Friday, December 26, 2014

2014: A year in review

Happy Holidays to all our friends and family and greetings from New Zealand!
2014 has been a great year. We moved to the Auckland area from our small town Thames last December when Kaleb started a new job. He works doing programming and BI for BCS, a company that builds and runs baggage handling systems at airports and package handling systems for shipping companies. Chances are if your baggage was lost on some vacation, BCS systems weren’t at the airport you were travelling through. Kaleb’s first week on the job was spent in Kuala Lumpur. He now works with cities all over the world. We keep hoping he’ll be sent to America for work, so at least the flight there is covered.

I’ve been working on my master’s degree in predictive analytics from Northwestern University in Chicago. The program is completely online, so it’s all possible from here. I went full time until August, and now am just doing part time. I have only 2 classes and a capstone project or thesis until I’m done. I should finish up in August this year. I’ve also found employment as a Geek (yes this is my job title) for Datamine. I do predictive modeling and data analysis for a variety of New Zealand and Australian companies. It’s a company with a great many smart people working there, so I’m learning a lot.
Kaleb and I are not the biggest fans of living in Auckland. Though we live in a nice house in a great area (and have a pool), we find living in the city a bit defeating of the purpose of living in another country and we miss the sheep in our yard in Thames and the beaches of the Mount. For this reason, we may look to work remotely for at least part of 2015 from somewhere else in New Zealand, likely by a beach or mountain. We are lucky that being IT geeks this is possible.
PhotoSo, what have we done in 2014 you ask? We started the year with a visit from my parents. Luckily, we were in between houses, so we were able to spend some time in Auckland, some time in Thames, and some time in Akoroa at a timeshare. We did a lot of hiking in the time they were visiting. We hiked the lava fields of Rangitoto Island, around the Coromandel peninsula, up the Pinnacles track on Christmas, and in the hills of Akaroa. We also made time to visit Hobbiton.

After my parent’s visit, it was my friend Angi’s turn to come for a visit. Her and I spent some time in Auckland and took a road trip, hitting up the beaches in the Mount, the mountains in Taupo and Tongariro National Park, the wineries of Napier, and the small town of Te Aroha. Angi got to experience hostels for the first time and we had a blast. We were also able to see my friend, Kat, finish her 41 km swim across Lake Taupo. Yes, that’s 1 km short of a marathon in pretty cold water without a wetsuit. The other reason we miss Thames is the town has an abundance of nutters like Kat who make us look normal and who do Ironmans as training days. days after Angi left, Kaleb’s dad came for a visit. He was there in part to watch Kaleb do his first Ironman race at Ironman New Zealand in Taupo. Unfortunately, Kaleb broke his foot earlier, so running was out of the question. Still, he finished, though walking the marathon portion was incredibly boring and took him longer than the swim and bike combined. Predictably, Kaleb was not satisfied with his performance and wants to do another one at some point. In a month from now Kaleb will be doing the St. James Mt. Man race on the South Island. It’s not exactly an Ironman as it has only 2 km swimming (in very cold water), 100 km mountain biking, and 50 km of running up and down a mountain.

April and May were packed with busy weekends. Kaleb got his certification for scuba diving, so we can finally dive together. We both got our advanced diving certs later in the year, so we can go deeper and cooler places. We went cave tubing in Waitomo where the caves have glow worms. We went up to Northland over Easter weekend and enjoyed staying on a house boat, climbing some dunes, kayaking and seeing where the Tasman and Pacific meet. May brought the 50th Rotorua marathon. I managed to sprain my ankle, so had to drop down to the half marathon, but Kaleb was able to complete his first marathon where he got to run. He is a nutter as he didn’t train.
2014 was one of those magical years that included a World Cup, so naturally Kaleb and I had to be in Brazil to watch some of the games. We flew through and stayed for a few days in Santiago, Chile. We explored the city and even got to take a trip into the Andes. That’s when we realized that we don’t miss snow or its ability to get buses stuck on mountain roads. In Brazil we first stayed in Fortaleza, then Natal. We went to three games. Driving in Brazil was quite an adventure, as was navigating the mishaps caused by FIFA and Brazil’s ill-preparedness for the games. Despite this, we had a wonderful time and were sad to have to leave South America. We were almost getting to the point of simple communication in Portugese. late August and September, I took a trip back to the States. I planned things brilliantly so my birthday lasted much longer than 24 hours. I left New Zealand at 11:30 pm on my birthday, and landed in Honolulu at 10:30 am on my birthday (also my nephew’s birthday). I was able to spend a week with my sister and her family in lovely Honolulu. We did a lot of swimming and made a trip up to the North Shore. After that, I spent a few days with Kaleb’s brother and his family in Minneapolis, and was able to see many friends. Then it was on to Milwaukee, with a brief day trip to Northwestern University where my cousin Pauline, a freshman there, showed us around the school I had been attending for more than a year, but never been to. After that, Angi and I spent a few days in Vegas visiting friends and luckily, not losing all our money.
This Spring (Fall in the US) has been fairly uneventful, with both of us working and training most of the time. We went to Queenstown last month for the marathon. I made it a whopping 5 km before suffering a stress fracture and having to pull out. Kaleb was using the marathon as a training day, so did it with a full pack on. Despite the cold and torrential rains, he had a pretty good race.  The week after this, Kaleb went to Taupo and did the cycle challenge, an 85 km mountain bike ride (not a race, as most is done single file). Kaleb has been in Rotorua and Taupo several weekends in prep for his race next month. We’ll be driving down to the South Island and found a great Russian cruise ship wreck we can dive along the way.
SEAFARERS: DOC ranger Alice Hostod, Blair Tuke, Peter Burling, competition winner Beth Kreitzer, Kaleb Kruse, James Noad and Helen Bowen. PHOTO/JOHN STONEEarlier this month, we went on a dive trip thanks to Air New Zealand and DOC. I had won a competition they had, and we got a free trip to Northland to go sailing and diving. We were even able to invite two of our friends to go with. We went sailing with two of New Zealand’s Olympians and dove some beautiful areas in the Poor Knights marine reserve. We even had a DOC (department of conservation) representative to tell us about all the wildlife we saw. The weather was brilliant the whole time. Pictures and video should be up on Facebook soon.

