The David Fletcher Mortgages Urban Trail Run

Date: 11 June 2017
Distance: 12.5km
Time: 1:40

While we were in New Plymouth for the weekend, we figured we might as well participate in another Cut a Trail event. The previous one was most enjoyable and since this one was cheap enough, we thought we’ll give it a go.

As an out-of-towner you can’t pre-enter, meaning you inevitably pay the late entry fee of $15 ($10 for locals if you pre-register at the Frontrunner shop during the course of the week). You also don’t come into account for certain of the spot-prizes if you enter late. But, I guess, these events are small and low-key community events – not really meant for outsiders. That might also explain why there were no water points or toilets. The latter being a bit of a problem when you have x-amount of people queueing for the one public toilet in the area. On the bright side, the banter while waiting in line turned out to be fun. When all the men turned to the bushes (on the East End Reserve, main beach and playground area no less!) one lady casually commented, “it is already full moon, a couple more won’t make a difference”.

Another beautiful day greeted us in the morning, with just a bit of a nip in the air. I decided there and then that we in Palmy most certainly have the most miserable weather in all of New Zealand. Quite sad actually, especially taking into account that Palmerston North had the least amount of sun last summer. So, excuse me for being a bit sad (or make that grumpy) from lack of vitamin D! 😀

The run follows the urban trails around town. We’ve covered most of them on training runs with friends before, but we did see a couple new areas. The first approximately 3km out-and-back stretch on the opposite sides of the Te Henui stream, makes up the loop for the 6km course. But after the first 3kms where the short course runners crossed a bridge to go back down, the longer course carries on to do another 3km loop higher up in the suburbs, twice. A decent hill reduced me to a walk, especially on the second lap. At the highest points on the course, we got lovely views of Mt Taranaki. When we finally hooked up with the second half of the 6km course on the way back, we got treated to another monster hill. But from there, the home stretch is mainly downhill back to the sea.

It took a fair bit longer to complete the course than I had hoped. But, on the bright side, my hip didn’t give any troubles. It might seem that the little bit of mobility and strength exercises are doing the trick. My hip does feel a lot less tight and sore, especially getting up from a sitting position.

There’s hope still.

Next up? Probably the Norsewood to Takapau half marathon on 9 July. A small, country event, which we’ve enjoyed doing in the past.

A tail in three parts – Pouakai Crossing

Date: 9 June 2017
Distance: Depending on the source, 18.4km or 19km

Since Lonely Planet named Taranaki “the second best region in the world to visit”, while highlighting the Pouakai Crossing as “one of two unmissable attractions”, I’ve been keen to see what all the fuss was about.

Mt Taranaki in Egmont National Park has always been on the to-do list. We’ve only done short walks in the area, and “knocking off the bastard” remains on the to-do list.

Trying to find a date that would suit both us and our friends in New Plymouth to walk the crossing, proved very challenging, but we finally settled on a day last weekend. The weather seemed best on the Friday, so by Thursday night, Gerry and I were packed and off to the Naki where a lovely warm dinner was waiting for us. Unfortunately, both of our friends were unwell (with colds and stomach bugs), so we made some loose arrangements over dinner and coffee in terms of the time to start, what to wear and take with, and whether they would walk all the way with us or turn around earlier. But for the most part, we decided to play it by ear.

Part one
Shortly after seven in the morning we drove up to the Egmont Visitor Centre to park (950m), and watch the sun rise over the horizon, before starting off at a brisk pace. Frost covered the grass outside the building and the temperature could not have been more than a couple of degrees. With the first few kilometres all going up the Razorback Ridge (to about 1400m), we quickly warmed up. Coupled with the beautiful, sunny, windless start, we could not have asked for a better day. Apart from some minor cloud, we had stunning views over the farms, New Plymouth and the sea towards the north. Unfortunately, it was too hazy to see Mt Ruapehu or Mt Ngauruhoe.

After about two hours’ walk, traversing Mt Taranaki above the cloud line, we passed the lava columns of the Dieffenbach cliffs. In a rocky stream (or was it a slip?) we decided to make some tea and have a snack. The moment we stopped, it was evident that the temperature was still in the single digits. Donning gloves and multiple top layers not to cool down too quickly, as the steam from our warm bodies, and condensation already had our beanies soaking wet. After we got going again, our friends walked a few more minutes with us, before they decided to call it a day and head back to the car.

