Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Scrubbing may be part of my new job

I may soon find myself working in the avocado industry.  As I found out yesterday their data is dirty and needs to be scrubbed and presented.  Say what?  Recap of yesterday: I had an interview for a 6 month contract as a data analyst for a small company.  The lady I interviewed with has been given the task of basically creating BI reports and processes and needs a person to blur the line between technology and business.  I saw this posting many weeks (probably 6+) back and said hmm I might know something about doing that.  Interview went well and at the end she said I was the best candidate and would like to move forward with a final interview with the CEO.  I just have to wait for her calendar to open up.  Till then I'm on ready five. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Scroggin and other things your parents don't want to know.

Tim and I on Mt Ruapehu

Last week Tim, a British chap who works down the street at bivouac, stopped in to see if Alice and I wanted to do some night trail running.  I was down originally until we got the news that the weather was clear enough to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  So I had to bail last minute as the crossing should really be attempted when there isn't gale force winds like they had the week before.  He was cool with the last minute change as he was not feeling that great and was interested in doing the crossing as well.  In the same conversation, Tim said that he wanted to get down to Mt Ruapehu in the next couple weeks for a summit.  Mt Ruapehu is also found in the Tongariro National Park and only about 30 minutes from where Beth and I spent our days off last week.  So Tim stopped into work on Monday to see if I would be down for some alpine adventure on Wednesday.  This didn't allow me that much time to gather/purchase gear.  I would need crampons, helmet, axes, sleeping bag, and gaiters for sure.  I have warm clothes and rain gear and Tim was able to scrounge around for all of it except the gaiters which I purchased from work.
Early morning view from the hut.

