January 30, 2014

Kaiser Half Preview: May I Run With a Grateful Heart

A good friend of mine had open heart surgery today.  It was a shock when she found out she had a heart tumor earlier this week, but it went well and she's recuperating in the cardiac ICU now.   I am grateful.

I plan to visit her on Sunday in SF after the race.  So that's my goal -- I want to finish, and I want to visit my friend in the hospital and confirm with my very own eyes that she's on the road to her recovery.

Everything else is pure gravy.

I think everyone has areas of their life where they focus and stress.  I probably have more of these areas than most people, but, running just isn't one of 'em.  A while back, it may have been, but at some point I realized that in order for running to function as a stress relieving hobby for me, I just had to let go and let it be whatever I needed it to be for me at the time.  I couldn't let my hobby be a source of stress for me.

And it hasn't been.  Not for years.

The downside to this is that thanks to this lack of commitment and discipline in my hobby and the fact that it's been the only major source of exercise/calorie management in my life for the last decade, I'm currently working my way out of the worst shape I've ever been in as a runner  (I have to add this caveat, because I was once in worse shape when I was "not a runner" but I was much younger and bounced back much faster as soon as I *became* a runner).

Anyways, it's slow going.  I just checked -- All of the average paces for my runs in 2014 are in the double digits per mile.  Yes, I've done the occasional faster mile and several speed segments that dipped into the 7s and even the 6s/mile for the short stuff.  But there's no evidence of any long efforts that average sub 10/mile in my log for this year.

A younger me might find this depressing. 

I find it to be oddly liberating.  Slightly more than 12 months ago, I was approximately 10 pounds lighter and ran the fastest half marathon I've run in 2+ years.  But I'm obviously nowhere near that situation right now.  I'm so far from it, actually, that it's quite easy to set goals that have never looked like goals in the past and yet know I will feel proud if I meet them.  So, in the bloggy interests of oversharing the mundane, here you go (each additional goal assumes the accomplishment of the goal prior to it):

Perfectly Satisfied Goal:   Finish 13.1 miles and get to the hospital to visit with newly stitched up open heart surgery patient friend.  I will be grateful and happy if I am lucky enough to meet this goal.

Better Than Satisfied Goal:   Finish in sub 2:30 (11:27/mile pace).  I feel pretty good about the possibility of achieving this one and it will be a step in the right direction, fitness-wise to complete the whole distance without walking as I haven't run 13.1 miles straight since September of 2013.  (Bonus, this one means I'll have enough time to join some law school ladies for brunch after cleaning up.)

Obviously Proud of Myself Goal:   Finish in sub 2:27 (11:13/mile pace).  This is slightly faster than what I managed for the 10 miler.  I'm hopeful this is doable because I'm not planning to gorge my gullet with party food and drinks the night before the race and perhaps I won't have gastrointestinal side effects as a result.  One can dream, right?

Impressed With My Dedication Goal:   Finish in sub 2:23 (10:55/mile pace).  Sub 11 pace overall would feel just great (see what I mean about liberating?)

I Am a Sucker For Round Numbers Goal:   Finish in sub 2:20 (10:41/mile pace).  Based on my speedwork, this one should be doable.  But, my mileage has been low...

Stupid Grinning Happy Best Case Scenario Goal:   Finish in sub 2:15 (10:18/mile pace).  I don't think this is entirely impossible, so I'm putting it here to give myself something to strive for if all goes perfectly on race day.

Wish me luck.  But more importantly, take a moment to be grateful for your life, health, friends, and family.  Life is precious and fleeting and we are all so very lucky.

January 27, 2014

When Did Time Speed Up?

How is it possible that 2014 is almost 1/12 done?  Every time I see them, my nieces and nephews confirm that they age at light speed - they are becoming adults, incrementally, before my very eyes.  Also, apparently, I've been running my own law firm for almost 4 years now.  WTF?

In other news, last week was gone in a quick blink, but typical.

I helped a client close a HUGE deal that will be announced this week.  It was fun, but also super stressful and like all big time-sucking-and-stress-inducing deals, I'm glad it's behind me (and that we were able to find an acceptable compromise -- I actually got a thank you email from opposing counsel regarding my responsiveness and reasonableness, which was a pleasant surprise).

