The summer solstice has just past with the sun up at around 5am and down at 9:30pm. The warmer weather is here and we are biking in shorts and short sleeve shirts. We have reached the 1,000 kilometers biked point on our trip and things are going even better than we thought they would. We haven’t had any real accidents on the bikes or major incidents. Felix is doing extraordinarily well through our travels and Maggie and I are really enjoying the trip thus far. While free camping is pretty rare and food and entertainment costs are high, we are keeping our finances well within budget. Sort of like our trip in North America from May to November, we are surprised to find once again we are sort of “busy” and we aren’t laying around reading, able to keep the bikes totally tuned or ever really get bored either. My running, free time for Maggie, shopping for food, hiking, biking, eating, finding a spot to sleep, setting up and packing up, really does fill our day in a hurry. We also have found that biking 40 to 80 kilometers a day is quite tiring. Similar to this last North American summer, time is zipping by super fast. It seems like just yesterday we started biking out of Christchurch in mid November… such is life I guess.
After Kepler on December 1st, I have been unsuccessfully attempting to take it easy and have an “off season”. After Kepler Maggie and I hiked the Routebrun Track and then the Kepler Track. After running and backpacking for 2 weeks I was exhausted. Next, we got back on the bikes and went south to the end of the island and now are making our way back up the east cost. While I have scaled back the mileage the last 3 weeks, with the exception of a couple runs, the hiking and biking has kept me feeling worn out. Not until December 22nd did I actually feel “ok” running. The plan for the last bit of December is/has been to do some easy low mileage days, with one day of general mobility and plyometrics and one day of general mobility, plyometrics and some short speed work.
In January I plan on keeping one day of general mobility and plyos and increasing the duration and volume of speed intervals. In addition to the speedwork day I’ll alternate some tempo or tempo intervals, some shorter hill intervals and long runs with some up-paced segments. I think speed work during the winter is a great way to frame a good season. Speed will also be key for my races in March and April.
-Uniquely New Zealand-
Kiwis are unbelievably clean, organized and responsible with keeping their country well put together. From old people to punk kids and everyone in between, everyone cleans up after themselves with almost no exception. You will be pretty hard pressed to find trash, even on the road, or even a trashed out bathroom. I wish North America would grow up and clean up after ourselves like the Kiwis.
World’s Largest Farm-
Besides the most mountainous areas and public lands, New Zealand is pretty much a massive farm. Sheep, cows and deer are in almost all the fields. Kiwis also grow a lot of trees for logging with most tree farms having either eucalyptus or pine trees. This overwhelming farm reality of at least the south island also creates a country of very small towns and not many grocery stores, as everyone is self sufficient to some degree for food.
New Zealand has no native mammals. New Zealand literally has birds, insects, some lizards and a couple bats. Humans have brought some other pests, such as rats, mice, rabbits, stoats and possum, but overall New Zealand still just has… birds.
The Lack of Measured Distance-
During our travels on bike, hiking, backpacking and running on the South Island, we have found that nearly every Kiwi we ask “how far” replies with an estimate in how long it takes them, or someone else, hiking or how long it takes by car. At first the estimates in time were just a little odd and we dismissed the occurrence as a guess by the individual as they didn’t know an approximate distance in kilometers. After a few weeks of getting only timed estimates instead of distance we realized Kiwis don’t estimate or for that matter, usually know distances… seriously. I won’t bore you with the accounts, but another example is that nearly all trail/track signs only show estimates in time. Furthermore, people do not know how far the next town is, even when they work at an information kiosk or have lived in the small town for quite some time or their whole life. This has made things difficult for us as we aren’t driving and don’t know how fast Kiwis drive particular stretches of road. When we are hiking, the estimated time is OK, but we still usually could estimate for ourselves better if we had a distance. When I run trails, someone’s estimated hiking time is usually a horrible gage and makes planning runs a real challenge.