Kaleb got Lasik on Monday. With his sensitive eyes and my healing leg, we are having a pretty low key holiday week. We don’t have a lot planned for the upcoming year aside from Kaleb’s race next month. We hope to both make it back to the states. We’ll also be applying for permanent residency here in New Zealand. This is almost like citizenship and allows us to move back and forth if we want, though for now we plan on staying in New Zealand. Happy holidays to all! We wish you a great New Year!
Beth & Kaleb

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sizzle, sizzle, crackle, oh crap that's me

I finally pulled the trigger on getting LASIK. I've wanted to ditch glasses and contacts ever since I had to start wearing them in college. I still remember sitting in the first row and asking Kelly what the numbers for our homework that the teacher wrote on the board were. So I've had glasses since 1998 and just got around to having my eye ball shot with a freaking laser.

Prior to surgery, the nurse warned me that the next 24 hrs was going to be the worse of it. I said I handled having my ACL done twice and my shoulder once. I can handle pain. That pain last a lot longer than just 24 hrs. Recovery took months not weeks. This shouldn't be terrible. They also kept mentioning that I would smell vapor from the laser. I have to say that vaporized Kaleb smelled a lot like bacon. So in other words to 100% of the bacon lovers out there tasty.

Its been 24 hrs since I laid down in what they called 'theater', to me it was akin to the sterile room the Intersect was located in. (Not everyone is a Chuck fan so there is your hint.) Anyway, I laid down had some suction cups forced on to my eyeball. I felt like the Mountain was trying to squash my skull (GoT reference). I was a little paranoid that my eye would explode at one point and managed to eek out an 'ouch'. They were done about 3 minutes later. I sat in the recovery room waiting to be picked up. Beth drove back home which I don't remember much of as I slept. I know for next 12 hrs when I was up it felt like I had sandpaper for eyelids. I also go to wear some cool plastic shields over my eyes until I woke up today. When I woke up this morning, there was no pain only a little dryness and I was able to read without my glasses. I did my follow up this afternoon and I'll be able to swim and run in the next couple days. As I'm supposed to avoid dust, I'll be doing inclines on the treadmill until next week when I will return to the trails in my neighborhood. I also have to update my drivers license to say I don't need corrective lenses anymore. Now I wonder if I can sell my unused contacts back to 1800contacts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Not forgotten, just busy

It may look like I have been slacking on posting, but we have been living it up. It is starting to look like summer here! We don't have to put up with the massive amount of snow and cold weather you are getting back in the States at the moment. We are spending our time outdoors and some at the beach.

Recently,  I've received my Advanced Open Water diving cert from Performance Diver in Takapuna. Consisted of 5 adventure dives that took place at Poor Knights, Taupo, and Lake Pupuke. Beth is working on hers, but the lake dive was a little too cold for her. We are going diving the weekend of the 5th as some lucky devil won a trip from Air New Zealand. Typically that person is me, but this time it was Beth. She won airfare, lodging, a sailing experience with NZ Olympic Silver Medalists, a day of diving at Poor Knights, a car hire, and a few meals for four. We would have liked to have taken our friends Shiv and Katherine, but they are heading to India. So I got to ask some of my diving friends to come with. So Helen (who is celebrating her b-day on the 4th, the first day of the trip) and James will be joining us.

I'm still training for my big race in January, but I've had a 6 week set back as I managed to pull a muscle in my butt while out on a 2 hour run. This took a long time to heal, but I still managed to get some riding in. I headed down to Taupo a couple weekends to ride the course as well as a long road ride in Tauranga. On the 2nd ride in Taupo, while riding the K2K, I had the pleasant experience of breaking a spoke and taco-ing my wheel on a fast descent. I rode to the bottom of the hill to tell my mates what happened and that I would be heading back in to Taupo for a replacement. I managed to find the only 26" wheel at the shop that luckily already had the rotor, tube, and tire installed for a reasonable price. I then drove back out to the trail head and waited for my friends to get back before joining them on the W2K track. The next day we rode part of the Huka Challenge course, a 85km mtb race I'll be doing this Thanksgiving weekend. So in preparation, I've hit a lot of places around Auckland to mtb except Woodhill. Its on my list of places to go, but I've just managed not to make it out there yet. All in preparation for the upcoming Mountain Man Race.

