Northern Lights Results

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This International Cup saw 7 women’s teams in the competition. Due to a couple of countries pulling out at the last minute (New Zealand and Papua New Guinea), both the American and Canadian sides were allowed to enter development teams (USA Liberty and Canada Midnight Suns) in order provide a larger competition for the Cup. While the USA Liberty have had their development side assembled for quite some time, the Midnight Suns were assembled in 48 hours in late June! This definitely shows the depth and strength of women’s footy in Canada (especially since they play the USA Freedom for 3rd place on Friday)!

Going in to the tournament, I was feeling good but didn’t know what role I’d play on the international stage. I usually play midfield or wing at my local club level, but since the Northern Lights are stacked with around 15 girls who usually play the same position, I knew that I would most likely be shuffled around somewhere else. On the evening before our first game, I found out that I would be starting forward pocket (typically a smaller, faster forward that picks up any balls on the ground that the taller forwards don’t mark/catch)! I was happy to have a starting position where my skills would be put to good use. I was also surprised to see that I had been named a “Player to Watch” in our team’s preview.

Initial Preview of the Northern Lights and Midnight Suns:
http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20140801110432288

Round 1 vs. USA Freedom
We knew our first game against the USA “A” team would be our BIG game. We beat them 86-1 in the 2013 Parallel Cup, but weren’t going to take them lightly. Who knows what they had done to prepare for this tournament?

If we won, we felt like we could win against all the other teams and make the Grand Final. If not, our fate would be in someone else’s hands and we’d be hoping all tournament for a big upset.

It looked like it was going to be a close game for the first five minutes, then the Lights brushed off the nerves, and starting playing the kind of footy we knew we could play. I ended up scoring the first goal of the tournament for the Lights! In the end we won 61-7, with goals being shared across the team, showing we are a very balanced squad. I was named one of the best on ground in the game, and my team mates awarded the “TSN Turning Point” award to me (a Canadian neck tie that I had to wear for 2 days) for scoring the first goal.

YouTube Video: http://youtu.be/YzLQWgQh05s
Jen’s Goals (1): 8:20
World Footy News Match Report:
http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/2014080923230162

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Round 2 vs. USA Liberty (Development Team)
Our next test was the development side for the USA. We had high hopes going into this game and hoped to practice some of our structures. The development side actually seemed to have more structure in their back line than their senior side, but our skills, strength and fitness were too strong for them.

Again, I got the call to start as forward pocket. I played the first half of the game and scored 2 goals! Let me tell you, nothing feels better than scoring against the Americans! The Lights defeated the Liberty 125-0!

YouTube Video: http://youtu.be/QDBihOWQSLg
Jen’s Goals (2): 16:30 and 34:00
World Footy News Match Report:
http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20140813202536762
Another Take on Our Match:
http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20140812215518960

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Round 3 vs. Fiji
Our next game was against Fiji and played at Mulgrave Reserve as it was the Community Round. The game was hosted by the Eastern Devils, my team mate Kendra’s current team, and my captain Aimee’s old team!

We didn’t know much about Fiji going into the game, but expected the island team to be fast and hard-hitting, with a rugby-style of play. We were not disappointed! Fiji was a tough opponent and put their bodies on the line at all costs. I think they will be the team to watch in 3 years after they brush up on some of their skills and knowledge of the game.

Again, I was selected to start in forward pocket (apparently I have found my calling). We strayed a little from our typical structure for the first half of the game and then settled back into things in the second half. I was thrown back into the game for the last 5 minutes and was able to score another 2 goals! We beat Fiji 67-2 and but more importantly, had survived the game relatively injury-free!

YouTube Video: http://youtu.be/BSAuJkM2sKw
Jen’s Goals (2): 1:17:20 and 1:22:50
World Footy News Match Report:
http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20140817071152416

jenfiji

Round 5 vs. Tonga
At this point, we knew that even if we would have lost against Tonga, we still would make it to the Grand Final due to our high percentage from our success in our other games (around 1800!!!). We were expecting another hard-hitting game as the Fijians had warned us “Oh Tonga… They hit hard!” Yikes! (Note: We had a bye in Round 4).

