Thursday, July 31, 2008

Australia Day 7: Part 3-Thrill Rides

Our bus driver took us to "Scenic World" at the Blue Mountains. He dropped us off at the entrance to the Skyway and left to the bus parking lot before I could change my mind and get back on the bus.
This contraption came to pick us up.

It carried us westward over the big gap between parts of the mountain. Looking out from the Skyway, we got a great look at the Katoomba Falls:

Katoomba is an Aboriginal word meaning "shiny, tumbling waters". The bus driver warned us that if we had seen Niagara Falls, these wouldn't seem like much!
I thought that the Blue Mountains would be bluer. The blue "aura" comes from the vapor that is let off from the eucalyptus trees. Maybe it's bluer in other times of year or something.

It also gave us a nice view of the Three Sisters (more info on those gals further down)

But...I learned an important Skyway lesson very quickly. Don't look down!

When you get on the Skyway, the floor looks pretty much like a normal floor. And then, when you're suspended thousands of feet (alright, alright, meters) above the trees, the floor turns clear and terrifying. Look, even my foot (the one in the white and light blue shoe) looks frightened!

We got off of the Skyway at the Top Station and then lined up for the Scenic Railway. It is "the world's steepest railway" and guess what... it has no safety bars or seat belts! David took this picture before it started. He said, "Look scared!" but I was scared. That was how I really looked. Afterward, he wanted to take one smiling, so I smiled, but you can still see the fear in my eyes.

Then it started to move and I just closed my eyes and screamed a lot. So, you'll have to ask David if the Scenic Railway really was Scenic. All I know is that it really was steep and scary.

(If I would've seen this before we got on, I probably would've found the stairs)

Then we began a nice enjoyable walk through the Australian mountain rainforest. This was my favorite part, even though it was mostly trees. I wasn't suspended by a cable or holding onto anything for dear life. This area was a coal mine between 1878 and 1945.

There were several walkways to choose from, and though I wanted to bide my time on solid ground before going on a cable car back up to the parking lot, David didn't want to be late for the bus and declared the Blue Mountains "just like Kentucky", so we took the short walkway. The walkway was called Lillipilli Way and I liked that. On Saturday we learned that Lillipilli is more than just a cute word, it's a fruit and they make jelly out of it.

We got on the "Scenic Cableway" and traveled back up to the Top Station. The cable car was packed and so I couldn't really see much. That was okay by me.

Then it was back to the bus, a ride which was more my speed.

Chad the bus driver took us to Echo Point Lookout, where we got another look at the Three Sisters:

And guess who else stood right here and looked at the Three Sisters!

We also read about the legend of the Three Sisters, which was different from the story David read (maybe he just skimmed it) in the travel book in our hotel. Anyway, I'm going to go with the story that was posted on the wall at the Echo Point lookout building.
So here's the scoop on the Three Sisters:
There was an Aboriginal witch doctor who had three daughters. Whenever the father would leave, the daughters were afraid of a mythical lake monster called a bunyip who lived in a hole nearby. To protect them while he went away, he would leave the girls high on a cliff.
One day, the witch doctor left the girls on the cliff and went down into the valley. A centipede crawled up on the cliff and scared one of the girls, so she threw a rock at it. The rock rolled over the edge, and suddenly the rock behind the girls split open, leaving them standing on the thin edge of the cliff. The animals below started to run and yell that the bunyip was coming. The bunyip would eat any animal that got in its way or near its home, and he was especially angry to be woken up by the rock splitting. The girls were frightened and huddled together.
Meanwhile, down in the valley, the witch doctor hear the commotion and looked up to see the bunyip approaching his daughters. He pointed his magic bone at them and turned the girls to stone to keep them safe until the bunyip retreated and then he would turn them back to their normal selves.
That made the bunyip so angry that he turned and chased the witch doctor. The witch doctor came to a spot where his path was blocked by a rock and he had nowhere to go, so he turned himself into a lyrebird and flew into a small cave. He had gotten away from the bunyip, but he had lost his magic bone! Once the bunyip went back to his hole, the witch doctor went out to look for his magic bone. He is still looking for it today, and the Three Sisters watch from the mountain ledge, hoping that one day he will find the magic bone and bring them back to life.

I like that story, even though I had no idea what a bunyip was until I came home and Googled it.

