Jun 11

VITA AdVentures Abroad: World Championship Duathlon, Spain

I’ve been to heaven and back.  I’m infinitely changed but also, just the same.  These past two weeks have been some of the best in my whole life, for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which was the amazing honor I had in representing my country at the Duathlon World Championship in Pontevedra, Spain.  Just typing that makes me want to cry.  I don’t think I fully realized what it meant, until I found myself running through the streets of Spain, the words “USA” emblazoned in lycra, on my stomach and ass.  I became the BULL.  But, I’m getting way ahead of myself.


I hope you will all forgive me for taking this slow.  It’s not a speed I usually know anything about, but I warned you, I’ve been changed.  I want to pump the brakes a bit because perhaps, if I take my time, and write about each chapter as it unfolded, I can hold onto it a little longer and with better clarity.  I know I will never forget all that transpired over the past 11 days, but I want to take you though the journey so you can fully appreciate it as well – because it was one hell of a ride!

In the months leading up to what I referred to as “the biggest race of my life,” I wrote a Weekly Rundown of all the training I was doing with a healthy dose of snark, randomness and snippets of everyday life.  I’m going to treat this series the same way – with weekly posts each Monday (I know it’s not Monday but I just got home!), on a different stage of my trip to Spain and Portugal.

If you follow me at all in other social media outlets, you already know the outcome of the race – but I promise you – that is the very least of it!

And so, I’ll begin with what I’ll refer to as my “pre-game” or the insanity of the days leading up to the race:

Our last supper in Boston at Logan Airport.  Notice the hubs trying to get in every last second of work on his laptop.

Our last supper in Boston at Logan Airport. Notice the hubs trying to get in every last second of work on his laptop.



FLIGHTS:  They were just as I like them – completely uneventful.  The boys even somewhat behaved, everyone had their own TV (Mom – Oh my God they have Ben 10!), and we all even managed to get a little sleep.  We left at 5pm eastern time and arrived (after a stop in Madrid) at 9am Spain time.  Because that’s what it’s called, right?  Everyone was raring to go, even though it was now 3AM eastern time and we had officially begun our six hour deprivation.  Little did we know how much this would suck over the next three days or so.

Our luggage didn’t make it.

We practically had to run to our connection so it wasn’t that big of a surprise, but not a good sign for me.  Luckily I had absolutely everything I needed to race with either on my feet or in a pack on my back – water bottles and all.  Filing out the “lost luggage” claim was also the first time my dad speaking perfectly fluent Spanish would come in handy.  Almost no one in Vigo or Pontevedra speaks English.  It makes you feel like every American stereotype you’ve ever heard.  All of a sudden we were the epitome of the stupid, ego-centric Americans, and (days later) I was wearing a monstrosity of obnoxiousness in my TEAM USA jacket.  Asshole.

It's one thing to wear this on race day and another to don a jacket and hat around town that screams "USA!"

It’s one thing to wear this on race day and another to don a jacket and hat around town that screams “USA!”

FOOD:  Good luck.  As someone who eats basically non-stop, Spain was my little private hell.  You cannot get food whenever you want.  This was another American shocker.  You also can get nothing “to-go” or “take away” as they call it.  You know what you can get?  Coffee con leche (coffee with steamed milk) that tastes like heaven, and churros or any number of pastries.  Pastries!  Are you kidding me?

What makes it infinitely worse is that when you can eat (around 9pm for dinner) it’s the most delicious food you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.  Maybe, because it’s so amazing, they have to dole it out only at very specific times of the day.  It’s that freakin good.  Oh, and you can also get alcohol at any hour of the day or night – so there’s that.

My staples: bread, cheese, prosciutto and BEER!  I went to the right place for carbs.

My staples: bread, cheese, prosciutto and BEER! I went to the right place for carbs.

And please don’t tell me that in Spain they eat very little for breakfast, have a big lunch and a late dinner.  There is no big lunch!  I was looking for this “big lunch” the entire time I was there and the only times these people seem to eat is morning – which ends at 10am, and night – which begins at 9pm.

