Sharks, rhinos and castles

What kind of person would log 21,706 miles in an airplane for a weekend trip to race a bike around a 6km track six times? Spending 67 hours in transit for a one hour and 45 minute race? Welcome to the life of a pro bike racer.

The clock just rolled to 5:30 am as I sit here typing in my dimly lit Extended Stay Austin, Texas, hotel room. No, I am not a morning person. I am battling one of my least favorite parts of travel, the dreaded jetlag. Normally, I pride myself in my ability to spend long hours deep in sleep, but right now my body seems to be stuck on South Africa time.

In the last five weeks I have gone from racing the American Continental Championships in Colombia, the Sea Otter US Pro XCT in California, the World Cup opener in South Africa, and back to Texas for the Mellow Johnny's US Pro XCT.

Now, I could try to explain how difficult it is trying to balance travel, jetlag, training, diet, staying healthy, and that minor detail of trying to perform with the best in the world at the races. I could go into detail about the crazy, finicky things that my teammates and I do in our attempts to be as competitive as possible, but that sounds tedious.

I'd rather talk about the Great White sharks that I swam with at the Ushaka aquarium in Durban, South Africa...

Or the former drug cartel-owned castle that was seized by the government and turned into a public park that was the backdrop for the venue at the Bogota, Colombia race...

Or the way the rhinos always kept one ear directly focused on our Subaru-Trek team safari group, while the other one scanned the distance...

Or my new favorite fruit that I discovered in Colombia but have no idea what it was...

Or the flat tire I got while exploring an area of South Africa that I probably shouldn't have been cruising alone...

Or the team dinner in Monterey, California, where we got a chance to catch up with a bunch of the great folks from Trek and Bontrager, who are usually hard at work at their Waterloo, Wisconsin, headquarters but are always pumped to come to races...

Or about racing at some Lance guy's ranch in Texas...

Yeah, the globetrotting life is not bad!

After the race this weekend, I will be flying back to my winter base of California to pack up my Outback and point it north--to the Center of the Universe (aka- Missoula, Montana; my hometown) for my summer migration. I'm hoping to snag a little bit of Montana toughness with two weeks of training at home before I head to Europe for the next round of World Cup racing.

The midway point of "travel season" has yet to arrive so I'm sure there will be plenty more adventures to be had. I can't wait.

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Sam Schultz, 25, is a regular at US National Series mountain bike events and on the World Cup cross country circuit. The Subaru-Trek racer is back at it again for the 2011 season.

In 2010, he had a break out performance - winning the Subaru Cup, a US Pro XCT series event in Mt. Morris, Wisconsin. It was Schultz's first national series event.

"I am really hoping to step it up another level in international competition," said Schultz of his 2011 ambitions.

Schultz hails from Missoula, Montana, where he lives for most of the year although he can be found from January through April based in San Luis Obispo, California, where the climate is more hospitable to gaining pre-season on the bike fitness.

When not on his bike, the good humored Schultz enjoys skiing, hiking and cooking and eating good food.