Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Spirit

I haven't had time to write a blog in the last couple days.  I don't know why.  But I will catch you up little by little.

I left at 9:00 pm on the 22nd for Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania in the Melbourne port.  Several reasons I took the boat instead of flying- I could save $ (because of luggage fees with bikes and stuff it would be really expensive to fly), I could have a cool adventure, I could try to get over my fear of the ocean, and I could save more $.  So, I did it.
Well, I saved money for sure.  But my spirit of adventure ended when I remembered how sea sick I get and how scared I am on the ocean/sharks/etc..  So, in order to help with the other two factors, I swallowed the magic pills and went to sleep... the whole way.  Yes, I looked totally silly but I got a full night's sleep with my set up.
I payed for the recliner seats instead of a private cabin.  I realized that most people who pay for these seats do so because they plan on staying up all night at the bars/restaurants on board.  Even though these seats were sold out, the recliner cabin seemed kind of empty when I went to sleep and when I woke up.

I arrived in Devonport TAS at 7:00 am, checked in my hotel, ate some breakfast, put the bikes together, and headed out on a ride.... views to die for.  Pictures don't do any justice or else I would post them all.  Devonport is a super small port town. Rustic beaches. Blue skies. Winding roads. I could have ridden my bike all day. 

I had a nice dinner and went to bed early.  Good thing I wasn't looking for entertainment because I think the town shut down at 6:00 pm.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Boxing Day

Christmas is done... well here down under.  It wasn't festive or exciting but I will give more details later.  Not to be a downer but I spent the whole day alone driving around Tasmania avoiding my new "home" because there was sickness lurking in the apartment.

For now, I am on my way to start the 5 days of racing called the Tasmanian Carnivals.  I have been joined by 3 American male racers.  Andrew Armstrong is sick.  Dean Tracy and Kelyn Akuna arrived last night without bikes.  So it looks like I will be the only one racing today, maybe.  Men, what are we going to do with them?

Ok- more tonight when I get home.  

Merry Christmas to all those back home!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Here today- Tasmania tomorrow

This weekend I raced Victorian Championships which is a big deal to the local AUS racers because I think it qualifies them to go to Nationals.  (no- different from the US system)  It's funny though because you don't need to be a Australian or even from Victoria to race.  So, the scene was full of people from all around Australia and even a couple foreigners like myself... the Yankee they call me.
Quick recap- 2nd in Keirin on Friday.  The Malaysian girl won.  2nd in Sprints on Saturday.  The Malaysian girl won.  See a pattern?  I didn't race the 500 because I was feeling a bit under the weather today and want to be 100% at the Tasmanian Carnivals this week.
Does that mean that I qualify for Australian Nationals?  ha.  I don't think so.

I leave tomorrow for Tasmania.  I leave a great host house and sad to leave such a comfortable situation.

Here is the house I have been living in for several weeks.  It is 2 blocks from a train station and in the greatest part of the city.
(l to r) Georgia (Georgie), Ruby, Juno, and Lachlan (Lachy pronounced Lochy)
The house is owned by Clint.  Clint is the promoter I am in the picture with in the past blog and the dad to these adorable kids.  Juno is his friend of many years and his housemate right now. Gaye is not pictured but is Clint's girlfriend who is around a lot too.  It has been fun being a part of this extended family- having people to chat with and cook with and ask advice or questions to, etc.  Clint has even been cool about me using his extra old car when I need.  I am sad to leave them.  They have made my life really easy.
Ruby and I were having fun with the camera and  trying to take self portraits without Lachy's hand... Lachy won each time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Revolution Race Report

It was a big night and the stands were 90% full.  Over 4,000 people in attendance.

Like any good track race the night was full of entertainment starting with Santa and his Elves.  There were three elves riding a pace line to start the night.  Because of the time I have spent with the local clubs in town, I knew two of the elves.  I showed a picture of one of them in a previous post... with the crazy cool skin suit and the smallest track bike you have ever seen.