Last weekend, Beth and I went to Queenstown for a marathon, or what I would like to call a long training day. Once again its preparation for the upcoming race. Obviously this is my longest run since the last marathon, but its also drastically longer than any of my long runs in the past couple months. I managed to be able to run without extreme pain only a couple weeks ago. Having pulled my glute, I was unable to run basically any distance without crippling pain. So I had physio, acupuncture, and a couple massages to help rid myself of the pain. I ended up doing a lot of exercises to help strengthen the area as well. So the last couple weeks, I started off doing a couple 3ks, a 5k, a 7k, and an 11k before strapping on my pack for the 5 hours of fun. Whats in my pack you ask? Just the compulsory gear: full thermals, hat, gloves, first aid kit, emergency blanket, head lamp, rain jacket, 2 litters of water, 8 oz flask of Perpetuem, 6 gels, 3 sachets of baby food, a pill bottle of Endurolytes, a roll of quick-eze, wind vest, and wool arm sleeves, cycle cap, and sunglasses, and my phone. I might have left something out, but regardless my pack wasn't light. Beth has been having some sciatic nerve pain in the last couple weeks and tried to change her event to a shorter distance, but no luck. So she started with me knowing that she would drop at some point and get picked up by the SAG wagon. We got out to the start line early as we were shuttled out of Queenstown by the event organizers between 5:45 and 6:45 for an 8:15 start. It was also a chilly and wet morning. The rain drizzled down and left us chilled before even toeing the line. We both had our rain jackets as we both had packs. Beth planned on doing a half with walking and would wear her jacket to keep her warm. We queued up in the 5hr group and crossed the mat a couple minutes after the initial horn sounded. Beth made it about 5km and then experienced a very sharp and localized pain above her ankle. This was an acute pain that wasn't caused by trauma, but it forced us to walk. (Still don't know what happened, even though we sat in the ER for about 5 hrs on Sunday.) We walked to the next aid station, roughly 2kms away, where she was able to grab a van ride back to Queenstown. I continued on working on my strategy of running 15, walking 1 where I would eat some food and drink some water each time. I would then consume 2 endurolyte pills every hr. I wasn't looking to break my old time, I was concentrating on finishing the race with a lot of energy still in the tank knowing that my next big run will be a 50km trail run with 900m of elevation gain. At the 33km mark I was extremely glad I had the extra gear I had been shuttling around. A strong wind popped up over the lake and smacked you in the face with a bitter chill and a few minutes later the skies opened up for a 2nd time. I managed to be fairly comfortable with my rain jacket, gloves, and sleeves on, but I kind of felt sorry for the people running in tank tops. I could tell they were cold as their skin was bright pink with exposure. I did see a few people who opted for the the trash bag poncho to keep a little warm. Oh well, I find it better to be over prepared rather than not prepared at all. After the race, I quickly showered and we caught a flight back home. I was greeted with 2 text messages and a voice mail. I had the feeling that my time wasn't recorded and they were checking to see if I was ok.

Yup, I was correct. This happened to us a few weeks prior at the 1st race of the State Beach Swim Series. Beth and I are both doing the 1.5km race at Takapuna again this year, but we opted for the permanent timing chips as we'll be doing at least 12 races this season. Being the first race of the year, some of the kinks weren't worked out and we were recorded entering the water, but not exiting. So we got an email asking if we remember our times. Needless to say, both weeks so far someone has been faster than the other.

The weekend before Queenstown, I happened to find a local 6 hour adventure race and managed to put together a team, the ninja tortoises. This comprised of a former co-worker and 2 people I met from 2 different meetup groups. First is Banu, former co-worker who had never ridden a mountain bike. Next is Paula, a kiwi lass who I met mtb at the RAT. Then there is Peter, who I met at a 10k run who happens to be from Massachusetts. None of us have ever done one of these before, but I know a guy from my days at TCDC that has done heaps of them. So I asked if he wouldn't mind getting together and just giving us some ideas as what to expect. So we met up at a little tapas bar and chatted for a couple hours. We left the bar both excited and nervous. We were told the race location the week of the race, so there was little chance to explore the area, so hello GoogleMaps. We weren't given the format until an hour before, we knew there was going to be a water activity, mountain biking, and run/walking while doing both check points and mystery activities. With Rod's guidance, we took roles that would divide the work out amongst ourselves. Banu and Peter were navigation, route planning. Peter and I did spotting for check points. I also mothered the group asking about feelings, ensured food and water consumption ( I like to eat, ok) as well as keeping our answers/score card. Paula was keeper of the check point descriptions and Banu was the keeper of the mystery activities. We had a lot of fun running around both Omana and Duder Regional Parks and we got a heap of take aways. We won 2 spot prizes and took 1st for our division. We are looking forward to entering our next event and already started talking what we could do to improve. This day alone could be an entire post and it might. I just have to find time to do it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New Challenges

It should come as no surprise that I like to challenge myself. Earlier this year I got my open water certification for scuba. Beth and I have been out a few times since then. We are getting our advanced open water certification next month.

One of my dives includes the drift dive, I recently did down the Waikato River in Taupo. This involved riding the rivers currents from Cherry Island to shortly before the Huka Falls. Unfortunately Beth couldn't come as she had a sinus infection. So I carpooled with Amanda and Jerome, friends of Helen. Who is a friend I made during the Open Water course. We ended up going out to the Prawn Farm on Sunday and fished for prawns. I ended up catching 6 of them.

