Monday, March 31, 2008

Mooloolaba tri

Mooloolaba tri

I had a hierarchy of goals going into this tri:

1. Finish the tri.

2. Don't stop (no walking during the run).

3. Finish in under 3 hours.

Done, Done and DONE!

Mooloolaba is a beach town about an hour north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast. The tri there is the second largest in Australia with nearly 1500 competitors. The whole city shuts down for the weekend festival which includes 5K fun run, an ocean swim, a criterion race and the main attraction, the Tri.

I borrowed a bike from my friend Keri for the race. It's her old bike, it's a bit smaller than mine was, but it works. And I was incredibly grateful both to her for letting me use it and in general that I wasn't so broken from the accident that I couldn't race.

I stayed with Joan and Don who are an older couple from Cairns. Joan's in the road runner's club with me. Don's a tugboat captain (seriously). Saturday morning Joan, Julie and I went riding with a few others from Cairns, just to test out that the bikes were good and to try out the hills, then we went for a quick run. My legs felt heavy with anxiety. My run was sloppy and my ride was slow. And started me worrying about the race. My biggest fear was the swim. It's an ocean swim, and I haven't had to deal with surf in a long time. And there was talk that the water might be cold enough that they'd allow wetsuits. I don't own a wetsuit, but it would give advantage to those who do cause it helps you float.

Sunday morning I awoke at 4am to a nightmare that a croc had attacked me on a river. When it was finally time to get up, I put my hair into frenchbraids (which I'd been practicing). Ever since my first tri back in Boston, the hardcore women wore braids. My bangs are such that just pulling back into a ponytail guarantees not being able to see. And my new helmet doesn't offer much space for one anyway. So braids it was.

The swim start is about 1K down the beach from transition. A long cold walk in my tri suit. The sun hadn't really risen yet, the sand was cold and wet and there was a light breeze. By the time we reached the start I had only a few minutes before my heat. I was the first from the Cairns people to go since I'm the youngest. I positioned myself toward the back of the pack, cause I don't like getting swum over. When the horn sounded, we all rushed into the water. There's lots of kicking and flailing of arms all over the place, but the surf wasn't bad, it was easy to get beyond the breakers and on the way toward the buoys. The swim felt fantastic. It was the most relaxed swim I think I've ever had in a tri. All those laps really paid off. The saltwater makes you more buoyant, and the halfway buoys seemed to arrive in no time, and the final ones came even faster. I did get caught behind a few slower swimmers, but no matter. Even having to fight a rip to get back to shore didn't bug me. I felt fantastic.

There's a run of about 500 meters from where you emerge from the water to where you pick up your bike. And the timers don't actually give you a read for transition time, so most of that transition time is added to your bike time. The bike course is a Ks of rolling hills then out onto the highway (which was entirely closed to cars!) for the majority of the course which is relatively flat. For the first 10Ks or so I kept passing and being passed by this woman. It was good cause everytime she passed me I had another goal. I passed her as we were coming over the top of a rise, and I said "I'll see you at the bottom", but she never passed me back. Out there with so many people, I realized how much I love riding, and how much I'll miss it until I get a new bike and a new club. I must've had the stupidest grin on my face, but I was just so happy. I held around 30K/hr and a heartrate of around 170 the whole time. I felt fantastic.

The run was a bit tougher, and in the end my least favorite leg. I got passed by a lot of people on this leg and passed many fewer myself. The sun was high in the sky and warm. The course was a two lap course of out and back. This made it easy to spot my Cairns friends and cheer them on. I realized as I reached the halfway mark that I was on target to beat 3 hours. This thought alone carried me through the last ~30 minutes of running.

At the finish there were hugs and high 5s and lots of watermelon. My time of 2.51 that I recorded on my watch matches almost exactly my official time (which can be found here:

It feels good to know that I'm fit enough to do this distance of race. Now, I want to do it faster. (And I also want a new tri top, my new knicks are so much better than my old ones, they dry super fast, now I need a matching top!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Book ends

I went back out to the reef this weekend. My first weekend in Cairns I went to the reef and now my last. This time my trip was a present (Thanks, JZ!). Kimberley and Hamish joined me and a zippy boat that went out to the "outer reef" about an hour from Cairns. We stopped at 3 different locations on reef. Several tour companies have giant pontoons permanently stationed at the reef, this one didn't. It just attached to an anchor and we all dove off the back of the boat.

At the first location, I did an intro dive. This meant that I went out with an instructor and three others. They gave us a 30 minute briefing on how to clear our masks of water, how to take your regulator out and put it back in, and the hand signs. I've always been a bit weary of diving, but once we got under the water, I felt at ease. It was like flying. And being able to experience the coral in three dimensions was pretty amazing. The downside of being with a group of 5 people was that you didn't get to really explore, you had to follow the group. And, one of the girls in our group was freaking out a bit, so we all had to wait on her. I'd love to do it again, but I think it's probably worthwhile to get the certification so you can have a bit more freedom.

In that way the second and third stops were nice cause I just snorkeled there and could float around wherever I pleased. And I did spot several Nemo's. But these sites didn't have many really big fish. We saw some pretty substantial parrot fish, but no groupers and no sharks. We did see a ray though. Really though, the coral was the stand out. So many different types and colors, and so huge.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Back in the saddle and ready to ride

Easter is a big holiday here. I'd go so far as to say it's the Aussie equivalent of Thanksgiving. Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays, so many people travel for the four day weekend to visit family. It makes my last weekend in Cairns bittersweet since many people are away.

