October 20, 2006
The wind is a major focus here in NZ, especially in the springtime. Everyone is always talking about the southerlies and the northwesterlies, not to mention the easterlies at the beach. So I thought this would be a good time to tell you a little about my wind experiences.
Last Friday, I was driving down to Timaru (2 hours south of Christchurch) for the South Island Masters Games. My friend, Ross, was doing the swimming and I signed up for the cycling road race (the swimming was closed). There was a northwesterly blowing and, even though we were in a truck, the wind was trying to push us off the road. At one point it blew up so much dust that you couldn't see the mountains to the east anymore. The northwesterly seems to be a very gusty wind. But it's warm because, remember, the equator is to the north here. In fact it's so warm that the snow-covered mountain tops we saw on the way down were half-melted when we drove back the next day. Good thing we already went skiing!
Saturday I did the road race and it was short and flat but challenging. It was 2 loops of a 12 km triangle of country roads. The first leg was an awesome tailwind followed by a strong crosswind on the second leg and then a full on head wind to complete the circuit. I managed to join up with a pack of 4 other women at the start but 2 of us were dropped after about 2/3 of the first loop. Fortunately the 2 of us managed to stay together and we took turns pulling in front. She was in the 45-49 age group so we didn't even have to worry about the finish line! I don't know how I placed (other than not in the top 3) but it was fun so maybe I'll try another one sometime.
On Sunday, back in ChCh, I met up with Bas, the leader of the 2 bike trips I've done in NZ in 2003 and 2005. We went up to the Port Hills (me a little fatigued from the race the day before) and, as luck would have it, the winds were horrendous. In fact, Bas said that he had never seen winds that bad up there. It was a northwesterly with huge gusts. Two of them blew me clear across to the other side of the road. And twice as I came around a curve into the wind, it just flipped my front wheel to the right. It got so bad that we had to get off our bikes (after noticing that no one else was on the road, including cars!). I laid my bike down flat and crouched as low as I could but I was still scared silly - certain that I was literally going to be blown off the hill. Eventually we could stand up and we walked for about half a mile to where it was a little less windy. By that time I was quite paranoid so I kept my feet out of the pedal clips and every time I heard a gust of wind I just put my foot down on the ground. I was one happy woman after I made it down to sea level - still blowing like crazy but at least I wasn't going to be blown over a precipice anymore!
My last wind story is a golf story. My friend Ross has been teaching my golf. (Yes Dad, after you made me pick up my ball at the Muskoka Beach Inn when I was about 9 because I was taking too long, someone has decided that I might be trainable after all!) The wind was howling plus there were machines just ahead of us fixing up the greens by taking plugs of turf out, spreading sand over and then sweeping it. Maybe it's good for the greens in the long run but I can tell you that it is a challenge to putt on a green covered with little holes partially covered with sand! At least the wind only did a number on our drives! It was interesting to see a ball go straight towards the hole from the tee and then suddenly veer off to the right! Forunately I never got much height so I didn't suffer as much as the good players.
I didn't play every hole or keep score but a few days later I played again and did all 18 holes. I was out in 60 on the first 9 and went down to 45 for the second 9! I even beat one of the people in our group in the last nine and got one par! Just think if Dad hadn't made me pick up that ball when I was 9 years old and I hadn't had a 45 year gap in my golfing career? But I guess I should tell you the whole truth now that you are all impressed with my golfing talent - it was a par 3 course ;o)
Well I guess that's it for my wind stories.
But I did do one more fun thing last week. I watched the New Zealand Silver Ferns play Australia in women's netball. For those of you who don't know, netball is kind of like basketball except you can't run with the ball and there's no backboard so you have to be accurate. The net looks smaller too. The women are unbelievable athletes, running constantly, catching the ball in mid-air and changing direction in an instant. It reminded me of going to a Stanford women's basketball game - lots of cheering women and girls in the stands and a game dominated by finesse and skill rather than raw power like the men's games tend to be.