Now I'm back to training for races. I'll be doing the Huka Challenge. Which is an 85km mountain bike race. Beth and I are looking at doing a marathon in December. Originally we wanted to do the inaugural Queenstown marathon, but it filled up very quickly. These events will be good training for my large event for the year, St James Mountain Man. It comprises of a 2km lake swim, a 103km mtb ride, and a 48km trail run. I may even do the K2 again as it will be good to do the climbs, even though I haven't been riding hard as of yet.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Santiago Recap

I figured I would break down our trip into different posts as to separate the travel and exploring from the experience of the games. First up would be recap of our days in Santiago and our renewed hatred of being trapped because of snow. Something of which we went out of our way to see and probably wont do again in the near future. If you watch the any of my World Cup videos, turn your volume off. You have been warned. There is a high pitch frequency that will make your ears bleed. 

 We boarded our direct flight (13 hours) from Auckland to Santiago, Chile knowing that getting into Brazil might be an issue. We were alerted by the check-in counter that we needed a visa to enter the country. There will be no blame in this over site of entry requirements, but its a lesson that we need to double check each other. After arriving in Santiago, we grabbed one of the abundant airport cabs to take us to the apartment we rented for our time in Santiago. On the drive into town, we were able to catch glimpses of the Andes Mountain through the fog that gripped the city for most of the time we were there.

 We had 5 days to wander around the city. Beth also got to test our her leg post surgery with a lot of walking around the city and taking ample breaks. I got to sample lots of different foods, including what I can only assume is the national dish: hotdogs. The hotdog shops out numbered everything else and they had their own take on the toppings. Many of the places served from a simple bar where people bellied up and slammed down a couple dogs and a drink for next to nothing. We also found people selling one of our favorite treats, churros, out of vans and carts. These were dusted with cinnamon and sugar and filled with caramel. Very tasty.

 I used foursquare, which I don't use often enough, to locate some cool places to eat, including Galindo for Chilean dishes and Emporia La Rosa for wicked awesome gelato. Galindo was so good that we made an extra effort to get back during our 12 hour layover. The first night, I had razor claims with cheese as an appetizer and then ribs with spicy mashed potatoes. Beth had Pollo Asada both times. The 2nd time, I had a gigantic bowl of Cazuela de Pollo. The neighborhood that this place is in reminded us of Uptown, but it included a zoo. Which I guess could be like Uptown after the bars close. I highly recommend the dulce de leche gelato from Emporia La Rosa.

Beth found a cute place, from Bella Artes, in a high rise (not a hotel) that was within walking distance of the Central Market, Metro stations, parks, and the under construction Catedral de Santiago. I include this last one as they hung a giant picture of the cathedral in front of the construction. Beth and I found this cool little park that had an elevator to take you up about halfway. Even more surprising was that the elevator was manned for 9 hours a day. This strapping statue marked the staircase into the park. The park is on a hill that was heavily fortified including the remains of cannons and several towers. We were treated to some cool views of the area for the top of the hill.

The weather in Santiago felt like a fall day in MN, so I wore either my fleece or soft-shell and that was plenty. It was funny to see how bundled up the locals were. Then again when we took our Turistik tour to Farellones they donned even more warm clothes. We did opt for some cheap winter boots as mesh running shoes in about 8 inches of snow isn't too much fun. We were picked up from the apartment at 8 am for what was originally planned as a 4 hour trip up into the Andes. However, the night before we received an email in Spanish saying something along the lines that because of the bad weather, they were lengthening the excursion to 8 hours. We were ferried off to a central location where everyone disembarked the current bus and hopped on the one corresponding to the tour you were supposed to be on. Our bus for the day was below. It took us up the 40 switchbacks to Farellones. We stopped twice on the way up, once to put on chains and the other time was when we had difficulty going around a corner.
It was here that I was extremely nervous. All the guys were asked to take off their seat belts and move to the back of the bus. Once there, we were instructed to jump up an down while the driver tried to gun it around the corner. This resulted us slipping backwards. At least there were guard rails behind us. We did this for probably 20 minutes until we were able to successfully navigate around the corner.

The first stop, also was the first time several of the people on the tour had seen snow. They quickly
Gelato time
jumped in and made snow angels and probably the funniest thing I have ever seen. Several made snow balls and tossed them up in the air and watched them fall back and crash into their own face. They were shocked at how gravity worked. Beth and I looked around at the landscape not really paying attention to the snow. Once we got to the resort town of Farellones, which hadn't fully opened yet, we walked around for a spell before returning to the Hotel Farellones for a quick meal. The tour was ready to leave, but there was an accident on the road which resulted in a several hour delay while we had to stay on the bus. 13 hours after we left, we stumbled back into the apartment. We didn't stay long as we had to get something to eat. We wandered over to the Central Market for empanadas and other local treats.

Knowing we had to get a visa to get into Brazil, we looked online for where and how to do it. My search resulted in conflicting information from various blogs. Each listed that you needed to bring; a bunch of photocopies of travel documents, passport photos, means of payment (even though you have to go to the bank to pay), and 7-10 days while you wait for the visa to be approved. However, the where to go was up for debate. It also didn't help that my Spanish is what I can recall from Senora Blanco's class back in '97 and I don't know any Portuguese. Maybe I should have allowed my co-worker, who is from Portugal, to come with.

