Monday, March 10, 2014

First Kiwi run (Piha 20k)

I arrived in New Zealand early Monday morning. Ann & John picked me up, we returned to the hotel, I freshened up, and then it was time for a run! 
Piha beach panorama
Ann picked one about an hour west of Auckland, on the coast, that sounded good. It started in Piha, a cute seaside town. 

There's a trail up that seastack-y hill, but we didn't take it
We ran up the beach until it ended in cliffs and steep hillsides. We ran through rocky tidepools trying to find the start of the track (trail) in the route description.

Piha tidepool resident
We couldn't find the start of the track and the hills looked too steep to even have a trail, so we started back along the far perimeter of the beach.

Ann at the dead end of Piha beach
Suddenly, behind a dune and under low-hanging trees, we found the signs. Then it was up and up and up, the air thick with the screech of cicadas and warm summer air that felt alien to me, fresh off the plane from winter in the Pacific Northwest.

The hidden track start 
At the top of the first climb was a detour out to a view from a promontory. We took it, and were rewarded with gorgeous views up and down the wild coast.

Permanent cairn at the top of the first climb
We were delighted by a permanent rock cairn with an inscription and a sculptural rock bench-- a great place for a rest that we didn't yet need.

View from the cairn
Back on the main trail, we continued to climb. We emerged from the trees into open, grassy hillsides. The sun was strong and it felt hot. It was delightful to run in our summer gear, but I started to worry about our race being in such warm conditions.

Panorama from the cairn
Our directions were easy enough to follow with the trails well-marked. Then we came to the roads, and it got confusing quickly. We ran out a ways along one road, but the metric distances confused us. When we didn't find the trailhead, we turned around and ran the other way.

Hilary track sign
We asked at a convenience store, but the clerk hadn't heard of the trail we were looking for. The map at the closed post office next door was covered up with ads, inaccessible behind locked glass.

Cleaning shoes to protect kauri
Luckily we were able to use our phones and Google Maps to find a nearby park with some trailheads. Funny enough, there were signs imploring us to clean our shoes to stop the spread of disease killing a native tree. We saw these a few times and weren't sure if we should wash coming or going-- so we did both.

Finally, a map!
Finally, we found a map! We had somehow missed the original route, but were able to piece it together from there. Then, on a jungly climb, I felt a stab on my ankle and looked down to see a wasp stuck in my sock at the top of my right foot. I flipped it off and got the hell out of there.

A second map, convincing us to check out Kitekite Falls
The pain was sharp and there were lots of wasps around, so when we got to the top of the climb and a trail junction, we decided to head back. Once we got back to the park, however, we saw signs for a waterfall only 30 minutes away. A 30 minute hike is probably only a 15 minute run, we reasoned... so off we went.

Kitekite Falls
It was a fun climb to Kitekite Falls, although the trail was fairly crowded and we were never sure if we should pass on the left or right (since you drive on the left in New Zealand). We never answered that question satisfactorily, but it was fun to see the falls and then run back down.

Downstairs from Kitekite Falls
This little add-on lifted my spirits after the wasp sting, although we then had a bit of running on the road from the park to the town.

Ann is already loving her vacation
We shared a pizza at the Piha Cafe, right where we had parked our car, and enjoyed a treat I anticipated the entire run-- a chocolate iced coconut cream bar. It was worth it-- yum! Good thing we ate before driving the long, wild, windy, narrow roads back to Auckland...

Post-run treat

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mangawhero Forest, National Park

The morning after we hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Ann and I got an early run in before packing up and driving three hours north to Waitomo for a cave tubing adventure. Since our accommodation bordered on the south end of National Park (Tongariro is in the north), we decided to run into the park to see what we could do for an hour.


Luckily we came to this sign just inside the park. We took the Mangawhero Forest track, which took about half an hour, then turned around and ran it the other way. And just for good measure, we added the Rimu walk at the end before running the two blocks back to our apartment. It was a lovely, meandering forest run, and so fun to explore just outside of our (rental) front door. According to my Nike+ it was just over 5 1/2 miles.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

20 mile taper


This weekend's long run was my last one in the States for 6+ weeks and 2 weeks before we run the Tarawera 85k. So technically we should be tapering and I guess we are since we have been going down in milage, but not really if you include the difficulty of the runs in elevation gain. But then again this is Forest Park, how much elevation can you actually gain in 1 run? /sarcasm 

This week I planned the route especially for Susan, 3 miles of climbing right off the bat, from the bottom Saltzman to the top. Well my plan backfired when Susan texted me at 6:30am Saturday morning to say she was too sick to make the run. Our friend Sally was running 15 miles with us this week, she hadn't ran 15 miles since April and that was the first time she had ran more than 9 miles. So not only was she running a lot further than she normally does, she had to run all of Susan's hills. But Sally is a bit of a badass and said she had been looking forward to the run all week. 

When I met Sally at the trailhead, she got out of her car and said that she drank some water in the car and had a few nuts on her, so she should be fine for 15 miles. Then you have me with my hydration vest filled with water, gels and bars. Towards the end of the run Sally did drink some of my water, but I was happy to share. 

It was great to catch-up with Sally and running with her you would never know that she doesn't consistently run longer distances.  The last 5 miles of the run I did a solo loop on Maple and Leif and got to catch-up on some podcast. I meant to have the route end on firelane 4 instead of Saltzman, so I guess that means Susan will have to run this route some other time with the revised ending. 

Route:
saltzman to firelane 5: 2.95
fl5 - leif :1.1
leif - hardesty (mm 9) : 2.43
hardesty - springville: .67
springville - wildwood: .33
ww - saltzman: 6.5
saltzman - car (sally) :1.83 - total 15.81
saltzman - maple :1.38
maple - leif : 1.45
leif - maple : 2.22
maple - saltzman : 1.28
saltzman - car : .45
total 20.76

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Tolinda 24 miler

Tolinda TH
Tolinda to Leif (10.2)-- .75mi
Leif (10.2) to Springville (9.37)-- .83mi
Springville (LE 9.37) to FL7-- .71mi
FL7 to Ridge-- .32mi
Ridge to WW (20.86)-- .4mi
WW (20.86) to Saltzman (16.1)-- 4.76mi
Saltzman to gate/FL5-- 1.2mi
FL5 to WW(16.69)-- 1.03mi (10 total)
WW (16.69) to Maple (ww 12.84)-- 3.85mi (13.85 total)
Maple to Leif (4.21)-- 3.52mi (17.37 total)
Leif (4.21) to Tolinda (le 10.2)-- 5.99mi (23.36 total)
Tolinda to car-- .75mi (24.11 total)