Monday, May 27, 2013

Woodhill 360 - Segments of Time Spent Enjoying the Hurt Box

My Yoga teacher has told me many profound things, but probably none that ring more true to me than this one… “If you fight pain, you have pain and suffering… If you embrace pain, you just have pain… Which would you prefer?”. It’s a tough concept to grasp. Pain hurts and it’s only natural to try and prevent it’s occurrence. You can waste a lot of energy on a bike trying to fight pain. You waste energy being angry at it, you waste energy crying and you waste energy giving up then having to start again. This week has been a pleasantly challenging week for me. Three days in a row this week, I arose early at 4am to be on the trails or on the road by 4.30am. It was, to be honest, not by choice but necessity. I’m one of these people who can’t say no… I take on project on top of project, and hobby on top of hobby, and love it all too much to let anything go. So I leave myself with no choice but to create time to do these things, and sometimes it means I burn the candle at both ends (in fact, a lot of the time it means that). Some people would say it’s crazy and unsustainable, others would say it’s dedication and I am “making things happen”. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is a distinct satisfaction in holding down a full-time job and having the motivation and drive to force myself out of bed early to train, then heading out on some incredible adventures when I’m not doing anything else. And in actual fact, it’s a fantastic time of the day to train… Instead of training tired after a day at work, I can punch out solid efforts when I am “fresh” (maybe not quite the right word) first thing in the morning. Sometimes it’s cold, and often dark and raining, but once again, it’s about embracing that pain to achieve a purpose.

So after making it through my Tuesday to Thursday early morning madness in one piece, I again found myself crawling out of bed at 4.30am on Saturday morning to make my way to Auckland for the Woodhill 360 6 hour race. I’d packed the van the night before, but by the time I got away, I was running about 20mins late. I was cutting it fine arriving at the race 10mins before registration closed and race briefing was due to be held. I was left with just enough time to get dressed, drag my bike and gear tub out of the van, and put my number on the handlebars before we were standing on the start line. As bizarre as it sounds, I may have done myself a favour… The running around after sitting in the car for three hours definitely woke me up and got the legs working again! Tim Farmer had done a spectacular job of pulling together a good-looking event as his fundraiser for world champs, and there was a pretty solid field of riders lining up, especially for the solo events. The weather was a bit grey and drizzly, but perfect. The temperature was good, and the drizzle was nice and refreshing.

We did a le mans start, and I had made the tactical placement of my bike right up the front so I could run straight through all the hustle and bustle, jump straight on the bike and ride off, without having to beat my way through the crowd with my bike (especially at my height). It worked a treat and as a result, I was able to avoid the singletrack congestion at the start of the uplands switchback climb. The course was about 10.5km long and, considering the landscape at Woodhill forest, actually captured a solid amount of climbing. There was little time for rest in amongst the undulations and singletrack, so it was a good test of the legs. It was just after the uplands climb on my second lap that Sophiemarie Bethell passed me. She’s a quick young las, especially on the descents, and I was running the old heart pretty hot trying to stay on her. In the end, I had to let her go and rely on my endurance to maintain some consistency that would hopefully pay off a little later in the race. I know it all sounds a little serious for a local race, but you have to use every opportunity possible to simulate a race environment while you are training. It doesn’t mean though, that you can’t have fun in the process.
I punched out a couple of good solid laps to begin with and then my lap times began to drop off a little. I think to a certain extent, I had resigned myself to second place, and I was ok with that. The prize money from second place would pay for my fuel to get to and from the race, and that was good news. Then at about the three and a half hour mark of the race, I cast my eye up above me on the uplands switchbacks to see that Sophiemarie was there, probably about 40 seconds ahead of me. I remember thinking to myself “Ah shit, now that I know she’s there, I have to chase her”… It seemed like such hard work, but to be honest, my legs were feeling ok and I had been feeling progressively better since the start of the race. I had no excuse not to dig a bit deeper, and so I did. About five minutes later, I crept up behind her. To be honest, although I felt I had plenty in the tank, I was riding a reasonably hot pace and I was hurting. I have this policy that if I am going to pass a competitor, I have to pass them hard. It’s a mental thing… Passing someone then meandering around in front of them for the next ten minutes gives them the impression that you are hurting just as much as they are, and it gives them hope that they can stick with you and take the lead again. I’ve made this mistake many a time in the past. Passing hard leaves your competitor with no doubt that you are fully capable of whipping their arse and, frankly, it can be demoralising for them, which is exactly what you want. I felt bad exercising this theory on Sophiemarie. She’s a lovely young girl and a great rider, but it was a race, and I wanted to see how hard I could push myself if for no other reason than good training (and to embrace my competitive spirit). I sat behind her for a couple of minutes and collected myself, then pulled alongside her and asked her how she was going. I could see she was suffering a bit. I knew she hadn’t done a lot of endurance stuff, so I can completely understand how it would have been a tough ask to punch out six hours when it isn’t your usual discipline. She said she was doing ok and then asked me how I was doing. I told her I was feeling pretty good now that I had warmed up a bit (in hindsight, it was a bit of an arrogant wanker comment to make), then I put the gas down a bit. She stuck with me on the descent, but then I turned up the pace as I went up the next climb and she dropped back behind me.

