Sunday, November 16, 2008

Helen's vegetable garden

This year I decided to give growing my own vegetables a go. Supposedly Wellington is a very good climate for growing plants - so hopefully that would cancel out my lack of green fingers. After a pretty rocky start where my seedlings all fell over, then they froze and then they overheated - it wasn't looking too good. The lemon tree that I planted in the corner also got hammered by the Wellington spring winds and all the leaves got blown off. Anyway I perservered and put some garlic, potatoes, carrots and snow peas in the ground and a little while later a few green shoots appeared. I have also planted four raspberry bushes and a couple of peppers/capsicum and now I have a zucchini/courgette and a few tomato and rocket plants. These all seem to be doing okay - touch wood. I also have a few strawberry plants, blueberries, a fig tree and bay leaf tree and a couple of feijoa plants elsewhere in the garden and these seem to be doing okay so far. I had my first strawberry on the weekend - which I gave to my friend Kareen to taste test!

Helen's veggie patch

The first strawberry

Hopefully summer will bring lots more goodies from the garden.

New sea kayak

This weekend we went up to the factory in Palmerston North and picked up our new double sea kayak - Betty. The frustrating thing was that on Friday night the weather in Wellington was idyllic, warm, sunny, and flat as a mill pond - would have been the perfect evening for a paddle around the harbour - indeed a few people were out in their kayaks and the sailing boats were struggling to finish their races. Needless to say the weather on Saturday was far from ideal to take our kayak on her maiden voyage - but we still made it out for a quick spin in one of the local bays trying to hide from the gusty northerlies. Sunday's weather was even worse....

Setting up before hitting the water

Actually out on the ocean

Looking forward to a few more sunny calm days in Wellington over the summer to get Betty out on the water again!

Monday, November 10, 2008

24 hour Adventure Race Taupo

4 weeks ago an e-mail went around work asking for a female mountain biker to join a corporate team entered in to a 24 hour adventure race. The team had to made up of two men and two women. They didn't get many responses and so were happy to hear from me.

The race started at 12 pm on Friday and it was raining all morning. Fortunately by midday the rain cleared and we had a beautiful sunny afternoon. There were 6 stages to the race - rogaines/orienteering alternating between mountain biking and on foot. The race started with an "on foot" rogaine around Spa Park in Taupo. Some teams started off rather keen and ran the whole way around - we decided to take the tortoise approach and strolled around the first stage.
The second stage was a mountain bike rogaine along the Waikato River and Craters of the Moon mountain bike park. We were pretty fortunate in our team to have a Taupo local, Todd, and I have also ridden there a bit - so this helped. During most of the stages there were also special challenges at some of the check points which involved some kind of activity. The first challenge was a kayak/raft challenge at the Aratiatia dam and although we had been told to bring wet suits it was so warm that I don't think it was really necessary.

Special challenge - kayak/raft race on Aratiatia dam.

I felt like we didn't really do ourselves justice on the first mountain bike stage as we spent quite a bit of time back tracking and a lot of time discussing the various route options... As you only needed 3 people on the course at any one time, I decided to sit out of the 2nd "on foot" rogaine as I knew that the next stage was from midnight to 4am, and that if no one had had any sleep then things would start to go "pear shaped". So the others set off on an urban rogaine around Taupo. The team did really well at this stage, probably helped by a lot of local knowledge.

The 2nd mountain bike stage was in Turangi - the other end of Lake Taupo, so we had an hours drive to get there, which allowed us to consume lots of food and drink some much needed caffeine. This stage was my least favourite stage of the race. It didn't help that within the first 100 m I had got a flat tyre from riding through the underpass, which was covered in lots of broken glass. It was also dark and freezing cold. I was wearing 3 or 4 layers of clothing and was still cold riding my bike around the rather dodgy industrial estates of Turangi. Because it was so unpleasant and the boys were struggling to think straight - we finished this stage slightly earlier than the cut off time.

About to set off on the night riding rogaine around Turangi.

We had another short drive to the 3rd "on foot" rogaine. This was in the forest between Turangi and National Park. The 5th stage started in the dark at 4am, but the sun was soon up at around 5:30am and we got a lovely sunrise with spectacular views over the snowy volcanoes. It was much nicer to be walking on firetrails and walking tracks through alternating native forest and pine plantations. This was much more what I expected of the race. We did very well on this stage and spirits definitely improved as the sun came up. Unfortunately as I was attempting to map read while walking along I twisted my ankle pretty bad. I continued - but my ankle later swelled to about twice its normal size.

The last stage of the race was on mountain bike and was in a similar area to the 5th stage. There were quite a few special challenges on this stage. We did two of the 3 that were possible. These involved ice climbing up a slightly rotten wooden wall. I would have loved to have had a go - but my ankle was too sore and starting to swell.

Special challenge - ice/wood climbing challenge with ice axes and crampons.

The second special challenge was a high ropes course and there were a few different options. I did the climbing wall which was swinging around 10 m up in the air - so although the holds were pretty easy it was a little weird having the whole thing swinging around.

Special challenge - high ropes course, Todd balancing on a beam 10 m in the air.

We finished this challenge with about 20 minutes to spare before the end of the race. Just enough time to get one last check point at the bottom of the hill to climb all the way back up the finish. We made the finish line with 3 minutes to spare!

Having a beer at the finish...... all feeling very tired.

After a few hours to shower and have a short sleep we all reconvened at the Tongariro Chateau for the dinner and prize giving. It was a weird race because you have no idea how well you are doing along the way. We were regularly the last team in to the transition between stages - but that could have meant we just were maximising our time and getting lots of checkpoints. After a couple of disappointing mountain bike stages I thought we would probably come somewhere in the middle of the pack, so I was very surprised when we ended up coming 4th out of the 13 teams. Not a bad effort for a first try at adventure races.