I made it safe and sound to Cork, Ireland! Arrived yesterday around noon after about 16 hours of travel and little sleep, but was excited about being here. Flying in, seeing all the beautiful green hills I told Ben Blankenship (a runner from the University of MN who decided to start his European racing travels with me here in Ireland), "This might be my new favorite place I've ever been to...so long as the people here are nice..." (my former favorite place was Switzerland, and the people there were very accommodating). Well, I obviously hadn't done my homework, or I would have known that Cork has a huge reputation for being filled with the most welcoming, hospitable people in all the world. I'd have to agree.
So when we walked out from baggage claim we had a woman ready and waiting to drive us the short distance from the airport to our accommodations (some dorms near the track). She was very kind and seemed quite excited about pointing out the sights here as she drove in the RIGHT SIDE of her car on the LEFT SIDE of the road. I sat in front with her, and felt quite odd being in the "driver's seat" without a steering wheel...haha.
Everyone says that the best way to get accustomed to the new time zone over here is NOT to go to sleep right away when you get there in the morning, so we quickly settled in to our rooms, and changed to go on a run. I ran with three of the guys who plan on racing the 1500m here as well, and it was nice to have company to keep me awake out there!
Next on the agenda was showering, which is a glorious/refreshing feeling after being stuffed in a germ-tube airplane all night! Once I was cleaned up, it was time to head straight out the door again though, because we had all been invited to a reception, and were promised "finger food" if we attended. I was pretty hungry at this point, so it was an easy sell. Plus, the meet coordinating people who were taking care of us at the dorms seemed pretty excited about it, and you never want to let someone down who is that freaking nice to you.
As it turns out, this reception took place at an army base-type establishment, and we started off the event by taking a group picture (with all of us athletes, some military officials, and local governing people) in front of two big 'ol tanks. Then we took it inside for the reception, not without shaking hands with all the uniformed folks, who all said "You're very welcome!!!" enthusiastically as way of greeting. We then listened to some speeches, which was particularly tough for me because I was sooo tired, and we were to listen to the speeches standing up. By the time everyone was done talking, and the finger food finally showed up (and was eaten), I was about toasted. Apperntly so was Ben...on the way back to the dorms he fell asleep through a bit of crazy driving on the left side of the road and loud conversations. Well, him being asleep looked so enjoyable, I decided to take a nap when we got back.
It was 5:30, and I was thinking I could take just a short nap before dinner at 6. I set an alarm, and...woke up at 8:35. Wupps, didn't even hear my alarm. Since dinner was only supposed to go until 8pm, I walked out of our secure dorm building, key card in hand, to go next door to buy a little something to eat. On my way back in, I found out my key card must not have been activated for the front door though, because I was locked out. I went to the office that issued us our keys, locked as well for the night. Next try, I went to the cafeteria to see if there were any dinner stragglers still around to let me in. I walked in to find one of the kitchen staff people just cleaning up. He noticed the food I just purchased in hand, before I could tell him my situation of being locked out, he excitedly pulled out leftovers from the dinner I missed for me to take (another example of their amazing hospitality). Luckily for me, he also had the phone number of someone who could help me get inside too. :) After eating the lovely leftovers provided for me, it was time for bed (again!), and I had a fantastic first night of sleep. This ended day one of Euro trip 2011.
Today's been pretty awesome too. In a nutshell, had some breakfast, went to the track (which is surrounded by gorgeous green Irish scenery), ate lunch at a bistro on campus, and then came back to the dorms to free-load off Will Leer's wireless Internet, write a blog, and watch some movies on his computer. First it was Hot Fuzz, now we're on to Justin Bieber's Never Say Never. Whattaday.
Tomorrow will be the 1500m at 3:25 Ireland time (I think 9:45am at home) in the 60th running of the Cork Citysports track meet. I guess Cork is the 2nd biggest place in Ireland, second to Dublin, BUT this is like the only international athletic competition held in Ireland every year. Cork, it's an honor to be here, and I hope to do you all proud tomorrow!