There was also shooting fire things on the back straight like you would see at a concert.  There was famous old footie players (like our John Elway types) racing each other.  There was Robbie McEwen and Baden Cooke as madison partners.  The entertainment factor was high.

Here is a shot of the stands at the beginning of the night.  What you don't see is an additional 400+ people in the infield with dinner tables, food, and drinks.  

Race Report-
There were 4 women's races- scratch, points, keirin, and sprints.  I had originally entered all 4 until I saw the start lists and the schedule.  It was back to back races and none of the other competitors were during both endurance and sprint, naturally.  So, I opted out of the points race but still really wanted to do the scratch.
The scratch was first.  The field was strong- Belinda Goss, Rochelle Gilmore, Megan Dunn, Tiffany Cromwell, Tess Downing, etc.  I was real smart about positioning and not getting caught chasing the one big attack.  With 2 laps to go I was 2nd wheel.  Going into the last lap I started to make my move at the same time Dunn was making her move.  She comes down on my front wheel and I hesitate... it was that or crash.  I lost momentum right then.  Bike throw for 2nd and I lost.  So, I ended 3rd.  Not bad for my first international/big endurance event.
The sprints were IMMEDIATELY after the scratch with only a junior kilo event in between.  It was a 3 up sprint and only 1 made it to the finals.  Kaarle McCulloch beat me.  I was 2nd but that didn't matter much... sprints were now over for me.  Bummer.  I was smart about positioning and making the right move but my legs didn't have the jump they needed to beat this world class sprinter.
The keirin was the last event for me.  7 of us- no rounds, just finals.  I take the motor and have the confidence and game plan I need.  Motor pulls off and I take the speed up watching over my shoulder.  Here they come, I am getting ready... CRASH!  5 out of 7 riders go down.  I guess I was lucky to be in the front.  Race called off.  We restart after the men's keirin with 6 riders.  I take the motor again and have the same plan.  I controlled the front and ramped the speed.  With one lap to go Kaarle (Australian) and Fatehah (Malaysian) are making their move.  I see it coming and try to hold them on my hip.  They come around and I take 3rd.
So, two 3rd place finishes and I can end the night with a smile.  I learned a ton and had some fun!
I hope to have some action shots from Cycling News soon.

Here I am with Clint, the race promoter and my host house.

More racing this weekend- Victorian State Champs.  Later!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Revolution 4

Today will be mellow.  Tonight will be "flat chat" or all out.  Revolution 4 is tonight and it will be sure to challenge the athletes and entertain the crowds.  Big cycling stars will be there- Robbie McEwen, Graeme Brown, Baden Cooke, Cari Higgins (ha!)...

It gives me a time to reflect on all the different races I have done so far since I got to Australia.  The sad truth is that in my handful of weeks here, I think I have been in more track races then my whole summer in the US.  Almost.
Last Thursday was another local racing night put together by a different club.  I didn't blog about this racing but here is a quick report- 1st scratch, 2nd points (maybe 3rd?), 1st motor race.  The racing on Thursday night is supposed to be more competitive then the other Tuesday night races so they made me race with the C's.  I argued for a bit but then decided that I would just follow their orders and win some money.  Whatever!  I don't think they will let me race with the C's again.  (remember all AUS races are men and women together)
Both the Tuesday and Thursday night racing is held at DISC.

I have trained here at the outdoor Brunswick track.  One of the clinics I worked was here.  This track has "character" and the best people in Melbourne!I race in Bendigo... the flat track, not velodrome.  That was fun and good preparation for Tasmania.
And tonight will be another new experience!  I will keep you all posted and give a race report tomorrow.  They have me down to race all 4 women's races.  There is a scratch, points, keirin, and sprints.  I am the only women doing both endurance and sprint events and the schedule is tight.  So, I may have to bail on the points race because of scheduling.  I want to be fresh as possible for the keirin.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Another day

and another kids clinic!  Today was a clinic for 37 kids from a local school.  How cool?

I am telling you- the folks here in Melbourne are doing something right and giving all kids an introduction to cycling.

Get set.... GO!