I didn’t have a support crew, so I had no idea how far behind me she was, but I treated the rest of the race like she was right on my wheel. The next two laps were two of my fastest for the race. I had gained my second wind and I was feeling pretty good for those laps. I pushed hard, and I buried myself so deep in the hurt box those last couple of hours that my last lap and a half, I felt like I was about to begin hallucinating. I knew I hadn’t quite eaten enough, and it was in these circumstances that I would usually drop the pace back a bit… But on this occasion, I didn’t… I figured that regardless of whether I backed off or not, I still had the same amount of time left in the race. I shoved my mouth full of the slimy, sweaty jet planes I had sitting in my back pocket and carried on. It had been quite some time since I had put myself this deep in the hurt box and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed knowing that I was leaving it all out on the track.

It may sound weird, but I love doing maths in my head when I race. From about 2 hours out, I was punching numbers in my head figuring out how many laps I had left to go. I secretly hoped that I would come through on my 8th lap without enough time for another, but it wasn’t the case… In fact, even worse was that I had been pushing out 38-39 minute laps, my last lap had been nearly 41 minutes, and I now had 44 minutes to complete my final lap, so I couldn’t even cruise my final lap. To make matters worse, the drizzle had progressed to full-blown rain. It was going to be tight, and because I had no idea how far behind me Sophie was, I couldn’t afford to call it in early (what if she came through in three minutes time and headed out on a last lap?). So I pushed on through to my 9th lap. That last lap was a bizarre experience, like my legs were turning against their own will… It had been a while since I had felt like this and I liked knowing that I could still do that to myself. I felt strong in my resolve, even though my body wasn’t so keen on the idea of what I was doing. As I rounded the corner coming towards the race village, I had two minutes left to ride the loop around the race village and through the chute… It was going to be so, so tight… In fact, I crossed the line with a mere 34 seconds to spare, then just stood over my bike in the rain, unable to move.
In the end, Sophiemarie hadn’t gone out on a 9th lap, so I won by nearly a whole lap, but damn she kept me honest! I felt so exceptionally spent, and when I downloaded my data after the race, I discovered my average heart rate for the whole six hours was 92% of my 20 minute threshold! What a fantastic training session! I was really pleased with my effort on the day, and really happy that I had managed to put myself so far into the hurt box and embrace that pain. It’s something I’m going to have to do very convincingly in Canberra come October. Until then, I'll be testing my theory of embracing pain in the early hours of our cold Winter mornings here in Rotorua. Looking forward to it!