Before we left Echo Point, I had to be sure to cuddle every koala I saw.

Even the creepy life-sized ones.

We had one more stop before leaving the Blue Mountains. We stopped quickly at Blue Mountains National Park to have a look at Govett's Leap, which looks out at the Govett's and Grose gorges. We were told that the legend/lore behind the name was that a bushranger named Govett had robbed a bank in the nearby town of Blackheath and been chased to the edge of the ridge, then rode over the ridge, never to be seen again. That was before there was a fence there. But, then the tour guide said that actually Govett was the name of the surveyor in the area and that leap is a Scottish word for waterfall. They also call the waterfall Bridal Veil Falls.

One day was really not enough time to spend in the Blue Mountains! If I ever go back to Australia, I'd love to plan a side trip and explore more of the little towns there!

We got back on the bus and the bus driver popped in a video called "King Koala". I learned a lot about my furry friends and the dangers they face, like subdivisions and dogs. The video also highlighted a sort of "halfway house" for koalas that are injured. In the video, one koala's mother is killed and so they take the little tiny baby to live at this house. The lady nurses him to full health and he grows up to be a cute little koala there, climbing on their furniture and petting their hair.

After the video, I took a little nap and woke up just as we were passing by Olympic Park. It was neat to see where the Olympics had taken place, but we didn't get out of the bus, so we don't have any pictures.
The bus driver dropped us off at the ferry stop and we traveled back to Circular Quay via the Paramatta River. Paramatta means "where the eels lie down". The suburbs along the river all have the same names as those along the river Thames. It was dark and freezing, so I stayed in the ferry. David braved the cold and stood most of the ride on the deck. I went out toward the end and caught the views coming in to Circular Quay (you pronounce that like Circular Key)

Once back "home", we stopped at the hotel, then went out for dinner. We were starving and tired! We went to the Observer Hotel, one of the oldest in the area, originally built in 1848 as the Observer Tavern. Apparently, there is a ghost there too. David was interested in doing the Rocks Ghost Tour, but I didn't want to... in our old hotel (which was right behind Sydney's first hospital), I figured not knowing was better than knowing! At the Observer though,I had another meat pie- this time a Beef Burgundy pie, still not as good as the one at the Dog & Parrot. David had a steak and we both got "chips" and Toohey's New. And that was the end of our super-long day!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Australia Day 7: Part 2- Leura

Our bus driver/tour guide took us to a cute little town called Leura for lunch. Isn't that a pretty name for a town? Along the way, he told us about Christmas in July. Around the Blue Mountains (where we were headed), there is a big Yulefest in July. He said that people decorate their houses, and make hams and turkeys in July because it's too hot for "traditional Christmas" in December. At actual Christmas, they barbecue and eat prawns (that's Australian for shrimp!) and Santa Claus wears shorts when he delivers presents to all the good girls and boys.
He told us about some of the things we'd see after lunch in Leura. And about some of the things we *could* do in Leura if we were speed-eaters. I would've been happy with less time at the Wildlife Park (as long as I had time to touch the koalas!) and more time in Leura. There were a few cute little shops and restaurants, like the Post Office Restaurant which is in the post office. But we had pre-paid our lunch and ate at this little cafe, I believe it was called "The Leura Cafe" (very creative with names in Leura, no?). We turned in our menus to Chad when we got off the bus at the Wildlife Park and apparently, he had called in our order. That led me to believe that the service would be fast... but I think Australians and Americans have different opinions on what constitutes "fast" service. My lunch was worth the wait, though! I had tea that came in its own little tea pot and it was loose tea so you had to strain it fun! Then they brought me some delicious soup (it was called "thick, tasty soup") with some delicious homemade bread! It was so good! And the soup was so warm, and I needed that because it was FREEZING in Leura. It was cold at the Wildlife Park, but it was FREEZING in Leura. David had the warm chicken salad and ice cream for dessert. I had the Pavlova for dessert. I had no idea what it was, but I liked the name. It was SO good! All light and fluffy and sweet with lots of fruit--kiwis, strawberries, blueberries, melon. It was really delicious.
After we ate, we had practically no time before we were supposed to be on the bus. We had just a few minutes, but we figured we could get to the bus quickly, so we stopped to buy some hats and gloves at "The Leura Mall". For $80. Leura knew we were freezing. I knew I would need a hat, and that's why I ordered special yarn before we left to make a hat... the yarn is called "Australian Expressionism" and it did not cost $80. But alas, it didn't arrive on time.
Anyway, the lady at the Leura Mall is maybe not used to stupid freezing Americans who come to the mountains in winter and are so cold that they will pay $80 for 2 hats and 2 pairs of gloves. The credit card machine was all messed up, she had to load new paper and then she ended up charging us twice. That brings our grand total to $160 for 2 hats and 4 gloves. While she fussed around with the credit card machine, I ran up the street to the "Christmas Cottage" to buy an ornament for our tree. David met me there and then we walked quickly back to the bus. Since we weren't the last people there, I made David go take a picture of the Teapot Museum, where I really wanted to go so I could tell my mom all about it, but didn't have time! At least we took a picture of the outside of it.

