Beginner's Guide to Synchro

04/09/2013 04:56 PM
Talk About a Happy Birthday!
World Champions, baby!!

Our club took two teams to Riccione, Italy to compete in the 2012 Fina World Masters Championships. At the beginning of the season, I was a wreck because most of my usual team had decided not to go. There would be no Spies in Italy. Two other teams kind of dissolved the same way, so they put the rest of us together and hoped for the best.

We swam Fuego for our tech and Copa for our free. Other than a couple minor glitches - I totally smacked Sylvia in the head during the beginning strokes of Fuego - we did extremely well. So well in fact, that we came home with gold medals.

This is my first gold medal in a major meet. And to get it on my birthday was just awesome!

When we checked the scores, we learned that we beat the silver medal team by almost 3 points. Talk about icing on the cake.

Here's the video of our gold medal-winning routine:

10/17/2011 07:05 AM
2011 Nationals: Outstanding Duets
Out of all the routines we saw at Nationals, three duets stand out in my mind as simply outstanding. There's no way I can rank them in terms of which I liked better so I'll just present them here in random order.

First up:
Russian Bells Duet. I call it that because I don't know who the swimmers are, but one was rumored to be Russian. The "bells" part is self explanatory once you see the video. The choreography is just wonderful. Enjoy!

Next up:
The Unsyncables' own Ymajahi Brooks and Jessica Bond. I have to admit that this music annoyed the crap out of me the few times I heard it at practice. After seeing them swim this routine, it made perfect sense.

John Ortiz and Hallie Todd of Tualatin Hills Synchro. They did an extremely creative Michael Jackson routine. Of course it was John, so the creativity is not all that surprising. Kudos!!

10/16/2011 04:56 PM
2011 Nationals: The Spies Have It!
I'm a bit in shock at the moment because I just realized that the Aqua Tics, formally known as the Synchro Nuts have been swimming as a team for five Nationals now. We've had a few people come and go, but overall we've had one steady core group.

And it's been awesome!

We started out as the "throw away" folks the coaches just didn't know what to do with. But we embraced our inner misfit and emerged as a pretty solid team. And that is why I'm so proud of the free routine we all came up with.

But first the tech.

Usually, we only write one routine a year. This time, we needed to write two because our Beatles tech was getting old. Not to say that we were tired of it. We weren't. We just needed to move on. Which brings us to Fuego.

We had a couple hiccups, but overall, it wasn't a complete train wreck... Okay. I might be judging on a curve. We scored 59.250 with this routine which put us in fourth place behind our other 50s team, Wisconsin Waterloons and Tualatin Hills Synchro.

But then we pulled out the big guns - literally - with the free. We have so many gun hands in this routine that it's ridiculous. The whole strategy for if someone got lost in the choreography was for them to just shoot at a judge until they figured out how to get back on.

Fortunately, no one needed to pull that stunt and we came away with a pretty decent routine.

We had a really good time swimming this routine. I'm so proud of how well everyone did considering that it was a new routine and we had some difficult "WoW" factors involved.

We scored well enough to take down Tualatin Hills and snatch the bronze medal. Not too bad for a bunch of spies!

07/19/2011 05:35 AM
We're Okay, Lifeguard. Really.
I hope I can tell this one right.

My favorite moment happened at the synchro class I take with a few of my teammates. We're all fairly new to the sport, but willing to give anything a try. We're kinda crazy that way.

After the World Masters in Perth, Australia, I was so excited to try some of the things I'd seen at competition. Naturally, I picked out something the winning 20s team did for our 50s trio. 'Cause I'm kinda crazy that way.

I was in a front pike and my one of my trio partners was to have her back to me and hook her arms behind her head, but around my legs so I would pull her over as I did a jumpover. She was supposed to end in a back tuck while I sat out of the layout then lifted her.

Simple, right?

For whatever reason, I couldn't get her to let go of my legs. She was holding on to them for dear life which meant I couldn't get out of the way for her to tuck. We tried this over and over with the same result. Maybe not exactly the same. It got worse and worse each time through.

The embarrassing part is that we must have looked really bad because the lifeguard was sitting poised on her chair ready to rescue us. She just knew we were about to drown. Needless to say this hasn't actually made it into a routine.

It has, however, given us a choreography standard. If a lifeguard thinks we're drowning while trying a hybrid, we're not including that hybrid in the routine. I suppose that's common sense....

Happy swimming!

06/10/2011 06:18 PM
2010 FINA Masters was so awesome! My team pulled it together and had a really good swim for our team tech.

I think we kinda psyched ourselves out for the free, but we still pulled out a pretty decent swim. So decent in fact, that we managed to come home with bronze medals. Talk about awesome. So exciting!

02/19/2009 12:29 PM
I Gonna Wash That Gel Right Outta My Hair....Eventually
If you've ever swum in a synchro competition, there is one thing you know: Gel is beast to get out of your hair once all is said and done. I've known swimmers who were still trying to separate their hair from the concoction a week later.

Granted, I'm pretty new to the synchro thing, but I have had the experience of gelling my hair. Fortunately, I've also had the benefit of 40+ years of experience in my teammates who've all been there, done that.

The trick I've learned to removing gel from hair is to use conditioner. Simple, huh? When you're ready to de-gel, just coat your gelled hair while it's still in the bun with a thick layer of conditioner then hop in the shower. Make sure you pay attention to those tricky areas around your ears and along your nape where gel likes to hide out.

While you're getting the chlorine off your body, the conditioner softens the gel. Rinse it away with hot water. Shampoo and condition your hair normally. You'll be good as new!

I've also found that conditioner is like the be all, end all of de-gelling. I got a dob of gel on my tech suit at nationals. Back at the hotel, I smeared conditioner on the spot and let it set for about fifteen minutes. It rinsed completely away. No problems.

I love conditioner! I use Infusium and have not yet tested it against other brands. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

I've also heard that pineapple juice is really good for de-gelling. I'll let someone else run that experiment.

Happy swimming!

02/18/2009 03:19 AM
Big News!!

So back in 2007 I wrote this little romantic suspense novel about a synchronized swimmer turned bodyguard who's been assigned to protect a rock star. On January 24, 2009 it was released by Amira Press. I'd be honored if you checked it out. Clicking on the cover will take you directly to the publisher's website.

Isn't the cover the best? Valerie Tibbs designed it. She did a marvelous job. Click the link to swing by her blog and check out her other covers. She's amazing!

And now... A little more about the book. I'd love to hear what you think.

SECRET BODYGUARD is available now from Amira Press!


Erica Kellogg is a former Olympic synchronized swimmer who has been blackballed from the sport she adores. She’s dealt with her loss by joining a world renowned security firm where she can lose herself in a myriad of dangerous assignments. Needless to say, she’s not thrilled when she learns her latest case barely amounts to babysitting duty. If that weren’t bad enough, Trevor Cole, the man she’s been assigned to protect is, in her opinion, nothing more than a spoiled rock star. She doesn’t count on finding out there’s more to him than meets the eye or falling in love.

Secret Bodyguard Excerpt:

Erica knew when she was being watched. She’d had that instinct to some extent ever since she could remember. After joining the firm, she’d worked to hone it until it became yet another reliable asset in her ever growing arsenal. It was because of that instinct that she knew the moment Trevor Cole first laid eyes on her. She hadn’t realized it was him until she’d looked up and caught him staring over the railing at her. He couldn’t have realized it, but the sun, being generous with its light, not so much its heat, hit him perfectly from her position on the dock. She could see his eyes through the glasses and confirm his stare. Though Erica had seen pictures of the man, she wasn’t prepared for the sheer magnetism he exuded. She’d have to be careful she didn’t get sucked in. Thank God for his golden blond hair. Blond men were not her type.

Still, she couldn’t help but prefer that his first glimpse of her hadn’t been when she was wearing a bulky coat and boots. A cool breeze danced across the dock reminding her why she was dressed the way she was. In her brain, she understood her reaction to seeing him for the first time. Over the past day and a half, Erica had immersed herself in everything Trevor Cole. Both the public reports from newspapers and other publications and the private ones that she could only access through Trecam. On a personal level, she liked that he was a decent guy. On a professional one, it sucked.

Because of his boring background, Erica recommended that Caitlyn assign a team. One person on the front lines gathering evidence and protecting Trevor, while the other person ran down the leads. Hoping to avoid the whole audition thing, Erica volunteered for background duty. Her boss took the recommendations under advisement and amended assignment as needed. All except the part where Erica wouldn’t have to deal with Trevor in person. Hence Erica’s reluctant appearance on the dock. Caitlyn assigned the lead tracking to Jason.

Not wishing to make her assignment even harder, she decided not to alienate the man before they’d even met. That’s why Erica deferentially dropped her gaze first. She turned her attention to the women and the man in the wheelchair in front of her. She knew from her research that the man was Detective Cameron Dobbs and the thin woman was his wife Marcy. Cam and Trevor grew up on neighboring ranches. The two pursued different paths with Trevor going off to college to major in music and Cam heading to the Police Academy, but even distance hadn’t cooled their friendship. When Cam was shot in the line of duty a year ago, Trevor bought his current residence in the area and moved closer to help Marcy with Cam’s care.

It told Erica a lot about the kind of man Trevor was. He could’ve hired nurses, but he’d been pretty hands on with Cam’s recovery. She didn’t want to be, but she couldn’t help being impressed with Trevor. At least on paper. Now she was about to meet the man himself. Erica climbed aboard the yacht and joined the party.

