This past year, I joined a new training group led by Jamie Turner. With a new coach came lots of changes and investments. I spent the winter in Australia, and on May 12th I moved to the Basque Country in Vitoria, Spain. I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was if I wanted to be the best athlete I could be, I needed to be in a daily training environment with Coach Jamie Turner and the crew. Jamie coaches about 10 athletes. There are four solid young ladies I train with, about five young gentlemen as well, and a few others who join intermittently.
Most of the other athletes have lived here in Vitoria previously. They have the town dialed, which is nice for me whenever I have a question or get lost. Jamie and the crew found the apartments we live in a year or two ago and they are perfect! We all have two-bedroom apartments which include a kitchen, washer, bathroom, two bedrooms, a living room, and an outside porch-type area. We also have internet and TV (however, I never turn on the TV unless I feel like learning a bit of Spanish). It’s nice to have my own apartment, yet be able to walk next door or shout across the patio to my neighbors/training partners/friends if I get bored or need anything.
The first few weeks in Vitoria weren’t at all what I was expecting. I’d heard I was going to be hot and sweaty. However, we came at the end of winter, and it was overcast, 10 degrees Celsius, and rainy almost every day. The weather was freezing and not enjoyable. It didn’t help that the first few weeks I was here, boyfriend Pat was back in MN doing some racing himself. I’d FaceTime those back home, but internet was spotty and I often found myself guessing about the conversation as I would hear about one out of every three words.
It took me a long time to get over the jetlag of flying from USA to Japan to Vitoria, so I spent the first few days/weeks sleeping and recovering. I started to learn the locale, with Jamie taking me to the shops and Charlotte showing me different restaurants and grocery stores around town. Thanks to them I now know where to get the best coffee/tortilla (Ramon’s) and fresh foods. However, I am still searching for some good peanut butter…
The first week Grace and the girls would bike with me to the pool; I thought I would never know my way. I’m horrible with directions, and this town isn’t the easiest to memorize. The center of town is almond shaped on a map, however I’m convinced there is no pattern nor easy way to navigate. Thankfully the town isn’t that big and I can’t get too lost. I now at least know a few different routes to the pool.
Time passed quickly. Daily, I’d realize there was something else I needed to buy: a sweet Specialized town bike, a rice cooker, a good knife and some cutting boards. Pretty soon, it was time to race and Pat was in Spain to join me. The weather turned, making it more enjoyable for me to ride my town bike around for various errands and food adventures.
Weekly, I try to find a new Menu Del Dia, or menu of the day in Spain. It’s a massive lunch usually served between 1-3pm, consisting of a huge starter (I like to get the paella), a main (usually some sort of meat with potatoes), and a dessert. It also comes with bread and whatever you want to drink (once I was given an entire bottle of wine as my drink!) It’s easy to see why everyone takes a siesta after finishing a true menu del dia!
I also enjoy Pintxo Pote: it’s basically a Thursday night pub crawl, where you go to different bars and are able to get a glass of wine and a pintxo (like an appetizer) for 1-2Euros. I’m not the type to go on a pub crawl, but I do enjoy trying a pintxo or two. However, I can normally only drink one and half glasses of wine before handing the glass off to Patrick.
The training here is ideal: trails to run on are less than a minute from my door, and the riding views are spectacular. There are so many people cycling that the cars all slow down to pass cyclists. It’s also not uncommon to go out for a ride, and have a few random riders draft behind you. It’s fun to see so many other cyclists.
No one here speaks English. The first week, I struggled a lot, but I’m slowly getting better. Pat always says it’s Russian Roulette when we order food at a restaurant, but I would say 90% of the time I know what I’m ordering.
I’m really looking forward to the next month, as my friend Tristine Schmidt is coming to visit for a week, as are my parents. I feel very fortunate to have friends and family who are able to visit. I can’t wait to show them around my new Basque home.
Jamie and Pat enjoying a café y tortilla post swim with me
Pintxo Pote with Brendan, Charlotte, and Beata
Enjoying a Menu Del Dia with Pat
Natalie making me a sushi dinner
A quick view of my Spanish apartment.