I could get a job delivering stuff by bike.
The first place we read to go was conveniently located a few blocks from where we were staying. We decided to check it out after hours to ensure that the next morning we would be going to the correct location. It was a good thing we did as upon entering the building and asking which floor for the consulate, we were handed a piece of paper saying to go the other location. This would be a 40 minute train ride and a 10 minute walk. From reading the various blogs and travel sites, we got there early as possible as only 10 visa applications were supposed to be able to be lodged a day. We met a really nice guy that helped us out greatly. Its a shame we didn't catch his name. He was born in Argentina, raised in Boston, and now living in Chile. He was looking to get a permit to drive into Brazil for the World Cup. He helped out with translation and even paid for our metro tickets. Thanks to the guy we lodged our application with as he was laying down speech that applications take 7-10 days to process, until we pulled out our tickets and said we had to get in in order to see our matches. I do understand the lack of planning on my side doesn't constitute an emergency on his. Once he saw our tickets, he wrote a note saying come back tomorrow at noon to retrieve our visas. We also did not have to pay for the visas as it was part of a deal FIFA made with Brazil or it would have been another couple hundred of dollars for each of us.
This store is very similar to my email address.
Beth and I really liked Santiago. City wise they have separated bike lanes including their own traffic lights. For food, they have delicious meats, empanadas, churros, and dulce de leche. The people were really friendly and may have thought I should have spoken Spanish better than I did. It is also one of the few towns we have seen more than once while traveling. Who knows, when we live in South America, we may be heading back. Either way, I think I need to practice my foreign language skills more. Nihongo to supeingo o benkyou shimasu.

Friday, June 6, 2014

To Chile and beyond

We started our South American tour and we are ready to watch the games. We are in Chile for a few days where we can get our Brazilian tourist visas sorted. We booked a bus out to the Andes mountains on Saturday and I hear they make some awesome mints out there as well.

We head to Brazil on Sunday and plan on doing some diving and having a go at finding out if Fogo is the real deal.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Action Packed Weekends

Sand Dunes
Over Easter weekend we got in the car and drove up to Northland. It was my first time going up to the Northern most point of New Zealand. We hit some horrible traffic out of town and it took us 3 hrs to drive 60km. We stayed at the base of 90 Mile Beach on Friday night. We stayed at a local holiday park. We made it just in time as the sky opened up and it poured like you wouldn't believe. The next morning we walked along part of 90 Mile Beach. Then we drove to Cape Reinga and ran the Sand Dunes. You had the option to rent sleds and rocket down the dunes, but running was plenty fast as it was.

Saturday we went to Paihia and got on The Rock, a converted vehicle ferry boat for a sampling of water activities. We met Renee a student teacher from Ohio and Victoria a vet from Germany who we happened to bunk with. Our first activity was to shoot at a duck decoy being pulled behind the boat with a paintball gun. It was girls against guys and who ever hit the duck the most got a free drink or chocolate bar. You would have thought since I played a fair amount that I could have hit the duck. I put all 3 balls (the amount each person got to shoot) within inches of the dancing duck.

The next activity was fishing for snapper. I was unable to snag anything, but others on the trip were pulling mad numbers of fish. Unfortunately none were big enough to keep. So our dinner was BBQ steaks, sausages, and a bunch of salads. Renee and I shot pool while we waited for the food to be cooked. You can't imagine how difficult it is to shoot straight when the boat is rocking at anchor.

After dinner we went out for a night kayak. We were treated to a cloudless sky before the moon rose and were able to see the Southern Cross as well as lot of glowing algae. Afterwards several people jumped into the Bay of Islands for a swim. Renee and I opted to roast marshmallows in the fire. We got to talking about how Kiwis don't know about smores and proceeded to eat 2 packages before being cut off. The marshmallows don't taste like back home. Afterwards we drank tea and talked until we decided it was time to retire to the bunks. Some people had a trouble sleeping on the boat, but not me. It reminded me of being out sailing.

The next morning I was up to see the sunrise. We had a quick breakfast of porridge and cereal before jumping in the water for a quick snorkel. We went under the water to retrieve sea urchins. Afterwards, we made our way to Robinson Island where we hiked to the top and learned more about the tragic history of the island. It was a place of much confusion between the locals and early settlers. It led to a hanging of a 17 year old. On our ride back to Paihia we caught a fish and had some awesome sashimi and uni for those who wanted to try it. If you happen to be in the Bay of Islands, stop by for a trip and the crew will take care of you.

We debated on staying up North, but Beth had homework and we predicted the holiday traffic would have been horrible on Monday, so we headed back to Auckland on Sunday evening. We said by to our roommates and had some Movenpick before hitting the road. That was how we spent part of our Easter vacation.
Just me in the car

The following week the country gave remembrance of ANZAC Day. We saw our first rugby game. We purchased a groupon that got us tickets to the game, a bus ride, a roast meal, and a drink. We saw the Blues beat down the Waratahs, 21-13. Beth was super excited to receive a Blues flag when we walk in to Eden Park. The next morning, I loaded up our car with both my mountain and road bike. I first headed to Taupo to ride with the Thames crew. We road around into Taupo and then back out to the Huka Falls, and Craters of the Moon. It was pretty awesome, but some of the hills were brutal. There was the very aptly name 'Incline' trail and the Grinder.

After riding for about 4 hrs, we parted ways and I drove to Tauranga and crashed at Martin's. The game plan for Sunday was to ride the Sundee Hundee. This is a weekly ride leaving from Red Bikes in Mount Maunganui that exceeds a 100 km. We started off with a group of 14, but ended with 3. My legs went bust about 2/3rds of the way through the ride. It wasn't unexpected as I haven't been doing large rides. I ended up taking a short cut at the end of Welcome Bay Road as a few riders went the little bit further around the blokart track. The ride was capped off with a date pinwheel from Cafe Blend and it was oh so tasty.

