Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Rain Delay - Gotta Love the Track!

So I thought that I would spare you all the crazy minute details of the second night of racing at Devonport as it was much the same as the previous night. I did, however get in a break during the scratch race with Katrina Heir (attending the Commonwealth Games for Scotland in the TT and pursuit) and we were away, but got reeled in with 1 to go. The crazy part is, that's probably the closest that I will come to winning a race here (in a break I mean)! So that was great - I also made the final for the 2000m wheel race where I was in good position with 1 to go but just couldn't stay on top of the speed - at least I know what I need to work on for the next little bit! So that's the short and sweet version of that evening. The definate highlight of the evening however, were all the adorable little kids who wanted to get a high-five as you rolled around to your event. Made me feel like a rock star - loved it - I wanna come back here next year! On a less positive note, yet equally outstanding, my lungs are dying - too many people smoking where we were warming up combined with a solid week of track - yeah the hack is back! Both Chris and I are hitting our groove a little more - but I really do think something is a little wrong when the only place I feel normal at the moment is on my bike saddle...a form of psychosis I tell you.
Yesterday saw a change of venue as we got to do a crit in downtown Bernie. It was "hot dog" shaped, which was a nice way of saying one long road with a U turn at each end. This resulted in an absolutely painful acceleration at the end of each straight - have I mentioned that the girls here are fast. It's the first crit in a long time that I have started hoping that I can stay in. As a result, I was probably a little more conservative that I normally would have been - but I still gave it a go once. It didn't last long though, as Belinda Goss attacked (in a much more convincing fashion I might add) just after and we got a bit of a gap - but the girls weren't going to let her get away. A little while later the field did let 2 girls get away and we were left sprinting for 3rd. I finished up 6th behind Belinda Goss, Peta Mullens and Jessica Berry in the field sprint - just out of the money, but I figure it was a better finish than I have seen prior to then. So that was my New Year's Eve. We were in the hotel room by 9:30 and called it a night shortly after that - we are party animals! Only to wake up this morning to pissing rain. We went into Bernie (where the carnival was supposed to be held) and grabbed a coffee at the McCafe where we ran into a commissaire and were told that the races were postponed until tomorrow - so I think Narnia is on the plan for today.
Oh right! And a Happy New Year to everyone at home! This will probably be the longest year of my life - only because I get to start it 18 hours before those of you in Calgary! 2006 has been rainy to date, but I figure things can only get better *as long as it doesn't snow here*!
And with a few thoughts to leave you with - here are a few games that I have started playing since I got to Australia - quite funny really:
1) How many BTs on the track at once? Chris figured that he got up to 9 in the A grade scratch race the other night
2) How many Lance Armstrongs are on the road? Very rarely do we do a ride where we do not see at least one Postal/Discovery/Yellow yersey (or combination of the 3) rider on the road
and finally 3) Fake or not? This one can only really be played at the beach. And while it may seem in poor taste for me to mention this one - you would be truly surprised at the number of visible female augmentation we have been witness to in Oz. Maybe it's easier to justify if you live in a bathing suit...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

SOOO cold!

Okay, so it's only Australia cold, but really, what’s going on? I think I’m having flashbacks to Nationals in ’99 – it’s supposed to be summer…but it’s cold! But it’s not racing so the show must go on. Another night and more racing – and I’m improving slowly but surely. My lightning wheel race (1000m) heat went really well. I caught the girls on the mark ahead of me (I started on the 25m) and then we quickly caught the girls ahead. Honestly, it could not have gone better – so I finished 3rd in the heat behind Jessica Berry and Belinda Goss so on through to the final. The final was less successful. There was a group of 7 girls from the back markers – but for whatever reason, the other girls didn’t really want to work. I ended up taking 2 pulls in 500m – so I did my part, but we aren’t going to catch the frontrunners if the fast girls aren’t willing to work. I was however, much happier with the state of affairs this evening. Right now might be the time to point out that we were talking to a new buddy of ours who said he has won 4 or 5 of the wheel races. However, in order to do this, each time he had to pay off at least 6 people in order to do it – so yes, it’s a bit of a gong show to say the least!My second, and only other race (which has proved to be a point of contention with all the female riders – we have an international caliber field, but as it the case so many times in women’s cycling we are not given the respect in terms of number of races and prize money that we deserve) so yeah, second race was a 4km scratch race. It was fast (again!), but I felt that it was my best race to date. It was a little sketch – I absolutely love that I have to turn my bike – that’s not normal – the banking usually helps you out a little more. But I made it to the end – unfortunately though I was shuffled to the back in the closing laps and didn’t get a good position going into the sprint. That having been said I moved up through the field during the sprint AND we dropped people that weren’t me! I was pretty stoked – still haven’t got my podium though!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Day 2: the Silverdome - yes, I'm still cycling, but doesn't it sound important?