I started forward pocket again, and was ready to score a few goals. Unfortunately within about a minute into the game, a collision occurred between two big Tongans and me, which resulted in a corkie (i.e. charlie horse). Even with this, I ended up “soccering” two goals and tackling some girl that had a clear 30kg (70 lbs) on me in the first quarter, and was told to rest for the remainder of the game. I was disappointed, but knew we had bigger Irish fish to fry on Saturday.

The Northern Lights were victorious and won 144-12, the highest scoring women’s game in the tournament history! At the end of the match, the Tongans were so nice and we sang some songs with them. After playing both island teams, we have grown to realize that we should also include singing lessons as part of our pre-season training.

YouTube Video: http://youtu.be/yxX9MFbTuIM
Jen’s Goals (2): 4:20 and 18:40
World Footy News Match Report:
http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20140820142000530
Singing with the Tongans:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=742236655843082

jentonga

Next Up: Grand Final vs. Ireland at Punt Road Oval
Well, this is the game the Lights have been waiting for 3 years now. Last International Cup, Ireland got the best of the Canadian side. However, this year we have an amazing group of talented, skilled, fit and strong women, who are ready to take on the Irish. Whatever the results are, I know that our team couldn’t have worked harder or sacrificed more. I am so proud of all the girls and can’t wait to take the field with them on Saturday at the historic Punt Road Oval.

I have been selected to start forward pocket again, and hope I can score a couple more goals to help the team to victory!

LIVE STREAMING:
Melbourne Time – Saturday, August 23 @ 2:10pm
Toronto Time – Saturday, August 23 @ 12:10am
Edmonton Time – Friday, August 22 @ 10:10pm
http://m.afl.com.au/global/aflic14/streaming

Northwind Results

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The men’s competition consisted of all the 18 teams being split into 3 groups.

Each team would subsequently play three games within their group, and afterwards, the three group winners along with the best second place team (based on wins and then percentage: goals for divided by goals against), would move onto the medal round. The remaining teams would be further split into a Division 1 (teams ranked 5-12) and Division 2 (teams ranked 13-18).

Our first game was against China on a chilly afternoon. We really had no idea what the Chinese team was going to be like since they didn’t actually arrive in Melbourne until the night before our game. Although we started slowly, we eventually cruised to a convincing 119-1 victory. Match report can be found here: http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20140811074921345

Three days later, we got to take on our perennial opponents: USA. This was going to be our best shot in a couple of years at finally taking down the states, and it turned into a hard fought and physical game. Despite being down by only two points at 3/4 time and having several opportunities to take the lead, we eventually ended up losing 51-20. Match report here: http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20140814090255390

Last of our initial seeding round was taking on Sweden at a local footy team’s home oval. While I personally was not playing due to some tightness in my hamstring, and subsequently being rested as a precaution, we jumped out to an early lead, and ended up shutting Sweden out 130-0. Match report: http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20140817082038662

Unfortunately, we missed out on the medal round by only a few percentage points (if we had prevented two of the goals against in the USA game we would have been through!), but got seeded against France for our fourth match. While we as a team probably went in somewhat overconfident, the game became fiercely competitive and a bit nasty at times. We were up by 4 points at quarter time, but after a bit of a talking to from our coaches turned things around and eventually came out victorious 69-15. Match report: http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20140818214703967

So with all but one game remaining, Canada finds itself in a 5v6 playoff game which is alternately, the “Division 1 Final” against Tonga on Friday at 1pm and will again be streaming online at: http://afl.com.au/global/aflic14/streaming/. That correlates to an 11pm start on the evening of Thursday, August 21 in Toronto, and 9pm in Edmonton.

Canada’s best previous finish was 6th, so we’ve got a chance to eclipse that this year, and much better than our 10th place finish three years ago!

STREAMING VIDEO LINK:

http://afl.com.au/global/aflic14/streaming/

Melbourne Time – 1:00pm (Friday, August 22)

Toronto Time – 11:00pm (Thursday, August 21)

Edmonton Time – 9:00pm (Thursday, August 21)

One Week into Melbourne

Well, we’ve finally got a few moments to sit back and write about our our first week in Melbourne. Our itinerary has been jam-packed, with only a few hours here and there to spare. Here’s what happened during our first week.

