Sarah Thomas Blog
After nearly a full day's travelling we touched down safely in Perth Airport, Australia. Just a short bus drive to our Apartments based in the area of Como and the journey was complete. We were staying in Apartments of 5 which meant for the next two weeks we would have to cook and do our washing etc the same as being at home, but before all that we first had to decide who was getting the king-size room in flat 37. I lost out and ended up sharing the loft.
The first night I barely slept not just due to jetlag but due to how hot it was in the room. Coming from a 2 degree temperature in England to a 38 degree Australia was proving to be quite a shock to the system.
After the long journey and the jetlag we would just have light trainings for the first couple of days so that we didn't pick up any unnecessary injuries. The first morning after arriving we went for a 15min jog and a long stretch session at one of the local parks before returning to go to the supermarket to buy supplies for the next week. Easy morning you'd think but my lungs definitely disagreed with that. Getting used to the air and temperature was going to take a little time' at least I hoped a little time!!
The following day we left for Perth hockey stadium, which was only a short drive from our apartments. It had two water based pitches and a nice stadium on the main field. We did a light warm up and then finally got to pick our sticks up for the first time. I appeared to have no co-ordination at all but was blaming it on jetlag and was sure that it would be fine tomorrow.
Thankfully I trained better today; think that was due to me having my first good nights sleep since arriving (me and my roommate have moved our beds to the living room underneath the air conditioning) and that my body is getting used to its new surroundings. Days have become pretty routine now. Wake up at 6.15am to weigh in and hand in our urine sample to the physio as well as complete our scores (out of 5 ' 5 being the highest) on our morning heart rate, how well we slept and how we feel physically and mentally. This gives the physio and strength and conditioning guy a better idea of how players are feeling and whether someone might be starting to get ill; for example if someone has an elevated heart rate and physically they don't feel great it may be an indicator that they are about to get ill.
I then have breakfast in my apartment with my four housemates before we head off to training. 7.30 am we begin with some stretching/activation work to prepare our muscles for what we are about to do. Then we train on the pitch from 8-10am. Generally these sessions are low/medium intensity where we practice for example, our left hand/right hand side attacks and then spend a long period of time on our penalty corners.
After training we may sometimes do a pool recovery and then have our 'second breakfast'. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day so coming home to have a second bowl of cereal makes my day. With so many trainings and the heat we needed to make sure we are eating and drinking lots in order to replenish our bodies for the next session. We all have to try and make sure we get at least 8 hours of combined sleep between night and afternoon naps in order to have enough energy for trainings/games and to give ourselves the best chance of performing to our ability.
Then we conclude our day with a second training between 5-7pm. We completed our first medium/high intensity session today and must say my lungs are going to take some more getting used to the dry air here in Perth.
We've played a couple of games in the evenings against the Western Australia Institute of sport. It's been good to play against these teams to try and work on things we hope to put into practice against the Australians in our first test match on Valentines Day (February 14th). Apparently there are going to be large crowds and the Australians are so passionate about hockey there is sure to be a good atmosphere around the games. There's nothing quite like singing your national anthem in front of a big crowd; well other than scoring a goal in front of the same crowd.
I had to miss training this afternoon due to a knock I had in this morning's session. I had a stick across my knee when I went in to make a tackle. Finally I get low in my tackling and I get injured : ) I hate missing sessions and am glad to say it very rarely happens but am going to miss this afternoon as a precaution; especially as the Test matches are coming up I want to be fully fit for selection for those games.
I haven't had chance to write this blog for the last couple of days. Things always become hectic when you get into playing the actual test matches. You finish the games late, followed by a good cool down, stretch and then a painful 10minutes in an ice bath. (A quick explanation ' ice baths are used to flush out the waste product lactic acid, which results from doing high intensity exercise, thus leaving your legs feeling refreshed rather than heavy and tired). After games the physio fills a large waste bin full with ice and cold water and honestly they are so cold sometimes you lose feeling of your ankles and struggle to walk after them BUT your legs do feel better the next day!! Then of course you have dinner, normally a meal with a high carbohydrate content (pasta, potatoes, bread) and some protein (meat) and to finish off the whole process we get a goodnights sleep and then, its time to go again!!
We lost the first game 5-0 which was a big blow to the team. We'd been training quite a lot before that; it's not an excuse but think our tiredness showed when it came to making crucial decisions. Thankfully in the second test we performed better after a short rest. Despite losing 2-1 we controlled the game for periods and showed the Aussies what we are capable of. With seven minutes to go we were winning 1-0. The Australians seem to have real belief in their ability and knew what they needed to do to get the result. Hopefully we will learn from what went wrong in the second test and use it to our advantage in the future.
So that's my recap of the last few days, I can now tell you all about Brisbane!! We flew from Perth to Brisbane which felt really short after our long journey to Perth in the first place. I didn't want to leave Flat 37 in Perth we had so much fun in that house and really enjoyed my time with my housemates but Brisbane seems really cool. I love my new apartment and managed to play the OAP card for the first time in my life. Basically I'm the eldest of the three (one Scot, one English girl, besides myself) in my apartment which means I get to have the big room, lovely king-size bed with en-suite and an amazing view of the Brisbane skyline.
