Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year in New Zealand

Please allow me to be the first to wish everyone a happy New Year. New Zealand is the first major populated area to click over to January 1 every year, as there's only one time zone between us and the International Date Line.

The mass-international-midnight-text message would have been pretty expensive, so you get the 8-hours-belated happy new year in a blog post. Thrilling, I know.

Yesterday held a new bike ride for me that included a climb to the only ski area here with a paved access road. Paved, yes, but with any consideration for maximum grade, no. This 5.1 mile climb is the steepest sustained climb I've ever done. Will look forward to improving this climb lots. I was faced with a choice on the way down - melt my brakes or pass cars. So I passed cars. Saw two other bikers coming up near the bottom, and they were switchbacking across the uphill lane. Gonna be a long climb that way...

I worked last night, as did nearly every single employee of Monty's. It was all hands on deck, and the bar was absolutely nuts all night long. We took in about 3 times our normal take for a busy weekend night. We all worked exceptionally hard, but we had a fair bit of fun behind the bar, too.

We stopped serving at 2:30 in accordance with our license and it took us until about 4 to finish cleaning and closing the bar. We all hung out in the bar for a bit after the closing process was finished, mostly to enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet. It was right about 5 when I took my leave of the remaining crew and walked home, the sky already lightening rapidly to the southeast. After a snack and a bit of relaxing, the rest of the Monty's crew came ambling down the street towards our pad, and they came in just as I was lacing up my shoes.

One thing was certain: the only way I was going to run today was to do it before I went to bed. So off I went and got about 9 miles in. Came back, found the crew intact, and it is still intact as I write this just before 8am. Fockler has to be back at work in 35 minutes, and sober he is not. I am amply ready for bed and will sleep awfully well for a while. Think I'll let the rest of my day after I wake be consumed with snoozing on the beach and a nice open water swim. Then it's back off to work at 5:30. Pretty sure tonight will be more mellow than last night; Queenstown went big!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Birthday in the "summer"

My calendar says the 27th, so my birthday by the calendar was yesterday. However, I was born in the US, so I turned 28 today, about 9 hours ago. Here's how the last couple days have gone.

Christmas was cold and rainy here. The weather was probably nicer in Reno even though it's winter there. We went to a feast at our friend Mike's place. He had about 20 orphans over and we had good feed and good times.

Wednesday, December 26 started with Fockler and our friend Nathan coming home from the aforementioned Christmas feast and counting down the minutes until midnight. I was asleep. At precisely midnight, my door was flung open, my lights were turned on, and they jumped on my bed in a state of dress that would make a cathouse madam blush. After I got rid of them, I spent the next four and a half hours in the shower scrubbing myself. Ok, didn't actually do that.

Wednesday night, we threw a combination flatwarming/birthday party here. Everybody dressed up, the weather cleared up, and we enjoyed a gorgeous evening on our patio. I was able to keep a pretty good handle on how much I drank, but I still had a few to celebrate.

So today, Thursday, was the Lake Hayes Triathlon about 15km from Queenstown. It's a sprint, and it's New Zealand's longest running triathlon at 25 years. I rode my bike out there this morning with all my other race gear on my back. Even though it's a sprint and doesn't have all the trimmings typical of most US races (and it's on a Thursday), it attracts a pretty good pool of talent from around NZ. This race doesn't have chip timing, splits, food afterwards, or even proper bike racks. There were short- and long-course world champions, Olympic hopefuls, etc., etc. there. I was not part of the talent pool today.

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(Here's the lake)

I started the race at a 4 on the scale from 1 to I've Still Got the Flu Even Though I'm Not Throwing Up Any More, a 5 on the scale from 1 to Hung Over, and a 10 on the scale from 1 to Haven't Done Any Speedwork for About 4 Months. Also a 10 on the scale from 1 to Haven't Exercised in the Last 5 Days 'Cause of the Flu. All the makings of a winning day...

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(Yes, that's a rope swing next to the start line)

Fortunately, I knew all these things, so I decided to rely on residual fitness, set the throttle to Wide Open, and que sera, sera. I swam well even as the chop came up and got elbowed and kicked a few times. Quite the scrum.

I was 14th out of the water according to a friendly volunteer, gave up a few spots in T1 and a few more on the horrendous gravel road that started the ride. I passed lots of people in the first couple miles of the ride and only got passed by one guy in the whole rest of the ride. It was showery and windy for most of the ride. I posted a pretty good pace for the bike and I'm happy with how I rode.

T2 was really fast for me and I slowly picked off a few people on the run. I ran without abandon and it felt pretty good. We had a few short steep hills but all in all it was a typical trail run.