The running was good on the scale of recent running.  32.49 miles total including approximately 7 miles of walking, the majority running at an easy pace, a great 8X400 workout at sub 8/mile for each interval, and, because I hadn't registered, I skipped the planned 10K on Sunday in lieu of an 11 miler broken into 3 w/u easy to the park, 5 easy with the local nascient running group (low 11 pace), and 3 c/d easy solo back home.  It was my first 11 mile run since the Zoom Point Pinole Half, so that's something to celebrate.  Also, I felt like I needed to get in one more double digit run before showing up at Kaiser SF next Sunday, so I'm pleased that it worked out.

I finally made it to the new local Yoga studio today.  I did the "Hour of Power" (you heard).

Yikes.  Apparently, my 2 years of Bikram didn't maintain as much core and arm strength as I'd thought.  Or, perhaps, the weight gain makes it harder for my arms and core to do their job.  No matter what the explanation, I was glad this class was only an hour and I'm fairly certain I'm going to be quite sore tomorrow.  At multiple points in the class, I was shaking.  As in, my muscles thought they couldn't hold the pose and my brain was forcing them to do so, but the body was fairly certain the brain was an idiot.  Mind you, this wasn't an advanced class.  If nothing else, I confirmed that it's probably a good thing that I'm deviating from a pure Bikram/recumbant bike/walking cross-training regimen to something a little more strength-demanding.

I sent my niece the boxed set of Harry Potter for her birthday and she agreed to re-read the first 2 and go through the whole set, *if* I read them with her.  How could I refuse?  Making a calendar appointment to go pick up book one from the library this week... 

And finally, on Saturday, after a Friday night of reliving our youth with friends in the Mission (we had no reservations, walked aimlessly, stood in many lines and, once in one of the bars, did *shots* -- I haven't done a shot in at least 10 years!), and the next day's obligatory sleeping in and a short run by me, we walked to a lovely lunch of oysters etc. at Waterbar.

The view from Waterbar.

What we didn't know was that we'd sat for lunch in time to view the 10th Annual Walk For Life.

All in all, it was fairly anti-climactic.  No yelling.  No fetus photos.  Just thousands of folks exercising their 1st amendment rights, peaceably marching with signs, most of which were clear but not inflammatory, many of them carrying church banners from parts of California that most of the SF folks didn't recognize (Yolo, Butte, Sutter, Kern, Kings, Yuba, Modesto/Fresno [okay, those two are likely recognized]).  It was obvious that many of the folks were much more excited about being in San Francisco than they were about being in the walk, which made me proud that SF just let them come and do their thing and didn't really react to them at all.

Our (flamingly gay African American) server stopped by and asked, "Are you enjoying the show???"

E responded, in typical fashion, "I just want to troll so badly... 'Menstruation is Murder' or 'Gay Marriage Stops Abortion' but I just can't help but thinking that they are barking up the wrong tree, and so earnestly, it's kind of sad..."  Our server smiled, agreed that they were probably preaching to the wrong choir, and went about his day.  As did the rest of the city.

In light of the realities of conflicted political and religious views and the events they cause in the rest of the world, this display of peaceful speech made me more proud to be an American than just about anything I've ever experienced. 

Peace. Love.  Free Speech. Democracy.  Equal Protection.  All *very* good things.  We can agree to disagree about the rest over a nice delicious lunch with a beautiful view.

January 23, 2014

Going With the Flow (NYE Goal Check-in)

I've set a record this year for breaking my first New Year's Resolution the earliest in the year ever.

It's a PR!

On January 13, not even two full weeks into the year I failed to meet my goal of having finished every book club book this year by the actual meeting.

In my defense,  The Age of Innocence, just wasn't doing it for me.  I was shocked that this book was from the same author as The House of Mirth, which I adore.  I couldn't get into it.  I definitely had enough time to finish it, I was just too annoyed with the characters to do so.  So, I'm resetting and committed to finishing Wuthering Heights for next month.