The second night of racing proved to be as educational as the first – only this time my inner fire is starting to burn. With my self-confidence on the track returning, I was pleased to get to race in a most beautiful facility. The Silverdome in Launceston is an absolutely beautiful track – it feels incredibly fast and the atmosphere is awesome! The afternoon session started at 2pm, but I only had one event to contest – the Elimination. Now, anyone who knows the events, understands that tactics play a huge role – quite often more than fitness itself. I, myself, seem to have an interesting affliction of either doing incredibly well, or quite badly – my mid-range is somewhat limited. Unfortunately, this evening proved to be more of the latter. Off on the neutral lap, I thought that I was in good – sitting pretty in the top 5 girls near the bottom of the track, but the positioning was indeed too good to be true. Just before the end of the neutral we were swamped by the back half of the field overtop and I ended up in the back-half of the field – somewhere I didn’t really want to be with this kind of speed on hand. I managed to fight and play the devil for about 5 rounds, with my luck soon running out. On the lap I was eliminated I probably could have shot a gap coming around corner four between one of the Scottish girls and the field – but at the time I felt it was a little dicey, and didn’t really want to be known as the girl who caused the crash…but in retrospect perhaps I should have gone for it! :P
So, with the first race out of the way, I got to deal with the most exciting part of the evening – my new Kenda stuff has arrived!!! I’m super excited – nothing is more fun than new team stuff – so I got to sport it for the first time in the scratch race. After a more than humbling experience last time, I decided that I might as well try to give it a run off the front. Under the advice of a fellow competitor I also geared up – I believe that both the change in mentality and the slightly bigger gear helped me to fend for myself much better this evening. I did manage to pry myself off the front for about a millisecond – but the group was just moving too fast and I was countered immediately. However, the group did stay together and it came down to a bunch sprint. In the final lap there was some potentially bad clashing directly above me, so I backed off a little, but came around to finish 7th – not bad, but improvement is definitely being made.
Bring on the final event of the evening – the 2000m wheel race. Anger is the only way I can sum up how it went down. Off the line I somehow managed to drop the two girls starting on the 50m mark with me, while at the same time get more gapped by the rider on the 60m mark. Consequently, I ended up giving it my all for a lap and a half before the other 3 back markers caught up. By this point I was somewhat cooked and jumped on the back of their train. Unfortunately, despite the draft, Jessica Barry (who started on the 30m mark, and I can only imagine got a bit of a boost from the other two girls on my mark getting a slow start) road me right off her wheel. The whole experience was rather humbling, and needless to say, we didn’t make it up to contest the sprint. Therefore no final…but the positive part is that I was angry about it. How is that good you ask? Well, the thing is, the other day I was resigned to the fact that the other girls were faster than me, now I’m starting to get a little feisty and expect things of myself – I’ll be rocking by the end of the week! (because we all know that physiology can definitely change in a 7 day period…)Next it’s off to Devonport tomorrow – another day, another chance to get better…and I was to WIN! :P

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing Day - First Day at the Races

