Xterra Eastern Europe – Czech Republic

Okay, no matter how many times I have travelled to Europe, the overseas thing always seems to squash me for a week or so. As I started to describe in the last report, I had three days of travel to get from Mt Saint Anne, Quebec, to Ottawa, to Toronto, to Heathrow, to Prague and then finally to Hluboka nad Vltavou. Luckily, Ross met me at Heathrow so my homesickness went away, but I was a little out of it from lack of sleep and travel fatigue. Needless to say, from my seventh place result, I was not feeling my best. I was consistent though, I had a bad swim, a bad bike and a bad run (really bad run!). It has been a long time since I have performed so poorly and it didn’t feel good at all. Renata Bucher, our new Swiss star, had an awesome race, running and biking her way into first place, and I am so happy for her to get her second win this season. Having said that, I am pretty motivated this week to perform much better here in Europe. Ross and I did have some fun in Czech Republic, but it was not without incident, and the story follows….

When Ross and I got to Prague, we realized it was just us and our clothing, no bike. Michal Pilousek, the Xterra Europe organizer, was nice enough to send his contact information, which allowed me to give this to our semi-english speaking baggage agent. I left the airport unsure as to whether I would ever see that bike again because there was a very large pile of lost luggage in that area which I assumed my bike was to become a part of.

We decided to head into Prague for a snack before driving down to Hluboka, so we followed the signs to the Centrum, parked the car on a sidewalk in front of some Policia hanging around smoking (seemed the safest place to leave luggage) and went to, of all places, a Mexican restaurant. We were well on the outskirts of the city still (with no map and no idea) and the place had a nice patio so it seemed good. I was delusional, thinking we could just walk to the square of old town Prague, but unfortunately my photographic memory has become somewhat a messy collage of a number of major Eastern European cities, and Ross was wise enough to tell me to sit down and forget that idea.

So after lunch we set off for Hluboka, and an hour later we were half way through Prague. Not lost, just stuck in traffic. Forever! But in three hours we did make it down to Hluboka, which is in the southern portion of the country near Ceske Budejovice. We found our accomodation, which was a little apartment in a house, and went for dinner at a Pizzeria in the city. It was awesome. Some dude that speaks Czechtalian runs it and it ended up being headquarters for the week.

The next day one of the Xterra people delivered my bike to me, safe and sound. I was so excited and I built it up to head out on the guided ride. We can’t actually ride the course before the race because it runs through a large game park, which is closed to the public (we are the preferiti at Xterra, you know). Our guide was Phillip from Hluboka, and Justin Thomas and his buddy Rich also joined the group. We rode the sections leading up to the park, which was fun, and had some technical sections. After a couple of hours the small problems my bike was having became larger problems, so I limped home on my bike.

The next day I took my bike to the shop where Michal had organized a wicked rigid Apache commuter cruiser for Ross to ride for a couple days, and the overhaul on my bike began. I guess my cables were done, my hanger was bent, you name it,, it was wrecked. But the mechanic at the store was awesome, and afterward Ross and I toured on the road for a while. We saw one of the guys from the shop while we were riding and actually followed him on a nice road through a forest. Ross was dropping me, brutally.

On Friday, the day before the race, Ross and I went to check out the first section of the course again. So keeping in mind that Ross is riding a fully rigid bike on semislicks pumped to 60psi, the fact that he was keeping up to me, and was maybe faster, was a problem. Crutchie the broken femur boy was putting the boots to his professional athlete girlfriend. Not looking good. Bad went to worse when I couldn’t find the way back to town and we rode an extra 20-30km from going the wrong way. Then I decided to try and take the trail back and got lost again. Three hours of riding when I was already blown. Not good, at all!

So the race was in a river, and at the start everyone was huddled around the shore. Instead of thinking, they must know more than me and I should go over there, I thought, lots of space over here, those dummies don’t know anything! The fact is, near the shore the current is much less so you should swim upstream near the shore and downstream in the middle. Now I know, but not until I lost 3 minutes in a 15 minute swim!!

Bad swim… moving on to the bad ride, where I pushed hard as I could on porridge filled legs, and then came into the run and went backwards. Horrible, horrible race.

The race was Saturday, so Ross and I had an opportunity to visit Prague for a day, which was beautiful and memorable. We had a nice dinner with Melissa Thomas and her housemate Sasha Razifarad from Boulder. Melissa and I ate huge plates of meat and Sasha and Ross ate goulash. It was fun.

So our Prague adventure should have ended with flights to Italy and Canada respectively, but instead, British Airways decided to delay our flight by four hours, so I missed my connection, and Ross barely made it to his! I felt pretty sorry for myself, standing in line at Passport Control in London for an hour just to pick up my luggage and check in for a flight that would not even get me where I wanted to go. I flew to Rome, late at night, checked into the airport hotel, slept a few hours, then flew standby the next morning to Cagliari.

No one knew I was coming that morning, so I was on my own for finding both Villacidro and the house of the Pittau family. But that is our next adventure… and the story gets much happier! So until next week…..M

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