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Doesn't get any better

Running the Routeburn and Greenstone tracks

Routeburn – Greenstone tracks circuit at EveryTrail

For many months now I’ve been training for a big mountain run. Jean’s sister Meg has been training back in the US also and we’ve encouraged each other by following each others’ runs on Strava. We initially tried to register for the Kepler Challenge but despite getting on the morning registration opened neither of us secured a spot. So I came up with an alternate route of a similar distance and the training commenced.

8C348B2F-86D7-46C9-9143-13136B6DEBBFAs you can see I started marking off the plan diligently at first but then got in to the swing of things and would just glance at it each week. I was pretty good at sticking to our training plan, the only big miss being my longest training run which fell on the weekend I became a father! So I skipped that and just started the taper a little early. I’ve done some big runs before but never trained as diligently and it really did help.

Once Meg arrived in New Zealand we were getting pretty excited for the big day. But as we enjoyed near perfect weather in Queenstown the forecast was getting worse and worse for our Saturday run in the mountains. Up to the day before, the forecast for Harris Saddle on the Routeburn was 70 km/h winds and -7 Celsius wind chill. We didn’t have a lot of flexibility for our date and we decided that running would keep us warm and the plethora of huts and trampers would be a decent backup plan if conditions got truly awful.

As you can see from the photos we started in sunshine and the weather never got nearly as bad as predicted. It was rainy at times and a little cold but actually great temps for running. If we stopped we got cold, so we didn’t stop much! The tracks are extremely well marked and formed making for excellent running. A few sections of the Routeburn we ran in to large groups of trampers that occasionally slowed us down as we navigated past each other. Most people were really supportive and encouraging, often a bit surprised to see us running by in shorts. One non-native English speaker told us “I want to fly as you” which I thought was especially nice. And a French lady cried as she struggled with her heavy pack, “C’est pas juste!”. Only one couple stood out as a little affronted that we would choose to run this route with comments like “Why the hurry?” “Did you forget your packs?”. By the time we reached Howden Hut we welcomed the increased solitude of the Greenstone track where we only saw a couple other people. And it remained just as gorgeous. Unfortunately we didn’t take any photos in that section as we just focused on keeping going and the hourly snack breaks we allowed ourselves. Jean made us each an amazing pastrami sandwich that I can’t imagine making it around the circuit without.

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

I also modified the lock screen of my phone with this quick breakdown of the run in to manageable segments so we had a sense we were getting somewhere. It was more helpful than I imagined except I think the Mackenzie H. – Howden H. segment was not downhill as I indicated with my slash but more up and down.

I wish we had a chance to run a few more of the Great Walks of New Zealand, like the Kepler. Unlike most of the tracks around the island the Great Walks are extremely well maintained and runnable. A lot of the rest of them are more “routes” with poles indicating the way you should travel and something resembling a deer trail to follow. I think training on these rougher tracks made the actual run on a broad trail a lot easier.

Jean, baby Zoë, and Trish were an excellent support crew, even driving our ’92 Ford Falcon through three fords on the road to our pickup to make sure we didn’t have to run/walk out 10 more kilometers at the end of it. And Trish got us beers and carrot cake!



Enjoying the escape from winter

Escape to Sydney

Jean and I just returned from our first trip out of the country since arriving in New Zealand in December. Even though it is technically also winter in Sydney we enjoyed a real respite from the cold, wind, and brief snow we’ve seen here. It was near 20 Celsius almost everyday with sunny skies and a light breeze. Downright hot at the beach. Five nights in Sydney and a one night trip up to Canberra to visit family and take in a footy match.

Akaroa Harbor

Banks Peninsula

We enjoyed a final weekend with Mom and Dad before they departed for Australia today. We had such a good visit with them! We spent a couple nights in Akaroa on Banks Peninsula before they left since they were flying out of Christchurch. We went for a kayak on a rainy Sunday and saw some Hector dolphins very close to our boats. A couple of cruise ships were docked there and the town was busy; also lots of buses coming and going taking the passengers all around Canterbury.

Monday on the way out Jean and I ran a beautiful route on a sunny morning thanks to Mom and Dad shuttling the car ahead. We also got a chance to see the very impressive Scott exhibit at the Canterbury museum before heading home to Oamaru.

Milford Sound from the air

Mom and Dad arrive in New Zealand

My parents flew in for a visit on Saturday, our first visitors to New Zealand! They flew in to Queenstown and we spent four nights there. We enjoyed a great view of Lake Wakatipu from our rental house. Sunday Jean and I went for a trail run and Mom and Dad walked by the lake. Monday was a dramatic stormy day, perfect for wine tasting so we went to Peregrine winery and had a wonderful tasting. I’ve never liked pinot gris before until trying theirs. Afterwards we ate at Amisfield, another winery with a very yummy restaurant.

Tuesday was our big day, getting on the bus in the morning for a trip to Milford Sound. Dad stayed in Queenstown and went for long walks and did his botanical drawings in the gardens. Mom, Jean and I took the very scenic bus ride to Milford Sound and then cruised out to the Tasman Sea on a boat. When we came back we decided to take the offer of a helicopter ride. It was amazing, our pilot flew us right next to the mountain walls to ride the thermals up and we landed on a glacier near the top of the Darran Mountains. We had a perfect day for it which doesn’t happen all the time. Getting out on the glacier was the highlight of the day for me. It would have been even sweeter if we climbed to it. Seeing what’s back there makes us eager to explore it more. Here is our landing.

Now Mom and Dad are back in Oamaru and getting the tour. Oamaru is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Antarctic Scott expedition’s ship, the Terra Nova, landing at Oamaru Harbor and delivering news of the polar party perishing on the ice to England via a telegraph. We saw some excellent photographic prints taken during the expedition at a museum in town today. Tonight we are hoping to see some yellow-eyed penguins.


Thanksgiving in Florida

I’ve updated my blog in preparation for our imminent move to New Zealand. The old stuff is over here. However we are not quite out of the country yet and we managed to escape to sunny Florida for Thanksgiving to see a lot of family. This year we skipped the rental car and just rented a tandem bicycle at the local shop. Most of the area is pretty bicycle friendly, flat with some nice rails to trails. Our longest ride was about twenty five miles from Venice to Longboat Key and we encountered some more aggressive Florida drivers and when we got off the busy roads we sometimes encountered blockages that don’t show up on Google maps.

The day before Thanksgiving we had everyone over to our place on Casey Key and served sandwiches that we transported on the tandem, along with beer and other stuff!

Now we are back in Portland and trying to figure out how to take our bikes and other important stuff to New Zealand.