Then it was back on the bus, headed for the Blue Mountains!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Australia Day 7: Blue Mountains Part 1: Fauna

This morning we had scheduled a tour to the Blue Mountains. We ate breakfast in our hotel...I had porridge (that's Australian for oatmeal). We walked up the block from our hotel to the Four Seasons (the one with the elevator) to get on our tour bus. The Four Seasons is a hot spot for tour bus pick-ups. There were about 4 buses that came and went, but we weren't on any of their lists. Finally, our bus came. Turns out, it wasn't our bus at all. It was just a bus to take us to our bus.
Once we switched to our Blue Mountains bus, our guide and bus driver (I think his name was Chad) took us to the Featherdale Wildlife Park. Along the way, he told us about Rugby League and Australia Rules "Football", the names of rivers and towns, hail storms that killed 2 wallabies, beer, tolls (you pay $2.20, but if you save your receipt, you get refunded $2!), voting (a $50 fine if you don't), spiders, the population of Sydney. He was full of facts! I brought my knitting project on the bus with me, but I spent the whole time writing down everything he said in my little notebook.
The Featherdale Wildlife Park is for rescued animals. They help them out there until they can go back out in the wild, and then they release them if they can.
This, uh, friendly looking bird caught David's eye right away. That David is a real daredevil. I prefer holding sweet koalas, but David, who hadn't expressed an interest in holding the cuddly little bears, wanted to hold this wild-eyed animal. (It's a Tawny Frogmouth) It looked like it might snap his nose off at any moment.

Of course, my heart belongs to this little guy:

He was napping, so I couldn't touch him, but luckily there was another koala waiting for me!

Don't we make a sweet little family?

Then we picked up an ice cream cone full of kangaroo food and went to feed some animals!

Did you know that when a kangaroo is born it's the size of a jelly bean?
Feeding the kangaroos here was not as serene as feeding the kangaroos at the Australia Zoo. Perhaps it was the giant creepy birds roaming freely:

I felt a little bit bad for them, because I figured probably a lot of people didn't feed them because they just weren't as cute as the kangaroos. Kind of like the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. I love that little tree. But there was no way I was going to feed that big creepy thing. So I made David do it.

And would you believe that the big stingy bird stole the whole ice cream cone right out of David's hand. No wonder nobody wants to feed those emus. Score: David 0, Creepy Giant Emu 1.

After the feeding portion was over, we walked around looking at the other animals:

The cute little penguins. They were having a blast in their pool.

This funky looking chicken. The strangest chicken I've ever seen.

Baby dingo pups. They look just like regular dogs.

A big ugly croc.

A bird as big as me.

The Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby. He's endangered.

That was pretty much all of the Featherdale Wildlife Park, and good thing, too, because our time was about up. We had to go back to the bus to go to our next stop, which I really hoped was lunch.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Australia Day 6: Location, Location, Location (II)

So, whoever picked our Gold Coast hotel (*cough*David*cough*) needs to take hotel-picking lessons from the person who picked our Sydney hotel (*cough*ME*cough*)! Our biggest gripe about our time in Gold Coast was the location of the hotel. In Sydney, though, I could not get over how perfectly located our hotel was! We stayed in an area of Sydney called The Rocks, which is really historic, lots of old buildings which were going to be torn down in the 70s but were saved by really persistent (and smart!) people. I really like historic buildings, so the Rocks was right up my alley! Our hotel was built in 1890-something, and it was love at first sight for me. I loved the building even before I learned the merits of its location.