Once we crossed the Boomerang slip, I felt more comfortable that we’d covered the most dangerous part. Luckily there was no snow on the slip. The path is quite narrow in parts, but clearly visible. It might be a different story if everything was covered in snow, as there were no markers/poles to indicate where the track might be, as is usually the case in alpine terrain. We could clearly see the red water of the Kokowai Stream far below us, caused by manganese oxide oozing from the earth. The moment we rounded the mountain more towards the western side, the wind picked up and we realised that the first section of the walk was quite sheltered. By noon, we reached Holly Hut, originally built in 1900, but replaced by the current building in 1975. It sleeps about 26 people and a couple of tents can fit on the grass in front of the hut. The Minarapa Stream just before reaching the hut can be impassable after heavy rain, but was completely dry. Two long-drops were a few metres from the hut, and these will have to be cleaned soon, or risk overflowing.

An hour return trip, takes you to the 31 metre high Bells Falls/Te Rere o Tahurangi, a waterfall feature we had to give a miss, as we were pressed for time with the short winter days.

After leaving the hut, we followed the path downhill with beautiful views across the wetland, until we reached the Ahukawakawa Swamp/Wetlands. A narrow wet boardwalk takes you across the wetland. Stepping off of the boardwalk (to pass or be passed) might seem solid, but it is in fact a very wet soggy sponge.

Part two
During our crossing of the wetland and Story River/Hangatahua Stream (the one that’s also responsible for the waterfall), the clouds came rolling in and a misty spray made us stop to put on rain jackets. A steep climb up the Pouakai Ranges for the next couple of hours, with a million steps and very muddy conditions under foot, took us through misty mountain cedar forests with unfortunately no visibility in any direction apart from the few metres ahead of us. Totally opposite to what we had up until the first hut. It was very cold and I was glad we carried all the extra clothes as we wore everything we had by then.

Covered in mud, we reached the Pouakai Hut after about two hours. Another side trip takes you to the Pouakai Tarns where on a good day, you can see a reflection of Mt Taranaki in the water. Or tackle the Pouakai Trig (1440m) – about 1.5hours return. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see anything and opted to skip the outing. Another hiker who thought she’d take the chance, incase the cloud opened up while she was there, came back quite disappointed. It was still cloudy and rainy and the tarn was so small, it takes (according to her) about two minutes to circumnavigate. And obviously no sign of any mountain, let alone a reflection. As Graeme pointed out the last time we did an event in the Naki – if you can’t see the mountain, it’s raining, and if you can see it, it’s going to rain. So, I figured the odd chance of having a good day as a tourist passing through, is next to nothing. You would probably have to do multiple crossings before you might be lucky enough to have a good day.

We stopped at the hut to boil water for soup. It was freezing outside on the porch, but we were too dirty from the mud as well as wet from the rain to go inside. After some hot soup, corn cakes, biltong, cheese and a couple of pieces of dark chocolate for desert, we were ready to head down the mountain. We nearly got a glimpse of what the view might be like from Pouakai Hut when the clouds almost opened up for a brief moment, just enough to see the farmlands way below.

Part three
From Pouakai Hut, the path meanders downhill all the way on a proper wooden boardwalk. Starting off in freezing temperatures, we could feel the air getting warmer the further we descended. The vegetation became thicker and finally you enter the forest again. The change in altitude also makes for a change in vegetation with the totara trees fairly far down towards sea level. It was still cloudy and therefore we had no view of Mt Taranaki, but the change underfoot makes this a totally different experience. Where the previous stretch was almost all uphill in ankle deep mud, this section was all the way downhill on a decent boardwalk. Total opposites.

Deon and Henriette kindly fetched us again at the bottom on a farm road. After a warm shower and clean, dry clothes, we were treated to lovely food, cosy by the heater.

The Pouakai Crossing (not to be confused with the Pouakai Circuit which is partially on the same tracks) is a nice one day hike. Maybe if we went in summer instead of winter, and maybe if we were lucky to have good weather, it might have been a different story, but truth be told (and at the risk of being a stick in the mud), I don’t think it is comparable to the Tongariro Crossing, or some of the Great Walks, as numerous news clippings and articles claim. I my view, and despite former Prime Minister Helen Clark‘s comment “it has the potential to rival the country’s Great Walks”, I don’t think it is quite in the same league as the others. Still, it is a nice walk, and worth the effort.

For a good course (and cause, of course)

For the past month or so, Gerry and I have been scouting trails and routes in the Tararuas for an Ultra event. Yep, we want to add another distance to the 25km North Range Traverse and 12.5km Hall Block Humdinger. A 50km Ultra, we thought, would nicely round off the offering.

It was suggested to us after last years event (thanks Michael), that we could maybe add South Range Road to North Range Road and some, to make an Ultra. We were very keen to get to the 50km mark and with South Range Road only about 14km long, and Sledge Track at about 3km from bottom to top, it meant we needed roughly 8-10km to get to 50. We tried from Scott’s Road side and from Kahuterawa, adding the Back Track etc, but nothing really added up to the right distance, or otherwise proved too difficult to access by bus, or too far to drive, to drop off participants.

