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Heartbreak [11 May 2010|03:25am]
 For 18 sweet hours, I thought I was going to the CrossFit Games.
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Angie as Rx'ed [11 Jan 2010|08:57pm]
I've moved this post to the CrossFit Workouts blog...

http://www.crossfitworkouts.com.au/lelas-crossfit-diary/angie-as-rxed/
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Bring It [26 Dec 2009|10:39am]
CrossFit Games Widget
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New York [24 Sep 2009|12:00am]
Today was pretty much spent killing time until we could head to the airport for our flight home.

We slept in, checked out, then spent the rest of the morning exploring Times Square for tacky souvenirs for the folks at home. Unsuccessful in finding a pink NY bucket hat for James - New York, it appears, acknowledges no other headgear but the baseball cap.

Rather than the shuttle bus, our hotel had recommended hiring a town car to take us to the airport as a more cost-effective option. Cheaper it might have been, but at the cost of an "Omigod, I want to live!!!" factor. I don't know how typical our driver was in terms of ducking and weaving and having no respect for lanes, but the trip was enough to undo all the good work New Orleans had done on my blood pressure. Amazingly we only got honked at once or twice, so perhaps driving like you're in an arcade game is normal hereabouts.

We made it to JFK unscathed, and in an hour less than the concierge had estimated, leaving us with plenty of time to kill before our flight to LA. Luckily Terminal 4 is equipped with a Sam Adams Brewhouse and a Panda Express. Beer and kung pao chicken await.
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New York [23 Sep 2009|12:00am]
I headed down to CrossFit NYC for their 8am class where the mistress of the blog, Allison, took us through max reps of bench press, pull-ups and low-bar back squats. Five rounds.

I still find the bench press a profoundly strange exercise: start by lying under something heavy...

I got headspins from the third round of squats, which I think was the result of not breathing correctly; after I'd sat down for a few minutes, I was good to go again. I really need to concentrate on pushing my knees out when I squat: it's something that coaches consistently pull me up on, so I don't think I'm understanding the cue correctly.

Showered and dressed, it was time for one final round of shoe shopping (KSOs for me, orange Asics for Meg), one final round of Magnolia Bakery cupcakes (red velvet stained my fingers) and a trek back to Times Square to find Hershey's Kisses for Alex.

On the way through we were accosted by a woman dresse as Princess Leia. Amusing. Then, a few metres further on, a guy dressed as Princess Leia. The iconic hairstyle is hard to mistake. We stopped to see what this Alderaanian fashion parade was in aid of.

Carrie Fisher's one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, as it turns out. Perhaps we could get a Broadway show in after all. And at Studio 54, no less.

Wow she hated that hairstyle.
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New Orleans/New York [22 Sep 2009|12:00am]
Another day spent mostly in transit. Our airport shuttle driver was very Southern in his reaction to my Vibrams: "Damn, girl, where'd you get those shoes?"

We flew into New York, continuing our trend of early arrivals with domestic flights in the States, and took the airport shuttle to the Port Authority. Funny coming back into New York the same way twice: the second time it was no longer wide-eyed foreign city, but instead kind of familiar. This is the way the traffic crossings work, that cab will turn in front of you, walk to the right. We lugged our bags up through Times Square to our last hotel of the trip.

The Magnolia Bakery being only two streets away, Susan led us on another cupcake expedition. I was tempted instead by something called a "whoopie cookie": a pair of brown sugar cookies held together by a thick layer of maple syrup cream cheese. Entirely indulgent. Half the size would have been better, but needless to say I ate the whole thing.
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New Orleans [21 Sep 2009|12:00am]
We were woken in the wee small hours by one of our neighbours back home, letting us know about their small beagle visitor.

At a more reasonable hour we were picked up by a shuttle to take us out to the Honey Island Swamp. The swamp is out northeast of New Orleans, about 30 minutes away, past Slidell.

The bus took us through parts of New Orleans worse hit than the French Quarter. There were sections that were two thirds deserted, houses with painted Xs denoting that the building had been inspected and recording how many dead had been found in each. (Mercifully all the buildings I saw were zeroes.)

There was a McDonalds with a broken M, and an entire shopping mall lying empty. So many people fled New Orleans after Katrina, so few have returned. And yet, there's construction work going on all over: building and rebuilding. Houses that are reoccupied have been repainted, covering over the X and the tide line.