In line with the technology-free attitude of the whole race, they didn't post results after the race ended, so I have no idea how I finished or even what my time was (!). I do, however, know that the first 3 people across the line were all in my age group, so I didn't bring home any hardware. Tough crowd!

I did meet some cool people and thoroughly enjoyed myself before and after the race. When the awards ended, I suited back up to ride back to Queenstown. Words cannot describe how hard it rained for most of the ride home. I got back home absolutely dripping half an hour later, very ready to step off the bike. 51ºF and raining sheets is not my idea of summer. I'm really ready for some summer weather.

After a long shower, I spent half a frustrating hour screamingly hungry and looking for a thai, indian, or chinese delivery joint in Queenstown, all to no avail. There was no way I was going back out in that rain...

So, there you have it. An orphan Christmas and 2 days of birthday fun. See ya.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It wasn't me...

...I don't even have a Santa outfit...


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Solstice!

So it's no longer technically the solstice but that's OK. The last couple of days have been spectacular here in Queenstown. I spent today sleeping in (you'll know why soon), spending some time at the beach which included getting battered in 2-3' chop during an open water swim, an amazing pizza lunch, and a dusk run along the shore.

Yesterday, however, was an even better day. I started the day with an idyllic 100k ride to Kingston and back. 70˚F for most of the ride, but most notably, not a breath of wind. Perhaps the first day I've had here without even a breeze, and it made the ride soooo much better. I rode pretty hard and it felt great.

After recovering at home for a bit, I met up with a friend for a beer and a snack at Tatler down on Mall St. Headed back home, gathered some things, and then left the pad to go for a little night hike.

The first time I hiked up Ben Lomond, I flashed it, and as such, I only had my little Sony camera with me. I knew I needed to get back up there with the D80, and the opportunity to shoot a sunset from atop the peak was too much to pass up. I stepped off the gondola at 7pm, so I had 2 good hours of daylight left. I was fully prepared for some nighttime hiking and was really looking forward to it.

A few minutes after I passed through the saddle on the way up, I heard a distinctive whump-whump-whump that drowned out my iPod. I got the camera out quickly and got the treat of watching a heli go screaming through the saddle a few hundred feet below me!

Just a few minutes further up the steep final pitch to the summit, I came upon a good herd of mountain dwellers.

(What you lookin' at?)

When I started hiking, the sky was pretty much clear, but there had been clouds moving in the whole time. The light was changing fast and I knew I was in for a treat. I summited after having seen a total of 3 people on the trail. There was no one else headed up, so I had it all to myself. It was still dead calm on the summit, and the silence was fantastic. It was a shade cold, so I put the ol' down sweater on and just enjoyed some time to myself.

(A neat shot that shows the airport, the Kawarau River, and the road up to the Remarkables Ski Field)

(The Remarkables, top obscured, with a cool band of light across the middle)

The clouds near the sun in the west came into play and the vistas were soon around an 8 on the scale from 1 to Cool.

(Big fat sunbeams filtering through the clouds)

(Sunset over Wakatipu. I really liked the different-colored reflections on the lake.)

It started raining in the Remarkables. I could even smell some ozone in the air. The clouds were moving my way but the rain didn't seem to be, so I saw no real reason to hurry. It was, however, near freezing, which did provide good motivation to get to lower elevations. The last bit of sunlight provided a spectacular display in the rainclouds.

(Rain in the Remarkables)

Even though the sun had long set, I had plenty of light for the trip down and didn't even break out my headlamp until I got to a stand of trees about 15 minutes from the end of the hike. Shortly thereafter, my headlamp illuminated a pair of beady eyes in the trail right in front of me. The eyes made a quick break for a tree and then stopped, at my eye level, no more than 3m in front of me. They stayed still while I took my pack off, retrieved my camera, and started shooting.

(Hi, Mr. Stoat!)

The stoat stayed there right in front of me until I finished screwing around with the camera. As soon as I put the camera away, he bailed up the tree at a high rate of speed, never to be seen again.

I made it to the gondola at about 10:35, and it was still running! I was prepared to walk down the hill into town, but the restaurant had some late guests and I caught the last gondola down. I got a few funny looks from those last guests, but that's just fine. I made my way to the late-night kebab shop in town, got some dinner, and made a hasty retreat back to the pad. I was sound asleep by midnight and slept until 10:30 this morning. So nice to be able to sleep in...

What a perfect day!

Monday, December 10, 2007

December 11, a day of note...

...for three reasons.

#1. It's Fockler's birthday. Wish him a good one. What an old man, being 28 and all.

#2. It's been one month since Silverman. I'd say I'm about 80% recovered. Fond memories from the day are still fresh.

#3. It's been one month since I've driven a car. Aside from the little road trip with Jesse and Lisa, I've only been in a car 5 times and on a bus 2 or 3 times. I believe the only other time I've gone this long without driving since I got my license, I had a couple of broken legs.

