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From Koksijde to Geiten

koksijde running close.jpg

The digital clock on the gps showed 22h37 as I puttered up and down the pencil-straight, tree-lined drive. 9462… I scoured the quiet darkness for what I thought was the house number or any lit-up sign announcing “De La Sabliere” Bed and Breakfast. 19, 21, 23 read the numbers on doors… either this was one long a*$ street or that number had nothing to do with the street address. European addresses. They never made any sense to me.

Grabbing the 6-page itinerary I’d printed up – and neatly bound in plastic sheet protectors – I re-read what I’d typed into Google Maps. Gasselte, Drenthe, Kosvlies Street. No other numbers, no phone number and no Internet as my Droid is not internationally compatible. In a final attempt to avoid defeat on this quest to find my destination, I rummaged through mental images of the Airbnb photos of De La Sablière… shrubs, hedges, quaint farmhouse tucked behind. It was like remembering that a particular cyclist was wearing spandex, utterly unhelpful in narrowing anything down.

It was the first time since I’d arrived in Amsterdam 36 hours earlier that my precious itinerary had failed, but oddly it was also the first time I felt a little bit of adrenaline, and hope.

The last week had been a tough one. Breaking up with my boyfriend of a year and a half on my birthday was undoubtably the low point, and while relieved for a decision I knew was the right one, I had departed the following day in a daze of sadness and nervous about traveling to race the World Cup in Koksijde and Superprestige Geiten alone. I’m incredibly lucky to have the most wonderful friends and family who rallied around, and made it clear I’d best go get it done. Optum mechanic Evan had graciously tuned up and packed up my two bikes for me, and most of my race gear was already in bags from previous travel so that helped.

At the same time, with so many overwhelming logistics to coordinate, my strategy was to plan out every detail ahead of time and to rehearse the whole itinerary in my head over and over, and the plastic-sheet-protected itinerary was my travel Bible! The first 36 hours happened utterly on autopilot: Work all day Friday, hurry home grab my bags, get a ride from my mom to the airport, fly overnight to Amsterdam, get my rental car, drive 3+ hours to Koksijde, build my bikes in the parking lot, do the course pre-ride, go to the number pick-up in town.

At the number pick-up, the officials would not give me my parking pass until the managers’ meeting had ended, so I had to wait an hour and a half in the lobby. For the first time, I had a lull in the itinerary and I sat outside the meeting room at a table to wait. The next thing I knew, garbled voices awoke me from a deep sleep. My head was on the table, drool drizzling out of my mouth, my wallet fortunately still lying safely beside me.

As the meeting dispersed, I pulled my hat down low and slunk in to grab my parking pass, then headed to my hotel and slept for 11 hours.

In the morning, I connected with my trusty Belgian mechanic Glenn and his lovely girlfriend Tatjana in the center of Koksijde and we drove to the course.

They took care of my bikes and kept positive spirits going all day.

The race. I had a decent start and even crossed the line after lap one in my goal 10th place, but I was barely hanging on and I just didn’t have it that day.

I rode the sand fairly well, especially the tricky sand descents, but got crushed during the run sections and the power sections. I finished 17th, still my best finish at a World Cup but not near the result I know I’m capable of.

While it’s one thing to overcome adverse conditions and travel setbacks, it’s another thing entirely to tough it out with a broken heart, and emotional fatigue was hitting me for sure.

A friend had reminded me that travelling alone can be an adventure, but it wasn’t until I was stuck in the dark in the Netherlands that I smelled the whiff of adventure ahead.

Hope appeared in the form of a tall, lanky Dutchman fiddling with electrical paraphernalia in his yard on Kostvlies