The Race to Australia: Chapter ONE, London to Paris

AND THE RACE IS ON!!!

Here’s a window into the last 72 hours:

FRIDAY
19:30- set out on a 30km run with a 20lb backpack. Realize I forgot to pick up my shoes from the cobbler (to get velcro sewn on for attaching RTP’s special gaiters) and sent my friend, Alex Wilks.

21:30- remembered I wanted to test out the shoes with the velcro on to make sure they weren’t smaller and needed to get the shoes that night. Arranged to rendezvous with Alex while he was out on the town drinking caipirinhas in Camden Town (a very hip area in London for all of you non-Londoners)

23:00- show up at a bar called “Spritual” dressed like a spaceman (or so I was told), wearing full raidlight gear, compression socks, and a head torch. Picked up the shoes and stayed for a glass of wine as I changed out of my sweaty spandex top in the middle of the bar (I was covered). Hey, I’ve been told anything goes in Camden.

SATURDAY
6:00- woke up to catch the tube and train out to Berkhamsted for more kriotherapy (see earlier post).

10:00- Chatted with Mrs. Blair about the race and learned that her husband (TONY!) was stuck in the middle east. Stayed in the krio chamber too long without bandages while doing squats and suffered frostbite burns down both forearms.

14:00- return to london to do last minute errands and find that many of the speciality stores I needed were closed “due to staff shortages as members are stuck in New York on account of the volcanic ash”.

16:30- another 30km run with 17lbs.

20:00- started panicking about my flight.

23:30- really started panicking as I read more and more information on the internet.

SUNDAY


3:00- checked the update on http://www.nats.co.uk

5:00- got on the phone with my airline. No news. Flight still scheduled despite continuing airport closures.

6:00- wrote a speech for an event on Kenya I was organising for the next day.

8:30- last run (20km tempo run)

11:00- first public breakdown. Met Jenna Eastlake and Mark Mosimann (two RTP vets from Vietnam and Namibia who are getting married!!!) and crumpled. Tried on bridesmaids dresses for their wedding and just about broke the mirror.

16:00- saw online my Tuesday flight on Qantas was cancelled. Subsequently called my hair salon and told them I couldn’t hair model for them at 4:30 as promised (don’t ask). Spent the next couple of hours trying to move flights and was told that everything on Qantas was booked for two weeks. Queue the profanities of epic proportions. I may have sworn in 6 different languages. I’ve decided my japanese needs work.

19:30- met Alex Howarth (AKA STAR!!! more later), Mark and Jenna, and two newbies to ultraraces for a “celebratory dinner”. Showed up with a puffy face and empty stomach and proceeded to drink champagne and tempt fate by eating raw sushi.

23:00- found a flight from Madrid for 3000 Euros that would get me to Singapore by Thursday. Decided to try catching flies with honey instead of poo this time with the airline agent and convinced them to keep my Qantas flights from Singapore onwards, just a day later.

SUNDAY
01:00- started packing. Went through every item on the equipment list.  Believed I was home free.

05:00- booked a train from London to Paris later that day.

07:22- lined up at the Rail Europe office to buy a ticket from Paris to Madrid. I was 26th in line and figured I was lucky. I met a really sweet actress from Vienna who was trying to move back home. A really cute guy (yum) from New Zealand who was intending to catch a train to Athens to meet his mom, who was flying out from NZ through Hong Kong. And then Boris from Moscow who was gearing up for the three day journey back to Russia. If he didn’t get a ticket and make it to the station by 2pm he would have to wait until Thursday. No joke.

10:00- office opened and started hearing reports that nothing was going from Paris to Madrid until after Sunday. Queue the tears. Vienna girl gave me her number – 25 – so that I could bump up in the line (bless!).

11:15- started strategizing with a few other stranded passengers who were trying to get to NYC. Ended up booking a cab from Paris to Madrid for 8 people for 4000GBP for 1pm on Tuesday. Exchanged phone numbers and relied on the fact that we were all strangers in the same boat (er, cab) and no one would screw the other over.

12:00- returned to work to collect my bags and finish organizing Kenya event.

15:00- hopped on the train to Paris. 200GBP one way with no seat, but I was on it. Finally ate something for the first time since last night’s sushi.

18:17- arrived in Paris and went to the hotel I had enough sense to book a few hours ahead. Brought a young couple with me who had no place to stay and found out the hotel was full (for them). Offered for them to share my room, but they took there chances elsewhere. Think it had something to do with the body odour??? The crazed look in my eyes? Or maybe the shirt I’ve been wearing for three days straight?

Now you’re up to speed!!!

And it is time for my tribute to Alex Howarth. Here’s a guy who set out to run his first ultra in Namibia and caught the bug. We didn’t chat too much there, but I definitely knew who he was and that he seemed like a great guy. Little did I know (!). I invited him out to my “celebratory” going away dinner and even though it was only the second time we had hung out together in non-spandex, he immediately hopped on board to help me find a solution. Basically, even though the guy was starting a NEW JOB today, he actually went to his boss and pitched the idea of taking a few days off to DRIVE ME to MADRID!!!!! Okay, London to Madrid is a LONG WAY. That’s the first thing that would turn most people off. And to put yourself out there like that on the first day of work??? MAN!!!! I don’t deserve that. Wow. And then when he found out I was cabbing from Paris to Madrid, he had further contingency plans involving charter flights and other James Bond maneuvers.

STAR!!!!

And Paul McQueeney, who I supported in his English Channel Swim last fall (see my youtube vid), started posting on sports chat rooms and on his facebook about my situation, pleading for someone to help get me to Madrid.

I am overwhelmed and grateful for such a show of support. I can’t even begin to start naming the people who have put themselves out there for me. I don’t feel like I nearly deserve it, but I am so, so grateful. That is what I love about this sport…..

Situations like these bring out the worse in people sometimes, but I have only seen the BEST.

Now for some SLEEP!!!!! STAY TUNED!!!!

Categories: Musings about life

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