Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Was supposed to be doing the Routeburn track but I ended up screwing up my ankle. So I dropped Beth and her parents off at the trail head and made my way to Te Anau.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Sock modeling to laid up

These are my S'more socks that I received from my Secret Santa during our friend's Christmas from earlier this month. Unfortunately, I'll not be wearing them any time soon. I've received what I think is the worse ankle sprain I've ever had. That is a pretty bold statement from a person who has had numerous sprains and a few brakes over the years.

 So what happened? I've been climbing a fair bit since moving to Taupo. So last weekend I was at the climbing wall doing some lead climbing when I slipped and fell between 3-4m crashing into the wall/hold. I knew instantly that something wasn't right. The pain was intense causing my leg to shake. I was lowered to the floor, where I raised my leg. Got ice and compression going within the first couple minutes. The swelling was already starting. Mike dropped me off at the Emergency Room and then went out to pick Beth up, as we only have one car and I had it. I was seen fairly quickly after filling in my paperwork. The initial diagnosis was a bad sprain. I had to come back for an x-ray the next morning. The x-ray only showed old injuries, but nothing new. I've started going to Physio to get back into action. It  is about a week since it happened and its still looking purple, but a gross green has started to appear. I still have a lot of lower leg swelling, but I have pain to the touch up the shin close to my knee. Below you can see where I pushed my fingers to my shin and the amount of swelling that is still there.

The swelling is down but not gone after a week. The shin just above the ankle is super tender and the bruising is below the calf. There is still tenderness along the shin up to almost the knee. I have to spend 30 minutes in the morning doing stretches and band work in order to walk normal. While doing these exercises I've had my ankle lock up and then pop. This doesn't feel pleasant at all. Oh and to run it in my face, the quick draws I ordered have been delivered. Won't be using them anytime soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Still not used to it

Another year living in the Southern Hemisphere and I can't get used to Christmas happening over Summer. Its going to be a busy festive season. 2 weeks ago, Beth and I were in Queenstown to run a half/full marathon. I ended up twisting my ankle pretty good at about 15km in. I ended up finishing, but probably shouldn't have. This past weekend I did the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, a 160km road ride around Lake Taupo. This weekend, my office is having its holiday party. So we are heading up to Auckland for that as well as a friends Christmas. We are doing an outing at Snow Planet, an indoor snow park. Then afterwards we are having a potluck at Banu's new house. I've made mini-choco-pucks, pumpkin pie, and ginger cookies. We are also taking spinach, cilantro, and salad greens from our garden. The following week, Beth is getting her vision corrected and its her work party, so we'll be back up in Auckland. The week after that, Beth's parents arrive and Star Wars Episode 7 is released. We are doing a few things around the North Island before heading to the South Island for another Great Walk. Once that is complete, Beth and I and our friends James and Helen will be heading to Fiji for a diving holiday. The following weekend I'm doing the 80km Timber Trail with the Taupo MTB Club.
There is much more that we have planned and we may be looking at going to India in February as our good friend Shiv is getting hitched.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Great Walk #2: Lake Waikaremoana

Lake Waikaremoana
This past weekend was the first National Holiday in some time. So in order to take full advantage of it, Beth booked a couple hut spots for us to tackle the second of nine Great Walks that New Zealand has to offer. We had opted to do Lake Waikaremoana over 3 days, which is situated just East of us.  We extended an invitation to the other ninjas (this is from Ninja Tortoises our team name for events) and a total of 7 of us took to the trail over Labor Weekend. We weren't the only people on the trail as the huts were booked out months in advance, but a few spots opened up the final week and Rachel was able to get a spot as she wasn't sure she would be able to go. She has gotten her work visa sussed for the time being though. For the full photo album go here.

Ginger Ninjas
The gang came down in 2 cars on Friday, which meant we were able to host again and let Banu see the house for the first time. In order to satisfy Peter, we ate at Pauly's Burgers in  Taupo. They have a sign that says best burger in town and we agree with that statement. Prior to the second vehicle showing up I made some Ginger Ninjas, gingerbread men in the form of ninjas, for the gang to snack on and I took some on the tramp. It was an early night for most of us as we had to be out of the house by 7:30 in order to make the shuttle time of 11am.

We woke early and had a breakfast of croissants with nutella and banana that were gently warmed in the oven and some French Press Coffee. We launched from the Kinloch pad early to get to the trail head where we would be dropped off. From there Beth and Banu would drive to the Big Bush Holiday Park, 3 km away, to leave the cars in the secure lot and then be shuttled back to the trail head. We were a few minutes late to the Holiday Park, but that didn't much matter as the shuttle driver was already driving to the trail head. Its Island Time at its finest. He started to ask us what our plans were and Peter responded I don't know, I'm here to walk. I broke down what we were expecting to do: 2 people drop off cars at Holiday Park and get shuttled back to Onepoto for the 9km up to the first hut which had an elevation gain of 600m. Next day we would do 20km and sleep in the next hut. On Monday, 2 of us were to be picked up by water taxi at noon, where they would then get the cars and drive up and meet us at the trail exit. He left thinking we didn't have a clue what we were doing.

While waiting for Beth and Banu, we ate snacks and stood under the starting shelter. There was another group of people doing the tramp as well, but from what I gathered they planned on camping each night. From the sounds of it, a few of the people we under prepared as they didn't have a sleeping pad or even a sleeping bag. Don't know how friendly they would be after a few nights camping on the ground with only the clothes they have keeping them warm. They aren't my responsibility so whatever. In preparation for the tramp, I was once again asked to provide a packing list. I had previously did it for a day hike. This makes it easy to pack in that there should be a minimum one needs to take in order to be self sufficient, but also can prevent you from missing vital items. You have to check the list verses what will be offered in the huts as well or you may end up eating cold food. More on this later.


The start of the tramp saw fits of light rain, but nothing that compared to the drive in. The weather forecast had said that it would be heavy in the morning and lessening after noon and then the next 2 days would be partly cloudy with a high of 18-20C. To start, we were all in our rain gear as the rain was just holding on, but would be shedding under layers fairly quick as day 1 consisted of gaining 600m of elevation over approximately 9km. We didn't get to see anything of the lake while slogging our way up as a dense fog settled over it. We did get to see some cool trees on the way up.

