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Back from paradise, ready to roll
Posted on 4/2/2011 8:31:23 AM

Sunny skies are gone, but there's plenty of motivation

 Four days ago I arrived back from my Antipodean adventures. That's it now; ten weeks of hot, sunny training over. It's back to reality...As I look out my window it's grey, wet and windy. Somewhat of a contrast from this time last week. Blue skies, scorching temperatures and still. Don't worry, I'm not going to spend my whole blog complaining and selling Australia, that would just make me even more depressed...

I've been struggling with what to write about (hence the delay), so I'm thinking I'll use this time to reflect on my recent travels. In a nutshell, I had an amazing time. There are however, two aspects that made the trip what it was...
In no particular order...
- The climate. Yup, it's pretty much what it says on the tin. Endless blue skies and temperatures no lower than 25. At the start of my trip, you had to go out at 6am to avoid heat exhaustion. If you stayed out too long past 10am, you got cooked and crawled home. There were days when it was literally too hot to go outside. Even walking to the beach 200m away was an effort. I had some pretty bad experiences of getting stuck out in the sun. Mainly in Brisbane, where we would meet for a ride at 6am, ride, and then sit at the coffee shop for hours...Actual hours. Those boys know how to brew! Major regret sets in when you set off with coffee shop legs, urging them to go faster so you can escape the mid-day heat. A few times on my ride home (about 30minutes), I would consume two 750ml bottles and sweat the fluid out almost instantly. I would get home dripping.
In ten weeks, I had ten wet days (including NZ too). Not bad going ay? One wet day stands out above the rest. It was my last day in Brisbane before I headed back down to the" Goldie" for my last week. I wanted to make it a big one! I set my alarm for 4.45 (so painful), it was pitch black. Hadn't actually realised it was raining until I stepped outside. Back inside, put on the cape and cap. Off I rolled to meet Adam and we tapped into Southbank to meet the others.
When the sun rose and we could see the sky, we knew it would be non-stop rain ALL day. My friends had actually organised a goodbye BBQ for me which was undoubtedly going to be cancelled...Despite this, spirits were high. First race of the day was Murrarrie or Muzza as the locals call it. Nice, easy little circuit race I could just sit in, warm the legs up. It actually stopped raining for Muzza. As soon as I finished, it started to rain. However, tropical rain isn't half as bad as British rain. Yea yea, it splashes up into your eyes (and no one wears mudguards!), makes you filthy and the roads become slippy BUT it's warm. Unless you are out in it all day (like I found), you don't get cold.
Dougall, Adam, Sam, Jordan and me (plus others) rolled over to Nundah, circuit race number 2 of the day. This was the biggie. It was Brisbane's cycling festival week, making prize money available for the first woman in the Elite/A Grade men's race. $50. Enough to shout my friends a cap each. I felt soooo nervous. I was actually the only chick to rock up and enter, meaning that all I had to do was finish the race to win. I wanted to be active in it though, not just sit in. Without doubt, the hardest ride/race I did in my trip. Holy moly. But I felt good! I stuck in, following wheels, bridging gaps until I cracked with 10 minutes to go. I think the boys were quite proud of me...Being lads they won't openly show their admiration (big word I know) but I felt it =) Jeez I was proud of myself. So happy! And yes, it was still pouring.
Next stop - brew shop. We sat there for hours. Having only eaten minimally all day (despite rolling out 120km), I was boxed. Coffee wasn't helping either! Just as I was getting ready to gruel the last 18km uphill to home, Jay suggested a New Farm loop. By this time, the rain had become torrential. Uuuugh how could I resist? Man I was cooked. By the time I got home, I had clocked up 180km. On 3 x jam and peanut butter sandwiches and truck loads of coffee...
Despite that Saturday being the wettest day by far, it was also one of my best in experincing aussie girt and madness. It was one of my best and will be remembered forever!
The people - I went to Australia knowing zero cyclists. The only people I knew were family and old family friends. None what so ever related to cycling. For my first two weeks on the Goldie, a guy in the complex I was staying in happened to be a cyclist. He showed me the local routes until I found my feet and a regular bunch to ride with. One day during my first week, I went out for a ride intending to ride what Rick had suggested. I got unbelievably lost. I have a good sense of direction right, but the area where I was staying is made up of rivers and estuaries with only certain ways to get across them. Unless you like swimming that is. Eventually I got home, completely boxed and burnt to a cinder. Didn't do that again for a while...
After a couple of weeks tapping away down on the GC - the lingo for Gold Coast, I drove to Brisbane to stay for a while and see what the crack was in the city. I had made contact with the Chair of Brisbane's biggest cycling club (Jim) who had put me in contact with various Queensland cyclists. No one however, had told me of any rides going on in the city. I wanted to ride with people my age, I wanted good banter. I had spent the whole of 2010 training with the old man due to my stupid knee (no offence Paul), so I was ready for some fun.
Out of the blue, Sam Wood added me on Facebook. We got chatting, he was from Brisbane, he raced, there were a group of them. YAY! I rocked up one morning after an invite from Sam at the meeting point, Garage at South Bank. Little did I know then that this would become my second home...! Whilst preparing for my trip away, I knew there would be times when I would be completely out of my comfort zone and I would have to put on a smile and put myself out there. This was one of those moments I had envisioned. So I turned up to find a group of 20 cycling lads, having never met any of them and only talked to one, I was so freaked out. Luckily they turned out to be lovely  people. My Brisbane cycling circle snowballed from there, thanks to the wonders of Facebook.
Being in Brisbane also sparked networks for me on the Gold Coast. I got in touch with the Bundaberg Sweet As womens team (who I ended up riding for in a series of crits), Bryce and Brittany Lindores and Loren Rowney. All of whom became fundamental in my training/racing and social life.
99% I socialised with cyclists. Dominee and baby Imogen were the 1% of non-cyclists. They lived round the corner from me, Aine and Bjarne in Coollangatta. She was always there for me. Dom is also British so she knows what it's like to be away from home. Her baby, Imogen is by far the best baby ever. I don't like babies normally. They freak me out. But it's pretty difficult to upset Imogen. She's also really podgy, giving her the added cute factor. 
As I'm not a particulaly gushy person I like to show my appreciation, but I ain't going to get all sucky about it...However, this is an exception. The people I met during my travels, made the trip what it was. Yea it wasn't always plain sailing, but it isn't back home! I've made some solid foundations for when I return (yes, when!). Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou to everyone who has helped, talked, supported me. You know that you are all welcome up in the cold North West at any time...
Don't get me wrong, there are some not so good things about Australia. Namely the chocolate (until I found German choc in Aldi, that is...), these stupid birds that make the most annoying noise EVER and woke me up without fail every morning and the traffic lights. They stay green for 10 seconds, and don't go green again for 10 minutes. Cracked me everytime.
The experience of being away for 10 weeks with such autonomy has changed me. I am so ready for this season. Getting a few good results has boosted my confidence. 2011 is already amazing and it's only March. It has also enforced my want to be a professional cyclist. I'm not bothered about earning millions, I just want to ride my bike and do what I love.
Being away has also taught me to slow down, chill out. Aussies are so relaxed, they take life at a much slower pace and that's what I aim to do from now on. I've already noticed the difference in me. I'm yet to have an argument and I wallk slower than snails. I also dropped a huge pot of yogurt on myself yesterday, and I didn't freak. Maybe it's because I'm in my own little jetlagged world!
I'm fit, I'm tanned, I'm not particulary lean (but I hope my two week training camp in Italy with the team will sort that), but I am happy. ...
So here's to Slurpees, endless white beaches and 2.6L Utes. Love you long time Australia.

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