A few reasons why I love this place:
1) Biking the island. I've never actually done the entire island (about 75km around) but if you ask any athlete who has raced here, likely one of the first things they will mention is this scenic ride. This is a good example of a time when it's hard not to be a "sports tourist" and to stick to your pre-race plan, resisting the temptation of the 2.5 hour ride. We rode 90 minutes yesterday, mostly along the coast and I found it hard to keep my eyes on the road. On one side is the ocean, brilliant blue with white sand beaches. To the other side is lush and tropical, with wetlands and mangrove forests. The island is fairly mountainous so the roads are rolling, but quiet and incredibly clean. I look forward to returning one day as a real tourist for some adventuring.
2) Ishigaki Beef. This meat is tender and TASTY, and apparently a rival to Kobe Beef. I'm not normally a big meat-eater, but it's been two nights in a row that we've enjoyed this local dish at our "secret" restaurant. You can see it sizzling on the plates above! Yum, yum!
3) Modern Japanese Toilets. Not exactly unique to Ishigaki Island, these "bidet" toilets are found everywhere in Japan. They have some features that I would never use, such as the spray, with its various pressure levels (yikes!), as well as a running water sound that automatically turns on when you sit down (it's actually rather soothing). But, as I do love all things warm and toasty, the heated seat is hands down the best feature. If I had one of these at home I would have the heat cranked all the time! For this very reason, I am sure Adam is happy these toilets are not readily available in North America. Maybe they will ship overseas.....hmmm....
4) The people. I find Japanese to be generally happy and welcoming people, but those on the Island are incredibly and almost over-the-top friendly. From our server at the "secret" restaurant to the ladies working in the CoCo convenience store, there are always big smiles and loud welcomes, "Arigatou gozaimasu!" Their energy really is infectious.
5) The weather. Ishigaki has my ideal climate: a low of 19 in the winter and a high of 29 in the summer. Heaven for me.
As for racing, I'm really excited to get out there tomorrow and start the World Cup season. Taper week has been everything I hoped it would be with lots of rest and recovery from the travel, some sharpening sessions (and feeling "sharper" by the day :), and more than enough time spent watching episodes of Gossip Girl.
More tomorrow....RACE DAY!