Training through Travel, or: How to Train for a Triathlon in Outback Australia

As I embark on a series of work trips across Europe, looking at each week’s travel plans and adjusting my training, I find myself reminiscing on the most horrific work travel adventure I have encountered, and how I managed to train through it…

A few years ago, I was sent to Karratha in north west Australia for work for four months. Karratha is the picture of mythical Australia: red dust, hot sun, and kangaroos jumping around everywhere.

It was approaching triathlon season, so I needed to train. More than that, there was nothing to do in this town in the middle of nowhere, basically built around Australia’s north west gas shelf. The only providers of entertainment were Mermaids’ Tavern or Trawlers Nightclub. Not really my scene…

But training there proved difficult. For a start, it was hot. I arrived in July – winter in Australia – and the average temperature was 30 degrees celsius. This only rose, and by the time I finally escaped in October, 40 was the regular low temperature of the day!

There was a tendency to try to “beat the heat” in the town, so we would start work at 7am, but often not return until after 6pm. Since, as I mentioned, there was nothing to do in town, the team I worked with often insisted on “forced fun” or team bonding sessions in the evenings so I took to training in the very early hours of the morning.

I would run around the town in the dark at 5am. After a few sessions, my pristine asics runners had turned red, covered in the red dust that infiltrated everywhere. Other mornings I would swim lap after lap of the 20 meter pool. For someone who, as a child, was afraid of being eaten by a shark in the swimming pool, swimming in the pool in the dark and on my own like this was a major achievement!

One thing I couldn’t do so easily was get out on my bike. It was really dark, both morning and night, and with slightly suspect night vision I couldn’t trust myself. Also, there was a surprising amount of traffic, and since I was new to cycling I was not inclined to get out into it. So I bought a wind trainer and set it up in my room.

Now let me just describe my room for a moment. I lived in a workers camp, with about 400 “dongas” set up. The word donga refers to the temporary accommodation tin sheds they set up in workers’ camps such as mine: The Bay Village Resort (it was neither by a bay nor anything like any resort I’ve ever been to incidentally).

So my donga was even smaller than my apartment in Amsterdam – probably about 12 meters squared. As you can imagine, it took some maneuvering to fit the bike on the wind trainer in there! Unfortunately, a wind trainer can be quite loud, and with the thin walls between dongas, it was certainly not appropriate for me to do this in the mornings. So I would make excuses to get out of forced fun evenings, so I could go home and train in my cell …

As for weights training, well there was a gym at the Bay Village Resort. But remember how I mentioned there were 400 residents? And this was a town built around the oil & gas industry? Well women were few and far between. I was one of about ten women living in the resort, so my presence often raised a bit of attention. Guys would literally stop doing weights while I was in the gym to gawk at me. It was awkward…

This week we started the two months of business trips in Madrid. I headed down to the hotel swimming pool on Monday evening. While twenty meters long, this was no lap pool: it was just one long spa – the water was hotter than bath water! But I just shrugged and thought, “If I can train in Karratha, I can train anywhere!” So here we go…

Photo at the top courtesy Jim Bendon: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jim_bendon_1957/12870481014/in/photolist-kBjzB5-fBc4QV-d31bUW-cYi6ud-comNyG-dqrvxP-d32Vs9-cYi4n3-daASsB-d31cch-cYHUjL-boUMZC-boUMRQ-cDUBob-c2bgvE-dqrwVc-cDUDcJ-daRfba-cokcFh-hTpfyV-cYjsah-cFCo87-cYi3Gm-cYi3ch-cDUCVE-cYi7pW-kRmYgX-eFYu5N-cDUxGo-cFCiD7-cFCikS-daAZJN-comFEY-comCoU-comwBE-cYHfvW-cYHbHj-dYYe7G-eFSmvR-d31bbS-bsT3Zw-cb8C1f-cYjt2Y-cokuNy-dSUYPj-mzmQa3-eFYumG-coknPN-eFYu1W-cYkonE