My best guess to the root of the time estimate phenomena in NZ is that back in the 60’s, when New Zealand changed from mileage to kilometers, people had a hard time with the conversion and began to rely on time estimates. We have also noticed road signs being frequently incorrect on distance and even conflict with other signs in the same area.
Campervans and Holiday Parks-
Campervans are everywhere here and I think almost every Kiwi and tourist between the age of 19 and 30 exclusively uses them for travel. The Campervan is often a modified Toyota minivan or another similar sized minivan that often has an extended roof modification along with a further modified interior to allow for a bed and even a cooking area. I wish North America would adopt the campervan, but we are lacking the other Kiwi special… Holiday Parks. Holiday Parks can be described as KOAs that aren’t over the top with the cheesy Disney Land family play land stuff. While some Holiday Parks have some cool playgrounds and even some funky trampoline things, they aren’t crawling with retired old people and tons of wild kids. Holiday Parks are frequently right in town, but can also be close to beaches, rivers, lakes and mountains. Holiday Parks have kitchens, showers and often lounges. The campervan culture co-exists with the Holiday Parks for at least an occasional shower and then the other convenient amenities.
As I’ve mentioned early in other posts, Kiwis are unbelievably helpful, kind and generous. We have been invited to people’s homes, had Christmas dinner with a family, been given advice and directions on a regular basis. Kiwi generosity has been a highlight or our trip.
Its time to figure out my 2013 race calendar, which I find to be fun and also frustrating as I would REALLY like to race more events. As I learned this year, if I race every month for too many months in a row, my body can wear out. Racing every month for more than 3 months and I end up feeling as if i never get quality training in, just recovery, taper and then about 10-12 days of focused training, which isn’t enough.
2013 Race Calendar
While in New Zealand this winter I hope to race the James Stampede 5OK on the 26th of January. The James Stampede 50K has a good amount of climbing, fun river crossings and even some off trail running. The race is located in the mountains on the northern half of the south island.
In March we will travel to the north island of New Zealand and I will run the Tarawera 100K on March 16th. The Tarawera is a relatively flat and fast race which travels point to point along volcanoes, rivers and forests. The Tarawera should be a fast and competitive race with Tim and Tony coming over along with some fast southern hemisphere runners.
After we return to North America in late March, I plan on some Southern California racing at the April 29th Leona Divide 50 mile. Last year I was a bit bummed I didn’t have a great day and I’m excited to return and have my family in attendance again (they live in San Diego). If I do well at Leona, I might have a go at the legendary Western States 100 mile in June. If I don’t run Western, I’ll probably go back to my favorite mountains and race, the San Juans and the San Juan Solstice 50 Mile in Colorado.
In July me and my best buddies Wolf and Lowe plan on heading to Europe to run in the alps from hut to hut. If things work out, we will run from Chamonix (Mount Blanch) to Zermatt (home of the Matterhorn), but right now we have no clue on the logistics for the run yet. Late July brings the Speedgoat 50K. If I don’t do Speedgoat I will either run the new T-Rad race in Telluride or run the Squamish 50 Mile in British Columbia.
September it is either UROC or Run Rabbit Run…. a very, very tough decision. To end the year will certainly be The North Face 50 Mile in San Fran.
While it looks like I am going to run nearly every month again from March to September, I am not racing in May like last year and I will only race one event in July and August unlike last year as well.
26 January James Stampede 50K, South Island New Zealand
16 March Tarawera 100K, North Island New Zealand
29 April Leona Divide 50 Mile, California
22 June San Juan Solstice,Colorado OR 29 June Western States 100 Mile, California
July Hut Running Trip in European Alps
28 July Speedgoat 50k, Utah OR August T-Rad 45 Mile, Telluride, OR August Squamish 50M, BC
14 September Run Rabbit Run 100M, Colorado OR 28 September UROC 100K, Colorado
2 December TNF50M Championships, California
Next Post: Our Favorite Spot (yet) in New Zealand!