Tim and I left early on Wed morning for a 2 night stay on the mountain with 3 days of lugging packs and wielding axes.  I didn't know much about Tim other than where he works and that he climbs with Alice.  We had some interesting conversations on the rides to and from about our outdoor experiences, zombies, and what we were looking to accomplish over the next couple days.  He was keen on making a summit via the farthest west ridge of the Whakapaka ski field.  I just wanted to get out and enjoy New Zealand.
This is Tim after the drizzle.
We arrived at the ski field around 1pm and talked to the ski patrol about avalanche conditions for the mt.  They said that it was up to us to determine the risk, but that up to 2500m they were confident they wouldn't form.  Above that for sure the SE aspects were wind loaded.  We donned our rain gear as it was pissing rain for our long trek up the mountain.  We had to cross several streams and ridges before we found the hut that would be our dwelling for the next 2 nights.   It took about 3 hours to hike up, but the view once the rain and clouds moved was pretty amazing.  Little did I know that the view was going to be better once the sun burned off the clouds the next day. 
The hut.
The hut is ran by the New Zealand Alpine Club and it sits off from the commercial ski field, but if you were charming you might be able to catch the series of 3 chair lifts to get to the elevation of the hut and then have about a 10 minute walk to the hut.  The hut itself sits out on a ridge with a wonderful view of the valley below, the other mountains in the near vicinity, and all the different northern aspects of Mt Ruapehu.  We were the only ones in the hut, but it could probably hold a dozen or more comfortably.  We talked some more and had our Back Country (dehydrated) meals and turned in.  I had the roast lamb and vegetables with creamy mashed potatoes.  I ended up putting too much water in and had lots of lamb flavored water to drink.  Probably not a bad thing as I didn't drink enough water over the 3 hour ascent up.
Isn't there an elevator?
The next morning (shortest day of the year Steve!) we got a peak of the sun around 7:15 and cranked the heater on for 30 minutes while we made porridge and hot drinks (tea and coffee).  Our goal for today was to get used to each other and play around on some of the different aspects on the mountain.  My only previous experience with crampons and ice axes was ice climbing with Kyle and  Bethany of Eden Guides.  We went out for a short warm-up before lunch without our packs.  It was fun to try to move up steep inclines with the aid of the sharp spikes on my not so stiff soled boots and the 2 zombie killers in my hands.  The hardest thing I had to do was down climb which takes a lot of concentration, but as the day progressed it was getting easier to find a rhythm.  We went back to the hut for a quick lunch of bread, brie, and salami.  I also grabbed a pack of scroggin, or what I would call back home trail mix.  I think I like the name scroggin better though.  The weather was pretty awesome and the weather for Friday was expected to be even better.  So we spent the entire day working on being comfortable reading lines, working with our tools, and moving around.  For tomorrow we would make our ascent to 2700m.  We returned to the hut around 4pm as the sun wouldn't be up for much longer.  We had another wonderful meal of dehydrated food where I tried the Bobotie.  I like to pronounce it at work bobo-tie and Alice has now caught herself saying it as well. 
Lovely view from the hut.
Our evening was pretty solitary as we both dived into books. Tim had brought one from home and I picked up one from the library shelf.  I started to read The Intruders which is about a Navy pilot working with the Marines after Vietnam teaching them to fly the A-6.  I made it over half way by the time we left the hut after breakfast the next day.  Over 200 pages of fights, dropping bombs, and Flap running his mouth.  I'll finish the book the next time I'm up there.  We didn't sleep much as the weather forecast was wrong.  The strong winds started at 3 am and the hut was making noises most structures never make.  I was doing a mental checklist of all my vital gear if the shit hit the fan.  My boots were hanging above my head and my head lamp is next to my pillow (my soft shell jacket) and my rain gear and gloves were across the room.  Tim and I didn't sleep much but rather just curled up in our respective bags until the sun came out.  That view was pretty awesome even behind 2 plates of glass! 
Yes that is a reflection of my camera.
The winds were crazy strong and we both were thinking that a summit attempt would be retarded.  Over breakfast we both voiced the same opinion even though we were hoping that the wind would die down and we could run along the ridge to the summit.  Instead we opted to play a little on the way down and take a couple different ridges.  The wind was something fierce and the clouds were rolling past very fast.  The descent was easy for the most part except for the section where we had to slide over a rock to find solid footing and I put a few holes in my new (expensive) rain jacket.  I will be getting it repaired soon.  Anyone know if you can get a pirate flag eVent patch made?  The holes are in my chest pocket and a pirate flag would just be gnarly. 
Snow capped Mt Doom.
As Tim and I were loading up the car a guy walked by with a Wisconsin Rugby jacket on.  I called after him and found out that he and his 3 friends are also on working holiday.  He went to school in Madison and is actually from Apple Valley.  Small world.  They were in the process of relocating a camper van to Christchurch and doing some sight seeing on the way down.  On the ride back Tim and I started to make some other plans about going mountain biking the Redwoods in Rotorua and make a trip over to Mt Taranaki not to mention our desire to summit Mt Ruapehu.  I also pitched the idea of doing the 42nd Traverse which is a 46km mountain bike ride down an old logging road in the Tongariro National Park.
Making our way up as safe as possible minus the ropes.
On a completely different tangent, I have an interview scheduled for a data analyst position that I applied to like 6 weeks ago on Monday.  All I know so far is that is a 6 month contract and they need a lot of data work.  Hope it goes well, but if I get the contract it means that I would have to change my return plans just a little!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Journey in the shadow of Mt Doom

Don't advise getting a tattoo in a bus, but to each their own.

We finally got to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  We thought about it last week, but I ended up being sick and there were gale force winds.  So it wouldn't have been possible.  This week, everything aligned and we were able to complete the tramp with some awesome weather and a lot of gnarly views. 
Start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Ready for action.

Prior to leaving for Taupo, I let our intentions be known at work.  Alice expressed interested in doing the tramp as she has never done it, but she didn't have the time off.  Faye told us to have fun as she did the tramp and the other summits during last summer.  The other summits aren't possible/recommended in the winter because of the early sunset.  Jesse isn't really into that thing and just said to be careful.  Sarah said to have fun.  From work I ended up buying, an emergency solar bivvy bag, fire steel, and rain jackets for Beth and I.  I was tempted to get a gas canister for my stove and some back country meals.  My time at the WFR course has me thinking about safety and what I pack a lot more consciously.  Some may say I'm paranoid.  More on that in my original and revised packing list.  The woman at the front desk told us to pack warm as it was supposed to be very cold. 
Mt Doom, minus the eye.

