way, has been disinvesting similarly in education and research. I have been a bit cut off from the Olympics converge which in the hotels I have been staying in, frustratingly seems to be limited to stills on BBC World News, but every morning I have been checking the results from the day before. I bet that people in the UK have changed their tune from the defeatist "It will be a logistic nightmare" to one of unashamed pride. Even I wish I could be there and it had never even crossed my mind to get tickets let alone a flight to London.

We've been in Mui Ne and Hoi An since I last posted and tonight we are going to Ha Long Bay before heading back home. The only thing I am looking forward to is a respite from the sticky humidity - and to being able to ride my bikes, if I am honest.

In Mui Ne I did some open water swimming in the sea. I'm convinced that the improvements I have made in technique are starting to trickle down into the much more challenging task of swimming in the sea with waves and under currents. I was curious to see how fast I was swimming so I puts Garmin in my iPhone arm band aroun my neck: 4.7 kmph out and 4.5 kph back. That would be a seriously sub 1 hour Ironman time so I think that the fractal noise from the GPS error will have greatly exaggerated the distance covered - something I can smooth out when I get home (POSTSCRIPT: it was exaggerated by a factor of 2!).

I reckon that if I built up running again from scratch, starting with a 20 minute easy run, I could eventually become acclimatized to such humid conditions. But that is not how I have been going about it, so I have continued to suffer. I did however, really enjoy one outing on a reasonably OK mountain bike (a Giant, no less). I was able to go at an average speed of 30 kph which was more like 28 kph taking into account road works and traffic jams. It was a beautiful route through paddy fields and little villages. In many ways I felt safer than in Spain - the roads are generally very good in Vietnam (surely one of the benefits of communism) and, being on two wheels, you are part of the crowd. Safety in numbers. At times I felt as though I was in a Keirin race - those Japanese track bicycle races that are lead off by a motorbike. It would have been great to have been able to tour on bikes - maybe next time.

POSTSCRIPT: How biased of me to think that Great Britain would score highly if the number of medals won were divided by the population of each country: Jamaica with only 2 million inhabitants and several gold medals was top in Beijing and may well be again this time. I realised that this is an example of a phenomenon described at the beginning of Daniel Kannehan's "Thinking Fast and Slow" book. Is the country with the highest number of gold medals by per person likely to be a small or a big country? What about the the country with the lowest number of gold medals per person? The answer, surprisingly, in both cases is that the country is likely to be small because the extreme cases (high medal rate and low medal rate) are more likely in a smaller sample size.

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