Monday, June 20, 2011

I failed...

Time for the next and last round of my Australia vacation photos!

After working and playing in Sydney for a week and a half, we departed the lovely city and headed north to Cairns.  Cairns is a port town with the closest access to the Great Barrier Reef which is what made it an ideal place to anchor for a few days.  We arrived on Saturday and I headed straight to the 24-hour clinic once we arrived.  Why would I need to go there?  Well, we were planning on diving the Great Barrier Reef and since I have asthma I needed to pass the scuba medical.  Admittedly, I was nervous.

Let’s back up a bit…back in 2009 Hubster and I were lucky enough to travel to Belize with some friends.  We signed up for a Discovery Dive out on the reef there, and after a brief video presentation on what to expect while scuba diving we were out on the open ocean headed to our destination.  The boat arrived, dropped anchor, and we loaded up in our gear.  Without much instruction, we were dropped off the back of the boat and told to have fun.  One problem—it was chaos in the water with choppy waves, tons of marine life (including sharks), and the water was cooooold.  Basically, it caused me to panic a wee bit.  Which led to me freaking out and having an asthma attack.  Under water.  Not ideal.  Luckily, I wasn’t too far from the surface and I was able to swim to the surface rapidly without fear of getting the bends.  However, once at the surface I was getting sloshed around by the waves and the heavy gear was pulling at my back.  I wanted nothing more than to get that equipment off of me!  After some panicked gasping at the dive team, I was able to get the gear off, calm down, and finally get back in the water to do some nice safe snorkeling once the asthma calmed down.

I’ve thought about that trip a lot since then.  I’ve often wondered (and assumed) that the reason I had an asthma attack was because I was in such poor shape cardiovascular wise.  I figured that the swimming was too much activity for me during that time and that’s what triggered the asthma attack.  That trip was such a heart breaker for me.  I was around 180 lbs, completely uncomfortable with myself, and surrounded by girls with six packs (truly) who were complaining about how “fat” they were.  It was an awful place to be in, and I was so mad that I had let my weight get to a point where it was interfering with my ability to have fun on vacation.  I was completely consumed with thoughts of my fatness the entire trip.  Whenever I think of Belize, I recall those horrible feelings of unworthiness.  I made a pact with myself that I would never let my weight get in the way of a vacation again, and so far I’ve been successful at that.
I am not happy in this picture...and my arms are the same size as that girl's legs.  Awesome.
So…back to the 24-hour clinic.  I was nervous to get tested.  Would I pass?  Would I be able to scuba dive?  Did I WANT to scuba dive?  Surely I wanted to go see the beautiful marine life on the world’s most famous coral reef, but was I willing to risk having an asthma attack 10 meters below water?  I wasn’t sure…

The doctor called me back to the exam room and had me perform numerous tests to see if I was physically capable of diving.  They did the ear check (pass!), and a few other quick tests before getting to the test I’d been dreading—the breathing test.  I’ve done these breathing tests before.  This was how I got my asthma confirmed to me in the first place.  I HATE them!  I always feel like I’m going to pass out.  In any case, I did the breathing test hoping against hope that I would be able to pass and go out on the reef.  I waited anxiously while the doctor reviewed my tests to see if I was capable of diving.  We discussed my current activity level and how I had recently finished a half marathon.  I was hoping all this would help me to pass.

Finally, the results were given to me.  I had failed.  I would be unable to dive the world’s most beautiful coral reef.  Apparently, it doesn’t matter how far I can run or how active I’ve been—salt water spray, the compressed air, and cold water all can trigger asthma attacks and nothing can be done to prevent that.  It’s just too dangerous for me to dive.  Was I disappointed?  Most definitely.  But I understand how important my safety is and I definitely don’t want to find myself in a situation where I’m having an attack and I cannot rise to safety in the water.  So…I snorkeled instead and had a fantastic time.  Hubster got to dive (I had jealousy, I admit) while I snorkeled around.  I swam with sea turtles, HUGE fish, and beautiful coral.  The sea was rough and choppy that day as well, and part of me was really glad I had listened to the doctor and not lied to the dive guides just so I could dive on the reef.  Some things just aren’t worth the risk. 
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Have some fish...
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Happy on the Dive Boat!
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Snorkeling while Hubster dives!
It made me think back about the first time I dove and the disappointment I felt towards myself.  At the time, I had no idea that sea water, compressed air and mist trigger asthma.  I had blamed the failure completely on my lack of physical activity.  Looking back, I realize that I wouldn’t have stood a chance against having an asthma attack.  Do I regret the shame that accompanied that “failure”?  No…not by a long shot.  Even though it might have been misdirected, that shame got me into the gym and on my way to a healthier lifestyle.  Because of that dive trip, I made a goal and a plan to conquer the weight and asthma once and for all.  It was the first step in getting me to where I am today, and for that I have no regrets. 

So…I snorkeled to my heart’s content on that reef that beautiful day.  And got sunburned.  The worst sunburn of my life.  OUCH OUCH OUCH.  Pictures don’t do it justice.  It blistered and then peeled twice.  Let’s just say it hurt and that it took a LOT of willpower to force myself out of our hostel to go sight-seeing the next few days.  Luckily, I am one who can’t stand the idea of spending money to travel clear across the world just to sit in my hotel room and stare at the tv.  So, out we went.  We saw the beautiful rainforest via Skyrail and then took a scenic train ride back to Cairns.  The Barron Gorge was phenomenal!  Such a beautiful area.
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It was worse in real life.  Puffy and swollen and ouch.
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On the Skyrail to Kuranda
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The beautiful Kuranda train
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Barron Falls in the background (but you can't see it!)
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This is me pretending I'm getting sun on the beach.  I've got massive loads of sunscreen on and after this picture was taken I promptly hid in the shade.
That night we took a midnight Greyhound bus (always an adventure) to Airlie Beach.  We were told by nearly every Australian we encountered that we couldn’t miss the Whitsunday Islands.  They were an absolute “must” so we rearranged our travel plans to fit in a visit there.  I am SO glad we listened to the locals—I’ve never seen such beauty!  We spent 3 days and 2 nights aboard a sailing vessel (we slept in a pontoon!) where we traveled from island to island and spent our days snorkeling, hiking, tanning (not me!), and relaxing.  It was a perfect way to finish our vacation.
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AWESOME way to spend a few days!
The highlight of the entire trip was White Haven Beach.  I’ve never seen a more beautiful beach in my life.  The water was crystal clear; you could see baby sharks and sting rays swimming around within just a few feet of you.  The sand was a bright white—I was told it is the whitest beach in the world.  It is made of 98% silica and feels so weird on your feet!  It squeaks!  I could’ve spent my entire vacation (or life) on this beach and been a happy camper.  If you ever get the opportunity to go to Australia, don’t miss this island!

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Gorgeous beach!!
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No photo shopping---those are true colors.
Eventually, real life called and we had to fly home.  After a few travel snafus (Delta LOVES cancelling my flights), we finally were on a plane home to return to the real world.  And what was waiting for me?  A big ol’ race known as the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back.  Oh yes…after taking 5 weeks off from running to let my knee heal, I was about to put it to the test via a 30+ hour race.  How did it go?  Well, I will let you know tomorrow!


  1. i just barely went scuba-diving in cancun! i totally loved it :)

  2. Love your pics!!! You had a great time!

  3. Wow I am so jealous of your vacay!! Bummer you didn't get to scuba dive, but you have a good attitude about it. Your safety really is the most important.

    I took a scuba diving class in college and I felt like my ears might explode.

    That sunburn looks brutal.