Galicia, Day One: Food, Bikes and Course Recon

My first full day in Spain, for the ITU Duathlon World Championships in Pontevedra, is coming to a close, and it was certainly packed with excitement, some of it unwanted.

The flight from SFO to Paris to Vigo was long and largely uneventful: all flights on time, pleasant and quiet seat neighbors and only one screaming baby, whose screaming was short-lived. Air France did not have my requested “allergen free” meal, but since I’m used to no food at all on flights, and what they provide usually isn’t so inviting anyway, it was an insignificant snag.

Happily, my checked suitcase arrived at baggage claim. One sigh of relief. My seat neighbors on the flight into Vigo saw our bike cases sitting outside next to the plane, so I was confident that my bike arrive with us. Wrong! The baggage powers that be decided that no bikes should fly on our plane, so they sent them all to Madrid. After an hour in line to file a lost/missing bag claim, I learned that more than 20 passengers, from my flight and others, did not receive their bike that evening alone. That doesn’t count any other sad souls that lost their bikes earlier or later, which I’m sure there were many.

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My bike, all packed up and ready for its trip to…Madrid?

At least my luggage fit into the tiny rental car. Its GPS got me to my hotel.

My room at Hotel Paris, in Poio, which is on the opposite side of the Ria de Pontevedra, is fine. The rooms are clean and look as if they were decorated from Ikea in the 1980s. The pool and the hammocks that looked so inviting in the pictures are drained and put away, respectively. This isn’t much of a disappointment, because it’s been raining off and on ever since I arrived!

Not quite the pool or hillside view I expected.
Not quite the pool or hillside view I expected.

With no real clue as to when I would receive my bike, this morning I ran in the rain for a bit longer than planned, with periodic stops to admire the scenery and peek into the window of what looked to be a small supermarket.

Cars fly around these corners. (note, no photo of the "supermercado")
Cars fly around these corners.

 

The roads are narrow, twisty, rolling and have no shoulder to speak of. Near the end of my run, I saw one lone man, with a nice bike, an aero helmet and a red kit powering up a hill in the rain with a car inching around him. I waved and he gave me an “Hola.”

Seen on the run.
Seen on the run.

After that, a quick shower and off I went to pick up my race numbers at a cultural center of some sort, which seems to be near a university that I never saw.

Armed with lots of numbers and an official, pricey tech shirt, I joined buddies Wolf, Jim and Mike to drive the bike course and eat lunch at a restaurant that Wolf spotted when watching the You Tube video of the route.

Wolf has good eyes.
Wolf has good eyes.
Wolf Hilsheim, Mike McCarty and Jim Girand. Boatloads of medals between them.
Wolf Hilsheim, Mike McCarty and Jim Girand. Boatloads of medals between them.

Between the four of us, we ordered four large salads with tuna, egg and a slab of white asparagus; a plate of fried octopus (not for me); and a plate of “Galician vegetables,” which turned out to be a large serving of greens that looked like spinach and boiled potatoes (upon further reflection, it could have been seaweed). Our veggie feast paled in comparison to our neighbors, businessmen who ordered multiple courses of steaming seafood and other dishes that looked amazing.

Mike, me and Jim
Mike, me and Jim

Having deposited the trio of multiple World competitors at their hotel in downtown Pontevedra, I headed back to my hotel. On the way, I stopped at a fruit stand and stocked up (pears, bananas, apples and a HUGE bag of mixed nuts – huge! It’s as big as a bag of potato chips) and picked up some other odds and ends at the supermarket I spotted this morning. I definitely plan to enjoy the local cuisine here, where the seafood is first-rate, but because I am gluten and lactose intolerant and because I need to keep an eye on my budget, I packed a handy travel kitchen. I’ve used it for two meals and coffee so far and it rocks!

The HJ travel kitchen includes a single electric burner, a Light My Fire Travel Kit (plate, bowl, cup and spork in a cute single container), my friend John’s aluminum camping pot and a cone for the coffee. I also packed a heck of a lot of food, all of which had to be able to work without a refrigerator or microwave. (The hotel has neither, nor does it have a hair dryer, ice or a coffee pot. U.S. hotels spoil us.) My choices included Trader Joe’s organic already cooked brown rice, Bob’s Red Mill creamy buckwheat cereal, Quinoa flakes, many packs of single-serve almond and cashew butter and many Lara Bars. For the flights, I packed some St. Dalfour’s Gourmet on the Go Salmon and vegetables ready-to-eat meals (in a can, but pretty good!). And as mentioned, this afternoon I picked up fruit, nuts and some canned tuna and sardines (I don’t like them, but they are a good source of protein.)

Tonight, before I fired up the burner, I checked downstairs and lo and behold, my bike had arrived! Yay! I unzipped the case while the friendly man that works the front desk and an athlete from Australia, Brent, also racing on Sunday, observed. Brent is vacationing for a month, lucky him!

TSA messed with my bike case so that the fork had come loose from its holder, a strap was unbuckled, the TSA lock was gone and the valve on my front wheel was bent. The bent valve turned out to be fatal. It’s a tubular tire, so this is not a quick fix. Panic!! I rushed to a nearby bike shop, Bici O Con (It was 8 p.m. and they were still open!), and they say they will have a new tire installed by noon tomorrow. An expensive but sweet Continental 4000 tubular. Depending on drying time, I may not be able to ride the course tomorrow as planned, but provided no mishaps, I should have a working bike on race day.

As I write this, it is 10:30 p.m. Normally I would have been asleep by now, but tonight I am wide awake! Maybe I am adjusting to the different pace here. Or maybe I’m just on vacation.

Coda: The gentleman that just sat down next to me, waiting for the WiFi like me, is from France and a guide for a blind athlete in the Paraduathlon race. They ride a tandem for the bike. I’m so impressed.

 

 

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