Monday, 27 June 2016

Vitoria Gasteiz & European Campaign - June Update

Hallo ~ Hola ~ Hello Everyone,

Wow what a month, where do I start, it's been huge!!

I Landed into Bilbao, Basque Country on the 1st of this month, a touch jet lagged & my body clock totally unsure of what time it was! I waited for my coach Mick to arrive, we checked out our new vehicle- a bright red VW Van (manual... No driving for me) got the map out, & on our way to our new home for the next few months- Vitoria Gasteiz! With only 10 honks from people & a few stalls I thought Mick did really well, & his slowly working back to scratch on the honk meter. Driving on the (not so right) right side of the road after 40 hours of travel isn't easy when you have 3 lane round about stop manoeuvre!  Needless to say we arrived safe & sound. 
The next few days was all about settling in, checking over my equipment & body before some light raining work & getting familiar with my new training base, the environment, facilities, rules, local manners, customs & way of life around here! From the start I have loved it! As a friend said before I left, "We will Know if your enjoying yourself by how many social media posts flow through!"
Well considering there have been a few double grams, an ever building Facey album of photos & long snap chat stories, it's safe to say I'm a happy girl here.

Finally I was able to see for myself this absolutely awesome European home here in Vitoria Gasteiz that the international/ Australian based Wollongong Wizards have been coming back to for years! The pool in "Mendi" has a indoor & outdoor 50 m pool split up into 25 m indoor with daily lane space available for us. It is glass walled & the glass top roof allows awesome multitasking to build my endless summer #triathletelife tan while working hard!!

The lake out at Landa is something from a postcard, or a scene from a movie, it provides perfect open water swimming & on top a brilliant 90 + minute cycle around depending on the loop you choose (I manage a slightly different loop every time) and a awesome soft surface run "track" with 1km markers all the way around the lake perimeter (50 +km) so you have endless spots to go for a long cruise or hit up some intervals!

The riding provides endless options depending what's in store for training; an aerobic spin, skills, Crit style riding, efforts, group pace line work, hills, big climbs,  motor pacing or a long ride through endless Basque Country! I was speaking with Wizard Tamsyn at a race & it's her 6th time back here & she still is riding on new routes each week! What an awesome training environment hey, never short of that external motivator / stimulus of new roads untraveled to explore!

And running, not to sound like a broken record but it's fabulous. We have the 30 km green loop that circles around the whole city of Vitoria Gasteiz with awesome running trails along the way but one of the best is the green park called  Salburua that starts just across the road from our accommodation, 1 min and your on your way for a 30,40,50, 60 min + run depending on what loops you Choose through the trees, parkland, around the lake & even antelope to spot!!

With the continued use of the Alter G right here in Vitoria, just a  5 min ride from home!! It's awesome!

On top of the excellent training environment I have been provided with VERY rewarding opportunities, working (training) with the Wollongong Wizards under head Wizard coach Jamie Turner, in conjunction with Mick & the HPT program here. An environment that leaves you always looking to push yourself! And allows you to find that next level you didn't realize you had solo, but found when lifted/ pushed by those athletes around you!

We are very lucky with the excellent facilities, staff & services available to us athletes, facilitated by triathlon Australia. With Physio, treatment & stretch & conditioning provided by the likes of Alex Price & Dean Sullivan. Dietitian, nutritional & recovery support from Greg Cox & massage facilities, all just a few steps from my room.

Before I run over my first 3 races here in Europe (on my European training block/ racing campaign leading in Cozumel World championship) I will fill you in on my favourite 3 things about having adjusted to the cultural way of life here:

1. A change from back home in Australia where my alarm went off at 4.30 am 6 days of the week for the first session of the day, to days where training sessions will kick off at 8 am at the earliest, but getting a few mornings every week where there is no alarm set! With it being summer here, the sun rises at around 6.30 and it doesn't get dark until around 10 pm. So it's not uncommon to go out for a 7 pm ride or run! Meaning there is more time in the day for training & ensuring adequate recovery between sessions! Not to mention I'm a big summer lover, the warm weather and endless day light is wonderful!

2. The culture here of "Cafe & Pintxos" Every cafe you will find a variety of small snack size meals, made fresh & delicious!! My personal favourites are a crunchy little bread roll with smoked salmon or the egg, potato, tuna & vege warm tortilla. These are part of a cheap deal with a "cafe con lechee" or coffee with milk ( and together are usually no more than 2-3 Euro). Ahhh nothing better on a stop mid long ride, after a tough run or morning swim set.

3. The proximity of everything within Europe (why the UK chose to leave the EU behind I don't know... And also won't comment further) but coming from Australia where a 1-2 hour flight will get you to Melbourne or the Gold Goast , and here 1 hour could get me to more countries than I can count on both hands! Everything is so close & makes it easy to travel away for races without being hugely taxed by travel. And all the while seeing parts of the world I would never have otherwise had the privilege to explore doing the job I love- swimming, cycling & running around the globe!  For example, I would less than an hours drive to get me to San Sebastián, Pamplona, the Pyrenees mountains or over the border into France. I couldn't even get from my home into the city of Sydney in that time!