I will be honest- I was scared riding this track with some of these kids.  We only had a couple crashes so it was successful.

A little talk before hand.

This kid came equipped with SKINS!  Why do I think he was one of the strongest?

Seeing how these people run their junior programs is really inspiring.  If they can do it, so can we!


I love my bike...

but I don't dress like it on purpose.  Christine just thought this was so cute!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

While I have good internet...

Internet is not the same here in AUS.  While I have it, I should not waste my time explaining it. I will just give you a quick recap of the last couple days.

On Thursday, a group of American friends arrived in Melbourne.  They all came in for the Revolution 4 race taking place next week.  It was SOOO nice to see some familiar faces and have some people to now train with. From left to right: Christine Barron, Howard Marans, Brittany Marans, Jesse Marans, and Des Dickie.

The American gang got into town and came to watch me race.  Their legs were too tired from travel to race themselves.  This guy showed up at the track wearing a University of Colorado shirt just for me!  Go Buffs!
Everyone has talked about this drought that Victoria is in. Its is a 5 year drought and sounds pretty serious.  They are below 20% of their normal reservoir fill and this is what provides the drinking water for the city and surrounding towns.  Since I have arrived it has done a lot of raining.  I am started to NOT believe this drought crap.  The rain we received on Friday was more then Melbourne received in all of Sept. and Oct. combined.  
We were supposed to go race in a big event in Shepparton this weekend.  It was on an outdoor track and a 3 hour drive... so we decided to stick around and train indoors.  Who needs to sit in a car all day and not be able to race or train?
Today I was tooling around on my road bike between rain showers.  It seems the kite surfers LOVE this wind the storms bring.  They were everywhere!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brunswick Cycling Club

This past weekend I had the pleasure of helping out at a kids' clinic at the Brunswick Track.  What these folks are doing is just plain awesome!  
I rolled up thinking I was going to be just helping a couple kids on bikes.  Little did I know that I was the "special guest" and there was about 30 kids to play with.

There was a question and answer session about being a professional and about my cool bike.
  In order to escape having to "show" the kids how to do a 30 second test, I took the shoes off and helped hold them for the standing start.  :)  
This is the guy that runs these clinics every weekend.  He talks so fast and with so much energy that he reminds me of Steve Irwin.
Its no wonder that the Australians are such powerhouses in cycling.  With over 20 tracks in Victoria and programs running like this every weekend, they are bound to not only produce a healthy generation of kids but also a couple talented cyclists.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Australian Drunk Bus

That's what they call a sobriety check.  I have been told they are everywhere... all the time.  I now believe it.
Here was our first experience.  Saturday night on a major street.

Here was what I saw this morning.  A Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m on Beach Rd.

I was riding my bike... and sober.  


The AUS $ system is much like the US $ system.
Here are the few differences:
- AUS has no bill under $5.  There is a $2 and $1 coin.  You don't want to lose those.
- AUS has no penny.  They round everything up or down.  So, if it says SALE $1.99.  Really, it's $2.  Or, if your total at the store is $42.62 really you only owe $42.60.  I think it goes back to my favorite Australian statement, "I can't be bothered."  If you were to ask the Prime Minister of Australia why they don't have $0.01 coins he would answer with "I can't be bothered."  He might have a point.
- AUS money is plastic so you don't need to put everything in baggies when you ride.  Your money won't get wet and tear.  It also doesn't matter if you forget your money in your pocket when you do the laundry.  The money will still be there when the wash is done and since nobody uses clothes dryers you won't melt it in the dryer.
- AUS $ is worth a lot less then the US $ right now.  $1 US = $0.63 AUS right now.  :)  Of course when I exchanged most my money at the beginning of the trip it was $0.74.  Bad timing! 
- Even though the dollar is still a good value here, this place is expensive.  I think house prices and rent are similar to what you would find on average in America but groceries, petrol (I am so Australian now!), and everyday items are expensive.  But, I don't think I have paid any sales tax.  So, with the exchange rate, no sales taxes, and the cost of goods... I think it all comes out about even and I still 'aint rich.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Go Go Bendigo!