On the running front, I'm slowly getting back in shape, which is nice.  I did 8X400 at track day yesterday and hit all of them at sub-8/mile pace, fairly consistently, which made me happy (1:58; 1:54; 1:56; 1:56; 1:57; 1:57; 1:56; 1:56). The effort wasn't actually that hard, which was ideal because I'm registered for a 10K this weekend so I didn't want the track workout to be my best effort for the week.  Bonus -- today, I'm not very sore.  Also, I'm doing very well on the running with joy front.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), one of the half-marathons I registered for this Spring is no longer on my schedule.  E's family wanted us to join them to go skiing in Jackson Hole that week and it was a no-brainer as to which option was more attractive. 

On the space front, I'm trying.  I have been better about balancing my time and building in empty space, but it's a work in progress.  I'm still ridiculously over-booked, but less so than historically.

For yoga, I still need to get in to try out the new studio.  I'm hopeful I may be able to make it happen today or tomorrow.  This one's tough to balance against the "leave space in my schedule" goal.  We'll see...

I pulled the winter garden and will be starting my seedlings this weekend, so that one is in good shape.  I'm a bit concerned about the drought we're experiencing in California.  I may need to scale back the garden this Summer, but I'll start my seedlings with expectations and hopes for miracle rain/snow just in case.

On the professional/financial reverse goal side I opted not to compete to get a new client today, telling them to stick with their larger law firm, since they'd negotiated a discount that eliminated my economic advantage.  This, my friends, is *major* progress for me.

January 16, 2014

Washington Tidbits

I'm in Eastern Washington right now, helping my sis out with her kids while her husband is on night duty for his residency.

On my flight over, I had a layover in Seattle, and on take-off from SEA-TAC, the mountain was out:

(Apparently the difference between the beat frequency of this prop and the scan frequency of my camera wasn't too bad.  But if you're curious about that random sliver of an almost propeller blade in the photo, check out the random photos that can occur and the explanation therefor.)

In other news, apparently Frozen Fog is a thing.

It looks like this (it can be accompanied by minor snow flurries) and it makes it very difficult to drive:

January 13, 2014

Running (Jogging?) Back Into Distance

Yesterday, thanks to a discount code and motivation from Jen, I ran (barely) the Foster City 10 mile race.

Thanks to Jen for the (no drama, just smiles) finish line photo.

The night before, we went to some friends' house for a belated holiday party and filled up on margaritas, wine, caramel corn, bread and cheese, prosciutto, smoked salmon and very rare prime rib.  I volunteered to be the DD and managed to limit my celebration to one serving of most of the food and one margarita and a couple of glasses of wine interspersed with at least 5 glasses of sparkling water over 5+ hours.  Perfect pre-long-run (note: yes, 10 miles is a long run for me right now) loading, right?

At 4 AM, E woke me up, puking.  At 5:30 AM, I woke with lower abdominal cramps, similar to the discomfort I felt in Cambodia when my traveling companions were suffering severe gastrointestinal distress and an inability to go anywhere due to a constant need to be near the bathroom -- Awesome.  I just hoped for the best and went back to sleep.  At 6:55, when I woke for the race, I seriously considered dropping out.  I had no idea what was going on with my stomach, but suspected it could actually be a true gastrointestinal infection.

But... Jen was going and I was looking forward to catching up with her.  After coffee and getting dressed I decided I would drive to the race and at *least* attempt the 5K -- I figured if it was something serious, my body would let me know.

I arrived, picked up my bib, met up with Jen and tried to ignore the freezing cold and cramping in my lower belly.  My Garmin was completely without a charge, which was just as well...I knew I wasn't going to be pushing the pace even before I had the stomach issues.  See, due to the fact that I'm *very* protective of my body and will stop running hard at the teensiest hint of an injury, and the fact that the last couple months of the year were a ridiculous whirlwind of travel, I haven't run 10 miles in one go since last September.

In fact, the longest run I've done since September was December's virtual Jingle Bell Hell -- which was more of a run/walk and not exactly an inspirational effort.

I headed out with the runners at the start and made it to mile 1 before I decided I need audio distraction.  I put in my headphones and decided I'd re-evaluate my belly situation at the 5K turn-around.  Thankfully, after 1.5 miles of running, my stomach felt better, so I decided to just try my luck.  My very simple goal was to just keep a nice easy run/jogging pace and to avoid walking as much as possible.  I succeeded.  I was slow -- as in, the folks around me were Gallo-walking.  They'd pass me on their run segments and then I'd pass them on their walk segments.  But, I didn't stop to walk except when it was time to take in Gatorade at the aid stations.