Friday, May 10, 2013

T42 - Our Pact With The Weather Gods

The weather forecast last weekend was looking very unfavorable for a day of racing, and as I cast my mind back to 24 Hours of NDuro a couple of weeks ago, I shuddered slightly at the thought of repeating a day out in such grueling conditions so soon after the last. Regardless, I made my way to National Park on Friday evening to rendezvous with a bunch of old mates before hitting the pillow for some sleep before the race the next morning.
We awoke to a rather cold morning with only some fine, whispy cloud hanging lazily in the air and the blue sky punching it's way through with the sun... There was a chilly wind blowing through the carpark at the start line. Perfect conditions for riding a bike in... The T42 race runs along one of New Zealand's most classic trails, the 42nd Traverse. I had been told the views across the central plateau from the track were stunning, but when I last did the race two years ago, the conditions meant that I saw very little scenery. That would all change today. I couldn't help but have a giggle whenever I heard people say "it's all downhill"... Sure, we finished 300 or so metres lower than our start point, but there were definitely some good punchy climbs throughout the course, including a 100m climb to the finish line (which I remember vividly from the last time I did this race!). I rocked out the baggy shorts on the day for reasons I don't understand, but I must admit that in my head, I feel much more relaxed when I pull on my baggies for the day... Maybe this works in my favor!
The start saw us all off on a sealed section of road for about 4km. I must admit that bunch riding with a group of mountain bikers scares the bejeezus out of me and today was no exception... Far too much drifting, brake touching and shifting of lines for my liking... So I found myself, in that first 4km, drifting backwards through the bunch in my nervous attempt to stay away from anyone who looked remotely like making a random move at any given point. I survived that first 4km still on my bike with all my skin intact... Even better, I had managed to stay in with the front bunch quite well. I was unsure of how I would fare in a race only two weeks after a 24 hour race, but I was feeling good, so I decided to make hay while the sun shines and see just how hard I could push myself for how long.
You wouldn't describe the 42nd Traverse trail as technical... Sure there are bits that get a bit loose and rough, and there are a few river crossings, but everything is very ridable. The thing that makes the 42nd Traverse potentially quite treacherous is the speed at which you ride it... I would describe the trail as a rough 4WD or double track, and as such, there are a number of wash-outs, loose rocks and river crossings which have the potential to sneak up on you pretty quickly when you are on the rivet at 40-50km/hr. This track requires the utmost concentration if you are riding it at speed and wish to make it to the end in one piece. I found it took me a while to make myself comfortable on the bike. I had a couple of close calls and some sketchy moments, but once I settled in, I was surprised at the pace I was managing to sustain.
The quality of the womens field in this race certainly wasn't lacking this year. It was a quality field (something I am seeing more and more of lately, which is amazing!). In the first half of the race, I passed a number of very worthy adversaries who had mechanical issues... Unlike the bizarre mindset I had engaged during the 24 hour solo, there was no way I was waiting around for these guys to catch me again... I knew they were faster descenders than me, so I took all the risks I was willing to take and then buried myself in the hurt box on the climbs to make sure I stayed ahead. I distinctly remember how much I enjoyed the pain, and especially considering it was hurting and I knew I was belting out a good pace (it's much harder to comprehend the pain when you are in the hurt box and groveling along as fast as your Grandma's Datsun). The one distinct advantage I tend to have in a race like this is that whilst I'm not a fast starter, I can definitely hold my own towards the end of the race. I knew this and so I knew it was important that I kept pushing as hard as I could. I had vivid memories of the last time I did this race where I was coming third only to be overtaken by 4th place just before the finish line... I wasn't really all that interested in letting that happen again... I felt hungry to push hard and to get the best result I could, and it has been quite some time since I have felt that way, so I embraced it fully.
As I belted along the trail, vistas across the Central Plateau flashed by my eyes, as dirt, mud and rock scooted by beneath my wheels. My balance and movement on the bike felt so lovely and smooth, like I had everything dialed and tuned perfectly. My heart raced as I gave the occasional nervous glance backwards to make sure that Sophiemarie or Jenna weren't catching me (yes, I know I shouldn't look behind me!). It was actually a fine testament to my equipment that I didn't have any mechanicals. My poor Ninja hadn't been serviced since finishing the 24 Hours of NDuro and still withstood a good thrashing for the day without any complaints.I remember crossing the final bridge and then barreling down the final 8km of fire trail at some hideous speed. The road had been separated by cones so runners and riders didn't collide, and it left little room for error as I hugged the line of the cones in a bid to prevent my wheels washing out on the edge of the track. The whole ride was quite exhilarating!
When I say the course was fast, I meant it. I spent probably 75% of the day in my big chainring and upon crossing the finish line, had clocked an average speed of 20.3km/hr for the day, which was, without question, the fastest 50km I have ever ridden in a mountain bike race. I crossed the line 4th placed female in 2:17.43 (a mere 24 seconds behind third place!) and 30th overall out of about 400 riders (not bad at all considering I had smashed myself for 24 hours only two weeks earlier!). I felt sufficiently used and looking at my average heart rate figures explained exactly why! I was disappointed that I hadn't caught third place in time, but that's racing for you... To be honest, I had used everything I had, but I do definitely wonder if there was 24 seconds in there somewhere!!!
Total Sport make the logistics of point to point racing probably about as easy as it could be. I've said this before, but they really do run a great event and are the only guys I know of who can successfully pull off the logistics of relocating riders between the start and finish. The afternoon was spent lounging around our accommodation and pondering what we would get up to the following day before heading off to the prizegiving where I busted out some rare moves on the dancefloor (I know right? I was scared, too...)
The plan for Sunday had originally been to hit up the Pureora Timber Trail, one that has been sitting on the bucket list of a few of us for a while now. We did agree, though, that there was no point in doing such a stunning, epic ride of the weather was just going to be miserable and we couldn't enjoy it... The forecast for Sunday was, indeed, looking rather miserable, and the weather had already set in up north and was moving southward, so we made the call to postpone our Timber Trail mission to a finer weekend and head south a little to ride The Old Coach Road. To our surprise, the further south we traveled, the bluer the skies became. We kitted up and set off along Old Coach Road, fully expecting the weather would likely set in at some point along the way, but it didn't. We must have chosen one of the few places in the whole country where it wasn't raining that day... We had dodged the inclement weather all weekend, like we had a pact with the Weather Gods.
The gateway to Old Coach Road is this wicked little tight pump track on the side of the road, just off the main drag... It begged us to play on it's sweet berms and pumps before heading off on the ride proper, and we happily obliged! Old Coach Road itself began as a gentle climb up a grassy trail before turning into a wide gravel path that lead us to an old disused railway tunnel (very cool) all the way to the Hapuawhenua Viaduct, a stunning old railway bridge which has been fully restored for public use. The views were amazing, and I had another one of those "wow, how cool is it that I am here with these people" moments as we approached the viaduct and marveled at it stretching it's majestic, sweeping structure across the full span of gaping gully. We then continued on all the way to Horopito via a lovely groomed piece of singletrack, and some fast fire trail before returning the same way again. It was a wicked day out with awesome people on stunning trails, AND we dodged the bad weather (which then made it's appearance as I drove home to Rotorua)!
It was refreshing to smash out a race with so much vigor and then find myself recovered well enough for another good ride the following day. Stoked to have recently started training with Mark Fenner (FTP Coaching) and I'm finding that whilst I'm still getting in good time on the bike, I'm not so wasted that I can't make the most of my efforts. It's also been hugely refreshing to be mixing up my time and enjoying some squash and running, amongst other things... I am finding myself hideously busy, but I don't think I would really have it any other way! Bring on the crisp, cold Winter days!!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

