Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Devonport ITU

This is definitely a first for me: a January race report!

As much as I'd love to buckle down and train hard until the first race, coming out fit and ready to roll, I haven't earned that luxury. Without racing on the ITU circuit since September 2009, I am well off the radar in terms of World and Olympic Rankings, not to mention a little rusty when it comes to racing. So, to ensure I get a start at the first WCS race in Sydney and to get myself on the board for Olympic points, Darren and I decided I should head south to Tasmania for the Devonport Oceana Sprint Champs. It was also a great opportunity to see how my fitness is coming along and go through to motions of prepping for an event. I have to admit, I was pretty hesitant to commit to this event in the first place. It was early January when Darren first suggested it and coming off a large swim block and some bike and run strength work, I wasn't feeling overly confident in my race speediness. I figured though, I could either overthink things to death or just get on with it.

So, I packed up my bike and joined training partners Dave, Mike, Andi, and Barb in Tasmania. It turned into quite the trek to get down there with some stormy weather canceling our flight from Melbourne. We were re-routed to another airport and by the time we landed we discovered the race was turned into a duathlon because of the heavy rain. And here's another first for me: I was disappointed the swim was canceled! In previous years I'd be doing a small happy dance inside her head with this news, but what I really wanted was the chance to see the progression in my swim. Anyway, I had to get over this disappointment quickly and mentally prepare for a completely different event: 5km run-20km bike-2.5km run.

With junior world champion and speedy runner, Ashleigh Gentle in the race, and WCS winner Barbara, I knew we were in for some quick running. I prepared myself by thinking of the first 5k as a road race and I'm glad I did because my legs haven't moved that quick in...... oh, a very long time. Ashleigh pulled away from Barb and I on the first run so once we got on our bikes, our mission was to reel her in. We were quickly closing the gap by the 3rd of 4 laps but when we rolled through transition with one to go, we noticed her bike was racked and she was out running! Barb and I continued because we knew we had one lap to go, but officials quickly stepped out in front of us and told us to turn around. It was a bit of a messy situation and I had a very slow T2 as a result. I left transition in 3rd and that's where I finished. Once the officials had time to look at the splits, they quickly realized that we had done one less bike lap, but because everyone did one less lap, no one was disqualified. It was chaotic, but I guess that's the way it goes sometimes. For an race officials point of view, I can understand how they could have got mixed up as we were on the course with about 50 junior women, all on different laps of the bike. Besides, the onus is always on the athletes when it comes to counting laps.

I was initially disappointed with my result. Again, I don't like racing if I'm not "really" ready. But, looking back on it, I realize that I did have a solid race. And, my gosh, it's only JANUARY. Sometimes you have to keep things in perspective.

This race also took place exactly one year after my bike crash in Maui last year. I never thought it would take me a full year to get back out there, but I guess better late than never.

Many thanks to my wonderful homestay, the Lyon Family and to the hospitality provided by all involved with the event. Tassie spirit is even more spritely than I remember, and it is a stunning part of the world. I look forward to returning one day with Adam for some serious adventuring.

And now, with almost the entire D-squad in Canberra, we're into the swing of things. It's hot here and we've got a fantastic, motivated (sometimes crazy) squad. I couldn't ask for more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas Down Under

It was a different sort of Christmas for Adam and I this year. Having spent the last 28 Christmases in BC with my family in the cold, damp west coast weather, always with an explosion of presents under the tree, a non-stop buffet of the usual Christmas tasty treats, and permission to act like a five-year-old on Christmas morning for all days leading up to the "big day," this year couldn't be any further from the norm. I guess you could say it was somewhat subdued compared to this usual fanfare.

Adam arrived on the 18th, but with my training still on the go for another week, I wasn't a whole pile of fun, but he quickly meshed in to the athlete life. Don't feel bad for him though, because if you asked him what his ideal holiday would be, he would say running all day, everyday in beautiful places. Thankfully the trails around Canberra met his picky trail running criteria, so while I was out swimming and riding, he was busy in the hills. However, I do have to note that he would frequently start the rides with our group, backpack with run gear over his shoulders, and ditch his bike in the bushes out of town, heading off for a run while we did our session. Holiday for Adam is catch-up time for all the running he missed while in class and studying (aka over-training galore).

The last scheduled training session was over by mid-day on the 23rd and it was time to get into the Christmas spirit, ASAP. I had planned on an epic shopping session at the mall but after about 30 minutes walking through packed shops on tired legs, I was over it. We did go to a craft fair though and buy the most amazing Christmas cake, my favourite holiday treat. That was definitely a highlight! On Christmas Eve we joined our neighbours at the historic church across the street for some carol singing. It was a blast! And, if you need a giggle, just ask Adam to sing "Hark now hear the angels sing!" That guy has got some serious chops! ;-)

Christmas morning began with a run up and around Mt. Ainslie, the trails closest to our house, present-opening, and a pancake breakfast. We then drove up to Sydney and walked around the city for hours on the most beautiful and hot of days, and judging by the size of my feet and ankles that night, I probably walked more than ever before! The streets were packed with others who were also away from home and the holiday energy was infectious. Boxing day began with an ocean swim with with training mate, Dave at Bondi Beach and then a slightly-toned down afternoon of walking. I thought North Americans knew how to shop on Boxing Day, but Aussies take it to a whole new level. Shops opened at 5:30am and the streets were absolutely jammed with happy shoppers from sunrise to sunset. This was the first year in awhile that I haven't had my partner in crime, my sister Amanda, for an epic Boxing Day shop and you can be assured that Adam is not a sufficient substitute in this department. Sadly, there was no "shopping arm" for me this year (that is the medical term, coined by Amanda for the pain from carrying too many bags).

Next stop were the Blue Mountains, about an hour west of Sydney. We stayed at a cozy B & B in Wentworth Falls and spent our 1st wedding anniversary exploring the lush jungles and steep cliffs. If it weren't for the "leech incident", I would have described our hike/run as memorable, but now it definitely goes in to the category of "unforgettable." We had been on the move for quite awhile and were in the thick of the jungle on the valley floor when I felt something on my ankle. I looked down and saw the biggest, slimiest creature clinging to me. I went to flick it off only to realize that it was stuck inside me! I screamed, or rather had a serious panic attack as I had no idea what this was, but I was bleeding and couldn't get this thing off of me. Then I saw there were more, inside my socks, and others on my shoes trying to get their sucker into my skin! It was getting dark at this point and we still had to climb back up the mountain so there wasn't a lot of time to freak out. I pulled myself together the best I could and we ran out of there as quick as possible, doing mandatory "leech checks" every 10 mins. I felt sick to my stomach by the time we got home, but now that days have passed, I can laugh about it... sort of. An unforgettable anniversary no doubt!

We're now back in Canberra and training is back to normal for me. Adam is here just for a few more days and although it has been a fantastic holiday together, it's really hard to think that it will be over 4 months until I see him again. I've got to say, Skype sure makes life a whole lot easier!

I will be posting a race schedule soon. It sure seems like awhile since I've used those words! Bring on 2011, I can't wait.

Happy New Year to all! Here's to a new year full of health and happiness!

Christmas morning at Mt. Ainslie

Mt. Ainslie

Blue Mountains

Decending the valley. Look closely and you can see the stairs.

Some sections required ropes to descend!

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, just outside Canberra.

A wild emu!

My city wheels