The Finale: ITERA Cardiff
The alarm buzzed at 04:45 and I was up straight away. Breakfast was a Pepsi and a bag of crisps, cheese McCoy's too! Down in the village hall kitchen a mess confronted me....Mugs, plates and various receptacles were dotted everywhere so I set about collecting and washing. Whilst looking for a dish towel, I discovered dishwasher tablets! Fook! There was a dishwasher which would have saved me 25 minutes! Next were the toilets, washing floors, pulling down flags, packing boxes and more sweeping. Kim went to the ladies and left muddy prints on the floor...grrrr so I did the floor again.
Mark woke at 07:00 and was most apologetic that he hadn't helped. However, I had intentionally left him as he had gone to bed later than me. Once the car was packed, we headed down the road collecting our directional arrows off lampposts as we went. Once required a precipitous climb up a slippery banking.....Hmmm, bet it was Tom looking for a bit of adventure with his gammy leg. Then we set off down the main road to Cardiff. It took over an hour and we missed the big hills! The racers had followed a similar route but off-road and much higher up on their mountain bikes. Remarkable.
We missed the finish in Cardiff Bay, instead going to the Uni campus to help get all the kit sorted. It was a great feeling when the last truck had been unloaded, with the ginormous LCD TV being the last thing down. I then headed to the main hall, busying myself helping competitors as much as I could.....they weren't allowed outside assistance during the race but now they had finished, help was typically welcome. There were a few declining exceptions, all female. Fortunately, this is a typical behaviour I see in Rosemary,who's feminist streak....well bit more than a streak, is attuned to reject male 'gallantry'. This has it's advantages as she also typically insists on carrying the heavier rucksack when we go for hill adventures.....my big Jessie streak allows her to do so.
The news came through that Issy Adventure had finished within 10 minutes of the cut-off (the French lady said it was 14). Just before prize-giving, I headed off to find Rosemary and her team, knowing that they would be awake. They had finished around 02:00. We all went to lunch and the prize giving together. Afterwards, everyone headed back to the hall and busied themselves with emptying it.
I was scared to stop working, carrying bike boxes, bags, chatting, shaking hands, talking about bikes and then a bit more carrying. It was impossible to delay the inevitable though. Paul, Jon and Rosemary headed off in the car back to Scotland and Sam gave me a lift to the nearest train station.
I smiled. It had been one of the best weeks ever. It wasn't tough because no one was being forced to work. We were doing it because we wanted to. Despite the odd >18 hour day for me and longer for many others, there had been few moans, no bitching and few complaints. My main goal had been to smile and be happy all week and I had achieved that.
A tear rolled down my cheek. I'd seen the best side of humanity this week. Teams worked together to overcome the huge challenge of travelling Wales by bike, foot, kayak and rope. Volunteers put the competitors and each other first, always getting what had to be done, done in time. Not one bag or bike had failed to get to the allotted point in time, despite a number of logistical nightmares due to the weather. First world challenges but amazing ones all the same!
I had met some wonderful people, hugged relative strangers and saw how important smiles could be when people were physically and mentally very low.
- Gotta say it was amazing to see swans swimming in a through-and-off formation, much better than most cyclists could.
- Rosemary's face when she came into transition and saw me. Hugs never meant more.
- Working with such a hardworking and expert team, with everyone focused on ensuring the needs of all the competitors were looked after. The attention to detail from Tom, James, Andy and the rest was exceptional. Problems were overcome without drama.
- Watching Adidas Terrex. Everything they did was with purpose, they maintained an intense calmness and I didn't see them waste a second. Nick Gracie was like a top army officer, caring about the team's wellbeing, whilst ensuring they were all prepared for the next stage. The team had a presence like other top athletes I've had the privilege of coming into contact with (e.g. Chris Hoy, Alain Baxter, Hannah Miley). Other teams were excellent too!
- The lassie that coped with trench foot, I will never know how she endured such pain!
- The smiles of two of the Scottish ladies were inspirational. They were far from the fittest or the fastest. One was even riding a Specialized Hardrock, a mountain bike that costs the same as my rear mech on my road bike.