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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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pics of the new pad

Here it is:


(my room)

(living room/dining room/lounge etc.)

(our balcony from below and the whole place)

(and last, but not least, our view)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Contact info update!

Good news! I am no longer homeless!
I called the rental office when I woke up this morning, we got the go-ahead, and we spent the rest of the day moving in and checking our place out.
Pictures will follow, but a couple cool details are that it's heated entirely by underfloor heating in the main areas and undertile heating in the bathrooms.


Eliot Drake
13-96 Frankton Road
Queenstown, Otago 9300, New Zealand

(had to look up the zip code. they're not exactly a big thing here yet.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A trip around the South Island

My friends Jesse and Lisa are in New Zealand right now on their honeymoon, and they graciously decided to put up with me for a couple days while we went on a whirlwind tour of the South Island by car. They had already spent 4 days on the Milford Track and a few days in Queenstown, so it was time to explore. These photos are over a three day period:

(between Queenstown and Wanaka in the Crown Range)


(Blue Pools)

(Knight's Point on the west coast. Next one too.)

(At Fox Glacier. Last stop for the first day before bedding down at Franz Josef Glacier. Walking up to the terminal face is like walking into a meat locker...chilly.)

(Also at Fox)

(Also at Fox. The deep blue in the clouds at the right side of the image was remarkable. We couldn't figure out what caused it but it was striking.)

(This and the next five are from Franz Josef Glacier. Socked in by clouds, too, but that didn't detract from the glacier's dramatic presence.)

(Back to the coast near Greymouth)

(Not only do they drive on the wrong side of the road here, but most rural bridges are one lane with signs indicating right-of-way. Even better, some of them are shared with a train. The train gets right-of-way...)

(A tasty treat)

(Part of the panorama from the Mt. John observatory. We're on our way to the east coast now after crossing the gorgeous Arthur's Pass area. Will revisit that part of the island on my bike.)

(A couple of shots from the surreal Lake Pukaki. The most amazing aquamarine lake...)

That's all for now!

A quick introduction to working life in Queenstown

So I have a job working at Monty's bar in Queenstown. It's a cool joint, a pretty quality establishment, and the food is off the hook.
It was slow last night so I had a few minutes to play around with my camera.
Here it is:

Contact info

So I've got an operating phone here in NZ. +6421823331. Works for calls and txts.

No mailing address yet but should have it soon...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Arrival in New Zealand and Queenstown

Long flight, haggard body, lots and lots of gear, but all worth it for the following photos from the approach into Queenstown:

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(see anything cool in there, korg?)

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My face was plastered to the window, understandably.

Gear dropped off at Fockler’s pad, wandering around downtown Queenstown. Time to feel the water in Lake Wakatipu.

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Feels about like Tahoe in May. Bearable but cold.

Now, if things work out, and we have enough people living there, this could be our pad…

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We met up with Jesse and Lisa on my first night in town; they’re here on their honeymoon. They’re out on the Milford Track right now but I’ll be spending some time with them next week to go explore the countryside and take some more pictures.

I started work on Friday and have had a couple really cool days at Monty's. Very fast-paced, but tons of fun.

Silverman Race Report

This narrative covers my experiences at the 2007 Silverman Triathlon in Henderson, NV. It was a big day for me as it was my first iron-distance race and my first marathon. I decided to do this race in mid-September. The 101 series had been canceled (RIP), so my calendar had an empty spot on November 11 and I wasn’t willing to call my season over yet. Many things happened in my life in that one-week period. In one day, I signed up for Silverman and IMNZ and committed to living in New Zealand for at least four and a half months. This was partly enabled by a green light I got from an orthopaedic surgeon that some lingering problems I was having shouldn’t prevent me from preparing for a long race. So when I signed up for Silverman 8 weeks away from the race, I was still pretty fit from a hard spring and summer, but getting ready for a race this long and hard was going to take some work. 5 ridiculous weeks, 1.5 moderate weeks, and 1.5 weeks of taper later, it was time. The last week before my taper started came in at 27 hours of training. I drove to Vegas on Friday with my dad feeling exceptionally strong both physically and mentally.

I set a goal time of 12:00 for the race. I figured 1:10 on the swim, 7 hours on the bike (9700 feet!), 3:40 for the run (1600 feet!), and 10 minutes combined in transition. Accomplishing my goal time is always the most important thing to me; my placing relative to other athletes is merely a consequence of how well I do compared to my goal time.

The Friday night pasta dinner was notable for the good food and the speakers. Both Dave Scott and Macca spoke, and they are both characters. Both are very enjoyable to listen to and they traded some good-natured jabs at each other.

Saturday was my day to drive the bike course and the run course. Neither were too much of a surprise as I had looked over the elevation profiles, but it was good to see the lay of the land.

