The magic of Home stays

People always wonder why pros prefer home stays at most races. Why not stay in a “nice hotel” and “rest up for the race?”

There are many reasons why home stay families are the best way of experiencing away from home racing: (in no particular order)

– When you travel as much as we do, you hate hotels. Globally they are all the same- personality free, bland, boring and those cheap fake-eggs-from-a-carton breakfasts will make you lose weight at the wrong time and from the wrong cause and nobody means “good morning!”

Cost. Say we race 10 times a year. (usually more) Say you spend 4 nights. (sometimes 5) Say a cheap hotel costs $60 a night. You cant cook in the hotel room, (you can only boil rice and eggs in the kettle a few times before the whole places’ electricity trips) so you have to eat greasy restaurant food. ($40/day for basic food. For some “people with jobs” $40 is only Starbucks money…

That makes  $4000+ for bare bones shelter, basic food  and the cheapest flights available.  Maui is MUCH more expensive and we stay much longer) And traveling to the East Coast could be $800. Now add the rental car ($200) the plane ticket ($400 avs) and bike fee ($100 to $240) Thats 10 trips of $700+ , plus shelter & food gives you $11 000 to $15 000 a year in basic expenses for getting to races.  Also, remember, this is certainly not football, so diamond encrusted bling is less prevalent in triathlon.  This year, 1st place at a regional XTERRA pays $1800. Only 1 guy & girl gets to win every time, so it gets much harder for the neo pros. Would be nice if it was like golf, where even the last pro at least covers their expenses.

Now for happy stories:

– A home stay with a real  local family will let you really experience the town, its culture and most importantly its people. Of the 100s of home stays I have had over many years, I have had only 1  disappointment.- The family in Bermuda thought because I’m from South Africa I must be black, and were sorely disappointed when a skinny white guy rocked up at their doorstep.

– Your home stay family will know exactly where is the best bike shop, pool, coffee shop, health food store and post race beer place. Most likely, they’ll also know the race course like the back of their hand (as they are likely also race) and if you are lucky they could even show you the best lines and predict what the terrain will do when the weather changes.

– Your “people” will probably have at least 1 meal or BBQ held “for you”. A great place to meet and mingle with more local athletes & families.

– Your local family will obviously have some interest in triathlon and will be happy to experience “how the pros does it”. (Usually its a bit of a let down, as most XTERRA pros are disappointingly “normal” and laid back. There is no “secret race winning meal” or “if you do 10 jumping jacks 2 hrs before the start, you’ll have a great race” quick fix.)

However, your host family is usually wildly impressed by race day speed/smoothness and bling equipment. (even though your bike is worth more than the last 3 cars you owned together) You may be regarded as the neighborhood hero for a few days. Sporty friends my come over for a quick “visit” (but pretend to borrow a tool) or  a casual meal with their friends to “view the pro.”

Kids are easily inspired to become triathletes, they gawk admiringly and ask many questions (usually about the animals in Africa) and they especially cherish signed posters or shirts. To me, seeing the inspiration and energy of the kids  is one of the best parts of the Home stay Ponzy Scheme.

People become inspired by rubbing shoulders with great athletes, and athletes cherish friendships and experiences built in the name of sport. In my opinion- the worlds’ most common denominator and breaker of barriers.

I could (should!)  write a whole book on the amazing stories and memories made possible by the selfless home stay families, but here are just a few:

– In Richmond I stayed with Kevin Connor for 4 years and when he got married, I was passed on to his friend Spike and her family for the past 4 years. I somehow inspired their son Garrett to get back on his bike (when he was 5) after he broke his elbow on the 1st ride without the training wheels…. (sounds kind of familiar)  The nasty cut on my foot (more here) happened in Richmond and of course Spike and her family took care of me like I was part of their family. Spike (actually Ann) rides quite a bit of mountain bike and she knows all the great sports doctors in Richmond. (Matt Marchal, Moose Herring and Rob Green) Between herself, Garrett and Alan, (all ride bikes)  and Dan Hugo they do have quite a bit of frequent flier miles at the doctors office…

– Casey Fannin from Alabama is a multiple XTERRA World champion in his age group (45-50), so we see each other quite a bit during the year, and when we stay at his house its like visiting family over Christmas. (in a good way!) They promised to come visit in South Africa.

– In 1996 I raced the ITU World Cup in Bermuda and found I couldnt leave the island because of a complications with the Green Mamba. (Try global travelling on a South African passport once in your life…) Keith Spengler is a South African ex pat, and we met briefly after the race. He invited me to stay with them the following year. When I was kicked off my early morning flight, I had no idea what to do. (I sat dejectedly on the curb and ate a can of corn from my backpack. This old black guy sat next to me and said in this slow Bermuda drawl “Don choo just loooove corn… I can eat corn any time of the day.” – See more common ground through sport!) When I was done with the corn I called Keith’s home number a year early. His wife Wendy just had a baby answered and I said: “You dont know me, but I met your husband yesterday at the race. I’m stuck on the island and dont have anywhere to go.” She told which buses to take and met me on the doorstep. A looong story short- it took me 3 weeks to get the right visa to leave the island. When the Spenglers’ parents came to visit to see the baby, I was passed on to their friends, the Lloyds from Canada. I trained in the beautiful tropical waters and rode around the amazing island many times. (about 3hrs around) I became a bit of a celebrity (the visa story was a good one) and won the 2,5mi Herrinton Sound open water swim and a handicap 5k run. Actually I finished 2nd in the run, but because I weighed more than the winner, I won. It was a weight handicap…

