Photo by Margot Kelly
First two daily blogs from Mount Spokane junior John Dressel (WA) on his trip and experience traveling to and competing in Scotland at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country race against international competition in the junior men's race alongside several fellow Team USA members selected by the USATF. Dressel was the Foot Locker Nationals runner-up this past fall.
Tuesday, Jan 7th:
This was the magnificent day where Tanner, Kai, and I were going to make our adventure to Edinburgh, Scotland. But first, I attended my first two periods of school that day. Because of Foot Locker Nationals, I missed a math test, so I had to make it up in the morning before school started. After attending those two periods that morning, I headed home to accomplish my last workout before the big race that happens . I packed my belongings and traveled to the airport where I met up with Kai and Tanner. I was quite hopeful for my USA apparel to come in last minute before I left for the airport, but it didn't. I'll be receiving gear in Edinburgh though. Us three guys flew to SeaTac with Alaska Airlines where we then flew with British Airways from SeaTac to Heathrow International Airport in London. I've never been on such a long flight before.
It was quite a new experience though, being on a plane that was so big with many passengers on it. We flew Economy so nothing too luxurious. I ended up switching seats with a lady so I could sit next to Tanner and Kai. Because we were in the middle, seating 4 people per row, I met a fellow who is from London. His name was Sid Roper and he was a really nice guy. We talked quite a bit on the flight, getting to know each other and learning interesting things about London and his reasons for coming into the United States. It became known that he was visiting his girlfriend in Bellingham, WA in which she was attending college. She was English too. I thought it was cool how he saved all his money to travel a long ways to go see her.
Wednesday, Jan 8th:
We finally arrived in London. Tanner, Kai and I were all super tired. Eyes burning and such for we barely were able to sleep on the plane. I know for me, it's hard to do such a thing on an aircraft for it's mainly the lack of space I have to get comfortable. I think us guys though can agree that British Airways is a nicer airline than most. The staff/flight attendants were really nice. The seats enables you to fall asleep more comfortably for there are cushions that you could pull down from your head rest in which you could lay your head against. Screens in the seats in front of you of course.
We navigated our way to get through security and after that we walked around a bit to explore our terminal. We saw Matthew Maton and we all hooked up together before he had to leave on his flight to Edinburgh. But Heathrow was huge and it was pretty cool seeing what it was like being in a big European airport. Walking around I noticed there were many shops. All of them were expensive stores. Tiffany and Co., Guess, Channel, etc. Quite a bit of perfume and makeup stores I'd have to say. We saw a couple of stores in which they sold whiskey in these luxurious bottles.
There were candy shops that sold rich chocolate and goodies. Fancy eateries as well. We were all pretty hungry so we went to a restaurant called Huxley's Restaurant and Bar. I ordered The English Classic and so did the others. It was a really good breakfast. The English Classic contains bacon, sausage, beans, buttered toast, and eggs with a tomato and mushrooms. Matthew finished before us for his flight left sooner. Once Tanner, Kai and I finished our breakfast we sat and waited at gate A3 for our flight to Edinburgh. It took a while for us to take off but it didn't take long for me to fall asleep.
As I woke up we had about 20 minutes left until we arrived in Edinburgh. We landed safely in Edinburgh and we actually met up with a few senior woman runners who were representing USA as well, along with Chris Derrick. Two Scottish guys representing a travel agency escorted us to our hotel, which was the Macdonald Holyrood. It took 30 minutes to travel from the airport to the hotel due to traffic. As we arrived at our hotel we unloaded our bags from the car and got situated in our rooms. I was surprised how small the rooms were at first. Two twin sized beds in each one. The bathrooms in the rooms are pretty nice though. Matthew, Tanner, Kai and I all went on our run.
Nothing too far because of how tired we were. We roamed around Edinburgh and got to see the sights by ourselves. We didn't see too much due to the fact that we were running at night. I noticed that the street lights are all orange and the streets are quite narrow. Houses or apartments are all very condensed, close together. Lots of cars are parked on the streets too. Lots of pavement. We got back from our run finally and by this point, we were all starving.
We went to an Italian restaurant next door to the hotel with our team captain, Mick Byrne and got to talk to him quite a bit. I ordered a 4 cheese Romana pizza while the others, besides Tanner ordered a Romana pizza as well. Tanner ordered a delicious calzone. We finished up with dinner and went back to the hotel's bar where we ate dessert. USATF is having us make charges to a room number whenever we need too, where they cover the expenses so it's definitely nice. By the time we showered up and went to bed it was about for Matthew and I.
Thursday, Jan 9th:
After a sleepless day of traveling the guys and I slept a total of 11 hours before getting the day started. We ended up missing breakfast so we had lunch as our first meal, which consisted of tomato soup, bread, rice, salmon, chicken breast, potatoes, and fruit. Along with some yogurt. I thought the meal was pretty good overall. All the food here seems to be fresh and genuinely made. As we were eating we were accompanied by 3 other runners that are representing the USA junior women's team. We talked a little bit amongst ourselves and then all of us decided to leave the hotel and walk through Edinburgh.
It was quite fascinating really, seeing the old buildings and small alley ways. Going into shops. All the shops carried kilts and clothing that you'd wear with a kilt. There were rugby shirts that these shops were selling, along with bagpipes and mugs. Piggy banks too. Everything really that represented Scotland. As we saw an old church we ended up going inside it, looking at the architect of it all and the glass windows that consisted of designs like the usual churches that you see. Afterwards, we walked a little further up the street where we saw the Edinburgh Castle.