We took Naked Bus again down to Taupo and stayed at Rainbow Lodge, who advertises heated rooms!  This place is a lot more low key than the place we stayed at last time as there is no bar.  They even had a dry sauna for our use.  Beth made use of it after kayaking.  We got a double room with a private bath.  The room was definitely hot for us when we went to bed.  Strange how heating works in this country.  They even have government funded PSA about the benefits of insulation.  Things I take for granted.
Ready to turn this thing to 11.
We booked a trip with Tongariro Expeditions, with an early morning pick-up at 6:20 am.  Before turning in we checked out the weather forecast and we were looking at a low of 0 when we woke up and then a high of 10 in Taupo.  That is all fine and dandy, but we were going to be at elevation and we had reports of ice on the top of the crossing so I'm expecting it to be colder than 0 at the summit.    We turned in early in order to allow for a full nights rest for the 19.4km tramp we would be doing tomorrow.
Raised wooden bridge from the DOC.  Not poll friendly.

We were out of the hostel at 6:18am and the bus had already left our location and they had a van waiting to drive us to the bus.  This is a first.  Most of the time, it is kiwi-time which is not unlike island time.  The van drove us around the corner and dropped us off.  We were accompanied by 15 other trampers and a driver and guide.  Since there was ice on the summit, we were issued an ice-axe and crampons.  The only knock I had with the equipment is the guide assumed people knew how to use it as there was no demonstration. 
Seriously?  More pictures? We got to go up!
We started the trek at the Mangatepopo car park with the bus waiting to pick us up at the Ketetahi car park some 19 odd kilometers later.  The estimated time for completion is between 6-8 hours if you don't do any of the side tracks.  The entire trek is a well traveled path with markers to show you where to go, so there is little chance of getting lost unless your name is Robert ;)  The first part is through some low laying brush that had a thin layer of morning frost on it.  We had Mt Ruapehu (largest ski field) to our far right, then Mt Ngauruhoe (aka Mt Doom) in the center, and finally Mt Tongariro to the left. 
Can they put in escalators?
The morning chill wore off once we got to the convenient staircase provided by the DOC.  I keep expecting there to be an escalator or chair-lift to be installed at these types of outdoor wonders so that everyone can experience them, but that would just be lazy.  We quickly shed our outer layer and tackle the steps before we find the turn off to summit Mt Doom.  This trail would have added 3 hours to our already long day and there would have been plenty of snow and ice to combat against.  I would really like to summit both Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, but that will have to wait spring or summer. 
The clouds come rolling in.
We reached a large crater and were pretty quickly surrounded by clouds.  We were on our way to meet Collin, our guide, at Cathedral Rock.  This was a long barren area that became dark and foreboding and as you turned around you could see the sunlight starting to be consumed.  Almost felt like the darkness from the NeverEnding Story.  We had to put on the layer that we removed on the previous step as the sun was no longer beating on us.  Once we got to the meeting point, Collin was there to advise us that we did indeed need to use the crampons we were issued in the bus.  He said there was bullet-proof ice on the next section. 
Cathedral Rock front and center.
The next section took us about 30 minutes to clear and it was probably the most technical part of the tramp because you had to be very sure of your crampon enclosed feet and the slippery terrain.  We did get a little bit of flurry type of action, but for the most part it was cloudy with a little wind.  I felt like Luke stumbling around on Hoth whining about having to go to Dagobah.  Putting on the equipment reminded me of my time with Eden Guides this past winter in MN when we went ice climbing.  I was excited to get on this section as it wasn't just a walk. 
Wonder which way the wind was blowing.  Ice was kinda thick.

Almost ready for ice climbing.  Kyle do you want to belay?
Can you see me?
After this section we were able to take off our crampons in the nice "sandy" area that smelled like sulfur.  Well it did to Beth any way.  It was about 11:30 and we had our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some hokey pokey bar.  A group of 3 french visitors sat down next to us and broke out half a pizza each.  I was expecting to see a 40 of malt liquor as well, but we departed before they pulled it out. 
Shaky descent.
Just about ready.
We started to walk through what looked like a cloud but it was steam from the geothermal activity.  Beth was in the lead and looked a little unsure on the unsure ground.  I didn't fare much better and decided to traverse the entire trail in order to remain stable.  We were walking down a pretty gnarly ridge, but the view about a quarter of the way down was well worth it.
Clouds depart and a frozen lake appears.

