Monday, January 27, 2014

Down Under Hit the ground Running..literally!! (Super long post)

Where do I begin? We went from Tucson to Albuquerque to Melbourne in a week's time..all I can say is this would have been nothing for me 20 years ago, but alas I am feeling my almost 60 year old weary body whispering what are you doing? I am, after being here 5 days starting to recover from travel weariness. Included in the week was the excitement over a wedding celebration. A good kind of excitement as Heidi and Jess publicly spoke their vows in front of family and friends over last weekend. It was a wonderful ceremony and party. Having family around is the best part...especially before a 10 week odyssey to the great land Down Under.

I really tried to stay on top of organizing packing and preparation for the big trip, which for me is not an easy task. I develop anxiety even thinking about what to bring, how much and how to pack it all. A daunting task for someone who has pre travel anxiety as it is. I started packing in Tucson. I packed our bikes in our new soft sided bike bags which hopefully would get our bikes to Australia in one piece. I padded the hell out of each part, spent hours online trying to learn the art of packing a bike..challenging at best. Finally, I felt like everything was packed just right. Bikes, clothes, carry ons, everything but essentials to throw in at the last minute. And off we went back to ABQ for the weekend festivities.

The last of our company for the wedding left on Sunday. I started to read online and discovered oh crap..there is a 15 lb. weight limit on Virginia Australia for carry on bags..This, unfortunately led to more packing and re packing (mostly taking stuff out) of our already very close to weight limit bags. I rationalized that anything I couldn't get in my bags, I would buy here. This seemed to relieve some is not normal for me to fit everything I need for 10 weeks in one large suitcase and a carry on but I found solace that we are not going to a 3rd world country, so everything is replaceable.

Last Monday night, we hauled our stuff to the airport for the beginning of a very long, but manageable trip. If no glitches, it would be smooth and not a lot of hanging around airport time. It was a little tricky as we checked in our soft sided bike cases in with Southwest Airlines, who could have charged us the "bike fee". We said there was "exercise equipment" in the bags, they weighed less than 50 lbs and were well within the dimensions of a normal bag, albeit a very large bag. The guy knew we had bikes, was not stupid being a cyclist himself. However, after a rather nice tip, he said he would not charge us this time but couldn't guarantee we would be so lucky the rest of the trip. So off we went to Los Angles, where after an uneventful flight, we gathered all our stuff at baggage claim in LAX. The bike bags had a few small rips in the side, the only ones we ever saw..maybe was a small punishment from SWA..yes, we will not charge you for the bikes being flown, but will throw tiny darts in the bags as we go..hmm...

At LAX, it was a schlep to get our bags to a different terminal but with carts and many excuse me, excuse me-s as we walked around people with awkward sized luggage, we finally made it to the Virgin Australia checkin. They could have cared less what we had in the bike bags and we checked everything in with no hassles. The bags, by the way-never received any more abuse from the long trek from the US to Sydney to Melbourne.Amazing!

After a somewhat stressful wait in the LAX security line, we made it on our plane, some of the last folks to board and damn if they didn't even care what our carry ons weighed. Oh well, now we had backpacks in Australia, which weighed less than the original carry ons, which has proved to be valuable once we arrived. I slept 6 hours of the 13 hour flight to Sydney. I watched a couple of movies and several TV show. V.A was a great airline, even in economy, where we  had seats in the back of the plane. They served pretty good meals, the staff ll cheerful and happy, unlike some of the American flights we have flown in the last few years. We had a little layover time in Sydney but soon we boarded the short 90 minute flight to melbourne. We skipped a day in there somewhere and now it was H's birthday! After a total of 24 hours travel, we arrived in Melbourne around noon local time and took a cab to our new MEL digs.

The location of the condo could not be better. We are situated on the 4th floor, off the beach a little but still able to see the surf and "Beach road" where all the cyclists pass by on a regular basis. Beach Road is the main road (on the beach-duh) that cyclists, runners and walkers enjoy the bike path and run path, which are separate. The road itself goes 50+ miles south and has a huge bike lane..a bikers Mecca! The condo itself is dated, the appliances and other amenities are less than desirable but it is comfortable. Everything is about location, location location here!

The cruise ships dock right next to the beach we are close to. We are far enough away to enjoy the sights, but not the noise. We are within a 5 minute walk to Bay St., where restaurants and stores abound. The day we arrived we at lunch at "Hunky Dory", a fish restaurant that is #1 on Yelp for food establishments in the area. Soon, we knew why. The fish was fresh, cooked to perfection and tasty! We enjoyed our meal at a table seated on the sidewalk where in our jet lagged haze, we got to people watch on our first day in Australia. Dinner was equally as spectacular at a Vietnamese restaurant, which H wisely chose for his birthday dinner. The place was jam packed, a good sign that the food was good and it did not disappoint! after a trip to the local grocery, our backpacks became full and we managed to haul it back to our apartment, a 10 minute walk away. Which doesn't sound far, but I haven't backpacked in many years and now I know why. I also know why little old people push those little grocery carts along with their bags in it. We are not far behind in doing that very thing. Aging triathletes with already sore backs from training should NOT abuse themselves with groceries in a large backpack for any amount time, no matter what shape do they are in...we are learning as we go..