My body was very nice to me and didn't decide it needed a bathroom 'til mile 8.  Of course, this is right around the point where the bathroom availability disappeared on the course.  Thankfully, I was able to push through to the end and just keep going over the finish line straight to the restrooms.

Final results: 10 miles in 1:52:30 @ 11:15/mile pace (I took the 13 seconds or so it took me to get across the start line very seriously and deducted them from my official results, 11:15/mile is just so much more respectable than 11:16, don't you think?).

I'm very happy with how this worked out.  I just ran, enjoyed my audiobook, and had a great time -- my running with joy goal was met.  Plus, Jen and I got to go stuff our faces with mediterranean food afterwards while we caught up, which was fun *and* delicious.

Total miles for the week: 23.97, including the 10 mile "race", some speedy short work at track day (200s? 100s?  yeah, my butt, legs, and core were a bit confused about how fast and short those segments were), about 3-4 miles of walking, and the remainder at easier mid 9s and 10s.

So, now that I've passed the 10 mile (run with joy) mark, my new goal is 12 miles (ran with joy).  Not sure when I'm going to fit this one in, but the goal is to get it done sometime before Kaiser Permanente, so that I know I can run/jog a half marathon before I show up.  Thank goodness for races -- without them, I wouldn't have any distance goals at all...

January 6, 2014

2014 Goals

It's that time of year again and my goals this year fall into several categories:

1.  Space.  When it comes to space, physically, I'm pretty good.  I don't generally succumb to clutter and I regularly purge physical things (although, truth be told, right now, due to holiday gifts, I have an abundance of cardboard boxes in our living room that need to be dealt with).  While spatially, I may be good, temporally, I'm terrible.  I used to compare myself against my mother and congratulate myself, but as I've aged, I've realized that even my *very* laid back father was actually a work-a-holic and dedicated socialite who regularly over-booked his time, so, other than my lovely husband who taught me to build in "do-nothing" days on vacation, I have no good role models on this very important topic and my continuum is skewed heavily to the over-extended time side.  I regularly let my time become so crowded that everything I want to do only fits if *everything* goes *exactly* according to plan (side note, this makes me very intolerant of others who have loser definitions of time and inconvenience me).  When the inevitable happens and everything doesn't fit, I triage.  And I do it well.  But, the needs in an emergency are very different than the needs one could address by being thoughtful with foresight.  I've realized that by neglecting to intentionally build in enough buffer space for life, which *never* goes completely according to plan, I'm partially responsible for all of these emergencies that make me triage anxiously while my blood boils.  So, my very hard to quantify goal for 2014 is to maintain enough temporal space that emergencies only happen when they are *relatively* unavoidable.  Note -- startups operate in full-on emergency-all-the-time mode, so professionally, I can't completely control for this one.  But I can admit that it exists and structure my personal life accordingly, which is something I haven't done in the past.  I'm not sure how to quantify this one, but I think I'll be able to be honest with myself about whether I'm successful or not come year-end.

2.  Yoga.  It was with a sad heart that I read the Vanity Fair piece on Bikram being sued for rape and sexual harassment.  Given that I already have a love-hate relationship with Bikram Yoga, this article pushed me over the edge (even if all of the allegations are false, the tone of many in the Bikram community who were interviewed had a high ick factor).  So, my 2014 goal is to find a new studio where I take an average of one class a week.  I am happy to learn that there is a hot yoga studio nearby that only heats to 90F instead of 105-108F.  The class I took in Barcelona was only heated to around 90F, as have been other classes I've taken in SF, ATL, my hometown, and more -- and 90F is just so much more doable than the Bikram-prescribed super-heat. In the mid-100s around 60 minutes is where I really start to devolve into a serious mental struggle not to storm out of the room in annoyance -- yes, no doubt that mental discipline to stay in the room has value, but it's so unpleasant that it means it's hard for me to motivate to attend and I end up dreading and/or finding reasons to skip my yoga practice.  So I'm looking forward to finding a class I can commit to without such a huge mental conflict.  Also, E and I agreed to do 1 healthy day a week during 2014 where we do a minimum of 30 minutes of yoga together, eat only vegetarian food, and consume no alcohol. 