Northern Lights Support Staff

At our first team meeting, the Northern Lights were introduced to our support staff. I was shocked and surprised at the experience and talent that has volunteered their time, effort, and expertise to help us on our quest to win the International Cup. Along with our head coach, we have 3 assistant coaches (forward, midfield, backline specialists), 2 specialist coaches/runners, 1 player liaison, 1 strength coach, 1 trainer, 1 statistician, 2 team managers, 2 physios, 1 masseuse (and however many hands she can get during the day). This totals around a 15 or so people who can help us manage both our physical and mental side of the game.

Daily Training at Port Melbourne & Ocean Recovery

Along with our support staff, another resource that was set up for both our teams was daily trainings at the amazing grounds of Port Melbourne, a club currently at the top of the VFL ladder. We trained every morning from Monday, August 4 to Friday, August 8, alternating 9am and 10am start times between our two teams.

Northern Lights taking over the tram! Port Melbourne Grounds

Then, after training we had the pleasure of ocean recovery! What’s that? Well, that’s exactly what it sounds like! Both the men’s and women’s teams have had the pleasure of wading waist-deep in the freezing, cold ocean for 10 minutes! Apparently these sessions reduce muscle inflammation and decrease muscle soreness after heavy training sessions. I had been dreading the ocean recovery sessions even before I left Canada, so the first one was pretty rough. So far we’ve made it through four ocean sessions… and I am not looking forward to the last two!

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Northern Lights Guest Speakers

In between training and ocean recovery, the Northern Lights also had multiple guest speakers come in and talk to them. These presentations were given from highly respected members of the AFL community, and I was grateful to have that level of experience give their time to come and talk with us. Over the course of the week, the Northern Lights had the following guests:

  • Michael Vozzo, AFL Assistant Umpiring Coach
    • Gave us insight on the rules of the game and the umpire’s perspective
  • Damian Carroll, Hawthorn FC Development Coach
    • Told the story of Hawthorn’s loss in the 2012 AFL grand final and the importance of their focus for their ultimate win in Horgan 2013 AFL grand final
  • Andy Collins, Williamstown FC Senior Coach
    • Stressed the importance of keeping the game plan simple and playing for your team mates
  • Leigh Russell, Hawthorn FC Specialist, Facilitator and a Counsellor and FOX8’s The Recruit Psychology Coach
    • Explained the mental barriers athletes experience and spoke briefly about common cognitive disorders

Team Bonding and Social Events

If you are sensing a trend here, our days were pretty packed during the first week. There was training in the morning, recovery/rehab sessions mid-day, team meetings in the afternoon, and usually some sort of team bonding or social events during the evening. Here’s what we got up to…

On Tuesday, August 5, all 3 teams were divided into teams of 6 to do a Melbourne Amazing Race. Essentially there were 80 or so Canadians in bright red jackets running around downtown Melbourne, asking people where certain statues were, what Korean messages meant, and if they had tattoos below the waist. As you can imagine, this “fun day” for 80 national athletes ended up being fairly competitive and most teams ended up running an extra 8km that afternoon. My team came in first, beating out the second place team by just one minute! Steve’s team was the first men’s team to finish, with an overall placing of third.

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In one of the evenings we had free, a few of us went to St. Kilda at dusk to search for fairy penguins. Each night fairy penguins return from the ocean to their nests. We were delightfully surprised and were able to see around a dozen or so penguins up close (and for free)! Afterwards we found a pub called Big Mouth and had the best, cheapest, and largest dinner of our trip! The chicken parma (a Melbourne must) was HUUUUGGGGEEEEE! We ended our trip in St. Kilda fare visiting one of the many cake shops in the area and getting Spanish hot chocolate as thick as molasses.

