Wednesday, August 30, 2006

the report

Leading up to the FISU University Champs, training was going well. I was in Sembach putting in some mega-hours and felt really, really strong. In fact, I felt superb until the moment the gun went off….then horrible. First off, there were 70 men in the field, so it was quite a large field. It was a pontoon start with one lap, which is miles better than a beach start and two laps. Going out there was a channel of buoys that led to the 750m turnaround. I lined up on the left because it looked less crowded and a straight shot through the “channel.” As we stood on the pontoon, the announcer rambled on for several minutes in French. Then the horn went off. I think I was picking my nose when the gun went off. It was ridiculous. To add insult to my delayed response, the group on the right swam the tangent and cut the buoys. I not only was being clobbered by every drowning yahoo, I was also swimming longer than the “fast swimmers” cutting the buoys on the right. No matter though, because even with that situation, I still had a chance of making the front pack, and I was too tired to hold on. It was a horrible start to the race.

The bike course was crazy. We went basically straight up for 5k and then straight down for 5k. We had one descending section on cobbles with 160 degree turn at the bottom. I have never risked as much as on that course. I almost hit the barriers at least 10 times. My wheels were smoking and skipping on the descents. These weren’t even the ascents, which was were everyone was attacking left and right. To make matters even more hairy. A Japanese rider ran into my front wheel. The impact broke his rear spoke and popped his tire. He bent on of my front spokes and knocked my front wheel way out of true. So for the last lap, my wheel and whole bike would shimmy and shake when I descended. Super-sketch ville. Basically our chase pack swelled as we ran down stragglers, but we just couldn’t work together or bridge the original 20 second gap to the front pack. We ended up losing a lot of time.

The run was quite simple. I got off the bike first in my packed in 27th place. I ran down several front-packers, and got beat by 3 people from our pack. While it is not saying much, I did end up being the first American in the race, which is a bonus. We ended up 2 minutes down on the lead pack and it just ruined my run. I lost the race in the last 500m of the swim. Not a great race, but a good trip. All the good training is still in my legs, so I just have to capitalize in the next 3 weeks, because I have 3 more races. Should be interesting….Cheers!

the check-marks

Internet access has been sparse and expensive in Switzerland, so my blogging has suffered accordingly. We have been in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the last four days. It has been a great experience. This trip to Europe has been one of the best of my life. After spending the first 2.5 weeks of my month long trip with my Cuban buddy Manny, I spent little time with my actual FISU teammates. What a shame, because they are some of the funniest guys around. There were 6 guys on the team and we got along so well together. Needless to say, I have never laughed so hard in my life. While the race did not quite go as planned, everything else was perfect (Race report will soon follow). Lausanne is such a beautiful city (I say that about everywhere I have gone in Europe, but this by far takes the cake).

While we were here we stayed in a hostel, along with all the other FISU delegates. It allowed us to find many other teams, and make some new friends. The after-party was a nice soiree, filled with loud American music (Beatles?, The Village People??). Hopefully I will see all the friends I have made all across the world.

So what have I learned in Europe? First off I can say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you in at LEAST 4 Languages. Secondly, I decided that there is no such thing as a Swiss franc….they are check-marks. This rapidly caught with our group and I am convinced that Switzerland will change their national currency’s name within the year. I accomplished my goal of eating “dangerously”. There was no cassoulet on le menu (mostly because I am flat broke), but I did manage to hit up a few genuine brasseries in several French speaking countries. I also managed to hit up at least 20 cafes for that little slice of heaven known as “café & croissant.” Switzerland is beautiful, but so ridiculously expensive. Also Lausanne definitely smells like a giant pot Le Gruyere Fondue. The stuff tastes great, but doesn’t always smell very refreshing. That is kind of how Europe smells too, though. And yes, now that you mention it, I smell at this moment. The confiscated all my toothpaste and deodorant at the security, so I guess it will be 24 hours of B.O. and stale coffee breath because I am on my 4th espresso this morning and show no signs of stopping anytime soon……

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

the lux

After the wonderful tour of northern France, we decided to go to Luxembourg the following day. I did not really know what to expect from Luxembourg, but was pleasantly surprised. We left Sembach and drove north through Trier, which is the oldest city in Germany. It is really neat to see all the history this part of the world has to offer. We went on a run in the morning, and left for Luxembourg in our Ferrari (read: Fiat Punto).

We made it to Luxembourg and got ready for our ride through the countryside. It was windy, rainy, and cold, but still absolutely beautiful. We were out in the “nowhere” and still this small farm villages and towns had gargantuan houses, even by American standards. We later realized the Lux is one of the richest countries in the world. The rolling countryside provided plenty of hills. After we finished, it was time for another Mexican shower, and then off to find a brasserie for dinner.