If you're ever going to Sydney and you don't mind climbing stairs (no elevators in 1890 I guess), I highly recommend the Harbour Rocks Hotel. If you do mind climbing stairs, there's a Four Seasons right up the street, and they do have an elevator.
We arrived in Sydney in the early afternoon and bought "return" tickets (that's Australian for round-trip) for the airport shuttle--$44 for the both of us--which was a welcome relief after paying more than $120 for the round trip in Gold Coast! We were the last to get dropped off, so we got to see some of the other hotels and neighborhoods in the area along the way.
Our marathon legs were still a little wobbly on our way up the stairs (2nd floor, which is Australian for 3rd floor) and we were thankful that we had decided to spend another day in Gold Coast rather than heading to Sydney the day after the marathon. We did a lot of walking the day after the marathon, but we might have burst into tears at the idea of climbing the stairs to our hotel room!
David started asking right away about golfing...he had tried one last time at Royal Pines the morning we left...and it was raining! So I sat down and enjoyed my 2nd favorite feature of our hotel...the Australia/Sydney travel books they had on a bookshelf in the lobby! I read about a few restaurants and wrote them down in my little notebook. Lots of restaurants were right around our hotel. Great location, once again! Once David got his tee-time set (Thursday morning), we walked out to eat. I wanted to go to the G'Day Cafe, but I mentioned Zia Pina's pizza and pasta place and David really wanted that. So we went there. Zia Pina and her family really are Italian so it was fun to order my pizza in Italian! It was real Italian so good and we haven't had any in so so long! I loved the great little building- brick walls all over and we got a cozy table close to the wood burning pizza stove!

Once we were full of artichoke pizza and fettuccine buscaiola, we felt ready to head out and see Sydney. The girl at the front desk gave us walking directions to the Pylon lookout and we were surprised (even though we could see the Harbour Bridge from the front of the hotel) at how close it was. We walked up one set of steps and tada...

There it was!
We headed over to the 87th Pylon (at least I think it's called the 87th Pylon?) and guess what...that doesn't have an elevator either! 200 steps! It hurt more coming down than going up!
On the way up, there were a few breaks where you could read about the conception, engineering, and construction of the Harbour Bridge. I was really intrigued by everything about it. It's amazing that people designed and built all that--without computers, without billions of dollars, and without safety harnesses! It was built in the 20s & 30s (I think it was finished in 1932) and I can't even imagine being a part of building this big amazing bridge that people come from all over the place to see (well, I think more people come to see the Opera House, but once I read about the bridge, I decided that it's so much cooler than the Opera House!) and so many people drive, run, or take the train across every single day. We learned that 16 people died while they were working on the bridge (but, if I remember correctly, only 2 fell), and one guy fell and survived...and got a gold watch. And the bridge was built from each side and met in the middle and there were big giant cables holding the sides of the bridge up while they worked toward the center. Because the bridge is steel, it grows and shrinks a couple of millimeters depending on the weather and they have gigantic hinges to allow that movement. The whole thing is just really neat. And amazing! Oh, and the pylons actually don't serve any purpose except that someone thought they'd be prettier to look at than the steel frame.

After looking around outside and taking "some" pictures of the Opera House (we have quite a collection!) we headed back down. On the way down, we got to stop in a "theater" and watch a movie that showed some more of the history of the bridge.
Then we walked back toward our hotel, to Circular Quay, and... the Opera House!

Our first afternoon in Sydney was the best...not a lot of crowds, and pretty good (but a little cold!) weather. We spent some time looking at (and touching) the Opera House.

(Do you recognize my sweater? It's the Minimalist Cardigan I made myself for my birthday...and it has touched the Opera House too!)
We made sure to get some pictures of the Harbour Bridge too

We headed back to our hotel, and took this picture from just one block behind our hotel-- We rested for a little while and got ready for dinner. We went to Lowenbrau Keller, which was right around the corner from us and had some yummy German food and beer. I loved the inside of that building too! After dinner (or before... I'm not exactly sure) we did some window shopping at the shops behind our hotel. There was a book shop there called Ariel and right inside was a knitting book I had been looking for! I heard about it on a podcast before we left, and since it's by an Australian gal, I really wanted to buy it there! It was a wonderful first day in favorite day of our trip!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Australia Day 5: No Rest for the Weary...Crikey!