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We also were able to make it to 3 footy games at the MCG:

  • Collingwood Magpies 11.10.76 defeated Port Adelaide Power 10.10.70
  • Richmond Tigers 14.11.95 defeated Essendon Bombers 11.11.77
  • Hawthorn Hawks 17.13.115 defeated Melbourne Demons 9.11.65

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We ended off the week at Port Melbourne who had put on a BBQ for us. This meal consisted of some traditional Aussie football club staples, such as dim sims (Asian dumplings), burgers complete with a fried egg on top and sausages.

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Next blog post will be updates from the start of International Cup! Stay tuned!

2 Weeks to IC14

This week I am taking time out to celebrate some achievements from May! While it may have taken me awhile to post these results, it was somewhat strategic as I didn’t want to reveal ALL my training secrets!  The internet is a big place… and you never know who from Ireland, USA, Fiji or Tonga may be looking to get an edge on the competition.

At the beginning of March, one of the tasks the Northern Lights coaching staff asked us to do was create personal goals for ourselves in preparation for IC14. The goals were to align with our team values and be measurable, with a target as to when we were going to achieve them.

A lot of my goals had May targets in order to coincide with the beginning of the footy season so I could assess just how much work I’ve been putting in during the off-season.

To give you an idea of how long it took for me to achieve these goals, I can say that I started building a base in November upon selection to the national team, but really amped up my training in January (after the hoopla of the holidays).

Team Value: Show Commitment

  • Have one mason jar salad per weekday for the months of February and March

checkmarkCheck! I even extended the streak through April! Yes, believe it or not, this once salad-avoiding girl made and ate a salad for lunch at work EVERYDAY for THREE WHOLE MONTHS straight. It still even blows my mind. For some reason, I would always forget to take my lunch on the last Friday of the month and Steve would have to save me by delivering my lunch to work for me. Call it cheesy, but it was really great to have someone so supportive and say, “I didn’t want you to lose your streak!” even though my work is not exactly on the way to school for him.

Since I made the change, I am finding it hard and disappointing to have anything but a homemade salad for lunch now. In downtown Toronto, a lunch salad can range anywhere from $10-$15, so buying one everyday really adds up! Also another added bonus was that I could actually control what and how much was going into my salads. If you’re interested in trying a mason jar salad, the recipe is found in our Brains Courage Heart Food cookbook!

  • Cycle to work every day for the month of May

checkmarkAnother check! I started cycling to work everyday as soon as I bought my bike in April, am still continuing today! It is by far the most efficient way to get around the city during rush hour – and being an efficient person – walking is just too slow for me now. I lucked out in May as I only got caught in the pouring rain one trip home – right before I had to catch a flight back home to Edmonton (it was the worst).

I also completed the 50km route of the Becel Ride for Heart on Sunday, June 1! For those who don’t know, they shut down two of Toronto’s busiest freeways – the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway – and you and 13,000 of your cycling friends get to ride down it.  Check it out!

bikeforheart

Team Value: Elite Fitness

  • Complete 3 dead hang pull-ups by may 1

checkmarkPull-ups.  Every female’s favourite two words.  NOT. A few years ago I had a fitness goal to do ONE, yes ONE pull-up and even hired a personal trainer to help me achieve this goal.  I was so close, but life got in the way, I stopped working towards that goal, forgot about it and the dream was gone…

I remember the day – June 29, 2013. Steve and I had just finished a tabata in preparation for the Parallel Cup (game against the US in the off years of International Cup), and we were walking past a playground.  I decided to mess around and pretend to do a chin-up.  To my complete surprise, I ended up pumping out a chin-up without even thinking about it.  I was shocked.  My life-long dream had been fulfilled just by working out and getting stronger in preparation for the Parallel Cup last year.

I wanted a bigger challenge for International Cup this time around, so I set the goal of 3 dead hang pull-ups.  Just by going to Body Pump Mondays and DCC Wednesdays, my overall strength increased over the off-season in order for me to be able to do 4 in a row!  Now, whenever I see a set of monkey bars, I run over and do a few just because I am still overwhelmed every time I do them.

