Day One…

…was not long, but was hard enough work for me after not riding for a couple of weeks!
Jonny and I set off from home a bit later than planned, in the rain. It had been raining all morning and showed no sign of stopping.

We stopped by the Eisner’s to say Happy Birthday to Mark, but they weren’t in. We found out later that they too were cycling and we almost crossed paths.

Then we headed North. Our final destination is actually SWW of home, but we have five days so thought we would use them by following a Northern arc.

The ride to Ashbourne was quite familiar, although I have never done it in this direction before. A steady ‘up’ most of the way, with a few steep ups and downs, like the one under the A52. I also realise, now, that this section didn’t seen too uphill because I wasn’t yet tired!

The rain had not relented and so we entered the Tissington Trail wet and with no obvious chance of drying out in the near future. I had planned a scenic route, knowing it would be hilly, but always worth it for the views up here in the Peak District. Thorpe Cloud was looking as spectacular ever, even in the gloom.

Had it been a warmer day we would have stopped in Ilam, a place I haven’t been to since coming on a school trip. Instead we had a quick game of Pooh Sticks, are a bit if flapjack and carried on, in the rain.

Then the climbing started, or at least I started to feel it more! As predicted, though, the scenery was well worth it. Just before Grindon there was a massive decent into the Manifold River valley, with a couple of switch backs and everything! The inevitable climb out of the valley was tough, and the wind at the top didn’t help, but great scenery!

The last 8 miles were a slog, but after the long incline out of Onecote the decent into Leek was fantastic. Straight roads with good visibility, so fast!

We were staying in a camping barn, which is very much as it sounds. An old barn, with the original stalls in place, and sleeping platforms between. Basic but lovely. Also very ‘eco’ which Jonny was less keen on, especially the compost toilet and milk churn urinal!!

It was still raining, so the walk to the pub meant getting wet again, but after a hard day it was necessary, if only for warmth!!

We only traveled 31.7 miles, but climbed nearly 1000m, so a good day.


Sent from my HTC

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Day Nine…

…is my last day at the Olympics. I don’t know if you have ever written any kind of diary but if you have followed my previous travels you will know that I struggle to maintain mt writing till the end. Not because there is less to say. Maybe because the process is less exciting so I feel less compelled to tell the story? And not because I don’t want to go home. I do, there is much to get back to!

The day had many decisions. None of them important outside the Olympic bubble. How do I make the most of my last day? David and Shirley were ill, having been poisoned by the over attentive chef at the skeleton track, it seems. Adam had suggested going skiing, which I was keen to do. But with my last session of physio this morning is that sensible, and since when did I become sensible?

Well, I was today and decided to stay down in the park for my last day. So I headed off for my last physio and massage, from another strong looking Russian man, this time very round! Without this care my Olympic experience would have ended on Thursday so I am incredibly grateful. The whole time I felt like I was taking advantage a bit but no one ever treated me like that. I am clearly no athlete, yet they seemed to treat me with as much diligence.

Then to Speed Skating in the Iceberg. Elise was racing again and could do well, but I arrive too late and missed her heat. It was sad to look up the results and find DNF! After DQ the other day she will be gutted. I am not sure she deserves the abuse she has received via twitter and Facebook, though!

I didn’t stay for the rest of the heats and instead headed to the Ice Cube to see our Men curling against the Canadians. A good match, but another lose at the end.

Then I had to decide if I was going up to the mountain for the Men’s Skeleton final, or staying down here for the Women’s Skeleton Medal Ceremony. I decided that since the Men’s final was pretty much sorted, for gold and silver at least, I wouldn’t miss much by staying down.

When I looked around the media centre the other day I did not find the broadcast units. Well, last night I met a guy who had found them. So I followed his directions and what a spectacle!! A purpose built gallery of multiple editing suites and sound booths and server rooms and equipment rooms and news rooms and more editing suites!! Apparently 14 venues all covered with cameras and all being streamed to this corridor. And this is just the OBS Suites. In addition to this will be all the regional broadcasters like BBC. They have their own section!

Then back to the hotel to change for the medals ceremony. My sister had made me a Union Flag tie and I had only had one opportunity to wear it, so I thought this would be a good second opportunity. I also needed to pack! I did most of my packing and got dressed and headed out to get a car. Where there were usually a line of T3 cars, today there was one, thankfully a minibus. We had timed it just wrong to coincide with Putin leaving the hockey game so all the roads were closed and all the cars stuck out there on the park! Then when the minibus left, just as we approached the park we joined a queue, which had formed for the same reason! So the six of us heading to the Medals Plaza got out and walked the rest.
We made it in plenty of time and squeezed into a spot where we could see other Union Flags. It turned out to be Mr and Mrs Yarnold and their family and friends. What a privilege to be with these guys at such a moment, Mr Yarnold was rather emotional! There were about 20 of us in total, including the GB curling team, so we sang God Save The Queen with aplomb!!!