On July 7, less than 24 hours after finishing the marathon, we were up and at 'em! We hopped back in a cab headed again for Nerang station. We bought day passes for the train and a copy of the Gold Coast Bulletin--marathon edition and waited at Platform 1 for the train to Brisbane. On the train, we met a girl who had also run the marathon! It took a little more than an hour to get to Brisbane, and then we transferred trains to head up to Beerwah. It was at least another hour before we transferred trains one more time, but then just a few minutes to the Beerwah station. At Beerwah, there was a big courtesy bus to take us to the Australia Zoo! There were also a LOT of steps. It was really slow, painful, and I'm sure odd-looking for the both of us to get down those steps. We got to the zoo just as it opened. The Australia Zoo is the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin's zoo. Right when you enter, you see the Steve Irwin Tribute Statue, but really, the whole zoo is a tribute to him and his dream.

We looked for the Asian Otters, but they were out, and then we went straight for the food! The food court at the zoo has a really big selection...but David chose a chicken burger (I think) and I chose a "Bindi Burger" which was like meatloaf on a bun and very very tasty! Right after our brunch, we walked over to the Crocoseum and we were just in time for the snakes, birds & crocs show. After the birds cleared out, a big smoke machine brought in the next act... Mosman the croc and none other than Terri Irwin! David and I thought that was pretty cool! Like we were seeing a real star!

She was entertaining and funny, and the croc was huge and creepy. She said that Steve had named him Mosman because he had gotten him out of Mosman Bay (which we saw on the ferry map later in Sydney!) after he had become a problem croc--he ate someone's dog. Anyway, the show was neat and afterward we looked at even more crocs out behind the Crocoseum, then headed for the other sweeter animals, like the kangaroos!

We bought 4 bags of kangaroo food (and ended up giving 3 away, because a lot of the kangaroos weren't even that hungry). It was really weird to be just walking around with free-roaming kangaroos. Some were hopping around, but most were just laying around being lazy. They were really gentle when you fed them, and they like to be pet just like a big hopping cat! David tried feeding a croc and found that they are not so gentle:

Just kidding. This was a very popular photo spot and everytime we walked past it, someone was doing some different pose: wrestling the crocodile, riding the crocodile, etc.
After feeding the kangaroos, we walked around some more (we did a lot of hurt! But I think it was good for us) and saw elephants and tigers. They were okay...but I was excited to get to the koalas! You know the question, "If you were an animal, which would you be?" Well, I know my answer now. I would want to be a koala! They are so stinkin' lazy! I would especially like to be a koala in the zoo, because those koalas don't even have to climb down the tree when they're out of leaves and climb up a new one. The zookeepers just bring new branches right to them. I read that the koalas have a good excuse to be lazy--the leaves that they eat are highly toxic and they use almost all of their energy to digest the leaves. I also learned that their brains are the size of walnuts and that they just rattle around in their cute little heads. At one part of the zoo, you could pat a koala's bottom while it was sitting in a tree, and I did that. But, at the Wildlife Studio, you could actually hold the koala! So I did that too! I'd say that holding a koala was definitely a highlight of my life. And David messed up the camera and recorded this wonderful moment with a lousy picture.

Fortunately, the zoo is out to make a buck and they just don't let you hold the koala and take your own picture. You have to pay the $15 or so to let them take a picture for you too. The koala absolutely loved me. It clung to me like I was its mother, or like I was its eucalyptus tree. I loved him too. I am putting "pet Koala" at the very top of my Christmas list this year.
We walked around a little more and saw some dingoes, lazy lazy wombats (except for the one that was being walked on a leash!), more birds, more crocodiles, some echidnas (echindae?), and a Tasmanian Devil which we tried to get a picture of, but the thing never stood still!
We decided to eat an early dinner at the zoo because our train wouldn't put us back in Gold Coast until after 8:30 p.m. and the zoo closed at 4. Most of the food court was already closed or sold out, but David had a wrap and some chicken strips and I had a meat pie. If I lived in Australia, I would definitely eat meat pies all the time!
The train back was long. I got a lot of knitting done. I wish I lived somewhere where I could take the train everywhere I needed to go. I'd get to knit or read a lot! We made it back to Nerang Station and then back to our hotel around 9--a 14 hour day!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Australia Day 4: Part 2- Room Service

No pictures in this post...but believe me, there will be plenty of pictures in the next one!