Walking the steep sandy ridge to the lakes.
The clouds took maybe 10 minutes to dissipate and the view was well worth it.  I could only imagine seeing it from the summit.  The lakes were frozen and I wonder what it would be like to host a hockey tournament up here not to mention having a half marathon over the crossing.  The groups ahead of us missed out seeing the cloud free lakes and had to settle for up close views.  I'm glad we stopped to eat! 
We just came down that ridge.
After the ridge and passing the pools, we entered another crater.  This was a pretty volcanic looking area that reminded us of Mt Fuji, which we hiked in 2004.  Off in the distance we had yet another ridge to cross over.  However, in this crater I thought of a new sport.  Ice Bouldering!  I pulled out my axes and put them to a ice covered boulder.  Too bad the ice was shoddy and wouldn't hold much weight.  Kyle or Bethany, do you think we can register this as a legitimate sport?
Ice covered boulder.

Sit start?
Beth also had fun with the grass-cicles, but don't talk about them or they will melt.
Elusive grass-cicle in its natural habitat.

Don't tell anyone.
After the lakes and the last ridge, the rest of the trek is downhill.  Still have amazing scenery and you have to be careful as you are going down some well traveled and rutted trail.  From the ridge, you can see Lake Taupo off in the distance.  You can also see lush green forest, which is a vast contrast from the other side of the ridge.  We experienced a wealth of vegetation on the trek and saw many types of weather over the day.  We were blessed with rain after we got  on the bus to go back.  Everyone completed the trek today and we were on the road a little after 4pm.  The trek grade was a 2-3 and I would have to agree.  Its been a couple days and my calves are the only thing that is sore. 

First bathroom in over 4 hours.

About to start our last 2 hours.
The rest of the trek was a brief stop at the Ketetahi Hut for a snack and a bathroom break (the first available in over 4 hours), a crazy series of switchback trails, monstrous sized shrubs, a forest, and some rapids.  The downhill journey took 3 hours and we saw some awesome sights, but we had summited and saw the lakes and the went through the motions to get to point b.  Much like this post, I put a lot of time in the beginning and toward the end, I feel like I just wanted to be done.
Over the last ridge and its downhill.

Lake Taupo in the distance.

Steam coming out of the ground.  Can you cook in it?
Larger vegetation starting to grow.
Now into the forest. 
Last 2km you walk next to some rapids.

After my Wilderness First Responder course, I have become much more aware of what I pack and how things can be used in different situations.  Some may think this is paranoid, but I would rather be in a position to act instead of short-handed.  Many of the things taught in the course are how to make do with common things in your day pack.  My day pack is just a little fuller than it used to be.  I'm not a minimalist like a guy I know named Robert who likes to dump out his water before a hike as he doesn't want to carry the bottle nor do I carry a the kitchen sink.  I'm still trying to find the right amount of mandatory gear and what is specifically needed for the occasion.  

Packing List for Tongariro Alpine Crossing:
(Not used, but will always take)
(Not used at and probably over kill for conditions)

Rain Jacket
Rain Pants
first aid kit
wet wipes
WFR book
Food & water (3 litters)
Soft Shell (worn)
sunglasses (worn)
long sleeve wool shirts (worn)
zip-off pants (worn and rolled up for a lot of the trek)
light weight wool socks (worn)

hiking boots (worn)
knit hat (worn off and on)
wind-proof non-insulated gloves (worn off and on)
Fleece top (not worn)
snowboarding wool socks (not worn)

Fleece pants (left at apartment)

short sleeve wool shirt (left at hostel)
jogging tights (left at hostel)

thermal pants (not worn)
light weight wool hat (not worn)
fleece lined knit hat (not worn)
leather gloves (Beth did use these)
glove liners (not worn)

2 ice axes

Drunken Pirates, that is what we be!