The road takes a route directly over Lake Pontchartrain, a long bridge over a shallow lake.

The office of the Cajun Encounters swamp tour was supervised by a grey cat, affectionate for scritchies but languid in the heat and humidity.

We went out on the West Pearl River in a shallow-keeled (or was it flat-bottomed?) boat, captained by Bishop Keller. He had a degree in Environmental Management, a job in fishing, and a silvering goatee. We travelled upstream, took a side route through an oxbow, saw gators and turtles, woodpeckers and skinks. A startled little tree frog jumped onto my leg, then across the boat to the other side before fleeing entirely.

We paused at one of the few trees in the swamp that's older than eighty years: most of the cypress trees were felled, since it's apparently an excellent timber. This tree, known as the Whiskey Tree or Moonshine Tree, was the meeting place for folks in the region to meet and compare their distilling efforts.

Back in town we were directed by the hotel's doorman, Randy, to the best burgers in the French Quarter: Yo Mama's Bar and Grill. It was so classic an American bar - neon signs, lemon ice box pie, seating booths, tattooed rockabilly barmaid - I was tempted to look around for the set dressers.

My burger - half a pound of medium rare beef, bacon pieces, peanut butter - was delicious. The accompanying beer, an Abita Purple Haze, was good but not flavoursome enough to go with the burger.

In the afternoon, it rained. Big, heavy, intermittent raindrops like the tail end of a shower after you've turned the taps off. It wasn't enough to budge the heat at all - the rain just mingled with the existing humidity, and this is only September.

Dave had told us, when we'd asked about the chance of bad weather, that it would only rain for half an hour and he was pretty much dead on. No point wearing a raincoat in these conditions.

While it was raining we were walking through the St Louis Cemetery, the grey sky suited to the squat brick and marble shapes of the crypts. Some were neatly maintained, freshly painted, marble polished, flowers set in memoriam. Others were broken: jumbled bricks, the plaques of names cracked in half and left leaning up against the tomb. There seemed to be no correlation between the dates on the gravestone and the condition of the crypt.

St Louis Cemetery had none of the austere stillness of Arlington: it was old and tired and functional.

I went back to the hotel and ran three miles on a treadmill overlooking the Mississippi River.

Dinner was a tuna salad at the Crescent City Brewhouse. I'm not sure the name of the dish gives it proper credit: the tuna was thin-sliced like sashimi, seared and pepper-coated on the outside, rare and melting tender on the inside. The wasabi buttermilk dressing could have used more of a kick to it, but the tuna couldn't be faulted.
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New Orleans [20 Sep 2009|12:00am]
In an attempt to reclaim the verve that four Abita beers had taken from me the night before, I headed to the hotel gym first thing in the morning. All the gym equipment was treadmills and weight machines; I put in some reps and then ran a mile.

Machines don't do the same job as free weights: I "benched" my bodyweight for 5 reps, which I know I can't do with a bar.

We had brunch - "Jazz Brunch", with the addition of Joe Simon's Jazz Trio of trumpeter, guitarist and double bassist - at Muriel's, as per several recommendations. I had turtle soup and the house salad, with a virgin Bloody Mary. Turtle has both white and dark meat, and a texture I have nothing to compare to.

We took the St Charles streetcar to the end of the line, and back to Canal Street, taking the time to look at the buildings and the Mardi Gras beads dangling from the trees.

We bought pralines on the way back to the hotel, and are sitting watching dog agility trials on ESPN.

Tonight: dinner at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse with Dave. Tomorrow: a tour of the swamp.
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New Orleans [19 Sep 2009|12:00am]
It was raining when we touched down at Atlanta Airport after the most turbulent flight we'd yet experienced. (It turns out there was widespread flooding in Georgia.)

Atlanta Airport is crazy busy: at the gate our flight to New Orleans was due to depart from there was a flight arriving from Memphis, a flight to or from New Mexico that I couldn't quite follow, and a flight due to depart for Seattle as soon as we'd gotten out of the damn way. And that was one gate, in one terminal, at an airport that has at least five.

Our shuttle bus driver from Louis Armstrong Airport had a lovely mellifluous accent as he described the sites of the city we were passing. There were some signs of rebuilding, but probably no more so than any urban area of similar size.

