Alright, so it has been a while since any significant update. The last post (prior to yesterday) was about the second unsuccessful trip to the beach. Since that time, my life has been consumed with training. I have had a big training block in preparation for my upcoming race Tour of Austria, July 4-11.
The training has been tough because it is big on volume as well as intensity, plus I have been doing almost all of it on my own and it is never easy to take such time away from home when you know your wife is there and you have an adventure waiting for you during this European experience. Nonetheless, I put my head down and did the training, did the intervals, did the time and hopefully now I can rest properly to go into Austria and mix it up a bit more.
I am unsure what the expectations are, but as with any race, I will go out there, put my nose in it and try my hardest. The race should suit me well given that it has a lot of climbing and in general the parcours is quite tough from what I have seen. It should be all in all quite a bit different from the craziness that was Belgium.
Throughout this long training period and racing break, Lisa and I have had opportunities to enjoy our experience here. They haven't been much outside of our house or Girona itself though. For example, a few days ago we made our first pancakes since being here in Europe. They were pretty tasty. Lisa even managed to find some pure maple syrup at the grocery store: SCORE!
We have also finally ridden the "tourist train" that runs a loop from the "stone bridge" through the Old Town area. Besides being incredibly bumpy and having horribly uncomfortable seats, it provided a great glimpse of the city center and many of its landmarks.
As was evidenced by the photograph in yesterday's post, we finally got a sunny day at the beach. It actually happened to be the same day as the pancakes. What a great day! I had light training that day and original intentions were not to go to the beach, but after a lazy morning, good pancakes and a quick decision, we were off to exercise and catch the next bus. We made it and were delighted to sit on the beach next to the beautifully blue Mediterranean and soak it in. Lisa mocked me as I told her I was going to tan evenly on all sides (front and back). Eventually I ended up being the "rotisserie chicken" and despite putting in 3 sessions of 12 minutes each on front and back, I hardly have any tan. This is probably due in part to the fact that the skin under my shorts and jersey has little to no clue what to do when it sees the light of day/sun. Oh well, perhaps I will keep trying to "rotisserize" and lessen the "skin" t-shirt/shorts.
And speaking of treats, on the way home from the rotisserie shack, we found a new bakery. We bought some bread and a piece of quiche. The bread is quite tasty and the quiche was pretty delicious, so I believe we have a new favorite. We actually haven't found a bakery to our special liking yet, despite there being a few on every block and street corner. In fact, our favorite bread has come from the grocery store. Lisa discovered that one night when we were shopping. She went to the bread rack and put her hand on this big, warm, fresh loaf of bread and said "we have to get this!" Ever since then, we have not been able to find anything better. Many have tried, but none have succeeded! The Mercadona still has the best bread!
Ok, last thing: perhaps the highlight of this last training period was me finally conquering the Vallter 2000 climb in the Pyrenees to the northwest of Girona. I had begun exploring the area and the climb during the long training sessions and immediately fell in love with the riding and the mission/goal of climbing to the ski station up in this big mountain valley. I took a good stab at the ride one day knowing it was going to be at least 6 hours in the saddle, but due to rain storms and temperatures dropping close to 50 degrees, I decided to call it quits knowing that I was going to freeze if I climbed any higher and had to descend any further. That ride left we wanting to accomplish it more though. Coincidently when Allen came through town this last week, he offered to support me via car on this ride. I took him up on that offer and we got it done.
With Lisa as his co-pilot, the two of them set out a couple hours after me and met me in the middle of the mountains to offer refreshment and moral support. I plugged away logging the time and climbing until I came to the base of Vallter. It is not an overly menacing looking climb, but it is not easy, especially at the end of a long day in the saddle. I started the climb and finished at the ski station after 5 hours in the saddle. A break for some refreshment and a descent for cool down and we packed up the bike, got a coffee and pizza before heading back to Girona. It was a great day and I really appreciated the support by Allen and Lisa.
Picture 1: The tourist train!
Picture 2: Mountain town of Beget where Lisa and Allen waited for me.
Picture 3: Still smiling when I got to the top :)
Picture 4: Lisa has a creative knack for photography... Where's Matthew?
Picture 5: My wonderful supporter. Thanks!