But finally, we managed to solve the puzzle, and all the scouting these last few of months, from both sides of the mountain, finally paid off. Adding up the bits and pieces, I’m super stoked to announce that we’ve managed to find a fantastic 50km ultra course!

Starting at the Wairarapa side of the Tararuas (same side that the other courses start and finish), participants will be dropped off at the start of Naenae Road and make their way down the 2.85km gravel road to warm up and spread out the field a bit. After crossing a stream (about ankle to calf deep), the next 600m is mainly on farmland, which is very muddy and will no doubt be a mudfest in winter. Following the valley going up the mountain, the next 400m runs up the creek, zig-zagging through the water. It is a beautiful little gorge with numerous wee waterfalls, ferns and native forest. And then the big climb starts. For the next kilometre or so, you scramble up the new track (thanks to Ian Argyle!) that links the Wairarapa and Manawatu, until you reach the top of the mountain. This is a very technical, steep and difficult section. Not for the faint hearted, that’s for sure!

Once you reach the Otangane loop, you turn left to follow the loop track clockwise. This is an undulating stretch on top of the Tararuas with lovely views in all directions in the clearings. If you feel up to a couple of minutes detour, you could even make your way up Nipple Peak for a 360 degree view of the Manawatu and Wairarapa. After about 3km, you reach the connection track that takes you through to the Toe Toe loop track. Following the Toe Toe loop anti-clockwise for roughly 1.8km, you reach a side-track that takes you all the way to South Range Road. This marks the end of the most difficult and challenging section of the Ultra course. With the first few kilometres along Naenae Road on gravel road, and everything else from here also on gravel road, the terrain is for the most part very run-able, with the exception of the roughly 9km in the first quarter of the course.

Running on top of the Tararuas next to the water catchment area on South Range Road and then through the windfarm on North Range Road, makes for a beautifully scenic run. The stunning vistas and easy terrain underfoot for the last 39km, should add up to a very enjoyable Ultra.

Needless to say, adding an Ultra to our event offering is not something we take lightly. It will not be suitable to all abilities, mainly due to the very challenging section scurrying up the mountain. Being the middle of winter, could potentially also up the degree of difficulty a notch or two. But, we’ve found trail runners to be a staunch bunch and usually up for a challenge.

Currently we are thinking of having a drop-bag point at the first link up with South Range Road, where participants can change into dry shoes/socks/clothes for the remainder of the course. This will also double up as a aid station with portaloo.

Still a lot of detail to work out, but the course is set and that’s the main concern. It’s beautiful, totally do-able, a bit tough in sections, and maybe a bit exposed on the mountain, depending on the weather. A combination of trails and off-road. Should be a fun day out!

30-Hour haiku and photography ultra challenge

Date: 22-23 April 2017
Time: 30 hours
Venue: Mt Ruapehu foothills

A while ago Gerry mentioned that he is looking into ideas for research projects for work. Always up for a challenge of sorts, this endurance photography session immediately came to mind, and Gerry was happily on board. I thought it would be interesting to see what happens, creatively, when you get sleep deprived. I was also curious to know if I could stay awake for 30+ hours, something I have last done as a lazy as bum art student, cramming to get everything ready for the exams.

The plan: Gerry was to take a photo (only one, no retakes or fixing flops) every five minutes for 30 continuous hours, amounting to exactly 360 photos in total. To keep myself busy, I would take a photo of him every 10 minutes, as well as write a haiku. So I would total 180 portraits of Gerry and 180 haikus, as well as taking happy snappies, cooking, cleaning, feeding, etc. Can anyone spot the problem right there?

We decided that Mt Ruapehu would be the perfect spot. I can’t remember how it came to that, but I’m glad we did. We left Palmy on Saturday morning, thinking we will park at the Ohakune Mountain Road carpark and walk anti-clockwise on the Round the Mountain track for a few kilometres until we find a nice spot to start this adventure. Preferably somewhere where we would be alone and away from civilisation. But on the way there, we decided that walking from the Desert Road side might be nicer. What’s the use of a mind if you can’t change it. We weren’t sure which road leads to the Mangatepopo Hut and ended up accidentally taking the Tukina ski-field road instead, which turned out in our favour.