After our two test matches in Perth we already felt like we had made big strides in our performance and so were really looking forward to playing three more test matches in Brisbane. Two days after arriving in Brisbane we were scheduled to play a friendly against Queensland Institute (QAS). There were no national players in the Queensland team but they were preparing for the annual Australian Hockey League competition and so were a pretty good team. It gave us a good chance to get the flight out of our legs and get used to the humidity in Brisbane. It's not as hot here as Perth, there's been plenty of rain showers since arrival however it's very humid which means we sweat a lot more and are going to have to keep an eye on our rehydration in particular in the next week. We played really well in patches today which resulted in a 5-1 win against the QAS; plus it was good for me as I got my first goal of the trip so far. Hopefully we can carry this on to the 3 Test matches as they are not going to be easy.
Woke up this morning and my back is quite painful. Thought maybe it was because I was finally sleeping on a proper bed rather than a mattress on the floor however when we traced my steps back with the physio I realised I had taken a fall in the last game. Apparently I've put myself all out of alignment so I'm going to have to get some treatment later and probably some acupuncture to loosen the muscles off. Our physio is amazing though and so I am sure I'll be feeling right as rain in no time.
We had a day off training today. Some girls stayed around the apartments to chill but I went into the city for the afternoon to have a look around. Brisbane seems to be a lot busier than Perth; I think I actually prefer it, just because it's a bit more cosmopolitan. We took the boat across into the city, it was nice to get out and about for a couple of hours, do some shopping and have some lunch but know I have three important games coming up and didn't want my legs to be too tired so I returned to the apartments in the afternoon. My housemates are hooked on prison break and were watching it in the living room, but I've seen it all so I just went to my room to have a lie down and a little sleep' no complaints there as I love to sleep. We are going out for dinner tonight as well as it's the manager's birthday and tomorrow we play our third test so we need to make sure we have a good pre match meal. Not that there's anything wrong with my flatmates cooking' honest!!
Game Day ' some people don't enjoy evening games, waiting around all day for the game to be played but must say I've never been one of those. After weigh in and breakfast on the balcony I then had my third Physio appointment and must say my back is finally moving as it should (I told you she's a miracle worker). Rest up in the afternoon before our pre match meeting where we get told the starting 11 and our objectives as a team for that game. I always have a shower and shave my legs (some silly superstition of mine) just before I put my playing kit on and have my final snack; so before you know it its time to leave for the game.
We played the third test in Brisbane where we lost 2-0; unfortunately we weren't ruthless enough in the circle like Australia and this is something we are definitely starting to realise that we need to work on, on our return to the UK. Our fourth test saw us travel to Toowoomba. It was the hottest day by far today with temperatures up to 37 degrees. Playing at 3.30pm in the afternoon was tough in that heat, but was good practice seeing as it's something we are going to need to get used to as it is going to be extremely humid in Beijing. Must say we were disappointed to lose 5-2 today but there's one more game to go tomorrow which we will play in the Gold Coast.
It was a lot cooler in the Gold Coast for our 3pm start today thankfully. We were gutted to lose out to the Australians 1-0 today and not have anything to show for what was undoubtedly one of our best performances of the tour. We have definitely made big strides on this tour but at the same time we have lots to work on when we get back home again.
To play this level of games has been great and know that we are going to have to work really hard now in order to perform well in Beijing but think that's something everyone's looking forward to and excited at the prospect of how good we can become if we do make these gains over the next couple of months.
We leave tomorrow to head down to Macau, China. That's where the holding camp will be prior to the Olympics so it will be good for us to suss out the surroundings and play on the same astro turf that will be at Beijing.
After travelling all day long from Brisbane to Sydney, Sydney to Hong Kong it was already late before getting on the hydrofoil (boat) at night from Hong Kong to Macau much to the dismay of the sea sick members of the team.
We finally arrived at the 5 star hotel and I have to say it is amazing. The bed was the comfiest thing I had ever slept in and got me thinking that with only one training session to complete in Macau I was definitely going to get the chance to catch up on some much needed sleep.
I finally got into bed and was just dropping off to sleep around 12.30am when the doorbell went. My roommate who was clearly half asleep rushed to open the door only to return with a bell boy and a whole table of food from room service. Must say I didn't quite fancy spaghetti Bolognese that time of night so instead I returned to my bed for the best nights sleep.
Macau is very different to what I expected. One side of the street is derelict with lots of building being done then on the other side is an amazing hotel with a gold exterior, which holds a casino and a shopping mall inside full of shops like tiffany etc. There is no real direct sunlight and it's quite foggy from the smog and the pitch is encased by blocks and blocks of flats, which hold some of the thousands and thousands of people that appear to live in this city.
Only a couple of days left now before I return home again and after a long trip I must say I'm looking forward to taking time out from the hockey 'bubble' and catching up with my family and friends. After a short rest I'm looking forward to getting stuck into some hard training at home that will undoubtedly help us as a team in our quest to compete for a medal in Beijing in August.
I'll be sure to update you of my news on my training and games when I get back to the UK.
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