Racing the ETU Middle Distance Championships in Targu Mures, Romania, was a double whamy as it allowed me to squeeze in a visit home on route. While the time at home was amazing in hindsight it was not the best race preparation.
I set off on Thursday at the crack of dawn having spent the previous 6 days travelling, training, seeing people, training, early starts, training and late nights! While I don’t regret it I was not in optimal condition. My temper was tested on the flight to Romania by a small child who decided to cry the whole way!!
I landed in Bucharest and my first surprise was my bike appearing on the conveyor belt! A bit different, especially as no one else’s did but all appeared to be in order.
I had a bit of a wait as had agreed to give another athlete, Sophie, a lift to Targu Mures. She had realised the night before there wasn’t room in her parents car for the three of them and her bike. I was delighted to help and would appreciate the company on the 5hr drive.
I decided to go and collect my hire car so we would be able to set off straight away. At Avis it was the standard hand over driving license and passport, followed by please can I have the international part….!!!???? This I did not expect! I asked what she meant and she told me my Canadian licence wasn’t international and I wouldn’t be able to hire.
In Canada we have to hand in our UK license and get a Canadian one. I don’t think it was that much of a stretch to assume it was the same. I have since found out that it only works in Canada, US, UK and Aus.
Panic set in pretty quickly as I realised straight away I had very few options and the Avis was completely unhelpful or sympathetic, so I left. A quick walk round the desks and a day car hire to get there or a taxi was going to be 300-350 euros.
A quick consultation with the family via WhatsApp produced an array of options involving flights, busses and trains! With all these options running through I waited for Sophie to land and break the news to her! My favoured option was to try and upgrade their hire to a larger car. Hopefully Karma would take my kind gesture and reward me :).
All I could do now was wait at arrivals and hope it all worked out.
After a worrying amount of time Sophie had still not appeared. Another athlete in GB kit came out (Themi). I asked him if there was a girl with her parents waiting for a bike and apparently there was. It actually turned out it was the wrong person (India), although she turned out to be in my hotel.
I got chatting to Themi and started to explain my situation while he was waiting to be met by his hire car. It turned out he was also solo and had an estate car so this might turn out to be our rescue! I am slowly learning that if you don’t ask you don’t get and he very kindly agreed to try and help. We had a plan!
Sophie finally arrived with her her parents and we made a plan to meet up once the cars had been collected.
Themi and I took a shuttle to the car and then had to complete the paperwork. We were so close but then we managed to find another issue. Themi didn’t know the pin for his credit card and they wouldn’t take a copy or signature. They wouldn’t accept my credit card or debit cards. We were stuck. Again. The only to resolve this was to purchase their insurance, which Themi didnt need, and reduce the excess to a limit a debit card could cover.
The lesson learnt here, if hiring a car in Romania? Come prepared!!
We picked up Sophie and set off as its a 5hr drive and the delay meant we were going to get there very late!
The first hour of the drive was very boring. The landscape was very flat with lots of agricultural land mixed in with large industry. e.g. power stations.
We then started to move into the mountains and here the country side became beautiful. They also have ski resorts which I didn’t know and we started to see a lot of castles.
The route felt like the main road through Romania with an endless stream of 3 star hotels and restaurants. They were all 3 stars!
As we hit the 3 hour mark convoy stopped for some dinner at a random restaurant chosen by luck. It was a crazy medieval restaurant with armour and weapons. The coolest part was the chairs which belonged in Narnia, or Harry Potter. Large wooden chairs with the backs at least 6ft, I could barely move them.
I enjoyed my wild boar but overall the meal was a pretty basic but a much needed pit stop to break the journey up.
We cracked on. The beautiful scenery continued although it was very obvious that the Romanian countryside is very poor. The roads, for the most part, were actually very good. The same can not be said about the driving. Two noteworthy anecdotes: The first was a hill climb they were relaying where there must have been at least a 2 inch drop between the two lanes! The second we were overtaking a lorry and the overtaking lane just vanished as a lorry was coming the other way. We ended up in the middle of a two lane road with a lorry either side and praying it worked out. Luckily it did!
We finally arrived, exhausted, at about 11 and were all desperate for bed. We dropped Sophie off and Themi then dropped me at my hotel. I checked in, got to my room and completely crashed.
What a dramatic day! I just hoped that it would improve from here on out.
I woke to an excellent breakfast in the hotel and spent a chilled morning sorting my stuff and putting my bike together. I am slowly getting better at this.