After parking, we started walking along a 4wd track up a massive hill for three kilometres until we reached the Round the Mountain track. Following the track anti-clockwise and having this great valley below with Mt Ruapehu towering in the back, we decided there and then to veer off of the track and just walk straight towards the mountain. We could see a stream coming from the mountain and thought that would be the ideal setting. We had everything we needed with us so all that was required was water, and the valley we were heading into looked perfect for the job. We pitched the tent, walked for a bit in all directions “checking out the scene”, before putting on all our warm clothes, pouring a tipple and firing up the billy for dinner.

By nine we were in our sleeping bags. It was very cold and I couldn’t bring myself to go out for any sort of ablutions. Even my minus 15-degree sleeping bag wasn’t up to the task and Gerry ended up wrapping his down jacket around my bum. Granted, the sleeping bag is at least 18 years old and as they say, after eight years the down starts to break down and don’t fluff up as much anymore. Be that as it may, we spent a very cold night without much sleep.

By 5:30am the billy was going again for some much needed hot coffee before the start of our ‘project’ at exactly 6am. Gerry got himself ready for his endeavour, and that was also the last time he set foot in the tent. Everything went well during the day, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the night would bring. At this time of year, we have roughly twelve hours daylight and twelve hours darkness, which is a challenge in itself. Apart from it being pitch black making photography more challenging, it was also bitterly cold. And with only about 1.1 litres of fuel for the camp stove, I was trying to pace our drinks and food consumption evenly through the 30 hours to make it last.

Gerry was going strong and I was surprised at how I wasn’t sleepy until very late into the night. Or rather, early the next morning. I watched the water droplets form into ice on the south side of the tent, while the damp on the northern side of the tent, including the ceiling of my “den” (a space I built in front of the tent with rocks, the tent front flap and a tarp), started to drip onto everything. And from firing up the stove every so often for hot food, coffee, cup-o-soup, tea, etc, the damp started to drip onto everything. And every time I got in or out from my den, I got more wet from the condensation and ice on everything.

I was cold despite a lot of clothes. I’ve had it much worse on other occasions, however, so by comparison this was probably not as bad. But, for a huge part of the time, I wore a polyprop vest, thin down jacket, fleece top (with hood), as well as a super-duper thick Mountain Design down jacket top layer. For bottoms, I wore thick fleece-type underpants and a ski/snow pant on top of that. Two buffs and two beanies (as well as the hoodie), two pairs of socks and thick gloves (which had to come off whenever I tried to do anything, which was most of the time).

Having to wash dishes in, or fetching water from the freezing cold mountain stream, turned into another challenge. But the most difficult part was to get Gerry to find time to eat and drink. I would be searching for him (also having to take a photo of him every 10 minutes) while he’s roaming the valley, so ended up regularly running backwards and forwards between the tent and wherever he was. Taking food or coffee or whatever to him, holding it as he can only eat or drink small bits between composing and taking the next pic every five minutes, before making my way back to the tent or stream to wash dishes etc. Sadly, it all proved too challenging and I couldn’t keep up with my haiku’s and photos, and therefore stopped at 139, shortly after 23 hours in.

However, Gerry was going strong and we had some fun in the night playing with the fairy lights to create fireballs and stuff. Some light entertainment to keep us going. 🙂 I was amazed at how he managed to just get on with it right until the 30 hours were up. Five minutes can feel like an eternity when you have your scene all sorted out and are ready to take the photo, but when you’re searching for your next subject, time flies by in the wink of an eye.

It was watching Hunting for the Wilder People that made me decide that writing haikus on this trip would make for a nice challenge.

A haiku is a short Japanese poem. It consists of three lines with a 5-7-5 pattern, measured in the English language as syllables. Each poem will, therefore, have 17 syllables. They are also known as mood poems, don’t use any metaphors, and the lines rarely thyme. Usually, they also have a seasonal reference.

Following below are my haikus, depicting the moments in time out in the cold desert.

Six Dawn Early start
A cold night in the mountain
What will the day bring

Cold cold freezing cold
Fingers numb Snow-capped mountain
Can’t wait for warm tea