RACE PREP: There was no rest for my weary bones.  The same day we landed, I needed to be in Pontevedra, to claim, unpack and put my beloved bike back together.  RaceDay Transport, who shipped it there with a boatload of drama on my end, did an amazing job of letting us know where our precious cargo was every step of the way.  By the time I got to Spain, I knew my bike had already been there for three days.  I’m sure it missed me.

We were staying in Vigo because we needed to stay at Marriott hotels (read – reward points!) and the closest one they had to Pontevedra was Vigo.  It turned out to be a blessing.  The race was in Pontevedra, which was a 20 minute and 50 euro cab ride away.  My husband was thrilled at how many back and forth trips I had to make!

On that first day, I think we both fell asleep in the cab to Pontevedra.  I know because I woke myself up with my own snoring.  Super hot.

The Galicia Palace host hotel was buzzing when we arrived!  Team USA was sharing the hotel with Team Great Britain, and both countries flags were flying though the lobby.  There was also equally helpful and horrifying information on our team bulletin board:

Helpful: “This place serves dinner at 7:30pm and the owner speaks some English” – written under a business card of the restaurant that was stapled to the board

Horrifying:  My bike was inadvertently sent back to the US.  Unless I can borrow at bike for the sprint race, I won’t be able to compete.  I’m 6’ 5” and weigh 180 – help!

The Team USA side of the lobby.

The Team USA side of the lobby.

I set off in search of my bike and took the elevator down to – 2 (everything below ground level in Spain and Portugal is marked with a negative or minus sign, which makes total sense) and found this:

The bike dungeon.

The bike dungeon.


Luckily, my bike was perfectly packed (thanks Tolland bike!) and all my hubs and I had to do were take off the wrapping and cut some of the zip ties.

The hubs accidentally cut the wire to my bike computer.  It’s only what I rely on for my speed, distance and time when cycling but hey, we were so tired and it was a mistake, so I didn’t freak out.

Once again, CRS (coach rocket scientist) to my rescue!  When I told her the news, she instantly said she could probably fix it and not to worry about it.  She has this uncanny way of taking the worry out of everything!  And, as you shall see, this was the least of what she did for me so I could perform at my best, for my race of a lifetime.

PACKET PICK-UP: The best way I can describe Pontevedre, is the way in which CRS’ husband Tom did when he said “This place is like a rabbit warren!”  I think I would have understood the Obamacare web site better.  Even my husband, who is excellent with a map, got us lost.  On this particular escapade, I was walking with my newfound friend and teammate Mary Rine.  We met at the underground bike assembly, and while the hubs was trying to repair my computer, she asked if I wanted to go with her to pick up our packets.  When we were handed the map at the front desk and told, in broken English and Spanish, that it was a “short walk,” we should have known it was trouble.

It was also raining.

Good luck getting here!

Good luck getting here!

An hour and half later, and after having to stop for directions three times, we made it back to the hotel with bib numbers, hats and shirts and were soaked.  Mary reminded me, mid-way through the trip “It’s a good story!”  She has no idea.

DAYLIGHT:  Somehow, in all of my research leading up to competing in Spain, I failed to come across a small detail about the sun.  It’s endless.  It starts getting dark there at 10pm.  We had all now been awake and moving for almost 24 hours and it was still daylight!  The boys were beyond confused and we were all a little delirious those first couple of days.

WINE:  Because every good day should end with a little wine, we sat down to eat like proper Spaniards around 8pm, and had the most fantastic bottle of wine and paella ever.  The boys wolfed down bread like it was candy (a trend that would continue for 11 days!) and happily ate meatballs, too tired to raise and ruckus at dinner (sadly a trend that would not continue) and my poor father had to ask questions and order for all six of us every.single.day.  My stepmom also orders like “Sally” from When Harry Met Sally.  Luckily, everyone we encountered in Spain was lovely, tolerant and welcoming.

If you see this wine, buy a case of it.

If you see this wine, buy a case of it.

