Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On the sideline

I apologize for being M.I.A. Life has happened, as it always does, and as a result I have had to take what I hope will be a temporary break from my challenge.

When things start to settle down in my life this autumn, I hope to continue trying new sports. I have officially retired from soccer, so my quest to find a replacement sport is even more important now!

Until the next sport,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rained Out

Technically this should be my last post about cricket. It's now a new month, which means I should be giving the game a score. However, because I started late and last week's game got rained out. I'm giving the game one more week.

That's one of the annoying things about outdoor sports though, isn't it? Sometimes the weather gets to decide what you do.

On Monday is was clear that higher powers were against me exercising. I got up before 6 a.m. to go to the gym, only to find out the person with the keys had slept in and wasn't around to open it for everyone else standing and waiting. Then, that evening it started raining and my friend told me the game would be rained out. So, I went home and watched TV.

But because I didn't get to play doesn't mean I don't have cricket wisdom to share. (Well, "wisdom" is a loosely used term here.)

The field is round, unlike a baseball field. Although it's easiest to hit a "six" (i.e. when the ball goes over the boundary line without touching ground you get six points without needing to run) like a baseball slugger, the reality is you can hit the ball any direction you want. Typically in cricket the bowl ("pitch") bounces before getting to the batter; as a result, it's sometimes easier to help the ball continue on it's journey beyond you. During my practice week my friend Luke helped me get my batting stance down. Here are a few poses you could try on the pitch.

Protecting the wicket with your body, the bat should be angled down to avoid a "fly ball" that can be easily caught

Hitting the ball up high

Hitting the ball behind you
Everyone I mention I'm trying cricket to scoffs and says, "Doesn't it last 7 days?"

Let me bust that myth. In professional leagues it's true, the game can go on forever. However, in amateur leagues like the one I've been invited to participate in, the rules ensure that you'll be off the pitch within a few hours. There are limited "overs" (which mean each player/team will only receive so many bowls). As a result the game timing is a lot like baseball. Otherwise, I wouldn't have time to write this blog.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A cricketer's tough hands

Batting warm up
If you've ever seen a game of cricket, you know that it's an elegant game. The white uniforms against the pastoral green field are calming to watch. It's not a violent sport. There isn't a lot of yelling.

So I was surprised this week when they put me on the field and I realized that with elegance comes a painful truth.

It's a gloveless game. The only player on the field with something to soften the blow of catching a ball is the wicketkeeper (or catcher). During the warm up our team tossed the ball around. Soft high balls. Low grounder, bouncy balls. And then, when I didn't expect it, a hard bullet throw. Oy! With the stinging that hard ball left on my hand I was worried that I wouldn't be able to catch anything else.

I was instructed from then on to cradle the ball.

Before batters come onto the field, the other team claps for them. I figure it's their attempt to toughen up their hands. After the team scores a run or gets someone out (depending if they're fielding or not), they all run together and high five. Again, I suspect this has more to do with conditioning their hands than it does with team celebration. (But maybe I'm wrong.)

The only other safety equipment are leg pads worn by the batters. The ball they use to play is small and hard, and the bowlers (i.e. pitcher) get as much momentum and accuracy at the wickets that they can. Of course, the batter's job is to hit the ball and defend the wicket. This means that batters tend to stand with feet at hip width distance apart directly in front of the wicket. A ball rocketing in could definitely leave a welt on the batter's leg without padding. Plus, because unlike baseball where you don't want the pitch to hit the ground, cricket bowlers do their best to get a good bounce to psych the batter, without losing aim at the wicket. As a result, you never know where it's going to go.

And so, I got all padded up ready for my first chance in front of a bowler. Unfortunately our team got too many "overs" (i.e. good bowls) and our turn was literally over. To the field we went... more on that next time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What is a wicket?

A metal practice wicket
The City of Victoria is well-known for its English traditions inherited from the Empire that colonized this region of Canada. As a result, hints of Britain pop up everywhere, despite locals not necessarily understanding their significance. I bring this up because of the word "wicket", which I've encountered numerous times at a very popular pub/restaurant in town and never connected to anything material.

Do you know what a wicket is?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a "wicket" is: A set of three sticks called stumps, fixed upright in the ground, and surmounted by two small pieces of wood called bails, forming the structure (27x8 in) at which the bowler aims the ball, and at which (in front and a little to one side of it) the batsman stands to defend it with the bat...

This week's cricket experience almost didn't happen. I almost didn't see a wicket up close and personal.

First, a little something we in Canada call the Stanley Cup Final cancelled the cricket games. Then, my friend hauled me out to Saanich for a team practice, only to find an empty field and a miniature horse. Luckily my friend is a good sport and he spent an hour teaching me some of the cricket basics.

We stood in the middle of the field and he showed me how to swing the cricket bat and explained the different ways to get out. I'm not a baseball player, but my basic knowledge of America's "favourite past time" helped me get a feel for cricket.

Here are some of the basics I learned this week:
  1. There are 11 players on one team
  2. There is a bowler (or what in baseball we call a pitcher)
  3. There is a wicketkeeper (known to most of us as a catcher)
  4. The field is a circle, with the "pitch" in the middle of the field for the batsman, bowler, and wicketkeeper
After my lesson this week, I think I better understand why Tricia told me I could have found a game with more complicated rules. More like, could there be more diverse names, positions, and rules?!