And I'm trying to recover. Man, was today ever an eye opener - I'm just not used to getting beat quite so much on a track bike. It's like all the Aussie's have my exact skill set (all speed and bike handling) it's just that they are better at it - I was humbly reminded that while I missed out on the Canadian 500m National Title, I would have been like 8th in the Australian junior field. The speed is just unreal - and I don't like being dropped on the track!!! :P But I figure that I will race into it.
Part of my performance (or lack thereof) has to do with the type of racing they do over here. Most of it is handicapped as to allow the up and coming riders (such as a U17 girl I was chatting to before the final of the 2000m wheel race) to race with world class competitors (Belinda Goss is the heavy favourite in most of my races after having medalled in the scratch race at the first world cup). The organizers decided that I would be placed on the 25m mark (that would be 25m in front of the fastest girls on the scratch line) for the 1000m wheel race and as follows, the 50m mark of the 2000m wheel race. It will be interesting to see if they keep that mark for me in the days to come.
Racing at the Latrobe Recreation Centre started this morning at 10:00 with my first race being the 1000m wheel race (in case I have not made it clear, a wheel race is the handicapped race). My first jaunt on the track in Australia was a little lacklustre. After two months of long miles, the kilo that I was subjected to was a little on the harsh side. I managed to catch the Kate Cullen (attended the last world cup for the UK - competing with the Scottish team here in Tasmania) relatively quickly, only to get blown off the wheel in a bit of confusion about 400m in - I never really recovered and consequently did not make the top 7 in order to move on. Chalking it up to experience, I looked forward to the slightly longer 2km wheel race later in the afternoon.
Luckily, the 2km did indeed treat me better. I was at the 50m mark with a (very nice) girl from New Zealand named Rosie McCall - and together we were able to make up the majority of the handicap - however the speedsters on the 230m mark managed to elude our efforts and stay away. I squeaked into the final, finishing 7th in the heat with a turn of speed at the end (it was nice to feel fast comparitively!!!) The final played out similarly, but Rosie (who also made it through) had 4 or 5 girls behind us. Again we were unable to catch the girls who had started on the 230m mark, but this time I was blown off with just under 1 lap (approx 400m) due to a bit too long a pull into the wind on my part followed by the last lap speed serge.
After a bite to eat and a little recovery time, I was ready to tackle the 3km scratch race. I felt fairly strong and in control - I was riding my own race - but again the final serge of speed caught me out as the wind blasted me on the final lap. However, despite this, I feel like it was a solid day of racing on my part and the lack of results are more due to the excellent calibre of the field.
Just one day here and my outlook on track racing has changed a little. First off, my legs are not that big - most of the girls here are about my size, but with larger legs...and they are beating me. Second of all, I totally understand how the Australian dominate any racing that is FAST. From a very young age they are teaching their athletes to go fast over very short distances - and then you can extend the distance - a great example of this is Jesse McLean - one of the other competitors here is a former World Junior Pursuit Champion (from only a few years back) - but I'm starting to get it. Finally, track racing can be interesting to watch. The thousands of people who attended today's event (and I would guess that they weren't all here to watch the "chop" and running races!) are a testament to this - but then again, all the racing is geared towards the crowd. Short, fast, exciting and anyone can win - top this off with an announcer that must have experience at a horse track and it was quite the spectacle!
Chris had a similarly "for experience" day. He felt that a combination of an overly optimistic marking from the officials (he was looking for something a little more than 180m over 3km - those boys are cooking!) combined with some of the fastest racing he'd ever experience led to a painful, yet fun track experience. He had varying levels of success in the men's 2 and 3km wheel races as well as a 5km scratch race - not exactly his ideal set of races!
Tomorrow we get to rest up to prepare ourselves for a 5 day run of racing (Chris and I are definately feeling the intensity!) As for the picture - it is a Tasmanian Devil. Now I realize that the tasmanian devil has NOTHING to do with today's post - but Becca had made a special request and how could I possibly refuse???
Signing out from a girl who hopes my fast twitch muscle fibres wake up!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve in a Wind Storm

Well it ain’t snowing – mind you, sounds like it might not snow in Calgary either – but the rain is pelting against the door and we’re in high Christmas spirits. Checked in this afternoon to our home for the next week of track racing at the Bass and Flinders Motor Inn in the scenic town of Ulverstone, Tasmania. Seems like it’s going to work out well – making due with only a microwave and a bar fridge for our Christmas feast – however, we do have lots of garlands and Christmas Carols. Berdt is super festive as you can see – surprisingly enough only a few people have commented – we think they are under the impression that we are nuts!
On food related topics – Chris has been keeping up his protein intake over the last week – this hit home particularly when I was checking through my pictures and found three in a row of Chris eating various meals. We didn’t, unfortunately, get a picture of the BBQ Chris cooked up while we were in Hobart consisting of 2 steaks, 2 lamb chops and 4 beef sausages – and all that for only $6.47…we also had vegetables, but that’s of no consequence. Now, the impressive part being that I only ate 1 steak and half a sausage – leaving the rest to Chris – which he finished off quite handily. As my dad put it – it was most likely equivalent to about half the protein my sister ingested the entire time she was in China (which was about 3.5 months)…so yeah, he’s trying to become a bodybuilder – or at least that’s the best I can figure!
I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas – definitely weird not to be home but “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams”…