When There Are Mountains to Climb... A Blog Without Bikes...

There are some experiences in life that, unsuspectingly, seem to provide blinding clarity surrounding what we are truly put on this Earth for. Experiences that just seem so purely good that your whole body tingles and you feel like you are in a dream, then you spend days and weeks afterwards yearning for that experience again, like the first touch from a lover. I've been fortunate enough to have these moments on a number of occasions recently, but none so profound as our trip to Mount Ruapehu just over a week ago.
This was our second attempt at this trip in the space of four days. The Thursday before, we had set out up the mountain in terrible conditions, hoping that the rain and cloud would abate as we gained altitude, but as it worsened, we were forced back down, cold, wet and a little disenchanted. Whilst we soaked in the hot pools at Tokaanu, we brewed up the idea to return for another shot at the mountain that Sunday if the weather was looking any better. So that Saturday evening, with a promising weather forecast for the following day, Edine, Craig and myself piled into Craig's car with all our tramping gear and set off for Craig's family bach in Kurutau, on the edge of Lake Taupo. I haven't known Craig and Edine all that long. We all met when I joined the Local Search and Rescue team a few months back, and I suppose it's hard not to get along with a bunch of awesome people who love doing something worthwhile with their time in the outdoors. I remember thinking to myself as we traveled through the dark that evening what a crazy notion it seemed to have landed myself in this exact spot, and how fortunate I was to be there. I was infinitely excited about our trip for the following day. It was so refreshing to be making a special trip to go and do something without my bike (although I still love my bike dearly).
After a couple of hours worth of "Uranus" jokes prompted by Edine's astrology studies, we arrived at Kurutau. With the full moon hanging over the lake, we headed straight for the beach. The moon was shrouded with cloud, casting darkness over the beach and making for some disappointing viewing, but our patience paid off after about 15 minutes when the cloud lifted and the moonlight danced across the shimmering water and lay itself across the beach. The stars twinkled in the night sky and we were hopeful for a clear outlook for the following day. There was no wind, but the cool night air nipped at our skin through our jerseys. It was a truly beautiful sight. After some more Uranus jokes, we headed back to the batch for some wine, scrabble (I won, of course... Not that I am competitive) and then a good night's sleep.
The following morning, I insisted on being down at the beach for the sunrise, as well... I must admit that I have the most annoying habit of believing I am a really creative photographer, and the opportunity to happy snap anything stunning and worthwhile will generally get me out of bed at the most ridiculous hour. I was too impatient to finish my cup of tea and bowled on down to the lakefront, leaving the rest of the crew to join me a few minutes later... The sunrise we saw was indescribably beautiful, and set the tone perfectly for the day that was about to greet us on the mountain.
As we drove towards Mount Ruapehu, I couldn't contain my excitement... It was a crisp, cool morning with barely a cloud in the stunning blue sky. We couldn't have asked for a better day than this... As we rounded the corner and the mountain came into view, the first thing I noticed was just how much snow was on it... In fact, I was surprised... Obviously, at an altitude of nearly 2,800m, you would expect that snow on the peak was likely year-round, but it seemed thicker than I was expecting, and lower... I remember saying to Craig, "wow, that's a lot of snow up there... We aren't going to need crampons, are we?"... Craig's response wasn't entirely convincing, but was good enough to not dull my mood "no, I don't think so... We should be right".