That night, when we walked back into our hotel, our luggage was lined up and waiting for us in the lobby like six little lost souls.  Amen!

And so concluded our first day in Spain.  Don’t worry – I’m not going to take this story at a snail’s pace and do each and every day.  It just so happens that this post is too long already, so I’ll save the next chapter (PRE-RACE AND RACE DAY!) for next week!


What have you all been doing while I was away?

Has an airline ever lost your luggage?

What’s the most confusing city you’ve ever traveled to?




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  1. Tina Muir

    LOOOVVVEEE THIS Allie!!!! Cant wait to hear more 🙂 I am not surprised in the slightest that it was the best 2 weeks of your life. What an incredible experience, and you have done something that drives me to do my run every single day in wearing that USA (or GB in my case) across your chest! I am so incredibly jealous, and hope someday I can do the same in the marathon. I am loving that you broke this down by section, makes it easy to read, and so addicitng to read all the sections!

    Yes, I have had my luggage lost multiple times! I went to Rhode Island for the week, and have been packing up my life in Philly…..oh, and I took an entire week off after season, it was glorious 🙂
    Tina Muir recently posted…Secrets to Success; Suspension System ExercisesMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thank you so much Tina!! I have no doubt that you will someday represent GB in the ACTUAL Olympics and I will be so very proud of you! BTW – GB won the world title and ALL the team members I met from GB were so sweet and very, very nice.
      I hope the rest of your packing goes well and that you don’t experience any more lost luggage – it’s the worst!!

  2. Janine Huldie

    Totally have missed you Allie and honestly was so happy to see an update from you on your trip. I do know the outcome, but still dying to hear more from you now on this and can’t wait for next week now 🙂
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Irish Twins Mom’s Tales from The Princesses (Guest Post)My Profile

    1. vita88

      Thanks so much Janine!! I really missed all of you too! It’s one reason I’m glad to be back but there aren’t many 🙂

  3. Tara Newman

    well, hell, I have missed you like crazy!! Was just thinking about you last night. Can’t wait to read the rest of your adventures. Edinburgh was tough because those Scots have a wildly thick accent and have weird street names. For example, the street more east of east street is EASTER street. Wahhhh?
    Tara Newman recently posted…Adrenal Fatigue: My StoryMy Profile

    1. vita88

      I missed you too Tara!!! You KNOW you were in my head during the race and you won’t believe what I had to deal with in my transitions – ugh!!!
      That is crazy about Edinburgh!? WTH??

  4. Laura @ Mommy Run Fast

    I’ve been so curious to hear all about it!! And of course there were some crazy luggage and bike issues- gah! How stressful! Glad it all seemed to come together. I’ve never been to Spain- it’s fascinating to hear the cultural differences around food!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…Pregnant Eats WIAWMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thanks Laura!! Spain is absolutely gorgeous and the people are wonderful. If you ever have the opportunity – GO!…but pack a lot of snacks:-)

  5. Eve Magoon

    Next week? Thats not fair… We don’t want to wait that long! Did you ever get your luggage???? 🙂
    Can’t wait to hear more!

    1. vita88

      Ha ha ha – sorry Eve! And YES, I wrote at the bottom that our luggage was waiting for us in the lobby that night. It was a great sight!!!

  6. Britt@MyOwnBalance

    Ahhh! I couldn’t even make it through the whole post without starting to type my response! First of all, I would have died re: the food thing! I need to eat all.the.time! What do people do between 10am and 9pm!?

    Also, I can’t believe the airline lost your luggage! I’ve never had my luggage lost before but I would totally freak out if that happened. The airline on the way back from Australia broker one of our wine bottles we bought there. The sad part was that it made it all the way back to NYC and those wonderful baggage handlers at JFK decided to chuck the clearly labeled “Fragile!” box after 23 hours of a successful trip. I have it out for them now.

    Also, that guy whose bike was shipped back to the US… OMG! I would have freaked out!

    Is CRS also a crisis coordinator in her spare time? She solves every problem. I might hire her to organize my life.

