Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Auckland and Waiheke

We had been in New Zealand for a whopping two days before we took our first jaunt out of Queenstown. My friend Aaron had flown from the US to Auckland for a speaking gig, and we decided that "so close but so far" was an unacceptable excuse and made the trip to cause some ruckus.

Queenstown Airport is pretty easy; I think we left our house 45' before our flight and had plenty of time to spare! The approaches and departures from ZQN are EPIC:

From bottom: A320, Wakatipu, Jacks Point, and Remarkables

Obligatory "space is big" photo

Once we made our way to downtown Auckland from the airport (considerably harder than Queenstown), we spent a little time wandering around before meeting up with Aaron and his dad Pete. While waiting in the hotel, the hustle and bustle was impossible to ignore, and it peaked when Angela Merkel and her entourage trotted by en route to do dignitary things.

Skycity Tower (dominates the Auckland skyline)

After a stunning dinner with friends old and new, good laughs all around, and a solid night's sleep, we awoke to a lovely weather day with high prospects for a pretty unreal opportunity: a helicopter flight around Auckland and out to Waiheke Island.



I should point out that this was my first time ever in a helicopter, and out of the four of us, I was the only newbie. I was STOKED!


Skycity Tower from above


Our pilot was kind enough to take us over some pretty cool stuff. Although, from low altitude, almost everything looks cool. Perspective is everything!



Our destination was Waiheke Island: wine mecca and weekend getaway for those from Auckland and beyond. Thankfully, it wasn't yet high tourist season, so we were able to move about a little more easily than we would have otherwise.

Private paradise

Quiet neighborhood

Of course, every island is beset with some oddities: on Waiheke it's that trash is just left on the side of the road for collection, and also that the roosters have been banished to a particular park and live like outcast bachelors.

Whatchu lookin' at?

Step to this, boy!

The holiday homes on Waiheke are ridiculous. There's amazing architecture, amazing lots, and ample space. We pulled over for a single quick photo of one of them. It's really a shame that places like this are unoccupied so much of the time; I'd volunteer to be a caretaker :) In that sense, it's really quite excessive.


Fortunately, most of the island is covered in lush greenery, modest homes, and cool little businesses. The holiday homes are hard to ignore but it's really a lovely island inhabited by friendly people from all walks of life.


Our time, unfortunately, was short, as there are only so many flights to Queenstown on any given day. We utilized about every form of transportation imaginable to get back to the airport, making our full logistik for the day taxi-helicopter-taxi tour-ferry-bus-flight-car. Not our typical day of idea how the rockstars can keep it up on tour.

Once we got home, we finally felt like it was OK to relax a bit and get used to our new locale!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Open Wide

One benefit of the line of work I'm in is that every now and then I get to play photographer as part of my job, which really just means a ready excuse to fiddle with my toys and get paid for it.

This in and of itself is not dreadfully unique; there are plenty of people who make photos for their work. What DOES make it unique is that I'm probably one of very few who gets to torture his colleagues with insane and unreasonable demands like:

"OK, this is really going to hurt, but I need you to stare DIRECTLY into the strobe."

"Right, I need you to hold your eyelids as far apart as possible. Further. Further. I don't care if it hurts. Further."

"Hmm, I'm getting reflections from your knuckles on your cornea. Cover your fingers in gaff tape and then do it again. Wider. WIDER!"

Good morning, sunshine

Most of the time, I'm photographing eyes for purposes of art or less invasive forms of data collection. But every now and then, you absolutely positively need a photo of the entire iris.

Full Clockwork

It's not that I'm particularly sadistic, it's just that it needs to be right because science. I swear. I will, however, admit that it's pretty funny when I find them bumping into things and swatting at imaginary fireflies half an hour after we're done.

Thanks for suffering, guys.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reno Marathon Race Report

I'm really struggling with this race report. It was a fairly uneventful race, and I'm not one to invent drama in my writing where there is none solely for the sake of entertainment (OK, that's TOTALLY a lie, but I don't believe in doing that for race reports).

Anyhow, after the Napa Trail Marathon in late March, it took about two weeks before I started to feel recovered, and also about two weeks before my uber-blisters (missing heel) healed. I had been planning on going to run Boston, but I fell victim to the worst case of botched scheduling in recent memory (ok, well, as I'm writing this, that's no longer true, but back in March/April, it was). So Boston was off the books, which was a bummer, and the newly-resurrected marathon in Reno (aka Downtown River Run) was the weekend before Boston, so I sauntered down to signup on Friday prior to the Sunday race, handed over some money, and pledged to fling myself into the fray once again, a mere 3 weeks after Napa.

The course undulates from downtown Reno out to Verdi and back again, turning around about 500' higher than the start/finish and gaining about 1100' of elevation with all the rollers. A course like this is not particularly fast (and Reno's about 4500' above sea level anyway, just for some extra excuses)! Our secret bonus for the day will be a tailwind on the way out, which of course means a headwind on the way back in. Ouch.