(Dave later said that some sections of the city had been rebuilt better than before.)



Our hotel, the Monteleone, is located on Royal St in the French Quarter. Right in the heart of the tourist area but a safe arm's length (just!) from the debauchery of Bourbon Street. It's an old building and would probably have wowed us with its history if we hadn't just come from the gleaming edifice that is the Shoreham Hotel.

We took a stroll through the French Quarter in the late afternoon, then along the Riverwalk where our ears were assailed by the calliope tunes of the Natchez steamboat. The French Market was closing up for the evening as we reached it, and we made a mental note to come back the next day.

The air was warm and humid but not oppressively so, and the forecast rain failed to eventuate.

I rang Dave, whose number Gabe had given me in New York, and we arranged to meet up after dinner.

We ate gumbo at the appropriately named Gumbo Shop. It was an unexpectedly brief dinner: the soup came quickly, and was as quickly eaten. Meg had the Seafood Okra Gumbo, complete with an entire crab's leg in it. Susan and I had the Chicken Andouille Gumbo.

Thus recharged we headed back to the Monteleone to rendezvous with Dave. "I'm wearing a shirt, jeans and flip-flops", he said, failing the basic rendezvous strategy of the white flower in the lapel. Nevertheless we managed to locate each other and he took us out to a couple of bars - including Pat O'Brien's, where we gaped at the Hurricanes, tall glasses of rum with some sort of kool-aid mix - and a wander down Bourbon Street. Dave's a local, and he valiantly outlined for us the quintessential (yet less touristy) aspects of the city.
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Washington DC [18 Sep 2009|12:00am]
I think we're starting to get to the point where travel is wearying us. We slept in, got bagel at Cafe International - which has become our breakfast venue of choice more for convenience than for any brilliance in fare - then returned to the National Mall to look at monuments. And ducks. And geese. Big, black-headed geese who were snacking voraciously on whatever was crawling out of the grass around the Washington Monument.

The FDR Memorial, a winding maze of stone blocks and waterfalls, was magnificent. Children were clambering, as children inevitably do, all over the statue of his dog; meanwhile a young woman was leaning against the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt. Try not to read too much into that.

The White House and its apiary were glimpses through a tall fence, and that after negotiating a barricade. I can't imagine Pennsylvania Avenue is much of a neighbourhood for kids growing up, however expansive the front lawn might be.

That left us pretty much touristed out for DC. Susan and Meg headed back to the hotel, while I caught the metro up to Cleveland Park to catch up with Tom and collect my CrossFit DC t-shirt.

Dinner was meatloaf sandwiches (tastier than they sound) and peanut butter mousse cake at the Open City Coffee House. Then an early night - the following morning would see us headed south to New Orleans.
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Washington DC [17 Sep 2009|12:00am]
Today the lovely Erica drove up from Philadelphia, braving DC traffic on our behalf to tour the National Mall with us.

We met up at Woodley Park metro station and travelled in to the Smithsonian Museums.

First the so-called Castle (it has a turret), where James Smithson's remains are kept. I'm not saying every home should have a funerary urn in the lobby, but it is rather striking.

From the Castle we moved on to the National Museum of the American Indian, a rippling yellow sandstone (or perhaps limestone?) building surrounded by waterfalls and native garden beds. The exhibits inside made me feel as though Western Civilisation should be categorised alongside pigeons and rats as not the best option, merely the most adaptable.

The food court on the ground floor of the museum was unusual: it was divided into five sections, each inspired by a different Native American region, such as Meso-America and Northern Woodlands. Deciding what to eat was a challenge. Yucca fries? Frogs legs? Buffalo chilli? I added beets and peach salad, and smoked duck with currants to the Nashi pear-the-size-of-your-head that Erica had brought up from the orchard.

Bones aplenty awaited us at the Museum of Natural History: the T-Rex, Canadian hockey dinosaurs (Albertosaurus and Edmontosaurus), ungulates and monotremes and bears (oh my).

The skeletal remains of the people of Jamestowne and Chesapeake were intriguing yet uncomfortable. The amount of wear done to the teeth of people my own age was staggering. Remind me I'm due for a dentist's visit.