  • Complete a 3km time under 13 minutes by May 1

Thcheckmarkis was one of the biggest fitness goal shocks I had.  I did monthly time trials over the off-season and started in November with a 14:36 time. Over the months I saw my time decrease and shaved off a minute by February to have a 13:36 time. When I was preparing for the next time trial, I thought there was no way I was going to be even close to hitting the sub-13 minute mark… but I surprised myself and ran a 13:00.56!  Being the Engineer I am, that 0.56 seconds over 13 minutes meant that I didn’t actually run a sub-13 minute 3km, so I went back to the track 3 days later and ran it again.  This time, I got a 12:52!!! Another goal complete!

  • Achieve a 10.0 beep test result by May 1

checkmarkI like running the beep test because if you have a baseline number and run it on a similar surface, you should be able to gauge your own personal fitness. I am still shocked as to how many people fear the beep test.  Once you learn to accept that you are running it against yourself, your results can depend on many factors, and that whatever you get is just a general number, beep tests are pretty tolerable!

For those living under a rock, the beep test involves running continuously between two points that are 20m apart from side to side. These runs are synchronized with pre-recorded audio which plays beeps at set intervals. As the test proceeds, the interval between each successive beep decreases, forcing the athlete to increase their speed over the course of the test, until it is impossible to keep in sync with the recording.

At the beginning of November, I started at a level 8.4 on the beep test and wanted to hit that magic level 10.0 by the beginning of the footy season.  Again, by following our Northern Lights strength and fitness program, I was able to achieve my goal and hit a 10.7 by the beginning of May! My personal best has been a 10.10 at our May Northern Lights Eastern Training Camp.  I also recently ran a back alley beep test (the latest Toronto craze) and ran a 10.4.

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As fitness is a huge component of the game, I am excited to be going into the International Cup knowing that over the past 9 months I’ve put in the hard work and it looks to be paying off!

Check out the video of me ACHIEVING my fitness goals!
BIG SHOUT-OUT TO TEAM MATES CANDACE AND HEATHER FOR FILMING AND DOING THESE CRAZY THINGS WITH ME!

 

 

 

3 Weeks to IC14

It’s been a while since I’ve posted something up here, and I’ll go ahead and allocate the blame as:

  • 25% busy with school/work
  • 25% busy with training and games
  • 25% laziness
  • 25% Jen (because Jen always needs to be blamed for something!)

I’ll start out by saying that even though our season here in Toronto is now 6 games deep (Blues are a somewhat disappointing 2-4), it honestly hasn’t been until this past week that I’ve personally started to feel like I’m contributing on the field in a manner similar to previous years.

In contrast to all other weeks thus far, Jen and I both played in 2 games over the past 7 days: one on July 1, for the annual Canada Day games played in Toronto, and the other this past Saturday. So while that’s only a 4-day gap between games, it’s definitely something that we’ll have to be comfortable with given the number of games we’ll have compressed into the 2-week International Cup (5 for the men, and TBD for the women).

(As an aside – check out the men’s bracket here. Canada’s first 3 games are against China, USA (again?!), and Sweden.)

In most games, I often find myself tasked with matching up on the opposing team’s centre half-forward – it’s usually manned by one of the bigger and taller Australians in our competition, which obviously makes my job somewhat difficult.

As I mentioned previously, it hasn’t been until this past week that I’ve felt that I’m hitting my stride with my positioning and play. In my mind, there have been 2 factors to this:

  1. Mentality. For whatever reason, I have experienced a shift in mentality. I’d go into games obviously wanting to compete and win, but something was affecting my actual willingness to get to contests, or more accurately, prevent my opponent from getting to the ball.
  2. Fitness/Injury. Since March, I’ve been going through what seems like a revolving door of injuries: hamstring strain, elbow hyper extension/tricep strain (still not sure what the problem is exactly), some mystery ailment to my big toe, my perpetually “rolling” ankles, and most recently another muscle strain: this time the glute. Incredibly frustrating, that’s for sure – when you’re trying to improve/maintain fitness but you can’t without increased risk of injury.

I can’t necessarily put my finger on what has changed in my mentality for the past 2 games, but I think it has something to do with directing more of my focus onto preventing my player from having an impact on the game, rather than trying to have an impact myself.

As for the second point, I think my mother put it best when addressing the possibility that my severe toe pain was due to gout:

“But gout is something that only old people get….well, I guess you are 30 now…”

Thanks Mom!

