September 11, 2007

# 1: The Build Up...

Let me just say this right now, if this posting sucks I apologize. I am suffering from a major lack of motivation to write anything lately and I have chained myself to the chair to get through this first report.

The race season is pretty much over for me and Team Helly Hansen-MOMAR (only the Cumberland MOMAR on Sept 29th to go), and I think I have just mentally shut down and started my off season. I'm still getting out there on a daily basis and enjoying stuff, especially since we are getting the best weather of the entire year right now, but after a very long and successful season of racing it is really nice not to have to 'focus' on anything right now.

My right foot was still hurting pretty bad from my 130km run a few weeks prior, and it was all I could handle not to limp my way through a thirty minute trail run the day before I departed for Australia.

As I headed to the airport it was with great concern that I would not be 100% for this race and that I would more than likely end up fighting through serious pain for eight plus days...well additional to the obvious pain associated with racing of this type! I did not doubt that I could withstand the discomfort for the race, but I was left pondering what type of price I would pay for long term damage to my foot. I told myself that this was the last big race of the season and no matter what the cost I would have a few months to get over it in the end.

Flying with a bike box sucks. Airlines used to allow sports gear for free but that all changed a few years back, and now you are pretty much at the mercy of the airline staff member checking you in. I have managed a very impressive year of 'ducking surcharges' however and as I wait in line for each flight I always size up the counter staff and decide upon a different game plan for each individual. So far in 2007 I have talked my way out of three of four potential surcharges, and my only goal for August 16th was to somehow manage to get my bike on that flight for free!

It was not looking promising as I ran into a Vancouver racer who was flying to the same event. She had just checked in for her flight and had to fork out and additional 175.00 for her bike box! One way!!

There were only two people working the Air Canada counter when I headed up and I was not liking my options, lady in her fifties on the left, guy in his late fifties on the least with younger staff I can try to flirt my way through it. They were both noticeably stressed by their lack of assistance during this process and I figured I was counting down to the inevitable.

I happened to get the lady on the left,

"Blah, Blah, Blah, bike box 100.00"

"What! I've never paid for my bike before, are you sure?"

"Yadda, yadda, yadda YUP"

"When did this start?"

"Before you were born mister, how would you like to pay?"

"I wouldn't like to pay!" as I reached for my credit card.

She swiped it a few times but her machine would not work.

"Come with me, I have to process you down here."

She tagged my luggage and I followed her four stalls down to her right, where she was passing me off to the 1st Class check in lady. Everyone was busy and they did not converse, she simply looked at me and said,

"She'll take care of you."

In the next 3/4 of a second I processed a lot of information as my brain was going over my options...these two did not discus what was taking place or even make eye contact for that matter, the lady I was now in front of was too busy to have even noticed me, the staff member that had delivered me was on her way back to her till and would surely be attending to the next person in line before she even reached her computer screen, my luggage was already tagged and ready to go, I had nothing to loose but my hundred bucks that I was about to depart with anyways, move your feet Gary, go, do it, this will work but you have to go NOW, GO, WALK DAMMIT...I grabbed my bags and very confidently strolled past the check in counters and on towards the next line up for the security check. I did not look back and just kept praying that I would not receive a tap on the shoulder and a finger in the face...three minutes later my bags had cleared the security process and I was on my way to Australia, with an additional 100 to spend on post race drinks!

Anyone who has flown to Australia knows what a painful process it can be, anyone who has flown on an Aeropoints booking knows that it can be even worse. My flight was at the mercy of availability and I had over 34 hours of travel ahead of me!

I hardly slept during the day and a half, but I did manage to get drunk in L.A. during my six hour stopover, and they do serve free alcohol on international, so I did enjoy a section of the flights. I arrived in Mackay, Australia completely exhausted but thankful that Megan, Nick and Megan's parent's Ivan and Valerie were there to greet me. We would be staying at their home for a few days before the race began. Mark flew up from Sydney later that day and we had a wonderful dinner compliments of our hosts.

I slept a lot in the days leading up to our departure from Mackay for Airlie Beach, (a two hour drive away) and thankfully my teammates, which included Ivan and Valerie picked up my slack. We spent an extra night at The Rose's to get a proper nights rest and avoid the inevitable race headquarter chaos.

Somehow between the time I departed Vancouver and the actual start of XPD my right foot had healed itself, I mean completely, 100%. I was two days into the race before I even thought about it again. This was easily the most serious injury of the year for me, a shooting pain through the outside of my right mid-foot that had me seriously contemplating x-rays. For fourteen days it plagued and worried me and no matter what I tried I could not get over it, yet somehow after sitting upright for 34 hours the pain was now gone? I wasn't complaining, just seriously confused...still am?

For XPD they had decided to change things up a little. With most expedition adventure races you get your maps and logistical schedule about 24 hours prior to the race start, however for this race they were only going to issue us portions of the race in three stages. We had but access to the information that would take us through the first 130km of this 800km race...and they expected us to pack all of our boxes with our food for 7-10 days and gear including batteries for lights (it was Winter in OZ and we had 12hr of darkness!) and shoes and clothes! This was seriously stressful until we all agreed that every other team was going through the same thing. We were informed that we would see our bike box more than anything else, however there were strict weight restrictions on each box and at 'weigh in' every team member lost some form of food and supplies.

The main benefit to this entire process is that we were done plotting our maps in a matter of minutes versus hours, and I had by far the best pre-expedition sleep of my short racing career!

Kinda like what I'm gonna do right now...


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