Trevor kept his hands planted on the hips of the latest giggling girl who’d cornered him. In part because it was the only way to keep her from plastering herself all over him where he was seated on a stool. But more because he was able to keep her out of his line of sight so he could watch to see if the woman in the coat came to his party. He couldn’t help the stab of disappointment that shot through him when she failed to materialize long after Cam, Marcy and their guest boarded. Trevor shook it away. Of course she wasn’t coming to his party. She hadn’t belonged. Aside from her strange attire, she’d had an expression on her face that indicated a brain was involved. He looked at the current girl chattering away in front of him. That wasn’t an issue with this one. Tuning back in, he was annoyed to learn that she was still talking about her nails.

Trevor mustered up his rock star smile. “Sorry, darling. Some friends just arrived that I really must see to.” Without waiting for her consent, he set her out of his path and went to find his best friend.

* * * *

Cam fought his way through the crowd to an out of the way corner with Marcy and her friend Winnie. It never ceased to amaze him how many self absorbed people showed up to these parties. When he’d said, “excuse me,” few of them spared him a glance and swayed a millimeter or so out his path. Until they’d felt the cold steel of his chair threatening to take off their legs. He’d even brought his skinny chair. Amazing.

Poor Winnie turned beet red while she stared at a young woman who’d just removed her already skimpy top presumably so the beefcake behind her in the tiny red Speedo which did nothing to conceal a thing could rub sunscreen on her back. Cam knew his wife meant well, but there was no way this Winnie person was a match for Trevor. Marcy had to be the worst matchmaker in history. It brought a smile to his face to remember how she’d been convinced that he was the perfect match for her cousin. Cam’d gone along with it and befriended the cousin to learn how to woo Marcy. Best thing he’d ever done. He’d be the first to cheer when Trevor found the same thing. He glanced at Winnie and fought a grimace. She wasn’t it.

Marcy read his expression and flicked his ear. “Give them a chance,” she hissed bending close.

“I just don’t want to you to be disappointed if the sparks don’t fly.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Winnie is a lovely woman.”

They both looked her way and were dismayed to discover that her reddish tint had become a hideous purple. Marcy stepped in front of the other woman to block her view of whatever shenanigans the young couple was engaging in.

“What am I doing here? How did you talk me into this? What could Trevor see in me when he has all this . . . this . . . this around?” She tugged the collar of her blouse away from her neck. Cam figured the woman was going to pass out if she didn’t take a breath soon. He shrugged. That would just get them out of there that much faster.

“Trevor is a great guy. Not at all like these other guys.” Marcy looked around. She frowned and Cam turned to follow her gaze. He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing when he saw his friend had a bony blonde hanging on his arm when he made his way toward them. Trevor took one look at Marcy’s glower and shook the blonde off to continue the trek alone.

Marcy turned on a smile for Winnie. Patted her hand. The woman looked like she was going to puke at any moment. “Just be your sweet self. None of these women can hold a candle to you. You’ll see.”

“Hey, guys. I thought you’d never get here.” Trevor greeted the trio when he strolled up. He turned on his rock star smile. Cam knew it was for Winnie’s benefit. Marcy gave Trevor a big hug and pushed him closer to Winnie.

“Hey, Trev. This is Winnie Winslow. I was bragging about my husband’s perfect friend, and she didn’t believe you existed so I had to make the introduction.” Cam squeezed Marcy’s hand. She was trying way too hard. Trevor looked amused.

“Great. I’d like to meet this guy, too.” Trevor looked around, and Winnie snorted a giggle. Marcy turned red with embarrassment. Cam yanked her down on his lap and gave Trevor a wolfish grin.

“Now that the two of you have met, would you mind making yourself scarce so I can enjoy my wife for a minute?”

Trevor chuckled. He took Winnie’s hand. She looked at him with a serious case of disbelief and hero worship. “I think that’s our cue to get lost. You game?”

Star struck, Winnie managed a nod. She looked quite a bit like a bobble head doll, but Trevor retained his smile while he set out to be a good host. He led her away through the crowd.

* * * *

At last, Erica emerged on the main deck of Trevor’s yacht. She’d taken advantage of the chaos to explore the boat so the layout in her memory was more detailed than what she’d learned from a blueprint. During her explorations, Erica took the time to appreciate the lushly appointed amenities. Trevor had spared no expense on the dark mahogany which appeared polished within an inch of its life. The heads were done in marble and the furniture thick and comfy. Luxury exemplified.

Now that she’d finished studying the yacht, Erica wanted to get a look at each guest. It was a long shot, but if she could ID his tormentor and put a stop to it at the party, she’d be a very happy camper. And she’d be free for assignment on a juicier case. She looked over another mindless couple when they raced past her to a stateroom. Erica sighed, a girl could dream.

She made her way up to the Flydeck where she’d glimpsed him heading earlier. Trevor was chatting with the woman who’d arrived with his friends. Erica wasn’t sure what surprised her more, that Trevor appeared to be listening or that he’d given his attention to the one female who was still wearing a full set of clothes. Erica considered her own costume hidden under her coat and shrugged. It wasn’t quite as revealing as most of what she’d seen, but she didn’t want to be lumped in with the rest of the partygoers either. Part of her job today depended on standing out.

She looked around the deck and took a deep breath. It was time. The pool sat in the middle of a casual teak deck crowned with a bubbling hot tub. That many people in one hot tub was just . . . wrong. Erica shook off her shudder and spied a stereo on a shelf at the far side of the deck. She turned her attention back to the pool which was raised about three feet so that meant it couldn’t be more than four feet deep like she’d expected.

Routine modifications came to her while she slunk toward the stereo, careful to blend with the crowd. She sat on the ground out of Trevor’s view and shed her coat and boots.

The brisk air sent a shiver through her. What kind of nut threw a party on a yacht in this kind of weather? Even packed like it was, the steam rising from the Jacuzzi was pretty inviting. Nothing came from the pool. She shuddered to imagine how cold it was. Surely people would be in it if he kept it heated. Or maybe she was the sole person crazy enough to want to swim in this weather.

Erica slipped the CD in the stereo and pressed play. When the music pounded on the deck, Erica stood up and nailed Trevor with a look. A little thrill of satisfaction shot through her when his head snapped her way. She had his full attention. She saw the crestfallen look on his companion’s face, and vowed to feel bad about the interruption later. She did her walk on in time to the music.

Erica hoisted herself up on the side of the pool, holding Trevor’s puzzled gaze the entire way. She could feel that other people were watching her little performance, too. Let them watch. She was prepared to be amazing in four feet of water. Trevor would be floored and hire her on the spot. She would put a stop to the threats on his life in record time, and they’d both go their separate ways. All without him being any the wiser, of course.

Trevor hopped up from his seat and raised a hand. Erica smiled at him, confident she had him hooked and slid into the pool. It took just a second for her to realize that there was no water in it. Erica’s smile morphed into shock when she saw that the pool was even deeper than she’d figured. The bottom was about seven feet down, and she hit it with a less than graceful thump. The wind whooshed out of her. She landed in a tangled sprawl. She lay there for a moment trying to gather her wits.

* * * *

Trevor hurried to the side of the pool and looked at the woman who’d captured his attention from the dock. What in the world had she been trying to do?

“Are you hurt? Can you move?” he called to her. More guests gathered around the sides of the pool, giggling at her expense.

“Yeah. I think.” The last part of her answer was a mere whisper while she experimented with moving each limb. She looked up at the laughing guests and flushed crimson over her entire body. And what a body it was. The woman was a knock out. Long legs attached to full hips. He watched, fascinated, while each muscle flexed during her inventory. She arched her back emphasizing her tempting bosom that barely remained tucked inside the fanciest swimming suit he’d ever seen in his life.

He drew his eyes up to her face and was dismayed to note that she’d caught him checking out her boobs. He fought his own embarrassed flush. “Do you need a hand?”

12/20/2008 03:18 PM
2008 Nationals: A Big Finale
The team free routines and team combos were the final events in Nationals. We'd wised up the day before with the extreme cold and dressed accordingly. I couldn't figure out why it was so hard to close my suitcase when I was wearing three pairs of pants, my competition suit, two t-shirts, and two jackets. Karen loaned me her extra parka to on top of all that and I was pretty snug as a bug in a rug. Lilia had the brilliant idea of bringing a huge blanket from the Timeshare and I so generously offered to keep it warm while she warmed up with her team who would be swimming near the beginning of event.

Again, we began with the 70s age group then moved into the 20s. Lilia's team, The Bikini Squad went 2nd.

Despite the cold, they had a fabulous swim. Kimberly put the icing on the cake with her huge smile and dance when they lifted her at the end. They scored a 72.500 which gave them an overall score of 71.417 and silver medals.

Next up was our 30s team, Whip It. The scored an impressive 75.416 against some pretty stiff competition. They still managed to pull out an overall score of 75.167 which also gave them silver medals.

In the 50s, my team, the Synchronuts, swam 11th while our Ragtime team swam 13th.

The Synchronuts had a pretty good swim. We earned a score of 66.166 which gave us an overall score of 65.083. This gave us fourth place, just one point from third. The ribbons are nice, but next year, we plan to come home with some hardware.

The Ragtime team had a great swim and earned a 71.667 for an overall score of 69.667. They came home with silver medals around their necks after just being edged out for gold by .083 of a point. Great job ladies!

At last, we were finished since no one on our team was swimming the combo event. It was time to relax and enjoy the remainder of the competition.

But first, we had the awards ceremony and an impromptu photo shoot. After all the medals were awarded, the winner of the high point trophy was announced. The way they determine the National Champion is based on the points earned in each event.

Points are awarded through 8th place. With everyone swimming as well as they did we successfully defended our National Title with 136 overall points.