This weekend we have Rotorua Marathon. Beth and I are battling injuries. She took a hard spill running and twisted her ankle. I'm having the lower back issue again. I've got a chiropractor appointment tomorrow to make an adjustment that will hopefully set it straight. She is thinking of dropping down to the half. I will probably be boneheaded and do the whole thing. I haven't made up my mind.

Then the following weekend we are going up North again. We are going with Performance Diver up to Tutukaka for a diving adventure. We'll be doing 2 dives. From the various photos I've found of the dive sites, we'll be in for quite the experience. Beth and I are talking about getting additional certifications so we can go deeper and do different things.

Then next month we head to Brazil!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Quick update

We are moving to a different place on the North Shore. It will be quieter and smoke-free. It's about the same distance to work but the ocean is just down the street and we have a view of Rangitoto. Will post photos later as well as what we have been up to.

Just kidding. Evidently being vetted by property management company and having the 'ok' from the owner that we would be acceptable candidates. We paid the bond as requested prior to signing the lease. When we went to sign the lease, the owner said he wanted to think it over. He also mentioned something about looks during this conversation. Damn me for not being whiter.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Latest adventures

Our group

After two weeks in Malaysia, Beth and I took off to Waitomo for another glow worm experience. We had hit up Lake Karapiro with my dad to see them on kayaks. This time we hit up a guided event with Cave World because of a deal. Beth booked the trip but they set us up on a guided night walk of the cave instead of the black water rafting that we purchased. So we ended up doing the rafting the next day.

The guided night experience was very good. We got to see the cave they excavated and all the bones that they uncovered. We were able to see the glow worms up close and learned a lot. I would recommend this for any one that doesn't want to get cold and in the water. Of course I was excited to get in the water and go rafting and by rafting I mean sitting in a tube. It was like being in a dark lazy river that was lit by the chemical reaction of a larvae.

We came back the next morning and got put into a group with a bunch of University of Waikato students. We were handed wet suits, booties, and a helmet and we jumped into a van for a short ride to the cave property. Then it was a short walk across a paddock, which was hot in the wet suit, but we were soon going to be cooling off as we descended into the darkness. Prior to entering the dark cave we were handed a black inner tube that would be our raft for the laid back meander down the stream. We opted to go through a small tunnel  where we had to crawl through to see the hidden water fall (the picture above).
There were a couple places were we were able to jump down into a lower level of the cave and they even brought in a slide.
We grabbed each others feet to form a train of tubes and stared at the cave ceiling

After the trip to Waitomo, I've been busy with getting certified to go scuba diving. It was 2 weekends in the water, both pool and lake, and 2 long nights in the class. It was a lot of fun and I'm thinking it will be something I could really get into. With the cost of the certification, the entire class gets a free hire so we are planning to go out as a group to  Goat Island. If we are lucky we'll catch some cray fish and do a beach BBQ. What is the next adventure?  I don't know, but the past 2 years have flown by.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Off to KL again

KLIA Concorde

Work sent me to Kuala Lumpur again for, but this time it was for 2 weeks. I got a 1 and half days off to get into the city proper. I got to wander around instead of just hanging within a 10 km radius of the airport. Otherwise it was 10-14 hours spent inside the control room at the under construction KLIA2 terminal.

Not a great day, but not the worst.
KL is experiencing a major drought and while I was there a forest and peat soil fueled fire that basically destroyed the air quality. Most days it was just a thick haze and we questioned if they could land a plane. I'm pretty sure visibility was less than 500 meters at some points. There was a couple downpours while we were there and it allowed me to have a nice Saturday in the city.
Massive park just outside of KL Sentral
I took the express train into the city, which took about 30 minutes and cost $35 for a one-way trip. The train gave you some cool views of the surrounding area moving from farm to city. Off in the distance were large hills. Before you knew it you were at the main station. KL didn't seem the most friendly city to walk in. It took me a while to find my way out from KL Sentral. I ended up walking like a local down the side of the street past a cabbie who pulled over for a bathroom break on the side of the road. Glad I was wearing my shoes as I was walking in the "water" in the street. Who knows what else lurks on the street. Most of my afternoon was spent wandering the parks, museums, and area around KL Sentral.

Planetarium recreations

A short walk away you'll find Lake Gardens, KL Bird Park, The National Planetarium, and National Museum of Malaysia. There is also a bike trail going through the park. The park had a sign for my arch-nemesis, the monkey. There was also a section of a zoo where you could see roosters and deer. Well those were the ones that I could see on my brief walk through the section. I also wandered through several museums and learned a lot about the area and the people.

Saturday night, my coworkers and I went into KL for dinner. We went to a section of town that reminded me of New Orleans. It was nothing but bars offering happy hours and people trying to get you in to drink. Once we sat down at one of the bars, the waitress tried to keep pushing the drinks on us. The street was lined by tourists looking to get loaded and watch either soccer or rugby. We ventured across the street to the Black Forest, where we had an very good meal. On our way back to the car, a woman whose affections were available for purchase wouldn't let one of the older gentlemen out of her site. She was like a dog with a bone, but he wasn't having any of it. We made it back to our car and our night just got a lot longer.
Tasted like Squirt

I don't recommend getting into a fender bender in a foreign country. We were hit on the highway by a young lady who tried to merge onto the highway and then cross 2 lanes. She smacked our front passenger tire and then we pulled over. Waited on the side of the road until her brother dropped another young lady off before driving to the police station to report the accident. We had to type our own incident report on the computer. Then we were given guff for not having an international license nor our passport on us. We had to go back to show the passport and then had another meeting scheduled to take photos of the damage. The photo meeting was canceled and the girl was found at fault.

