It's been more than a month since I arrived in Spain and since Steven is now mostly healed from his collarbone surgery, my nursing skills are minimally required. Now my energy can be directed toward other things such as forming friendships, finding a routine that involves "me time" and getting to know my way around a kitchen. For me, the latter of these objectives is absolutely the most challenging.

By Jennifer Caudill

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of columns by Jennifer Caudill. Caudill is an accomplished writer, photographer and journalist. She graduated from the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism, has worked in creative advertising for Turner Broadcasting Company and published several travel memoirs. She is a recreational cyclist and an avid runner. Jen also serves as a podium hostess for North American cycling races as well as a fashion and editorial model for her modeling agency based in Atlanta. She frequently travels between Northern California, Georgia and Spain, where she currently lives with her boyfriend, Garmin-Transitions professional cyclist, Steven Cozza. You can read Jen’s first article here.

It’s been more than a month since I arrived in Spain and since Steven is now mostly healed from his collarbone surgery, my nursing skills are minimally required. Now my energy can be directed toward other things such as forming friendships, finding a routine that involves “me time” and getting to know my way around a kitchen. For me, the latter of these objectives is absolutely the most challenging.

Walking across town for groceries. Photo: Courtesy Jennifer Caudill

Forming friendships hasn’t been a problem in the least. Thank goodness for the companionship of other cyclists’ wives and girlfriends! Talk about a support system. I never imagined I’d be the type to sit cafe-side with other women to talk over coffee about household chores, our guys’ fitness, our own health and, of course, the latest window display at our favorite Catalan boutique. However, that’s exactly what I do at some point during the day, nearly every other day of the week, and especially when the Steven is out of town for races.

I believe we all crave the comradery of our fellow supporting significant others. This sport is so intense (as I imagine it can be for any household and any job) and the intensity does periodically seep into our personal lives. Sometimes we just need to recharge and laugh off our frustrations. Every occasion is a memorable experience and as we sit over gelato, fresh-squeezed jugo del dia or café con leche, I am not only comforted but also reminded of this enchanting world in which I now live.

But I digress — it is reassuring to hear how much other women contribute to the household and to well-being of their pro-racing dudes. Most importantly, these gals provide a wealth of knowledge when I present questions about my most monstrous nemesis — meal preparation, otherwise known as Cooking. You see, I’m a non-cook now attempting to cook for an athlete who consumes three times that of the average guy. Apparently, I didn’t think that scenario through when we started dating.

Today, for instance, I walked around downtown Girona and its outskirts for more than an hour, accumulating multiple grocery bags from several different specialized supermarkets. Over here, we can’t just hit up a Whole Foods and walk out with one big basket of goodies. Most supermarkets aren’t so super — each carries a few necessities or specialty items. So you’ve got your favorite butcher, regularly stocked mini health food store, veggie stand, etc.

Baking a gluten-free cake for Steven's birthday. Quite successfully! Photo: Courtesy Jennifer Caudill.

As a professional cyclist, Steven not only eats a ton, but he needs to ingest as few preservatives as possible and he has several dietary allergies and restrictions. Since he keeps a gluten-free diet, I buy special rice bread at a “bio-store” across town. He also likes iron and vitamin-packed yams, but those seem to be hard to find in Girona, so I find those at yet another bio-store on the other side of town. Additionally, we both love a variety of fresh fruit, which I purchase at a local market adjacent to the first two mentioned stores. This creates a nice little triangle-shaped grocery shopping journey for me.

Upon my return, I was feeling triumphant as I contemplated the impending meal, so I decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator up four flights to our apartment — the perfect final “effort” to a brisk 60-minute hike. It was the best idea I had all day until I tripped on my way up the second flight and the rice cakes I purchased for Steven cushioned my fall. You see? The universe doesn’t even want me to be a cook!

On courageous days like today, I get in the kitchen to make my own lunch and suddenly feel the urge to “whip something up” for Steven right before he gets home from a tough ride. Let’s pause to define “whip something up.” In Jen World, this means I’ll prepare some brown rice and scramble in a few eggs to make it a fancy stir-fry. Sometimes I’ll even mix brown rice with some white basmati rice to make the presentation more colorful. Then I’ll sauté some refrigerated turkey or chicken from the night before to make it all fresh-like and throw it into the fancy stir-fry. This makes a wonderful concoction of edible post-ride food, and if I can sneak it to him while he’s still ravenous from his hard day of training, he’ll think it’s delicious.

Score.

I can really work some magic when it comes to the Crockpot. But can I just complain for one moment about how Mr. Gluten-free, dairy-free, beef-free puts a damper on my Crockpotting skills? Luckily, between my café group and our devoted friends and family, I am finally accumulating a few (still experimental) gluten-free, dairy-free, beef-free slow-cooking recipes.

Steven and Jen before the Volta Catalunya prologue. Photo: Courtesy Jennifer Caudill

Now don’t let me lead you to believe I am left to do all of the work in the kitchen. It would be wrong of me to forget to mention that Steven frequently makes our dinner and is constantly offering to prepare me a snack. He also makes divine gluten-free pancakes for breakfast on mornings before a big ride and always gives me first choice, hot off the stove.

Well, I’ve had a hike and celebratory coffee with the girls, completed the daily shopping and finished my work. Steven will be home in about half an hour and I’ve got butterflies because it’ll be his first day home in more than a week. He just finished Volta a Ciclista Catalunya and then continued his training by riding home from Barcelona. He gets intense like that sometimes, but I know he’s just taking advantage of every moment possible to be his best.

While we’re all doing our best, I’m going to attempt cooking for Steven again. Maybe I’ll “whip something up.”