We arrived at the Panekire Hut around 5 after playing leap frog with a couple trampers throughout the day. We set off close together, but they liked to take breaks and eat snacks. We didn't do much stopping other than stripping layers, the odd photo, and eat a couple snacks. There would be no long tea breaks today with the cold rain. We would wait until we got to the hut to eat any substantial food. The hut is located on a bluff that over looks the lake and when we first got up there there wasn't anything to see as it was covered in a dense fog. One has to be careful as there isn't much keeping you from falling over in some sections. The drop behind us in the photo above would have been gnarly. At the hut, we quickly hung up wet clothes around the fire, claimed mattresses, unpacked gear, and cooked up food. Beth runs into a co-worker expectantly. We later played some wifi-free word feud, aka scrabble, and cards against humanity. As it neared night time, I broke away to do some studying. I've got to get my MSCE for work. Which consists of passing 5 exams. Since there is no power at most huts, trampers usually go to bed once the sun goes down and get up when the sun starts to peek out in the morning. Right as I was falling asleep, a group of trampers come in and start to grab the last few mattresses. I briefly hear that there is an 80 year old woman in the group. I was debating internally if I give up my bottom spot for a middle when I say to myself, she is doing the tramp she can probably do a ladder rung or two. With that I go to sleep.

I'm kicking myself now as it was such a cool image, but I woke up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, which is out back. I put on my jandals and quietly sneak outside. Bam, there is close to a full moon, pockets of dense fog on the lake, and just the tips of land cradling the fog in place. I doubt my camera would have captured the image as vividly as I remember it. So I guess you just have to experience for yourself. In the morning, I wonder out to the toilet again only to run into my friend Csaba as I'm entering the hut. We talk briefly, but he, Kirsty, and her mom (the 80 yr old) are doing the tramp as well, but over 5 days. New Zealand is a pretty small place, in that I frequently run into people I know while out doing things. I come to find that Csaba left his camp stove at home as he recalled that all Great Walk huts have gas stoves provided, which may be the case for newer huts, but most if not all on this one did not. Since we had 3 in our group, I gave mine to them for the duration of their trip so that they could have their morning coffee and hot meals. Always check what DOC provides in each hut/campsite. It pays to be prepared or you might be stuck eating cold food for multiple days after being out in the rain. We mucked about the hut for a long time on Sunday morning grabbing dried rain gear, repacking bags, eating breakfast, and running back down the trail for some scenic shots. We probably didn't get on the trail till after 9am. Seems early, but when you've been up since before 6. That is late.

Day 2 consisted of doing approximately 20km and losing all the elevation we gained the previous day. Spirits were good as we started down the trail, knowing that lunch awaited us at the first hut/campsite we would cross. We would also have ample places to use the toilet and replenish water on the rest of the tramp. The next stopping point just happened to be about 4 hours down the trail. I believe we made it in 2:45. During this section, Rachel and I started talking about how this felt like the Fellowship of the Ring. Not that we were in New Zealand or even in a place where filming occurred, but we there were 7 of us with packs walking in single file to a destination in the future. We then proceeded to give everyone a name from the Fellowship. I was firmly anchored in the back, so I took on Gimli. Beth was Gandalf as she lead, organized the trip, and as I said old and crotchety. Peter was Aragon. We both instantly agreed that Banu was Frodo. Mike was Legolas. But now I forgot what we determined the others, Rachel and Paula to be. We talked about Ents and trying to place different city names. We were asked if we read the books or if all our knowledge came from the movies. We were nerding out, but then someone would say 'gilly weed' and we would go on a Harry Potter tangent for awhile. Ah, the conversations you have when tramping. I often lagged behind to take photos and would catch up to the main pack. Hence, why most of the photos I took are of people's backs.
After a short sand fly anger induced lunch, we had the option of going to see the Korokoro Falls, which we were told is a must see even if you're dead tired. 5 of us decided to go see the 4m tall falls. It was a cool little spot with a river crossing where DOC gave you a braided steel cable to use for balance, but unless you plan on jumping in the water I may give it a pass if you plan on doing a 20km like we did. If you are doing a shorter day, absolutely do it as there are trout in the stream and campsites near by. As the day wore on so did the nerves. Its hard to be on your feet with a pack for over 9hrs. Right before we got to the hut for the night, there was another hill that wasn't shown on the map. This elicited a few choice reactions.
The 2nd hut, Marauiti, was situated right next to the lake. This had a slightly different design than the first in that the sleeping area had a separate entry than the kitchen area. This makes it nice for those that like to have a bit of a lay in as they don't have to hear the people making food. However, when someone sets an alarm for pre-5am, its hard to keep sleeping and when they proceed to pack up their sleeping bags and gear in the shared room nobody is sleeping through that. Time to get up and make some food. We had 17 km scheduled for the last day, but that number changed as the final bridge out to the recently broke. There is a cool French video of it happening. Beth and Rachel picked up the Water Taxi and were given a quick ride back to the other side of the lake. We ended up having an extra 45 minute hike out from the broken bridge. This was an older track that was quite steep and muddy. We seemed to keep climbing and climbing and sharply descending back to the road where we were greeted by a cleaner looking Beth and Rachel. Banu and Rachel drove right back to Auckland as they had to work on Tuesday morning. While Mike, Paula, and Peter came back to Kinloch.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Spring has sprung

The weather has finally started to turn. We are now having longer days and nicer weather.  We have several activities planned that are coming up soon. We are running Queenstown again in just over a month. I'm under prepared, but I'll be able to finish another marathon. Beth is doing the half this year. The week after I'm pushing myself to do a 160km cycle around Lake Taupo. I've been spending a fair amount of time trail running and mountain biking. I need to switch over to the road bike as I've got about 6 weeks until the long ride. We are still swimming and climbing in Taupo.