None of us went inside it, but there was a really cool view of Edinburgh itself as you reached the Castle's grounds. Once we got our chance to see the castle, we made our way back to the hotel where we all were getting ready to do our daily routine, running. Tanner, Kai, Matthew and I all ran with the senior men's team. Our pace was really slow the entire run but our legs weren't feeling the greatest after all the traveling. We ran to Holyrood Park where the course is. The staff of the event were setting up the course, getting ready for the big race this weekend. Personally, I really like the course. The grass is soft and a bit muddy but that's what's exciting about it.
As you make your way around one full loop (which is 2km) you cross the street and end up on rough, grassy trail. The terrain is slanted by this point and you actually cross two streams. I'm definitely excited to actually compete and race on this course for it'll be a new experience for all of us. Once we finished the run Tanner, Kai, Matthew and I were all hanging out in a room before we had our team meeting at 7:00 pm on the first floor. As the clock hit 7:00 pm, every runner from each team became present in the room where this meeting was held. We all announced our names, where we were from, what school that we attend and what grade level we're in. This is when I got to meet the remaining two runners on the Junior Men's team, Noah Gade and Estevan De La Rosa.
We all ate dinner after the meeting. The food was the same as what we had for lunch. Tanner, Kai, Matthew and I finished the night by eating desert in the bar downstairs, which consisted of lemon cake with icing. It wasn't actually frosting that we Americans consider as "icing." It was indeed, lemon ice.
Friday, Jan 10th:
We didn't end up doing much today for tomorrow was the race. We woke up and had a nice breakfast meal. After breakfast we had team photos by the starting line, so everyone of us walked to the park. After the photos we were just hanging out until we got our run in for the day. Estevan, Tanner, Kai, Matthew and I went ahead and previewed the course.
The ground was pretty soggy, so at that point I could tell it was going to be a muddy race tomorrow. Once I got the run done with for today Kai, Tanner, Matthew and I went into Edinburgh again and walked around a little bit. Visiting shops, I founded a nice warm hat that I spent my money on. For keep sakes knowing that it's from Scotland. We didn't walk much after that for we paid to travel in a taxi back to the hotel.
I noticed that all taxis go pretty quick on these small narrow streets. They're almost reckless in a way. I also noticed that you're being charged by the time it takes to get to your destination. It's somewhat crazy how expensive Europe is, knowing that a five pound bill is basically 10 dollars in the U.S. Later in the evening everyone attended a meeting on the 6th floor of the hotel.
We were told how the race was going to flow for tomorrow. Veronica was able to get the team bags that she sent to the hotel since a couple of us needed to exchange items for sizing and Matthew and I didn't have our bags since I received mine two days after I left Spokane. I was pretty stoked receiving my U.S apparel. I didn't get everything that they sent to each runner but I got the basics to hold me off through tomorrow's event. We then had dinner, which was chicken and salmon.
Once dinner ended I put in my 15 and 12mm spike bits in my Nike Victory XC 2's, my race number on my singlet, and the racing chip on my left spike. After getting organized for tomorrow's race I went to bed.
Saturday, Jan 11th:
The last full day in Edinburgh! The junior men's race was the first real race of the day, so the guys and I had to leave the hotel around 10:00 am to get to the course and get settled in. As we arrived at the course we got settled in an enclosed tent for the elite athletes. There were tables and chairs set up everywhere, as well as food on a table in the back of the tent with separate rooms for trainers to work on their athletes if needed. We sat until we had to warmup.
The morning was chilly for it was only 41 degrees for the high, but 29 degrees for the real feel. There was 25 mph wind gust but it was clear sunny skies. The park itself was super muddy from everyone walking everywhere, and a few races happening before ours on the course. We warmed up on the grass just doing loops. I wasn't able to do my regular warmup routine for it was too windy and hilly.
I didn't want to exert more energy than I had too by just trying to warmup. So I ran with Kai and Tanner. We came back to the tent where we headed towards the starting line with coach Mick. We had a pep talk and did strides. As we lined up the gun went off. The USA Junior men's team was 2 points away from winning against Europe. Overall though, I was pleased with the guys performances. I cooled down a little bit with Noah Gade, and watched the Invitational 4k and Senior mens race with Tanner.
With all the races over with everyone went back to the hotel where we just relaxed and talked amongst ourselves. That night Tanner, Kai, Matthew, Estevan and I went into Edinburgh and had dinner at a local pub since we didn't want to eat chicken and salmon again. We got back from roaming the streets of Edinburgh and played a bit of trivia with team Europe and Great Britain. Tanner, Estevan, Kai, Matthew and I were hanging out with Great Britain's Junior men's team for a little bit the rest of the night. I ended up staying up really late for I knew the only way I was going to fall asleep on the flight from Heathrow to Seattle was if I was super tired.
Sunday, Jan 12th:
As we went through customs we realized we weren't going to make our flight from Seattle to Spokane that was scheduled to leave at 6:00 pm. Next thing we knew the airline information lady hooked us up with an 11:00 pm flight to Spokane that night. 20 minutes later, right as we were about to put our checked in bags on another belt after receiving them from a previous one, news was given to us that the 11:00 pm flight was already booked as well. That night Tanner, Kai and I had to stay at the Double Tree Inn not too far from the hotel. So now the next flight that we were going to catch to Spokane was at 10:00 am tomorrow.
I thank Nova for all the expenses they paid for for our traveling, and Bupa for putting on such a great venue. Another thanks goes out to Mick Byrne for making this trip even better by being our senior and junior mens coach. I had such an awesome experience and I can't wait for more opportunities that lie ahead in my future.
MORE TO COME FROM DRESSEL ON HIS TRIP FROM THE BUPA GREAT EDINBURGH XC RACE AS WELL AS BLOGS FROM US JUNIOR TEAMMATES ANNA MAXWELL & KAI WILMOT!