Monday, December 31, 2012

Year of the Olympics

Reflecting on 2012, there was obviously one major highlight.  I got a new surfboard that rips...oh, AND I went to the Olympics.  The whole experience went by so lightning fast that sometimes it's hard to believe it actually happened.  Then, I look in my closet and see the official Olympic wardrobe and realize that I am an Olympian.  2012 was the year that my dream came true.  I went to the Olympics!

The Olympics were such a full experience that it's hard to capture in one blog post, but I can give you some tidbits.  The USA mountain bike team flew in on the Monday before our event, Saturday, August 11th arriving from a great training camp in Germany.  We were immediately greeted by USOC staff whom immediately took us through the logistics of becoming an Olympian.  We went through a special Olympic passport control, got our Olympic village badges (which are literally the key to everything so this had to be guarded with my life), and had special tags on our luggage with the Olympic logo. We hopped on the bus to the Olympic village.  Once in the village, we were standing outside the team USA building and the crowd was so incredibly loud in the track and field stadium that I thought the cheering was a fighter jet.  This is absolutely no exaggeration.  I was blown away by the roar of the crowd that came from a stadium about a mile away.  

 One of the many steps to get into the Olympic Village

Georgia and I settled into the apartment and quickly tore through three bags of Olympic schwag waiting on our beds.  We actually didn't even skim the surface of our new wardrobe because we had to go to dinner at the dining hall.  The dining hall was one of the most unique, overwhelming, and amazing experiences I've ever had.  It was a massive space filled with all of the best athletes in the world and every type of cuisine possible.  It took a couple of attempts to dial it in.  The first go around I surfaced with some rice, a dumpling, curry, beef stew, and an orange.  There are way too many choices.  There's a McDonalds in the Olympic dining hall and the shocking fact was that it ALWAYS had a line.  

 Olympic Schwag
How many hours of work went into this sweatshirt? 

We actually only spent one night in the Olympic Village before heading out the mountain bike course.  Hadleigh Farm was about an hour away so Georgia, Todd, team Specialized, and myself decided to stay in a hotel a short bike ride away from the venue.  I was obviously disappointed to not be staying in the village the entire time, but I was completely relieved I made this decision.  After less than twelve hours in the village, I was worn out from all of the excitement and energy.  I literally had a view of the Olympic rings from my room.  It's hard to go to sleep when I could literally see the Olympic rings at all hours.  I was just constantly so amped.  So, the hotel was much more relaxing and a good distance away from the unfathomable amount of hype.  This way, I was staying with jojo so she could keep me calm, laughing, and enjoying the entire experience.  She's a rock and so is my family.  Anyone who can keep their cool in that supporting role has nerves of steel and I owe a lot to them.

I rode the course and kept my preparation consistent.  Georgia and I rode a bit together and I rode all of the 'A' lines.  We had a blast together and joked around.  Just as I expected, she proved to be the perfect teammate.  On the Wednesday before the race, jojo and I rode the train about an hour and a half back to the village because I had a ticket to track and field.  There's actually a sign up sheet where athletes can put their names in for extra tickets.  It turns out I was ten minutes late to pick up my track and field ticket and I was absolutely devastated.  But, the staff came through with a men's water polo ticket.  I went for about half of the game, and it was so cool to be able to spectate an Olympic event.  Actually just walking through the Olympic park was an experience.  I've never seen so many people in my entire life.  I took a quick ice bath and headed back to the venue. 

My actual Olympic race was a bit of a blur.  The athletes are herded from place to place, village to venue, warm up area to start area, finish line to team box so it was actually hard to get a sense of immense amount of spectators in the infield.  I've never seen so many people at a mountain bike race.  The one time I got a sense of this was during the race call up.  They called the british rider, Anne Last, to the line and the place exploded just like the fighter jet cheering in the village.  

 Standing under the Olympic ring in the Village
 The Men's Water polo game
Another view of the Men's Water Polo game

To be continued...