3.  Running.  Oh boy.  I've got a 10-miler, a 10K, and 2 half marathons on the calendar between now and the end of March.  I just wrote up a training schedule that is reasonable for the distances but not *that* demanding and I'm looking forward to trying to stick to it.  Overall, with running, I think my goal this year is to run with joy.  Again, with the impossible to quantify goals!  But, seriously.  I enjoyed hiking on the Queen Charlotte Track so much that if I had time to hike every day instead of running, I honestly think I'd prefer to do that.  This was a huge revelation to me.  I *like* running.  But I don't *love* it the way many in the running community do.  It's functional for me.  It fits (see #1 -- because I'm bad about allocating time, running has been very pragmatic for me in terms of fitting in workouts for the last decade of my life).  I'm very goal oriented, so signing up for races and following training plans means that the runs have importance and will likely get done, unless it's serious triage time.  But the true *joy* of running for me has been few and far between in the last several years -- I do know that I get much joy from running with friends (yay track day and long runs with friends!) and running at paces that aren't pushed while listening to audiobooks, so I'm going to try to maximize those activities along with any and all other running activities that make me feel happy to be alive.

4.  Books.  As I mentioned, audiobooks became such a part of my life this year that they are no longer eligible for goal-setting, they're like my version of television.  So, I think I'd like to have a goal of reading *all* of the book-club books this year (again, back to #1, I was unable to read one of the assigned books this year because work and life spiraled out of control and something had to give, so it was my book club book -- I hosted the club and had to ask silly questions about how the book ended).  On top of that, I think aiming for 24 books read total is a good idea.  In 2013 I hit 21, so I think I should be able to do 24 without too much unreasonable effort.  Plus, I want to be someone who *reads* books.  Yes, audiobooks are awesome, and I sincerely enjoy them, as evidenced by their complete insertion into my daily life and my removal of them from the goals.  However, my experiment whereby I listened to and then read The Great Gatsby (for book club) definitely confirmed for me that I lose quite a bit when I just listen to the audiobook.  The mental effort and reward for me is *much* higher when I actually read (and turn the page for that matter, as I don't have an e-book-reader).

5.  Garden.  Historically, I've never included the Garden in my goals, it's my hobby, and I've always found a way to fit it in somewhere.  But in the interests of #1 -- I'm trying to be honest with myself about what takes time in my life and what I'd like to accomplish, so I'm adding it this year.  I'd like to get my seedlings started before the end of the first week of February.  Normally, I just do this, but this year it will be a bit more complicated because all of the heat mats for the seedlings are currently deployed under Guito's cage.  (I should probably buy him better heat sources and take the mats back for the garden.)  I'd also like to do the following:

a) Get the winter garden cleared out and covered with plastic before the end of February so weeds don't grow.

b)  Turn the soil, add compost and other amendments, and fully prep the beds for planting before the first of May.

c)  Get seedlings in the ground ASAP after the last frost as the weather permits.

d)  Get the tomato cages and staking for beans, squash, etc. all done before June.

e)  Be home for the majority of the harvest season so we can enjoy the bounty of the Garden.

6.  Professional/Financial.  For the record, ever since I was a teenager, I've had goals in these areas but I've never felt the need to share them -- they've just taken first priority over everything else in my life except my family/friends (and, sometimes, if I'm honest, they've even beat those out).  So, I've almost always met them.  This year, my professional/financial goal is to recognize that my life is at a point today where it's okay if I miss a professional or financial goal if I have to do so to meet one of the goals above.  And the big goal is to {gasp} let go enough to let that happen.  I suspect this is actually the hardest goal I'm setting for 2014.


January 4, 2014

Closing out AUS and NZ

Day 4 of the Queen Charlotte Track did not go according to plan.  E was limping -- the ice, aspirin, and aspercreme had not been sufficient to stop the knee pain.  Could he have hiked the full 20K on the slippery track after days and nights of rain in time to reach the boat cut off at 4 PM?  Probably.  Did it makes sense for him to do so?  No.

So, after 0.25 miles up the hill, we agreed to head back down to the resort and take the next boat service back to Picton.

We arrived at Picton in time to re-book ourselves for a night in Marlborough wine country!  Bonus! (Aside: Marlborough looks almost *exactly* like Edna Valley from the golden creased hills to the native plants, to the intermittent deep green trees and vegetation planted by the farmers and the interrupting red barns).