Dental appointment notwithstanding, we completed our rain-spattered survey of the Freedom Plaza with two bags of candy corn. (Who knew it came in chocolate too?)

To round out the day, we headed out in Erica's soccer mom car along the DC Beltway out to Silver Spring, Maryland, to eat like pirates. Arr! The Piratz Tavern supplied us with spicy chicken bits, garlicky veggies and a smoky stew called Salmagundi. The waiters were dressed in pirate gear but it being a school night I think we missed out on some of the more theatrical aspects of the pirate theme.

We farewelled Erica at the station and caught the metro back into town.
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Washington DC [16 Sep 2009|12:00am]
Potomac CrossFit, 9.30am class. I took the Metro down to Clarendon, leaving Susan and Meg to sleep in. It's the largest box I've seen yet, though that still likely makes it smaller than the CrossFit Effects space.

The WOD was low-bar back squats at bodyweight, maximum reps. I used 125 lb at a supposed bodyweight of 135 lb, though goodness knows what it actually is at the moment. Curse you, American food.

The low-bar torso position is leaned forward considerably in comparison to the high-bar back squat I'm used to: stepping out from the rack, I felt like I was staring at my feet. I was overcautious: 5 - 4 - 6 reps, and I could probably have managed more.

By the time I caught up with Meg and Susan at the National Zoo, they'd been there two hours and were ready to move on. My zoo visit was scarcely more than glimpses of orangutans and a pygmy hippo.

We walked on from the zoo up to the Washington National Cathedral, a massive construction done in the classic Gothic style complete with stained glass windows and flying buttresses. It's only about twenty years old.

Finally, gambling that the threatening rain would hold off, we caught the Metro out to Arlington National Cemetery. There we wandered among the white headstones and the whispering trees. Over three hundred thousand are buried there, names upon names. We looked for - but did not find - the grave of Admiral Grace Hopper.

The rain eventuated while we were at dinner: Chinese food in a little restaurant downstairs on Connecticut Avenue, Mr Chen's.
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Washington DC [15 Sep 2009|12:00am]
A day lost in transit.

We walked across the Rainbow Bridge back to the States, ate breakfast at Denny's while waiting for the airport shuttle.

The flight from Buffalo to Detroit was so short they didn't even bother serving what I'd started to think of as the obligatory snack. Lunch was a PB&J (or, in my case, cashew butter and grape jelly) from a similarly-named store at Detroit Airport in the fifteen minutes between flights.

Then onwards to Baltimore Washington International and a long shuttle bus ride through the Washington suburbs to our hotel.

That ate most of the day.

We checked in, checked out the Shoreham Hotel's facilities - the enormous lobby includes a restaurant and several shops - and by then it was 6pm.

I jogged a mile down Connecticut Avenue to the Balance Gym, where CrossFit DC holds a Tuesday night class. Tom's renting space there, but his class size has really outgrown the room. We did Grace in shifts: 30 clean and jerks for time; I used 75 lb and finished in 4'55".

Dinner was at Jandara, a Thai restaurant near the hotel: inexpensive and very good. My roast duck yellow curry was almost a soup.

The night was warm, since the air conditioner was too loud to sleep through.
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Niagara Falls [14 Sep 2009|12:00am]
I began the day with a run - 2.5km out to the Toronto Power Station building, 50 burpees on the grass beside it (incentive to jump high if it gives you a view of the Falls when you do it), then 2.5km back. A fairly leisurely run: I was stopped at one point by an Italian couple who wanted their picture taken.

Late morning saw the entire point of our jaunt to Niagara Falls, as we boarded the Maid of the Mist. Clad in blue plastic ponchos, we stood at the rail of the boat as it nosed past the American Falls and plunged itself right into the spray of the thundering Horseshoe Falls.

It's such a primal feeling: the cold spray on your cheeks and in your eyes, the rumble of the water even deeper and more ruthless than the Maid's engines working to hold us in place. I had a grin from ear to ear.
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Buffalo/Niagara [13 Sep 2009|12:00am]
Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo. Sitting at the Buffalo airport waiting for a bus to the Rainbow Bridge. From there we can cross into Canada, where our hotel is situated.

We're assuming that as Australians we get a visa waiver from our Canucki friends - it'll be a major inconvenience if it's not so. (As you can see, we've planned this trip down to the last detail.)