Beth and I did a relay from Paeroa to Thames along the Hauraki Rail Trail. It was my old stomping grounds and we met up with Kat and Garth for a coffee. Kat is busy training for a multi-day swim race in the US and Garth recently had ACL surgery. Some of the Auckland Mountain Bike crew came down for a ride around Craters of the Moon and the Redwoods. It was a good weekend topped off with a trip to Tauranga to buy a BBQ. I happened to find one on TradeMe and it allowed me to say hi to some friends I haven't seen in awhile. However, having a charcoal BBQ this summer is going to be interesting. Since we live in a rural area, we are subject to a rural fire ban. I get to apply for a 2 week permit that allows me to start a BBQ between 7am and 3pm and have it out by nightfall. I'm looking forward to smoking some ribs, brisket, and lamb shanks.

We are doing the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk next weekend. It's also our first national holiday in about 5 months. There are 7 of the ninjas going out to hike 46kms over 3 days. Banu is nursing a knee issue and hasn't been to any of our training sessions so this might be interesting. In preparation, we have done several day hikes of various distances and elevations as a group. This past weekend, Beth and I took our new aarn packs out for just shy of a half marathon (20.4 km). A few others from Auckland did a tramp in the Waitakere Range.

The Auckland crew are coming down Friday afternoon and we'll leave from here early Saturday morning. We are starting by Tuai and ending by Anikiwa. 2 of us will be shuttled from the local holiday park (secure free parking) to the trail head and then picked up by a water taxi at noon on Monday and then driving back to the trail end to pick up the 5 who get to do the whole trail. It should also be interesting as some also have never done a multi-day tramp before. They are still busy buying and organizing gear. I've been asked to provide a list of gear that should be taken with. This should take care of someone forgetting vital gear like a rain jacket. We are in New Zealand after all.

What else are we up to? I've planted a garden recently and it makes me remember my Grandfather and his garden. My garden is no where as big as his was, but I've got rosemary, coriander/cilantro, basil, spinach, lettuce, zucchini, hot and sweet peppers, beans, and peas. On a daily basis, I've taken to pulling extraneous grass from the bed as well as watering. The rain isn't coming that frequently as its no longer winter and the hot sun dries the soil out by midday. Lots of seeds have started to sprout and come Christmas time we'll be having quite a bit of fresh produce. I hope that Bill and Betsy will be able to help us eat the produce.

We've gotten the kayaks out recently, but we have a lot more kayaking to do if we are going to take on the Whanganui Journey this summer. This will be one of next adventures, but we have Betsy and Bill visiting in December. We are hosting Peter's family for a couple days in January. We have to be up in Auckland a few times in December for holiday parties and someone is looking at getting her eyes corrected. January we are diving White Island and mountain biking Hawke's Bay. So I guess we better get Beth out on a MTB soon.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Te Aroha Mountain Summit: Day hike

Beth, Paula, Mike, Peter, and I

It has officially started. What? Our getting ready for the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk that is. A portion of the Ninja Tortoises is going to head out and tackle the 46km track over the 3 day long Labor Weekend. We have been discussing this outing for several months. We have booked our hut spots and are anxious to go, but there are a few with limited experience. So we have planned a few outings before hand. Our conversation is really just a continuation of the same email thread that we kick around all our group activities. Did you know that Google will only allow 100 consecutive responses to an email before it spins it off to its own thread?

Any way, Peter, freshly returned from his trip to the US on Friday afternoon, was picked up by Paula and Mike in Auckland early Saturday morning while Beth and I left Kinloch to a foggy start. We met in Te Aroha at 9:30 am  and departed right from the iSite. The plan was to summit the 952m track via the direct path up, located behind the local spa pools, and then taking the longer ridge track back. Shortly before getting to the Whakapipi lookout, we were already stripping off excess layers. We would be adding/removing the outer layer most of the day. This would be a common story all day as the weather fluctuated all day long. After leaving the lookout, the conversation dried up as the heart rates increased along with the steepness. This was only a temporary set back as we stopped for snacks and the trail leveled out a bit.

At the trig station
 We heard all about Pete's trip to the US, where he downhill mtb in Alaska. He ended up having some medical issues on a flight to Boston. He ended up passing out 3 times on the flight and ended up "getting off" the flight in Chicago. He ended up driving to Boston with strep. Evidently the congestion prevented his body from equalizing and he passed out. Mike and Paula talked about celebrating their meeting at flight school. With a flight school reunion in Matamata. We ate lunch at the trig station and talked more about the Great Walk.
Bearded Pete in surprise
We talked about what gear we have/could share on the trail. A good discussion was our trail recipes for tramp meals. For previous trips, I've made Beth and I a combination of couscous, dehydrated peas, Parmesan cheese, chicken bullion cube, and canned chicken for dinner. For breakfast, I had porridge with dried fruit. For my daily snacks, as I typically don't eat lunch, is salami and cheese. Beth opts for English muffins with cheese.

 We joked that we should have a color-coded spreadsheet of equipment people would be responsible to bring. We are now planning an over-night planned trip in a couple weeks. We will find a tramp that has a decent distance and an available hut for our next adventure. It is good to break in the others with a gentle day hike, followed by an over-night trip, and then a multi-day walk.
Is this thing on?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Whirlwind US review

It would be an understatement to say we're just tired. Not only have we been bouncing from airport to airport to get back to NZ, but we also spent several weeks back in the US. The trip was a whirlwind of seeing friends and family that I have not seen in several years. The last time I was back was 2.5 years ago. That was a whirlwind trip as well because after I got off the flight I had an email with a job offer that started in 2 weeks. So I didn't get to reconnect with that many people as it was packing house and trying to stay on the New Zealand clock.

Anyway, back to this trip. We tried to see our friend Steve right away in Saint Louis, but it didn't pan out. He is currently living in Missouri and interning during the week in St Louis. I could retell the tale of how a lot of rib places close early and that I didn't get ribs until Sunday.

  It was one of my desired meals in the US. We then picked up Sara the following day before heading to the Moll family reunion. There ended up being just under 40 people in attendance. It was also roughly 100 degrees and very humid. It probably felt worse to us as we just left a high of 50 and some frosty mornings.