This is Whip It before they got their medals. Back left to right: Lea, Karen, Lesley, Ymajahi, Sylvia (alternate); Front left to right: Shannon, Catherine, Candy and Lindsay.

This is the Ragtime Team with their medals and roses. From left to right: Shelley, Lizzi, Jill, Sue, Molly, Kathy, Penny and Ruth.

Here are the Synchronuts. Back left to right: Lori, Akiko, Vicki, Mary; Front left to right: DeeAnna, Corby, Kathy and Elaine.

The Bikini Squad went in search of heat. This is all that was left of them:

After we'd gotten the medals and such squared away, it was time for the Combos to begin.

As always, San Francisco Tsunami put on a great show with a tribute to Dolly Pardon. They even put their tallest guy in a blonde wig and fake boobs for the routine.

The highlight of the competition for me was having the opportunity to see the swimmers from "O" compete. This team was so good that people were standing around watching their practice in the shallow end.

Needless to say, no one was surprised when they earned a 94.333 which was the highest score of the meet. They had a fabulous swim. Even their mistakes were beautiful. Karen told me later that the sign of a good routine is that your reaction is, "It's over?" after they stop swimming. The "O" routine certainly fit that bill.

All too soon, we were packing up and getting on the road to head back to Los Angeles. This time the milk thing didn't work as well. We learned that you have to get your eyes out of bright sun and heavy wind for it to be effective. I'm so thankful Kathy's husband, Denny, was driving. Neither of us could see all that well until after the sun went down.

And that's the end of our 2008 Nationals Experience.

12/19/2008 02:43 PM
2008 Nationals: Trios and Team Techs
Saturday morning dawned bright and early for us all. Before we left the Timeshare, Karen asked me what the weather had been like. I told her that I was comfortable air drying in my suit on Thursday and Friday had been nice until it got chilly that night. We agreed that her shorts would be more than enough for the day. I was wearing only my swim sandals.

Oh how wrong we were!!

Things seemed to go okay at first. It was pretty chilly and the sun kept trying to disappear, but the competition progressed as scheduled. Trios were up first.

In the 70s age group, we started with Molly, Penny and Mariam swimming 2nd. They snuck up on me so I was only able to get about half of the routine.

They did an excellent job and ended up in 1st place with a score of 58.500.

In the 30s age group, Lindsay, Ymajahi and Shannon swam 5th.

They scored 73.500.

In the 50s, Shelley, Jill and Kathy swam 4th and earned a 68.5.

It wasn't long into these routines that the clouds started rolling in and threatening rain. People were prepared to deal with rain. After all, most of us would be wet anyway. Unfortunately, we were not prepared for the snow that started falling. Yes. Snow. In Vegas. I didn't even think such a thing was possible.

Immediately, I started regretting my choice of shoes for the day. When Ymajahi packed up her newborn and mother to take them back to the Timeshare, I made sure I went with them. We got a list of what everyone else needed and we were on our way. What made all this extremely fun was the fact that Ymajahi's team was swimming in just over an hour.

In the fastest dash possible, we went to the Timeshare and picked up what we could. Ymajahi had only brought sandals with her to Vegas so we stopped at a low price store - who shall remain nameless 'cause I'm far from a fan - to buy her some shoes. She also grabbed some hats, gloves and a robe.

We dashed back to the pool where we arrived just in time for Ymajahi to sprint back inside and jump in the water for her team warm up. I parked her van then brought the stuff inside.

Our 20s team, The Bikini Squad, swam 2nd in the event and 1st in their age group.

They did a fantastic job despite the cold and scored 70.334.

Next up was our 30s team, Whip It, who swam 10th.

Another fantastic showing. They scored 74.916.

We have two teams in the 50s age group. The Ragtime Team and the Synchronuts.

The Synchronuts, my team, swam 7th.

It was so cold that we didn't even bother getting out of the pool to start. We made a grand entrance by swimming under the lane line. I have no other explanation for this, but for the first time in my life, I had the thought, "I don't want to be here," in the middle of the routine. Thankfully, it was fleeting and piked down for the porpoise lift. With the exception of tilting my head the wrong direction for the first time ever, the rest of the routine was fairly uneventful.

When we got out of the water, our coach, Dawn, was just thrilled with how well we did. It's really rare for us to see her that excited about something our team has done. Usually her reactions are very tactful questions like, "Was that a sequence?" For the first time, she started to see all her hard work paying off. That made the rest of the day worth it.

We ended up with a score of 64.000 which just put us in 5th place by .083 of a point.

The Ragtime team swam 12th. They scored a very nice 67.667.

After the team techs, the trios got back in the water to swim their free routines.

In the 70s, Molly, Penny and Mariam came away with a score of 64.600.

Their combined overall score was 61.550.

Next up was Shannon, Ymajahi and Lindsay who swam 8th. They scored 75.800 which gave them the silver with an overall score of 74.650.

Shelley, Jill and Kathy finished out our trios in the 50s age group.

They scored 64.000 which put them in first with an overall score of 66.250.

At last, our day was coming to a close. After the awards ceremonies, we had a brief athlete's meeting to discuss possible changes to the competition format then we all headed back to the Timeshare exhausted.

After a yummy meal we picked up from Chili's we sat around the living room and chatted. Karen entertained us with the background of the rules that were at issue during the meeting and told us about the ones that are on the books because of her. Go Karen!! Then we all headed off to bed to rest up for the final day of competition.

The Team Frees.

10/20/2008 03:15 PM
2008 Nationals: A Day of Duets
Friday was very exciting for me. I had the luxury of remaining dry all day. At least until the team practice that night. But until then, I got to be a spectator. Sort of. I've already taken my test to become a level 1 judge, but I wanted a bit of experience judging actual routines. Between Candy, Karen and Laurette I've gotten a really good idea how easy it's not.

But back to the swimmers.

This time we started in the 70s. There were six pairs competing. Our own Penny and Lizzi were up 5th.

They did a wonderful job. They had over a two point lead on the next closest competitor after the tech routine.

Next up were the 20s.

Jenni and Kim swam 5th.

They ended up in 5th place with a 68.834.

In the 30s, Lindsay and Shannon swam 12th.

After the techs, they scored 77.666 for 5th place.

Then we were ready for the duet free routines.

This time Penny and Lizzi started off the competition.

They scored a 63.500 which combined with their tech scores gave them an overall score of 62.167 and secured a gold medal. Great job ladies!

Back to Kim and Jenni in the 20s. They swam 9th in their age group.

They scored an impressive 73.000 which after combining with the tech score gave them an overall score of 70.917. They tied for 2nd place. Excellent job!

In the 30s, Shannon and Lindsay swam 12th again.

They earned a more than respectable score of 76.600. After all was said and done, they had an overall score of 77.133 which was the highest of any of our team scores. Way to go ladies!

After the duets, we ended up in a bit of a scramble. The teams were all scheduled to run through their routines that night with music. However, the competition went a bit long and many of the competitors had tickets to see La Reve that evening. The powers that be allowed teams who had people with tickets to swim first during the practice.

It was getting a bit chilly so the teams were eager to get through the practice for more than one reason. Afterward, we had a nice little dinner, then put on the videos of the team practice. I need to get a copy of ours. Not because we were incredible or anything. But because Ymajahi is a complete nut. You can see her dancing along to our music in the shallow end. It was hysterical! A wonderful end to a wonderful day.

10/18/2008 01:14 PM
2008 Nationals: Night One
Now that the milk thing had my eyes feeling better, I was more up to going out with Catherine and Lilia. They were heading to the Strip where a former teammate now ran a restaurant at the MGM Grand.

Nob Hill is very fancy. Thankfully, we were in Vegas so I could get away with wearing jeans. Catherine and Lilia pulled out the dresses, though. Between the time we'd gotten ready to go and actually left, our group grew from the three of us to include Ymajahi. While waiting for her, Lindsay decided to tag along with her sister and brother in law.

Luckily Catherine had a mini van! All of us piled in and made the two mile trek to the Strip.

Nob Hill was fairly easy to find. John looked so professional in his suit and tie. He immediately seated us in an area to the side of the bar and brought out cocktails for us to try. Unfortunately, I don't drink so I didn't taste the cool looking drink in the martini glass with sugar baked around the edges. He brought me a coke instead. After a sip of her drink, Ymajahi polished off my coke because she's still breastfeeding.

We chatted for a while at that table, then he took us in the restaurant to seat us for dinner. Fabulous doesn't even begin to describe this place. Everything was soft. The chairs were comfortable and cushiony. Even the table top had a little padding.

The staff took really good care of us. I don't even think it was because we were John's friends. They seem to be that courteous of all their costumers. When one of our waiters was telling us about the specials, he mentioned some dish that was $33 an ounce and started at 3 ounces. He just smiled while all of us started cracking up.

The pot pies sounded really good and looked even better. They were actually pies brought out in a copper pot that was humongous. Another waiter gave us a peek at the lobster pot pie as he was serving it. Unfortunately, they were $93. And you don't even get to keep the pot. I know because I asked.

Finally, I decided to split a hamburger with Ymajahi. Good move since it was twenty-two bucks. While we were waiting for our orders, John kept plying us with other foods. He had three cheese fondue things brought out for us and gave us each a plate of San Francisco sourdough bread. Having never had fondue before, this was a pretty neat experience. There was a skewer on the plate with the bread. You use it to dip the bread in the cheese. Normally, I'm not a big fan of sourdough bread, but this was really yummy.

Next came the escargot. I had to stare it down for a long minute, but I finally got up the nerve to eat it. Thankfully, the serving portion was very small. Man, those suckers are chewy. I can't ever see myself voluntarily ordering it ever again, but I'm glad I at least tried it.