Another absurdly brief JetBlue flight brought us here from Boston, with barely an episode of Dog Whisperer between takeoff and touchdown.



Niagara Falls is nature's spectacle on one hand, and an abominably glitzy tourist trap on the other. Walk five hundred metres upstream and there's green grass and oak trees and the low roar of the falls: nature and tranquillity.

At the corner of Clifton Hill, it's Las Vegas' cousin, all flashing neon signs and tacky, awful souvenir shops. Imagine being spoiled for choice as to which plushy moose toy to take home.

And shudder.
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Boston/Salem [12 Sep 2009|12:00am]
Still raining this morning, and the buildings across the Charles that we'd seen so clearly the morning we checked in were now obscured by fog. Undaunted, we donned our raingear and took the train north to Salem.

Four hundred years since a group of hysterical teenaged girls got some people killed, and they're still talking about it.

It rained, not so much a downpour as an incessant drizzle, the entire time we were there. We investigated an army disposal store called the Army Barracks, looking at their wet weather gear and laughing at their hand-lettered signage: "This container good for storing dead bodies. On an entirely unrelated note, please don't steal from our store."

The Salem Witch Museum provided a summary of the infamous witch trials, with an ominous voiceover and a slant to the story which implicated Mrs Putnam far more than the version Arthur Miller made me familiar with. It also brought vividly to life Giles Corey's "More weight", a man crushed to death for his silence.

We walked the town in the rain, seeing the graveyard, a statue, and the fog-shrouded harbour. I felt sorry for the trolley bus guides, standing valiantly out with their umbrellas waiting for tourists to pass by.

Ben and Jerry's ice cream finished our Salem experience, and we escaped back to Boston without any witchy t-shirt purchases to speak of.

The afternoon was dedicated to slouching around our hotel room, watching our wet clothes dry and lamenting the rain-delayed US Open.
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Boston [11 Sep 2009|12:00am]
I rose at 5.50am and failed to sneak out because the chain was on the hotel door. Thud.

After that ignominious start, finding CrossFit Boston was not so hard: Orange Line to Roxbury Crossing, take a left on Terrace Street and there you are. The six a.m. class were powering through a priority Fight Gone Bad (1 round, 20 reps) when I arrived, and I was greeted by Neal's American Bulldog who showered me with kisses and demanded butt scritchies.

The WOD was "Christian", a hero for 9/11: 250m row, 25 wall balls (we subbed dumbbell thrusters, for lack of space), 5 power clean and jerks @ 65 lb for 3 rounds, then another 250m row. 13'23", and the wall ball sub is cruel. We followed that up with bottom-to-bottom Tabata squats - even crueller. Sweat angels abounded during the warmdown stretch.

Lunch was the quintessential New England dish: clam chowder at the Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in the US, accompanied by cornbread and washed down with Sam Adams Boston Brick Red.

I've never been a big seafood fan: shellfish in particular are things I've never had a taste for. But the clams in this clam chowder are mild, not particularly "fishy", and smooth in texture. I'd said to myself that I should at least give chowder a try, and I'm glad I did.

After lunch we headed out to the Samuel Adams Brewery for the tour. Our guide was a guy called Nick, very entertaining. We were given an 8 oz tasting glass and a quick lesson in beer tasting technique, and got to try three different beers: the flagship Boston Lager, the seasonal Octoberfest, and the brewery-only Patriot Homebrew Oatmeal Stout. The Octoberfest is very good, the Oatmeal Stout black as engine oil.

By the time we got out the bad weather that had been threatening all week had finally descended. We walked back in the rain.
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Boston [10 Sep 2009|12:00am]
We rose in the wee small hours of the morning to take the shuttle to JFK for what proved to be the shortest flight I've ever been on.

JetBlue Flight 1022, from NYC to Boston, is scheduled to take an hour and twelve minutes: we did it in 47. We were on the ground, baggage claimed and waiting for the free shuttle bus to the Blue Line even before our anticipated landing time.

Our hotel was a great find: walking distance from the Red, Green and Orange lines, a literal stone through from the Charles River - and the room's chairs are Herman Miller Aeron chairs.

We checked in, then took the Red Line up to Harvard to wander around Harvard Yard. (We did not have to park our car.) I know very little about Harvard: from an outsider's view, having been to neither, it didn't seem all too different to Sydney Uni. Then again, a university is as much its teachers and students as it is its buildings and grounds.

