It’s 7:00 pm July 16th, I’m in Barcelona. I’m hungry and I am in search of a tapas restaurant. I’m walking down a camino across from my hotel, certain I will find the spot that the hotel concierge recommended to me. Ahhhh...indeed there it is. Food bliss awaits my tum tum and a cava sangria to cool me off from this 90 degree heat. I joyfully skip into the authentic Spanish culinary hide away and I greet the waiter with an authentic, “Como esta?” in my best Catalonian accent. He didn’t seem so impressed as he responded abruptly, “Estamos cerrados! Regrese a las ocho.” Ouch...not only did the sharp words he recited send my dreams of paella south, but he reminded me that I was in a country where most people don’t even think about going out the door for dinner until nine o’clock. “Ok Milena, hay otro plane,” I told myself calmly and set out to create another game plan. Evidently I needed to eat and eat soon before hypoglycemia set me into a sugar low of epic proportions. What were my chances of finding something that was open and serving more than just a strong espresso? We were about to find out.
I hurried back to the hotel and pleaded with the concierge to put on her best thinking cap and try to recommend an eatery that would be open. The minutes were ticking by as I started to sweat profusely and come close to forgetting how to spell my own name. She mapped out directions to another spot. I quickly grabbed the highlighter outlined route she handed me and ran out the door. “Take an immediate left then another left in two blocks...easy Milena you can do that!” I reassured myself as I darted between native Spaniards leisurely strolling down the sidewalk. Within minutes I found myself completely turned around and with no food in sight my odds of feasting on manchego cheese and olives were fading at warp speed. Time to stop and ask for help. I spotted an open coffee spot with 4-5 guys sitting out front, enjoying a Barcelona evening of cafe, galletas and conversation. As I approached them I noticed a car pull into an empty parking spot. A second glance revealed a “Swim, Bike, Run” sticker on the left rear bumper. The driver got out. I don’t know if it was the shaved legs, lean arms or Ironman Miami shirt that gave it away, but I knew immediately I was amongst friends.
Any triathlete knows where to eat…it is a world-wide phenomena and I was about to bet the house that my newfound Spanish co-hart would surely know a place where I could feast. “Es un triathlete?” I asked him as I approached. “Si, por supuesto,” he replied. We carried on the niceties in Spanish until he broke into perfect English mid-sentence. Guillermo was President of Mad Dogs Barcelona Tri and studied business in the States. Triathlon was his passion and he had helped create quite a following of the sport in Spain. Not only did we share in common numerous friends of the sport but also a love for great food, and my prediction was spot on. He left me with his business card, an invitation back to Barcelona to watch their local race and the name of a restaurant just around the corner that served kick-ass paella and stellar sangria. As I crossed the street I thought about how the love of multisport brings people together world-wide. I was thankful for my new-found friend and thankful that triathletes know how to eat! Bon appetit!