Why is it that I never seem to manage to start an adventure without excessive amounts of silliness?
Something always happens … whether it's a flat tyre, forgetting my sports bra before a race (I've done this TWICE now … thank goodness for small boobs) or losing a shoe.
I'd been invited to the ASICS International meeting which was basically 2 days of running, partying like a rock star, stand up paddle boarding, wake boarding and sunshine in Germany. Obviously me being the super organised person I am, I got packed weeks before, booked my flight and had everything sorted super-early and organised myself like a champion.
Hell. I couldn't organise a cliff jump for a gang of lemming at the White Cliffs of Dover.
It turns out that there were NO flights out of London to Dusseldorf AT ALL on Friday or Saturday. So knowing that I was finishing work at 3pm on Friday, I decided that catching a flight at 7pm in Birmingham was going to be no problem. Even if I had to nip home and pick up my kit from Rugby.
Most stressful Friday ever. Let's just say I made the flight after what must have been the most strava-segment-worthy dash through Euston, Rugby AND Birmingham airport. Seriously. I should have started my Garmin. I would have been segment queen for a day,
Picture the scene, you're enjoying a nice wander through the airport when some banshee of a woman comes tearing past with a suitcase with only one working wheel, taking out ankles and scattering holiday makers. If I was responsible for blackening toenails and upsetting small children I can only apologise.
On the plus side the flight was delayed by an hour so at least I got a pint in departures. It's like holiday-law, right?
After making a friend in the queue, (another airport commandment – make friends in departures) I had a nice nap on the plane and landed uneventfully at Dusseldorf airport and made my way to the hotel where I emerged into the middle of an ASICS party in full swing. Or rather ASICS athletes who were demonstrating German hospitality and promptly handed me a pint. I love German athletes. And pints.
I only had one pint (get me! I may not be able to organise a drinking contest at a beer festival but at least I was winning at roomies) as Holly Rush, ultrarunning legend and ASICS superstar had already checked into the room we were sharing so I did the quickest change into PJs ever and got into bed for some sleep.
The first day of adventures was an early start but a MASSIVE breakfast which sounded a fair trade off to me. We were all heading to the ASICS HQ in Dusseldorf so we grabbed a lift with a German FrontRunner, Katya.
The ASICS building was gorgeous. Massive and covered with mirrored panels which reflected the bright blue sky, we really felt like superstars as we posed for photos outside. Or rather, I FELT like a superstar, but after viewing the jumping photos in which I apparently jump like a brick and gurn like a chimp I didn't look like one, I decided that I'd leave the jumping to the experts and concentrate on the things that I was good at. Apparently, breakfasting like a sump wrestler. I'm REALLY good at breakfast.
We all sat in the airy ASICS presentation room and had the most enthusiastic welcome ever! It was so special to feel a part of the ASICS community. We've got some amazingly talented people representing the brand and a wonderful mix of abilities and strengths and characters. Everyone was so friendly and it was such an amazing thing to feel part of. I really felt so honoured to have been invited.
After a very enthusiastic introduction from Jan Erik Kruse who is the Marketing Manager, we were shown the new product ranges. I LOVE having pretty kit and it was exciting to be one of the first to see the new kit available. There were some great colours and there was some amazing kit based on sakura which is the cherry blossom of Japan and the festival.
I loved the new kit colours, particularly the pinks, an ivy green and a deep purple shade. Yep. I'm a total kit tart.
I was therefore totally made up to be given some of Roadhawk shoes (which I refused to take off) and the smallest FrontRunner Europe top ever. I also refused to take this off. Breathing is optional, right? It's MY kit and therefore I will wear it even if I appear to be unable to move my arms.
We had some great guest speakers including Matthias Schwarze who spoke passionately about the Bob Graham round and really gave me a hunger to try it. He was extremely inspirational although he appeared to have developed a fear of sheep through the experience.
One of the events was a night run through the beautiful town of Neuss. Let me set the scene, a group of approximately 100 runners, chattering and walking through cobbled streets, dressed in beautiful kit and one banana. Yep. FrontRunner Pete has decided no race would be complete without his banana outfit. Well, at least we couldn't lose him in the crowds.