Lunch was at a burger joint called Mr Bartley's, apparently a Harvard institution - and I can see why. A menu of thirty-something burgers, all named for public figures: I had the Michelle Obama (blue cheese and Cajun spices), Meg the Bill Clinton (BBQ with cheese). Susan avoided political scandal and ordered a Burger Supreme.

Comfortably full after the delicious repast, we set off down Broadway to continue my quest for monkey shoes. I had thought I'd read on the VFF site that there were one or two stores along here which sold them. No such luck (perhaps I was conflating it with New York?), but it was a nice overview of classic New England architecture. Community gardens bright with ripening tomatoes were situated every few blocks, and we exchanged smiles with an old man tending his own tomato plants in the shelter of a fruiting peach tree.

From Broadway we headed down Charles Street, over the red brick cobbles, towards Boston Common. Serendipity! A handwritten side on the pavement: "barefooting". A yoga store selling Vibram Five Fingers: the monkey shoes had been found!

On Boston Common we watched a British tourist feed shortbread to voracious squirrels, and stood in the shade of a curious tree, a weeping beech - its branches grew downwards again, forming a leafy dome over its own trunk.

Then to Cheers - or rather, the Bull and Finch - to sit and have a beer in Norm's chair. Some cliches must be enjoyed, along with a pint of Sam Adams Boston Brick Red. The gum-chewing bartender in his Red Sox baseball cap was what I'm coming to recognise as a very typical Bostonian. He and Meg found each other's accents mutually unintelligible - getting a soft drink became a challenge.

From there we were at a bit of a loose end: we bought trousers for Susan at Old Navy, then headed back to the hotel to check out the gym.

Dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, across the road from our hotel, was a mixed bag: our waitress was the best we've had on this trip, friendly and helpful beyond anything we'd experienced in New York. On the other hand, the servings were eye-poppingly large - each could have easily been dinner for two.

We split a slice of Key Lime cheesecake between the three of us, and it was delicious.
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New York [09 Sep 2009|12:00am]
Sitting in a Starbucks opposite the entrance to the Long Island Rail Road. Drinking (you could probably guess) an iced coffee. Susan's queueing at the Post Office, Meg's gone back to the hotel to fetch a jumper. It's the coolest day we've had so far in NYC, though no less humid, and the forecast gives a 50% chance of rain.

I was just chatting with a Jewish guy (such a colourful yarmulke he was wearing!) in the line for coffee, about drinks with no ice and the dearth of Americans and Aussies remaining in the US Open. He thought I didn't have much of an accent: it's true, we don't all sound like the Crocodile Hunter.

The plan for today is Liberty Island, there to see some large French woman in a green dress. Here's hoping the weather holds.



Curse you, Miss New York! We were about ten people back from the front of the line to board the ferry from Liberty Island when they pulled the gate closed. So here we are sitting out on the pier, waiting for the next ferry. Miss Gateway? Miss Liberty? Who will it be?



Turns out it was Miss Ellis Island who collected us and deposited us safely back at Battery Park.

By then it was 3pm, and we were unfed and ravenous. Somewhere back from Water St, having rejected the historical and expensive Fraunces Tavern, we found the Soup Man (of Seinfeld infamy) and salads truly the size of one's head. I'd always thought myself capable of eating an infinite amount of salad but this - a cobb salad with eggs, carrots, lettuce, celery, bacon bits and blue cheese - defeated me utterly.

Giving ourselves time to digest, we took the subway up to Christopher Street in search of Bleecker Street and the original Magnolia Bakery. A detour via the Stonewall Inn, and another via Pure Dark (source of delicious chocolate-coated fruit pieces), and finally to the bakery. A tiny corner shop, it was filled to capacity and then spilling out onto the pavement: the New York Movie & TV Tour bus had arrived. We squeezed inside, collected our four cupcakes, and fled to the park across the street.

My pumpkin spiced cupcake with maple syrup cream cheese icing had an aroma to die for - like gingerbread. Delicious.