On Wednesday, we did an 8 mile run along the beach path. We felt like rock stars at sea level, or as H's garmin said at one point, minus 26 feet below sea level. I am sure we will slowly whittle away our red blood cells, the longer we are here but until then, will enjoy the feeling of an o2 tank on my back...I think we were also running on pure adrenaline as the jet lag hadn't hit us yet. I have had peaks and valleys of energy since then but nothing helps with the JL better than exercise and blackout drapes..I have felt pretty sleepy each afternoon, which would be my bedtime at home. I need to push really hard to stay awake at these moments..all part of the deal. I imagine it my take a week or so to get fully into the swing of Melbourne time. ABQ is 6 hours ahead of us here, but is yesterday , if that makes any sense. Not quite as bad as Western Australia a few years ago which was a much more dramatic difference but is a challenge for awhile nonetheless..

Today is "Australia Day" in Aussie land, celebrating the day the English landed on the shore of Australia. Kind of like The Fourth of July for us. There were very loud fireworks off the pier right outside our place last night. We thought someone was knocking on our door in the middle of the night. It was actually 9:30 PM, I had been asleep for an hour. I guess I am still equilibrating from the jet lag, thank goodness for blackout drapes! I can barely keep my eyes open past 8-9:00 and being summer here, it is still light out at that time. Then up at 4:00 AM. We rode our bikes yesterday with some fine "blokes" from the local triathlon community. I awoke to some hurricane force winds but thought oh no, I can't be seen as a wimp the very first day I meet athletes to ride! So off we went at 7:00 AM, into a very strong headwind with new cyclist friends. Oh, and the one guy happened to mention he covers Ironman Live on local IM races, having done triathlon for 25 years. And just happened to mention he knows Craig Alexander and is friends with Chris McCormick. And then I felt really intimidated as I slugged along at 13-15 MPH in a headwind, trying to keep up with two obviously under challenged cyclists at the moment. But they were so nice to us, extremely humble and gracious to help us get out there on our first day on the bike here. They turned around after 90 minutes or so, we kept going wanting to get in at least 4 hour on the bike after missing week of training due to traveling, wedding,etc. It was all in all, a great first day out there, all except for the wind, which was at our backs as we absolutely flew back on the highway next to the ocean. I kept wanting to pinch myself..are we really riding our bikes south of Melbourne next to the ocean? My bike needs some significant repairs, as the bike guys who put our bikes together told me the day after we arrived. I had chain issues on the ride again yesterday. Time to plunk down some Australian bucks into the economy here. I need everything to be in tip top shape for the race in Geelong in 2 weeks and Ironman Melbourne in 8 weeks. It's all good!

We met our new Australian Triathlon Coach yesterday also. He is a young, enthusiastic lovely man, who is also humble. He has qualified for Knoa after winning his age group last year in Japan. We are surrounded by greatness! The coaching team we joined are a group that meets with the two coaches to swim (in the ocean), bike and run every week on different days. We are going to volunteer at a small local triathlon today, followed by our long run around the lake where the event will be held.

I am so excited about meeting so many new people. Our coach, the other athletes, even random strangers in the bike shops, the guys sitting next to us at a sidewalk cafe. Australians are amazing folks-friendly, gracious, generous.
I couldn't be happier about our experience so far here.
This morning as I write I am watching the sun rise higher over the ocean, cyclists running on the beach path and a cruise ship sitting in the harbor.
How could life be any better, seriously?

Here I am a few days later...I have been struggling with some kind of throat challenge. It's congested but not enough to be "sick". So Sunday's run around Albert park was slow, torturous. We met many more teammates. Everyone is so sweet. I think we are the grandparents of the team but hey, I love young people and their positive vibes!

Yesterday was the Public "Australia Day".Everyone was at the beach. The temp climbed to 93 degrees yesterday and will be hotter still today-Yowza! After meeting the team at the beach last evening with Coach Michael, we swam in our wetsuits, doing rectangular laps around the bay. The water felt so good on my throat..I LOVE, LOVE swimming in the ocean...I also for once, didn't feel too behind. 2600 meters in 48 minutes, if my swim Garmin is correct..

After, our new friend Jody, offered us a lift back to our condo, 4 miles away. This was certainly MUCH better than taking a taxi. We took one on the way down and the guy couldn't speak English and I had to use my Google maps to get him there!?
Thanks to Jody, we not only got a ride but a bit more lay of the land around our area..

We are still trying to sort out public transportation, whether it makes sense to rent a car (driving could be a real challenge on the left side of the road and all)..walking is good but some places are just too far to walk after a long workout/run. The bus system is spotty where we are.

We'll get it sorted out soon. 

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