Race morning began for me at 3:30 am. Waking up was easy as I managed to be sound asleep by about 8:30 the night before. 7 solid hours of sleep was fantastic, and was aided by the sleep deprivation I put myself through getting ready to leave Reno for several months and condensing my important possessions into the space of 2 bags and a bike case. I ate a PB&J, an Odwalla juice, a banana, and a Clif Bar for breakfast. I stayed at a friend’s house in Henderson (thanks Larry!), so I had tons of space to lay all my gear out. Left the house at 4:30 am and pulled into Hemenway Harbor at exactly 5 am…an hour and a half ‘til the race. I got out of the car and was greeted my warm temps, no wind, and a glassy lake. Just as everyone was thinking that we had beat the wind gremlins, a stiff breeze picked up…oh boy…

After lots of stretching and a solid 40 seconds or so of a swim warmup, it was time to go.

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I was pretty relaxed; no point in getting all riled up. I had all day to get excited! It was light out but the sun hadn’t yet peeked over the mountains. We were off, and things went great on the first leg. As soon as we turned left onto the long out leg, things got really easy. The wind was at our back and while it felt great, I knew what was coming as soon as we turned around ~1000m later. Sure enough, we turned around and the water was a shade rough.

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(choppy at the swim turnaround)

I swam 90% of the out leg by myself, but quickly found a couple sets of feet to follow on the way back. It was nice to have somebody at least knocking the top off the chop for me… I came out of the water in 1:13, a few minutes off my figured 1:10, but I felt really fresh; a good thing considering I was an hour into a 12 hour day.

T1 went smoothly. I felt pretty bad for the wetsuit strippers as I had pretty bad gas during the swim (surprise surprise). They must have been overwhelmed when they cracked that wetsuit open. There were still lots of bikes in T1 so I had at least done OK on the swim.


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(bike elevation profile...)

My plan for the bike was to ride conservatively but to also take maximum advantage of any opportunities for free speed, like cresting hills and coming onto flats. I don’t have a power meter or heart rate monitor, so it’s all by feel for this kid. The bike starts on a pretty good hill to climb out of the harbor. As soon as I turned right out of the harbor, I felt the wind at my back.

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(leaving Lake Mead; heaviest traffic of the day)

Having this tailwind right out of the gate meant that it was time to take that free speed and get those legs going. The roads were open to traffic, but most of the cars were spectators and race vehicles. I was used to having some people cheer as they went by, so I thought nothing of it when I heard a car approach and some cheering somewhere between miles 15 and 20. I looked left and was absolutely blown away. It took me a second to process it, but my friends Joe and Steph had driven down from Reno as a total surprise, and here they were…absolutely unbelievable and a big boost to the ol’ adrenal gland.

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(just after Joe and Steph surprised me)

I would see them several more times on the bike as they covered a pretty good portion of the course. I know they were looking forward to seeing Macca and Scott go by in the half distance race, too. There was lots of passing back and forth all the way up through mile 40. Everybody was in good spirits and I chatted with nearly everyone I saw. Everybody rode clean, but we were so spread out that drafting clearly wouldn’t be an issue. The winds were variable as we were changing directions a lot, but I just focused on keeping my exertion generally the same while capitalizing on those free speed opportunities. My 606 wheelset seemed to be very well-suited to the course and the conditions. After mile 40, I started seeing less and less bikes. The leader came the other way at mile 42. The turnaround was at mile 51, so he was at mile 60. It was 3 more miles until any more bikes came through, and there were four bikes in that group. So the leader had 6 miles on the next group; he was clearly riding hard. I did not, however, pay attention to whether the bikes coming the other way were individuals or relays. I came into special needs for a bathroom break, a fresh bottle of calories, and some prophylactic ibuprofen. AMAZING volunteers at special needs. By the time I stepped out of the bathroom, my water and food were swapped out and my bag of ibuprofen was open and dangling in front of my face. I was blown away by how efficient they were and got back on my way. I rolled through mile 56 at just about exactly 3 hours. I was WAY ahead of my projected pace through this heinous course but I felt fantastic and like I was still riding conservatively. I do not consider myself a strong biker so this came as quite a surprise and I decided to continue with what was a good thing. This part of the course was mentally tough, though, as we were a long way from home and we had turned around into a stout headwind. The few miles after special needs were very difficult but I caught a few people and got through them. I passed one guy who had either skipped body marking or had washed his numbers off, didn’t appear to have a number on his bike, and was riding with headphones. He had a timing chip, though. A couple minutes after I passed him I looked back and found him about 6 feet off my wheel. I looked back a couple more times and he dropped back, never to be seen again. Fortunately, the big headwinds at around miles 55-60 did not stay that strong for the rest of the trip back. Would have been a much longer day if they had. The rest of the way back, I only saw a handful of people and only got passed by one relay rider who was a pretty cool guy to talk to for a few seconds as he blasted past me. There was a lot of wide open road with no bikes visible in either direction. As I felt fatigue building slowly, I gathered lots of mental energy from the spectacular desert landscape. I imagine our huge western vistas came as a surprise to some.