Next week I think I might be participating in a game. We'll see if this week's one-on-one sunk in.

I wasn't kidding... there was a mini horse!

Saturday, June 11, 2011


There are quite a few things I think of when I hear the word "cricket". Disney's famous Jiminey. The chirping insects that kept me awake all summer as a farm girl in Ontario. And, my favourite, the Cricket doll. (Seriously, the Cricket doll was so cool and I wanted one so much!)

So when my friend and coworker told me he plays cricket, I was shocked. Cricket?! Who plays cricket?

Those who migrate to Victoria, where I live, all seem to come with a nostalgia for another place. With loads of South African and Indian immigrants, it shouldn't be surprising. And because sports are so important to our childhood (and often what connect us as a culture), it makes sense that cricket has found its way here with new Canadians... even if it's not ready to rival the current Stanley Cup finals in popularity.

June will be a month of cricket.

I'm excited because I know basically nothing about the game. Here are some things I did know:
  • Traditional cricket is played in all white clothing (of course; stereotypical woman knows about the fashion rules of the game!)
  • There is a bat (shaped more like a paddle than the bat I used at tee-ball)
  • There is a ball
  • There is something called a wicket (which in Victoria I know only from a little pub restaurant called "The Sticky Wicket")
  • It's popular in Britain, South Africa, and India
According to stickiewicket.com, "It is commonly accepted that the game originated from a very old leisure activity indulged by shepherds. The shepherds used crook and other farm equipments to hit a ball like device which used to be made up of wool or stone."

Seriously, shepherds? This might be my game, given I grew up on a sheep farm.

Try it yourself. 
Here is a link to Cricket Canada and the USA Cricket Association.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The score on cycling (and on staying motivated)

Cyclists at Bastion Square Grand Prix - 75 laps of fast (more photos here)
My month of cycling came and went. Truth be told, I didn't really like it. And, worse, I started to lose my motivation to continue my challenge with this blog.

It's not for a lack of cycling events going on in the city. I definitely got my fill of spectating in - way more than any other month. But I just couldn't get into the sport. For one, my bike is not really road biking material. I couldn't get over that mental hump. And I really couldn't get over my fear of biking in traffic. Without someone to come up and whisper in my ear to coach me, it was hard to get motivated.

All that said, watching the cyclists come in the finish line of the 140 and 90 km races was truly inspiring. I felt disappointed that I hadn't participated. I hadn't challenged myself. The score I'm giving cycling is, of course, reflected of my experience this month. I know there are many people who would argue against me though. I can only tell you what I thought...

So what does a girl do when she loses motivation to stay fit and active? She pampers herself of course!

I have so many pairs of running shorts, sports socks, and headbands that I bought during fitness lulls. I don't know why, but there's something motivating about a material item that that can inspire you to get back at it.

This time I went and had a pedicure. In part, it's because my feet were getting truly disgusting from all the sports I've been trying. The other part was I needed to get out and relax. I needed to get some perspective.

Tanya, the owner of Emerald Day Spa in Victoria, was amazing. Not only did she make my feet beautiful, she also helped me unwind. We talked about what's next in my challenge and what I could do to get back on track. We also talked about my ugly toes and how different sports can damage them... and how a nice pedi can make a world of difference to keep toes healthy. After she had smoothed my feet out, I fell into a perfect little sleep while she massaged my feet and lower legs; much needed for a girl who has been on the move (or at least thinking about it!).

The result? Obviously beautiful toes that I'll be proud to show off in summer shoes. But also motivation to get back at it.

I'm doing the fitness challenge for the same reason I got the pedi - because I want to take care of myself. I don't want sore joints because I've been sitting at my desk all day. I want my clothes to fit nicely. And I want to get out there, meet new people, and try new things. So, my next challenge will be announced next week.

If you are looking for a place in Victoria, BC to treat yourself, I highly recommend Tanya and the Emerald Day Spa. (The staff are amazing, the space is relaxing, and you'll come out feeling totally refreshed!) They specialize in pedicures, facials, and waxing (and I hear moms really like "Monday's for Mommies").

Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's a biker's world

Despite my sprained ankle, the world hasn't stopped moving. In fact, in Victoria the biking community has kicked it into high gear!

Here are some shots of just a few of the biking events that have taken place over the past week in Victoria, BC. (And it's just the start. The Victoria International Cycling Festival kicked off with the Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria - other events will continue through the month of June.)

Bike to Work Week starts in June. To get some news coverage and cyclists in the area hyped, they had a big launch at a local Starbucks. (Yes, I just happened to walk by as I was walking to work!)
The Harbour Sprint Series will go for the next few Fridays. It's put on by a local bike shop - you can see one of the event organizers with his megaphone getting ready to clear the streets.
Three sprinters race by toward the finish line. The races are described by the Harbour Sprint organizers as "1/4 mile drag races"... it was fun to watch, especially to see what the racers were wearing. Who knew cut-off jean shorts were the new look for male bike racers?!

These cyclists have just started a 140km bike ride. Word on the street is that Tour de France cyclist Ryder Hesjedal is one of the cyclists in the blue shirts at the front of the pack.
Happy, laughing cyclists... and just under 140km to bike.