Come race morning, I am feeling fully cognizant of my less-than-complete recovery and set my expectations accordingly. A couple minutes before the start, I strip everything off except shorts and shoes (because 'Merica!), point my rock-hard nipples toward the feeble April sunrise, and chat nervously with my friend (and certified ultra-stud) Adam on the line. Milling around under the world-infamous Reno Arch at sunrise is usually reserved for the alcoholics and degenerates, so we do our best to do their job justice and mutter incomprehensible platitudes.

With no watch or heart rate monitor, no timing clocks on course, and Frisky Puffs drenched in Stubborn Milk for breakfast, my official strategy is the oft-ill-advised "go out hard and see what happens." Sometimes it works, and sometimes...not so much. Hey, this is what makes racing exciting sometimes! For the two of you who might care about my nutrition, after my success with carrying a bottle full of gel at Napa, I decided to do the same thing here. I probably didn't drink as much as I should have, but it worked well especially as I didn't know what they'd have on course. Probably made it through 300cal and supplemented with water from aid stations.

So Adam runs with me for the first couple of miles and then trails off behind me. I run gleefully unencumbered with the wind at my back and no one to interrupt my rhythm all the way to the turnaround. Never bother looking behind me as it won't really change how I'm running if I get caught/passed/tripped/struck by lightning/etc.

Aforementioned rock-hard nipples (you're welcome)

As I had anticipated, the turnaround brings the headwind with it, but even anticipating it doesn't make it feel any better: it sucks. It also gives me the opportunity to gauge my lead, which is a couple minutes to Adam and then a couple more to the next pack of chasers. This means that if I don't blow sky-high, I might have a chance at winning the thing, but years of long-distance racing of various flavors has taught me that it's never over until it's over.

Sure enough, some of the uphills on the return trip, paired with the headwind, bring me to an awkward shuffle (and nearly to tears), but a few minutes of relaxing my stride a bit aids recovery and lets me survive until the next hard spell.

This thing heavy please help me not die

Again, won't invent drama, so can't say much more than "held off the hordes and finished happy and healthy." There was a bonus prize if the winning male broke 2:40, which I thought was in reach if all planets aligned, but they didn't, so it wasn't :) Mega-props to Ramona, the winning woman, who collected her bonus for sub-3:00. She is an absolute beast and about as humble and friendly as they come.

What I can add, however, is that police escorts are AWESOME. I had 2 police motorcycles putting along nearby for the entire race, and to put it bluntly, it's royal treatment! I felt like the dignitary in a motorcade. They even lit up their sirens when I made the last turn onto Virginia St before the finish, which was pretty cool. It was actually super helpful to have them in the last few miles after we rejoined the half-marathon traffic as they pretty aggressively cleared a path for me; my lizard brain wouldn't have done nearly as well.

Not your normal escort service

I also have to extend thanks to the race organizers and volunteers for being thorough, helpful, and cheerful before, during, and after the race. Additionally, major props to all the other happy was truly enjoyable to see everyone on the out-and-back course and exchange smiles, waves, grunts, and various other forms of feeble communication while we were smashing ourselves!

It was also fantastic to see loads of friends at the finish who were either spectating, running shorter races (and many as final prep for Boston), or volunteering. Reno's running community is full of awesome people who spread their positivity and generosity far and wide, so chapeau to you all for that.

I felt pretty freakin' fortunate to have started off my season with 2 great races; nothing that I'd expect but I sure as hell won't complain!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Socks 'n Coffee

Should I feel guilty that all three of these photos were taken from the safety and warmth of our house?


Godrays over Walter Peak Farm

Walter, Cecil, and Hidden Island



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Change of View

OK, the silence here was getting ridiculous, but not without fair reason.

We just completed a relocation back to New Zealand after nearly 7 years away, and holy crap, there's a lot involved in moving halfway around the world! The past couple months have been a whirlwind of logistics, packing, downsizing, shipping, selling, donating, paperwork, critical work projects, etc., and it's only now that I'm realizing how much time that took as we've now suddenly got loads of free time.

We were actually far more sorted on the NZ end than the US end: the push to get our freight underway and ourselves on the plane was pretty uncomfortable, but we had a rental house waiting for us here, so really all we had to do was show up. I'm also aware that there are several of you who left me voicemails etc that did not get returned, and you've all got Skype calls or Facetimes in your future. Promise.

It does not suck here. Here are a few photos from our house.

View west from the living room

Stormy Wakatipu

Walter Peak behind the flank of Cecil

It's not just the view from the house; we're spitting distance away from trails in pretty much every direction. This is about a mile away from our house:

Wakatipu from Jardine Park (click for bigger)

I'm not letting you off the hook with only the visual interpretation of "view;" this relocation also represents a shift for me in the pursuit of harmony as it involves work and life. My goal is to be able to better compartmentalize work while simultaneously extracting inspiration from the boundless opportunities this wild land presents. Challenge accepted!

I've of course still got lots of backlog that I'm promising to get through, but I figured a quick update on our whereabouts was worthwhile :)

We challenge you, all of you, to come visit this paradise. We've got the space for ya. Who'll be first?


Past Detritus