When we arrived at the Whakapapa skifield carpark, the scene was in stark contrast to our visit a few days earlier, and we wasted no time in kitting up and setting off up the mountain. The plan was to "hike" to the summit. It's funny, but for some time now, I had been considering doing an alpine mountaineering course... I had been doing a lot of reading, and the idea of that sort of challenge in an unforgiving alpine environment really appealed to me for some unknown reason (probably the same reason I race my bike in circles for 24 hours straight!)... Little did I know, I was about to get my first taste of it. We made quick work of the poled route which made it's way up the mountain to the top of the chairlift, stopping at the "Highest Cafe" to do some blister prevention for my lovely new boots. The climbing beyond this got a lot more rugged, and as we scrambled up rocks and scree, the snowline drew rapidly nearly and nearer.

We reached the top of the tow lift, which was about the same place the snowline began. The mountain loomed in front of us... A steep slope of icy snow speckled with boulders right to the top beckoned us towards it. It was such a beautiful clear morning and the outline of the white, snow-covered mountain against the blue sky was quite a dramatic image. As we stomped our way through the snow up the face, we could see Lake Taupo shimmering in the distance against the shadowy foreground of Mount Ngarahoe to our left, and to our right, Mount Taranaki dominated the horizon in the distance. Rocks covered in icicles glistened in the fresh morning light. Everywhere we looked was a postcard-perfect photo waiting to be taken.
As we climbed higher, the route became steeper. Even though it was a beautiful morning, the air became colder and as such, the ground we were traversing gradually turned from soft snow to hard, slippery ice. I was so glad I had invested in a decent pair of boots the day before, and that I had taken the risk of wearing them new that day, because there is no way I would have made it much further without a solid pair of boots. The ice was hard enough that we were forced to kick steps into the slope so we could make ground up towards the plateau. I took my turn breaking ground on a couple of occasions, but Craig was our humble savior up on the mountain that morning... With his size 13 boots and a good strong set of legs, he stomped and kicked out steps for Edine and myself to ascend as safely as possible. The poor guy must have been stuffed by the time we reached the plateau, but I think he secretly loved the hard work! We kicked at the ice, and shards would break off and spray in our faces. As the slope grew steeper, we were all acutely aware of how precarious each step we took was. The ice got so hard that the steps we were kicking in were maybe 2cm deep as we traversed the icy slope below us. I remember looking down at one point and trying to imagine how I would stop myself falling if I slipped... And I realised there was no way I could. If one of us fell right now, we would slide the full descent back down into the rocky snowfield below (best not to think about it). The problem was that having already climbed to that point, we were committed to topping out... Retreating down the icy slope at this point with no crampons or ice axes would have been far more treacherous. It was tough work, made even tougher by the potential consequences if we got it wrong... It had been quite some time since I had been placed outside my comfort zone like this and I was loving it!

It was quite a bizarre experience up there on that slope. I don't have a lot of experience on ice and I was intrigued by just how different it was to work with and how your whole perception of risk needed to shift substantially. We had to exercise the utmost caution... A patch of snow that we could quite comfortably step into may lie only 5cm from an icy section of the mountain that had been denied warmth by a rock blocking the sunlight. These sections of ice were hideously slippery and were to be avoided at all costs. After some awkward moves and sketchy moments, we finally pulled ourselves over the top of the slope onto the plateau, where we could relax and make light-hearted jokes about how ironic it would have been for three search and rescue volunteers to have to be rescued off the mountain because they weren't carrying the right gear for the conditions... Lesson learned... Next time, crampons and an ice axe will be a must for this trip! The question still remained, though, how we were going to descend the slope again in a few hours time...

