Ok, you've waited long enough, and you've all been very patient. Mostly.
Where did I leave off? I told you briefly about Christmas in a rediculous post lacking in significant punctuation. New Year's was lovely. I had a wonderful time with the Pirate's family, though I didn't get kissed at midnight, as we were both asleep. Maybe next year.
Then we had training camp. I flew off to Spain on the 4th of January, spent a week in beautiful, sunny Banyoles, and got back last Thursday a.m. Here are the highlights:
In The Beginning there was the lake. The lake was 6 lanes across and 2 km long and sheltered from cross-winds by the surrounding foothills of the Pyranees Mountains. The sun shone during the day and the moon lit the lake at night, and The Rower saw that it was good. The First Day.
The Rower then got some hot Cambridge fitties to carry her scull down to the water so she could have a short outing and test her back. She spent 15 minutes paddling about, and suffered only minor muscle soreness in her back, the result of months of disuse. She glided smoothly back to the pontoon and made a textbook landing in front of the first men's 8, and they saw that it was good. The Second Day.
The coach suggested that the Rower go out in a double scull, so if she encounters a problem there will be another person to bring her back to safety. The Rower felt the plan was sound, and so went out in the double with Rachel, a talented and strong rower with chronic back problems. After the first kilometer the muscles warmed up and loosened up and the previous day's soreness dissipated, and the Rower saw that it was good. Rachel set a comfortable rhythm with long gentle strokes and no pressure, and the Rower saw that it was good. The Rower was feeling inspired, and decided to drive her knees down a little harder, to push the pressure up a notch, to make her back sweat and feel the sun dry it off her bare, golden skin. The Rower felt that it was good, and then the pain started.
Slowly at first, the Rower thought she could ignore it; they were only 250m from the end of the course. 5 strokes of dull aching and on the sixth, stabbing pain in her lumbar spine. The Rower cried out in pain and stopped rowing immediately. Rachel paddled them back in to the pontoon, where helpful people were waiting to put her equipment away for her. Then the Rower slinked back to her bottom bunk in the youth hostel where she shared a room with 5 other women. She hung towels from the bed above her to make a little cave, and she spent the rest of the afternoon there, crying. Not from pain, but from frustration. It was not good. The Third Day.
On the Fourth Day the Rower rested, and ate Oreos and valencia oranges from the local supermercat. She wandered into town briefly and attempted to chat with a few of the locals, but her Spanish was shaky at best, and their Catalan dialect was just beyond her abilities of comprehension. She was wearing her club kit lycra leggings and cool splash top jacket so as to remind herself that was still an Athlete, though she didn't feel much like one a the moment. The women in the town all looked at her skin-tight leggings firmly gripping her muscled thighs and bottom and glared at her. Several creepy men tried to chat her up. She went back to the hostel, closed the curtain to the sunshine, and curled up in her cave and resumed her Oreo-munching programme. The Fourth Day.
The next morning dawned bright and groggy. The Rower passed a restless sleep having vivid, Cocodomal-induced nightmares. She woke her roommates several times with screaming. She was fed up with watching the team come in off the water from training 3 times a day. She was even more fed up with the few girls who complained and whined about how much they were training. (Imagine being diabetic and watching everyone around you eat nothing but chocolate and sweets without gaining an ounce of weight. Then imagine they start complaining about getting nothing but chocolate and sweets to eat. That about sums up my feeling at that point.) The Rower decided to go for a gentle paddle, if only for 15 minutes. Once again she got people to carry to boat down to the water. (She was perfectly capable of carrying her own equipment, but her physio had advised her not to as a precaution.) She spent 15 minutes dicking about in the sun, and then went back to the pontoon. It wasn't good, but it was better than nothing. The Fifth Day.
The next day the Rower spent 30 minutes in the single scull. That was long enough for some of the muscle memory of the sculling to return to her fingers. The boat was balanced, the blades cleared the water, and if she had remembered to clean the grit from the slides, the boat would have moved silently across the surface of the lake. It was short, but it was good. The Sixth Day.
Finally it was time to derig everything and load up the trailer. After packing and cleaing our rooms, we sat outside on the pontoons drinking cerbeza all afternoon. Our flight didn't leave Girona until 9:30 at night. We arrived in Stanstead at 10:30 pm. I cleared passport control and had my luggage in hand by 10:35. That's got to be some kind of record.
The Journey Home (this is a long story, but it does have a funny ending, I promise.)
Now here's where the transit issued get niggly. I had to take a coach from Stanstead to Victora Coach Station, and from there a second coach to Bristol. I went outside and hopped on a coach to Victoria. I told the driver I was connecting to Bristol. I arrived at VCS and discovered that the station was CLOSED. I couldn't believe it. Surely it would be open all night! The next coach didn't leave for Bristol until 7 am, and it was only a quarter to 1.
I walked down the road to Victoria train station, figuring I could sit there in relative warmth and safety and wait out the night. No such luck. Victoria train station closes at 1. WTF?????
I went back to VCS and saw there were more than a dozen people standing around the parked busses, huddled together and stamping their feet to keep warm. Were they going to do this all night? Surely there must be someplace to go. Though the station was closed, the station office was open and staffed. I enquired.
"No," they said. "There's nowhere that's open all night." The gentleman asked me if the driver who brought me from Stansted KNEW that i was connecting to Bristol and not terminating in VCS.
"Yes," i replied, truthfully. Turns out he never should have let me on the bus. The drivers are ordered not to bring people in to the station while it is closed if they will have to wait for connections. He let me come in to his office and wait on the floor. "Sit there and be quiet" he said, pointing at the corner. I hadn't been spoken to in that manner since I was 7, but I had no other options so I did as I was told.
I pulled my fleece blanket and travel pillow out of my backpack and curled up on the floor like a dog. I managed to squeeze in a few hours of sleep. At 4:30 a.m. the man kicked me and said "I'm opening the station now. You'll have to get out." I thanked him for his generosity and followed him out the door. He unlocked the station and I and the other waiting passengers went inside. The station was not heated. The automatic doors were propped open. The floor was stone, and the chairs, metal. And it was a bitter cold night.
I opened my big rucsack full of stinky clothes from my week in Spain and began piling on the mis-matched layers. The creme-da-la-creme was a flourescent rainbow tie-dyed fleece ski mask. I looked and smelled fabulous. On top of all this I wrapped my fleece blanket around and found a corner out of the way where I would wait the next 2 1/2 hours until my bus departed.
Apparently I looked and smelled even better than I thought, because while I was sitting there (not sleeping for fear my luggage would be stolen) a homeless guy came up to me and offered me the rest of his half-eaten sandwich.
You read that correctly: homeless people were offering me their food.
Oh. My. Fuck.
I was deeply touched. Here was someone who had nothing but the clothes on his back, giving me the only thing he had to give. Few people in this entire world are ever that generous, even once in their greedy little lives. I almost cried. (But I didn't take the sandwich.)
I also laughed. As the Pirate pointed out when I told him later, the situation was preposterous. Here was a person, a PhD student and competitive athlete, someone (as he put it) at the "top of the food chain," being mistaken for a homeless person because of the piss poor state of public transit in the UK.
I still find it incomprehensible that in LONDON there are no public stations or shopping centers open all night. Good grief.
I finally got back to bristol at 10 am the following morning, only slightly motion-sick from the coach ride.