Enjoying Lake Taupo in a kayak in Winter.  Home of the swim leg of Ironman New Zealand.
Beth and I had a few days vacation in Taupo this past week.  We did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, but that deserves its own post and we spent an afternoon on Lake Taupo yesterday.  Our day started a little slow as we did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing the day prior and had to catch a bus at 6:20 am.  We were pretty keen on doing some kayaking prior to coming down as the lake is pretty awesome and the weather cooperated as it was a balmy 6C (about 43 F) out.  We were helped out with this endevour by Laura at C&K Taupo, who delivered the sea kayak to Hot Spring Beach and then picked it up at the Taupo Yacht Club.  This is a service they typically don't offer, but as it is the slow season I think she wanted something to do.  After all we were the only kayakers on the lake.  We saw a couple fishing boats and a single sail boat.  We both wore our new macpac rain jackets and they preformed as I thought they would.  I've been pushing the gear now for about 7 weeks and I've only worn the merino wool, which I love.  The jackets kept the water out, granted it wasn't rain but splash, and they breathed really well as my shirt was dry even though I was putting in some good effort.
Point on the East Coast of the bay.
 Laura showed up at the appointed time to drop off the kayak and showed us all the stuff we would be sent out with; spray skirt, bilge pump, floatation device for paddle in-case we flipped the kayak, and PFDs.  I'm only a stranger to the floatation device that straps to the paddle to help flipping the kayak back over, but its pretty easy to understand.  However, flipping over in this cold lake would definately suck and getting this on would probably take some time.  She didn't hesitate to mentioned that the kayak was designed and made local to New Zealand.  I don't recall the brand, but its probably posted on their site.  The kayak weighed 20kg, which is about as much as our single recreation kayak back home.  That is pretty gnarly if you ask me.   The kayak handled well and had 2 dry container areas.  Important as I had my hiking boots with me.
Opted for a bright color that could be used for sailing as well.
 After we donned the provided gear and got ready to push in, a local gentleman wondered over to tell us to be careful of the strong Taupo winds and then gave us a hand with pushing in.  We yelled our thanks and then proceeded to do our best to make some headway.  It was made difficult as I didn't put down the rudder and it was held firmly in place by a metal hook.  We must have looked like drunken pirates!  We paddled for a little ways down the coast before backing in and unhooking the rudder.  I'm pretty sure we were still being watched by the locals, but I didn't want to come back into the same place to get the kayak in working order.  With the rudder down, we proceeded to paddle around the east coast of the bay to a point that Laura told us about and then headed directly west to another point and then back to the yacht club.  We paddled for about 2.5 hours and covered approximately 16km. 

Some background info from wiki about the lake: largest lake by surface area in New Zealand and 2nd largest in Oceania.  You can see Lake Taupo from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  It is drained by the Waikato River (New Zealand's longest river) which the Huka Falls is on.  Taupo is home to Ironman New Zealand and Lake Taupo is home to the swim leg and there is 2 laps of the hilly area for the bike.  There is also the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, where you have 12 options to suit your pain enjoyment level.  There is the soft cheeks of 1 lap (160km) to the buns of titanium known as the Extreme Enduro, which consists of 8 (160km) laps!  Each lap has 1308m of climbing.  This ride starts at noon on Wed and while there is no cut-off the full event prize giving is at 6pm on Sat.  Who wants to start training for the November challenge?  From the organizers, the enduro is a challenge and not a race.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Week in review and plans

I've been busy working 4 days a week since Jollene is on vacation for the month of June and the shifts have to be covered.  My co-worker Alice and I ordered pizzas for lunch from Hell Pizza on Sunday.  We got the 2 dessert pizzas and a savory pizza, Pandemonium.  The pizza was topped with Chicken, Cranberry Sauce, Cranberries and Camembert.  Last week, I was sick, but I'm feeling much better now.  My lungs are still somewhat congested.  I got out for a run around the Mount on Sunday and I proceeded to do push-ups, dips, or sit-ups at every bench.  I passed some people only to get passed as I was doing my body weight exercises.  Doing the 5k was pretty difficult as I was constantly congested.  Tonight, I got back to my weekly spin class and my lungs were full of mucous.  All I wanted to do was cough up all my snot.  Phil commented that he didn't recognize me as I got my hair cut.  We did a lot of replicated hill work and increased RPM for set intervals.  Faye, the assistant manager, is trying to get me to attend her spin class on Mondays, but that is very hard because we are both working Mondays and we both can't take a break at the same time.