When our orders came out, I must say that that was one of the best hamburgers I've ever had. And the fries? Super yummy. John also brought out more macaroni and cheese for the rest of us to try. It was delicious, too. I took the remains of it back to the timeshare and it was never seen again.

All too soon we had to call it a night. Lindsay and her sister were both swimming the next day and needed to get some rest. Catherine, Lilia and Ymajahi wanted to stay behind and gamble a bit. Catherine gave me her keys to drive the first group home with the intention of catching a cab back later. However, luck wasn't with them and they lost all their money before we even got to the garage. We picked them up at the escalators and all headed back to the timeshare after a thoroughly wonderful evening.

From left to right: Lilia, Catherine, Ymajahi, John, Lori, Lindsay and Devin.

10/18/2008 10:14 AM
2008 Nationals: Solos Up First
Thursday was our solo competition. After a great night's sleep at the Timeshare I got up and hitched a ride to the pool our coach, Dawn. I wanted to be there in time for the open pool at 8a and Catherine and Lilia weren't planning to come until later. The open pool time did a lot to calm my nerves. You'd think by now I'd be used to competing. Anyway, I had a lovely swim despite the fact that my swimp3 peeled my goggles off every time I went upside down.

While I was warming up, a Japanese lady joined me on the side of the pool and asked about Akiko, one of my teammates. Turns out, she and Akiko became fast friends when we competed at Stanford in 2006 and she was hoping to see her again. I assured her that Akiko would be arriving on Friday.

At last, things settled - as much as they can at a swim meet - and we were off and running. We started with four ladies in the 70s age group followed by three ladies in the 80s age group. Both Lizzi and Mariam are in the 80s this year.

Lizzi was first.

Ramapo Aquamasters went second and Mariam rounded out the age group.

Both of our ladies did a fantastic job. After the tech routine, Lizzi was in first and Mariam was in second.

Next up: the 20s!

We had three teammates competing in this age group and judging by the routines I saw, I am very thankful I'm in the 30s.

Kimberly swam 12th.

Jenni swam 18th, but her music was screwy so she got to swim the routine again after Ymajahi.

Ymajahi swam 21st.

As you can see, all three did a fantastic job. I have a little breathing room with Kim and Jenni, but Ymajahi is going to be my competition next year. I'm really not looking forward that.

After these techs, Jenni was in 1st, Ymajahi was tied for 8th and Kim was 10th. Considering how amazing their competition was, this was quite a feat.

On to the 30s!

Three of us from the Unsyncables competed in the 30s.

I swam 2nd.

I don't think you can tell from this version of the video, but I got totally lost underwater on my spin. I was trying to count walls like Karen taught me, but there were so many numbers going through my head at the time I kinda gave up. Instead, I kinda picked a direction that looked right and came up with the biggest smile ever. I was sorta correct, but once on the surface I could see where I was and fixed my angle. Overall, I really needed to travel more. I only covered half of the pool before turning around to come back.

Lilia swam 5th.

Catherine swam 7th.

After the techs, Catherine was in 3rd, I was in 4th, Lilia was in 5th.

The 40s followed us.

Sylvia swam 5th. She ended up in 4th place after the techs.

Then the 50s were up.

We only had Corby from our team in this age group, but I also had to cheer on Becky from Alpine Angelfish and Michael from Cypress. Becky joined us in Australia and kinda became and honorary Unsyncable and Michael is a Cal State Games buddy.

Corby swam 7th in the age group.

After the techs, Becky was in 1st, Michael in 6th, Corby in 9th.

This year we had no one in the 60s so our Solo Tech competition was complete.

On to the Frees!

Having never done tech and free in one day, I didn't really know what to expect with the whole gelling situation. I've only gelled twice before. Karen fixed me up in Australia and I did it in our hotel room before the Cal State Games this past July. I've never, ever done it at the pool on the fly like I did at Nationals.

Lilia and Catherine were at the gelling station working on their hair so I kinda joined them. The sun was so intense that it hurt to look in the tiny mirror on the table. I ended up missing an entire section of my hair because I couldn't see what I was doing. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!) I did, however, nearly manage to gel my right eye shut. And I had what seemed to be a river of gel flowing down the left side of my face. Those sideburns weren't going anywhere!

When I went in the locker room to change suits, I put my black suit on the sink to pin in my headpiece. Of course when I picked it up it had globs of gel on it. I'd need the suit again on Saturday, but I didn't have time to panic right then. Time to get back to business.

Again, we started with the 70s. In the 80s, Lizzi went 2nd.

Mariam swam 3rd, but for some reason I didn't get the video.

With all said and done, Lizzi took the gold with a total score of 59.333. Mariam took the silver with a 54.167. Excellent job, ladies!!

Now for those 20s.

Kim swam 16th.

Ymajahi swam 19th.

Jenni swam 20th.

Thankfully, there were no more music snafus. In the end, Jenni took the bronze with a 72.083, Ymajahi took 9th with a 68.167 and Kim took 10th with a 68.083. To give you an idea of how intense this age group was, Kanako Kitao did this move where she put her foot on her head then somersaulted backwards. Twice. In a row. Let's just say she was about 11 points ahead of everyone else.

Back to the 30s.

Lilia was 1st.

I swam 6th.

Catherine swam 9th.

Since I wasn't exactly thrilled with how the tech went, I decided to just do the doggone thing. I honestly cannot remember a single moment of this routine while I was in the water. When I got out of the pool I felt like I had just worked really hard.

Then of course the coughing started. Apparently, I don't do well in extremely dry climates. The same thing happened after my solo in Tucson. Since I was kind of expecting it, I'd been drinking lots of water all day. It did help a little, but I still ended up with a coughing fit that lasted for about a 30 minutes.

But back to the scores. Catherine took 3rd place with 67.521, Lilia took 4th with 63.042, I took 5th with 62.750. Considering that Catherine was freaking out the night before trying to write her routine, she didn't do a bad job at all.

In the 40s, Sylvia swam 4th. I don't have a video because I couldn't see at the time. More on that later. She kept 4th place with a 65.688.

In the 50s, Corby swam 6th right after Becky. Michael swam 3rd.

Despite some really stiff competition, Corby took 8th with a 57.579. Go Corby, Go Corby!! Becky took 2nd (66.479) and Michael took 6th (61.021).

And that was our solo competition. Overall, we had an excellent showing. We also found a major problem with the pool. The chemicals were seriously off. I'm not an expert, so I don't know details. All I know is that periodically I couldn't open my eyes at all. I can't even describe how much they burned and watered. The sun and wind didn't help matters either. The only way I could be comfortable was to sit with my goggles on. They're dark and airtight so they kept the sun and wind from irritating my eyes further. But my eyes kept watering and would fog up the goggles. It was a no win situation.

Laurette advised that I soak them in milk. Unfortunately, I didn't have any with me at the pool. I left with Catherine and Lilia after the competition was over and we got some milk cartons with a straw and headed back to the timeshare. I had no idea how to get the milk in my eyes so I improvised. I poured it in my goggles and held them to my eyes over the kitchen sink. Don't tilt your head. The milk will leak out. Blink a few times then rinse your eyes with water.

I don't know the whys or what have yous, but my eyes were instantly better. I had this cloudy haze across my vision that went completely away after the milk treatment. For best results, do the milk treatment once you're out of the sun and wind. I had to soak them again after the team free competition and it wasn't quite as effective because we were still pool side. But once the sun went down, the milk did its job. I think from now on I will keep milk with me as part of my essential swim gear.

And there you have it. Day one of Nationals.

10/08/2008 04:35 PM
Nationals Bound!
So here we are. In fabulous Las Vegas. The timeshare is beyond magnificent. The weather looks like it'll be cool. And I almost know my tech routine. It's not that I don't know it. It's just that there've been some changes that aren't quite second nature yet. But that's okay. As long as I don't panic I'll be okay.

But enough of that. There are some pretty interesting things to see on the drive to Vegas.
First stop...Barstow Station. I had no idea this western themed area even existed. Apparently it was a major stop for the railroad. That I can believe. We were only there for about 15 minutes and three entire trains came through.

Even the McDonald's looked pretty cool.

I liked these rail cars, but I think they're restaurant seating areas now. We didn't go inside.

Back on the highway. Almost from the moment you hit the state line, you start seeing Casinos. I haven't been this way in several years and was thoroughly surprised at how much things have been built up.

First up: Whiskey Pete's. This hotel and casino has been at the Stateline since 1977 so it doesn't qualify as "built up." Still, there's a fun legend behind the hotel. Apparently Pete owned a gas station, but barely could make ends meet. To make up the shortfall, he started selling bootleg, hence the nickname. When he died in 1933, he asked to be buried standing up with a bottle of bootleg in his hand to watch over the place. Unfortunately for him, he was accidentally dug up when they built the bridge across the I15 to connect Whiskey Pete's with Buffalo Bill's.

Buffalo Bill's boosts one of the world's tallest and fastest roller coasters. They also have a pool shaped like a buffalo.

Lots of billboards line the freeway as you get closer to the strip. Le Reve looked pretty cool:

Then there was one for New Kids on the Block.

I didn't even know they were still together. Oh well. Guess you learn something every day.

Tomorrow is the solo competition. Solo techs are in the morning. Solo Frees in the afternoon. I know we're going to do well. I swam the lazy river at the timeshare backwards. That took forever, but I feel like my muscles are nice and awake. The jacuzzi with the waterfalls was the perfect end. It was nice and hot, but not too hot so I stretched my legs. Maybe my splits will be a little flatter than usual. If so, I'm totally making the jacuzzi stretch a nightly thing!

