Fri, 07 Jul 2006

Bétera 2006

For most of the past winter I've been trying my best to get back into a somewhat regular schedule of training. I have failed miserably.

At most, I've managed to go swimming at 7AM once or twice a week with my teammate Rafa, but I've been quite irregular. I also tried getting some running done, which revealed my condition is the worse in the last 7 years, probably. The first days I went running I felt I couldn't go faster than 4.5 mins/km without having my legs warn me about what I was doing. It was horrible. And when I started to get into the habit, I had to stop.

I started getting some pain in both knees whenever I ran more than 45/50 minutes, and I associated it to my weird knee “crack” I get after a while of cycling. So, in March or so, I decided to stop, frightened of the pain being a serious injury or something.

I wanted to visit a physiotherapist as soon as possible, but that only happened a few months later. I visited my teammate Jordi Reig in Alcoi, and after exploration, he deducted my knee problems probably come from the massive contractures in both quadriceps.

I was meant to start running again, adding minutes to the sessions progressively until reaching the problematic 50 minutes of pain. I've been so busy though, that I haven't been able to do anything in the last months, so I can't say how bad my quadriceps are now.

Two weeks ago, during the WarmUp Weekend in Vilanova, I got a bad kick on my calf during the semifinals game, and the day after even walking was painful. I had already signed up for the Bétera triathlon, so I thought I may not be able to finish it.

I signed up as I did with other competitions last year, with the goal of finishing and nothing more. This time, all my cycling training was a 40km stage I did back in December. Bétera is a sprint with swimming done in a 50m pool, 27kms of cycling in an irregular circuit and a bit more of 5kms of running around the town. It is organised by our team mate Jordi Jordà, and this year was the second edition. I already attended last year.

On Sunday, I had to wake up at 6:10AM after going to bed at 3 or so, had some chaotic breakfast and drove up to Bétera. This year I haven't got a triathlon licence, so I was in the teamless and veteran people leg.

The judges made us wait in the water for nearly half an hour, apparently because one team was missing and was about to arrive. They could have warned and I wouldn't have frozen in there. The people in my lane tried to organise the start of the race, in order of what people said they swam. As the older people claimed they swam in 14m or so, and I had no idea of how much I would do, I offered to go last.

Ok, that was a fuckup. It seems the 4 guys immediately before me weren't exactly van den Hoogenband or Phelps. After the first 100 metres I got tired of swimming at half speed and decidedd to overcome a few of them. I managed to get rid of two on the 350, but when I tried with the third, he didn't seem too cooperate too much, so when there were just 200 metres left I decided to not waste more energy on that. My swimming time wasn't spectacular, but at least I got out without being tired at all.

Cycling made me remember my biggest problem when there's some climbing in the circuit. I climb very well, but everything you climb you'll have to descend eventually. So the three laps were the same: I passed many people on the way up, but on our way down they would go past me again like rockets, due to my minimal body weight. That sucks.

At this point, I thought I would have abandoned the race due to my calf injury, but as I was feeling more or less ok, I decided to give it a try. The first lap of two wasn't so good, I felt my legs weren't used to the transitions, but after they warmed up a bit I started running faster. Until, 1.5kms away from the end, the quadriceps started warning me; I had to slow down again until I crossed the finish line.

I would look more like an athlete if I shaved...

The rest of the team did pretty well on their leg, specially Rubén who came in third after having raced on Friday night. A few hours and many children races later, we received the team award for the Komando's second place.

Everyone loves the Komando. Go Komando!

It always feels good to do races like Bétera. I plan doing a few more races this summer: València, Pinedo, maybe Antella, maybe Cuenca...

Jo no t'espere

Not at all!

The Pope is visiting València next weekend. According to Rita Barberá Noya, the mayor of the city during the last 16 years (I mildly remember her predecessor), “All Valencians will welcome him warmly”. Well, not exactly all.