"Don't call it a velodrome.  They don't like that."  This is what my friend Nathan tells me as we are driving our 1.5-2 hours from Melbourne to Bendigo.  "It's their track- not velodrome."
Now you see why.  
Bendigo is a crazy cycling city a couple hours north of Melbourne.  Every Thursday night (and some weekends) they put on a big track race.  The racing is big, the announcer is fun, the stands are full, and the track is flat.
Racing a flat track was a first for me.  I thought because I race crits that I would be just fine.I thought I could just steer my way through the turns.  Well, I found out in the first race that that last corner at speed isn't easy.
The night is full of kids racing (all ages and all categories), athletics (runners doing handicap races on the infield), and senior races (all categories.)  So, it is a long night but I got four races out of the deal.

I raced with the B's and the first race was a shorter scratch.  I was determined not to let this turn into a fast pace line and a sprint at the end.  So, I attacked with about 7 to go and got away with 1 other guy.  We stayed away but were caught by the chase group eventually.  It ended up being a sprint finish between myself and 1 other guy.  I was on his wheel coming into turn 4 thinking I had this one locked up because I would jump around him in the finishing straight.  Wrong... the flat track got me and I couldn't keep in down in the last turn.  I almost starting laughing because as soon as it happened I knew that's what everyone meant when they said the flat tracks were way "different."  2nd place.
The next race was a women's only handicap called the Crystal Classic.  I have only done a couple other handicaps before so I wasn't positive about my strategy.  It was "only" 1k so my strategy was to win!  Of course, they started me on the scratch line.  But, I managed it and won.  Here is a picture in the final turn of the Crystal Classic.

The third race was a 3k handicap with qualifying heats and all categories were included.  In my heat I started on scratch.  (For all those who don't understand what this means- a handicap race basically gives some people a head start.  The people who start on scratch are the ones in the back or the ones with no head start.  That is a basic way of explaining it.)  I couldn't believe they started me here in this field but I only needed to get top 12 to qualify for the finals.  I played it smart tactically and qualified.  In the finals they started me at 250m and scratch was at 310m.  There was only 5 guys behind me.  UGH.  I played it as smart as possible without blowing up my legs too early but only ended up 7th or 8th or something.  I was pretty happy with this result considering.  Also, this race really got me ready tactically for Tasmanian Carnivals where there will be a TON of handicap races... the Australian race.  It is a very tactical race and I started to understand them during this last race.

The last race was a B only scratch race... a longer one.  I finished 3rd but was DQ'd.  There was a crash in the last lap and I was DQ'd.  Two guys went down but everyone was ok.  That is all I have to report on that race.  :)
Bendigo was a interesting little track world and I wish I had more time to get back there.  Thanks so much for Nathan driving me there and back... and he didn't even race!  What a trooper!  I have said it before but still believe it- track racers are absolutely the most supportive group of athletes.  People just love this sport and will go out of their way to make sure others experience it and love it the same way.
I have a lot more to report so check back soon!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back for more!

I went back this week to race the local Tuesday night Brunswich Cycling Club track races.  The group is great!  All ages and all abilities... and fun people.

Both juniors and adults have grades A-E to race.  A is the strongest. 

Seriously... this is awesome!  Look at his racing glare.  I would be scared.
Last week Shelley and I had some fun working the B grade men.  We won all three races (Shelley scratch, Cari points, Cari motor race) and made a little spending cash... which they did pay me this week Shelley... I owe you.  Anyway, I think the guys all thought that I could only do it with a teammate or something because they were shocked when I came out this week sans Shelley and did it again.  I won the first race of the night (scratch) and even got a high five from Nathan who was working the officials table.  Was he shocked or just excited that I did it after all the smack talk before the race?  The second race was a points race and I think I won that one too.  I didn't check results at the end of the night. 
The last race was interesting.  It is called a motor race or something.  Basically everyone is in a pace line behind the motor and you get one lap in the draft.  After one lap you must go back to end of the pace line.  With 2.5 laps to go and after ramping the speed, the motor pulls off.  Sounds like a keirin, right?  I guess it is like a 30 lap keirin.  Last week the motor ramped the pace but kept everyone on and I just attacked right as the motor pulled off and held the gap for 2.5 laps.  This week people were dropping like flies... including me.  The combination of the higher pace, the morning's workout, and the small gear killed me.  I didn't make it to the end but the three that did were tough!

