Wednesday, 29 January 2014

OH HAI, IBS! You're still here...

My weekend wasn't what you'd call overly indulgent, at least by normal standards.  I'll admit that my food intake wasn't the best due to limited options.  When you're in the middle of nowhere (aka National Park) and there are two restaurants to choose from (the hotel restaurant or the local pub) with the only vegetarian menu items being fries, spicy nachos, or a large vegetarian pizza, you kinda have to take what you can get.  One cannot survive on weetbix, toast and fruit, which was all I took with me (well, you probably could but it may not be pleasant).  Lunch on Friday was a ginormous bowl of pasta.  I avoided as much of the parmesan as possible, but there was rather a lot of it.  On Friday night (the night before the Tussock Traverse) I had the spicy vegetarian nachos.  Dude, they were spicy!!  Good, but spicy.  Thankfully they didn't cause too much of a problem on race day, or at least nothing worse than what I usually deal with the morning of a race.  Then on Saturday night (after the TT) I had a big ol' bowl of fries then Zoe and I indulged in some delectable desserts (chocolate brownie and sticky date pudding) as a reward for the day's efforts, because why not?  On Sunday after arriving home I had a far more respectable dinner, but then proceeded to drink an entire bottle of bubbly.  Surprisingly, I did not have a hangover the next morning (drink plenty of water, kids).  What I did have was a lovely reminder that eating and drinking without consideration over a number of days results in rather unpleasant after-effects in the form of bloating, cramping, nausea, and you probably don't want to know what else :/  Cue healthy eating habits once again... sans the huge amount of wheat-based carbs and dairy!

On Tuesday it was bircher muesli for breakfast, lunch was a salad and an apple, and dinner was a (not very) spiced quinoa pilaf with corn and broccoli (yep, scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of vegetables, waiting for this week's Foodbox delivery):

And I made a loaf of... I'm not sure you can really call it bread... but the recipe creator calls it 'the life-changing loaf of bread' so we'll go with that.  Hello breakfast!

I'm supposed to be working on a presentation for my next assignment but can't seem to get my head around it, and with the boys home making lots of noise I'm finding procrastination much easier to accomplish.  Yesterday it was in the form of purchasing, downloading and laughing at the pictures from the Tussock Traverse.  Oh dear, I do take some terrible photos...  Notes to self: a) stop waving like a maniac at the camera, it is terribly unflattering; b) double thumbs-up with elbows sticking out looks equally as ridiculous; c) DO NOT wear Nike running shorts again!  Case(s) in point:

Also, I have no idea what compels me to do ridiculous things mid-run, but 'posing' just makes me look like a crazy person:

At least I got one relatively decent photo:

That was the split-second before deciding, 'hey, I know what'll look really cool - jumping!'.  Ah, we live and learn...  One day I might get a really good race photo that I'll be happy to enlarge and frame to go on the wall.  So far though, it's been pretty slim pickings ;)  At least I had fun, right? ^_^ And, of course, there are plenty more races to come.  Bring on the non-spazzy photos!!  Hopefully...

Monday, 27 January 2014

Tussock Traverse

Fun fun fun!!!  Zoe and I headed down to Tongariro at about 9am on Friday morning, and since we were in no hurry, decided to have a little fun on the way.  We stopped off at Waitomo for lunch and a jaunt through one of the glowworm caves.  Sadly, my phone camera is total poop at taking photos in the dark so I didn't get a good pic of the glowworms, but I did get some photos of the stalactites and other random stuff:

The cave we visited was a walk-through cave that was opened in 2010, so I hadn't seen it before.  I liked that they restricted the groups to 12, unlike the larger cave that could have 200 to 300 people in it at any time.  Our guide was a hard case, making jokes the whole way while being very informative.  It was a good way to spend an hour :)

Afterwards we continued on our way, arriving at the Chateau Tongariro at about 4.30pm to register for the race.  Our gear was checked to make sure we had the compulsory items and our shoes were clean and dry (to avoid transfer of fresh water pests like didymo), we picked up our goodie bags, race numbers and transponders, then we headed to our accommodation to check in and blob for the rest of the day.  On Saturday morning we were lucky to get beautiful weather.  Just a little bit of wind, mostly clear skies, and a reasonable temperature in the teens.