The Pope's visit was decided by the previous one a few years ago, and Ratzinger, shortly after being “elected” his successor, announced he would still visit València for the World Meeting of the Family.

In principle, I would have no problems with him come visit the city, even if I have no sympathy at all towards his figure or the role of the Catholic church either in Spain or other places of the world. For example, I think the last two popes are direct responsables for the AIDS drama in many countries of the African continent. It is unacceptable and quite unethical that still today, after decades of fight against this deadly plage, the Vatican keep saying “no” to the usage of condoms.

As I said, I would have no problems with his visit, if it was a normal visit. But no, this is the València, and the government likes to show that they can do things in a grand way. Not so long ago, Ratzinger visited Poland, and from what I've read, the authorities there didn't organise anything grotesque like what's going on here, in the sense that people living in the areas affected could more or less keep on with their lives, and the visit didn't cost much of their tax money.

València won't work like this. Anyone who has visited us will probably know what I mean: the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Terra Mítica, the America's Cup harbour... are examples of pharaonic projects, all funded with public money that are real black holes of budgets that never end up growing.

The Pope will stay in València around 24 hours, and will give a series of sermons and speeches. For the ocassion, the Valencian local government has gone all the way to make his visit the most spectacular event of the decade. Although the government won't disclose it officially, the press talks about a cost of 30 or 40 million Euros, paid by all of us, including atheists, agnostics or muslims.

Spain is not a catholic state, officially. Sadly, it is in practice. According to Vatican sources, 94% of Spaniards are catholic. The number goes down to 76.1% according to CIS, but the reality is that just a small fraction of these people are practising catholics. The Spanish church uses these figures to get funds from the state. I am included in that 76% just because I was baptised soon after I was born. There are people trying to apostatise, but it seems in most cases their efforts are futile, as the documentation sent to the eclesiastic authorities is either ignored or sent back with a hilarious excuse such as “your baptism is a historic event and cannot be changed”.

Parts of València have been closed to transit for two months. This is because the authorities found that the optimal place to build his giant altar with a special microclimate was on top of the bridge of Mont Olivet, one of the arteries of south València if you want to leave the city. The neighbours of the area now popularly called "ground zero" have been subject to all kind of annoyances: the access to their houses is restricted, they've had to give lists of people living in each place, and they are now not allowed to use the upper terraces of their buildings (they are taken by snippers).

The local police has designed a plan to restrict any kind of transit that affects basically half of the city, even my area which is like 6 kilometres away from the event.

For months, our authorities have used this great opportunity to make religion and the greatness of our pope something normal and quotidian. I haven't seen such a big interference of my life by the church before, not even with the Aznar government, or when I was a small child and the dictatorship had just ended. They are also using the event to promote the achivements of the right-wing local government (via speeches and the propaganda that is distributed in the backpacks given to volunteers) and to bash the socialist central government (which recently approved gay marriage, a new education law that weakens the weight of religion study in public schools, etc.).

I could go on and on, but this rant would get even more boring. I, like many others, think that all of this is not acceptable. As we tend to not shut up when things like these happen, a civic movement appeared two months ago, with a main goal of letting people know that we are not waiting for him, contrary to what the mayor says. The Jo no t'espere campaign has managed to make opposition to this pompous week by placing banners on balconies. Of course, I have my own, and I've also distributed a few more among my friends, one of them being placed a mere 70 metres away from the pope's altar.

No, jo tampoc t'espere

Of course, the amount of Vatican flags outnumbers us greatly, in a ratio of at least 1:100, but anyway. There are so many Vatican flags that this looks more like St. Peter's Square. Others have taken the opportunity to exhibit Spanish flags all over the place, something that probably had not happened in València since the most obscure years of Franquism. Oh well, this is València.

One piece of good news: due the chaos starting in just two hours, we're allowed to leave offices early today, so we can actually get back home. As soon as I get home and have lunch, I'll flee away to the mountains, like a maqui until the madness is over. The 1.5 million pilgrims can have my holy city. Have a nice time, Ratzinger!