As we headed into downtown we realized that French, not German, was the language of choice here. After a tour of the “centre ville” we found a little brasserie that was open. Two hours, 60€ (about $70.00), and 2 fat Americans later we rolled out of the Brasserie. It was an incredible meal. I think our young French waiter was disgusted by how much the American “pigs” ate. After a 3 hour ride, a man has got to eat.

Anyway, I will be coming back to explore more of Luxembourg in the future. Here are some more pics of the downtown area (Luxembourg City). It is the prettiest looking city I have ever seen. If you get the chance go there. Oh yeah, training is going well and my 30 hour week of hard training, sightseeing, and eating like a horse is over. Hopefully FISU World’s go well next weekend. Cheers!

Monday, August 21, 2006

viva la france!!

I love Europe. I have always wanted to go to France. Even though the French hate Americans, I still forgive them because of things such as cafe's and CHOCO-DUO. For anyone who has not experienced the Choco-duo goodness, you have missed out in life. Basically it is Nutella swirled with white-chocolate goodness (If you dont know what Nutella is, then stop reading my blog and go educate yourself!). It is the best thing that has ever gone into my mouth. You can put it on anything, really, but lately it has been the Ritz crackers that have done it for me. Enough about food for now.

Manny and I decided we had to needed something a little more exciting than Sembach, Ger. We decided to rent a the smallest Euro-car we could and drive to France. Neither Manny or I had ever been so we were quite excited. We decided on the city of Metz, which would turn out to be an excellant choice. Since both of have big races coming up, and the whole reason we are here in Germany is to train, we brought our bikes with us. As you can see bikes, small car, gear, food, and two rather small people still had a little trouble fitting in our "speedy" 1.8L Fiat Punto. I think my diet coke had more volume than our engine. After an 1:15hr session at 150KPH pushing 6,000RPM we arrived outside of Metz. We quickly assembled our bikes and headed out to the French coutnryside. Two hours later it was time for a mexican shower (shown in picture) and a deck change before we headed into the city. Metz was exactly what I pictured in my mind. By some act of God we found the city centre on our first try, despite the fact that we knew ZERO Frech. This no doubt led many a French waiter to shake there heads and turn their noses up in disgust. We walked around the streets, which were closed off to traffic, and found this hip, little bistro to eat at. I decided to be adventurous and test my culinary chops and try a random dish, but ended up ordering the world's best salad (field greens, prosciutto, tomatoes, olive oil&balsalmic, eggs, and the secret ingredient: creme fraiche). For the main course, I thought I ordered scallops in a creme sauce, but I ordered chicken in creme sauce with the best frites (french fries) I have ever had. Afterwards it was time to walk around the city and see all the beautiful architechture and other attractions Metz had to offer. As we had a long drive back to Germany, another long training day, and a trip to Luxembourg scheduled for the following day we called it am early night. Metz was awesome and I would love to go back and explore the whole city sometime. Well, this blog is already entirely too long, and I assume the next post will be the same as I recap the Luxembourg trip. Until next time, L'au revoir

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

friends and rain

Weathermen are usually wrong.  I found out this occurs in Germany as well as the United States.  Yesterday we were greeted with warm sunshine and cool temperatures.  Today, which was supposed to be hot, looks like Thailand in monsoon season.  No matter, though, as I am thoroughly enjoying training here.  Mixing up training venues is a well needed change of pace sometimes.  If you combine that with my love of all things Euro, then I am in the perfect place! You have the perfect training place.  It is not just the geography that helps dictate whether or not someplace is good, but the people.  It is so nice to finally be training with old friends.  It makes me realize how much I miss training with Mark and Todd back in Nebraska.  Oh well, time to stop reminiscing because it is time to go to the pool for our next “flogfest”….. Until next time, guten tag

Saturday, August 12, 2006

a percentage game

I spent the entire summer in the city of San Francisco and experienced perfect weather there. It did not rain once, and while it got "hot" for San Francisco for a few days, it stayed between, 70 and 80 nearly every day. I am not that fortunate with weather, so my "weather karma" caught up with me in Germany. If anyone has been to central Europe in the summer, there are but two words to describe it: hot & humid. This is what I figured when I packed for the trip. I was dead wrong. It is friggin cold here! Every day it has been between 50-60 degrees. It has also rained or been overcast every day. Not quite cold enough to inhibit training, but enough to ruin the tan I have tried to perfect all summer. Oh well! I rode 3 hours yesterday through these quaint little towns and beautiful national park, but got dumped on the whole way. You might say that, "Barrett, you live in Nebraska, don't you have cold and wet weather gear?" to which I would reply, "Yes, but it is in NEBRASKA!" I always go to races prepared for any type of weather, but the one time I go somewhere for a month, I forget ALL my warm clothes. I got plenty of funny looks riding in my coat of many colors (every shirt I own). But other than my own lack of foresight, things are well. Hopefully it is warmer wherever you are!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

where is the tylenol pm?

