I knew going to Sochi was going to be physically demanding. London was hard, but I at that time I was still in recovery mode from my run in with the SUV in 2011. This year after my triathlon race season had wrapped up in mid-November I made a commitment to myself to get in shape, with the lofty goal of being Not Bad for an Old Guy!
With the help of my friends from Core Power Yoga in Edina, MN I was there 5 days a week for the next 13 weeks! I know what you are thinking, I do not quite match the typical demographic of the yoga practitioner and OMG – He’s Wearing Yoga Pants! But with the help and support of some great instructors and friends; and the fact that working alone they were the only human beings I got to see during the day, I made it.
After 3 flights over 2 days and over 6,000 air miles, I arrived in Sochi without too much physical stress. I had gotten a good night’s sleep in Moscow and had a couple of good meals. I was now rested and ready to go!
I was lucky enough to get a ticket and as such, my first event was the Opening Ceremonies. Scheduled to begin at 8:14 PM (20:14 duh) at first sounds like an easy day. However I had to be at the USOC office to get my ticket at 2:00, which since I was unfamiliar with transit times, I left my apartment at 11:30 AM.
Ultimately we had to be in place at Fisht Stadium by 5:00 PM before the public was allowed into the venue. The good news is that I was with a great group who I would have the privilege of seeing at varies venues over the next two weeks. The bad news was we had to go up 10 flights of stairs, down eight, back up five flights, walk through a tunnel and then finally up to our position. Of course I was carrying all of my gear, except my laptop which I left locked at the media center.
Little did I know this was the warm up for what would become the norm for the week. Arrive early, haul equipment and climb stairs.
I know what you are thinking here – what if you had a party, invited the entire world and well, no one showed up?
Nope, I didn’t get to see the lighting of the torch, it was outside and I was inside!
We finally got out of the stadium after 11:00 PM and decided to walk back to the Media Center since the buses would have probably taken longer! It was a long walk at the end of a long day! I transmitted a few images, picked up my things from my locker and headed to get the bus back to the mountains. Keeping in mind it is my first day, I asked for bus TM10 to Gorki and the smiling volunteer said – you can also take TM5, so I did. As it turned out, TM5 just drove in a 20 minute loop to the hotels around the Olympic Park and returned to the Media Center.
At this point I was far to exhausted to be upset and well, what good would it do? I found TM10 back to the Gorki Mountain Media Center and transferred to TM13 to my hotel. When I asked the transportation volunteers how long until TM13 arrives, they said 10 minutes. Funny thing over the 2 + weeks I was there, it was ALWAYS 10 minutes; never 5, never 15 – always 10 minutes. Finally just after 2:00 AM, I collapsed!
The next day was my first day at the Laura Biathlon & Ski complex. This was much more convenient, a 15 minute walk through security to the Krasnaya Polyana cableway (and yes it is pronounced just like that, but my iPhone auto-correct kept changing it to Polly Anna).
More on Security later, but I took the big cableway (20+ capacity) to a smaller cableway (6 capacity) to the top of the venue. It was really pretty easy. Easy until I got off the cableway and looked up at the stairs I had to climb to get to the venue. 10 flights, yup I counted them!
10 flights of stairs and I had made one critical omission. I had somehow neglected to consider the venue was DUH – on a mountain and instead of the my Minneapolis normal 800 feet above sea level, I was now at almost 5,000 ft! I started walking up the stairs at my normal pace and after a few flights I felt like I was going to explode! Couple more flights, more of an explosion! Hot, sweaty, dehydrated and sucking wind!
I was able to gather myself together, get in position to shoot the Cross Country event, and then back to Biathlon to get ready for the evenings race.
Post event, I was totally oblivious to how far I had walked earlier – I was sure it was about 7 miles. I asked if there was a bus to the cableway. Of course! I took MX1 to the cableway. Just one problem, different cableway. Which ultimately ended in much discussion to find another bus and a late night 30 minute walk carrying all of my gear back to my apartment! This is only day 2!
I think it was day 4 when I realized that I was working at altitude (there was a reason they called it the Mountain Cluster – previously I was thinking Cluster was the key word), from there I just climbed the stairs more slowly, used my yoga breath and could make it up all 100 flights (oops, I mean 10) without a problem.
For the next couple nights, it was a quick and easy trip down. However on the 3rd night, I could no longer take the 10 flights of stairs directly down to the cableway, I now had to take an 18 minute side trip up and down hills through slush and ultimately up 5 more flights of stairs to get to the same spot. Why you ask? The ubiquitous answers to any question like this is: Because this is Russia!
As the games progressed I was able to find ways to conserve my energy, mostly by using the Media Transportation System, often more connections but less physical stress.
It really shouldn’t be a surprise that I actually left Sochi in better shape than I arrived, although I was doing pretty well when I arrived. You know, Not Bad for an Old Guy!
My re-entry was a 7:30 AM yoga class about 12 hours after getting home and an afternoon massage. Since I have another 26 hour travel day coming up next week, I have been at yoga every day since returning.
Just to put your mind at ease and so you will allow young children to possibly look at my blog, I do NOT wear yoga pants!