Tuesday, July 22, 2008

German National Champs - Part 1: I made it there....

Since I am not Irish, and therefore not eligible for the Irish National Championships in Crosscountry Mountainbiking, I have to go to my own, i.e. German National Champs. They all actually take place on the same weekend in their respective countries.

So, this was THE most important race of the year for me, and of course things went wrong: First I hurt my knee during the Epic club race and had to abandon. Then, in the taper period, I fell off my bike in Ballyhoura on a slow speed corner (see previous post), it really hurt and I was afraid I had broken something, but in the end it was only a nice big blue bruise, thankfully. Then I wasn't feeling well in general, not sure if it was a motivation issue or a physical one. I was feeling tired, and doing the few hard efforts to open up my legs felt a lot harder than they should have. I was also having 2 of my absolutely wrecked tired days that I have about every 2 months and was feeling a little down.

Then, when I tried to change brakepads on Thursday when I was packing the bike, I jammed and broke the screw that holds the new brake pads in place. It was actually so badly jammed that there was no way of screwing the left over bit back out - we used tweezers, but the screw just disintegrated. More drastic measures had to be sought. So the next day, when I was supposed to fly out we went to Argos to buy a drill and a drill set, so that Ryan could drill out the hole so that at least we could use a big kind of metal wire to hold the pads in place - thank god it all worked out just in time - thank you Ryan for fixing it!!!

Anyway, I thought things couldn't get any worse and I finally got everything packed in the afternoon, so I had loads of time to make the flight which was at 19:15. My friend Leah, who was to accompany me as my feed zone angel was to be on the same flight as me, we were supposed to meet at the airport. Ryan brought me to the Aircoach stop in Sandyford where I left at 16:15pm, 3hours before the flight was due.

When I was in town at about 17:15 I got a text from Leah, who was already at the airport (jeez, she's there early!) wondering where I was. I answered I was in the middle of city centre, stuck in rush hour traffic, probably another 35min from the airport, but hey, still loads of time. Her answer text was "Feck, when does check-in close?". Eh, 40min before flight, i.e. 18:35, right?? I checked the print out and noticed, OH MY GOD, my flight was at 17:55!!!! I mixed up the flight number FR1915 with the flight time, and I was supposed to take off in 40 minutes!!! I immidiately realized I wasn't going to make it. I frantically called Ryan, to check for alternative flights to Baden-Baden or any other near airport, called Leah, agreed she would fly anyway and try to stay with a friend. Thank god Leah could speak German and is so easy-going, you could put her into any place and she would be just fine. I had already booked a car and the hotel.... And I was of course running out of credit on my mobile phone too.... argh!!!

While Ryan gave me my options (fly to London in the evening, sleep at the airport, fly to Baden-Baden in the morning/fly to Frankfurt in the morning/fly to Basel in the morning, then take car from whichever airport I arrive to pick up Leah at her friend and drive to St. Maergen...), none of these options suited particularly well, they were either super expensive or involved sleep deprivation, not the best thing to do before a big race. I went to the airport anyway, arriving at the Ryanair check in area at 17:50 and of course the flight was closed. Looked like it was going to leave on time as well, damn! Started queueing at the Ryanair ticket counter (with my huge bike bag) and started talking to that woman, asking her if there was any way of getting onto that flight - yes, the one that leaves now, but sure enough there wasn't any chance. So I asked her to find me the best option to go to Baden-Baden - the next direct flight was on Sunday afternoon, so not an option for me. While she looked, I got a call from Leah from the gate, supposedly the plane hadn't even arrived yet and there was now a delay posted till 18:50! I told that Ryanair woman, begging and pleading to let me onto the plane if in any way possible, me going to the German Championships etc. She confirmed the delay and probably felt pity for me and said she's gonna look what she can do. 10 very long minutes later and she reappeared, telling me to run over to check in. They are letting me back on!! Yay!! I ran over to check in, probably rolled over a few people on the way with my huge bag and got myself and the bag checked in. I went through security and ran down the long way to the Ryanair gates, finding Leah in the pub, having her 4th pint of despair. Yay, I had made it!!! We fell into our arms and danced around barely able to believe how lucky I had been. I need to say thanks here to Ryanair, who usually are not known to be so accommodating, but they did go out of their way to make it possible for me to get to the German Champs. My opinion of Ryanair is increasing again.

We stayed at the pub and I kept checking the board to see when it would say "Boarding - go to gate", but it didn't. At 18:45 I was getting nervous and we decided to go down to the gate anyway, but nobody was there... strange... somebody waving at us, the people at the gate... if we were going to Karlsruhe, yes, we were, where have we been? Everybody was already on board of the plane and they were looking for us and already initiated looking for my luggage to be taken back out!! Lol, after all that luck we would have almost missed the airplane again!

In the end it all worked out and the rest of the journey went well, the drive to St. Maergen was grand and we arrived in our hotel late at night and fell exhausted into our beds.

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