Finding the bus, riding the bus, and getting across town to our hotel was easy! Getting off of the bus and getting across the lobby were much more challenging! By that time our muscles and bones had gotten stiff from sitting so long and being cold and the marathon pain had really begun to set in. Thank goodness we weren't staying at our Sydney hotel yet (no elevator!). We rode the elevator up to the 16th floor and got all cleaned up to order room service. Room service at our hotel was ridiculously expensive and more often than not, after a long run, I'm craving pizza. So we ordered Domino's delivery! We ordered a large pizza and some cheesy bread. The cheesy bread was delicious, and it's a good thing we each got our own, because a "large" pizza to Australians is definitely not the same thing as a "large" pizza to Americans! (And yet somehow Australians have earned the honor of being the 2nd most overweight nation, according to one of our bus drivers!) Anyway, think "Personal Pan" and add maybe one more piece, or a half of one more piece...and that's a large pizza.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Australia Day 4: Part 1- Great Expectations

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

July 6--Marathon day!
We went downstairs early to catch the shuttle to the marathon start area. Imagine our surprise when there was an actual city bus sitting outside our hotel to pick us--and 4 other runners from our hotel--up! It was cold and dark! We both had our long sleeves on, with plans to run with them until we warmed up and then either ditch or tie around our waists. We went to check our bag-dry shirts, camera- at "left luggage" and decided that it was already warming up, so we put our long sleeves in the bag for later instead of starting the run with them on. The Gold Coast Marathon was a big event-- even though there were only a few thousand runners in the marathon, there was also a half marathon, 10k, 7.5 k walk and some "junior dash" races. There were 20,000+ participants in all. The half marathon was set to begin about 30 minutes before the marathon, so when we saw the half marathon people start heading to the start, we took advantage of the less crowded bathrooms.
The bathrooms were quite possibly my favorite part of the marathon. (What does that tell you about the rest of my marathon experience?) But seriously...the bathrooms were brilliant! They were extra-porta-potties... called "Lotsa Loos" and they were big trucks parked in the expo area. You wait in line outside the truck and go up some stairs to get in. Inside the truck/trailer there are a whole bunch of stalls with real toilets that really flush! It was fantastic! I don't know how much the technology of porta-potties in the states has advanced since my last stateside marathon, but let me tell you...lots of runners like to, er, empty their stomachs (bowels?) before a run and it is no fun to go in and pee on top of some other runner's business in one of those old fashioned porta potties. And it's a little embarrassing to leave your business there for the next person. So the flushing toilets at the marathon were great! You get to flush them with a foot pedal too, so that was fun. And at the end of the day, somebody just drove them away! David wasn't as impressed as I was, but he sure did spend a lot of time in there admiring the loos.
When he finally came out, we headed to the starting area and it turned out that everyone was on the wrong side of the starting line, so we all had to move the other direction! We saw a guy with these 2 giant hot pink exercise balls, leg warmers, a sweat band and a hot pink Richard Simmons outfit. Marathons always bring out the most interesting people. We said goodbye to each other at the starting area, as we had already agreed to do, and I found what I thought was a good place to start.
I fell into a good pace with the 4:15 pace group (yellow balloons) but they fell back at a water stop. I decided that I felt so good and the run was so pretty (there was even a rainbow!) that I picked up my pace quite a bit. I started to regret that decision about 10 or 12 miles later (I think... the whole kilometers to miles thing will never make sense to me, and I claim "too much mental math" is partly to blame for my marathon time.
Maybe around 15 km (?) I saw David for the 1st time as the course looped back on itself. We got to wave and say hello, and David looked like he was really running strong. I admit, I was a little bit surprised at how well he was doing! But proud nonetheless.

(I don't know where on the course this photo was taken, but David looks this good in all of his marathon photos. I hate him!)