Sunday, I went back into KL and wandered even more. I was in search of finding street food. I got off at KL Sentral again and made my way to the big pointy things in the sky. I found a market and ate with a bunch of locals. It was tasty fried chicken, coconut milk and artichoke hearts over rice, and hard boiled eggs and egg plant covered in chili pepper paste. After lunch, I was checking out more of the sites and I was approached by a guy who didn't speak english, but gave the international sign of take a photo. I assumed he wanted me to take a photo of him. Nope, he wanted to pose for a picture with me. I took off my sunglasses and he gave me a big hug as he snapped the photo. Afterward he gave me a big 2-tooth grin. I continued on my way and made it to the Petronas Towers, which I was shocked to find a large mall in the bottom several floors. I then happened upon a ramen shop a little way from there. Would a 95 degree day with tons of humidity stop me from indulging in a hot, spicy bowl? Nope.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Race Recap

Ironman New Zealand 30th Anniversary.

Laughing at my dad who was using the action mode on his camera.
So I've been nursing a foot injury for several weeks, but I wasn't going to let it stop me from doing the race. I started packing all my gear on Tuesday after our Takapuna swim session. Knowing it was going to be a long day, I wanted to make sure I was comfortable so I packed a different set of clothes for each event. I wasn't expecting blazing fast transition times as I was doing a full change for each event so I could be comfortable. Early Thursday morning we set out from Auckland to Taupo for the race on Saturday. We stopped by the airport shortly after 6 am to pick up my father. We have a new rule. Don't bring us anything from the States unless specifically asked or cash. All those with any sickness will be deported immediately. (Beth and I both got sick and someone else is alternating between coughing and snoring all night long). We made good time, but weren't allowed to check-in to the room until much later. We grabbed a bite to eat and then it was off to do race things. I had to dip my wetsuit in a cleaning solution, get my race packet, and get weighed. At the athlete's dinner and race meeting we, my co-worker Sebastian and I, found out that there were 52 different countries represented and close to 570 1st time racers. Of which we were 2. The dinner was a massive table of good eats followed by an entertaining segment of former winners and race legends talking about their experiences at Taupo over the past 30 years. We were greeted with a haka and other traditional song and dances as well. It would be an early night.
First race in a wetsuit

I woke up at 4:30 to start my long day. I had a big breakfast at the hotel while chatting with another racer and the waitress. She had come in early to make the food for us which was much appreciated. We were treated to another Maori ceremony prior to entering the water and those guys looked a little chilly. I think it was roughly 40-50 degrees and they weren't covered up much. Waiting for the swim to start we had the starting cannon roll past us. We were in for a treat as they shot it 3 times instead of the planned 2 times. The swim was up close and personal with my closet 1500 friends. We swam on and over each other for the better part of an hour. I was happy to have the layer of protection that my wetsuit provided or I would probably have some wicked bruises and scrapes. I tried to get distance, but people kept swarming around me. I was pretty relaxed during it all and just tried to find my rhythm. I'm glad my swim fitness hasn't totally left me as I haven't swam much since living in Thames. Beth and I have done a few races in a local swim series. It is in Takapuna and the swim consists of a 1500m ocean swim followed by our special event. Ice cream at Movenpick.

After exiting the water at 1:06, we had to run about 400m to the transition up a hill. My toe was killing me, but I kept running for fear of being trampled by other racers. I ended up seeing a lot of friends on the short hill up to transition. There was a small crew from Tauranga and a larger crew from Thames. From there it was off to my 1st personal assistant. I got my wetsuit stripped off and all my gear dropped on the ground. I did a quick change and the guy helped by handing me what I asked for and then put the remaining stuff back in my back and I was off to get my bike. I walked through the transition opposed to running as my foot was throbbing. I started off easy through town and waved at Beth as I rode past our hotel.  I heard more than a few comments about my litespeed. I cruised out of town trying to keep my heart rate low as it was a bit of a hill. Then it was time for the fun. A downhill and a tailwind out to the turn around point. I felt like I wasn't even riding that hard, but I was flying. On the way back it was fighting up against the wind and up the hill. I also played a bit of leap frog with Paulie from the Thames crew on the bike leg as someone didn't have a bike computer. I on the other hand tried to keep my heart rate down all day long and I watched the speed on the computer.

There were numerous flats and a few crashes on the bike course, but I wasn't not among them. I did see a lot of illegal behavior which is hard to police with so few course officials. There was drafting here and there, but the rule most often broke was the biker only passing one in a group of legally spaced riders forcing the passed rider to either ride in the draft area or slow down. I lost count of how many times it happened to me. Its not to say people weren't caught doing wrong as the penalty box always seemed to have someone in it. I'm just glad that I had my flats during my training rides leaving my ride unblemished.

I changed up my nutrition since the Port of Tauranga. I started to consume baby food (apple and banana oatmeal porridge) and a mix of coconut water and cranberry juice. I also suffered a bee sting to the palm while drinking out of my bottle. I yelled at Beth that I was stung by a bee when I passed her at the beginning of my 2nd lap. With 50km to go my foot started to kill me with all the vibrations. I knew that I wouldn't be running any portion of the marathon. With 2 bathroom breaks I finished the bike in 6:03, not too shabby as I've only been doing 60 miles for my long rides.

