Hotel Review: Sheraton Taitung

On this trip since I was unfamiliar with the area and didn’t speak the language I opted to stay at the official race hotel: the Sheraton Taitung. Definitely on the pricier side of race travel it was well worth the money for this athlete. The added novelty of being around so many other athletes from other countries was pretty cool as well. Hong Kong, China, Japan, Singapore, and Australia were all represented well.

Location

The Sheraton, previously named the Queena Plaza Hotel, was located less than a mile away from the race site in Taitung Forest Park. Located only a 15 minute drive from the Taitung Airport it was very easy to get a cab over from the airport. Less easy was fitting three bikes, five people and luggage into two cabs. English was spoken minimally at the airport.  However, we were able to pull up Apple Maps which showed the hotel in its Chinese characters. The hotel normally offers free pick up and drop off but with the volume it was unavailable this trip. A novel feature of this location was the Taitung Night Market was located on the street in front of the hotel. A great place to try out some Taiwanese street meats, but maybe not the night before race morning!

The Staff

               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The staff was fantastic – they were everything a 5 star hotel should be. They removed the bike bags quickly from the cabs and whisked them up the stairs into the lobby. Then added them to the 20 other bikes waiting while their owners got checked in. The lobby is a beautiful open atrium style with gorgeous bookshelves across from the front desk. Check in was incredibly easy and the staff were efficient even with the language barrier. They even accommodated my request to have a bucket of ice sent to my room every evening to help me keep inflammation down.

The Room

My king bed room far exceeded expectations. It was very open with a large flat screen TV (that I never turned on) and an open plan bathroom. The bed was enormous and much bigger than a king. It was very comfortable with really plush pillows and the comforter was the perfect weight. The in room amenities included two free bottles of water a day (important for athlete’s traveling South East Asia) as well as the usual toothbrush, razor, loofah, and robe. I really enjoyed that the room was quiet and you could not hear your neighbors or people in the hallway at all.

Hotel Amenities

This hotel had everything an athlete could hope for both for training and recovery. Since I was staying for a race I tried to do my workouts on the course. However, if your travel buddy wanted to check out the gym they had a great little open fitness center. Just past that was the sauna(s) / spa. The mini spa, no treatments were offered, was set up as a traditional onsen. Onsen being the Japans word for hot tub. Normally an onsen is a hot spring but this was just a very, very, hot tub sitting at around 100 F.

The custom is to take off all of your clothes and then take a mini shower to prep. You will see mini cubicles to your left where you rinse. There is no body modesty in Asia and you will like see two women just chatting and showering next to each other. While you could wear your bathing suit to the baths you will be the exception not the rule. This soak felt great on my legs the day before the race. I also used the dry sauna each night because I LOVE sitting in the sauna. It has so many health benefits from sweating out toxins, to increasing circulation and improving cardiac health.

There is also a nice outdoor pool that could be seen from the check in desk. About 5ft deep and around 25 meters long. Definitely not full lap pool material but it could do in a pinch. I checked it out as soon as I checked in and you could already see athletes doing lengths loosening up. The pool was clean and warm with a covering that kept direct sunlight off of swimmers. Other useful amenities include a laundry service, helpful for traveling athletes, a business center and theater space for meetings (where our race brief was held).

Restaurants

I tried to eat outside of the hotel to save money, those places will be covered in another post, but if you did not want to leave there are a few options within the Sheraton. HoYea is a Chinese restautant open for dinner from 5:30 to 9:00 pm.  ALiHi is located on the ground floor behind the elevators and is the main restaurant open for all day dining. We enjoyed the breakfast buffet here each morning as it was included with our rooms.

Asian breakfast tends towards bowls of noodles, fish, kimchee and rice. Foods often associated with asian lunches and dinners! Luckily, there was some yogurt, breakfast breads, and hardboiled eggs for me to throw together. While not my perfect breakfast at some point calories are calories! There was also a fantastic coffee station which always had a long queue infant of it so most people would get two cups at a time.

General Hotel Information

Price point: $$$

Check In: 3:00 pm (However they were very understanding for the athletes)

Check Out: 12:00 pm

Free wifi in room, lobby and common areas

Business center and ATM in lobby

Let’s start at the begining…

We all have that ‘why I tri’.

For some it is a call to action by external forces (a doctor, a friend, a cause), for some it is internal (a desire to find out how far you can push yourself), and for others it takes some time to figure out your why.

First I Ran..

For me, it was how I felt after my very first race both about myself and the triathlon community as a whole. But let’s start at the beginning, I started running in college to help manage the stress and anxiety of Purdue University’s veterinary nursing program. However, I injured myself over training for the Chicago Marathon in 2009. For the next 4 years was pretty certain I’d never run again as this chronic injury prevented me from running more than 3-4 miles.

Then I Swam…

So I got in the pool, as recommended by my doctor but didn’t love it and had NO idea what I was doing since none of my schools growing up overseas had a pool or swim team. Fast forward to 2011, I was living in Lexington, Kentucky working the night shift in the NICU at a prominent equine hospital still really only working out when I could to manage my weight. I would get off work at 8:00 am and head over to my local YMCA and swim my laps. It was there that a kind lifeguard helped me on my stroke and gave me some breathing tips.

Next I moved…

Not long after I started my job in Kentucky, I was headhunted to work for one of the top thoroughbred racing farms in New South Wales, Australia and eagerly jumped at the opportunity to work for them. So I moved ‘Down Under’ for 7 months to work their breeding season. All the while continuing to run here and there but generally leading a more unhealthy lifestyle – and it showed. When my VISA ran up I started looking for new jobs and stumbled upon a sports medicine practice – yes equine athletes need TLC and injury management too! –  in San Diego. Little did I know I was headed to the birth place of triathlon, I barely knew what the word meant! After two wonderful years in San Diego where I finally got my injury under control, my US Navy boyfriend (now husband) and I picked up everything to move coast to coast to Virginia. I joined a practice up in Richmond while he was stationed in Virginia Beach.

Finally ‘I tri-ed’…

This is all a long winded way to say, my surgeon who I closely worked with on a daily basis and would become a dear friend, bullied me into my first triathlon. He said, “You’re already running, swimming and attending spin classes… you’re there!” So I decided I would give it a tri (try? see what I did there) and signed up for my first race a sprint in Norfolk, VA called Breezy Point.

        

Now back to the why – I didn’t own a bike that May in 2015 so I rented one from Endorphin Fitness an elite triathlon team in RVA. On race morning, I had to get special access from the base, had no idea what I was doing, and felt like I forgot everything. I took one look at the 750m swim and thought, “That looks way further than 750m… there is no way I can make it”. Yet, I did. I swam well in my new wetsuit my parents gifted me for the previous Christmas. They have always supported whatever crazy endeavor I think up next. The bike was fun and enjoyable. I learned the rough lesson of what a “brick run” is and why one should practice before hand. Even though I thought I was going to die running down the hot flight path on the base, I didn’t. And at the finish line were my friends cheering me on in the hot sun.

 

                       

I finished full of pride and self worth. I could do anything. I was so much stronger than I had imagined! I needed to do more! Then there was the ‘after party’ of local athletes who didn’t know me telling me what a good job I did. The lady who helped me get my wetsuit off and the man who ran with me  to encourage me to keep going (he was 64 and breezing along!).Lastly, the staff and volunteers who wanted to make sure it was a fun race. The community and the post race feeling combined. I was hooked!

That fall, Paul went on his first deployment and I joined a training team called Tri Girls/ Tri Quest .. my ticket on the triathlon crazy train had been punched.

All aboard!!