Just after the halfway mark, my left foot started to really hurt. I pulled over to adjust my shoe lace in an attempt to make it better. (The day after the Okinawa marathon in Feb. I noticed that the outer/bottom of my left foot was in a lot of pain, but I didn't want to call the doctor because I would've felt stupid telling the doctor "I just ran 26.2 miles and my foot hurts" duh. It hurt on and off during training for Gold Coast, but by that time, I knew that a prescription for "rest" or worse would really interfere with my Australia trip). I also went ahead and turned off my lousy Garmin at this time because it kept beeping in and out of service and because it only had me at 11.4 miles when I knew perfectly well that 21 km=13.1.
Anyway, the shoelace fixing didn't help much at all and just about every step hurt. Well, only when I put full pressure on my left foot (so whenever it hit the ground) and anytime it wasn't flat (so whenever it came off the ground). Excuses, excuses, I know.

The hardest part of the marathon was the end (obviously) but not just because we had run 30 K (by that point, I had given up on converting to miles) and had a little more than 12 to go, but because right around that time, we had to run PAST the start/finish area. It was completely demoralizing! People were finishing the half marathon and the marathon and I Let me tell you, never, not in any card game or on a test I didn't study for or any other run, have I ever been so tempted to cheat. I was having fantasies about running to the opposite side of the road for a water stop or to "tie my shoe" and accidentally get swept away with the crowd of runners headed the direction of the finish line. I didn't though, and good thing, because I would've missed the 35 K chip checkpoint, and the chance to see David (still looking strong) when he was at the 32 or 33 K and I was at the maybe 37 or 38? I had done a lot of walking by that time, seen the yellow balloons go past me, and had gone through lots of self-negotiation. "I'll run the whole last 3 K if I can walk for 4 more minutes now" etc. It was not pretty. And apparently, while running, neither am I:

My story just gets sadder and sadder...sometime around 35 or 36 K, I noticed that I couldn't get a complete breath in either, which freaked me out and I'm sure made it worse.
Also, there was no food on the course! Who in the world throws a party for 20,000 people and doesn't bring any food? A third of a banana or an orange slice is like a little piece of Nirvana at the 18 or 20 mile mark!
I don't know many of David's first marathon thoughts, except that he made a few friends along the way, most notably an Aussie that ran several miles with him. He also saw a Japanese couple that was stopping and taking pictures of each other along the run. He said he didn't walk at all until 18 miles (how in the world did he know where 18 miles was??) and that he was expecting a banana too!

When we registered for the marathon, you get to put a nickname that you want on your bib #. That was a lot of fun... everyone knew your name and it felt good for people to cheer for you, "Good on ya, Becca" and "Doing Well, Becca" and "Come on, Becca, just a wee bit to go" (by the way, that person was lying). There was also a little girl on her dad's shoulders who said, "Look, Dad! Look at the little girl running!" when I went by.

Anyway, I finished in 4:45... my worst time ever. (Maybe I should've eaten the carbs instead of the Nutella after all *wink*)

I got my medal, t-shirt, orange slice and banana after that, and went out to cheer David in.
He finished in 5:06...his best time ever. (had to edit that...I had accidentally written in his clock time instead of his chip time!)

We got our warm clothes & stretched in the sunshine for a while before trying to find the bus back to our hotel.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Australia Day 3: A Rainy Day at the Fair

July 5 was the first day David attempted to golf. He went down to the pro shop in our hotel about an hour before they even opened because he was so excited. But it was raining and there would be no golf on Saturday! Meanwhile, I learned that the hotel was actually running a shuttle to the marathon start area, which alleviated some of my nerves about the following morning. But the rain got my nerves going right back up again... 26.2 miles in the rain would NOT be fun!