After check-in, we expressed interest in wine-tasting, but we were informed that all of the wine tours for the day had already departed.  We called the shuttle manager for the service we'd used to get from the train station to our hotel, and he assured us we were "good as gold" to get in on his current driver's tour, so long as we didn't mind paying full price for only *4* wineries instead of *6*.

6 Wineries in an afternoon is standard?  Let's be clear.  In the event of alien invasion, we want the Kiwis as our ambassadors.  Yikes!

We had a wonderful abbreviated tour of my favorite any-day drinking wine region (there are other regions I prefer, but they are not affordable enough for me to be super-familiar with all of their offerings -- for no-guilt opening of bottles I know I will enjoy, Marlborough is the winner).


Jane Hunter is a bad ass lady -- inspirational.

We had the shuttle drop us off in downtown Blenheim and we had a true pub food dinner.  A *MASSIVE* plate of fish and chips (with bonus fried calamari) for me while Nolan had the fillet (pronounced fill-it).

From there, we headed back to our hotel, slept, and then woke late, lazy.  We'd originally hoped that the bad weather would hold so our Picton flight would be re-routed to Blenheim like our flight in, but when I called at 10 AM, I was assured that this was not the case for this day.  So, I headed out for a quick short 2.15 mile run through wine country (we were pressed for time, but how could I resist?).  From there, we checked out, dropped our luggage at the front desk and headed to the cafe across the street for the most languid, decadent brunch feast ever.

As we sat finishing our wine, a large man sat down and asked for us by name.  Turns out, he was the shuttle driver and since everything in this region is shuttles or private car, we were treated to some standard local culture.  He'd added some folks to his itinerary and if we could hurry it up that would be best for him.  He left us, went across the street, picked up our luggage (again with the complete lack of ID/veracity check) and came back for us and off we set so he would have time to include his additional charges.  As a result of his enthusiasm, we arrived at the super-quaint Picton airport almost an hour early.

Thankfully, the waiting area was essentially a park, so we both read and enjoyed our books.  The weather was getting worse, so we quickly set off as soon as the plane arrived, turning around in this cul-de-sac before heading to the far end for take-off.

We made it.  The weather held and we got to Wellington without too much chaos.  Here's a shot of the South Island behind us as we head to the North Island from the plane:

After that, it was nothing but New Year's and then home.  

It was an awesome trip.  Happy 2014 to all of my loyal readers! (all 14 or so of you!)

January 3, 2014

Queen Charlotte Track: Day 3

Day three was the longest of our itinerary: 25K to and from the water to the highest point of the track and along the ridgeline for a while before heading back down.

Also, it was pouring down rain all night and drizzling off and on when we headed out, so we knew it would be a difficult day.

The exit from Punga Cove resort to the southern portion of the track.
Even with the weather, it was a beautiful and invigorating way to spend the day -- in some ways, I think it may have forced us to go even faster than we otherwise would have because if we slowed down we'd just get even wetter.

How adorable is this photo?

I couldn't understand why E didn't want to wear a hat...
At one look-out point there were distance signs to major international cities.  It was interesting to see that my instincts about global distances aren't very good when you start throwing the southern hemisphere into it.

I'm sure this view is gorgeous when it's not blocked by clouds.
We turned the last major corner to see yet another beautiful view that we agreed would have been breathtakingly perfect under a clear sky but wasn't too bad in this weather either.

Using the "Creative" filter -- essentially hypercolor
Finally, after a long descent that started to take a serious toll on pour E's knees, we made it to the crossroads for that evening's resort.  The weather started to clear and we were treated to great views.

Signs to Picton, Torea Bay (nearest boat dock), and the track

The bay at the Portage Resort, views over the building with our room.
After checking in, it was clear that E needed to ice both his recovering foot *and* his knees.  So, after getting him situated with the ice, I headed down to the bar to grab two beers and walk them back to the room.  I crossed the parking lot just as some of the workers from the hotel who helped check us in were loading a van and they called out to me, jokingly thanking me for bringing them beer at first, and then saying "tell your mate he's got a good one wit' you."  Thanks, Kiwis.  I was happy to deliver the message.

This hotel had been around for quite some time, but it had been recently remodeled.