I've gone through my weekend rituals one last time. Saturdays start with a ride, then a quick shower and stretch and heading off to Perrotta's for coffee and eggs before I get too faint. After I've read the Cairns Post front to back (and perhaps had a second coffee), I head over to Rusty's farmer's market. I always go to this one stall first that sells organic tomatoes grown on the tablelands. They always have a few tomatoes sliced up and salted to try, and they are irresistible. Any other veg that I need, that's looking good, I get from this stall, otherwise I'll check out other vendors on my way through. And I follow the rule, if there's a mangostin, I'll buy it. Then a quick stop at the supermarket for things not available at the markets and home for a nap.

I've ridden 120K this weekend on Keri's old bike. I didn't know this, but apparently, there are different types of clip-in pedals for road bikes. (Why? So you have to stick with your brand, of course.) Keri's bike has the other kind of pedals to mine, and since it's Easter, I can't get the pedals swapped out with my pedals til Tuesday. I rode in running shoes. My race is in a week, and after this weekend's training, I'm feeling ready. I ran about 5K after my 40K ride this morning and felt good. This is gonna be a great race!

I'm still not very good at determining when I have a tail wind (there's always air rushing by my ears, so it must be a head wind, right?) But I know the route I take pretty well along the Northern Highway, and this morning I was flying on my way North, which meant I was gonna have a wicked head wind on the way back. And man, I was in struggletown. But then I remembered, this is what the wind was like when I first got the Cairns, in the dry. Always a solid wind coming from the South. Perhaps the wet is over.

It turned out to be a gorgeous day, so I took a walk out to the Esplanade for some ice cream and reading. The lagoon pool was teaming with people: families at the BBQs, kids in the pool, couples sunning themselves on the lawn, a few brave tourists playing on the mudflats. Sitting there it reminded me of my first day in Cairns, wandering about the city on a Sunday afternoon, wondering where every one was. Then, finally, happening upon the Esplanade and seeing every one enjoying the afternoon. I will miss this place when I'm gone.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Considering a visit to Australia?

I've started on the path to finding an Australian job. I had been planning on getting a tourist visa so I could surreptitiously look for jobs here, while not getting asked to leave the country.

Yesterday, I've even gotten word that I'll be getting an offer from the University of Queensland's technology tranfer business. Which is cool. But I'm not sure it's what I want. They have graciously offered to start the visa application process with me, while we each finalize that this is the right fit. I met with immigration this morning. Should this job fall through, I'll have 28 days to lodge another visa application.

Here's the hitch. Current wait to get a work visa is 4 months. During this time, I can't leave Australia and I can't work (though if immigration thinks that I am likely to get the visa, then they may grant me permission to work). So this means it may be time for my long overdue Australian holiday.

Anyone interested in visiting? Sydney and Melbourne are starting to cool off, and their winters aren't really anything to worry about. Cairns will be perfect pretty soon, dry, cool and safe swimming. Who's in?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Get well soon

It seems like sentiments for Get Well cards are hard to articulate. I received a card from my office that said on the outside "Sorry you're not well, but look on the bright side...", then the inside " least you're having that well-earned rest!"

As a card from work, this seems weird. Like it sorta sounds like maybe I'm just faking it to get a day off.

Better than that were the inscriptions in the card. A favorite: "Well done! Anything for a day off work. Have to try that some time." But definitely the best: "So happy you're alive!"

So what should one say in a get well card. Get well?

Road to recovery

Day 3:

Day 6:

It's been a week and some change since the accident. I had my first regular training session this morning: a swim. It felt pretty good. This afternoon, I'll try to run.
The bruising is not as bad as I expected. Purple shin, yellow hip, black pelvis. It's sort of like trying to solve a mystery, using the bruises to piece together how I landed. I'm convinced the small black bruise on my pelvis must have been from the handlebars.

Things are still sore even where the bruising is light. Can't lie on my left side yet, but no longer waking up in the middle of night when I try.

Most unexpected painful thing are sneezes. The contraction of the bruised abs is incredibly painful still. And I'm a much more nervous driver, checking blindspots three or four times before moving.

My friend Keri is letting me borrow her old bike for the race in Mooloolaba in 2 weeks, so I'll still get to compete, but the focus now is different. Now, I'm just really happy to get to race, speed is not important.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Motor Vehicle Accident at Low Speeds

This was my bike, during what I now know is the last race it will ever see. Because this is what my bike looks like now:

It doesn't look that bad. But it can't be fixed and it can't be replaced, and since it's part of the frame, it means the bike will never ride again.

This morning I went out for my first ride in a week (rain was only a sprinkle). Simone and I had only gone 3K, when a car didn't see me on the highway as it was coming off a side street. It ran through a yield sign, hit me from my left side and sent me over into the other lane. Other than some pretty gruesome bruises, I escaped without injury. Nothing broken. But my bike was not as lucky.

I brought my bike from the US. I arrived halfway around the world eight months ago with 3 suitcases and a bike. It is one of the few items from home that I made the effort to bring. And although I may not have always been the best caretaker of my bike, I loved it fiercely. I was heartbroken to learn that it had not survived the crash and that it will not be competing with me in my first olympic distance triathlon.

Even though I was not at fault in the accident. I still feel responsible. I saw the car, I knew it still had some speed, I just thought it had seen me. I thought it would stop. And I feel guilty, on behalf of my bike, for not riding more defensively.

I will miss you.
LeMond Tourmalet

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