We flew to Minneapolis on Sunday and were greeted by Jake, Asa, and June at the airport. The kids have changed quite a bit since I've seen them last. Asa was working on a loose tooth, but the entire time I was back, it didn't come out. We loaded our bags and picked Becky up before eating dinner at Punch. After which we dropped Beth off to see some of her friends at her former local watering hole in NE Minneapolis, The Palace. We then topped the night off with Izzy's ice cream and playing tag in a park.

The next morning we drove out to South Dakota to see the rest of the family. As well as some friends. We had a lovely dinner over at my friend Melissa's house where her husband grilled for us. Her sister Miranda and her boy even showed up. Their father used to teach me Taekwondo. Then my parents threw a pizza and pool party and invited over all the relatives in town. I got to see my other brothers and sister as well as some of my nephews and nieces. I stopped over at my sisters house to play peanut gallery to my nephew and his friends playing 2nd Edition D&D. It reminded me a lot of my high school years.

Next was a quick over night trip to Sioux Falls to see Otis, Zerf, and Geffre. Otis has sired a large rambunctious family. 2 dogs, twin 3 year olds, a 4 year old , and a step-son of 11. There was also a cousin over. So the noise level was off the charts. I don't think our lives could be more different. So we ended up grilling out and shooting the shit until the early morning. If you're a guy and ever meet Gabe, make sure your boys or pay the price. You have to be on DEFCON 5 around that one.

Now it is back to Minneapolis, where we spent the bulk of our time back. Beth left a little early to go see some friends in Vegas. Minneapolis involved seeing a lot of friends and family, consuming too much awesome food, riding my bike with friends, trail running, playing paintball, sailing, randomly running into an old high school friend twice (once at the trail running race and the other time at Vertical Endeavors for indoor climbing), and playing with Asa and June. I could go into more detail like above, but to rehash each day right now feels like a  pretty draining exercise. To those that I didn't get to see, I'm sorry. There is only so much I can cram into a short amount of time. Next time you will be first and those I did get to see count yourself lucky.  For the few that I saw multiple times, don't rub it in or others may get jealous.

I do have a video that I'm editing together of us sailing. Both Asa and June took a turn operating the camera, so I'm sure the video will be extra special. I know that Asa liked taking 30 FPS action shots. So I have to make some gifs out of some of those. I'll add the photos and video later as its been a week since we got back.

Now its back to work, training, and planning our Ninja Adventures. We have Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk planned for the end of October.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Checking in

We've made it back to the States after a very long day. Haha. Of course I got pulled for the 'random' (only necessary for passengers to the US) screening. Then we had the pleasure of sitting in front of some young Aussies (probably college freshmen) going to 'the land of the free' for the first time. And they let you know it the entire flight. I may have slept 3 hrs total on the 13+ hr flight. We had just over 3 hrs in LAX to get to our connecting flight which we thought may be tight. Getting through LAX wasn't an issue as they are using some crazy electronic immigration terminals that printed a picture of you to be turned in as you left. It took about 30 minutes. We did get asked if we're bringing back Vegemite and I said that's not from New Zealand. Marmite would be what they eat and that there is a difference. Maybe not a good thing to say to immigration \customs officials. Now the fooding has begun. BBQ and Mexican so far.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Visiting the homeland

Next week, we'll be returning to the States for a brief visit. We'll be hitting a few States and trying to cram as much in as we can. Here is what is laid out so far.

This trip starts early with us heading to Auckland to have a get together with our friends there. Then hopping onto the plane heading West to Melbourne then another heading East to Los Angeles. Then another heading East to Dallas then another heading North to St Louis. This is where we plan on meeting up with our friend Steve. Whom has had his own adventures since seeing him last. Where do we know this stud from? He was on our burrito union team and we've played soccer together for years. All of this action is on the 23rd!

Next we pick up Sara up from the airport the next day and head to the family farm for a weekend of family reunion in Southern Illinois. This will be our only chance to see Beth's side of the family. I may get to eat some ribs and drink some sweet tea as well.

Sunday we fly to Minneapolis to meet up with my brother, Jake, and his family (Becky, Asa, and Juniper). They are picking us up from the airport and Beth has already voiced her opinion on eating at Punch Pizza on the way to their house. I'm sure the kids will be fine with that. That night I'm sure we'll play with the kids a bunch before crashing. They are going to be much bigger than the last time we saw them.

The next day we are heading to Aberdeen to see my folks and other family in the area for the next couple days. We may be bringing Asa and June with us, but I haven't heard definitively yet. Then on Wed we are going to Sioux Falls to see Otis and his growing family, Zerf in his new house, and Geffre. We head back to Minneapolis on Thursday where we are selling our kayak to a friend as we use it so I'm infrequently now.

Friday we have to checkout our renter and clean the place for the new renter who moves in the following day. From here our plans diverge. Beth is doing a half with Angi and Bri and I are doing a gravel ride on the 1st. Then I believe the plan is to go out to Jake's boat for a couple days of sailing and then biking back the 60+ miles to his house.

On Tuesday, Stef (another friend we have roped into burrito union and played soccer with), Beth, and I are doing a 7mile trail run in Hyland Park down by my aunt's house. Afterwards plan on grabbing a meal with friends and family.

From there plans are open, but I have serious eating and visiting to do. We have a list of places that we've been missing since we packed up. I won't bore you with the list but any friends I meet up with will secretly be scratching off a name on the list. Yes, I have a food list and a list of friends that I need to see. This includes and isn't limited to: Skog, Maria, Mary, Justin & Logan, Sludington & Paula, Pilon, Beth, Melissa, Proho, Shell, Matthew, Larry, Beth, George & Holly, and many others.

Saturday is paintball with the team. I'm going to see if my nephew Josiah is able to come play. Then prior to flying home Koderick and I'll be going out for a road ride. While I'm doing this Beth and Angi will be hitting the slots in Vegas.

We land a few days after we leave and then after faced with a 3.5 hr drive back to our quaint little hamlet of roughly 400. Where we are in full winter mode not the steamy mess we'll be leaving that is the mid-west summer. It will be right back to running and riding trails as we got events on the horizon. I have K2 and Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge for big rides. Then we are doing the Queenstown Marathon again. This is all in for a 2nd run at Ironman NZ.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Quick Update

We have been granted Permanent Residency. Its a good thing as we didn't have a back up plan other than never leaving New Zealand again, until we were ready not to work here.