And icy light breeze
Morning star and silver moon
Tea is almost done

Busy little stream
Yo La Tengo in my head
Too cold for a pee

Turquoise and orange
Is the early morning sky
Gerry on his knees

Waiting for the sun
Frozen droplets on the tent
My toes are still numb

this is a great memory
What are we doing

Shadows long and tall
How are we going to make
The next thirty hours

Frooze balls for breakfast
The sun has started to melt
the ice on our tent

Alison to start
Don’t you weep pretty baby
The sun is out now

Losing my marbles
And the day is still brand new
One and a half done

The sun’s shining bright
Will we make it through the night
Why not fly a kite

Photos and haiku’s
Three hundred and sixty and
Hundred and eighty

Haiku haiku eh
A photo every five
Minutes of the day

The sun is so warm
It is hard to believe the
Night was so damn cold

Now that it’s sunny
A hot brew in my tummy
Life can’t be better

Up close she looks small
The highest mountain of all
on this wee island

There’s no need for rhyme
They come a dozen a dime
Spider on his web

Once upon a time
A man caught a fat big fly
In his glass of wine

Anti-clockwise on
To change the camera lens
for a macro shot

What am I doing
Blue blue blue blue blue blue blue
The morning sky hue

Gerry is looking
For his next great photograph
Spiders rocks water

The ice has melted
Soft sand in the harsh desert
I’d like more coffee

Have to force one out
Snowy mountain ice cold stream
What’s this all about

If this was a run
I would be halfway through a
marathon by now

It was my mother’s
Birthday yesterday and I
Was in the mountain

Why is it so hard
To find a rock to sit on
Thinking of Swiss chard

This is a haiku
Five-seven-five in a line
Syllables that is

The sun in my back
Rock stone snow is all I see
No I am lying

Where did Gerry go
All alone in the desert
just my thoughts and I

Evidence is there
We are but a speckle here
In this vast landscape

Tiny little birds
Are following us around
Where is the olive

Time is on my side
Three doors in rites of passage
Where are we going

Life is a sad song
It is winter all along
The watchtower

Lying on the ground
The sun shines brightly on you
Where to point and shoot

Mount Ruapehu
What a pretty sight to see
Up jumps the cricket

One fifth through the run
If it was a hundred miler
Must be time for lunch

Cheese and salami
On corn cakes will see us through
On a winter noon

The Kaimanawas
Where the wild horses roam free
Thirsty for water

The cleanest water
Straight from the mountain belly
Fill my heart and soul

On the horizon
Like galloping wild horses
Clouds came rolling in

Where will all this lead
This is not an ultra run
But a test no less

Seven hours in
Contemplating the subject
Flies eat morsels food

Aim focus and shoot
Searching for the next angle
Powerful mountain

Panoramic view
Earth sky mountain high above
This is what we do

Tiny little bug
Take a photo take a pic
Never to be seen

Not another soul
Just the two of us alone
And the cold desert

The three muses sing
No other loving baby
Washing in the stream

How strange is this day
An ominous ski helmet
In the barren land

Footprints in the sand
We had not alone tread thus
Someone else was here

Just the two of us
Maybe it will start to snow
Cold cold winters night

Desert it may be
But there’s life in abundance
Fly away with me

Green moss everywhere
Near creeks and streams seeking life
This is desert land

How cold will it be
After dark tonight will we
Make it out alive

Little waterfall
All day long you beckon us
Now we see you clear

This million wee legs
A spider and her babies
Hope the tent is closed

Up the creek we go
Spot a green fern on the way
Got to get away

Why can we not stay
Clouds are gathering behind
Wind chill must be null

Cold is streaming in
Eyes and nose are watering
Need to start the stove

Soon it will be dark
We are so far far away
Another picture

Night is drawing near
Imposing rocks towering
Way above our heads

Come quick come quickly
A white snake between the rocks
Bite it in the tail

Blue sun sky white cloud
Will we make it through the night
You worry you die

It’s hard to keep up
Writing cooking making tea
I can see my breath

Coffee nice and warm
How many cups will we have
Til the crack of dawn

The sun’s setting fast
Nothing good ever lasts eh
Whisky will not help

Endurance built it
Oh when will we run again
Over rolling hills

Cold earth under me
Hope the wind can stay away
In my den I’m warm

With green tarp and stone
My shelter is completely
Haven in the cold

Rough is this here land
Tough and rumble no ones friend
How long has it been

Blurry mountain not
Manfrotto strong and sturdy
That’s how you do it

Approaching twelve hours
Not even half way there yet
Will be dark real soon

My ears are glowing
What happened to the sunblock
I applied today

As darkness wraps us
The horizon is light blue
How cold will it be

Not much sleep last night
Twelve hours until morning light
Maybe clouds tonight

Cup-a-soup so good
Darkness all around us now
Let the games begin

Damp wet cold dark night
You’re so far away from me
I am not sleepy

No moon just darkness
Except for my face which is
Glowing in the dark

Double socks two pants
One a snow pant made for cold
It’s been a long day

My pretty sunshine
Super duper down jacket
In the cold cold ground

I lose track of time
In the mountains so pretty
But what can I say

Need to start din-dins
Salami beans onion and mash
Will we be warm though

Can’t wait for morning
Why do I fear the darkness
Mountains all around

Need to fetch water
Very very icy cold
The stream in the dark

Mice ants and spiders
Scorpions and snakes you get
Fish river canyon

Damp rise from the ground
By morning it will be ice
Another cold night

Zigzag booby track
Don’t you dare to break a leg
Food is on the way

Homegrown beans still hard
How long before we can eat
Stove pot kerosene

Dear God up above
Please protect us through the night
We are but a speck

Homegrown beans still hard
It’s been a hard day’s hard night
Hope time flies quick-smart