I caught the event bus to race base at 8am, then fluffed around for a while until we had our race briefing at 9.15.  Then the 13km running group walked up to the start point, counted down, and we were away!  I was surprised that I managed to run a large chunk of the uphill section, which was not as steep as I thought it would be.  The views were lovely:

In case you were wondering, yes I did take these photos mid-race!  Some were taken while running, some during walking breaks.  A couple I actually stopped for!  I wasn't concerned about my time, I was just there for the fun of it :)  The 13km course was the same as the 6.5km course but with an extra out-and-back section.  It wasn't all alpine tussock and gravel though, there was also some bush trail to run through, and the shade was quite welcome.  There was even a waterfall!

A couple of people passed me while I was stopping to take this picture.  I joked with them, saying "so much for a race, stopping to take photos!"  and the guy behind me said "send me a copy".  LOL!  The course was lovely and I really enjoyed the run.  I managed to finish in 1:30:03 (my official time), and was 11th woman out of 71 in the 13km run.  Yay!  Once finished, I lounged on the grass watching others cross the finish line and waiting for Zoe to finish her 6.5km run.  We grabbed a cider and soaked up some sun, listened to the announcements for the division and overall winners for the 6.5km and 13km runs and walks, then watched the first of the 26km runners arrive.  There were several 'Tussock Reverse' people coming in too - they had run from base to the start point of the 26km, then run the 26km race.  A total of 52km!  Seriously impressive.  We caught the bus back to our accommodation at 1.45pm, had toast for lunch, then had a wee nap before dinner.

On Sunday we took our time driving home again, stopping several times along the way to purchase random items, have lunch, etc.

Random picture of kiwifruit, because why not? ;)

All in all a pretty good weekend!  I'm considering running the 26km next year.  Looking forward to your race recap Sheryl, congrats on completing the 26km!!

Next on the race calendar is the Coastal Challenge 17km on the 1st March which means lots of training runs.  This Sunday will be a nice long one, and my longest run to date - Piha to Muriwai!  I'm nervous but looking forward to it.  I will, of course, let you know how it goes.

Have a great week people!  I'll be spending mine writing an assignment.  Fun times ;)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Yarn diet: officially over

It lasted almost an entire year y'all.  I haven't bought any yarn since our trip to Canada last January/February.  That's pretty impressive if I do say so myself.  Considering I am not currently knitting anything, it seems a little odd that I have suddenly ended this yarn-purchasing abstinence.  However, I entered a wee competition that a kiwi designer had going on her Facebook page - all you had to do was post a comment saying how many Ravelry projects you had.  Lo and behold I was one of the winners, and the prize was a pattern of my choosing from her designs.  My choice was an easy one - Moera.  I've been wanting to knit this hoodie for T ever since the pattern went live.  I went straight online to go yarn hunting, knowing full well I didn't have enough in stash to knit it.  Cascade 220 was my yarn of choice, and T picked a garish bright green (personally I'd have gone for a slightly more subdued blue-green, but hey, it's not for me) which I immediately ordered.  Hopefully I'll be casting on this project very soon and should have it done in plenty of time for winter :)  My knitting mojo may just be on its way back, thanks to sezza ;)  Cheers, lady!  I just downloaded the pattern to have a wee read and went to save it to my computer - it turns out I already had it. A gift from a friend, methinks, that had been forgotten about.  Oops...

Something else I apparently fail at is getting the hang of my new Nike sport watch.  I discovered the reason why it failed to track my full Whatipu to Piha run at the beginning of the month.  It was not due to battery failure, it was due to user error.  I hadn't turned on the footpod option on the watch, therefore the watch didn't switch to the footpod when I lost GPS signal which is why it cut out at 18.9km.  Duh.  To add insult to injury, I went for a run yesterday with the intention of properly calibrating the footpod so it would be of use next time we went for a long run in the bush.  I switched off the GPS tracking, turned on the footpod option, and away I went.  I ran a full 8km but the watch only showed 3.3km.  'No problem' I thought, 'I'll just plug it in to the computer and adjust the calibration like I did with the Sportband'.  ::plugs watch in to USB port on computer::  Hmm, no 'adjust calibration' option...  ::checks Nike website for calibration info::  "Unlike other devices, the SportWatch GPS does not have a manual calibration option".  Oh.  Bugger.  Apparently you have to run with both the GPS and the footpod on so it can automatically calibrate.  Well, I know that now...