Mount Ngauruhoe

We are heading down to Taupo tomorrow to tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on Thursday.  It is a 19km hike that should take between 7-9 hours.  We will be walking through the land of Mordor and getting close to Mount Ngauruhoe, which many will know as Mt Doom.  We have been looking at doing this for some time and with winter coming we have to get to it.  On Friday, we are talking about doing some kayaking in the area as well.  This may be on Lake Taupo or on one of the many rivers.  We will be getting back late on Friday night for my shifts on Saturday morning.

Plans for another day:
Phil told me about an awesome ride that I would love to do.  Its the 42 Traverse, which is grade 3 ride that is 46 km that should take 3-6.  I wonder who I can talk into do the ride with me.  Any takers?  There is also snowboarding at Mt. Ruapehu.  They will be having their Mardi Gras celebration soon enough.

I'll be posting some pictures once we get back either Friday or Saturday night.

As I write this, I'm watching "Paul".  Its a nerd movie and the main characters just walked into a bar where the hick band is playing the Cantina Song from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  This movie is pretty awesome.  However, their bar fight didn't end in someone getting their arm cut-off.  Would have been pretty cool if it did.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Early morning footy and the sickness

Eurocup 2012 has started and games are being shown live on Sky Sports, which means 3 am kick off.  I caught part of the first game and all of the 2nd today.  So now I'm debating about going to bed early and waking up early to watch the tournament.  This brings back memories of when Beth and I first went backpacking together across Europe in 2002.  We would wake up early to watch the World Cup 2002 games, hosted in Japan and S. Korea, at the hostel or local pub.  Watching soccer really has me fixing to play again.  Anybody know of an ACL that has been only lightly used?  I will most likely put it through the wringer so I don't want one that is already trashed.

On a side note, I was sick from Tuesday to Thursday.  I had a wicked fever and congestion.  I was expecting to either do the Tongariro or a lot of kilometers on the bike.  Unfortunately, I was resigned to sleeping a ton.  Felt really on Friday so I made a chicken curry with kumara (sweet potato), carrots, onion, bamboo shoots, baby corn, and coconut milk served over rice.  We also had some small choppy waves, so we grabbed our surf boards for a quick outing.  This being the 2nd attempt at surfing.  There was only one other surfer and an older dude in a whitewater kayak rocking the waves.  Kayaking the waves looked like a lot of fun.  I would like to give it a try at some point.  I was able to get to my front foot and up on my back knee for a good distance before I got tossed.  Other than that I only saw the "good" surfer get up a few times.  Not much to work with, but it was fun to get out and try. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Some what jokingly, but kind of seriously said...

I wouldn't be riding my road bike rather it would be my Surly back home.

So the other day I said to Beth that I should bike back home.  She originally thought just back to our place in the Mount, but I was meaning Minneapolis.  I would love to have an epic touring experience and the timing couldn't be better.  I don't have a real job and I will be coming back to the States, just via a different means.  I would get to experience the trip back in a different capacity and get to see many of the nooks and crannies that you don't get to experience as you cross over imaginary borders as a passenger in a plane or car. 

To those of you that read this blog: have you done bike touring before?  I've done long weekends before, but never an extended trip.  How much planning did you do?  What did you find the most satisfying event of your experience?  The worst?  What do you wish you did differently?

