As I sit on my balcony overlooking a glistening pool surrounded by palm trees, hundreds of lounging chairs, a hot tub, and an endless sea, I'm not sure whether to feel like I'm on vacation or at a race. Oh, missing from that picture is the scrumptious buffet of food we're being treated to with an omelette bar at breakfast, pasta bar at lunch and dinner, other deliciously made regional flavors of rices and stir-frys, great salad/vegetable dishes, abundant platters of authentic hummus, and of course amazing desserts. I've already found one dessert I am particularly fond of. I forget the name, but it has a similar "feel" to apple crisp with a bit of dough/crust material mixed with almonds, raisins, a small amount of pudding/cream to blend/hold it all together, and probably a few other things. It is served hot, and my only addition(s) would be either a drizzle of honey or a small scoop of HIGH QUALITY vanilla ice cream. I'm not sure this is what I expected to be greeted with when I came to Oman, but all the rumors of nice accommodations certainly seem to be true. So how about those rumors of a less than flat race? After today's small training session, I'd say this will NOT be a flat or easy in any way race. The roads seem to constantly roll with steep ups and downs, which will be a real killer. In any case, the bottom line is that it is a race, so it will be tough!
In all seriousness though, I had some interesting thoughts during the training today. We rolled out of our seaside resort onto the desert roads after being greeted by a group of enthusiastic school children, and while on the roads, we received numerous supportive honks, thumbs up, and neighborhood kids yelling for us to throw a bottle. The support is immense here really. That is definitely something that has struck me as amazing. The way the country or surrounding area has rallied in support of the event is really neat. I don't know for sure, but I don't think cycling is such a popular sport here, so to host a race and have such an awesome following is outstanding.
Another observation I had during the training today was how much the area reminded me of Las Cruces. It isn't a perfect match, but it is a desert environment with very jagged, unique rock/mountain formations. It is these jagged formations that gave me such a similar feeling to being around the Organ Mountains of Las Cruces. They made me feel more specifically that if there were roads in/through the Organs, they would be similar to here, and the landscape/topography would be eerily similar. I've always wondered what the "internals" of the Organs were like, so I think I will use this experience to let my imagination run with those thoughts.
Finally, I had a pretty serious insight about our military. This is certainly not my usual thought process or personality to share, but I thought it to be kind of important to share. I've always been a strong supporter of our troops and the job they're doing for our country, but it wasn't until today that I realized what trying to fight a war in a country/area like Iraq or Afghanistan would be like, IF the landscape is anything similar to this. I've heard many stories of how hard it is for our troops because of the areas they are battling the enemy in, and after seeing how rugged, vast, and harsh these mountains are, I have a whole new level of respect for the job they are doing. The danger they are exposing themselves to by fighting against an enemy who knows the nooks and crannies of the rocks is incredible. I now understand why they have said that it can be like chasing a ghost or looking for a rabbit in one of its many holes. All I can do is say thank you to them for the sacrifices they are making in protecting our freedom. That's all for my insights, I have a bike race to contemplate now!