Hope and Purpose

A little puppy called Hope and Purpose

Claire and Buddy

Claire and Buddy

Actually, his name is Buddy and he belongs to my friend Claire. He’s a bit of everything, Terrier, Huntaway, Staffy. He has the sweetest little face and a tail that wags his little body with some excited force. At about 10months old he has oodles of energy to burn and keep everyone entertained. This little puppy gives a bit of purpose to my friend Claire’s life, and he gives me hope for her health and life.

The wee critter must be taken for walks to simply exhaust his seemingly endless energy, and it’s perfect for giving Claire more reason to get out and exercise.


I had the pleasure of looking after Buddy for a week while Claire went to Australia for a conference. He was extremely well behaved and I was very lucky to bring him to work with me and let him run around the vineyards all day. So many things to investigate, new people to meet, uncontrolled running around like a mad dog! A few hours later, he was buggered! He’d come find me, fall asleep on the grass in the sun, and I’d just carry on with my work. Every afternoon when it was time to go home, he’d be asleep in the back seat of my car, completely worn out. It made going about my evening duties (cooking, cleaning, showering) so much easier without a shadow following me around investigating everything I do.

It's a hard life being this adorable!

It’s a hard life being this adorable!

Making a bed in the leaves

Making a bed in the leaves

#imnothavingfunanymore #iwanttogohomenow

#imnothavingfunanymore #iwanttogohomenow

"I shall call him Sticky and he shall be mine and he shall be my Sticky"

“I shall call him Sticky and he shall be mine and he shall be my Sticky”

On the weekends Buddy and I would still get up at 7am. Once he’d had his breakfast he was ready to go exploring, making clear signs he wanted to go outside, with a sense of urgency though he’d already done his business just a few minutes earlier. I’d still be waiting for my coffee to kick in. Walks down by the lake had to be on the leash until far away from the roads and he was definitely not impressed with being “controlled”. He’s not overly keen on the water, I suppose that’s not helped much by the fact it’s barely spring yet, but he loves chasing sticks

Result! After an hour run around the lake. Asleep for an hour and he's ready to go again!

Result! After an hour run around the lake. Asleep for an hour and he’s ready to go again!

Sweet little Buddy. Come again sometime! Until then, keep pestering Claire to take you for a walk!


Oh to be Young, Fit and Healthy…

I must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed on Thursday.

There is limited flat land around this area. It’s one of the charms of Central Otago! The hills and mountains. The valleys and rivers. So really it is no surprise that when they discovered grapes could grow successfully this far south, they would plant vineyards on hills, and therefore if you work for a vineyard or a vineyard management company, you are going to have to walk those hills.

A Mt Difficulty Wines vineyard named "Golden Hills" would you believe!

A Mt Difficulty Wines vineyard named “Golden Hills” would you believe!

Some days I love it, other days I feel as unenthusiastic as my work colleagues when no amount of wishing will make the hills disappear. The hills must be climbed.

My mood was triggered by something Mr Dicey said to us one day. He has a dry and somewhat inappropriate sense of humour and often shares jokes that cause us to cringe and giggle at the same time. He can sometimes come out with comments that are absolute gems like “to live in Central Otago is to realise one must have been very good in a previous life”. And sometimes he can come out with slightly less thought out ideas like “being fit and healthy just makes you live longer ha ha ha”.
Hmm. Everybody agreed and laughed. But it got me thinking.

At 26, I am the youngest person in the pruning crew, the next youngest is heading towards 50. The last couple of days we have been working on a terraced vineyard. Not only because I can, but because I consider the ability of my colleagues, I power up the hill to the highest terrace so that my colleagues don’t have to. This is where I get a tad pissed off. As I supposedly leave my work mates in my dust as I pass them on the slope, the comments start.
“Want to piggy-back me up the hill?!!?”
“Did Brenda just run up that hill?”
Oh sure, sometimes it makes me feel a little proud on the inside, and I like being able to use my ability to help out others in even that little way.

But this comment “Oh to be so young and fit and healthy” got to me a little bit.

My age I cannot help. But being fit and healthy has been my choice. And didn’t they agree with Mr Dicey that being fit and healthy wasn’t such a great thing?

The people who make these comments, they thought I was mad to run in the Northburn and put myself through that. When I described the “steep, really steep and ridiculous slopes” encountered on Northburn that had me wondering if my legs would pull through to take the next step: “at that moment you were questioning your sanity!?” Ummm no, my determination was stronger than my doubt.
The people who make these comments are also smokers.
The people who make these comments did not donate to my Quest for CF. They would rather spend their money on poison to destroy their own lungs while I was putting up a fight for those who were born with faulty lungs.

I do not judge them or comment on their choice to smoke or their choice not to donate. Not even when we all sit around to have our smoko break and I have to watch them smoke their ciggies, and leave stubbed out butts on the ground, and listen to them complain about the price of tobacco these days.

“Oh to be so young and fit and healthy”. I know it’s not said with malicious intent. Probably meant as a backhanded compliment. Surely there must be a point where I can say to them that they can choose to be fit and healthy! It is a choice!

I have seen first hand what an unfit and unhealthy lifestyle can lead to, how difficult life gets as you get older. And I have a 92 year old grandmother who lived a much fitter and healthier lifestyle and she still lives in her own home on her own.

Which would you rather?

The End?