    I was watching the French Open last week and I did notice it stayed so light there until 9:45 pm! Crazy!

    I can’t wait to hear more about your adventures!!!!!! 🙂
    Britt@MyOwnBalance recently posted…It’s a . . .My Profile

    1. vita88

      You are so great Brittany!!! Thank you!!! I can’t believe that about the wine! We couldn’t even ship any back because of customs, etc. When we asked a few of the shops if they ship wine, they looked at us like we were insane. And yes, I want to hire CRS as my surrogate mom. She fixes everything and she’s brilliant.

  7. Kim

    I’m jumping up and down right now because I’m so excited you are back and sharing your adventures!!
    I can’t wait to hear all about the race and the fun after – if you write a long post for each day and share pictures I will be super happy!!!
    I’m glad that your luggage made it that first day – even late!
    CRS sounds like the most amazing person!!!
    Welcome home!!!
    Kim recently posted…An Appointment with MyselfMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thank you so much Kim!!!!! I was thinking of you all day on that beach in Portugal and saying “I made it Kim!!! Summer has started!” I swear I could write and write and write. I may even do a post of just ALL pictures because there are a ton!! Thanks for your support – always 🙂

  8. Kate

    I was so glad I could see what was going on in Instagram! You are beyond impressive. Keep sharing!
    Kate recently posted…Confessions of a Fitness NewbieMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thanks Kate!! I definitely will 🙂

  9. Kimberly (Manifest Yourself)

    I love the slow pace! – then i can travel vicariously through you!

    And an airline has never lost my luggage… thank GOD! I would lose it. So glad it circled it’s way back to you though. The craziest flight I had was a simple flight to PR when I had a connecting flight on the other side of Miami International airport. I literally was sprinting across the airport to make my connecting flight. That airport is MASSIVE.

    Glad you’re back,girlie!
    Kimberly (Manifest Yourself) recently posted…Keep your toes to yourselfMy Profile

    1. vita88

      I hear ya with the massive airports! The one in Madrid is gigantic!!! And Lisbon? They have a Burberry and Harrods, to name a few choice shops. Crazy!
      Thanks Kimberly! Can’t wait to see you at FitBloggin!!

  10. Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life

    I am loving the story! The food thing was tough for me. I love dinner…it is my favorite meal of the day, so I was thrilled with all the delicious food we could get at dinner time! However I seldom eat breakfast (I know, I hear enough lectures from my husband) and then everything shuts down in the middle of the day. No eating!!! But we had the same experience of everyone being so nice. I have not ever lost my luggage (knock on wood) and I would be so unprepared if it happened!
    Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life recently posted…Say Goodbye to Mold and MildewMy Profile

    1. vita88

      It was so challenging! The first couple of days I was so jet lagged that I was forcing myself to get up at 8am!! I knew if I didn’t make it to breakfast I would pass out by lunch!!
      Thanks Michelle 🙂

  11. Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness

    Yeah she back!! This was a great first installment of your trip! OMG what a crazy time you had so far! I remember from back in high school Spanish class that the way they eat in Spain is way different from here in the States. It would be so hard to eat a big meal that late!
    Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness recently posted…My Next New Year’s Goal – Ride For Roswell!My Profile

    1. vita88

      Yes I am and I missed you Kris!!
      It was SO hard for me, especially with the jet lag. Thank God my dad was able to beg people to feed us in the middle of the day or else I would have dropped!!

  12. Ali @ Hit the Ground Running

    This makes me miss being abroad! I hope your luggage ended up showing up before you headed back to the US! I’m excited to read the rest!!
    Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…This Weekend in PicturesMy Profile

    1. vita88

      I miss it already too. I seriously did not want to leave.
      Yes, our luggage was in the lobby that night. It was beyond great to see it there!