After the ceremony I hung out with the IOC guys from the bus for a while then as they headed off for more hockey I went for one last walk around the Olympic Park. I used my invitations to some of the National Houses… Norway, Italy, USA, Switzerland, Russia, and picked up a few more pins too.

As I walked back to the hockey stadium to get transport I passed the BBC veranda where Lizzie was being interviewed. I was expecting Claire to spot me and invite me over but she didn’t!

And so back to the hotel. Final bit of packing and to bed in the shower!! My snoring has been keeping Adam awake, but we found a solution. His Dad had discovered that the long, firm cushion from the sofa fitted perfectly in the shower stall! And there is the added bonus of a door to separate us too!! If only we had discovered this before the last night!!

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What Day Am I On? Eight?…

The alarm went off at 745 much to Adam’s dismay, and I was a bit more sore than when I went to bed. But not too bad to change plans and after doing my physio exercises it was pretty good again.

I was up early to catch the Mountain Express for the Men’s Combined Downhill at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre, the furthest away venue. No snow in a few weeks means the conditions are deteriorating and so they moved it an hour earlier to get most in before it got too hot.

I grabbed some breakfast, but need nit have because there was breakfast available in the venue lounge. It was great to eat porridge and muesli on the veranda overlooking the alpine track!!

The event was great too, with a mix up in the expected standings. I won’t be able to stay for the Slalom part thus afternoon, but this was a good start. It was also good to see the last 20 runs were for development guys to have a go. I am guessing they would not have shown it on telly, but it was fun to see the crowd getting so enthusiastic for these young guys.

I then had four hours to kill before the Skeleton. I did try to go further up the mountain at the recommendation of a Russian volunteer friend, but pass did not allow it- the first time!!!

Instead I headed down to the mountain hub and looked out a souvenir shop. There was a Souvenir Fayre just by the station, but prices seem to be even more than in the Olympic Shop! To get there I had to go out of the accreditation zone and thought I may as well stay out and make my way to the event by public transport. Oh Boy do the public have to go through even tighter security than we do! I had my bottles of water and orange juice taken, and my bag thoroughly searched! I eventually made it onto the bus and up to the next venue.

This is the last venue that I have not yet been to. The Sanki Sliding Centre is the venue for Luge, Skeleton and Bobsled. Tonight was the Men’s Skeleton first two runs and then Ladies Skeleton final runs.

Yesterday one of the GB sliders had done well and was currently in the lead by a good margin. Unless she crashed she would reasonably easily keep the lead and win gold!

The GB men are less competitive but with a chance if top ten. However, when I first started watching Adam in Skeleton it was the early in the career of Alexsander Tretiakov, a Russian slider. He had a great start with a fast push, but then lost time all the way down! He was invariably last. However, a naturally good push is a great asset. Good driving comes with experience, and so with time he would be good. Here we are eight years later and his driving has gotten good!! And he has the home advantage of extra track time! So, it was no surprise that Tretiakov is in the lead after today’s two runs.

Then the Ladies final two runs. After the first it was still looking hopeful for Lizzie Yarnold. We watched the first run from the start, which is always exciting as they explode onto the track. For the second, though, we wanted to be on the stand at the end. That is where the celebration would happen!! We managed to work our way to a good spot close to some other Brits and not far from Lizzie’s family and friends.

A few good runs mixed up the order, particular one from USA. But then Team GB did not disappoint. The crowd went wild, partly because Russia had also won the bronze, but that didn’t matter. We all had a great time. Lots of GBR/RUS photos on the stands. Lots of jumping around behind Lizzie’s parents as they were being interviewed. Great fun.

David and Shirley had said that the food at this venue for was better than the others! Then whilst there the chef seemed to take a liking to Shirley and gave her personal service. It was sad then, that they became sick on the way home, it seems with food poisoning! Not such a great end to their day.

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Day Seven…

…began with Physio. I had slept fairly well on the hard sofa rather than the soft, painful bed. Adam insists I must have because my snoring kept him awake!

I headed over to my Physio follow up appointment and met another strong, albeit slightly less aggressive Russian who stretched and contorted me more than I normally would before I had a bad back! After this session I felt even better and embarked on a ‘normal’ schedule.

First event of the day was Speed Skating in the Iceberg Skating Centre. We had a few Brits in the races and a couple of medal chances so excitement was high. Sadly only one girl made it through the heats and she then got through to the semi-finals too. We had just watched the Men’s Final where there had been a crash. Then in the first corner Our Girl slipped, taking two other skaters out with her. She managed to get back up and come 2nd in the race so for a moment we celebrated a silver medal! But then the official scores came through and she had been disqualified for the fall! Such a shame.