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Berdt Goes to the Doctor

Great news! Chris and I gave ourselves a starter motor (plus installation labour) to each other for Christmas - isn't that romantic??? Yes, I am stoked. I am also happy to report that after a 3 hour car hospital visit (with a much shorter surgery time of just over 15 minutes - we were there for when he woke up in case he was frightened and couldn't figure out where he was), I had a successful start this afternoon. No coughing, no studdering, in short, no sickly noises - only the hum of the Ford Falcon engine (after 310,000 km - a threshold we officially surpassed earlier this week). It is only a transplant - slightly used if you will - but hopefully it should work out well - at least we don't need to fret about stalling, or getting off the ferry anymore. Besides, Chris was just getting too darn good at the push start ;)
In other arenas (we have covered the car, so naturally the next news to share is about bicycles) we climbed Mount Wellington yesterday - I believe it may actually be the highest peak in Tasmania - and it's well worth it. Two hours of climbing put you just over 1000m above sea level and you can see forever! It's was however, a little chilly coming down seeings as we didn't have to pedal for 20km!
Today we have the great stocking mission on tap. Chris and I will set off into the great metropolis of Hobart (population of just over 100,000 I believe) and stuff the greatest stocking ever (barring yours Momma!) - I can't wait - it's gonna be SOOO much fun. I do, however, need to get off this computer in order to do that though - so if I am stranded without internet until after Christmas - Merry Christmas all. I will be thinking of you as the sun beats brilliantly (the UV index down here is off the map!) or the rain pelts down on us (in which case it gets unbelievably cold!), but I wish you all the best white Christmas ever - I'll let you know just how weird it is to be in the middle of summer!
I would also like to give a shout out to the city of Hobart - it's really very beautiful and the people are amazingly friendly. We both have really enjoyed staying here - it's A1!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Let the Games Begin!

...but not for us - but man, is it ever a good story! Chris has been referring to it as the best Canadian landing since Dieppe...but I'll start from the beginning.
After leaving Coolangatta, we headed down (via Seal's Rock for another great surfing lesson with Deano) to Sydney where we spent just under a week with Rob and Alex - had a great time, but were ready to move on and ride somewhere that wasn't Centennial Park (the 3km loop got a little old after the 3rd consecutive day! So off down to Melbourne we went where Sandy and Laurence and the kids (plus a new 10 week old kitten and 8 week old Lab/Poodle puppy) generously let us invade their place again - even Chris couldn't avoid the pull of the adorable young pets! So yes, that got us to heading over here to Tasmania.
Finding the ferry was a bit of a challenge and proved to provide a little entertainment when we got on a toll road with no possible way to pay the toll - this of course resulted in Jenny freaking out and getting off the road as fast a humanly possible (while respecting the rules of the road and using the appropriate off and on ramps that it) - but we got there in time (it was a really good thing that we had left ourselves 2.5 hours!) and hunkered down for an evening on a ferry. The ferry was pretty cool and went unbelievable quick as we were sleeping - and only once did I fear for my life as I woke up from a shift in the boat and had sudden images of the Titanic float (or is that sink?) through my head...but I'm still here!
Getting off the ferry was a bit of an ordeal - but Berdt decided to start - so we had achieved our first success of the morning - next mission: get to Rosebury to race bicycles. After a coffee stop just outside of Devonport we were off driving on small country roads through beautiful countryside...and masses of water falling on our heads. We both were a little apprehensive about the rain (they had been racing on the track in the rain in Brisbane - so there was no accounting what the crazy Aussies would do!) but we drove straight there - and in fact, straight through the town as the population tops out at about 1500 - but it is a major mining town on the West Coast (we would soon find out that the reason it was a major settlement is that, as the locals put it, it only rains 5 days a week - it drips off the trees the other 2!). We did find the track (a lovely circular asphalt construction around a footy field - appanrently we can look forward to more of this!) but we felt that there was something amiss as we pulled up. As we were ushered into a parking spot, all we could see was big burly men and soon enough they figured out that we didn't fit in. "Oh, you are bikies! Didn't anyone tell you?" At this point we were rather concerned - turns out that the bike races were postponed for a month due to the rain (go figure!) but that we were free to stay and watch the "chop". Of course, good times ensued. We saw 5 horus of lumberjack competition that day - the competitors ranged from 8 to 82 years - pretty phenomenal and I must admit they were handy with the axes. Although apparently the referee screwed up and placed one of the competition logs in a heat - and there were some nasty words exchanged as a result!
Rosebury then turned out to be one of the best experiences here on Aussie soil (although I'm not sure we are strictly in Australia here...we're in Tasmania!). Loris, one of the event organizers, took us in for the evening and took us out for dinner with the gang. It was a great time (although it did confirm that I am NOT a small town chicka) and the next day we got to be a part of their town parade!!! (see the picture) We were going to go for a hike after the parade (right down main street I might add), but we have gone soft and the rain chased us out - that afternoon we drove over 5 hours (which I'm pretty sure you have to work to do on the island) by heading over to the "tourist" town of Stahan (pop. 750) and over the interior all the way to Hobart. By the time we arrived I had pretty much lost my mind - but we were in good spirits - plus the guy at the only LPG suppling petrol station on the West Coast checked out Berdt and his battery and we now officially know that it is our starter motor - so all was not lost in the detour to Stahan.
As an aside - I know you all like to hear about Berdt - it really does highlight the advantage of a new (pre-grunge era) car!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Re-starting the Adventure