But in all seriousness she’s probably onto something. Back in the spry youth of my 20’s…or at least early 20’s, recovery in general was a lot easier and not something I had to consciously think about and act on.

  • Stretching?! – Pshaw, who needs it?
  • Warm up? – I’ll do it…but I’m not really sure what good it’s doing.
  • Ice bath/icing after games? – Far too much of a process…not to mention far too uncomfortable.
  • Physio/Heading to the Doctor? – Extremely unlikely unless I was in a LOT of pain.

Thankfully though, aside from the occasional flare up of pain in the toe and the last bit of recovery from my glute strain, things are finally feeling great.

We’re down to 3 weeks before we depart for Australia, so almost exactly a month before the men’s first game against China (women’s first game is still waiting to be announced, but I’m sure it will be around the same time). Fingers crossed that I’m able to stay injury-free until then and although I’m missing our club game this weekend (probably should help out even more on the injury front!), I’ve also still got 2 more Blues games to completely sort out the mental side of things as well.

…Jeez. Only three weeks till we leave?! Where has all the time gone?!

Unfortunately there’s no fancy video to go along with this one – only a couple of action shots (courtesy of Rob Colburn) of Jen and me from the Canada Day games this year.

2014 Canada Day Match Northwind vs AFL Ontario All Stars 031 2014 Canada Day Match Northern Lights vs AFL Ontario All Stars 084 2014 Canada Day Match Northwind vs AFL Ontario All Stars 064 2014 Canada Day Match Northern Lights vs AFL Ontario All Stars 118

14 Weeks to IC14

Sorry, was busy over the Easter Weekend, so we missed the 15-week countdown to IC blog post.  There’s only 14 weeks left – can’t believe it’s going by so fast!

One of the exercises the Team Canada women had to do in March was create measurable goals for themselves based on our 10 Team Values. Future blog posts will give updates on my goals, but today I’ll focus about one specifically:

Team Value #2: Show Commitment

Cycle to work every day for the month of May.

Cycling. Even just saying the word made me shudder. Remember when you were a kid and stopped suddenly, fell off your seat, and landed straight onto the frame of your bike? That’s essentially the feeling I got when mentioning the word “cycling” (just for the record, yes, that hurts both boys and girls)!

Why the heck did would I ever make a goal about cycling? I hated cycling! I had no interest in cycling! I’ve seen drivers in downtown Toronto and there is no way I would even think of sharing the road with them on a lazy Sunday afternoon let alone in rush hour traffic! You get sweaty, you get sticky, you get helmet hair, your butt hurts, you get wicked wedgies, you get hit with side mirrors, you get thrown off your bike by car doors, your tires get stuck in street car tracks, your tires get stuck in catch basins, you will fall off your bike, your bike is eventually going to be stolen… the list kept piling up as to why cycling was not for me. All of the aforementioned reasons compounded with the fact I hadn’t really ridden a bike in over 10 years, had no clue as to how to even ride a bike on the road, and how to use those stupid hand signals, really did not inspire me to cycle at all.

When I thought of cycling, I immediately pictured this:

bikefail

Why the heck would I ever make a goal about cycling with all these negative thoughts and images???? (…Nice pink plaid by the way…)

…Well, it would be the ultimate challenge. Embrace something you absolutely hate and fear, and turn it into something positive! It was going to be a change of mindset, something I feel people need to do more often.

So, I took the big plunge and decided to start cycling.  *GASP!*

To start my journey it was incredibly nerve-wracking. I was frequently on Kijiji and Craigslist trying to find the best deal on a bike. Problem was – I didn’t even know there were so many bike types and styles! I was just used to the old mountain bike… but I found out there’s a cruiser, road, off-road, mountain, single-speeds, and even some bikes that move forward while you pedal backwards! MINDBLOWING. A work colleague bumped me in the right direction for the perfect bike for me – a Giant Dash 3 – a solid women’s road bike (he grimaced as I told him I liked it because the colours were pretty). I lucked out and got an amazing deal on the bike, but then I had to find all the fun mandatory accessories that go with it – front and rear bike lights, lock, and helmet – which again was another anxiety-ridden process, since I didn’t know anything about those things.