Dinner (yes, it's all about the food) was at St Andrews, New York's only Scottish restaurant. We stumbled across it by chance on the wasy back from an unsuccessful expedition to the T-Mobile store: my el cheapo prepaid mobile would not charge, and I needed a replacement. Unfortunately we arrived twenty minutes too late, and the store was closed. St Andrews, however, was open and while we were lured to its doors by the amusing thought of homemade haggis, the rest of the menu lured us inside. The baby back ribs were as advertised - melting off the bone. Susan was almost purring with contentment as she ate.
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New York [08 Sep 2009|12:00am]
A day of sports and exercise. It's the first morning of the trip that I'd set my alarm - wanting to make the 8am class at CrossFit NYC.

I trotted off down to West 26th, stopping in a deli on the way to grab a pint of milk as an on-the-go breakfast. It was organic and unhomogenised - the first sip was a rich and unexpected shot of cream.

Even if I hadn't already been to the Black Box on Saturday, I would have recognised a CrossFit gym: two guys ran past on the footpath, then - seconds later - came charging back, shirtless and sweating.

It being a scheduled Rest Day, there was no organised WOD for this class. Rather, an ad hoc "catch up or make up" session. Torch, whose hair really is as red as it looks in the photos on the website, was putting a marine through a set of Tabata squats. The runners were engaged in a run/burpee/pull-up triplet. One guy was running through Christine at the back of the room.

"And what would you like to do?" asked Jacinto, who really is the most physically impressive seventy year old you could ever hope to meet. "How about you do Cindy?"

So I started on the 20 minutes of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats - but with coaching from Jacinto, all good tips and gentle advice on my squat form, I managed only 8 rounds. Hopefully my air squat is improved, at least.

"Now we work on your kip." Another skill I still haven't got the hang of as much as I'd like: it's evidently common for self-taught CrossFitters to have poor form. Push out from the bar at the top! Lead with the chest!

We worked on the kipping pull-up for a while, till my hands and shoulders were sore.

And even the it was only 25 to 9, so Jacinto suggested a second WOD - wanting to be sure I got my visit's worth, I suppose.

By now only USMC guy and I were left, so I had Jacinto's undivided attention as we went through the skills for Christine: rowing, deadlift, box jumps. He put 115 lb on the bar as a working weight, but I pulled that like it was nothing (good form helps, I guess) so we set up with 135 lb - bodyweight, as prescribed.

I finished in 23'13".

Back at the hotel, Meg was waiting for our run in Central Park: 1.8 miles around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. My legs were lead bricks from the box jumps, and my calves were cramping, but we were all the way around before I knew it. Running on fine gravel (too coarse, I think, to call it sand) is quite different to running on asphalt.

We bought a punnet of tiny figs and another of raspberries from a fruit stand on 86th (the ubiquity of street stands in NYC is incredible) and headed back downtown to shower. My "I Punch Like a Girl" CrossFit t-shirt was getting as many quizzical looks as my monkey shoes.

To South Street Seaport next, once were were clean again, to see the Bodies Exhibition. Amazing to see just what we are made of: the bones and muscles and tendons all laid bare. I'm an anatomy geek at the best of times, and one of the bonuses of strength training has been seeing the muscles in my own body. Seeing the exposed muscle fibres of these plastinated cadavers, seeing how and where they connect and intersect - trapezius, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, the large muscles of the back, or the complexity of the deltoids all about the shoulder joint - was fascinating. The spiderwebs, the tiny branches of arteries and veins, a red cloud suspended in a tank of clear water, was as much a work of art as it was an artifact of science.

Finally, in the evening, completing our day of the human body, we headed to Madison Square Garden for the WNBA basketball: New York Liberty vs Indiana Fever. Compared to the WNBL the game was turned up to eleven - or even fifteen. Not the gameplay itself - I could see Nat Porter carving holes in some of the defence - but the crowd and the expectation. Roving camera crews exhorting the crowd to get up and dance, to show them on the big screen. Cheerleaders (the Liberty Torch Patrol) and the table-dancing mascot, Maddie. T-shirts being fired into the crowd by slingshot. And each player with their own song or cheer when they scored ("Whoa Nelly!")

It was a closer game than I'd expected between the top and bottom teams of the Eastern Conference: New York finally closed the 5 point gap at 59 points apiece in the fourth, only to throw it away trying to gain possession with intentional fouls. Final score: Indiana 69 - New York 63.
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