My first race here was in Ingolstadt, Germany (1 hour from Munich) for my Bundesliga team Komet! A wonderful group of girls & supporting team of managers who I quickly formed friendships with that will last for years I'm sure. The Bundesliga is a German racing series of 4 events, with 16 teams starting each with 4 athletes. The events are over a sprint distance, ITU legal (so drafting is endorsed on the cycle leg) and each athlete races from themselves to take podium positions but also races in a points based system for the outright team podium each event. Ingolstadt was race 2, unfortunately blessed with heavy rain, not too worry I had a great first race over here in Europe, leading out the swim, taking a dominant roll on the cycle & running strong to take 5th position overall.

 Our team Komet took its first ever win that day, beating the very strong EJOT Buschhutten who had not been defeated in 3 years. Needless to say these pictures tell 1000 words. Winner Winner, alcohol free beer for dinner.

I was lucky enough to enjoy a day off following the race on Monday in Munich to do some sight seeing thanks to my German team manager Bernd Wollbrink. An excellent day wandering Munich & taking it all in exploring before my evening flight home for another very solid in the #athletelife office!

Putting in the hard work before heading off on Saturday morning for my next race at "home" in Basque Country at the beautiful seaside town of Lekeitio!

One of my favourite races to date for sure!! The sun came out to play & the water was absolutely sparkling crystal blue for the 750 m ocean swim.

Heading out on the bike through the crowded streets as the town & surrounding towns had come down to cheer & support the competitors. The ride started through the cobblestone streets before hitting the hills out of town, a few km in and we had reached the climb, a killer mountain climb that made up about 12 km of the course, 6 km out & back. Boy was it brilliant! Tough & awesome fun, especially coming back down! Fellow Aussie Charlotte McShane & myself got a breakaway lead & headed out on the run.

The run followed the coast up along the cliff edges & through the crowded cobble streets of town, with cheers galore & even a marching band on course! A super tough course but I was happy with how strong I finished on the run to take 3rd on the podium.

Mick, Brady & myself were lucky enough to enjoy a Team HPT weekend getaway post race, leaving Lekeitio for the town of Mandaca where we had booked 2 restored fisherman cottages on the water in picture perfect seaside town! Have a look at these pictures!! Just amazing & what a treat after a great race for Brady & myself, and of course the daily hard work of Mick to get us there!

I played your guide the following day & took us too the Breathtaking coastal chapel of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe! A bit more of a hike than my post race legs would have liked but worth every step, one of those sights you share pictures to your kids, another movie scene set I'm sure!

We rang the bell to the cottage before walking back along the coastal sea cliff bridge & headed back in the van to San Sebastián (well ..... I slept). Spending the afternoon absolutely lapping it up, with a waterside seafood lunch, a stroll along the beachfront promenade of the magical San Sebastián, a recovery ocean swim, hit up some pontoon water slides, cruising the streets & possibly a gelato to end what was an amazing weekend away!!

Another very solid week of work laid down & I was feeling it by the end of the week leading into my third European race on Sunday in the German Bundesliga Race 3 in Düsseldorf Germany.  Arriving with some time to settle pre race & take a light day of prep which did its job.

 The course consisted of a 750 m Swim in the River Rhein, a long run up the stairs, through town to transition before the technical & tricky 3 lap cycle course through down, crossing over the main town bridge each lap, being followed by 6 motorbikes as the event was being live Streamed on German TV and online so everyone back home could keep up with the racing live, very very cool!!

 I hope some guys back home got a glimpse, and that I didn't pull too many serious racing faces! I had a good swimming, getting out in with the lead 2 girl- Gillian Backhouse AUS & Marie Rabie RSA, we were joined by Jodie Stimpson GBR!

On the bike & my 2 team members Tamsyn Moana-Veale & Lena Meibner to make up our front pack. We pulled away from the chasers working hard & hitting the run with nothing to lose but lots of processes to execute on & experience to capitalize on, I went out strong & was very proud of my run to earn myself a 3rd place performance in a quality field!!

More non alcoholic beer to celebrate the German way & a beautiful bouquet the of flowers! Topped off by a second place for my Team Komet!!

Tamsyn & I weren't able to get home till Monday morning so deciding to make the most of our opportunity to see Düsseldorf post race we headed into town for the afternoon/ evening to be treated to an awesome atmosphere as Germany defeated Slovakia 3-0  in the first Finals round of the European Championship league soccer!

As I sit on the flight home to Spain now reflecting on the last month, I am thrilled with how I have fallen I love with the daily Summer training Base I have here in Vitoria Gasteiz & as I speak to all my loving friends & family back home, you can all seem to tell how happy i am here chasing the dream, putting in the hard work, reaching & then breaching my limits, all the while rewarded with what I have around me everyday.

So, if you've made it through this long update then bloody good work, that's a session in its self, coffee anyone? Haha

Next up for me I head to Holten in the Netherlands for the European Cup, with a very strong quality field of Elite women it will be a killer race, watch out!! And from there I head back to Amsterdam to travel onto Budapest, Hungary before making my way east to "Tizzy" Tiszaujvaros for the longest standing ITU World Cup series event!

I am pumped! I will take the last three races confidence along with the work I'm
putting in here at "home" to continue progressing, growing & learning as I become a better athlete each day!!

Until next Month,
Dunka ~ Muchas Gracias ~ Thankyou for all your support legends!!

 Em :)

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