Triathlete Abroad: Stuck In Thailand During A Global Pandemic
Lucy Richardson is a Sundried triathlete ambassador who has been in Thailand over the winter for training and racing. Due to the current global pandemic, she has found herself in a tough situation. She talks to Sundried about her experience.
Since the start of November 2019, my husband and I have been based in Phuket, Thailand so that I can spend my winter triathlon training with a local triathlon group led by Jurgen Zack, the German triathlon legend. Up until 2 weeks ago, unless you read the news, you would not have really known that there were any problems in the world as Phuket seemed to be in its own little bubble.
Then things got serious and you couldn't help but hear about what was going on and see people that were being affected as we have people from all over the world training with us. Some couldn't come, many couldn’t leave, some were going home early and others were not concerned at all. We weren’t worried to start with as we were due to fly back to the UK at the end of March and things didn’t seem too serious back home, so we were thinking we would ride it out and go home as normal. How wrong we were!
About 10 days ago we had an email from our flight provider Gulf Air saying they were no longer flying and they would help us find new flights home. After some long waits on the phone, we got help from their office in Bangkok who advised us to leave earlier as flights were being cancelled and airlines were stopping flying. We managed to get booked on a flight a week earlier with Emirates and everything seemed okay. No. The next day we were phoned and told Emirates would not take us (we now know they have stopped flying too so perhaps they knew that was coming even then) so we had been put on Oman Air, but things were changing by the minute so to expect changes. We also arranged to fly to Bangkok as soon as possible so we could be near the big airport should we need to fly out at short notice.
So all of a sudden my training camp had come to an end. My last 2 races had been cancelled anyway - an Olympic triathlon in Thailand and the Tour de Bintan cycle race in Indonesia. This meant that I, like everyone else, was training for no reason other than fitness and habit anyway.
We arrived in Bangkok on Saturday night. The airports at both ends were so quiet, unlike anything I have seen in the usually chaotic Thai airports. There were temperature checks and screening areas but not too much in the way of changes.
When we awoke the next morning, it was to news that Bangkok was going into lockdown; only essential food supermarkets were to open and people were advised to stay in as there had been a ‘second wave’ of the outbreak. This meant all facilities in the hotel could not be used and I couldn’t use the gym or pool.
It's funny what you worry about when things like this happen. I had thought I would go to Bangkok and enjoy being in a lovely hotel for the last few days of my travels, do some quality gym work, swim in the pool and forget about having to go back to work soon. But then that was taken away and it left me all out of sorts!
Fitness and exercise are what keeps me sane and with a focus and purpose, which I'm sure most athletes would agree with. Suddenly I couldn’t do those. It seems stupid to worry about that with everything going on in the world and it annoyed me that it bothered me so much, but it did and I have to be honest about that. But that's when the Thai hotel staff stepped in and brightened my day by showing me a route around the hotel grounds that would allow me to run safely and quietly away from the city streets. It was only about 500m through the car park and around their grounds, but with them pointing the way and cheering me on, it was an amazing 500m that I will never forget. Every time I have gone down there to do my looping runs, they have been encouraging and happy to see me running.
In any situation, you have to make the most of it and look for positives, this is the situation we are all going to have to deal with for some time now so we have to adapt and work with what we have and be happy with that.
It also means I can work on areas that I know I neglect, such as stretching and strength work. Despite my husband being a yoga teacher and doing his daily practice in the room everyday, I do not do enough of it so now is a good time to remedy that. As he says, 10 minutes a day is better than nothing and is a great place to start, so that is what I have done. The sun salutations are a good warm up to my main activity or can just be a great start to the day. I feel like an old lady when I first start and can barely touch my toes, but that does not matter in the slightest. By the end, I always feel better and more focused to get on with the rest of the day.
Today is supposed to be my last day in the hotel and we will fly early in the morning. Many more airlines have stopped flying and we have just found out we will be flying into a locked down England. Unfortunately for me, this means I will not be able to open my shop when I return home. I have a seasonal beach shop with ice cream kiosk that I run in the summer (hence why I travel in the winter) so my big opening for the Easter holidays will no longer happen. This leaves me feeling very nervous and anxious for what will happen to my family business but there are thousands and thousands of people out there in the exact same situation as me. We have to get through this together, being positive and doing what we can to come through this as happy and healthy as possible. At times like this, family, friends and loved ones are the number one priorityy.
I am pleased to see we are still allowed to exercise outside and I think this is critical now more than ever. Getting out in the fresh air, getting those endorphins that exercise gives you, and having a fit healthy body is super important, but only doing so alone and away from others is also crucial. If you cannot do that then then are a million ways to keep fit at home. I know my husband has had to close his yoga studio, but has adapted and now puts classes online for people to follow at home. Many other trainers have done the same with workouts, HIIT sessions, you name it you can follow it at home!
I think more cyclists than ever will be racking up the miles on the turbo; I know I will be jumping back on Zwift and catching up with friends from around the globe on there. Just because you are in isolation does not mean you have to feel isolated, and chatting to like minded people on Zwift whilst riding or running, or taking a group online yoga class is a great way to stay connected and talk to others about how you are coping and feeling.
Stay fit, healthy, positive and happy and we will get through this together and I believe come out as better people at the end. Is this the world's way of making us stop, think and change the way we live and act? Maybe.