We are starting to make plans for a trip back to the States next month. Its hard to grasp that I haven't been there in about 2.5 years. The trip is already starting to flush out and there probably will be people I don't see again on this trip as we'll probably be pretty full on the entire time. Granted its not just visiting people, but participating in fun activities like riding, climbing, running, and sailing. Oh and there will be food that I haven't been able to source over here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

ANZAC Weekend: Tongariro Northern Circuit

What did we get up to this ANZAC Weekend? We completed the 1st of the Great Walks, the Tongariro Northern Circuit. This is a trip we had originally planned for over Christmas Weekend, but I decided to get my eyes corrected instead. So we changed the date of our hut booking til this weekend.

Beth and I packed our gear for a 3 day tramp with us overnighting in Waihohonu and Mangatepopo Huts. So we left Kinloch early Saturday morning to drive to Whakapapa Village, the start of the circuit. We started our 18km walk into Mordor with a stop at Taranaki Falls and Lower Tawa Lake before we arrived at the 4.5 year old Waihohonu Hut. This 40 person hut was equipped with solar powered lights and water heating. It also had a wood fire stove that heated the sleeping areas.

Beth and I talked to a couple from Auckland, who were about to complete the circuit. The husband, Dave, was also a keen cyclist. We talked about different rides around the country and how we have an expensive hobby. We also talked to Sally, the DOC Ranger stationed here as the Hut Warden, about kayaking in the area. She had a lot of cool advice about how to get to some cool spots with geothermal activity. We'll have to take our kayaks out to these spots once they have been delivered. Oops. Did I let the cat out of the bag? My friend, Graeme, contacted me shortly after moving to Kinloch about having some kayaks for sale as he doesn't use them much. Beth and I have been looking for some for awhile and just pulled the trigger on buying some. I may have also picked up another bike as well.
Morning at Waihohonu Hut
Morning sun on Mt Ruapehu

Walking into Mordor

Ground view of the Emerald Lakes
The next morning we started out on the frost covered ground towards the Okurere Hut through some remarkable forest. It was surprising to see the dense trees while in a desert. We worked our way up and down multiple ridges and were treated with amazing views of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe. We made it to the hut after working our way across some barren land and some steep ridges. We stopped at Okurere Hut for a quick bite to eat and a toilet break before starting to tackle the most difficult section of the Circuit. We had to force our way up the scree past the ill-prepared tourists that flocked to do the spectacular Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This was a heart pumping, 1 step up/slide back 2 while being batted around with at least 70km per hour winds, slog of an ascent. We witnessed people loosing gloves while taking photos and having the garment fly into the crater. One German tourist was posing on the ridge with her jacket off and her jacket started to go over the edge and she dove after it. She luckily grabbed it without falling in with it. I can't recall the sheer number of people wearing shorts, jeans, cotton hoodies, carrying no water or food, shivering at the negative number windchill, and snapping photos without paying attention to their surroundings.
Emerald Lakes

After the slog up, it was a rocky stretch to Cathedral Rock, then through Red Crater, before descending Devil's Staircase. It was then a short walk with some elevated boardwalks and crushed stone paths that we made it to Mangatepopo Hut. This was a much smaller hut than our previous night, but it didn't lack for charm. We talked to a fellow American, who has lived here for the past 7 years, who works for ACC. She and her friend were up from Wellington and had originally planned to do the walk in 3 nights, but with the poor forecast they decided to push for 2 nights instead. Sunday night, the winds kicked up and the rain started.
Leaving Emerald Lakes

Beth and I left the hut early as the rain was supposed to get harder. It was supposed to get to 100 km per hour winds and downpours as the day wore on. We did have non-stop rain and gusts of wind when we were exposed, but much of the hike was spent in ravines. Today we saw almost nobody on the trail, which isn't unexpected with the weather, but there were a few intrepid runners who graced the trail this morning. We made it back to the car after some 48kms and tried to find some dry clothes as rain gear can only hold out so much water. I learned the lesson to keep a dry set of clothes in the car in the future.
Mt Doom

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Easter Weekend: Te Ara Moana

While still recuperating from the Oxfam the weekend before, the Ninja Tortoises were busy planning Easter Weekend activities. We were talking about doing an overnight tramp, but a lot of the huts were already booked up. So Peter suggested and organized a trip doing part of the Te Ara Moana.

My partners in crime were Peter, Banu, Banafshe, Todd, and Mia. Beth stayed at home to do homework and some packing. The plan was to pick up the kayaks on Saturday afternoon and leave from Duder Regional Park, a place I haven't been since the P6 Adventure Race, and return them Monday afternoon. Getting the kayaks took a little longer than planned as they were beasts and the place didn't have straps. So Peter had to buy a few sets and learn how to tie a truckers hitch. With the kayaks firmly attached to the cars we left to meet up with Banu, who was finishing up with her Coast Guard duties in the area. The drive over to the launch point took some time as we opted to take side roads instead of trying our luck on the motorway with several thousand dollars worth of kayaks strapped to the roofs of 3 cars.

At Duder, we met Mags, who is with the Council, who directed us to park behind a Council owned building as it was a little more secure than leaving it in the park. We quickly unloaded the kayaks and gear as Todd and Banu were going to drive to our exit point and leave a car there. We proceeded to load up the 2 remaining kayaks with our gear and set off. The pair were Peter and Mia, Banafshe and I, and Todd and Banu. The 2 Bs had never kayaked before so we gave them a little instruction before setting out. The first evening, was a quick paddle around the point, which took us about 40 minutes.

We  set up camp our first camp and waited for Banu and Todd to get back from dropping off the car. They didn't have the best of luck as the White Pearl, Peter's car, decided it wanted to start overheating. In the mean time, we cooked our dinners. Its always fun to watch what people eat on these types out of adventures. I had chicken stock couscous, dehydrated peas, and garlic mussels and feijoas for dessert. Banafshe had nachos.