I love being somewhere where they speak English! Even if it is the Queen's English. The whole "I know this language!" thing really made our adventures in public transit on the journey to pick up our marathon packets much easier!
As I mentioned before, our hotel ran a shuttle to Surfer's Paradise- there were 3 stops: Pacific Fair, Jupiter's Casino & Holiday Inn Surfer's Paradise. None of those stops were anywhere near where we needed to go for our marathon packets. The shuttle driver suggested that we get off his bus at the 2nd stop and get on a city bus bound for Southport. The bus driver told us we could get on his bus, but that he wouldn't take us all the way to Southport and we'd have to change buses. So that's what we did. Did I mention how darn friendly everyone in Australia is? This sweet looking little old lady got on the 2nd bus a stop or two after us. She was wearing a big leopard print coat and some hot pink flowered pants. I loved her. How could anyone not love little old ladies? David showed her the address of the place where we were going and she said we should get off a the same stop as her, but that she didn't know where we should go after that, as the roads were under construction and she really just went to Southport for the library. David pointed at me and said, "Oh, she'll go with you to the library. She loves the library!" Some other nice lady got on the bus and David got up so she could sit down. She talked to me for the rest of the bus ride telling me how people don't get up anymore, what her family was doing in Gold Coast (theme parks), how preschoolers should learn manners at school, and the weather (rain, rain, rain). The man in front of me, Clive, had his marathon paperwork out, so I asked him if we could follow him out to the expo. This was his 5th Gold Coast Marathon and he said this was the first time there had been chance of anything but sunshine. Go figure. He gave us some general directions once we got off the bus...and good thing, too, because Clive was a very fast walker.
Oh, and that sweet and fashionable little old lady? Right when we got off the bus, she asked if I was going to go to the library with her or if she should just tell me how to get there so we could go after taking care of our marathon business. Too bad we were trying to follow Clive to the expo, because I bet it would've made that lady's day if we would've walked with her to the library!
We tried to tail Clive through Australia Fair (and by this time, I was able to deduce that "Fair" is actually "mall" and "mall" is actually "park"), across the street and could relax the pace a little once we started to see the expo signs and marathon tents. We went in and picked up our race numbers. Australians are very much into conservation (that's why there was a little tip sheet on how to save water on the mirror at the hotel, and why in Sydney the restaurants were heated with those tall outdoor space heaters instead of actual heat) and so of course they didn't give the stuff in plastic bags. Our marathon bags are almost like the "green" grocery bags, so it's one more thing I do not need but will never throw away. We got a couple of magazines, a hat, and a ticket for a free city bus ride after the marathon. We spent some time looking around the (not very many) booths at the Expo and I bought my new favorite running accessory... it's called a SpiBelt and it's just what I had been looking for! You wear it around your waist like a fanny pack, but it's tiny...but it stretches to hold your ID (very important around here!), keys (I usually leave my car unlocked anyway), gel (mine always makes my pocket too full or falls out), coins, etc. Love it! The salesman told us that the SpiBelt came all the way from America, just like us (gee, I wonder what gave us away). So, now I've gone all the way to Australia to get a belt from Texas...and all the way to Italy to get a guy from Kentucky.

We went to the mall and ate a nutritious pre-marathon lunch at the food court. David had Chinese buffet, I had a chicken pesto crepe and a Nutella crepe. We could've gone to the carbo-load marathon luncheon, but why carbo-load when you can eat Nutella? Yum.
We did a little shopping at the Fair too, we decided to buy long sleeves for the marathon. I bought a turtleneck at K-mart, a wool coat at "Miller's" and we bought some fruit at a produce shop. We should've gone to Woolies (that's Australian for Woolworth's- grocery store) and bought some other snacks too, but we didn't.
We took the Southport bus back to Surfer's Paradise, where we checked out the waves, souvenir shops, restaurants, and what would be part of the marathon route.

Yep, we got to run along the beach for much of the marathon! Even though Okinawa is an island and there are lots of beaches and lots of ocean around here, the Okinawa marathon only has a really short glimpse of the ocean, so I looked at this as a really special treat!

This is David and the Gold Coast Skyline. It's actually just David and a really big picture of the Gold Coast Skyline but with the grey skies, we figured this would be as good as it gets! The building with the long stick thing sticking out of it is the Q1, the world's (or maybe just Australia's, I can't remember) tallest residential building.
We found our way to the Holiday Inn Surfer's Paradise and sat there until our shuttle bus returned to take us back to Royal Pines. We got our shirts, shoes and marathon & post-marathon gear all ready once we got back.

We ate dinner at Kalinda, the seafood buffet in our hotel. It was good, but not as great as it was cracked up to be (the man waiting with us said he and his wife have been going there once a year for 16 years). The best part was that they grilled steak and shrimp to order. We (mostly David) had to try really hard not to say "Throw another shrimp on the barbie!" Especially because Australians don't call them shrimp, they call them prawns. After dinner & plenty of water, it was straight to bed with quadruple alarms set for the morning!
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