(this post will be updated several times during my trip as i add pictures and tid-bits along the way...)
Day 1, Sunday (and day 2, Monday)
August 26th & 27th
For one of the first times this year, my flight took off without a hitch and I was off on a 17 hr United/ Lufthansa plane ride that would take me to Washington/Dulles, Frankfurt, then to Hamburg, Germany for my first trip Europe, ever. All 3 flights were great – but the one from Dulles to Frankfort (Lufthansa) took the cake. I have never been on a plane that big in my life – it was double-decker with over 16 flight attendants on board. It was just sooo big…. The service was awesome, and the flight was not full, so we all had some breathing room for the 7+ hr overnight flight. I went into this flight thinking I would be able to sleep ok, but even with an ambien in me, no luck. I resorted to drinking 2 German beers (yeah, I know) after about 3 hours into the flight hoping it would help me fall asleep – and thankfully it did. I got about 3 hours shut-eye at the most, and I am sooo glad for that. And kudos to the Lufthansa – no charge for in flight cocktails!
We landed in Hamburg right on time to some cooler temperatures, overcast and rain. Of course, I had to go through the normal anxiety about the state of my luggage and bike, but it all came out quickly and unharmed as far as I could tell, and that was a big relief. So, now it was off to stuff the station wagon rental car with all the luggage and a bike and a drive to Berlin where we (me, my Dad, and Emily (my step-mom)) would be spending the next few days before returning to Hamburg on Thursday for the pre-race to-do’s.
OK, as warned, driving in Germany is a little tough. Especially in a city. Things are just marked differently, and after getting a little turned around and a little lost (and feeling a bit like the Griswold’s….hehe), we finally found our way out of Hamburg and onto the Audubon (no speed limit –and lots of fast cars) and were off to Berlin. The Audubon was an experience to say the least – lots of fast moving and short stopping!!! I have already come to the conclusion that Europeans are the most aggressive drivers ever….but that’s another story for another day. We made it to Berlin in time for a shower and some dinner, then a long sleep thru the night – FINALLY!
Day 3 (Tuesday)
I slept in this morning and woke up at 8am. Since I had taken the Sunday and Monday off for traveling (plus, it was a recovery week and I really needed the rest) – I was ready to get out and go for a run. The hotel was situated right next to a park with some structures on a hill I could see from my room. So I just went, no knowing where I was, and that turned out to be really cool. In my running along the trails and roads, I came up on a public pool hidden in there – with lane lines on the bottom and all. [I was sooo excited, since I had no idea when or where I would get to swim this week!!]…continuing my hour run I followed the trails uphill and downhill thru the trees and up stairs to find myself atop of the hill in what seemed to be an old army barracks. The view was beautiful – an aerial view of Berlin, dwarfing my 8 story hotel across the street. I didn’t have my camera with me…figures…
After my run, we (dad & Emily too) were off for some sight seeing. We played the tourist thing, and bought a ticket on a tour bus that would take us around the city letting us get off and on the bus at will……little did we know (or failed to read the brochure fully) that the bus stopped picking up people at 3:45!! By the time we found the tour bus starting point it had to be 1pm, then we got off at the first location and there was so much cool stuff to see, then we wanted to eat, and shop…by the time we made it to get picked up at the location- it was too late! (This is when we read the brochure fully!) Okay….so, after we sat down and figured out where we were on the map, we just decided to walk down to “Checkpoint Charlie” to see where the Berlin Wall was, then make our way back to the hotel via the extensive train system. No problem, right? Ha! That’s a whole other story….Checkpoint Charlie was incredible to see. It is hard to believe the stuff that went on there just 20-40 years ago. I knew a lot from history and all, but to see it all really brought it to light. I am so glad I decided to go to Berlin while over here in Germany. I think it will be one of the highlights of the trip, if not the best one.
After a long day of walking around, we headed back to the hotel on the U and S-ban (train’s). it took us a while to figure it all out, but we got there eventually and all in one piece. We finally sat down to dinner at the hotel at about 9pm…..end of another good day!
Day 4 (Wednesday)
Again I slept in till 8 this morning and went out for a swim at the pool I found yesterday. Of course, I brought my wetsuit along since I had a feeling all of the pools were going to be cold over here – and I was right! The temp in the water was 20C (68F) – and I was the only one in a wetsuit! I must say, Germans are tough. Or I’m a weenie….. Probably the latter!