So I've got today and tomorrow off, and it's supposed to rain steadily today, tomorrow, and Thursday. It's pouring right now. Grrr.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Wandering around Queenstown

Today was an awesome day. I worked late last night and the night before, so I slept in this morning and took it easy for a while. I went for a really chill run down into town and out to Sunshine Bay a few miles toward Glenorchy. Got back home, kicked it for a while, then rode my bike to the pool and caught the end of lap swim.

Stopped at the grocery store on the way home and put about 30 pounds (sorry, 14kg) of groceries on my back and navigated the steep hill with gravity doing its worst work against me.
I made a nice dinner, and when I finished eating, it was 8pm, going to be light for 2 more hours, and I didn't have anything planned and was not going out tonight.

After having the little Sony camera tucked into my pocket on these bike rides, I was hankering to get the D80 out, so I hung it around my neck and headed downtown to catch the evening light.

So here's a tour around Queenstown:

(a quick stop in the Queenstown Gardens)

(nice shot of the harbor; never many boats here or out on the lake)

(a look down the beach)

(cafe on the beach)

(1500+NZD a night and on the waterfront)

(along the wharf)

(also along the wharf)

(looking up at the gondola)

(a late-night institution; their burgers would shame many joints in the US)

(the main drag - Shotover Street)

(Mall Street; no cars here)

(Winnie's on Mall Street; tasty pizza)

(only the American tourists go here!)

(the Town Green; the Pig & Whistle in the background)

(cool little organic food store)

(apparently not its original location; somebody would have had to be here a LONG time ago to know where it used to be :))

(a bustling Saturday evening at Monty's)

(back home at Pounamu)

An awfully relaxing evening...11:30 now and no longer any light to the west; time for bed!


Back on the bike the other day to head to the south end of Wakatipu and the little town of Kingston. As I was eating breakfast, I could see the streetlight outside swaying in the wind; this was not going to be fun.

The ride out was dead into the wind; struggling to keep 15 km/h on flat ground. After what seemed like forever, I got to Kingston, and it is a tiny little town. One gas station on the corner of the highway and the main road into town. There was a sign for a cafe at the Kingston Flyer, so I rode up and discovered that the Flyer is an operating sightseeing train that goes along the river there.

I hopped off the bike and saw my 3 Argentine friends from the chocolate shop wandering around. A nice surprise; they were having a picnic and then going for a hike. They apologized for almost killing me as they drove past.

I got a lamb and mint sandwich, a scone with cheese and onions, and a Red Bull and walked with my plates to the beach to eat with the chicas. Brilliant riding food. Here's the view from our picnic spot:

(the only calm spot of water on the entire lake, too!)

And the chicas, enjoying their day off:

I took a quick dip, air-dried, shared some yerba mate, and got back on the bike. Quite a different story on the way back in...40-60 km/hr most of the way...yeehaw!

I took a couple quick stops for some pictures.

(Devil's Staircase)

(north towards Queenstown; awesome road, awesome lake, awesome mountains!)

(east across Wakatipu)

(south back towards Kingston)

It was a beautiful day to be out, despite the wind. Unfortunately, the chip'n'seal roads here are not so easy on the backside, and I can't imagine they're good for the bike either. A ride over these roads with nothing but a strip of tire for suspension is the kind of thing that gives NVH engineers nightmares!

Anyhow, I've now biked the entire paved shoreline of Wakatipu, and yes, it is very nice.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


So I got back on my bike yesterday and went on the ride I should have gone on for a recovery ride...

A nice little loop out to Arrowtown, going out along the main highway and then coming back in along the road below Coronet Ski Peak.

The road crosses the Shotover River very close to Queenstown on a little one-way bridge.

Looking upstream, here's the launch point for the Shotover Jet operation, one of the famous hairball jetboat river rides.

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And looking downstream...holy cow.

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This view is about a 20 minute bike ride from Queenstown...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Back in the Saddle

In the last 3 weeks after the race, I've been in the pool a few times, been for a short run, and been for a hike. I've been reluctant to get on the bike mostly because all I have right now is my race wheels, and they're simply not meant to get beat on on a daily basis. I also don't have my normal riding clothes yet either, so at the moment I'm full-on race gear geek status. Awesome.

Alas, IMNZ is 12 weeks away and it's time to get going again. I woke up yesterday and my legs were still absolutely worked from my hike 3 days prior. I'm obviously still firmly in recovery mode, whether I like it or not. So I decided to go for a nice recovery ride and explore a bit. Famous last words...

After paying 7NZD apiece for some CO2 cartridges in Qtown, I headed out for what I thought was a nice flat 40k each way to Glenorchy, a tiny town at the foot of Wakatipu.