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(the road near mile 90)

The alone time out there gave me ample opportunity to reflect on the great day I was having so far and that I was actually having fun. When I turned off the road and on to the bike path at mile 92 or so, I was still within a few minutes of a 6 hour bike pace. I was absolutely quite surprised that I had kept this pace with a low perceived exertion. I was mentally prepared for the Three Sisters (3 short hills, each at 18% grade), and I had a 27 low gear, so they weren’t too horrid. That being said, a section like that at mile 90 in a long course race is just brutal…thanks a lot, Frank!

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(um, ouch. this is the first Sister)

Then I found out what the last 17 miles of the bike held for us. All we did in the last 17 miles was turn uphill and upwind at every possible opportunity. Most of it was on the lonely bike path; a very surreal experience with no one around. Between the Three Sisters and the magical always uphill, always upwind sections, my bike pace went from about 6:05 to nearly 6:20 in the last 20 miles…ouch. I drank about 2000 calories of Infinit on the bike; exactly what I had planned. Nothing but water from the aid stations. Using Infinit for my nutrition is just plain simple; I’m a huge fan. I came in at 6:19, hugely ahead of my projected 7:00 split.
More rad bike shots:

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(hammer down!)

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(cruising along...quickly)

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(smiling because it's fun!)

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(um, wow)

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(view at mile 90)

T2 was quick for me. Running shoes and visor on and out of the tent. Dave Scott was in there gathering some gear after racing the half, so I talked to him for a minute while I tied my shoes. So nearly 7:45 into a long day, it was time to go run my first marathon…


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(run course profile. we did two laps of this)

As expected, I was a little wobbly for the first couple of miles and didn’t really feel like eating anything. I started eating again at mile 6. I took a quick bathroom break at mile 8 and kept right on trucking. I noticed my junk was pretty shrunken when I stopped to pee, so I bumped up my hydration even though I still felt good. So from mile 8 on, I alternated water/Gatorade, water/chips, and water/gel at the aid stations. My legs never really came in, which disappointed me a bit since I’m a much stronger runner than biker. I felt like I ran a very consistent pace, but the general fatigue and 1600’ of climbing on the run kept me from ever really cranking out any fast miles. Joe and Steph were cruising around on their bikes by now so I saw them a few times during the run. The toughest part of the run for me came as I finished the first lap and saw that I was off my desired pace. The next mile was the most difficult part of the race mentally, but then we started climbing again and I had no choice but to focus on the task at hand. The lead woman, who turned out to be Alicia Parr, came cruising by me at about mile 14, and she looked absolutely great. My quads were pretty sore by the end of the first lap, and while I had been looking forward to finishing the uphills on the second lap, the downhills would prove to be so brutal on my quads that I rather looked forward to the start of the next hill.

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(downhill around mile 10. going downhill hurts by now)

Running through The District at Green Valley Ranch was a huge boost both laps. Running right down the middle of a big plaza with all sorts of people cheering…awesome…

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(running through The District)

It got dark about halfway through my second lap but the course was well-lit. Watching dusk set over Vegas from high above was very cool. I passed mile 26 and, with just a couple hundred yards left to go, felt a huge sense of elation and just started smiling. My body felt really light and I just cruised across the line exceedingly happy. My first-ever marathon came in at 3:57, quite a bit off what I wanted.

So I came in at 11:35, a full 25 minutes ahead of my goal time. I was overjoyed to have come in that far ahead of what I figured would be an extremely challenging time to beat. I immediately started eating. I got a massage and then ate some more. We were able to take showers in the aquatic center next to the finish, which was great. Out of my race gear, I headed back up to watch some more finishers and eat some more. I also cracked open a very special beer that started its life in Belgium before being bought in Japan and brought back to Reno for me. Mmm…La Guillotine…thanks Korg!

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(tired but happy!)

I had a chance to talk to Frank Lowery, the Race Director, on a couple occasions Sunday night. What a neat guy and a truly professional RD. His attention to detail and his focus on the athlete experience, along with the volunteer coordination his wife Megan did, were simply stunning. Some of those aid stations were ROWDY!

The awards banquet Monday morning was filled with great food and camaraderie. Macca and Dave Scott continued their banter and listening to Dave’s race report for the half was beyond entertaining. It’s fantastic that someone like Dave Scott gets to publicly lambaste Frank Lowery for his demon-course! Macca was slightly kinder to Frank but still had some choice words for the course.

So I had repacked all my gear before the breakfast and left right from the banquet for LAX. As I write this, my body is destroyed but my spirits are high. I’m about two and a half hours from Auckland on an Air New Zealand 777 (lots of free time; hence the lengthy report) and about to embark on a new adventure. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Silverman and highly encourage it to anyone who thinks it sounds like a remotely good idea. What an amazing experience for my first iron-distance race… Three and a half-months to IMNZ!

All in all, it was a great day and an opportunity for me to learn more about what I’m capable of. This is good.

Past Detritus