I'm assuming I would need the following:
  • Bike: Surly Cross-Check 
  • Back Panniers: Ortlieb Backroller Classic Panniers
  • Front Panniers: Orlieb Front Roller Panniers
  • Cycling Clothing: jersey, jacket, bibs, socks, and shoes
  • Rain gear
  • Some normal cloths (shorts, pants, etc)
  • Tools - wrenches, chain breaker, spoke wrench, lube, tire lever, pump
  • Tire stuff: spare tubes, spare folding tire(s), and patch kit
  • Replacement equipment: brake pads, spokes, chain, etc
  • Duct tape
  • Knife
  • Compass & Maps
  • First-aid kit
  • Tent/Hammock and tarp
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Food stuff: burner, fuel, pan, spork
  • Camera 
  • Toiletries including contact stuff
  • Bike maintenance skills
  • Other stuff?
Beth just caught me making this post and said "grrr" and then laughed as she walked away.  I think this opportunity would be better than the alternative which would be an out-and-back or a RTW trip opposed to just a point-to-point trip!  I think I can sell her on the point that I'll be back in half the time and half the cost!  Is it wrong to start planning for your next adventure when you are on one?  I don't think so,  you have to have a goal in life and mine is to get out the front door and do uncomfortable things.  Just no doing things with amusement parks including clowns and then heights.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Did I shave enough off for my run?

Home of the Mt Maunganui Half Marathon
I've been looking forward to this day shortly after getting to the Mount.  Beth and I completed our first international race.  Granted it was only a run and not our typical triathlons, but it is winter here.  Beth did the 10k run as she had some pretty wicked blisters from our adventures in Taupo and Wellington.  I did the half.  I have lots of experience on the course as I've been running most of it since I got here.  After opening up my door I usually run the road parallel to Pilot Bay and head up around the base track and then down the road along the main beach or just run down the beach.  Up until today the farthest I have ran since getting here was just shy of 10 miles and I wasn't doing long runs back home as it was the tail end of winter. 
Today was close to the perfect day for a race.  I would have actually liked it a bit colder as I get very hot when exercising, but there was almost no wind and a temp of about 50 degrees.  I have no idea on the number of entrants, but our normally quite town is over ran with visitors today.  To top it off the Queen's birthday is cause enough to have lots of sales.  There was a race option for almost everyone.  Including different distances 5k, 10k, 21.1k and walking only, jogging/running, and wheelchair.  There was a couple disciplines that started before me so the course was already littered with slower moving people.  Our start was at 9 am, but we did not cross a timing mat only a speed bump to signify the starting location.  I didn't get to crest the bump for 2 minutes, but I was using my watch to keep my time.  I should have worn my fuel belt for my personal hydration instead of being at the mercy of the planned points as I believe they were in ackward locations (see first stop was at .5k).  I made the best of each stop other than the first.  I would take 2 glasses and dump a refreshing glass of water on my head and then walk while I managed to drink a couple mouthfuls before splashing the rest on my face.
Fast forward to the end of the race.  I tried to utter some words of motivation to a couple of people in pain as I passed them to cross the line.  I'm feeling pretty good about my performance giving the short time to ready for a distance race.  My left calf is a little tight and so are both of my quads.  Funny that it happens to be on the outside about halfway between my hip and knee though.  I typically get sore on the end of the quad by my knee.  The last time I ran this distance was last year at the Chisago Half Ironman.  I had to battle a pulled hamstring and pretty bad cramps last year and managed to finish in 2:23 after my 2k swim and 90k bike.  This race I wanted to complete the race under 2 hours.  According to my watch I finished in 1:55.03.  I would like to think that my haircut had something to do with it. 
My original goal was not to cut my hair until I returned.  This may not sound that impressive, but I typically let my hair grow for a couple months over winter and chop it in early spring.  It has been over 8 months since my last cut.  My hair was just a little shy of being able to be pulled back in a pony tail.  However, over the past couple weeks while riding or running I felt like I had a hot, wet mop on my head.  I constantly felt like I was over heating so I took my buzzer and started to shave my head.  I didn't get very far before my thick head of hair brought my razor to its knees.  Unfortunately, I had to be to work in a couple hours.  So I did a quick walk down Maunganui Road to look for a barber or salon that was open and had time for a walk in.  After several disappointments, I found a guy that was just opening up and I snuck in.  I just sat down and he went to work.  I had no idea what it was going to cost, but I didn't have much choice as I was under the gun to get to work.  My head was shaved, chops trimmed, sides faded (don't recall asking for this, but couldn't just do one side), hair shampooed, and neck trimmed up.  Grand total?  $15. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Walking around Wellington