I am having some success in the kitchen at the moment at least.  A two week break seems to be exactly what I needed to get inspired again.  Over the last week I have found recipes for and produced these lovelies:

Not sure if you've noticed the recurring theme here - I've gone back to vegan food.  After eating vegetarian over Christmas and New Year's and in Fiji, the final meal before we left the airport to come home was a cheese pizza shared with T.  Soooooo over cheese!  Turns out I haven't really missed it as much as I thought I did.  I'm at the point now where I'm pretty sure I can happily live without it.  I haven't come across a vegan alternative that I really really like either yet.  The Tofutti 'better than cream cheese' is okay, and I like the fake parmesan (sorry Rachel ;P) but I think I'd prefer to go without rather than trying to substitute.  No big loss, considering there are so many other great foods available!!  As an aside, this whole animal-free diet choice is pissing Deane off to no end, which I find ever so slightly amusing ;)  He's started calling me a hippie.  LOL!

I plan to make some strawberry basil oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow morning, before heading off on a road trip with my friend Zoe - we're heading down to run the Tussock Traverse on Saturday.  So excited!!!  I'll let you know how it goes when I get back.  Best of luck to anyone else running this weekend!  Yes Sheryl, I'm talking to you ;)  You'll be awesome, I'm sure of it.  And to anyone not running, have a great weekend - fingers crossed for fabulous weather!  See you next week :)

Monday, 20 January 2014

How the other half lives

So I left off the last post leaving Naigani.  We had a four hour drive around the top of Viti Levu on the King's Road to Nadi.  Once again, I spent the time looking out the window and marveling at the beauty of Fiji - it's so lush and green, and there are flame trees everywhere lending a splash of colour to the landscape.  It was humbling to see how many of the Fijians live - they have little, but are content.  Most dwellings outside the larger city areas are simply one- or two-room buildings with louvre windows and woven mats for flooring. Bathrooms?  Kitchens?  One can only guess.  The exteriors are often painted in bright or pastel colours - pink, yellow, blue, green.  The villagers make their money selling fruit on the roadside - bananas, mangoes, papaya, pineapple, whatever happens to be growing in the surrounding area.  They are often seen walking along the roadside to get where they want to go, or waiting for a bus to come by and pick them up (the buses are frequent, as many Fijians don't own cars).  The roads themselves are a little the worse for wear, and the national speed limit on all open roads is 80kmph (which is why it took so long to get everywhere).  The villages were small but many, and it was easy to see how close-knit their communities were.  Fijians are so happy and friendly, we often got waves from the children as we passed by, or a shouted 'Bula!'.  On the King's Road in particular, we frequently had to slow down for wandering cattle or horses that had made their way onto the road.  It certainly made for an interesting journey!

In stark contrast, the moment we turned into Denarau to head to our accommodation, it was like a whole different world.  Manicured lawns, smooth roads, beautifully landscaped gardens, well-constructed fences and modern buildings.  A tourist haven for sure, but nothing at all like the real Fiji.  All of us agreed, from the outset and many times over the next several days, that the only benefit to this type of accommodation was the air conditioning, and that we would've happily done without if it meant we were back on Naigani.  We missed Naigani - the peace and tranquility; the friendly, personal experience of staying somewhere you could get to know the people around you and call them by name; the natural beauty of the surrounding area that hadn't been man-made.  Sure, the Sheraton Denarau Villas where we stayed was nice, comfortable and modern.  But the place was crawling with tourists (obviously) and although you were greeted with a smile and hello by the staff everywhere you went, it just wasn't... real.  The pools at all the resorts closed at 7pm (seriously!  How ridiculous is that?!?) the food was expensive unless you went outside the resort area (which we did several times) and we got frustrated with all the people - standing around and listening (okay okay, eavesdropping) they were stuck-up, demanding, often complaining about something or other with the accommodation, the service, whatever.  Ugh.

