Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Final Chapter

Sunday May 14 2006
Sunday was the last day of competition. We rose early, as usual, and headed to the pool for my last 3 races. I swam the 50 metres freestyle again, 100 metres breast stroke and the 100 metres back stroke. My breast stroke was feeling off all weekend and although I placed second, the time wasn't exactly where I wanted it to be. I also took gold in the 100 back and bronze in the 50 free. All in all, I think it was a pretty successful swim meet. The point was to get there and swim tired. I think they were trying to create the worst scenarios possible in order to see how we handled the stress. Some people cracked and others managed themselves quite well. The key with this kind of thing is drink litres and litres of water, sleep only at night, wake up early, do some kind of physical activity and eat properly. I personally think that some of the swimmers suffered as badly as they did because they weren't eating. They didn't like the meals so instead of sucking it up and eating, they would eat bread and drink Coke. I mean, I don't like lamb and it was served to us one night, but I knew that if I did not eat it then I would feel it in the morning. So, I ate it. Your body needs fule in order to accomplish every day tasks, never mind racing your brains out. :)
The session ended at noon and we headed back to the hotel with our bag lunches in hand. Christena and I were staying an extra day because we couldn't fly through England with Jetta-a different story-and so, could not fly until Monday. The other swimmers started getting packed. We inhaled our three buns smothered with butter and adorned with either cheese or lunch meat, these little gummy things that were shaped like buses-those amused me-long skinny pears that looked more like a fat carrot than a pear, juice and a chocolate waifer. Very tasty. One of the swimmer's had to be out of her room earlier than planned so, she came and hung out with us. When they departed, Christena, Jetta and I went downstairs to see them off. I think Jetta was a little confused as to why everyone was leaving without us. After the team had left, Christena, Jetta and I hopped on a city bus and headed back down to the main square. We weren't sure what it would be like because it was a Sunday, but it was bustling with activity.
There were streams of tourists taking pictures, darting in and out of shops and watching the different shows that buskers had set up. There was a mime dressed as a statue that depicted the workers that had built the cathedral. I told Christena to get a picture of him, but she shoved me up with him and so now we have a picture of me holding the hand of a "statue." It was pretty cool. (Oh, and Jetta was there too). There were a lot of dogs down there too. Jetta felt the need to be a little over protective a few times, but after I made her do an obedience session, things seemed to settle down. She was attacked bya dog last summer and ever since then she has been a bit jumpy with strange dogs. Okay, back to my story. A man riding the largest uni-cycle we have ever seen was performing juggling tricks for an awe-struck crowd. After his show concluded, which it did shortly after we arrived, a man with a violin arrived and began playing. It was beautiful. Of course I grumbled and groaned about how romantic it was and Christena laughed at me. (I've always been a romantic. Ssshhhh don't tell anyone). We always had visited this area in the morning, so it was interesting to be there in the late afternoon/early evening. There were so many people and plenty of locals too.
We puttered around the square some more, tasting more chocolate and visiting our favourite tourist shop. We ran into some of the American team's swimmers and I took Jetta's harness off so they could give her some love. She was very happy to see them and Christena even went in and bought one guy's postcards for him because he didn't want to leave Jetta. :) We asked the guy at a shop that we frequented often where a good place to eat supper was and he suggested a restaurant. He warned us it would be a bit pricy, but we went and checked it out anyway.
When we arrived, there were a few local people sitting on the patio already. We had read in our little tour guide book that a place filled with locals was a good place to eat. We sat down at a little round table and waited for a menu in english to appear. We both ordered steak as it is a Belgium's specialty, and I got a Coke. The sweet grossness that is Coke tasted golden! I had drank juice, Gaitoraid and water for the past week and I wanted something unhealthy. :) As we ate, horse-drawn carriages clopped past with curious tourists in them. The church also was chiming every fifteen minutes and the sounds of happy Dutch and French speaking children reached us. It was at that meal, I actually felt I was in Europe.
With full bellies and new memories, we headed back to our hotel to pack. Tenie ran next door to a convenient store and bought junk food-chocolate, Coke and a brand of Belgian beer we had been told to try-so we could over indulge before heading back home. As I crawled into bed that night, I was filled with a great sense of satisfaction. It had been a great meet for me, an interesting trip and nothing had gone too awry. :)
We caught a coach bus the next morning to the airport, that got stuck in traffic. We hopped our plane to Germany and landed late. The airport staff ushered us onto the little car that they drove madly through the crowded halls. We were going so fast that Jetta's ears were flapping. At first the employee was worried that Jetta would refuse to get on the car, but I assured her that Jetta would oblige. It made me realize how many strange things I asked Jetta to do and she does with hardly any hesitation. I guess that is what being a good guide dog/handler team is about. We both trust each other and don't question one another when it really matters.
We made it to our gate just in time, but it didn't matter because the flight had been delayed three hours. Tenie and I found some lunch and parked it on the floor, as all of the seats had been taken. An older gentleman from Canada sat down on the floor with us and started talking about botched flights, the Edmonton Oilers and motorcycles. It made the time pass quickly. We boarded the flight finally and flew home with no other mishaps.
We took the air shuttle back to Waterloo and arrived to find that Christena's mom had come a day early-she was coming to visit and then drive Christena back to our home town-and we were having Chinese take out for supper. It was delicious! We handed out a few presents and spent the rest of the night chatting. Sidenote: Every time we go to a new country, Christena brings her mom a diet Coke container, a can or a bottle. She is always excited to get these and I think would be satisfied with this and no other presents. This time we had smuggled 2 large glass bottles up to our room in our team manager's purse. Mommy-Lois, AKA Christena's mom, was delighted to find that she got two. I couldn't believe how heavy they actually were. Unfortunately, Christena and I were very jet lagged and headed to bed quite early, but the excitement of her mom visiting continued the next day.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip. I met some really cool people-the swimmer from the Netherlands and I exchanged email addresses-and competed at a mental level I did not know I was capable of doing.

The End


Expat Traveler said...

jess - that sounds like so much fun! I would have loved to have been to a swim meet like that. At times I wished I could have traveled outside of the US for my swimming..

Jess and Jetta said...

Expat Traveler:
It was a lot of fun! Hopefully, the fun times continue. :)