Then over to the Bolshoy Ice Dome for Men’s Ice Hockey – Russia v Slovenia. Great venue, full of Russians! Exciting game which Russia dominated, but we were cheering for Slovenia who did look to have a chance during the second period! Not in the third, though, and the whole place erupted as the home team won!!

A new feature today had been pin swapping. Adam got hold of a bag of Team GB pins and stole half of them! Then, when I met someone from another country we could swap pins. I am an amateur and have no chance of matching some with vey heavy ribbons full of pins, but it is a fun sideline!!

After the hockey Adam and I headed to the Olympic Club for dinner. This is an exclusive club for IOC members and their guests. Very swanky, as you can imagine, and pretty good food too. We then went for a walk around the park, since Adam had not been in since before the games started. As usual there was a great atmosphere and much photo-taking!

We ended in the Medals Plaza to see Russia take a Figure Skating Gold and the Polish one for something else!? Then headed back to the hotel.

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Day Six…

…was another new Olympic experience. The Olympic patient.

Part way through breakfast I sneezed and my back immediately seized up and didn’t let go. I managed to finish breakfast but the walk back up to the room was painful and getting worse. The soft bed was no comfort so I managed to get flat on the floor. Getting up again was another matter altogether!
I spent most of the day trying to find a comfortable position. I followed Facebook suggestions like a hot shower, paracetamol/ibuprofen cocktails, and there was some comfort but clear no solutions. ‘Keep Moving’ was another common sentiment but it was just not possible!

By 4pm it was clearly not improving, so I tentatively and painfully made my way to the IOC hotel doctor. The info book directed me to the 2nd floor. As I arrived in the office there were six people, all dressed in the 80s shell suit uniform, crowded around a laptop watching the figure skating. I asked if it was possible to see a doctor at which point they all buzzed round and one of them stood to ask what the problem was. It is amazing how much confidence a white coat gives you, and how much doubt a lack of white coat produces!! It just did not seem right for this ‘volunteer off the street’ to be wielding a needle! I am sure he was a real doctor and since the syringe contained pain relief I wouldn’t have cared anyway!

The idea was that this would reduce the pain to allow me to walk to the polyclinic where they would give me some ongoing painkillers. After a couple of hours I felt up to it, as well as being hungry! We have breakfast at the hotel, but other meals we can pick up in the hospitality lounges at each venue. So for tea I needed to head to the Ice Hockey and planned to stop by the clinic on the way.

A short, painful walk through the Athlete’s Village and I made it. After filling in forms at reception I was taken up to the doctor. It was a familiar scene, with a group huddled around the laptop watching figure skating! This time, though, they were wearing lab coats!!

I saw a Doctor who pressed and prodded then prescribed me some pills! Great. Then on the way out my ‘guide’ explained the schedule. She would go and get my drugs whilst I had some Physiotherapy!!
I am not greatly experienced in this kind of stuff but it looked and felt more Chiropractic . I was hoisted up on this frame and bent in various directions. The guy was an aggressive angry Russian, who could speak a bit if French!! I don’t mean that he was at all mean or unfriendly. Just sharp and shouty at the staff, and me if I pushed a bit too hard or in the wrong direction!
After a couple of hours and some bright pink tape I was much looser and able to walk comfortably, if a little tentatively, again.

This meant that I could get to an event today after all. A short but slow walk to to the Bolshoy Ice Dome and I caught the last session of the Men’s Ice Hockey- Sweden vs Czech Republic. I am glad I did. This is Ice Hockey!! Plenty of smashes against the side and quick paced play.

Not the day I planned but since I hadn’t thought I would be going out at all, it ended better than it could have.

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Day Five…

If yesterday was unproductive then today could not be more different! And it was even a late start.
We slept late and only just made it to breakfast in time. Then a lazy time getting ready meant that I caught the Midday bus up to the mountain.
It has gotten a bit colder in town and much colder up top. I arrived to see the last part of the Ski Slopestyle at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. I didn’t quite get the snowboard version and I got this even less.

Then a short walk over to the other side of the park to the Ham Stadium for the Snowboard Half-pipe. How different from Slopestyle is this? Maybe I just don’t know enough about them, but I don’t see a huge difference. That said, it is impressive to watch, and very entertaining. It seems the Brit pushed it a little too hard and came a cropper.

Then down the mountain part way and back up a different part. We had a good medal chance in the Men’s Cross Country Sprint so I was heading to Laura. I would have had similar thoughts of this and Biathlon before coming, but after my biathlon experience on Sunday I was ready to be excited. It was the Men’s and Women’s Free Sprint, but they were not competing against one another. They just interspersed the heats of each, then the finals. One reason it is so exciting is the crowd. The Europeans love it, and there are loads of them here.
Sadly the British guy had a really bad race and didn’t make it through to the quarter final.