And we are on the road again - funny enough, despite a two month hiatus, nothing has changed when it comes to being on the road. The drivers here are still sketchy, my temper is short, the scenery is beautiful, and Bernt has decided to act up (oh goodie!) and I can't get internet access to provide you with photographic evidence of our trip. :P
After a great final week in Coolangatta, complete with crazy thunder storms (I swear I was up for like 2 hours, and every time I started to fall asleep I was awoken by another crash of thunder - just unreal, I guess they got 6 inches of rain about 10km up the road!), the start and end of The DaVinci Code, the purchase of the newest Diana Gabaldon book (which I'm super stoked to start tonight) we hit the road this morning (as Chris' coffee hit the windsheild). We said farewell to our temporary home in the morning and went to say goodbye to the Markwell Cafe for breakfast. Chris decided to be a devil and get a coffee to go - so we head off down the road. No more than 100m after we take off there is a roundabout. As we navigate through this roundabout, Chris is checking out the map and forgets that he has placed his coffee cup on the dash - only to get it in his lap half a second later. It was a riot! He's come around - mostly with the help of the coffee shop being dudely and giving him a free coffee to replace the fallen one.
So we were on the road again, for a mighty 80km. Byron Beach was our first destination as we wanted to say goodbye to the northern coast in style (it was of course the most beautiful day we've had all week and we were driving!!!) After a jump in the sea and a sunbake session we were back in the car headed down to Port MacQuarie (we are creatures of habit, what can I say?) where I am yet again standing at a computer terminal at the same campsite as I was 2 months ago! The only hiccup in our travel today was in Cough's Harbour - of all places! We stopped to get some gas and when we went to get going again, the blasted battery wouldn't start. Luckily a lovely lady gave us a boost (after the gas attendant almost killed himself with the booster wires - he got a good lesson on 'completing the circuit' - ie lots of sparks!) - it was nice that neither of the other parties involved questioned how a car battery wouldn't work only minutes after it had been running for 3 hours - I certainly did! So we got going again - but really we should have known better than to try to stop near the Big Banana - it's a cursed town I tell ya!!! While I'm thinking of Berdt maintainance - I have a poll question: when the car is leaking oil and you have to replace it entirely every 1000 or so km - do you have to pay to get the oil changed? Because really, the oil is recycling itself - ahh the backpacker car dilemna - but I would love to hear what you think.
Barring no other problems, we are getting up tomorrow to do a lovely ride only to hit the road again. Our first stop is Seals Rock for another surfing lesson (Chris is decidedly disappointed with his current improvement - beind none as we have only surfed the one time!) and then off to Sydney's northern beaches and Sydney to see Rob and Alex. Then over the next week we are going to make our way to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road - that being the road on the south-eastern corner before checking out a few digs and looking for jobs in Melbourne for a week prior to our departure for Tassie on the 16th. The next few weeks will be undoubtably eventful as our journey re-starts...but please keep your fingers crossed for the well-being of Bernt!!!
And a very Happy Birthday to my Momma!!! December teh 3rd is her special day - love you lots!!! Later kids...