I then realised I missed some parts! Maybe I’m not getting better at this!
I wanted to check out the expo and asked at the front desk where the castle was. She didn’t understand so I asked “what there was to do in Targu Mures?” The reply “you should go to the Citadel.” Clearly a slight misunderstanding. I was concerned that she didn’t mention anything else to do but would worry about that later.
The centre of the town is quite impressive with some beautiful old buildings. However, the key word is old. Everything I have seen of Romania gives the image of a very beautiful, but poor, country.
As it turned out the Citadel and expo were very close by which was great.
The expo was a bit of a non event. I think there were two tents, one selling T shirts and the other some running shoes or bike parts. Not very impressive. The only decision I had to make was which t shirt to get? A black one or purple one. I went black as not sure I could pull purple off.
I had a quick walk around the Citadel which was impressive. I hoped I might find some jousting but it wasnt to be.
It was already very hot and the forecast for the whole weekend was 30 plus. It was clear that running was going to be brutal.
The rest of the morning was spent relaxing before heading to the course for the Team GB bike and swim recce.
The race location was a 40 minute drive which was a bit of a pain but was nice to see more of the countryside. We parked in the town where the run and finish would be and cycled the 2k to the resevoir.
We joined the other GB athletes and set off on the bike route. I was quickly dropped by everyone despite my power meter saying I was working very hard! I stopped and quickly worked out my wheel wasn’t set properly so was rubbing. I guess that is the point of a recce and a further indication that I’m not good with bikes! The bike route was awesome with rolling hills through beautiful green countryside around the lake. It was going to be a quick course despite a reasonable amount of climbing. There were a couple of descents I didn’t fancy pushing 100% down. I know this is an area of weakness so need to work on it and now seems as good a time as any!
Next up was the swim. Themi, Sophie and I joined loads of other GB athletes in the water and on the bank. I only swam for about 10 minutes but it was so warm and we now knew that it was going to be a non wetsuit swim.
Annoyingly the course hadn’t been laid out so couldnt get any landmarks but it was a beautiful afternoon lounging in the sun. It was awesome.
After the swim I went to check out the transition. It was awful. Firstly they had laid blue carpet down across the grass which is common. However there where holes and dips all over the place which made it lethal for ankles. Luckily by race morning they had removed this. Next up was the hill up the side of the resevoir to the bikes. I don’t think any of the photos do justice to how steep this hill is. It was made especially challenging by the wooden slats they put across to help people up, but were sharp edged. Again luckily some poor man spent the whole of Saturday sanding them down.
We then spent a couple of hours basking in the beautiful sunshine by the lake. It really was quite a beautiful spot.
A final bonus before heading back in to town was meeting Kat Rye’s father and having a long chat. Kat is recent GB pro I have been following who came 3rd at Staffs 70.3, 2nd at Lahti 70.3 and went on to win here. Very interesting man.
After some down time in the hotel Themi and I had dinner at a restaurant I had been recommended, B.Eat. Apart from them not appearing to want to serve us the only thing I can say was I ordered a leg of pork. A LEG! It was delicious.
Saturday morning I was woken up at 6 by my alarm. Idiot! I was still short on sleep this did not help.
At breakfast I had to sneak out some food for the next day as they weren’t going to open the breakfast early enough. I pinched 4 toast 3 eggs and 2 pancakes for tomorrow. shhhh!! hehe!
After a quick run to stretch the legs where I managed to get lost in a fruit and veg market. The rest of the morning was spent sorting my room and doing my final race prep and checks. I double checked the bike and took it for a ride round the block and all fine.
All that was left to do was: register, team photo, briefing, and an early night. I registered at the Citadel and looked around the non existent expo again. It also appeared pretty much everyone in Targu Mures was getting married. There were weddings everywhere, trying to keep out of each others way and photos. They definitely didnt appreciate the DJ pumping out tunes at the Expo.
Before the team photo I met up with Sophie and Themi in front of the team hotel. I also bumped into India, from the airport, who was doing the aqua bike. As with all multisport events everyone is so open and not hard to make friends.
At 8PM we had the team briefing and I wasn’t impressed how late it was. Before a race I like an early night, especially ahead of a 5 30 am start. It got worse, as there were technical issues with the presentation and in fact the briefing created more questions than it answered.
I was happy to escape and went straight back to my hotel slightly annoyed.
A quick final set of checks and then to sleep ahead of race day.