In freezing waters
The dishes must be washed
The night is still young

We had fun with lights
Fairy lights make twirls and curls
Tired we will be

Eight hours before dawn
What will get us through the night
Cold cold winter night

My ears are alight
The headlamp strap is too tight
Time for more coffee

Kerosene please last
Us through the wintery night
Blood back in fingers

Alone in the dark
Help me make it through the night
Chocolate and coffee

Don’t go too far dear
No time to take a wee break
The desert is cold

How I wish this was
Rather a hundred miler
Endurance for sure

Keep on keeping on
Long still is the night ahead
Time waits for no man

What am I thinking
Chock n block and chocolate block
What’s the difference

To run run run run
To run run away from you
Into the mountain

Where did the clouds go
Not many to start off with
Just crisp mountain air

Seven shooting stars
Follow the star trails tonight
What will we do next

I have to wonder
How many souls are in tents
Tonight in this cold

We have to be mad
Ice drops covering the tent
And yet here we are

Over halfway through
Now to test our stamina
Very cold very cold very

What to photograph
In the middle of the night
I have been colder

What is this madness
Tomorrow night we will sleep
Like newborn babies

Sleep monster don’t come
Only six more hours to dawn
The ground is frozen

Four layers clothing
Two down jackets not enough
Dusk will also come

How cold can it be
Let me count the ways tonight
Sing song ding-a-long

How cold can it be
Minus seven minus ten
Maybe even more

The Michelin man
If only I was orange
New moon dark dark dark

South side frozen stiff
North side of tent dripping wet
How weird is nature

Haiku psycho poem
Snow wind on the mountain top
Go fly to the moon

Surely this won’t last
Thirty hours of haiku
Hope to last to dawn

Time please fly please fly
Don’t you wish your life away
Only for tonight

A pain in my neck
Stay away you have to stay
Noisy stream all day

Cold cold cold cold cold
How easy to just give up
Sleep beautiful sleep

I have no more words
It is hard to imagine
How to stay awake

I can see each breath
So cold so very very
Where is my mojo

Sunday night Monday
I wonder what will happen
Four hours from now

My legs are frozen
It is so bitterly cold
Earth sea sky but why

We might just make it
A billy with hot water
For another brew

Good morning sunshine
How difficult can it be
This is not too bad

For good neck cover
A hoody is a great thing
Snowy mountain high

What will we run next
On road off road long or short
Only time will tell

Two-thirds through darkness
Bhuja, nuts, tea and olives
Biltong and marshies

Just a few more hours
Til dawn have us excited
Jump for joy jump jump

Do not close your eyes
You are not asleep for sure
Cold wind coming in

Obscuring the stars
Clouds are rolling in from east
Will it bring the rain

Starting to see things
Did that stone just move a bit
Sleepy sleepy head

Four in the morning
Help me make it through the night
No more words from me

Once upon a time
There was a crooked donkey
Hee haw hee hi ho

Why do we need sleep
Sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep
Tomorrow will come

Thirty hours long
Taking photos and write poems
Will we reach the goal

Yellow sickle moon
Rise up on the horizon
Yawn yawn yawn yawn yawn

No more words is there
Haiku hiatus my friend
Take my word for it

Come quick dear sun come
Brighten up the day and smile
Like I know you can

It is hard to sit

And this is where it bolted to an abrupt end. It just so happened. Boiling water for coffee and again for soup not long after, finding Gerry in the dark, freezing my butt off, being sleep deprived, resulted in the slip-up. And on top of that, being completely preoccupied with the fact that it was still dark long after six, while I was 100% sure it was light the previous morning before six, contributed to the fact that before I knew it, I missed a few haikus. I think I just lost my marbles there for a bit, angry at the sun for not rising quicker. Amazing what lack of sleep can do to your mind.

I then roamed again with Gerry for a bit around the valley, before starting to pack up. The idea was to stay another night, but we were cold and dirty and weren’t thinking straight, so I got things ready to make our way back to the car as soon as Gerry took his last photo by 12 noon. Although we were only about five kilometres from the car, the heavy packs, rocky terrain and hill, made sure we got a good workout.

When we do this exercise again (yes, we will most certainly do it again), we’ll tweak and streamline a few things. As is often the case with doing something for the first time, this was a huge learning curve.