Mud from the day's efforts.

The view from our balcony.
In keeping with the general theme, we ate dinner as soon as the restaurant opened and fell into a deep sleep early in the evening.  We were fully in vacation mode at this point -- we hadn't had a wi-fi signal or any cell service in 3 days.  It was wonderful.

January 2, 2014

Queen Charlotte Track: Day 2

We slept 13 hours, woke to sore quads (some of those downhills were brutal on the first day), and enjoyed cappuccinos for breakfast.

I was a bit concerned about our luggage getting picked up and delivered to the dock in time for the boat, but E's complete confidence in the resort's ability to execute was correct.  Our luggage headed off in the large cart pulled by a tractor along with several other bags, all labeled for their next destination.

We read a bit in the AM after breakfast so as not to arrive at the next resort before check-in.  Finally, around 11 AM or so, we picked up our packed lunches and headed out.  It was overcast and cool, just like the previous day, and it had rained that night and early AM.

Day 2 of our walk was the easiest day on our schedule, just shy of 8 miles and not much in the way of elevation gain or loss -- yet, again it was more technical than we were expecting due to the mud, puddles and wet conditions of the trail.  We managed to finish in just under 3 hours (not including a 15 minute or so lunch stop). 

Like the day before, we regularly passed other groups of hikers, primarily on the uphills and downhills.  I realized a few things on this trip about my general level of fitness:

i) Trail running is *great* training for hiking.  In general, despite being in my Brooks Ghosts instead of hiking shoes, I found that I knew which foot placements would be good options and which ones would be slippery -- this knowledge let me keep a constant effort going, which helped with keeping a steady pace on the climbs, descents, or amongst roots, rocks, etc.  Also, on the downhills, I adopted a slight bouncing walk that was one gear away from a jog.  I found it to be low effort and *very* efficient -- much easier than trying to brake with my legs and keep to a walking pace.

ii) My general upper body and core strength is much more of an asset while hiking (probably trail running too) than running on the road.  Before E's broken foot, while I could always win on distance, E's comfortable running pace for shorter distances definitely pushed me into a zone where I was working much harder than him.  The opposite is true while hiking -- my comfortable pace both for climbing and descending is in a zone where E is working much harder than me.  I attribute the majority of this to pumping my arms and being able to recruit my core so my legs didn't have to do all of the work.

iii) Knowing how to fuel from running is very helpful when hiking for several hours.  While the needs aren't the same and you can digest much better hiking than you can running, I found it very good and comforting to know when to schedule snacks, meals, and liquids (although it was cool enough and damp enough that my liquid needs weren't that high).

iv)  By day 2, we'd learned that we are what the boat taxi company refers to as "Fast Walkers".  When stops to enjoy the view are included (which makes sense, as you are there to sight-see) we tend to average below 25 minutes per mile.  It's much more variable than that, of course.  A mile with gorgeous views at the top of a long climb would take us closer to 30 minutes, where as a gentle downhill through the bush would be closer to 20 minutes or less.
One of many gigantic ferns in the "bush" of the track.
 Day 2's views were equally gorgeous to Day 1's.
The view of Endeavor Bay from the track.
While our tour company put us into 3 resorts along the track selected by them, there are actually multiple campgrounds and 28 different resorts along the way.  This made for interesting interactions with various folks as they hopped on and off the track according to their itineraries.  Often we'd be passed by trail runners (many of whom were in minimalist shoes) going one direction who would then pass us again on their out and back from their resorts.

One of many resorts on the track where we did not stay.

This suspension bridge was so quaint, it felt like it could have been an Eagle Scout project.  If you zoom in, you will see the warning that the max load is 2 Persons. 

A very shaky suspension bridge.
The track guide warned us about these flightless birds that are very accustomed to humans and will beg for food.  They were everywhere on the track, but particularly plentiful at the rest stops, view points, and picnic tables on the track.

Baby of the flightless bird endemic to the area whose name I forget.

Adult of flightless chicken-like beggar bird.
Eventually, after about 2.5 hours of hiking (or "tramping" as the Kiwis call it), we turned the corner and saw our resort on the other side of the bay.

View of Punga Cove (our resort) from across the bay.

Almost there...
We checked in and were absolutely charmed by the view from our A-frame cabin as well as the view from the bar on the dock.

