Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Australia Day

I can't help it. When I have data, I make graphs. I've been keeping track of my training for the last four months. Swimming produces the most data since I time each of my pieces. Each block on the graph represents a piece, the x position is the distance of that piece, they y position is the pace for 100m during that piece, and the color shows the month. Lighter blue is earlier, darker blue is more recent. I think this looks pretty cool. I can see my progress. The bike data doesn't look that impressive.

In this one, the y axis is speed, so seeing darker blocks further up the graph would show progress. Here, this shows that I've been lengthening my pieces (as well as doing some additional short ones) at about the same speed I've been doing the shorter pieces. Not much progress.

This was painfully clear last saturday on my first 90K ride. We had 7 people on the ride, which is a good number. It's much easier to hang with the pack than it is to try to push yourself for the entire ride. When I first started riding, it took a lot of humility to get up. I knew I was pretty much out of my league, but I still did it. For the last couple of weeks, I've felt really good on my 80K rides. I started fancying myself a bit of a cyclist. This week, we did hills. We did about 50K of hills. Not huge hills, but still. I couldn't keep up. I couldn't even be close. Now I was back to being the 8 year old kid trying to keep up with the 12 year olds. They had 6 speeds. I had streamers. I finished the ride.

But all was not lost. I stopped by the Australia Day breakfast at Yorkey's Knob beach. Got an Australian flag for my bike and enjoyed a song about the "Nothen Teritry".

That afternoon Simone, Matt, Joe (the new intern) and I enjoyed a few beers, a ton of pizza and some Cane Toad Races. Which was a clear highlight of the day. You don't get a real sense of scale from the picture, but number 6 was easily the size of a very large mango. Toads were put in a upside-down bucket. Then the bucket was removed and the first toad to meet the outside perimeter wins. Of course the best part was when the kids discovered that they could just run in and chase the toads around. These are those toads that excrete poison from their skin. They have no natural predators because they kill off anything that eats them. And they are supposedly the toads that will get you high. Ah, the perfect childhood game!

That evening I met up with some friends for some drinks to finish up our Australia Day right. Unfortunately the combination of the bike ride, the drinks and the pizza, I was done by about 7:30. Maybe not the ulitimate in Australia Day's, but still a pretty good one. And definitely a bit more low key than your typical fourth of July.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Time zones versus end zones

Cairns is 15 hours ahead of the East coast. This means that Sunday games become Monday games for me. And generally games that happen during work at that. Sunday's AFC championship game then was aired here live at 6am. Not an ideal time for me, since I don't get ESPN, and I didn't know of any bars available at that hour.

But luckily it was rebroadcast at 9pm on Monday, so after carefully avoiding all American media for the day, I was able to enjoy the game 13 hours after it was played in suspenseful ignorance of its outcome. And I was happy with this arrangement with the exception that they did cut a few "inconsequential" minutes from the game to make it fit in the alotted 3 hour slot, but kept all the commercials.

All was going according to plan. The defense was playing quite well. I was even explaining the game ("gridiron" as it's refered to here) to my Aussie friends. That was until 10:50pm, when we discovered the bar we were enjoying the game at was closing, and there was still an hour to go. We wandered out to another bar with two large projection screens. One of which was playing the NFC game and had some very vocal, very large fans. I wasn't about to ask them to change the station. But the other screen was showing doubles from the Aussie Open, and no one was watching it. However, my pleas to change the station fell on deaf ears. Of course the Australian tennis was going to be showed, couldn't I just be satisfied with the NFC game? No.

So off we wandered, trying another bar which was closed. Really, I thought that backpackers knew no day of the week. Why weren't these bars open? Finally we found the game on at the casino. Seated at a closed blackjack table, we watched the last 10 minutes of the game, and the pats clinch the championship.

Now for the superbowl. I'm tempted to just take the day off. The game will air live at 9am on Monday here. That's reasonable right? Maybe I could just call in sick?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Putting the wheels back on

It's actually sunny today, or it will be for the next couple of hours before the next storm rolls in. And my luggage arrived this morning. Only 5 days late! It appears to be un-tampered with, though I haven't had a chance to unpack yet.

First run in Cairns this arv.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The wet has arrived

Can't wait for Sunday when it's Mild instead of Warm!

Signs that Australia doesn't want me back

1. Despite the nearly $3000 ticket price, I was not allowed to upgrade my ticket to Sydney with points cause it was the wrong fare type.

2. The turbulence when we left San Francisco was so bad, so back and forth, right to left, that I thought something was broken with the plane. I kept expecting them to turn around. The crew kept trying to serve dinner and kept getting told to take a seat. It continued for 3.5 hours, we didn't hit smooth skies til we were over Hawaii.

3. Although I arrived at least 30 minutes before the flight, Qantas wouldn't let me check in for my flight to Cairns. And since I had flown in on United, United had to rebook me on another flight, that would have to be on Qantas, cause United doesn't fly to Cairns.

4. Standing at the Qantas counter, on the phone with United, my connection keeps getting cut off as soon as they go to search for a new flight for me.

5. It's been three days, and there's still no luggage. The website keeps telling me, "Unfortunately, your baggage has not been located. However, we do have it on priority trace. We apologize for any inconvenience we may be causing you."

6. All three of the phone numbers I have go directly to voicemail, and no one will call me back.

7. My running shoes, my biking shoes, my goggles are all in that bag. Along with items that can't be purchased easily in Australia, like gu.

8. BCG doesn't have travelers insurance on "this type of thing"

9. My garage was flooded with about 8" of water this morning. Welcome, the Wet!

10. I woke up with a sore throat.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Holiday by the numbers

8 flights in
15 days for a total of
65 travel hours (including 2 x 28 hour trips), carrying
48 lbs of luggage on the way to the states and
58 lbs on the way back.
2 x-rays screens, max, per flight with only
1 missed flight and
1 lost piece of luggage, garnering
~25,000 frequent flier miles.
78 Fahrenheit degree range in temperatures (from 85 to 7, or 30 to -14 Celsius)

A few highlights:

Christmas Day snowshoeing on Mt Hood.
As our family Christmas present this year, my mom took the family snow shoeing, something neither she nor any member of our immediate family had done before. I enjoyed it immensely, especially walking off the trails, through the forest as fluffly flakes drifted all around us coating boughs of trees. Just pristine. Only disturbed by my gales of laughter as my sister kept sinking to her hips into the snow and her howls of "fuck you" back at me.

New Year's Eve in Boston.
This New Year's was marked by last minute plans. When I arrived in Boston, it seemed that no one had it quite figured out. As a result, Jonathan and I found ourselves at an HLS colleague's house for drinks, Oishii Sudbury (the best sushi in the greater Boston area) for dinner, and Simone's house to ring in the new year. All in all a very good (and effective) practice date.

New Year's Day Brunch.
After a very, very cold run along the Boston and Cambridge Esplanade, I caught up with friends for brunch. In addition to our yummy french toast, I got every one to try a Tim Tam slam. Yum.

A very good first date.

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