Speaking of tough... my friend Faith.  Faith told me she is going to be the next Anna Meares.  Go girl!
To put it in perspective you can see the difference in bike sizes.  It is so awesome what this club has going with their racing and all the kids.  The two kids I took pictures of for the blog were tiny and had no issues being on the track with everyone else.

Just like last week, I went out to a late dinner with some of the people from the race.  Super fun area called Brunswick Street.  I broke my new public transportation rule and accepted a ride home.   It was late... that is my excuse.

Good night!  More racing tomorrow but in Bendigo.

Still thinking latte

I don't know why the lattes in Melbourne are so much better but I am not the only one to think this.  People here swear they are the best in the world.  I haven't traveled enough to agree or disagree.
I will say that they serve in a perfect size (way small for American standards) and with the perfect temperature and with perfect froth.  Yum!  
I haven't had one in a couple days because I am being frugal but just writing this makes me want one tomorrow morning.  Oh- which brings up a point.  People here will drink a latte or expresso at any hour of the day... morning, afternoon, late night... whatever.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hungry King

I have heard these are coming to the US... McCafe.  Ya?  It will be worse then Starbuck's as far as infiltrated of our everyday lives.  After all, there are over 13k McDonald's locations in the US and Starbuck's is closing stores now.
Well, they are a hit here in AUS.  This store even had internet access.  Yes, I went in and tried a latte.
The truth is that I have never had a better latte then the ones I have had here in Melbourne.  I think I have been spoiled and my coffee drinking world has been rocked.  There are multiple cafes on every block in the city- not exaggerating.  Melbourne has perfected the latte.

McCafe- um, not so much.  The latte was less then perfect based on my new standards.  My old standards would have called it good but not great.  I am not trying to be all uppity but Melbourne really has America beat on lattes.  If McCafe had the lattes on the $1 menu I might have a different opinion but they are the same normal price as any other latte.
Hungry who?  I have no story and don't know the answer.  It looks the same to me.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Getting Around

The first two weeks of my experience in Australia was by car and bike.  Driving on the left side of the road was a challenge but I mastered it. 
Now that  Shelly and Nicola are gone, I have no rental car.  My new host house has a car I have access to but I have taken on a new challenge... public transportation.
The train/tram/bus system here is awesome!  I have not heard one positive thing out of the locals when it comes to the trains but I don't really get what their complaints are yet. Obviously they have been spoiled.  I come from the US where good public transportation exists rarely- Chicago, NY, Portland, etc.  Even then, the options are limited in those cities.

For $47/week or $161/month, I can have unlimited access to the whole system including the routes to all the suburbs.  It is less expensive if I were to choose only the inner-city trains... but Clare and Kate are in the burbs and I think I will visit every now and then for a home cooked meal by Clare's mom!  There are daily and hourly rates as well.
The cool part is just how easy and convenient the whole thing is.  The train station in my little area of town is 2 blocks from my house.  I can bring my bike on the train and go anywhere.

So, my challenge for the next 3 weeks is to use only public transportation and not give into driving the extra car in the driveway... calling my name. No, really, I think this is a good challenge!  I will keep you posted.  Tomorrow is my first real test because I am taking the train all the way to the other side of the city to the town where the training velodrome is.  Crossing my fingers it is as easy as it seems!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Goodbye and Hello

This morning we said our goodbyes to the awesome host family in Sandringham, the beach suburb where we have been staying.  I dropped Nicola and Shelley off at the airport around 11- funny to think they are STILL sitting on the airplane to California.  Then I headed to my new host house in Elsternwick, a town in the south part of Melbourne.  So goodbye to Andrew and Lisa Judd in Sandringham... goodbye to Nicola and Shelley... hello to Clint, Juno, and the three kids in Elsternwick.

