So, today marks the beginning of the end of the journey I have been working towards for the majority of 2023. Every training session has been leading up to this, and every race has been a tune-up for this moment.
I arrived at Stratford bus station for my coach at about 3 am, desperate for a restroom break. I know it’s not the conventional thing to do, but I was on the verge of wetting myself, so I ventured into the nearby park to find a bush. I’ve never seen so much security in a park at 3 am before! Had a murder been committed in the shadows of the London Stadium?
After being stopped three times, I had no option but to go back and wait for my coach, hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself.
The good news is I didn’t wet my pants. An earlier coach pulled up and allowed me to get on and use their toilet.
After getting through airport security, I sat on the floor to charge my phone and actually started wondering if I should just go home. I’m not sure where that feeling came from or why I was feeling it, but I had this rising urge to get up and walk out of the airport. I’m not even sure if you are allowed to do that once you have gotten through the security area.
A quick FaceTime with my daughter, and I snapped out of my mood. She never fails to make me smile.
My in-flight entertainment was watching a stewardess getting more and more angry because the queue for the toilet meant that she could not turn around her expensive trolley of supplies.
Why did they play a ‘ta-dah’ like jingle when the plane landed? Why did the entire plane (except me) then clap as if a safe landing was unexpected?
At passport control, I cheerily said “hello” to the guy behind the desk; he snarled at me, “What do you want?”. I decided not to engage him any more and handed him my passport; he looked back and forth between me and the photo several times before demanding to know why I was in his country. I tried to explain several times that I was here to race; I eventually had to bring up the race site on my phone.
He then demanded to see where I was staying. Once he was satisfied, he threw the paperwork back at me and buzzed me through the door.
Bolt (there is no Uber in Latvia) was offering taxi rides for €18, but there was a bus outside the exit that would drop me off 800m from my accommodation for only €1.50. Before I could get to the bus stop, I had to complete the gauntlet of taxi drivers trying to entice me into their vehicles. I was terribly British and politely declined their offers, and was called a bastard by every single one of them.
As I looked up the time of the next bus, it warned me that the bus was going to be packed. I learned that this was not an exaggeration. At each stop, more and more people barged their way onto the already full bus. The driver did not care; as long as he could shut the doors, he was happy.
A few things I noticed on my way to my accommodation:
- Nobody gives way. They will let shop doors slam in your face.
- Nobody offered up their seats on public transport.
- Green crossing signs mean nothing to car drivers, who merely slow down and beep at you.
After taking a few wrong turns, I finally found the road my accommodation was on. It was a short road with dilapidated and abandoned-looking buildings; I was sure that my accommodation was not here. I telephoned the host, and he said he would come outside and see if he could find me. Imagine my surprise when he appeared out of this door:
He led me down this hallway.
And then opened this door to my room.
It reminded me of those war films where they take war criminals before interrogating them. No wonder they didn’t show the images of these on the booking website.
Inside the room wasn’t great; it looked like it hadn’t been decorated since the 1970s.
The bedding that I had paid extra for consisted of:
- 1 thin pillow with a pillowcase.
- 1 thin single duvet with a cover.
- 1 thin blanket that I could actually see through.
There was no heating, so I knew that the bedding wasn’t going to be enough to keep me warm; sleeping in just my underpants was not going to happen. Luckily, I packed some extra shorts and t-shirts.
The host also told me that I could only use two appliances at one time. The fridge is always turned on, so that meant I would have to turn the TV off if I wanted to charge my phone or make a cup of tea. He explained that more than two appliances running at once would blow the electrics.
Once I had unpacked, I decided to go and explore. I was walking around for a good twenty minutes before I saw someone with a bag of food; I quickly realized he was English and asked him to point me to the shop. After stocking up, I returned to the apartment. There were only Latvian/Russian TV shows, so I logged into YouTube on my phone to entertain me.
I wasn’t impressed, and I was far from happy. I even checked my phone to see how much flights home would be for tomorrow morning. The only things that stopped me were the prices to fly home were over £100, and I would not get my €100 security deposit back.
Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.