With all the necessary components, I was ready to start my journey. Kind of.  I was really nervous to ride down the streets of Downtown Toronto but somehow swindled Steve into “practicing” with me on a Sunday night. We rode down the exact route I was going to take the next morning. Talk about anxiety and adrenaline! In the end I survived, but was still nervous as to what rush hour traffic in downtown Toronto would hold.

The next morning Steve escorted me to work again and I started to feel more comfortable. However, the true test would be the evening ride home when I would have to do it all by myself… and guess what!? I MADE IT! WITH PROPER HAND SIGNALS AND EVERYTHING! What a sense of accomplishment (and the helmet hair wasn’t even that bad)!

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Since April 14, I have been riding to work every day in order to prepare myself to achieve my May goal. When I wrote my goal, I wasn’t really thinking about what happens when it is pouring rain outside, but hey, I’ll deal with that when it happens. I mean, I’m a seasoned veteran now!

I’m planning on cycling to as many Thursday Blues trainings as I can anticipate the cross-training benefits. In just a week, my legs are already stronger and I can crank up the resistance and get a mini-workout in to and from work!

Take a look at a short, shaky video of me cycling around Downtown Toronto. On Day 2 my skills were tested, as not only did I have to deal with cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists on the road… I had to deal with HORSES!

My new-found fondness for cycling has also pushed me to sign up with my work’s corporate team for the Becel Heart&Stroke Ride for Heart. On June 1, I plan to bike 50km down a closed Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway (2 of the major freeways in Toronto). Click on the route image to check out my personal page.

rideforheartroute

 

16 Weeks to IC14

Clearly competing for Canada at the 2014 International Cup is the primary focus for Jen and me this year. We can do as much fitness training as possible in the lead up to Melbourne in August, but it will all be for naught unless we’re also able to improve our actual game skills as well. In tightly contested matches, fitness is only a part of the equation – decision making, skill execution, and poise under pressure are several additional characteristics that make great footy players. Unfortunately, due to geographical expanse of our country, the Canadian national teams are essentially only able to get together as a group to train and play, once a year. Yes, the GTHA based players have been meeting every other week for some great sessions, but a lot of the skill and player progression is a result of club training sessions. It’s fortunate for us that our club team, the Central Blues (bluesafc.ca), has been fairly consistent in training during the off-season since December!

Attendance had been up and down for the first couple months, but as March rolled in, the faithful Blues men and women were gradually emerging from their respective winter hibernations to show their shiny faces at our twice a week training sessions. Additionally, we’ve had an influx of new (and some returning after a brief hiatus) players who seem keen as mustard to learn, and improve their footy skills. So much so that this past Saturday, at our last indoor weekend training session at Monarch Park, we had upwards of 45 participants on the pitch. While it occasionally got a bit crowded, having an overabundance of enthusiastic players is an amazing “problem” to have. As the weather has (finally…) turned nice here in Toronto, we’re now taking this party outside after the Easter long weekend to work on our kicks, hand balls, marks, shepherds, and (if we’re lucky) our tans too.

Based on my observations throughout this past month, if we continue to receive the same type of commitment from players to put in effort at training, I can honestly say that I would not at all be surprised to see every single Blues team (Div. 1, Div. 2, and Women’s) to be competing in finals come September. So while the IC is still 16 weeks away, Round 1 of the AFLO season for the Central Blues starts up in just 6 weeks out in Guelph. To say I’m anything less than fired up to get this season started would be a massive understatement!

Nothing too crazy in the way of multimedia features this week – just a quick video of the Blues having some fun at the end of our last indoor training for 2014. Since we’re slightly restricted in terms of space at one of the gyms we train at, playing an actual scrimmage game of footy is unrealistic – so we’ve taken to modifying other sports instead: this week it was basketball!

Lastly, if anyone is at all interested in trying his or her hand at Aussie rules football in Toronto, I’d highly recommend coming to check out the Central Blues! You can find more info in regards to training times and locations at bluesafc.ca, or just get ahold of Jen or me and we can give you more accurate details!