Last night was rough. After falling asleep around 9:30 P.M., I awoke promptly at 2:00 A.M. No amount of German infomercials could coax me back to sleep. I decided to be productive. I cleaned and caught up on emails and blogs. As of 6:00 P.M. (this moment) I have yet to sleep today or even take a nap. I am trying to make it until tonight to sort of reset my internal clock.
Today we were able to go into town and experience Kaiserslaughtern. This is where the swimming pool is located. It is a fair size German city with plenty of charm. The old buildings coupled with the tight, twisty, and hilly roads give that European feeling. We rode our bikes through the city and found some great places to ride and trail run. We also went to the soccer stadium and walked around. It was incredible. This was the stadium in which the US v. Italy game was played in the World Cup. With the opening game this weekend, we will definately make it to a game.


(Written on Aug 8th) After a long flight, we are finally here in Sembach, Germany. It is absolutely beautiful here. It looks like one postcard after another. The terrain is predominately rolling hills with lush green landscapes. There are little villages that dot the countryside, just like I pictured before I arrived. The area has a tangible old-world charm and I cannot wait to explore the surrounding area on my bike. We are only around 100k from France, so a long bike ride to a roadside café for a cappuccino and pastry is definitely on the to-do list. We are also 10 minutes from Kaiserslautern, which was one of the World Cup stadiums this past June. There is a Division II Champions League team that plays there so we will try to go catch a match. I will be here until the 24th, when I will travel to Switzerland to get ready for the race on the 26th.

As far as training goes, this place seems ideal. We wnet for a 2 hour ride yesterday and it was great. The roads are nice, people are used to cyclists and the countryside is beautiful. We are actually on a US military base, so it is like a little piece of the US right here in Germany. The weather is surprisingly cool, with temp’s hovering around 18- 20 deg C for the high (around 65 F). In addition to Manny and Sara we also picked up Jarrod Schumacher and his fiancée, Alicia, so there is a small group to train with. I t should be a great place to relax and prepare for the upcoming race. The rest of my teammates will get here in a week or so. As the training camp continues, more athletes will come to the facility, which should be a good time.


the adventure begins!

(This was written on Aug 4th) I am currently in Connecticut, on my first leg of my month-long journey that will eventually take me to Switzerland for the FISU World University Games. The stop in Connecticut on the way across the pond was for the ITU Bridgeport Continental Cup Triathlon. It has been approximately 6 weeks since I last raced. During that time I put in some quality training sessions, and felt sure of a good result going into the race.

My last day of work in San Francisco was on Thursday, Aug 3rd. The race in Connecticut was Saturday afternoon, so I decided to take the red-eye to Newark Thursday night. Then I would hitch a ride up to Connecticut on Friday morning. It seemed like a feasible, stress-free plan, but did not turn out that way. I ended up arriving at the airport at 7:30 in the morning, but I had to wait until for my coach arrived 4 hours later. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything (even use the restroom), because I had my bike and an enough luggage to clothe a small country. After he arrived we had quick hour drive to Connecticut and we were finished. This to proved problematic as it seemed everyone in NYC thought that this weekend would be great to head north on I-95. Four frustrating hours later I arrived in the “fine city” of Bridgeport. If you have ever been to Bridgeport, you understand that when I say “fine city” I mean that with the most sincerely sarcastic tone I can use.

The race was definitely not my finest day in the sport of triathlon, but it did have some beacons of hope. The swim went excellent. I felt strong and in control the entire way. The run-out of the water was a little rough, but it was pretty much the gravy-train the entire way. I was in the lead pack on the bike, but was not feeling that great. It was climbing to the high 90’s with wicked humidity. I was thirsty on the bike, which is typically not a good sign. As I went out on the run, I knew I was in trouble. It was a death march. I was dehydrated, cramping, and just genuinely miserable. I finished 15th, which got me a few world ranking points, but was very frustrating because I was right in the mix off the bike, and if I had run even close to what I usually do, I would have been easily in the top ten. Now I am still in Connecticut until Monday night when Manny Huerta, Sara McLarty, and I travel to Sembach, Germany, to prepare for our various World Championship Races.