After my swim, we were off again to look around, but today we drove. Again, this is a challenge over here! We had a few things we wanted to do – one of them being to see the Brandenburg Gate and to go on a boat tour on the Spree River thru Berlin. So we drove down the square where the boat tours embarked, and took a great English/German tour lasting one hour. The sights from the River were awesome – to see the old architecture in contrast to the new right next to each other) was breathtaking. As usual, the pictures do not do it justice, but they are good enough.
After the tour, we went to eat at the square then headed off to the Brandenburg Gate, then back to the hotel and dinner.
This morning, I awoke early to find out no one is open with coffee until 6:30 (none in the room either). Since I was up, I just went ahead and worked out a bit this morning being limited to the exercise bike in the “spa” at the hotel (which was little to be desired, yet still a safer way to ride than the streets!). I rode it for an hour watching the only channel on TV in English – CNN (I have had my fill of CNN for EVER since that is the only channel in English here!). After that, I ate a big breakfast at the hotel then went to my room and fell asleep! I was still so tired – don’t know if it was jetlag or what. But I got up at 11 and we loaded up the car for yet another eventful trip in the car back to Hamburg….
Dad and Emily dropped me off at the Hotel in Hamburg at about 3pm where I checked in, met some of Team USA and the USAT big-wigs and got the skinny on what was going on. (They went on to their hotel which was closer to the race site across town). USAT had already changed some stuff life moving the meeting up a day (so I missed it?!), but generally, all seemed to be about what I expected. EXCEPT the weather. It was not only cool (50-65F), but rainy too. And apparently, this is to be expected thru the race on Sunday. On every weather.com I looked at before I left, I never saw rain. Just clouds. Oh well. Looks like the race will be just like Portland – cold water (63F) and a cold & windy bike…
As a team, we headed down the race site for registration, the opening ceremonies, and a group photo at around 5pm. On the bus (now this is nuts), I sat across from a guy who is from Wisconsin – and who was familiar with the Abitaman races and the Opelousas du, and the Du Donnie Du – and as a matter of fact – he came down to race it a few years back when Donnie was still with us. He told me about what he witnessed – how everybody gathered around this guy – and how touching it was to see. Of all the people here, this is who I sat next to. It is amazing how things play out.
The race site was cold, windy and raining (the theme for the week I think), so I didn’t really feel like hanging out for the ceremonies – so I went out to eat with Stacy Richardson, then shopped at the expo a bit, the headed back to the hotel.
Day 6 (Friday)
I thought I might wake up early this morning, but again, I slept till 730. I wanted to finally ride my bike today, so I tracked down some coffee, set up my bike and dressed warmly. Yes, it is raining still. And the wind was howling. (It is raining the way I remember it in Hawaii. No major thunder storms and deluges, just gray constant wetness…) Mmmm fun! But I had to try to get in 45 miles – today, or not at all. So, I went. I found a nice route with little traffic on a country road following a river. It was a great safe route and I got my miles in. I stopped a few times along the way to look around, and once at a fruit stand to get some stuff to eat in the room. Back in the room, it was time to thaw out and warm up…. there were busses going all day down to the expo and race site, but i felt tired all day, and since it was cold and rainy, i decided to stay in. I watched CNN again (blah...blah...blah...), and took a nap, played on the computer and chilled out. i needed to do that. I had a massage at 5pm which was much needed since i hadn't been able to see mike since last thursday morining. as it turns out, this guy will be in kona too, so it was good to meet him so i can set it up long beforehand. there was a pasta dinner at the race site this evening, but again i didn't much feel like bussing it down to the race site in the cold rain to eat mass-produced sub-standard pasta, so i walked down to the "chicken store" and ordered a pizza and a salad to take back to the room. it will be an early night for me i think.
Day 7 (Saturday)
this morning i woke up a little earlier to got get a quick 2 mile run in - just to stay loose. it was still drizziling outside, and the wind was blowing pretty good. After breakfast, i decided to go into the city / race venue for the elite womes race starting at around 2:30 pm. After shopping around the expo again, i watched the swim start and some of the bike then had to get going to catch the bus to get back to the hotel for the team dinner. all i could see on the pro bike was sarah haskings flying by in the lead pack. there were people everywhere! and the entire city is baracaded off. this is amazing how seriously they are taking this event here - but when you think about it, ther are thousands of people competing in several different races. this morning there was the local race olympic & sprint distance, then the pro women this afternoon. yesterday, the U23's went off (in a deluge of rain i might add). the race numbers go up to 14,000.
Day 8 (Sunday) RACE DAY
In a nutshell....I got 7th in a fast race with tough conditions......I will write more on the plane tomorrow.....