After Taupo, we went to the southern tip of the North Island and visit the capital.  Once again, I slept most of the bus ride.  We had a day and a half to explore Windy Wellington.  Luck was on our side and the wind was not at its full glory.  We stayed in the downtown backpackers right across the street from the railway station.  We were a couple blocks from the harbor walkway so we opted to see the city the only way we could.  By our own two feet.  I would have loved to bike in Wellington, but I don't think Beth would have joined me.  It is an awesome city for biking and by awesome I mean hilly.  These hills were crazy long and very intense.  Any way I digress.  We were on a mission to see Weta Cave over in Miramar, which was about 11 km away.  We walked through the busy city business district to the base of Mt Vic.

We strolled up this dirt path to the summit of Mt Victoria.  We happened to stumble upon this crazy network of walking/mountain biking trails.  The trails looked awesome and were rated from beginner to advanced.  If I happen to make it back, I will have to hire a bike for an action packed day.  We passed two individuals talking about the Lord of the Rings and how they used this location for a shoot.  I could only assume it was when the 4 hobbits get off the trail when the black rider is looking for the ring.
Heard this is the trail from the movie.

Walking is a great way to see a new city and we came across many interesting pieces you would have missed if you took the bus or drove.  We saw artwork and sculptures that would remain hidden if you choose the faster means of transportation.

Random velodrome and soccer field on the backside of Mt Vic.
One of the interesting things we stumbled across was this velodrome/soccer field that can be found on the backside of Mt Victoria.  The track looked to be in good order and I deeply wished I had access to a track bike.  I wanted to do a few laps so I could send Gabe and Megan a video of me doing my first track session.  Below this was what looked like a prison.  It was completely fenced in and had a guard looking building overlooking the courts.  It was really a netball training ground.  It first appeared to be tennis courts just from color alone, but there stood a backboard free 10 foot tall basket.  Sweet netball.
Lurtz greets you at Weta Cave.
After passing that park, we were getting hangry.  It had been several hours since we started our hike and many more since we had eaten.  We stopped for a few snacks before we found Weta Cave.  We got to see a behind the scenes video about what they have been and are working on.  The Halo stuff looked pretty awesome.  We also got to see their collectible items and snapped a few photos of the shop.  Was it cool?  Yes, but I'm a nerd.  Was it worth it?  I'm glad it was free.  Seeing Sir Ian a couple weeks before was better and I paid to see him.
You eyeballing me?

We took the bus back as Beth's feet had blisters and we are planning on doing the Tongariro Crossing next week.  We also have our running race on Sunday.  Once getting back into the CBD we ate a Napoli Pizza place where we both had calzones.  They were pretty tasty, but I always compare things back to Punch, where I used to work, and these had nothing on Punch.  It was a cheap lunch though.  We spent the rest of the afternoon at Te Papa, a free cultural museum.  I'm glad we did it as we got to see a lot of different cool exhibits, but its way too much for a single afternoon to comprehend.
Exhibit in Te Papa.
The next morning we went to the parliament building affectionately known as the Beehive.  The series of government buildings looked odd as each appeared to be in a different style.  We strolled through the neighborhoods and ended up at the botanical gardens.  We went up to the summit and saw krupp's gun
Krupp's Gun.

We went back to the hostel for a quick snack before boarding the bus for a 10 hour ride.  Yes, 10 hours.  I did manage to stay awake for a lot of the ride and got to enjoy the views from the windows.  We saw mountains, rivers, bikers on the shoulder of the road, rainbows, and lots of i-sites.  The next time I go to Wellington, I will be flying.  I don't care the cost as my back and neck are sore from sleeping in a weird posture.

I'm sure there is plenty that I am missing, but this past week was a whirlwind of sights.  I know if I get back to Wellington that road and mountain biking are in order.  I would also like to get on a sail boat to experience the famous Wellington Winds.