The shower after was nice, too. My hair is already up in the ponytail and waiting to be gelled. That's tomorrow. I suppose it'll happen at the pool. I don't plan to gel before I go. I hope they have the hot water. Surely they will. It only makes sense.

Whatever happens, I'm sure it'll be fine and we'll have an absolutely lovely day at the pool.

09/22/2008 04:58 AM
Basics: Torpedo
The Torpedo Scull is a fairly fast scull. It's also used on the end of several figures like the jumpover or front walkout. To torpedo, start in your back layout just like you did for the Head First and Foot First sculls, but your arms should be above your head like this:

With your hands flexed so your palms face outward, make gentle figure 8s above your head. This should propel you feet first.

Remember, this scull is no different than any of the others in that you must keep your entire body extended. Think about stretching toward the opposite pool wall with your toes.

Keep your hips from sinking by squeezing your butt muscles up toward the sky (or ceiling if you're indoors).

Tilt your pelvis up toward your chest as if your belly button was hooked to the center flower on your bra.

If you still find that your legs have a tendency to sink, think about where your arms are. If you scull too wide, you lose a bit of the momentum and your lower body goes under. Correct this by keeping your elbows closer to each other.

It'll take some practice, but you'll soon get the hang of it and be sailing across the pool before you know it!

Happy swimming!

07/13/2008 03:22 PM
Cal State Games
We did it! The team went to the Cal State Games to compete this past Friday and had a blast!! Several of us went down on Thursday night so we'd be there bright and early for the solo competition. Corby, Mariam and I all had solos.

Friday was a day of firsts.

I gelled my hair for the first time without Karen. I gelled Corby's hair for the first time. I was disappointed with how mine came out. It still felt spongy a couple hours later when we went to the pool. I was happy with Corby's, though. Hers hardened right away and she didn't have a helmet head.

I still needed Karen to put on my headpiece and the silver looked really nice. Now I just have to decide on the shape it should be and it'll be perfect. I was excited that even though my hair didn't have enough gel, it still held up in the water.

I actually had deck work for the first time. It really wasn't much. I totally didn't wait for them to announce me before I walked out. It's little things like that that don't even cross my mind. Gotta work on it. I dove in. Out like Corby told me, but as always, I didn't lock my knees enough so they kinda splatted in. Those two things combined kind threw me off so I don't think my opening jump was as high as it could've been.

Here's the video:

As you can see, I have to really work on holding my height for my walkout. I feel like I'm sinking like a rock. That's pretty amazing considering my buoyancy issues. The spin went okay, but my timing got off on the next strokes so I was rushed going into the porpoise. The heron was a bit on my back, but I've seen much worse out of me.

But the thing I really hate is the jump after the heron. I had a total brain fart and forgot to sink all the way under which makes that section look really awkward. Still, I kept going and finished with the hybrid Margo taught me a couple weeks before. I liked it. I just have to do it with more definition and it'll be good. The end of the routine was way too wishy washy. I have to fix that as well.

Despite all of that, I was pretty happy with that swim overall. As you can see, this routine has gotten significantly more difficult since I swam it in Australia. I'm glad I've already tried it out so I have time to fix all these things before Nationals. Like the jump where I had a brain fart. That section is totally gone. I'm going to put in some strokes instead.

On to Corby. Her hair came right down as she was warming up. Part of the problem were the heavy scrunches she had in her long heavy ponytail. Once they got wet, gravity totally took over. And I don't think the gel had enough time to set because she had strands of hair in her face. We got her fixed up before she swam her beloved Ay Jalisco for the first time in front of an audience. She did quite well. Check it out:

She's also seen the video and some things in mind to fix before Nationals. But overall, I was pretty proud of her. I'm sad she had competition in her age group so she didn't get the gold, but I really Michael, too and am happy for him. But she's my teammate and I'm going to help her kick his butt in Vegas! Nothing but love for ya, though, Michael.

Last up for the Masters solos was Mariam. I'm so glad she came. The audience was amazed, too. Most of them are parents of synchronized swimmers and they never even think that they can swim themselves. But at 89, Mariam kinda squashed their excuse that they're too old!

She swam her new routine "Doggy in the Window." I'd heard that it was totally adorable and I'd heard right. Here's her video:

After the solos, I sat with Karen to see what she sees when she judges. It was a totally different experience. And it was cool to get into the mindset of a judge so when I swim my routines, I know what they're looking at. I'm starting to feel okay about judging on my own. But I'll practice some more at our workouts.

And for the main event! The team competition! The warmup was horrendous. It was like nothing came together. And the the warmup period was super short. When we cleared the pool, we just had to hope for the best.

And we got it. It was certainly by the grace of God that we got through that routine. I smiled my little heart out at all the judges. I smiled so much at one of them, that I forgot what the heck I was supposed to be doing and totally screwed up the pointy fingers. But I was able to get back on track and went under for the spin. I think it went okay. Vickie has the video so I haven't seen it yet. When I get it, I'll post it.

On to the festivities. The Olympic team was doing a show in Riverside to raise funds for Beijing on Saturday so our competition day ended up being on Friday. That was fabulous because after the awards ceremony, we had time to go out for dinner as a team. Those who were staying headed off to Qualcomm stadium for the Opening Ceremonies.

I'm sure it was because we had all the hard part behind us, but this opening ceremony was the best ever. It was strictly fun. We arrived just in time to pick up our t-shirts and get into line to march into the stadium. It was the 20th anniversary of the Cal State Games so there were more athletes there than ever. We had to sit on the field because there were no more seats left.

Navy Seals parachuted in, a troupe danced to Ease on Down the Road, there were interviews from Olympians who were past Games participants, BMX bikers did their thing and then the Amazing Christopher made his entrance.

I only got video of part of his act, but he was hysterical. If you want to see more, he's on YouTube. If you want to book him for a gig, his contact info is on there as well. Trust me. You won't be sorry. Here's the clip I have:

Crazy, huh? He was my absolute favorite part of the Games this year. After the ceremonies, we headed back to the hotel where we chatted over dessert then off to bed. We were heading to Riverside the next day for the watershow with the Olympians.

07/05/2008 06:00 PM
Sydney then Home
Just as it's mandatory to see the Great Barrier Reef when visiting Australia, you have to see the Sydney Opera House. Since time was so short, the only way to pull this off was to get a window seat on the flight from Cairns to Sydney and Sydney to L.A. The first I'd managed, but I was on the aisle for the L.A. leg.

When I boarded the plane, a group of older Asian people had already staked out a group of seats. When I said that a they'd put a woman in my seat, the man in charge of their group quickly pointed to an aisle seat they were willing to give me.

I stood firm, but polite. I wanted my window seat. They dug the old lady out of the seat while I patiently waited. When she finally got out into the aisle, she actually hit me. I was more startled than anything and stumbled back a step, but I got my window seat. It was worth the hassle because look...

...I was just able to get a picture of the Opera House. Whoo hoo!

As we were coming in for a landing, the plane suddenly banked to right and went into a sharp climb. The Captain came over the PA and announced that they'd gotten a warning that we were in the flight path of another jet and to fly away. So we flew away. As we circled around for a second attempt, I could see the second jet. I was glad that we flew away.

Once we were on the ground, I found myself in awe of the airport. Their duty free area is massive. And very shiny.

I'm such a tourist...

I bought some more batteries for my camera then headed to my gate where I had a very short wait before boarding.

I had resigned myself to he aisle and even convinced myself that it wouldn't be that bad. I'd have extra leg room. The couple who were in the row with me finally boarded and asked if I'd be willing to take the window seat. How good is God? I eagerly agreed and we all settled in for the fourteen hour flight.

I didn't get much sleep. Too many movies to watch. But I did manage to doze every now and again. Before I knew it, we were back in Los Angeles. Honestly, I was happy to come home. Until I saw this in the terminal...

I totally got yelled at for taking this shot. No sooner had I taken the photo than some guy came over the PA warning against taking pictures in the terminal. Seriously, what is that about? Is there some secret code in the white paint that can't get out? It wasn't the best welcome, but oh well. I concentrated on happier things; like the fact that my BBQ Sauce made it through customs.

And just like that, the trip was over.

Next up, Gothenburg, Sweden in 2010!

07/05/2008 03:00 PM
It's Dive Tiiimmme...
At long last, we were ready to head out to the Great Barrier Reef. The shuttle from Deep Sea Divers Den picked us up at the resort bright and early. After a brief stop at their dive store to handle final details, we were taken to the Marina to board the Sea Quest.

If you've ever been to Catalina from Los Angeles, then you know the kind of boat we took out to the Reef. I was a little concerned because there were a lot of people and not a bed to be found anywhere. The next thing I found strange was the request that everyone go barefoot while on the boat. I was a little squeamish at first, but soon got used to it.

After about an hour, we dropped anchor and prepared for our first dive. On the ride out, we'd been given briefing based on your level of diving experience. Both Jenni and I are certified, but I hadn't been out since my class. I chose to do a brief test instead of going guided for our first dive.

Putting on the equipment was an adventure by itself, but finally we were ready for our first dive. Jenni had her camera, but I chose to leave mine onboard. I wanted to get used to diving again before taking extra stuff out. Good thing I did, too.

Diving is supposed to be fun as the equipment does everything for you. Except, I'm really buoyant. That turned diving into a lot of work for me because I didn't have enough weight on top of being nervous.

Having recently returned from a dive trip in Honduras, Jenni had her camera and was ready to explore. Here's some of what she saw:

Yes, that's me floundering around. I know you can do major damage to the reef if you touch the wrong thing. It can also do major damage to you. With that in mind, I needed to get control before I dared get close to anything. So I didn't really see too much of anything during that first dive. I was too busy trying to stay under. I found that I could if just kept moving. Except Jenni was stopping every few feet to explore.

