After some spectacular (if a tad chilly at times) training in Cornwall this year, I was fortunate enough to do my next few sessions somewhere slightly more exotic: the fabulous island of Cuba.
Now bearing in mind a decent summer over here sees temperatures in the 20’s (I nearly died in the Avenger last year when we raced in the low 30’s) I had to take a bit of care here as the country was going through a heatwave, so even the locals were having a tough time as we pushed 40 degrees on a daily basis. Clearly the temptation was to sit on the beach in the sun, piña colada in one hand and the most exercise being a dip in sea, but well… this is the Chile Challenge so I felt obliged to make the most of the different training opportunities on offer. So just for you guys:
First up had to be to try out the local diving. Regular readers may be familiar with my usual exploits – braving freezing temperatures in a disused quarry in the Midlands, hoping for more than a few mitres of visibility and maybe even a couple of fish (if you are lucky!) – this was a bit different! Over the week I managed to get in 5 different dives, the highlight being the brilliant Patrol Boat 383 (thank you Google for the picture above): a Russian Frigate at 27 metres depth, with decent viz, tonnes of marine life, colourful coral and a resident puffer fish in the hold. Other great dives included seeing a nurse shark (yes a shark!) and a much-tougher-than-expected drift dive around a reef which made me glad of all those open water swims. It turns out all that hard work in the ice cold quarries was worth it though, as I could really appreciate the environment more, and was really pleased with my buoyancy skills along the way, particularly alongside most of my lightweight companions who without exception were horrified at the idea of submersing themselves in anything below 25 degrees!
Despite belonging to a gym with tennis courts and spending anything from 5 to 10 hours per week there, I never actually get around to playing the old bat-n-ball, but we decided the hotel’s courts were too tempting and had to try them out. Given the temperature it was a bit mission-impossible, and we had to get there for 7.30 am (easier said than done after a night on the piñas!) to avoid the searing heat, and even then we only managed 45 minutes before nearly passing out. Although it had been years since last picking up a racquet, it turned out the body does not forget, and as you will see from the above pictures, Federer and Sabatini need to watch their steps!
Our plans switched to hitting the air-conditioned gym next door, where having been out of the country for over a week, I had to get my fix of RPM tracks on the bike. I don’t think the other users were used to riders standing up on the pedals and simulating hill climbs, then suddenly dropping into sprints, but I am sure they were just jealous! The beach views were also somewhat improved, although it will take a lot to beat the one from our rooftop gym in Havana a few days earlier (top left).
Our final fitness activity was none other than dancing. And not just one type, but salsa, Zumba, cha cha cha and who knows what else. Being a typical uncoordinated guy I was a bit terrified at the idea of this sort of thing, but it turned out having all those Les Mills classes in the last 12 months I actually had some moves! Now I am saying I was Michael Jackson, but I was able to keep to time pretty well, and compared to the handful of other blokes who joined a mainly female gang across the half dozen or so classes, I feel I can hold my head up. That said, there was a clear difference between the Europeans there and the local guys, who all seemed to have plenty of natural rhythm and put us to shame with their hip shaking routines… maybe a bit more practice in the next few months and I will be able to tear it up when I visit again next year!