We had a lot of food and snacks left over as I was certain we would be ravenous throughout the night. But not at all. I didn’t have much of an apatite, and I realise now that to keep your nutrition and hydration up throughout the night during a 100-mile event, will be a challenge. This exercise was partly to see how we might go at the staying awake part of a 100-miler. With only two off-road 100 mile events in NZ (that I know of) – the Great Naseby and the Northburn – we’ll try to give one or both a try next year maybe. Just to be able to stay awake is 90% of the battle won, so I figured this sort of thing would be good training for a 100-miler. 🙂

But now first to get motivated and get back on the road. Coming back from nearly nothing is going to be hard work and a lot of effort. Especially having to work on my strength and mobility. I’ve realised that for me to do any form of long distance running in the future will take much more effort than just going out for a trot around the neighbourhood most days of the week.

The Greatest Virtual Run

Date: 15 April 2017
Distance: 10.2km
Time: 1:18


Funny how things just pass you by when you’re not vigilant and half organised. Is it a sign of our already very hectic lives that the thought of trying to fit anything else in, is just too overwhelming? Or are we just plain too damn lazy?

When Jason, founder of Running on the Spectrum, first mentioned his The Greatest Virtual Run, we were very keen and decided there and then to participate. And why wouldn’t you? It’s for a great cause, running should be part of your daily routine anyway, and you get a bib and medal to boot, all for only $20 ($28 for non-NZ runners). It’s no brainer, really. But we didn’t enter right away, for some or other reason, and ended up very nearly letting it pass by. I will never forget a friend’s comment on a hike somewhere in the sticks some 20 years ago: as we were queueing for the very basic outdoors shower at the end of the hike, a few people in front of us started talking. The shower opened up, but they just kept on talking. As he was pressed for time, the said friend gave it a few minutes and decided to go ahead of them, thus jumping the queue. While I was speechless, trying to close my gaping mouth, he was in and out of the slower in a flash (the talkers probably still don’t know someone went ahead of them), and all he said on coming out was, “you snooze, you lose”.

This event was very nearly a “you snooze, you lose” moment for us. Luckily we came to our senses in time to quickly register before heading out for a 10km trot on Saturday. Apart from a distance choice of 3km, 10km, 21.1km, 42.2km, or 150 km (run or walk), ideally to be done on 15, 16 or 17 April (to coincide with the Boston Marathon), you could also accumulate the 150km over the entire month of April to qualify as a finisher. April is  Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) awareness month, which covers autism and Asperger’s, as explained in a Taranaki Daily News article. If my mind wasn’t so preoccupied with studies and deadlines, I might have opted to do the 150km over the month of April. Maybe that would have gotten me back on the road again since none of the recent half marathons could manage to do just that.

For our 10km run, we did the “road much traveled”. The trails around Summerhill and Massey are our go-to these days for most runs. Since I’m well aware of my troubled hips, we try to run off-road as much as possible. And during our built-up for Tarawera 2015 and 2016, we covered this little 8.7km trail more times than I care to remember. This time, though, we added the Massey ring road to make up the distance for the 10km virtual run.

The weather turned out good, overcast and just a few spits of rain halfway through, not much wind and a comfortable run overall. We are really lucky to have these trails in our backyard. Not too hilly and totally runnable. Apart from about 1.5km on-road, the rest are all on lovely paths and trails through the suburbs.

If this event happens again, we might just sign up for the 150km. Should make it a 100 miler and give belt buckles, Jason! 😉



Photo courtesy of Jason Reid. Looking forward to receiving them in the post soon.


The Great Forest Events – Waitarere

Date: 8 April 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 3:30
Previous: 2014, 2016

A few months ago, a friend of ours won an entry for the marathon of this event. She has been keen to do a marathon for such a long time, and what better motivation than to win an entry. It was going to be her very first marathon and Gerry and I thought we’d like to join her. But, life had other plans, and we couldn’t get the miles done in time for a full marathon, so decided to join only for the second half of her run.

The marathon is a double-lapper, so it was easy enough to just enter for the 21.1km and join in on her second lap. Unfortunately, the full and half marathons started only an hour apart, so we thought we’ll wait and start an hour late for the half marathon. But, as it turned out, Cheryl opted to start another hour earlier with the walkers, so she was already two hours in by the time our race started. Not sure at what pace she was going (I was thinking she might be able to do the first half in about 2:15), we started off on a very slow walk, thinking she might catch us in the first 10-20 minutes.