To make matters worse, the more you breathe, the lighter your tank gets. By the time I reached the half tank mark, I was heading straight to the surface. I got myself slowed so my head was just underwater, but I couldn't get back down. And then I remembered good ole synchro! When you're upside down doing a figure, you hold your height by doing a support scull. Thanks to the decision to not bring my camera on this dive, my hands were free and I was able to support scull myself back down to Jenni.

Once I was deep enough, the water pressure helped me stay under, but I had to really watch my level. And then the photographer swam up. She beckoned me over and gestured for me to hold a tiny corner of the reef so she could take my picture. By that point, I had very little control. The last thing I wanted to do was crash into the reef so I declined. I don't think she understood exactly how much control I didn't have because she kept trying to get me over there. Finally, Jenni took my place instead.

Yeah. That's me in the background flailing around. See the tiny corner Jenni is holding? There was no way I wasn't heading right back to the surface if I tried to hold on to that little piece of rock.

Jenni got a photo shoot while I was concentrating on getting out of this alive.

Jenni took pity on me and held me under while the photographer got us both.

By this time, our air was getting low. Mine, more than hers because I was working so freaking hard. We headed back to the boat.

I happily shucked the dive gear and settled in for a much safer activity. Lunch.

They allowed us to eat out on the bow which was the best part of the day thus far. Once they got everybody back on board, we moved to our second dive location.

Jenni and I talked over my difficulties and she agreed to swim faster so it would be easier for me to stay under. It worked, too. Until I'd breathed half my tank again. Alas, I went right to the surface. This time I scared Jenni half to death because she'd literally just turned her back on me for a second before I floated off. When she turned around, I was gone.

I was waving at her trying to get her to look up, but she kept looking around. Getting more frantic by the second. Finally, I did my support scull thing again and dropped in behind her almost as if I'd never left. She was a little startled at my sudden reappearance. I pointed to where I'd been and we swam off.

We ran into the second photographer. Feeling braver and because Jenni held me under, we posed for another picture. I even took the regulator out to smile.

When we got back to the boat I told her if she ever loses me to just look up. We also figured out that the swimming faster wasn't working because she couldn't keep up with me. And it's not ideal because you don't get to see as much which is kinda the point of diving.

After that second dive, I was exhausted. Can you tell?

A short time later, we docked with the Ocean Quest which was the boat where we'd be spending the night and climbed aboard. We were due for our next dive in about an hour, but I was more than willing to sit that one out. Jenni agreed. Besides, we had a night dive coming up after dinner. A short rest was welcome.

My courage was back. I was eager to try the night dive. But got a bit nervous during the predive briefing and wanted to go guided on that dive. I think it was all that talk of sharks that did it. They told us that we could shine our torches on any fish we saw and the sharks who were following us would dart between our legs and eat it. Nice, huh?

Oh yeah...and the other divers on the boat thought it would be a great idea to toss rolls off the stern of the boat to feed the fish. Three or four sharks were a part of that frenzy. It was surprising that no one seemed concerned that we were about to jump in the water right where they were luring the sharks.

Fortunately, Jenni and I were in the last group to dive in so hopefully the sharks were full by then. Or maybe just scared off.

During the dive, the guide had to finish testing a woman - she was on the trip with her twin who works up the street from me at Disney- for her advanced certification so the rest of us were asked to kneel on the bottom and wait for them.

You know all about my previous difficulties, so needless to say this was much easier said than done. Because I had a torch in my hand, I couldn't support scull. I couldn't drop the torch because then I couldn't see where I was going. Jenni saved me. She grabbed my fin and pulled me to the bottom and held me down.

The instructor and student soon returned and the group was off. By this time, I'm sure you know what's coming. My tank hit the half full point and you know where I was headed. That's right. The surface.

As I said before, sculling wasn't an option on this dive. I thought about dropping the torch, but then I wouldn't know if I was directly above the coral or not. I decided not to chance it and just stayed on the surface. The rest of the group was about 20 feet below me and I could just make out flashes of their torches. It was just enough to follow.

I really had to fight to keep my wits. Oh yeah and there was a lot of praying involved. Here I was all alone in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at night. I couldn't see the boat. I could just barely make out the other divers. And I knew there were sharks nearby. Yeah. I was slightly terrified. But I just kept swimming.

At long last I ran into the boat's mooring line. I just hung out there until everybody else surfaced. The guide actually had the nerve to look annoyed that I was on the surface. "What? You couldn't come back down?" Of course I could. I just decided not to because I wanted to keep the sharks company.

After that dive, I was nearly in tears as I shucked the gear. I was trying to figure out how to tell Jenni that I was done since she'd have to find a new partner for the rest of the dives. At that point, I was ready to never dive again. EVER! One of the other crew members, Peter, teased me out of my funk, but I was still determined to give up diving for the rest of my life.

After a shower, I started feeling better and we explored the boat bit more. There was a lot of interesting art onboard.

Seriously. It was dead when we found it.

These are our funny crew guys. Peter is on the left. He was hysterical.

As you can see by the smile above, I was getting over the horrible night dive. By the next morning I was willing to give it one more go. Jenni and I signed up for the 5:50a wake up call. After a restful night sleep, I had calmed quite a bit.

The next morning, Peter went door to door for the wake up call. We were in a front state room and heard him coming. The first couple of doors, he was okay. By the third door, we could tell he'd gotten bored. The wake up call got worse and worse as he made his way down the hall. The poor guy sounded like he was dying. By the time he got to our door, Jenni and I were cracking up.

He asked, "Are you laughing at me?"

We answered in unison, "Yes!"


"That lame wake up call."

"Well what do you want me to do?"

"A song and dance would be nice."

Then he started singing! But it wasn't a peppy song. He sang a ballad that would put anybody back to sleep. By this time, Jenni and I were dying laughing. We let him off the hook and he finally moved on, but he called us Trouble the rest of the trip.

I was ready to get down to the business of diving. Jenni suggested that I get more weights. Since things were a lot less chaotic with fewer people trying to get in the water it was easier to get to the equipment. We jumped in and I sunk like a rock. Finally!

I actually enjoyed this dive. The weights were a bit heavy, but I used a canoe scull to guide me a little and I was just fine. I finally got to explore the Reef.

I was even confident enough to take pictures like the one below.

I saw a shark...

...who swam away as we got close and a sea turtle...

...who was just waking up that morning and giant clams...

...that looked more dangerous than the sharks.

We did one more dive that morning then sat out the final dive. Since I'm especially buoyant in salt water, I decided to use it to my advantage. While the others went out on the last dive, I had Jenni take a picture of me doing an eggbeater in the ocean.

Look, Laurette! My shoulders are dry!

And check out this ballet leg. I gotta get my shoulders back, but the toe of my non ballet leg is dry. Not too bad for being in the choppy water of the Pacific Ocean.

All too soon, we transferred back to the Sea Quest to head back to Cairns. I didn't notice until the end, but the crew sticks with the passengers on the overnight dive so Peter and gang were with us from beginning to end. When we got back to the city, he had the honor of driving us back to the resort.

He teased us about owing him for the tune and we said he needed to pay us for listening. He was racking up quite a bill 'cause we charged him every time he broke into song which he did pretty often.

The trip was coming to a close. I headed for the airport at 4:30 the next morning and Jenni left about 45 minutes behind me. My Australian adventure was nearly over.

07/05/2008 01:27 PM
Off to Cairns
So it's like illegal to go all the way to Australia and NOT visit the Great Barrier Reef. Well, maybe not illegal, but it should be. Especially if you're a SCUBA diver. Which Jenni and I are. Even though there is perfectly good diving in Perth, the two of us were bound and determined to dive the Reef, one way or another. Thanks to Vickie, Jenni's amazing mother, we got our wish.

Vickie, a whiz with travel arrangements, found a travel agent in Cairns (pronounced "cans") who could put our trip together. Joel from Dive The Reef set us up with an overnight boat trip out to the reef that included 7 dives with all equipment provided. This was an amazing deal. He even set up our overnight accommodations in Cairns.

We flew out of Perth shortly after midnight on Friday. We changed planes in Brisbane then on to Cairns. On the plane to Cairns, I ended up sitting next to a cute guy who just happened to be from the same rural county in Ohio I'm from. Talk about a small world! We chatted about high school and the changes back home. He told me he was in Australia for a semester abroad as part of his degree in International Business. I told him about the meet. All too soon, we were landing in Cairns.

Jenni and I collected our luggage and tried to figure out how to get to the resort where we were to stay in town. It took some doing, but we finally caught our shuttle and headed off to the hotel. Perth had certainly spoiled me. Cairns was a bit more run down than Perth. I put it down to the tropical climate which has to be much harder on buildings than more moderate temperatures and humidity.

The resort was more Youth Hostel than hotel and had the rules to drive the point home. No food in the rooms. Strange because we had a refrigerator in ours. No pillows or sleeping bags in the room. I was still puzzling over this one a couple days later. And even though we had a private room, we didn't have a bathroom. The community toilet was next door and the community shower was across the hall. It took me all of five minutes to decide that I am way too old for this stuff. But, I could deal for a night.

After we got settled, Jenni and I headed out on the town to find food and explore Cairns a bit. Armed with a map, we hopped on the shuttle and headed downtown to see what we could see. Because it was ANZAC day, the streets were pretty much deserted as were the restaurants.

Still we saw our first restaurant that served authentic Australia cuisine. Here's a picture of the menu they had in the window. If you click on it, it'll enlarge so you can see some of their delicacies.