At around 10:30, I crawled into bed. Mia was already in the tent snoring away. Evidently Banu and Todd made it to camp around 11. They were paddling under the Full Moon and thought the flashing light from the other bay was our camp. Its lucky that Peter was texting them and directing them into the correct camp. Just prior to to lunar eclipse, Peter knocked on the tent. I poked my head out of the door and watched. I took some photos, but they didn't turn out well. Mia didn't budge.

The next morning, we had breakfast and my gas canister finally ran out. We had a big day planned of 24kms of paddling. We said goodbye to our campsite and made for Waitawa Regional Park. This was going to be our lunch spot, but we ended up eating on Pakihi Island instead. We ended up getting a little rain at this point as it had been threatening all morning. Here we met the only other people on the Te Ara Moana. Peter ended up scaring them off right after giving them some chocolate. After a quick bite to eat we were back on our way to our 2nd overnight location, Tawhitokino. Why did we choose these spots? They were only accessible  by water.
 On our way there, the skies opened up and it rained pretty good for 30 minutes. Once we got to the campsite, we didn't want to get out of the kayaks as it only took us about 2.5 hrs to travel the 24kms. We ended up playing a bit in the kayaks and with the camera.
On the beach was the remains of a fire that Mia nursed back while the rest of us set up camp. I ended up losing my sunglasses at some point here. We all hung up our rain gear and started playing card games. This went on for a good while. We then walked up and down the beach. We then gathered around the fire and talked about random things. It was well into the evening when we finally ate. I crawled into bed not that much later. We packed up early the next morning and made our way to Tapapakanga Regional Park where Banu's car was waiting for us. Peter, Banafshe, Banu, and I headed back to Duder to pick up our cars. We stopped to have the first of 3 pies in Clevedon. We got back to Mia and Todd who helped to mount up the kayaks. From there we started back to Auckland. Pete and I went back to Duder where he nursed the White Pearl down the highway before abandoning it on the roadside. We made it Papakura and had 2 more pies. Peter called a local shop to get it towed and looked at. Sadly, the White Pearl is on its last legs. Returning the kayaks was uneventful and now we are planning the next adventure, The Nugget.

Oxfam Trailwalker Review

So it's been a couple busy weeks, but I promised a recap of my impromptu involvement in the Oxfam 100km event. I was a last minute replacement for Sam, as he tore his meniscus just a couple days earlier while doing yard work. Moral of the story is don't do yard work before a big event. Or if you do, know a nutter that is willing to push and punish their body in case the unfortunate happens.

So Friday afternoon, I was picked up by Sam, Lin (wife), and  Qing (daughter, who provided lots of laughs) and driven to Kinloch to meet up with the rest of the team. On the drive down, I was asked some of the most off the wall questions, but then again from the mind of a 6 year old they were probably normal. Some are as a follows: Are there spies in the US? Are you an adult? (My response was how old do you think I am? Hers was 39. Sam is turning 40 shortly so it makes sense that we would be the same age.) Have you ever been to Paris? (My response was, Yes back in 2001 and she responded that was 14 years ago.)

Predicted timeline
So Team Scrambled Legs officially consisted of Rick, Csaba, Marcus, and myself. And the extended team includes our amazing support crew which was made up of the injured Sam, Kirsty, Lin,and Helen. There was also baby Charlie and Qing who tagged along to the event. These guys were a huge comfort to the us, knowing that they were there taking care of everything around us at the Check Point (CPs) so we could totally focus on preparing ourselves mentally & physically for the next leg. There is no way we could have transitioned as fast as we did without your help. To reiterate, these people were vital to us finishing the event, as they provided much needed emotional and physical support, as well as transporting gear throughout the day. Within the CPs, they set up individual aid stations next to the vehicles with our gear set out, refilled water bladders, worked as a gopher for hot beverages, and set up protection from rain and wind during the evening while we changed socks, ate some food, and took care of our bodies.

We arose in good spirits and ate a hearty breakfast (I had 2 pb&j sandwiches and an orange) and drank some fluids prior to having Sam drop us off at the start for our 7am start time. This meant we got up at just after 5am. It was a brisk morning with a creeping sunrise, which was roughly at 7:14am. I started off wearing my headlamp, but it went back in the pocket after a couple minutes. As it just wasn't dark enough. At least we weren't in the 6am wave which would have been pretty dark and a very early morning. Prior to going to sleep, we put the finishing touches on the gear we thought we would need for the first 21km and what gear we would need at CP2, as we wouldn't see our support crew at CP1. There were 2 CPs that support crew were unable to access, so you had to double up on supplies to make it through or be at the mercy at what the CP had to offer. I typically carry all my needs, but at the 2nd non-crewed aid station I felt like having something else to eat as I was eating a lot of pb&j. I ended up getting a jam sandwich and was disappointed as I thought she had said ham. Nothing like 2 pieces of bread and a heap of jam. Nothing like a huge sugar rush.

So what did I carry? I had a 2 litter water bladder, 2 450ml bottles, 100g pouch of biltong, 1 pouch of baby food, 100g of trail mix, long sleeve technical shirt, wool hat, polyprop gloves, chap stick, small bottle of electrolyte pills, SPOT tracker, Quick-eze for muscle cramps, head lamp, baby wipes and hand sanitizer, first aid kit, spare socks, and a rain jacket. My nutrition fluctuated throughout the day, but I definitely ate 8 pb&j sandwiches at the CPs. I then nibbled on baby food pouches, biltong, trail mix, and dried apples on the trail.  After 38km, I started to use my hiking poles as I knew my lack of training would start to play up. I didn't notice myself using them really until the darkness enveloped us and then after I tweaked my knee. It was about the time that I started eating a few salted caramel and root beer gels.

What was the game plan? The image above was the game plan. We planned on averaging 6km an hour, so we could take a 10 minute break at most CPs and do a couple minute stretch at about half the distance of each leg. This would let us average 5km an hour for the event. We blitzed the first four CPs coming in well ahead of schedule. We were looking to bank some time for later as we knew our pace would decrease as night and fatigue set in. We also extended a couple of the other CPs in order to tend to our bodies and reset mentally. I would categorize this as a very mentally challenging event. We definitily could have made it more of a physical event. We only walked the course while the winners did it in just under 13 hours.