Having said that, we still enjoyed our time in Denarau.  The first day we just explored the resort, swam in the pools, did some shopping, etc.  I got up early and went for a run with a staff member from the Westin Hotel - they have a RunWESTIN program that includes a short or long run.  I forget the guy's name (it started with T), but he was very tall and thin, a rugby player, and a slow runner ;)  He took me for a lap around the golf course, then left me to run another lap on my own.  I guess 4km was enough for him... Or it could've had something to do with my comments on how slow we were running...  I had intended to run with him again, but on Wednesday we had an early start, and on Friday I woke up too late (the run starts at 6.30am).  So for the whole 12 day stay in Fiji, I ran one measly 8km run.  Slack!

Sunrise over the golf course during my one and only Fiji run

Lagoon pool

View from our balcony towards the infinity pool and beach

Infinity pool, from the boardwalk - the swim-up bar is on the right

On Tuesday we went for a day trip to Sleeping Giant Zipline - X had a ball of a time.  T (very grudgingly) did one zipline, then spent the rest of the day hanging out with the three resident kittens and a guy called Carlos who taught him how to skip stones on the river.  Ziplining was fun, and we went for a walk through the rain forest with our guide Dean, who taught us a bit about the local plants.  We also got to go swimming in a natural spring pool with a waterfall.

Cannibal rock - slightly blurry because Dean was not very good at taking photos ;)

An idea of the size of the rock

Vine tree

One of the waterfalls - you could sit behind this one

Look!  Pineapple!

The other waterfall

By swimming I mean this is as far in as I got.  It was freezing!!

After our walk we headed back to base and had lunch, then we swam in the river with the koi and rock fish, jumped off the rock, and X and Deane had a go at the natural water slide.

A few more ziplines, then we headed back to the resort for dinner.  The next day was a very early start - we were being picked up from the resort at 6.45am.  Well, we were supposed to be.  The driver was about 15-20 minutes late.  He then spent the next 3 1/4 hours making up for the deficit by driving at about 100kmph (remember the speed limit was 80).  He got pulled over by the police, was (we assume) given a ticket for speeding, then proceeded to drive even faster to get to the Navua River base on time.  We didn't really mind, but there were some rather dodgy passing manoeuvres (passing on blind corners and honking at the oncoming drivers to get out of the way, for example).  By the time we got to base, it had started raining and continued to do so throughout the day - the first day of rain we'd had.  Considering it's supposed to be the 'rainy season' I was surprised we'd got this far.  I think it had rained once or twice overnight, but that had been it.  I guess we were just lucky.  The rain didn't dampen our fun though.  The river was lovely, and the waterfalls were amazing!

This trip also included a village visit, and bamboo raft ride.  The village visit was quite different to the one on Naigani, as this village had a lot more tourist money funneling into it, which was quite apparent by the state of the buildings and the facilities.  The entertainment was good, and they put on a lunch for us which (hurrah!) included palusami.  There were souvenirs available for purchase so we did a bit of shopping (why not?), the village children sung us some songs (OMG so cute!!), then we continued on our journey.  I could've done without the long bus ride to and from, but the tour itself was awesome.  I had a bit of a giggle on our way back from the waterfall - as we were walking along in our giant hooded ponchos, I heard T humming The Imperial March.  Ah, we are such nerds ^_^

The next day we did pretty much nothing, aside from going out for dinner.  Then all of a sudden, it was our last day.  We checked out of the resort, dropped our bags at the airport, then went to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant.  So much beautiful stuff to look at and enjoy!

We had lunch in the gardens, then headed back to the resort area where the boys spent the afternoon at the inflatable water park.  Afterwards, it was time to head back to the airport and check in for our flight home.  We arrived back in New Zealand at about 11.30pm, and got home at a little after 1am, where we went straight to bed (except for Deane, who drove to Tauranga for a fishing trip with a friend.  He slept in the car when he got there, until it was time for them to head out at about 5.30am).  We thoroughly enjoyed our trip.  Would we do it again?  Hell yes!  Although we'd stay away from the heavy tourist areas, and stick more to the 'real Fiji'.  Naigani would be a definite repeat!  Hmm, maybe next year...