Then still up in Laura I headed over for a bit more Biathlon!! It did not disappoint.

Finally, close to the bus terminal, is the RusSki Gorki Jumping Centre. And tonight was the first ever Women’s Ski Jumping! I was there to witness this ‘historic occasion’ and to hear them over-play that card a little!!

I have noticed something today, or at least I made note of it having noticed it a few times already. We are told not to judge on appearances yet the look up and down as one enters a room remains the first impression! Here it is slightly different. Here there is the ‘Pass Glance.’
When you get into a car, a lift or just meet someone at a function the first thing you both do us glance down at the accreditation pass. A bit like dogs smelling each others bum, this immediately lets you both know where you ‘fit’. For some this then affects how you are treated. I hope I do it mostly out of interest. My pass is an interesting one. On first glance you see IOC** which means ‘important’ so in many situations I am immediately looked after, given drinks etc. However, those more knowledgeable of the system then see that I am an ‘Accompanying Guest.’ This is usually a spouse of an IOC member, so for sports ‘politicians’ there is not much use giving me too much attention because I can’t do much to help them, like vote in their favour. If no one else is there, though, a couple have given me the hard sell in the hope I will pass on favourable thoughts!
Since I have no agenda other than enjoying the games I am enjoying two strategies. One is to hide my pass and leave them guessing for a bit, they hate that!! The other is to embrace the dignitary status and then to be as kind and servant-hearted as possible. That tends to throw people a bit too!

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Day Four…

…was not as ‘productive’ as it might gave been. I had planned to go up the mountain for the evening, but left it too late to be worth while!

The day started a bit earlier than usual as I got up to go ‘off campus’ for the morning! My first venture out of the Olympic bubble into Russia! Although, saying that, Adler is still very Olympic having all its hotels full of Olympic guests and all the shops selling Olympic stuff. There were, however, more locals milling about normal life and not wearing the 80s shell suit uniform. There were more stray dogs wandering around, not poisoned, but it was still mostly new and clean. At one point, as I wandered, l happened upon a group in traditional dress getting on a tatty old bus. I assume they do not go about daily life like that and were on the way to perform in the Olympic Park, but maybe not?
I met a Russian guy who basically became a host for the morning. He has travelled across the country to volunteer at The Games and was a great ambassador for Russia. Having someone to help me navigate the buses was a bug help and meant that I travelled on a real Russian bus with a plastic pot for the money, rather than the Olympic additions! It was also good to talk a bit about real life here.

Then I got to have a more familiar Olympic experience. I arrived at the park at the public train station, I wrapped my Union Flag around my shoulders and joined the crowds. Such a great atmosphere, as I have found at every Games. Everyone so pleased to be there, expecting to have a great time. Because we have such a great, distinctive flag people want a photo with it. Russians, Koreans, Dutch came over to pose with me, us both holding out our flags. The Park looks brilliant with people filling it, so colourful and bright.

Then I joined the crowds entering the Ice Cube; Curling Centre. Well, I slipped down the side of the crowd to the VIP entrance! Once inside, though, it was difficult to get round to the Family Lounge. Down stairs and through corridors and I found myself passing the team rooms! The British Girls were warming up in the corridor so I wished them all the best and continued! Then through another few doors and I found myself in the press commentary area! I did eventually manage to find the lounge just in time for the start!! I am glad I did because if I hadn’t there would have been no one for the BBC to show since I had the only Union Flag in the place. Over 100 emails and messages let me know that I had been spotted and ruined people’s breakfast across the UK!!
Now, I have watched Curling in the last few Olympics, but other than the general ‘boules’ principles I don’t know much more. So I asked the lady next to me, who turned out to be the President of World Curling, and she proceeded to commentate the rest of the match, explaining each play!! A very enjoyable sport to watch, but Sweden were apparently always going to be a tough opponent!

Then I bumped into Adam! Although I am his guest he is working most of the time so I only usually see him at night as we share a room. On the way out I detoured back to the media area to get photographic prove of my new friendship with CB!! All this delay meant I missed the bus up to the mountain, and another half an hour would’ve meant I missed the event so instead I headed back to the hotel.
After a bit of a rest I was ready to go again. Adam is invited to functions by the different country’s commissions and tonight it was USA. So I suited and booted, put on my Union Flag tie (made by my sister) and headed to USA House. As one might expect, dinner was burgers with Budweiser, which went down well. I met the BBC Head of Sport and the President of FIBT amongst other people. Also Jacque Roc, the ex-president of the IOC, and Thomas Bach, the new one.
It was a fun time, quite ‘political’ in who speaks to who, but there were enough people for me to talk to too! And thankfully it didn’t go on too late!

I have only just realised that the day starts and ends so late so that European TV can show events in prime time. I don’t feel so bad for getting up late after all.

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