The early morning was spent talking and passing/getting passed by other teams. We had a strategy of hitting the flats and downhill sections fairly hard and easing up on the climbs as not everyone was strong at them. We were treated with being passed by the Jamaican Bob Sled Team at the start. Ok, it was just four runners decked out in costumes. While waiting for the port-a-johns they were even sporting yellow helmets. I believe they finished 2nd for the day at just over 13hrs. I kept remarking that this would soon be my neighborhood and that I couldn't wait to finish riding all the trails. While training for Mountain Man, I broke my front wheel while descending on the K2K trail after about 5kms and didn't get to ride the rest of it as I had to drive into Taupo to by another. To say there was a fair amount of jealously on the team would be an understatement. I'm sure our new place will see plenty of guests. Rick, Csaba, and I all imagined ourselves riding the trails at speed while we walking the trails. This started off Whangamata Road on private land and then joined the K2K trail into Kinloch before heading out on the W2K trail.

It seems that every team was utilizing mobile communications to organize support crews. Or maybe just update their FaceBook or Twitter status and we were no different. We would text when were were X km out of the CP, allowing for the crew to get there and get setup prior to us arriving. The first one didn't go off as planned, but we still ended up getting our gear sorted before pushing on to the next leg. It didn't go off as planned as we were well ahead of our planned ETA.

This was the first time that I used race services during the race. On hand were AUT podiatry and massage students. Marcus got his feet strapped up at CP4 as his arch was hurting him. We both got a 5 minute rub down there as well. My left calf would start to tighten and threaten to cramp for the rest of the event. At CP7, we stripped our bags to be as light as possible as we were 13km from finishing and didn't need to bring unnecessary gear. We got massages, blisters popped and taped, and some warm beverages before setting out to finish this little trail walk. Prior to CP7, my little toes started to get hot. I ended up getting them looked at. They commented that my feet were in really good shape. I had only 1 real blister at this point and 2 hot little toes. I have calluses on both them, but he taped up the right one as it might blister. I ended up getting a blister after taping it and another formed on the ball of my right foot. Overall not that bad. They said they had seen a lot worse. I attribute this to my lack of training for the event. Also my ribs didn't play up as I didn't ever have labored breathing which was a good thing. During the massage, the guy commented that these were some rugby legs. I replied that I never played rugby. He then asked how I got such big legs. I said, soccer, riding, running, etc. All the while he is doing some deep and aggressive massaging. He was drilling my hamstring and calf with his elbow. While some girl that also attended my feet rubbed the other. Lets just say that I only felt one of them. He ended up thanking me for giving him such a good workout.
Post race feet

With the short break, we were revitalized and started off with a 9min  km followed by an 8min km. Was this pace going to last? No. With 10km left, I took a little spill down a hill. After which my left knee started to audibly pop and I could feel fluid moving around my knee cap. It was very painful and I slowed right down. Marcus was also shuffling along. While, Rick had hurt his right leg early in the evening and was walking differently. He got it taped up at CP7 and seemed better except for the down and up hill portions. Which the organizers through as many as they could at you. Csaba seemed unphased by the event, but that could have my fog of pain skewing the reality of it.

The day was remarkable and there was a lot of joking early on with other teams as we kept playing leap frog. One team we even started to play tag you're it with. Unfortunately, that didn't last. During the evening morale dropped, fatigue set in, injuries and stumbles occurred. I pushed well past my longest self powered day ever of 45km. The others had trained to 73km leaving just over a half marathon of uncharted territory. Yes, I have done several endurance events, but one solidly of walking/slight jogging at times was completely new. We all pushed through the pain and discomfort to finish the event. We were greeted by most of the support crew. Sam was missing as he waiting in the warm car as he estimated we would take a little longer to finish.

We finished after 23:17. We staggered across the line in pairs, well, soon to be 1 yr old, Charlie was picked up by Marcus who finished Csaba, a stride behind Rick and I. We all got a ceramic finishers medal. We got a free drink. Some had beer. Others had lemonade. We got a team photo. We got a team and support crew photo. We got massages. We drove back to the bach. We slept. We ate. We showered. We ate some more. We slept more. We drove back to Auckland. We plan on being back. Matter of fact, while doing the event we talked about the strategy for next year which would entail training 5-6 people.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nutter? Nah just looking to maximize my weekend

Last night while attending a black tie awards ceremony with BCS, I received a text from my mountain biking friend Rick. I haven't seen Rick in months as he has been preparing for Oxfam Trailwalker and didn't want to risk injury as he is helming, Scrambled Legs. Unfortunately one of his teammates was not so  cautious and injured himself last weekend. So I got the proverbial tap on the shoulder tentatively asking if I was interested in doing an 100km in under 36hrs this coming weekend. Little does Rick know that Beth and I tried to volunteer for last year's event but the volunteer organizer never contacted us.

Anyway, I said I was keen, but had to check if I could get off of work and get down to Taupo for the weekend's event. Everything is happening fast around this: from the asking for help, to saying yes, to having my gear strewn about my living room floor as I pack up my trail gear. Tomorrow we are meeting up in Taupo where I'll meet the rest of the team and support crew as I only know Rick. I have been able to read their team site to try to get a feeling for the other characters who are willing to tackle a 100km event. They are aiming at finishing under 22hrs and would love to get under 21. I think I'll be playing a mule and just putting my head down and pulling others when I have to and make a stink when I'm not fed accordingly.

Just a little background, but the event is happening on the doorstep of our new place, which we move into in a couple weeks. The tracks are dual purpose trails for biking and running. I have done parts of the K2K, I did break my wheel the last time I was on it, and all of the W2K and Headlong track. There is the section from Whakapiro to Taupo that I've never done, but then I've done the Huka Falls and a lot around Taupo. The event will be non-stop until we are done. I plan on sleeping for the rest of the day after crossing the finish line and destroying a few pies.