This week has been busy.  Nicola and Shelley had one week to fit it all in and I was along for the ride.  We rode our bikes on Beach Rd. about 400 times, drank lots of lattes, ate great Indian food, and....

Spent time getting lost in the city on our bikes... best way to learn a city.
Went to DISC to be a part of the first Australian women's only Omnium Championships.  We were so honored to be there and present the medals to the different champions.  Rhys, below, runs the velodrome and couldn't be nicer.  The supportive environment in track racing world wide is amazing.
Went to the Healsville Sanctuary to see Australian wildlife.  We drove 1 hour, got there 20 minutes before they closed, talked our way in for free, and ran the 3k loop in order to see all the animals... emus, kangaroos, platypus, wombats, tasmanian devils, dingoes ("the dingo ate my baby"), kaolas, etc.  I can't remember half the animals because we were only pausing at each area.
Spent time on the beach watching kite surfers... this one is for you Nick!
Relaxed... only a little.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pass the Sunscreen

Did you know there is an ozone hole over Southern Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand?  Melbourne has one of the highest rates of skin cancer.
I don't know what exactly this map mean but I know I will not be tan when I come home!

Monday, November 24, 2008

See the World's Best Burn up the Boards

This was the Melbourne World Cup theme.  Well, the best were there.  I was not one of the best but I was there racing in my first World Cup.

I had so many emotions during the 3 days of racing and the one I am left with after decompression is eagerness.  I am ready to do this for real.  I am ready to take my preparation to a new level.  I am ready to be “the best burning up the boards.”

My races were not as fast or successful as I would have liked.  Maybe I had the nerves, although I felt really calm, or maybe I just didn’t have the right training in my legs since Nationals.  At this point I let go of the past and make the experience part of my future.

Concentrating before round 1 of the keirin.  Me, Phillipines, Malaysia, Netherlands, Australia, China.

For those who are into track racing here is the quick race report.  The  200 was slow (12.2).  When I stood up to jump, I felt the feeling we all dread.  I had those nervous, heavy, lactic induced legs.   12.0 would have qualified me and this time is totally achievable.  I scratched from the 500 because of the scheduling.  They placed it right before the final keirin events and I completely expected to be there.  My first kierin round was fast and intense.  I got squeezed by Willy Kanis coming over top of me on bell lap and hesitated.  We all know what happens in a keirin when you hesitate… you go backwards.  In the reps the race was fast but manageable.  I followed the Korean thinking she was going over top but she never made it all the way around.  I didn’t go with my instincts to jump around her early because I don’t think I trusted my speed.  MISTAKE!  I was just as fast or faster then those girls and should have made it through those rounds.  I ended ranked 13th for the night.

About to start the keirin.

Ok- for those who didn’t understand any of that lingo… let’s move on!

The experience was a very positive one for me.  I learned so many of the little things and now understand what I need to work on.  I also learned that I can race at this level.  I belong at this level.  It may take me a bit to figure out the style or racing and the players involved and to increase my strength/speed but this is all achievable.

The crowd at the races was great!  The promoters did a good job of adding entertainment to the night.  Oh, the announcer was awesome!  He made the slowest pursuit exciting.  I spent a lot of time at the track just soaking it all in.  (I won’t do this next time because it is exhausting.)  I wanted to be in the moment and appreciate the scene of my first World Cup.  There will be more and I hope that the other countries do as great of a job as Australia has done.

Entertainment for the crowds.  Clowns on bikes... or something.

It was very exciting to have a teammate to watch and cheer for.  Shelley made the finals for both her races (points and scratch) and came away with an 11th and 13th place.  She was not completely satisfied with her final races but only because she is a true competitor and won't be satisfied until she is on the top of the podium.  You will see her on the podium this year though... you wait!

Shelley (teammate), Richard England (our Aussie friend who provided a HUGE amount help this weekend), and Nicola (team manager)