The view from our A-frame cabin.

View from the Punga Cove Bar (on the dock).
The infrastructure on the trail is so good that it was easy to forget just how remote we were.  This hotel key reminded us how much effort was being expended to get everything we were enjoying out to us.  The resorts typically had electricity (generators?) and wells to supply water for bathing, toilets, and cooking, but laundry went to and from Picton by boat each day, as did all consumables and trash.

Rural Bag 408 -- now that's a remote address...

Shortly after locking this door, we fell into deep restful sleep.  I don't know if we actually made it 'til after sunset.  We were exhausted and we knew we had the biggest day of hiking ahead of us the next day.

January 1, 2014

Queen Charlotte Track: Day 1

As part of our Christmas and New Year's vacation, E and I set out to hike the Queen Charlotte Track.

This was my favorite vacation of all I've ever taken.

I can't explain just how relaxing and invigorating (and how much I needed the change of pace) it was -- imagine full days of hiking with your best friend in gorgeous wilderness only to arrive at a resort each night where your luggage has been delivered to your room and you could check-in immediately upon arrival, have a beer, take a hot shower, eat a delicious meal, and fall asleep (often, we struggled to stay awake past 8 PM).

Much of this trip was about re-charging, and we'd done a decent job of trying to erase some of the sleep debt we both had going in before we hit the trail.  Even so, I was unprepared for how well or how much I would sleep when given the gifts of no wi-fi for 4 days straight combined with nature, physical exertion, and an entire economy, functional infrastructure, and worldview of all service professionals built around making the track completely workable for hikers of all abilities.

We flew to Wellington, NZ on Christmas day so that we'd be in NZ and able to get to the start of the adventure on Boxing Day.  The weather had been overcast and stormy until Christmas, but Christmas Day in Wellington was amazingly clear, warm and gorgeous.  We had a wonderful lazy lunch followed by a walk along the water, where I took the most stereotypical Wellington photo ever:

Perfect: Waterfront.  Love Locks.  Large Pacific Islander about to dive into the water.

The next day, we woke at 5:50 AM and took a taxi to the Wellington Airport, where, after absolutely no security or boarding pass or ID check other than asking for our names, we were an hour early at the so-called gate.  Eventually, when they showed up, we learned that the Sounds Air flights from Wellington to Picton (between the North Island and South Island of New Zealand) had been re-routed to Blenheim due to weather.  Conveniently, all passengers on our flight have no trouble fitting into a standard tourist van that shuttled us from Blenheim to the Picton waterfront.

This flight was sold out.

Fancy instrument panels on the Cessna Caravan 208.

Diverted to Marlborough?  As in the region of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc? Hmmm...
At the waterfront, we checked in at Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company (our awesome tour organizing company -- HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), stored the luggage we wouldn't be needing on the track, checked the one bag we'd be asking them to transfer for us, and waited for the water taxi to take us to the far end of the track -- historic Ship Cove.

Picton Harbor

Ship Cove

Getting ready to start the hike.
We toured Ship Cove, and then set out for our first self-guided day, a hike (or "walk") of 8.77 miles that started with a steep climb on clay that had been inundated with rain.  The day was much more technical than we expected due to the wet trail conditions so we spent more time on the trail as "trampers" than expected (almost 4 hours), but the views more than made up for it.  Also, I found my heart rate climbing and my legs burning in ways that made me know this trip was going to be a great contribution to my running fitness as well.

Ship Cove to Furneaux Lodge Garmin Data

Ship's Cove Monument to Captain Cook

We started out at the same time as almost everyone else due to the Ferry drop off.

One of many breathtaking views along the track.

Another one.

Much of the land on the QCT is private land.

Even with the overcast weather, it was, by hour 2, easily the most beautiful hike I've ever done.

We encountered another hiking couple at this viewpoint so we took each others' photos.

The views just weren't getting old.

Even when you couldn't see the sounds, it was beautiful.

E says, "The Tasman Sea isn't as cold as the Pacific Ocean at home."

Bridge to our unit at Furneaux Lodge.

Furneaux Lodge -- private rooms, hot showers, hot meals, and a full bar.  So much better than camping.

Site of post-hike-beers-on-tap and pre-day-2 Cappuccinos.