A recap will come later...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Moving on soon

What prompted this? Beth and I don't like living in Auckland. Yes, we have been having fun living here, but its just another big city to us. We left Minneapolis for a reason.We enjoyed our time in Tauranga and Thames. We are looking to relocate to a place that allows us to really enjoy the country everyday with little fanfare.

2 weeks ago, I was offered roles in both Christchurch and Tauranga, but I turned them down. Why? My employer and I are coming to a new working agreement. So Beth and I are looking at houses around the country as we will be working remotely for our respective employers. We'll still have to come to Auckland throughout the year, but we'll get to get back to living spitting distance to the outdoor life.

We are looking at Taupo as our destination. Why Taupo? There is of course Lake Taupo. Ironman New Zealand, which Beth may enter and I must take a second crack at it. Heaps of mountain biking including Craters of the Moon and W2K trail. A lot of trail running. Its close to Rotorua for more mountain biking. Oxfam Tailwalker. Great Lake Relay. Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and Huka Challenge. Short drive away from Ruapehu/Tongario/Ngauruhoe which is home of hiking and snowboarding. Its also a short drive to Auckland and Tauranga. We have been looking at TradeMe for houses for rent and there have been a few cool ones. Just have to get down there and look at securing a new lodging!

We are also in the process of planning our trip back to the US. We'll be there for part of July and August. We are starting to form plans on what cities to hit and people to see. It will be 2.5 years since my last visit and I've got some catching up to do. Things I want to do: sail with my brother  and family, get in a long bike ride on my Surly possibly to Duluth, play paintball with the guys/gals of Damage Inc, see friends and family, see Otis and his twins, see Lena and her twins, do some climbing, do some warm water dives, and maybe save the world. Or I could just go eat my way around the World instead.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dive Into Adventure with Air New Zealand and DOC

So here is the promotional video that was made for the trip that Beth won back in December. We made mention of this in the 2014 Year in Review post. The editing and footage is pretty awesome. Courtesy of Karl from Monster Valley. Watching the video reminds me how awesome this place is and that I want to go diving. I would like to say we aren't on a never ending holiday, but I do get out and enjoy the country as much as possible. May take this show on the road. We'll let you know in the coming weeks.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Race update: DNF

Just a quick recap. Ended up being only 3 swimmers that showed for the race even though more registered. They thought I was nuts for swimming bare foot, but the water wasn't that cold. Superior and early Buffalo Lake are worse and I swam those without a wetsuit. Anyway, I had a slow swim, but was first to exit at 40 minutes including the kayakers. I got on my bike and started the course. Passed by 2 guys flying at 1 hr and 1:20 into my ride. Beth said the first rider left 11 minutes after me. I made it to the grass clearing where the 50km run was happening and I assed off twice going over deceptive ditches. There was cut grass hiding even deeper trenches. The first swallowed my front wheel and I buried my handle bars in mud. I also banged up my body, bruised my knee and my chest. I continued on and about 10 minutes later my race was done. I hit a second hidden pitfall and snapped my derailleur hanger. I was about 30km into a very hilly ride and I'm fashioning a single speed. I shortened my chain so I could ride a bit but I had to apply consistent tension or the chain would drop. Going over bumps the chain would drop. I tried to make it work but lugging a broken bike over 70km in cycling shoes wasn't going to happen. Got picked up by the volunteers and driving back. Ended up being a much shorter day than I planned but the pool felt amazing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Journey to St James Mountain Man

Just a quick recap of the race and how I found myself entering. The race website is here, and I happened upon it by chance while I was looking for Challenge Wanaka as I would like to do another Iron distance. I know I didn't do as well as I could have last year at Taupo as I came to it injured. This year, I've been lucky I guess and had a few set backs early on. I pulled my bum muscle which laid me out for 6 weeks. Then I had LASIK which was only really 4 days. Then there were little bouts of illness, but I've done a lot of prep work. Is it enough? I don't know.

In preparation, I've done a few bigger events with a lot of shorter training days. I've been to Taupo, Rotorua, Thames, Queenstown, and around Auckland to train. I did Queenstown Marathon wearing a full pack to train with the weight. Coincidentally it also pissed down with a cold rain so my rain jacket and gloves came in handy. I've since purchased a UD Adventure Vest to jockey the weight around and for better fit. The pack I did the run in is mainly used for my long MTB rides, so now I have 2 packs for the race. I'll be transferring the mandatory gear between the 2, but the comfort derived from switching will be amazing. The following weekend I did the Lake Taupo Huka Challenge. A short 85km race with a lot of people. It was not that fun. I would have rather road the road race with the fierce wind. The ride itself is pretty awesome, but not with a lot of people. I've also done trail runs here and there including a 3hr return to the top of the Pinnacles just behind Thames. If I can stave off getting injured in the next week, I feel like I've prepared well. The race is 9 days away and we are starting our journey there on Friday.

We have a short overnight planned in Tauranga for an interview for Beth and visiting my friends Matt and Zenda. Saturday, we'll be heading to Rotorua so I can get one last decent ride in. I'll be meeting up with some friends from Auckland for  morning to mid-afternoon ride. Then its on to Tirangi Saturday night before heading to Wellington to catch the ferry over to Picton. Where we'll be doing an overnight dive trip to see a Russian shipwreck. Then a couple nights in Nelson before getting my feet wet at Lake Tennyson and busting my lungs and hopefully not my ankles during the of the bulk of the St James Mountain Man. All up it will be roughly 90 miles traversed with a course deadline of 16 hours. It doesn't quite measure up to Iron distance, but the elevation and time difference definitely make up for it. I'm sure I'll be spent after the race.

There is no athlete tracking as far as I'm aware as there is no phone service for much of the area. So for those that want to live vicariously through me, I'll be wearing my SPOT Tracker for the race, except for the swim. You'll be able to see my progress across the South Island in near-real time, here. You may have to select the proper activity on the left hand side.

What is next? We have some dives planned. I'm planning an over-night hike to a DOC hut. I may try tackle the Cape Brett Challenge, but we'll see how this race goes first. I may need to take some time off? Yeah right. When do I relax?