We saw a confusing street sign...

...and sang with the Blues Brothers...

...then headed to a little marketplace where most of the shops were closed for the holiday and the ones that were open charged an extra 10% as a holiday fee. I had my first self serve Chinese Food, Jenni got the noodles she'd been craving and we chowed down before walking out to the shore.

This was the coolest part of Cairns was the oceanside pool. Here's a video.

It was maybe 4 feet deep total, but it was fairly large. We sat on a low wall that bordered the beach and watched people swim. I swear one little girl is synchro swimmer in the making. She was having the best time doing handstands and flips all by herself.

As for the was kinda missing at the time.

Some seagulls with no sea.

Jenni and I at the missing ocean.

Once we'd had a our fill of the Cairns' sites, we headed back to the shuttle stop where we found Elvis. He was across the street.

After our little adventure, we settled back in our room where Jenni had a ton of homework and I fell asleep before I knew it.

06/27/2008 09:18 PM
Perth Wrap Up
We headed out for a team dinner after the medals were handed out. Upon arriving in Perth, Dawn and Lea met a woman on a shuttle who told them about the restaurant where she worked, the Blue Duck. So that's where we went for our final dinner all together. To The Blue Duck.

It was hysterical to learn that the restaurant was across the street from where Jenni and I ended up on our Accidental Bus Tour earlier that week. There were more laughs all around as the team finally got see what we'd already seen. The view of the Indian Ocean is amazing along that route.

It was even gorgeous from inside the restaurant. We met up with one of the judges and her husband, the Edwards, along with Laurette's mother, Norma for an entirely pleasant evening.

This statue was part of the decor at the Blue Duck.

Jenni and Lindsay grinning it up.

All together for a change!
Beginning on the left and going back: Norma, Natalie, Stephen, Jenni, Lindsay, Karen, Pam and her husband, Lori, Dawn, Lea and Becky.

Laurette took the photo.

After dinner, I finally found Nemo...

 an aquarium. It was all very sad.

But the sadness was soon forgotten as we headed back to the bus stop. The restaurant was right on the Indian Ocean. I just had to say goodbye. Lea and I rushed down to the surf. And I fell in.

We were trying to touch the water, but a wave came in too fast. Lea scampered back, but I tripped on a pile of sand and landed right on my rear end. So the wave I was trying to keep off my shoes was suddenly on my behind. Lea was dying laughing watching me try to get out of it. I can't believe the rest of the team missed it. The both of us were cracking up the entire way back to the apartment.

And just like that, the competition portion of our trip had come to an end. We got our luggage from Dawn's place and took a cab to the airport for our midnight flights. Karen and Lindsay were off to Sydney while Jenni and I were off to Cairns.

06/27/2008 07:49 PM
Competition Day #4
All too soon, we reached the final day of competition. The day dawned bright and early for Jenni and Natalie who were scheduled to swim their duet free between 8:15a and 9:30a. They headed to the pool early so they could get warmed up.

The rest of us weren't too far behind because we were checking out of the hotel before we left for the Stadium and needed to make sure everything was packed. I headed over to Dawn, Lea, Laurette and Becky's apartment with Karen and Lindsay to leave our luggage since they were checking out later.

We headed for the pool.

Natalie and Jenni swam third in their age group. We arrived in enough time to cheer them on from the stands.

Once their final scores were in, they took 7th in this toughest age group. Way to go, ladies!!

Next up were the trio free routines.

Karen, Lindsay and Lea did a marvelous job defending our trio title. They brought home the gold for the 6th Worlds in a row.

Karen, Lea and Lindsay posing with their gold on the medal stand.

They awarded the medals for the 20-34 age group first. The Canadians swept those top three spots.

As you can see, a team from the Netherlands is on the left and a team from Italy is on the right. We didn't have a flag, so some helpful woman from Canada offered us theirs. She was shocked when they refused. She couldn't imagine that we were from the States and Canada didn't have any winners in this group.

The team free routines ended the competition.

They had some really tough competition here because they were competing in the 20s age group. Additionally, they were competing against teams that had 6-8 swimmers. Without the full 8 you're going in behind the curve because you've already lost points.

Despite all this that was against them, they came out of this battle tied for third with Durham Synchro, a team who had 7 swimmers.

Karen said later that she was the proudest of this bronze medal because she'd never gotten one for team at Worlds before. It only made it that much sweeter to get it while competing against "kids."

On the stand, our team ended up tucked in amongst three Canadian teams. While up there, one of the other competitors asked who would like to send the photos of them all in to Synchro Canada. Lindsay very helpfully volunteered...

After the awards were finished, we hung around and take pictures. Here're Lindsay, Lea, Jenni, Karen and Natalie.

Lea, Lindsay and Karen cheesing with their gold.

Jenni and Natalie.

Lori outside the Stadium.

After all was said and done, we had a really good showing at Worlds. After watching some of the other teams, we analyzed their routines and are adjusting to make ourselves more competitive.

06/20/2008 03:48 PM
Competition Day #3
Back in the pool I go!

The previous night at dinner, while I discovered my intense love of Australian BBQ sauce, Becky showed us pictures from her trip to Caversham Wildlife Park. The koalas and kangaroos were so cute that we immediately planned an outing there the next morning.

However, business weighed heavily on us and we decided to work on our free routines instead. Karen finally finished writing her routine that morning and showed off her unKarenlike move for Jenni and my approval.

Then we set out to gel my hair for the very first time. As you'll see in the soon to come videos, we swim free routines in costumes and makeup and headpieces on gelled hair. I should probably mention that it is NOT hair gel. It is Knox gelatin which hardens your hair to keep it in place in the water. Oh yeah...and did I mention that the gel is made of horse hooves? That's why we prefer Knox. It smells...less bad...than the off brands.

Karen used her "forty years of experience" to perfectly gel my hair. She arranged the headpiece I'd made with beads and thread - as opposed to the wire I'll use next time - around the bun I'd managed to put in off center and it looked fabulous! You'll just have to take my word for it because I was so excited and forgot to get a picture.

Jenni and I gelled Karen, Karen put Jenni's headpiece on her and we set off for the pool.

Of our group, Jenni was first up with the 20s age group. She swam 7th.

Solos seem to be trending toward darker music. Jenni stayed true to her sunny personality and swam to a "happy" song which definitely set her apart from the rest. As always, Dawn is a fount of knowledge. Jenni's choice was a good one because "blondes don't tend to score well when swimming darker music." Who knew?

I swam 5th in the next age group. After those low scores on the tech routine, I really had nothing to lose. I was firmly in last place. While I was waiting, I made the decision to go out and give it my all. In my tech, I'd taken out all the difficulty in favor of the technically sound and got creamed for that. My free was a whole different story.

About a month and a half before we left, Dawn had moved one hybrid from the end of the routine to the beginning. After many tears and much panic, I finally got it down. Maybe.

I got the go ahead to take my position and climbed into the pool. In true Lori fashion, I didn't put the noseclip on until I'd swam out and was set. I actually had to hold up a finger for the referee to wait for me to put it on. I'm really looking forward to a competition with no noseclip issues.

The music began and I gave it my all. I grinned my little heart and covered the pool as best I could. The night before, Lindsay and Karen complimented me on one of my strokes. Karen was actually considering borrowing it. How flattering is that? So when I got to that section of the music, I had a total brain freeze. Luckily it was only for a brief second and I got back on track. I finished the routine, grinned some more, climbed out of the pool - I was done!

As soon as that video turns up, I'll post it here.

Next up was the 40s age group and Karen's battle with Carol.

Carol went first. Karen was 2nd. Her routine was thoroughly amazing in true Karen fashion. I'll post it when it turns up as well.

Karen was a walking illustration of honesty during the trip. The night before, she found a camera in the stands and turned it in. The French guys to whom it belonged were so thoroughly grateful that they made sure they took some professional shots of her routine. They were so cute. They would not move from that area until they were sure they got Karen on film.

Lea, the team trooper, went 5th. She'd gotten some comments on her tech being done too much with one arm. So despite the excruciating pain in her shoulder she pulled out all the stops for her free.

Sylvia was last up on our team to swim. We gathered in the vendor area for the awards. Karen took silver because Carol's routines were more contemporary. She's already looking forward to the rematch even though it won't be for another four years because they won't be in the same age group when we go to Sweden. Lea fought through her injury enough to earn the bronze.

Because of the bogus penalty, Jenni ended up in 8th place. Sylvia took 5th. And I, in the shockers of shockers, ended up 10th. One judge was blatantly scoring swimmers from her country higher. My cousin likes to call it their affirmative action. Except it totally backfired on them. High and low scores are tossed. Because of that I was blessed to score higher than one of that country's swimmers for the #10 spot.

How funny is that?

06/20/2008 02:59 PM
Competition Day #2
After Swan Bells, we all made our way to the pool for the Duet and Team Tech competitions. I was very happy to have "dry" day and cheer on my teammates. First up were Natalie and Jenni in their Duet Tech.

Can you believe these two just learned this routine a few short months before the competition? Well done, ladies!

You may have noticed common elements in all of these tech routines. That's because four figures, split to walkout, porpoise, 2 ballet leg positions and a huron thrust, must be performed in the listed order.

Depending on the type of routine, solo or duet/trio/team, you must also have a connected action. In all the techs, you have to show propulsion with an arm in the air. In the team techs, you must show a sequence, straight line and circle. And you have to do it in under 1:50 seconds for duet/trio/team and 1:30 for solo.

In the midst of all these requirements, you have to find a way to be interesting while doing the exact same elements as everyone else.