We set off across the icy plateau, which was a vast, relatively flat basin covered in ice with white, icy peaks jutting out around it. If you peered further across the end of the plateau, the edge of the basin would meet the view of the surrounding land far below and the occasional cloud that skirted around below the altitude we were standing at. It was absolutely breathtaking. We knew our bid for the Ruapehu summit was out of the question without crampons and ice axes, but we were keen to see the crater lake, which was located over the other side of the ridgeline on the far end of the plateau. On top of the ridge, we could see a hut. I knew that Craig was slightly worried about the time, and especially considering the fact that we were unsure if we could descend the mountain the same way we came up if the ice conditions remained the same. We attempted to approach the hut by climbing up one end of the ridgeline and traversing across. However, because the ridge undulated, the surface would quickly change from soft, climbable snow on one side of a knoll to hard, compact , unclimbable ice down the other side, which made the route unworkable without the right gear.

We descended back down the ridge and as we did so, I suggested to Craig that we try the face that sat just below the hut. It had been in the sun all morning and it was possible that the snow was soft enough for us to zig-zag up the face straight to the hut. Craig was a bit reluctant, and understandably so... We were quite slow on our feet on the icy surface and we didn't want to get stuck up on the mountain in the dark... I must admit I was quite persistent... I knew we weren't going to climb to the summit, but I was really keen to at least see the crater lake... So we headed over the the face and climbed it with surprising ease, reaching the hut and looking down on the stunning crater lake which was currently overflowing on the far side. I would have loved to have ventured closer to the lake for a better look, but it just wasn't possible to descend that side of the ridgeline which hadn't seen the morning sun yet... It was far too icy and slippery.
The hut that was perched on the top of the ridge was covered in ice and frozen shut, so unfortunately, we couldn't go inside. It was a spectacular sight. I can imagine that in the Summer months, this would be an amazing place to set up camp for an evening, watch the sunset, the sunrise and the full moon on the crater lake. I could have spent hours up there, but time was of the essence and we headed back down to the plateau to make our way back down the mountain.
I remember walking across the plateau thinking "wow... there's only a handful of people who will ever get to do this sort of thing... The majority of the population are missing out on something so, so special". Basking in the warm sun, with the cool ice beneath our feet and the blue sky that touched the green horizon far away from the mountain itself was just an amazing experience... Not to mention the awesome people I had the pleasure of sharing the experience with! What was supposed to be a hike had effectively turned into my first mountaineering trip (albeit it a fairly tame one) and I was completely hooked. I felt so incredibly alive right there on the mountain.
We sat at the edge of the plateau and enjoyed our lunch before we attempted our dreaded descent. To our delight, the sun had softened the ice so that the whole way back down the slope, we had lovely, soft snow to step into, as opposed to the hard ice we had experienced only hours before. In fact, the whole mountain had changed... The icicles on the rocks had melted, and bits of ice would break off the cliffs and tumble down the ice field (it was easy to understand why mountaineers always leave early in the morning to reduce the risk of being caught in an avalanche). In general, the whole mountain looked like it had softened. We arrived back at the car without incident and then made our way to the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools after a quick meal in Taupo overlooking Mount Ruapehu as the sun set... What a perfect weekend!!!
One of the best things I have done in recent times is join the local Land Search and Rescue. Never before have I met so many people in one place with so much passion, goodwill and lust for quality experiences in life. One of the other best things I have done is let go of someone I thought I loved because I knew they would never be interested in sharing my adventures with me. It may sound incredibly harsh, and it's difficult to explain, but in the last month, I have had the opportunity to share some amazing experiences with people who are very dear to me... The thought that I may have had those experiences and not shared it with the person, or people, that I love is quite daunting, and so it follows that really, those experiences feel so enormous because of the people we surround ourselves with at that given moment. I doubt that I would have felt so empowered by the experience had I felt that the person I wanted to share it with most wasn't there... And as it was, I wouldn't have had it any other way than to spend that day on Ruapehu with Craig and Edine... Like-minded souls witnessing a rare beauty that could only be created by that particular mountain, in that particular spot, on that particular day... It's fair to say that it was a unique experience untouched by anyone else but us, and I have found myself constantly craving another adventure just like it ever since... This day was, without a doubt, a day I will never forget, and a day that will touch me forever. These are the days that keep us coming back for more... The days which enlighten our souls... The days which fuel our adventurous flame forevermore.