Once again I had an assistant to help with getting changed into my running stuff. After changing, I got sprayed with some sunscreen and was out on the course at a quick walking pace. People were egging me on to run through the pain. I quickly tired of trying to explain that I came to the race injured, but I was aiming to finish regardless. My friends told me to enjoy the day and make the most of it. I was in a sour mood the first lap as I really wanted to run, but even the walking got to be painful as the laps progressed. Beth got a couple phone calls from the race organizers as my timing chip evidently wasn't being picked up at the outbound mat. They asked if I was still on the course. She replied of course he is. She got a little worried and ran against the flow of the race and spotted me walking along the waterfront. I must have gone over the mat so slow that it didn't register.

I had a lot of friendly volunteers that walked beside me and chatted for a bit not mention all the food stops where I gabbed with the volunteers. Much like food challenges, Greg ended his 1st race heavier than when he started. I took this as a challenge. I ate cookies, chips, pretzels, moro bars, lollies, oranges, bananas, and some baby food while drinking water, coke, and an electrolyte mix.  I also used the bathroom at every stop by the end of the day. There were times that I saw guys from the Thames crew on the course and I wished them well. I ran into a friend of a friend from Tauranga who I climbed and mountain biked with while I lived down there on my last lap. I stopped and talked to him for a few minutes. Both Beth and my pops walked next to me during the final leg. It was great to have such encouragement for my family but the strangers were good too as it gets lonely on the course as the day progresses. There were some awesome supporters out there blaring all sorts of music throughout the day and even a guy who left his bbq open and I grabbed a sausage as I "blitzed" past. During the marathon, I told Beth I wouldn't be happy only doing one Ironman as I didn't really race it. I just finished it. She had already said something to that effect to my dad back at the hotel. I guess I'm a little predictable in that capacity. I walked down the finishers chute roughly 14:43 hrs after I started to a bunch of cheering supporters. Hands started popping out for high-fives and I just walked down the chute trying to slap them all. It was cool feeling. Beth said I should do a little dance as I crossed the finish line as I walked past her. After crossing the line I was escorted into the med/recovery tent where I was given my finishers metal, t-shirt, and towel. I had my timing chip removed and my weight taken. I had only lost 2 kgs during the day's event.

Following the race, I realized that I had 2 popped blisters on the back of my heels, my left foot was swollen, my bee sting swelling went down, I chafed my thighs, and I was starving. I ate some food and took a hot shower. I tried to sleep but I was boiling up then I was freezing. It was hard to sleep on the bed so I ended up on the floor with my legs up in the air against the wall. I was back to riding to work on Tuesday so any soreness didn't last very long.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How do you say in Portugese...

It started in 2005 with a Christmas gift I never expected. Beth got us tickets to see a 2006 World Cup game. Not just any game, but the 3rd place match. It ended up being Germany vs Portugal  with the host nation dominating the flow of the game. It was such an amazing experience that we decided we would make it our thing and attend the tournament every 4 years.

2009, I entered the FIFA lottery not exactly sure what was going to happen. Multiple rounds went by and no email or other notification of a successful bid was received. We had gotten an email saying we would be notified by such a date and as that date passed we made other plans. We booked a flight to Argentina to visit some friends who were temporarily living down there from Minneapolis. On Saturday, I received an email saying our bid was successful! We purchased tickets on Monday for South Africa. We had tickets for US vs England, Japan vs Cameroon, and US vs Algeria. With our vacation spent on Argentina, we were able to stay for 2 of the 3 games. Unfortunately, we missed the US vs Algeria game, but we able to watch it back in the States.
Just imagine getting through security wearing that!

This year is no different. We have been paying attention to the qualifiers as best we can. We have put in to the lottery. No official email has come, but after logging on to the site and getting a notification from our credit card. We have been successfully charged for our sets of tickets!  We will be seeing Uruguay vs Costa Rica, US vs Ghana, and Japan vs Greece. We have already purchased our tickets for Brazil as well. These were not cheap and our itinerary back home is surely going to be long. As I took new employment recently, my vacation situation is different than while at TCDC, so unfortunately I wont be able to make it back to the States this year. Unless I get sent there for work, which is a good possibility.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Festivals galore

Summer is winding down, but the festival season seems to be in full swing. There was the Chinese Lantern Festival the other week, which Shiv, Kathryn, and I hit up. It was from Thursday to Sunday ending with a massive firework show off the SkyTower. We definitely ate our share of good food while listening to music and watching the festivities.

This past weekend we planned on hitting up Rice and Beans on Saturday and Japan Day on Sunday. The weather didn't cooperate for an outdoor festival on Saturday, but we did spend several hours at Japan Day! We watched an Aikido and a Ninjitsu demonstration. One was good and the other was like watching Monday Night Raw.   I did spend 2 hours riding in the rain on Saturday. It wasn't that much fun.

This weekend is my race, which is going to be difficult. My coughing and congestion is finally gone! However my foot is not better even though I haven't been running for the past several weeks.  If I have to I should have ample time to walk the marathon, but I'm planning on running what I can and hitting the pain meds when it hurts too much.

The following weekend, we are doing glow worm kayaking, paintball, and Pasifika (another festival). So we are keeping busy.