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Wendy and little Liam Spengler. I know purple was hot those days…

– At the World Cup Drummondville (Canada 95-Macca’ 1st ITU win) I stayed with the Blanchette family in Quebec. What an amazing culture. We laughed at the differences of French  and Quebecois grammar and they took me to my 1st (and only) Hockey game. The Zamboni was the best. The all-in fight on the ice with the refs watching was a close 2nd and the Poutine was 3rd. (Poutine is an amazing Quebecois junk food- melted cheese and gravy smothering a mountain of fries) The 2 kids taught me to play drive-way hockey and here I learnt for the 1st time that when you look out the window and its sunny and green- it does not automatically mean its shorts and flip flop weather. It was also funny to hear the kids jabber along in soothing french and then every now and then the word “HocKEY” jumps out. The only english they knew. In 1997 (?) 96? the Blanchettes drove the 15 hrs to Cleveland for the ITU Worlds, they met my mom, we had dinner,and they drove the 15 hrs back.

– In 1995 I stayed in the loft of the Py family outside Montpellier for 4 months. Their daughter Delphine Py was a little triathlon prodigy and the parents are both hard core runners. I have many great culinary memories from Madame Py’s cooking. The best was when the “dinner to come meet the pro” was home made Escargots.(Snails) My mom was visiting. So was the mayor, Gregoire Millet (one of Frances best coaches ever) and other dignitaries. 3 Weeks before the occasion Madame Py collected the snails in the garrique- (country side), just after the rain- “when the snails come out.” Then the snails fasted for 3 weeks, (nil by mouth) so they would “clean themselves”. Then on D day they were rinsed a few times and put in a huge pot of water on the stove. Just then the phone rang, distracting Madame for a few minutes. When she got back in the kitchen, half the snails were sprinting up the kitchen wall! She forgot to put the lid on…

The secret with snails is in the sauce and she made a delicious garlic, wall nut and butter sauce. Once at the table you get this dainty little 2 pronged Escargot fourchette (fork). You pick the snail up and hold it by the shell in your left hand (if you are right handed) and then you poke the snail in the foot with the little fork and hold on. Slowly twirl the shell in your left hand and soon the whole snail will be dangling from the fork. Mmmmmm, tasty. Even though from Africa, my mom stalled here but eventually with the whole table watching she bravely ate one. Everyone cheered. Vive la France!

-At the 2000 Sydney Olympics my mom joined the “House an Olympic Athletes’ Family programme” and stayed with John and Annie Drew. An amazing experience. They had the aforementioned “neighborhood BBQ with the guest and athlete” for us and watched me racing the 1st Olympic Triathlon from the grandstands- sitting either side of her.  The Drews came to South Africa and visited my folks on the farm, visited the Kruger game Park and we still exchange emails.

– Last year I bought a set of used dirt bike wheels online from a guy in Port Elizabeth. We spoke on the phone about payment and Bernhard says, “Say, you arent THE Conrad Stoltz?”  So I said: “Depends on if you follow triathlon.” Not only was he “following”, he was entered for his 1st Ironman in PE. I went to IM PE, and of course Bernhard insisted we stay with his family for the week. Since then Bernhard has bought a Specialized Stumpjumper, has had moved to XTERRA and gotten countless free/secret training tips. We chatted on Skype 5 minutes ago, and we cant wait to visit in PE again…

Of course I always invite people to come visit us on the farm in South Africa (and swim in my hand dug 25m pool) when winter gets too much. Christmas is held in T shirt and shorts and my cousin Johan can catch you the snake of your choice in 20 minutes.

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Mike, Jenny and kids – BBQ in their Coeur D’Alene backyard to pay homage to my South African culture. Braai en bier! (BBQ & beer)

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You may remember Alli from a previous post. XTERRA Coeur D’Alene

Well, the morning I left for the airport, I found a zip lock bagged assortment of candy “for the road”  and these cool handmade signs: (Which ties in nicely with the previous post- Little fans from Richmond VA)

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Thanks to all the incredible home stay families.

Home stays are usually coordinated  through the race organization but they are also bantered and traded amongst local athletes. The more people you know the better it gets. I’ve heard CouchSurfing.org is the new hot thing.

Last, but not least- Happy birthday Dan Hugo!

Actually, Dan’s bday was the 1st, it just took me 3 days to finish this post! Ok, 6 days. Good writing takes inspiration…

Comments

organic Farming facts 21-10-2014, 03:12

organic Farming facts

The magic of Home stays | Conrad Stoltz XTERRA Triathlete

Reply
runabq 07-07-2009, 00:20

Conrad,

If you ever come to Albuquerque and I hope you do so we can do an Xterra clinic here, you’re welcome to stay with us.

Sadly, the closest Xterra race is in Farmington, NM, up in the Four Corners region. Great race but it’s a 3 1/2 hour drive. Maybe when the South Central Cup race is held there…

Marc Scudamore

Reply

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