There has been so much new happening this year. From the moment I left Aus- traveling alone with no one at the other end to greet me, organising my residency in a foreign country, to successfully setting up my new home abroad whilst competing in some of Europe’s most grueling races …
… it has been HECTIC.
2016, is not the year of wasting time. During the first week of arrival I committed to getting the essentials of setting up abroad out the way, so by the time I started racing I had no stressors to distract me and since my visa was organised and approved in advance – this aspect only took two days, later I set up a Spanish Bank and settled into my fabulous new home. So far many challenges have been presented however I have found being over prepared has really helped with the transition of all this change and the whole-stressful-moving overseas thing… and I have not been spained, yet. ( To be ‘spained’ (verb) is to be screwed over by the country itself – whether it happens via a local ATM eating your card or you are left stranded with a broken bike to walk the remaining distance home – apparently it’s coming and unavoidable ).
My google translate lessons have paid off and the locals in Spain seem to be understanding me? Slowly my Italian has also been coming along, although phrases at this stage are non existent, I can understand key words and throwing a few words around has helped to feel apart of the team… Especially when the entire team debrief is in fluent Italian and I’m there nodding, cluelessly!
My first European race of the season has been done and dusted. Ronde Van Death (Drenthe) lived up to its name, and was NOT an easy race/s to start the season with – as I was reminded many times. Being my first classic EVER I expected the worst and that’s exactly what I got. I could feel the nervousness of the bunch, which added to my stress… It was a difficult two days for a non-dutchy.
This race has quite a story to it but lets save this for another blog because it deserves its own write up. . . It was quite an adventure!
From the past couple of weeks I have complied a few tips/ notes from my experience so far:
Come prepared – turns out it is much easier to have everything done 10000kms away than to actually get anything done in Spain. I spent two days in immigration with all my paperwork ready, I couldn’t imagine coming to Spain with anything less !?! Start learning some basics like taxi/ shopping language, it is really appreciated and will get you far – to mainly not piss off the locals and helps with not looking like a complete tourist. However in saying this, don’t panic you will also learn bits and pieces on the run! I learn’t a few numbers from just sitting in immigration, making sure I didn’t miss my number when they shouted it out. This one was a tricky one!
Be ready – once I hit the ground, I needed to be ready to run immediately. I had a short time frame to set up my place, organise equipment, to then get stuck into training with the following week to begin racing. Having an easy week of training the previous week to prepare for a stressful week and ensure I was fresh enough to be able to handle all the change.
Smile – this would be my number one tip. Especially for people like me who suffers from RBT (Resting Bitch Face). I smiled my way through the train station, to get my bike on the train with no issues or questions asked (which has been an issue for most cyclists in Girona!). I smiled my through immigration (even though I was in the wrong building) in which the person behind the desk walked with me to the correct building. How helpful!
Stay calm – it is difficult to make smart decisions if you are stressed. Plus smiling is difficult to do when you are stressed (back to previous tip). I live by “fake it til you make it”, which I also translate to races as my “poker face”. It helps me to believe I’m okay even when my heart rate is 200bpm and I feel like death and still have 100km more to go in a bike race. Staying calm has been an important aspect for me to learn because it is something I struggle with. To remain calm requires certain qualities I am yet to possess – like patience. However, good planning has allowed time to be patient and anything I plan to get done in Italy or Spain – I double the amount of time I think it will take to complete the task. I planned to get immigration done in one day, so I doubled it. And in the end, it took two days. In the team we call this, tranquillo .
Network – I guess you can say that I have been quite fortunate to have been able to move overseas and have people I know from home (who have been so helpful with finding good training routes and the go-to-coffee shops with good muffins in town). I can happily say I have also met so many new people who have helped me feel like I have found a second home. Being an independent woman – I have always had this internal struggle of relying on the people around me, however being able to set up another network of friends has made the move much easier!
Whats next? Stay in touch for the next blog on Ronde Van Death – my first world tour race. Originally, I was quite reluctant to write about this experience and only after some support that my story should be shared, I have decided to do a write up. It was a traumatic experience. One I can laugh at now…