I could tell right away that my legs were in for a rough day, and then the climbs started. Much like the ride around Tahoe is not flat, the ride along Wakatipu is also decidedly not flat. I was in my last or second to last gear for many of the climbs, and I've still got the climbing cassette on the bike from Silverman!

I should have stopped and taken more pictures, but this will have to do:

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(the view over Wakatipu towards Glenorchy)

40k came and went, and Glenorchy was nowhere in sight. At just about exactly 50k and waaaay later than I expected, I rolled into town and hobbled off the bike in front of a little cafe. I had a quick lunch, as it was now going to be tight getting back to work by 5pm.

I left Glenorchy and made the unpleasant discovery that I had already ridden downwind, even though my legs felt like it was upwind on the way out. Uh oh. For most of the climbs coming back, I was out of the saddle at under 5mph in the 27 gear, quads and calves screaming with every pedal stroke.

I normally walk to work. Not today. I hit my place at 4:41, parked the bike out front, showered, brushed my teeth, and dressed, and got back on the bike at 4:51, Monty's shirt flapping in the wind, pedaling $5K of carbon fiber in freakin' flip flops. I got to Monty's at 4:54 and walked downstairs dressed at 4:59:15.

So the flat 80k recovery ride turned into a steep 100k "recovery" ride. It's the hardest ride I've gone on in a loooong time. Strangely enough, my legs feel better today than they have in the last few days, so no worries, I suppose.

As an aside, I am supremely motivated lately. It's obvious that 3 weeks is not ample recovery time from a hard race effort, but I'll be OK soon. I'm ardently looking forward to putting in some hard weeks. I just found out about a little sprint race the day after my birthday, so that will be a welcome return to racing after this recovery period. All in all, I am in a very good place mentally these days, as I've simply started to realize what I'm capable of in the cozy little world of triathlon...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ben Lomond, or "Reasons this place sucks #2173"

After a nice breakfast at home on Thursday, I headed with a daypack over to the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown. It heads from town up into the mountains, about 1500 vertical feet up. Up top, there's an overpriced restaurant, a luge track, a bungee operation, and a paraglide launch, as well as a couple of trailheads.
The trail (ok, "track") for Ben Lomond, just over 6000', is listed as a 5 1/2 hour return, so I figured that would make a good day before work.
A round trip on the gondola is 21NZD, but they have a year-long pass for 59NZD. One obvious decision later, I'm the proud owner of a year pass. It's an awfully nice view to go check out after work, etc.
Here's the view of downtown Queenstown from the top of the gondola:

And here's a view out over Wakatipu from the top of the gondola (click the thumbnail for a large version):

I had no idea how much of a hike I was in for, as I didn't even know at the time how tall Ben Lomond was.

Here was my first good view of the peak:

And another quick panorama of Wakatipu as I neared the saddle (click for larger):

I got to the saddle and was greeted by breathtaking views to the north and the west. As the crow flies, Queenstown is very close to Milford Sound, but it's a long trip by car. These mountains to the north and the west are in the vicinity of Milford Sound.

(view north)

(view west)

After the saddle, the track turns sharply up, and it's a good grunt up to the summit. It was quite windy on the exposed northern face, too.

The grunt was well worth it. Here are two shoddy panoramas from the top, one over Wakatipu and the other looking north and west (click both for larger).

And a self-portrait, an hour and 10 minutes and some 3200 vertical feet after I stepped off the gondola:

The trip down was equally quick, although I started feeling some familiar sensations in my legs, reminding me that the race was only 2 1/2 weeks ago.

Sure enough, 2 days later, my quads hurt like hell and I'll be keen to be able to hobble around a little better tomorrow.

The shots to the north and the west are a good indicator of how quickly uninhabited parts of this island can be reached. A mere hour or so out of town...not too shabby!


No, that's not a typo. MOvember is a full month dedicated to awareness of prostate health through the glorification of the oft-maligned mustache. I got here mid-month, but diligently did not shave my upper lip after my arrival. It's now December, so I will be bidding adieu shortly to my best-ever attempt at facial hair.

The great thing now is all the Movember parties that are happening; competitions and all. Nearly all of the Mos floating around are truly heinous, and they're meant to be. I should have been snapping pics on the street of the better ones, but I didn't, so a link will have to suffice:

Some Mos

And for some background:


People take it pretty seriously, as the "winners" get new cars.

The Mo prize categories at the party at Monty's last night for a local construction company (near 100% participation) were the No-Go-Mo (I'm firmly in this category), the Ho-Mo (Village People style), the #1-Bro-with-the-Mo (best all-around), and another that I don't remember.

Here's my no-go-mo:
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Past Detritus