All year Europe, to me, seemed like this mythical journey that everyone talks about, but no one plans, and somehow it all comes together. It felt like there was a lot of talk but that it would never actually happen, even all the way up to the day before I left. But finally ten days ago I hopped on a flight to Ireland and it all began. It was quite the adventure, and though I’m writing this while trapped in the Zurich airport for nine hours just trying to get home to a stormy NYC, I’m already thinking about next year. Here are a few lessons for next time that I’ve learned along the way:
1. Pack less and re-wear clothes. I didn’t know what it would be like for me because my races were so close together that I didn’t have a home base. So through ten days, three countries, and four flights I carried a large bag with things I probably didn’t need. Of course running clothes become gross, but there are ways to do laundry and I can definitely cut down on street clothes.
2. Ireland uses euros, not pounds. And Switzerland uses Swiss francs, not euros, and is extremely expensive. Thinking I’d be in Belgium until the day before I came, I changed a bunch of money to euros. Then for some reason assumed Ireland used pounds and didn’t bother to do any research, switched to pounds and was wrong. Next time double check.
3. Bring your own shampoo, soap, and towel. This ended up being less of an issue than I originally thought. When I got to Cork, all I wanted was a shower and I was in a dorm room with a shower that didn’t turn on, no towel, and no toiletries. All was fixed by the following afternoon, but you never know where you’ll be and it’s probably best to be prepared. Also, every place I went had only liquid soap that was used as shampoo as well and no conditioner. European thing?
4. Looking both ways before crossing the street is even more important in countries where they drive on the other side of the road. I almost died.
5. Check in for flights and check your bag online a day in advance. The one time I didn’t do this, going from Dublin to London, a massive fee was attached to the bag. They told me that is often the case and it is much less if you do it online ahead of time.
6. Deer in England are not afraid of people. I was only in Teddington for a day and a half, but it was the perfect place for down time between races. Bushy Park was great for running, and the deer don’t even flinch when you go by.
7. Get out and see things. Of course it was important to remember why I was there and I made sure my legs were rested well enough, but I didn’t want to forget where I was. Running provided me with an amazing opportunity and I’m glad I took advantage of it and was a bit of a tourist as well.
8. Europeans love athletics meetings. Athletics meetings = track meet. Great crowds and, as mentioned in my race recaps, fanatic little children greeting you at the finish line to ask for your bib number and have you sign hats, t-shirts, and programs.
9. Track athletes are a special breed. Here’s the sappy part of my reflection on the trip. And instead of a lesson learned, it’s more like reassurance of something I’ve always known. But as someone who has never done this before, and without the teammates that I train with and know well, I was welcomed and guided by so many whom I’d only met a day or so before.