  13. Dana

    Take it as slow as you’d like, Allie. It will give me something to look forward to every Monday! I’m so glad the experience was amazing for you. And welcome home- you were missed!
    Dana recently posted…What goes on at a blogging conference?My Profile

    1. vita88

      Thanks so much Dana!! I missed all of you. Reading your post about BlogU today made me feel better about being home and getting caught up 🙂

  14. Karen - Fit in France

    LOVE this post ! great memories and surprises (good and bad) are all part of the experience. Most confusions city I have ever been to is Istanbul… confusing streets, no logic,…and with hills which for some reason I can not explain make it worse.
    Looking forward to next week’s post.
    Karen – Fit in France recently posted…Food, fitness & life – final flight of my BILMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thank you Karen! I cannot imagine trying to get around in Istanbul!!!

  15. Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama

    oh man this a awesome. I took my time and read every word of your first day! Glad you had a great flight and that the boys were sufficiently entertained—I can barely get to manhattan without my two going crazy! How smart of a cookie are YOU to have all of your stuff in your carry on! That’s my girl!! It Starts getting dark at 10pm? the heck?!

    I couldn’t make it in Spain, I know terrible spanish, my husband is fluent thank goodness but me? no way jose. Now I see why you were doing all that learning leading up to the race! I also see why CRS is your fairy Godmother in ALL your crazy situations. I adore it. SO looking forward to the rest!
    Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama recently posted…Weekly Wednesday Workout: Bear CrawlsMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thanks so much Nellie!!! And yes, whenever I have flown to get to a race (twice) I also bring my gear in a carry-on. It’s a total pain but worth it when something like that happens. As for the boys – it wasn’t all roses, of course but I have to say, they were very good on all of the flights. It was a miracle.
      I was definitely cursing myself for not learning more Spanish, especially when I was in a cab alone. Thank goodness the people there were so nice and understanding.

  16. Christine @ Love, Life, Surf

    I’ve been waiting to read about your trip!!! I can’t even imagine how amazing those two weeks were. And so glad that you are taking it slow. Can’t wait to read more!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…9 Favorite Photo Editing AppsMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thanks Christine! It was awesome and truly a vacation I didn’t want to come home from.

  17. Alison

    Oh yes, in Europe, restaurants only open for a couple of hours for lunch, god forbid you go late, because too bad, lunch is over!

    And what is a trip without a little drama? 🙂 Can’t wait to hear about the rest of it!
    Alison recently posted…The TruthMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Insanity! One of the only good things about being back home is getting coffee to-go (even though it pales in comparison to cafe con leche!) and eating whenever I want 🙂 Gotta have drama, right??

  18. Tamara

    I did that with Disney – I think I did it in four posts. I had so many photos and stories! I liked taking it slow.
    It’s so good to read your words again. I did follow along on FB, of course, so I could tell Scarlet how awesome you are. I’m still inviting you to her birthday party – June 28th at 11:00am. There will be cheetos if that helps convince you.
    Umm..what have I been doing? Well just now I’ve been dreaming about paella but before that, I went to BlogU! I met even more of us! Everyone is awesome!
    I love blog friends!
    Tamara recently posted…Love is a Battlefield.My Profile

    1. vita88

      I loved your Disney posts!! And I WISH I could have taken you with us to Spain – not JUST for your photography skills of course – but you could have captured the beauty. And there are castles!!! Des and Scarlet would have been as excited as the boys were. Just amazing.
      THANK YOU so much for the invite (and yes, Cheetos definitely sweetens the deal 🙂 but I’ll be at FitBloggin’! I hope I have as much fun as you seem to have had at BlogU!!! We’ll have to do a farmer’s market and/or ice cream meet-up for a post-birthday celebration!

  19. Leah

    Love that you are slowly sharing all the details! You will cherish these posts for life!!!! Congrats on such an accomplishment (I’m reading but have limited commenting time!!!)
    Leah recently posted…Welcome next six months…My Profile

    1. vita88

      I hear ya Leah! Thank you for taking the time to comment at all. I appreciate it!

