Hamburg, Germany Part 1: Wet and Cold

The trip to Hamburg, Germany was long but successful. I left my house around 3:45pm, boarded the plane at 5:45pm, sat on the runway until about 6:30pm and then was off to Frankfurt.  I always set my watch to my destination to get my body pre-accustomed to the new time zone and try as much as possible to sleep and eat according to this change but it is often difficult because the body doesn’t like to change its routine so quickly.

The flight was just over 9 hours and I occupied myself by reading the book, “From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour De France”. Very interesting insight regarding what is termed the “medical programs” of professional cycling teams. Unfortunately, I only managed to get about 3 hours of sleep on the flight so I successfully finished about 3/4 of the book on the way.

Once I landed in Frankfurt, it took about 30 minutes to get from the airplane to the terminal, likely due to the ground crew strike, but I had over 2 hours before my connection to Hamburg so I took my time and toured the airport a bit. After passing through the passport check, I was body searched with a wand in security and then on my way to my gate without a hitch. As I was watching people pass through security ahead of me, it appeared that every other person was being “wanded” so I didn’t mind.

After arriving in Hamburg, I met the ITU race shuttle gentleman who was from Hamburg and had a nice chat with him regarding the city while we were waiting for our other passenger, Debbie Tanner from New Zealand (soon to be the bronze medalist at this World Cup). Debbie and I shared some good conversation in the shuttle to the airport. She is an elite kiwi and it was fascinating to learn about her whereabouts throughout the year. She travels quite a bit and it didn’t sound like she was at any one location for longer than 3-4 months. The life of a professional ITU athlete!

Once we arrived at the hotel, I rushed to the coaches meeting, of which I was 10 minutes late for but it wasn’t too big of a deal as there weren’t many coaches in attendance. I met up with Linda from USAT who was there as the assistant coach and we sat through the meeting, learned about the course and all of the other logistics. Then it was off to the athlete meeting and our goal was to meet all of our athletes since we did not know all of them. I knew a couple from helping them with nutrition but had to acquaint myself with the others quickly. We had six males and one female in the race. After introductions we went to the pasta dinner together to enjoy each other’s company and then off to bed.

Ah, the sleep thing was interesting to say the least! I desperately tried to stay awake that night to stay on Germany time and did manage to stay up until 11pm (Hamburg is 8 hours ahead of Colorado time) and abruptly woke at 7am. I don’t know why and I desperately tried to coerce my body back to sleep but no luck. So, I got up, did a bit of yoga and calisthenics to loosen up the body then went to breakfast.

Mmmm, breakfast! The hotel I was staying at was quite nice and served a delicious continental breakfast. Completely opposite of what you find in the U.S., this breakfast was refreshing and consisted of fresh fruit, yogurt, muesli, pastries, breads and of course the cheeses, fish and cold, non-traditional U.S. food offerings. I have to say that the pastries were amazing! They are not that sweet which makes them even more delectable and the breads are very dense chock full of rich flavor. Check out this photo of breads I found in a little cafe.

I also tried, and grew to be a big fan of, kiwi nectar. Not too sweet and just a hint of tartness comprised this beverage. I would add mango nectar to the mix for a great burst of antioxidants in the morning!

My first full day in Hamburg was greeted with a cold, wet (downpour actually) environment. Linda and I met the athletes at the pool and I led the swim workout then it was off to our team meeting and back to the hotel quickly to drive the race course with some of the athletes. My first experience driving in Germany and it was....well....fun! Linda had rented a Mercedes Benz station wagon with quite a bit of kick. Aside from making some wrong turns due to sign viewing challenges and not being able to make left turns when I needed to, I navigated the streets with ease.

After we drove the bike course, it was back to the hotel to drop off the car so Linda and I could walk down to the transition area to get the lay of the land. Umbrellas and rain gear in hand, we made the 15 minute jaunt to the race start. It just so happens that the race start is in the middle of downtown Hamburg so there were quite a few people walking around and a town of shops surrounding the transition area. We scoped out where our positions would be on the course to provide the athletes with feedback regarding their splits and positions then enjoyed the Hamburg culture a bit more by touring downtown. The buildings were a mix between old and new and while we didn’t want to stay in the rain too long (it was actually cold!), we saw what we wanted to and headed back to the hotel for some rest before dinner.

Linda and I met up for dinner and walked around a bit before stumbling on an Italian restaurant. What? Italian in Germany? Perfect for this Italian boy! We went in around 7pm and found that we were the only ones there. Ah yes, I forget that dinner is quite a bit later in Germany than what I am used to. Regardless, we ordered some type of wine spritzer which had quite a kick to it, salads and individual pizzas. The real excitement came when we went to pay. After paying, we were provided with two shots of some hard alcohol as a kind gesture for some reason (perhaps we tipped generously?) and as I smelled it, memories of my first semester of my undergrad filled my head. Without going into too much detail, let’s just state for the record that these memories were not comprised of concentrating on the classes I was taking, if you get my drift.

I made it back to the hotel, got to check a little email and then retired for the night.