But let me just take a few steps back. Apart from being unfit, I also landed myself the migraine of the decade. We had a very hectic week, some very late nights, including a 150km work trip in the middle of the night in stormy weather, and all the stress just started to add up. For two days leading up to the event, my head felt like it was being pelted with a 10-pound hammer and all I could think of was how not to barf my lungs out. When Friday rolled around, my only thought was to die – the sooner the better. Not keen to take pills in any form or shape, I finally succumbed to Nurofen. That didn’t do anything, so a few hours later I took a codeine tablet (leftovers from a dentist prescription). Still, no improvement and a couple of Advil’s later without any change, I realised the problem was more serious than any pills we had in the house. By then I was convinced I had food poisoning from a function we attended on Wednesday night, as that was the only day Gerry and I ate different things. Since he was fine, I reckoned that must be it.

When the alarm when off on Saturday morning, I would much rather have been laying in my coffin than having to get ready for a run. But, I really didn’t want to miss Cheryl’s maiden marathon (ah, the euphoric first), plus we had entered and paid already, and all I had to do was turn up and do it. I suspected it might be a slow one with lots of walking, so the pressure was off to try and run much on unfit legs, while my pounding head was in a universe of its own. Besides, I thought a run was the only thing that might fix my upset tummy and exploding head. I couldn’t stomach anything, so didn’t eat much on the Thursday or Friday, but managed to get a grated apple down as my pre-run meal on Saturday morning.

We drove the 40km to Levin, parked in a paddock and got ready to start our slow meander through the forest on a gorgeous Saturday morning. A bit chilly at the start, but the air warmed up soon enough as we strolled down the forest roads. It was quite liberating to see everybody speed off into the distance, while we were having a nice stroll down the road. After a few kilometres, we (first heard! :), then) saw Cheryl and Steph (who kindly offered to run the full marathon with Cheryl so that she won’t have to be on her own for her first marathon) coming from the front a few metres to our right on a different road, nearing the end of their first lap. We knew then that they were about 3-4km behind us, and would catch up with us soon enough.

Having lots of time on our hands in the first 6kms (at which point they caught up and we started to run bits) we could really appreciate the forest and just being out there in near perfect weather conditions. Not something we had much of in the days leading up to the event with the remnants of Cyclone Debbie creating havoc in the region. Unfortunately, my head was still pounding, so at the first water point, I decided to have more pain killers (which again, I might add, didn’t help whatsoever). Slow learner, eh.

To entertain himself, Gerry started taking pics of all the fungi in the forest. There was quite a variety and I was very pleased to spot a basket mushroom – not something I’ve ever seen in real life before.

When Cheryl and Steph caught up, we started to jog bits. The four of us were by ourselves for huge parts of the run and being out in mother nature, was good for the soul. But, truth be told, I don’t have a clue how I managed to get around the course. Being nauseous with a pounding head is definitely not the way you want to spent making your way through a half marathon course. Luckily, Cheryl was in such high spirits, I couldn’t help but feel better. I was amazed at how comfortable she looked, despite having a stress fracture which was obviously causing her a lot of pain. But she was happy and seemed to be in seventh heaven. Isn’t that exactly what running should be about? I’m sure she could have done another lap if she wanted to!

Spending some time with friends at the prize-giving (I have to apologise for being rude and for the most part, ignoring everyone), I couldn’t manage anything other than laying on the grass, holding my head. I haven’t had this much pain from a headache in a very long time.

On the way home, Gerry went past a pharmacy to try and fix his broken wife. Back home and with pills for nausea and pain in my tummy, I crawled out of the car and straight into bed – dirty as one can only be after having done an off-road half marathon. I could not face standing up, let alone try to shower. Luckily the pills (and maybe spending the next 20 hours in bed) worked a charm. By midday Sunday, I could almost face life and food again.

Needless to say, I don’t remember much of the event. What I do remember is that they’ve changed the venue, and also the course (slightly, to compensate for some muddy patches and logging in the forest), and also to go in the opposite direction from before. The parking area was a bit disastrous having to squeeze cars and pedestrians through the same narrow gate, with a constant flow of both cars and pedestrians continuously going in and out. The sound system really wasn’t up to it, and prize-giving went by in the background.

A somewhat morbid and self-centered take on the event, but I just had to put it out there as a reminder to my future self (for when I feel doubtful about something): just drag your sorry arse out there and make a start. It may not seem possible, but it will be. Just do it.

Taihape Half

Date: 18 March 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:29
Previous: 2015, 2016

After a long hiatus and battling to fully commit and get back into things, I thought participating in an event might help me find my running mojo, so we entered the Taihape Half. (Boy was I wrong – it’s been a week since, and I’ve managed one run …) Not having done the hard yards, I knew this kind of distance wasn’t the “right thing to do”, but throwing caution to the wind, I figured if I take it really easy I should be able to cover the distance. Even if it means having to walk most of the way. Continue reading