  20. Lauren

    Hooray! I’ve been waiting very patiently for an update and was so excited to see this one. I was fascinated by every detail. Your ability to go with the flow is super impressive! It’s one thing to travel and experience a different culture. It’s a very different thing to compete in that very new place. I am inspired.
    Lauren recently posted…June raves & favesMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thanks so much Lauren! I was expecting to be overwhelmed and scared, but there was really only passing feelings of those emotions. It was such an amazing experience that I tried to stay focused on the journey and having fun. It worked!

  21. Stephanie

    I think I know the outcome already (from FB) but I cannot wait to hear more about it from you. I can’t even describe how amazed/in awe/engrossed I am by your trip and accomplishments, It’s like I’m cheering on my sister or something. Just saying “looking forward to more” doesn’t even come close, I can’t wait to hear the rest.
    Stephanie recently posted…Wordless Wednesday, FriendsMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Oh Stephanie!! I can’t tell you how much I love this. THANK YOU isn’t enough. Maybe if I also say Gracias and Obrigado (Portuguese for thank you!) that will be better?? YOU are one of the reasons it’s actually good to be home. There aren’t many, but reading all my favorite blogs that I have missed and getting comments like this from friends like you, make me so glad I’m home. Thank you!

  22. Alexa

    What an amazing honor and adventure! Glad that despite all the craziness, it was a great experience!

    1. vita88

      It was truly amazing! Really. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity and to have shared it with my family. Thanks Alexa!

  23. Jen@milesandblessings

    Ahhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is so awesome! I want to keep reading so I am going to have a hard time with this day to day re-cap thing :). I traveled on a mission trip to India and our luggage did not making it…minor panic attack! It took 2 days but we got it all and then we granted first class seating on the way home…made it totally worth it!!!!!
    I did a 1/2 in Annapolis and got 2nd in my age group…no pr…but I am still pretty happy with it…I just need to work on conquering these hills and not starting out too fast 🙂
    Jen@milesandblessings recently posted…Run by effort not by GarminMy Profile

    1. vita88

      I need to take it slow – ha ha ha – but thanks!!
      I would do without clean clothes for two days if it meant first class seats from India! Whoa.
      Listen, you can’t PR every time, right? It’s awesome that you DID it (I’ll have to search your blog for the recap) and the hills are just ugh. Wait until I write about my bike tour though the hills of Spain. It wasn’t pretty.

  24. Carla

    I’m so glad things worked out by the end of the day. I almost had a heart attack when they said that the bike had been shipped back to the US.

    No wonder Europeans are thinner than us. I can’t imagine going that long without food. Typed while eating a watermelon. For no real reason other than I want it.
    Carla recently posted…Eating Organic, thinkThin Bars, and a #GiveawayMy Profile

    1. vita88

      That’s exactly what my husband said about the thin Europeans!!
      At least it’s watermelon and not fries 🙂

  25. kristin miller

    OMG the lost luggage thing is always the worst! Our friends met us in Mexico for a couples trip and their luggage was lost after a disaster series of flights. They didn’t pack a day or two worth of clothes in the carry on, thank God we were similar sizes!!! Thank God you had everything!!!
    kristin miller recently posted…I get by with a little help from my friends!My Profile

    1. vita88

      Thank God it was waiting for us in the lobby that night!! Next time I’m going to at least throw one extra outfit and a toothbrush in my carry on! Thanks Kristin 🙂

  26. Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes

    hey!!! OMG, so sorry that I am just catching up on these now, but I refused to read them when I only had a fleeting moment, I really wanted to sit down and FOCUS on them without being distracted by the boys!! I can’t believe how exhausted you all must have been! And it’s amazing how well the boys did within the first 24 hours, I think the meltdowns would have been my biggest fear. You are handling everything like a champ! Can’t wait to read more!

    1. vita88

      You are so awesome Sue! Thanks so much for taking time to read about all this. I really appreciate it!
      I was really afraid meltdowns were imminent but the boys really held it together. I’m so proud of them!

  1. Make Mine a Double | BonBon Break

    […] VITA ADventures Abroad: World Championship Duathlon, Spain […]

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