Marcus, Anna and I. (Photo from instagram of @marathonmarcus. Photo by @teddymorellec)
We stood at the start. All ready and shiny and excited. And one banana. The gun went off and off shot Banana Pete like poop off the proverbial. Anna, Marcus and I decided to run together and we chatted the whole way. It was a very warm evening and I was already having a hard time at 2km. In a 5km … this doesn't make for a comfortable race. Woman-up Sarah! Smile for the camera and keep an eye on where the beer is.
The course was made up of 5 x 1km loops and despite some sharp turns and bottlenecks I really couldn't fault the race. The support was EPIC and it was such a pretty place to run! I couldn't quite work out where the finish was but I could definitely remember where the bar was so that was ok by me.
We rounded the last corner and a MASSIVE finish gantry seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. We crossed the line to cheers and a hug.
Lots of friends had already finished and we were over the moon that Holly had podiumed! And Matt!! He was 2nd in the 5k despite helping someone who had fallen over - and missed the win by 11 secs. And Pete was up for a prize too. Top banana.
We had lots of sweaty hugs and in the best British spirit all the UK runners headed straight for the bar and the beer. We DID notice that everyone else was drinking water but we didn't judge. Or stop.
Because the ASICS bar was right by the course, we took our pints and sat on the kerb and cheered everyone in who was running the 10k. It turns out that supporting is even more fun than running! Especially when you have beer.
In great spirits (and beers) we went back to the hotel to do a quick change out of race kit and a shower and we all headed out again to dinner in a bar! It was like our favourite thing. Nightclubbing, free bar AND buffet food. ASICS certainly know how to throw a party.
The shots came out early on. There was dodgy dancing, a planking competition and lots of group hugs. We'd had a brilliant day and now we were having a brilliant evening. And a brilliant morning.
I knew I'd had a good night when I woke up the next morning at 6am and my Garmin was already showing 11,000 steps for the day from all my dodgy dancing in the small hours! A quick breakfast and I made my way to the ASICS building where Anna and I tackled the sample sale with gusto.
Now we all know how gorgeous the ASICS kit is and here was the sample sale with tops and shorts for 5 euros! I left with about 5 beautiful tops and a gorgeous jacket.
After inspecting our haul, we headed out for another day of adventures. We were all meeting at Unterbacher See which is a beautiful lake in Rothenbergstrasse. Surrounded by sandy beaches and green trees, the lake reflected the bright blue sky and looked incredibly inviting
We were greeted with a BBQ and a welcome to the days activities. The first thing on my agenda was a group warmup in which we learned the hacka. By now, I'm sure you know how coordinated I am. If everyone is stepping right, I am leaping left. I am APALLING at group activities, but at least I am appalling with enthusiasm.
Wakeboarding was my first sport to try. It was LOADS of fun! But my ability to do it was hampered somewhat by my utter inability to stay upright. However I had an amazing time trying. And at least the water was warm! After my turn was over, I swam out to the pontoon and watched the advanced wakeboarders doing tricks. I didn't aspire to tricks. I just wanted to stand up. Big dreams.
(Photo by Inger Diederich - she must have been REALLY quick to get a photo of me actually upright on the board))
My next adventure was stand up paddle boarding polo. Not sure how I managed to bypass the this-is-how-to-paddleboard-lesson and launch straight into a game of polo on the board but I decided that the best way to learn was to have a go … right?
Wrong. I was appalling. Not only was I hampered by my complete inability to catch the ball, I was also slightly disadvantaged by the fact I was completely unable to stay upright. Or even stay on the board.
It probably didn't help that I found out halfway through that I had the board backwards. Probably happened during one of my frequent falling-in moments. I think I was the only person to get pruned fingers and toes from paddleboarding.
I got a bit worried at the end when they called us over to paddleboard towards the hut to line up for a photo. I was completely unable to paddleboard over there and could only go round in circles. I had to lie down on the board and paddle with my hands to get over for the photo. And then I couldn't line the board up and knocked poor Matt Rees off his board.
(Me causing absolute bloody chaos - photo by Inger Diederich)
Not sure I'll be invited back for more SUP. Everyone else was playing polo on their boards. I was just falling in standing upright.
But I was falling with enthusiasm. Totally counts.
I had the most AMAZING weekend and after hugs and promises to write I left Germany with some beautiful kit, new friends and some amazing memories.
ASICS International Meeting, you were BRILLIANT. Thanks for the adventure.
Emergency Services from Midlands
Age group: 40-44
Club: Rugby Triathlon Club, Northbrook AC,
Coach: Chris Weeks
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