Now that you have an idea of what to look for, here's the team tech for your viewing pleasure.

It also helps to have really good music that won't put the judges to sleep. 'Cause they have been sitting there for an awful long time. Speaking of the of them complimented our team as being the most technically sound.

Way to go, ladies!!!

06/15/2008 06:22 PM
Visiting the Swan Bells
Tuesday morning we decided to visit Swan Bells which is known as the largest musical instrument in the world. To celebrate Australia's bicentenary in 1988, England gave the bells to Western Australia. The building you see at the left was built to house them.

Originally, the bells were housed at St. Martin-in-the-fields in the church of Trafalgar Square. After 270 odd years, they were getting too heavy for the church's foundation. Every time they rang, it would crumble. To save the church, it was decided to melt the bells down and cast new ones. A patron of the bells campaigned to have them moved instead.

Armed with 2 for 1 admission coupons, Laurette, Natalie, Becky, Jenni, Karen, Lindsay and Lori headed off to view the bells. Silliness ensued as we pretended to be swans in front of the tower.

Pretty cool looking tower!

Since time was limited because the meet began that afternoon, we decided to start with the observation deck on the 6th floor and work our way down. We admired the spectacular views of Perth and the Swan River while taking lots of pictures.

Lori, Karen, Lindsay, Jenni and Natalie grinning away.

Karen, Lori and Lindsay with the Swan River behind us.

Lindsay went "artiste" on us.

Looking straight up from the deck.

View of downtown Perth from the deck.

A lady who worked at the Bells asked if we'd seen the bell ringing demonstration, yet. We told her we hadn't since we started at the top and the Ringing room was on the first floor. She highly recommended that we see the demonstration then come back up to see the bells. We're easy. So that's what we did.

As we walked into the ringing room, the first thing I noticed were all these thick ropes hanging from the ceiling. Of course they got more interesting as the woman who greeted us said her hellos mixed with lots of "Don't touch the ropes." As we all sat in the chairs around the room's perimeter, she explained why we shouldn't touch the ropes. "Tourists tend to hang themselves if they touch the ropes." Since I didn't fancy dying in Australia, I didn't touch the rope.

Once everyone was seated, she grabbed a rope and started telling us about the bells as she rang one of them. So happens, there was a Bell Ringers convention in town that weekend so there were two other ringers in the room and another came in with us. Each of them grabbed a rope.
Under the woman's direction, they rang "Three Blind Mice" for us.

After the other ringers were excused to get to know the newcomer, the woman continued the demonstration. "Wanna see me ring a bell the size of a small car?" She asked. She hopped up on a box and grabbed this huge rope. She rang the huge bell. She was so tiny and the bell was so big that I was convinced she was going to go flying at any moment. But she didn't.

Then she asked if we wanted to ring the bells. Despite the whole, "you'll hang yourself if you touch the rope" warning, we were eager to give it a shot. I was first. I gotta tell you, those bells are HEEEAAAVVVYYYYY! She made it look so easy, catching different parts of the rope depending on which number ring she was on. I was doing good just to keep a hold of the rope at all.

She started each of us ringing one by one. I was exhausted by the time she got to the last person. To get out of ringing, I took pictures instead!

Here're Natalie, Jenni, Laurette, Karen and Lindsay giving it a go.

See how the ropes are fatter at the top? The bell ringers would catch that part alternating with the skinny lower part on even and odd rings.

Laurette, Karen, Lindsay, random chick, Becky happy to take a breather.

Here are all of us with the Bell Ringer. Karen, Natalie, Jenni, BR, Lindsay, Becky, Laurette and Lori.

See how tiny she is? She has to be freakishly strong to be able to ring these bells for any length of time. Our amazement only grew once we went up to the Belfry and saw exactly how big these bells are.

No wonder these bells can kill you. Look how HUGE they are.

Here're Lindsay, Lori and Karen marveling at the size. The ones closest to us are the small bells. Those are the ones we got to ring.

The bells are purposely "set" in the up position like this. This means that they are ready to ring. Our Bell Ringer told us how she can distinguish a real ringer from a wannabe. She tests them by having them set a small bell. If they can't do it, she won't let them ring.

After this amazing trip, I have gained a whole new respect for Bell Ringers everywhere.

Before we left, Karen found a wallet in the restroom. She turned it in and the people gave her a 10% discount on her souvenir purchases in the gift shop. Who says honesty doesn't pay?

At this point, the group split up. All to handle last minute details before the solo and trio techs that were scheduled for that afternoon.

06/15/2008 05:13 PM
Competition Day #1 and Accidental Bus Tour
Time to handle business!

The solo and trio techs were scheduled for Monday afternoon. Because it was such a small meet, the events didn't actually begin until 2:30p. A bonus of the extra time was that everyone had a 45 minute Open Solo training that could be used however you wished.

The meet began with the 80+ age group and went down from there, so Jenni and I hung back at the apartment since we were in the last group to warm up. Apparently, we shouldn't have been left to our own devices because we kinda got lost on the way the pool.

What had happened was....Lea figured out a more efficient route to the pool via the bus system. She sent it to Jenni in a text message. All we had to do was walk up the street a bit and flag down the bus as it came along. "It would take us straight there."

First, we totally missed the crosswalk. Thankfully, there wasn't a ton of traffic on the four lane highway that was traveling backward. It's the weirdest thing. You never notice how ingrained it is to check to the left first when crossing the street until you have to remember to check right.

We made it across safely and flagged down the correct bus. Jenni was listening to her ipod as is her custom before competing and I was checking out the parts of the city we hadn't seen yet. When we got to the familiar Claremont train station, Jenni and I kinda waved at it, glad that we didn't have to transfer there. You know, 'cause we're headed straight to the pool.

We admired neighborhoods, huge front lawns that had sidewalks set back a ways from the street, and a gorgeous array of sun beams that streaked the sky over a very picturesque Indian Ocean.

Along the ocean, the bus stopped. For some reason, everyone got off. Including the driver. Silly me didn't think too much off it. From where I was sitting directly behind his caged in seating area on the right, it just looked like he was adjusting his mirror.

Still, I asked Jenni if she thought we should confirm with the man that his route would take us to Challenge Stadium. She agreed and tried to text Lea.

When the guy got back on the bus, I asked him about the pool and he gave us this startled look. He totally thought the bus was empty. We're just sitting there, a couple of confused Americans. He said no, we needed to get off at Claremont. We were at the end of the line and he wasn't fixing his mirror. He was turning his sign to Out of Service. It was his break time.

Jenni and I just stared at each other for a few "oh crap, what do we do now" moments. Lea wasn't answering her text messages. We were at a loss.

However, just to show you how wonderful the Aussies are, the driver fired up the bus and drove us back to Claremont station so we could catch our connection. After many profuse thanks, we hopped on the shuttle and got to the pool. And we weren't even late.

The competition began! A judge was late arriving, so Dawn had to fill in during the oldest age groups, but she was all coach again by the time Sylvia swam. Next up was Karen's nemesis, Carol Fitzsimmons from the Calgary Aquamums.

Lea, who'd been battling a shoulder injury, swam next.

Karen was the final swimmer in the 40's age group.

Everyone was a bit disappointed at how low the scores were. It wasn't long before we realized that the scores were just low in general.

I was the next Unsyncable to swim. I went 7th in my age group.

I gotta say, hearing those low scores really hurt even though you know everyone is getting them.

Finally, Jenni swam 12th in the 20s age group.

We found out the next day that she got a penalty for going over the allotted 10 secs on her deck work. But as you can see from the video, she was absolutely in the water well before the 10 seconds were up. The best we can figure is that the timer started the stopwatch from the whistle instead of the music. Unfortunately, you have to contest these things within a half an hour of the score posting. Even though we found out about it late, Dawn still tried. But they wouldn't budge on the decision.

The trio techs ended the day. Lea, Karen and Lindsay had an awesome swim.

We headed back to the apartment where it was Lindsay's turn to cook. Karen helped her out since it was salad night and she makes amazing salads.

On the shuttle back to Claremont, Jenni and I told the team all about our earlier bus adventure. Amid much laughter, Lea clarified that, "it would take us straight there" meant to Claremont, not Challenge Stadium. Adding to the hilarity, guess who was our bus driver from the train station back to the apartment. I only wish I hadn't been so embarrassed at first then laughing too hard the second time to get his name and picture. I'd love to show you all who the nicest man in Australia is.

06/12/2008 10:22 PM
Touching the Indian Ocean
It was getting late by the time we left the prison, but we wanted to go down to the Indian Ocean since we were so close and didn't know if we'd have time to make it back. We said goodbye to Natalie who had dinner plans and set off to find the beach with Lindsay leading the way.

I have to say that Lindsay is amazing when it comes to touring and finding your way around. She had sights, walking tours and maps all within easy reach the entire time we were in Australia. Between her and Karen with her guidebooks, I was totally content to sit back and follow along.

It was dusk by the time we made our way to the beach. Along the way we passed a yacht show and lots of ritzy looking seafood restaurants. But right on the corner of the boardwalk closest to the ocean was... wait for it....McDonald's. They even had a playground. Go figure.

Looking away from McDonald's toward The Round House. You can just see it slightly right of center.

Lindsay, Lori, Becky and Karen walking toward the water.

Lindsay touching the water.

We had fun trying to get shots of us touching the water. With the waves coming in so fast, it was a little difficult to time right. Still, the water felt super warm. Almost like bathwater. I was really surprised. Guess that's what I get for living on the Pacific Coast in California.

After this little adventure, we headed back to the train that would take us to Perth. It was Karen and Sylvia's night to cook and the competition was to begin the next day.