It’s been 3 months since Northburn 100. The grape harvest was a buzz of activity for the month of April. May was spent walking every vineyard and filling up the gaps in the permanent cordon. In June we started pruning the vines. Winter has hit: frosty mornings, low lying cloud hiding the mountain tops, mountain tops dusted in snow.

A year ago I started this blog to document my training for the Northburn, and now I don’t really know what to do with it. I did not begin a love affair with running, it still feels like a chore. I really liked having a purpose to my training (raising money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis, page 11) and involving my friend Claire, training with her and getting her active. What we achieved was pretty awesome and made it all seem worth it. There is nothing stopping us from continuing getting out and about, and we will. I have a full time job that keeps me pretty active (even in the winter with the pruning, good upper body work out), so I really struggle to find the enthusiasm to go for a run, definitely not helped by the short winter evenings. And who wants to leave their comfy and warm beds to go run in the dark and frost before work? Not this fairweather runner!

So do I continue with running? And blogging about running?   Some words are whispered in my ears: Tawawera Ultra Marathon. 100 kilometres. Wouldn’t that be awesome! You’ve done 50km, why not try for 100!


Hmmm could I do it? Just for me?

That’s a Wrap

It’s been two weeks since the Northburn100.

Recovery was surprisingly rather painless. I put it down to the work the chiropractor has done to make me correctly aligned and trying to strengthen my weak side. The day after the 50km, compared to other similar outings, I felt like I had had a few days of recovery already. Probably a good thing because that day, when I went back to Northburn to check on a friend who was entered in the 100 miler, I was called on to be a marshal for the kid’s adventure run. I had to walk to the highest point of the kid’s course – they had to climb a mini mountain of their own!!

View from my marshalling point.

View from my marshalling point, looking out over Northburn Station.

So to round up about 9 months of preparing for a mountain race…

Claire and I were interviewed for the Otago Daily Times

Claire and I were interviewed for the Otago Daily Times

Thank you to the Northburn100 for letting me use the race as a way to thrash my lungs and my body in the name of Cystic Fibrosis.

Thank you to the Cystic Fibrosis Association of New Zealand for supporting me by setting up my Givealittle donations page.

Thank you to my parents for coming along to the recent events I have entered in. They supported me during my high school athletics days and it just helped having something ordinary and normal at the finish when I had completed something extraordinary and unknown to me.  It’s a little different cheering me on as I run around an oval track to being gone for hours and waiting for me to come down off a mountain. Thank you for being at the Northburn finish line.

Thank you to Liam Burgess for not only getting me to push myself to complete the Motatapu track, the best Northburn preparation, but also for squeezing donations out of his friends by getting the donations page out there on Facebook.

Thank you to everyone who donated! I really hope you feel I have done you proud!

Thank you to my work mates who would ask me whenever I came across them in the vineyards how my training was going, for just showing an interest in something I was doing.

Thank you to my blog readers! Thank you for showing an interest in what I have been up to.

Thank you to my brother Alan Stringer for designing such a cool logo for our tshirts!

But I think most importantly, thank you to my friend Claire. For inspiring this whole journey. For suggesting a personal challenge and then following through on it. For supporting me by suggesting some pretty awesome excursions for our training and letting me support her in her own need to push herself. For also putting the donations page out there on Facebook for all of her friends to see. For letting me use her fantastic photos in my blog posts and for writing a couple of posts for the blog herself.
Thank you Claire for being open about your life with Cystic Fibrosis and letting me talk about you. I really appreciate and respect how you let me in on your personal triumphs and struggles with CF. You have been a huge inspiration to I hope many others who live with CF, and also to us ordinary people. You completed a mountain half marathon!  As much as I love doing nothing on the weekends, the amazing places that you and I have been have been oh so worth it.

A successful Quest for CF

A successful Quest for CF

Even though Northburn may have been completed, for this year at least, there are many many more mountains to climb.

Northburn100 Half Marathon – Post Race

Guest blog post by Claire Scofield

I awoke at 5am on the Saturday morning to feelings of excitement, the day was finally here. By 5.15am I was all packed up and in the car on my way to Northburn. Due to no one being on the roads at that crazy hour I made it to Cromwell in record time and managed to find Brenda and Liam all geared up and ready to go. Donned in my puffer jacket I was slightly envious of the two of them and felt very out of my league in a room full of extremely fit ultra marathon runners.

Just before 6am the runners all lined up in the dark with their head torches, the music pumping in the background, the countdown started and they were off. 5km,and half an hour later the spectators see a stream of bobbing head torches making their way down the hill to pass through the start line a second time. That would be the last time we would see them for about 8 hours.

I headed off into Cromwell to get food and coffee, can’t start your day without coffee. At 8am we lined up for the Northburn half marathon, I looked around me and again felt very out of my league. A lesser countdown and no head torches, we set off, very quickly I made my way to the back of the pack and there I stayed for the remainder of the race.

The first 6km were very much uphill, beautiful views, burning lungs and many rest stops later, I felt I had been going for so long I thought the water station had been packed up because surely no one can be that far behind! I promptly told myself off and reminded myself that for me, it wasn’t a race. A very lovely marshal at the 6km mark lifted my spirits and took a photo for me looking out at the stunning Pisa range. From there, the terrain was so nice to run on. Mainly flat and downhill I tried to play catch up, it was actually quite surreal being up there feeling all alone but knowing that you are part of a race, during this time I really enjoyed myself.

Northburn100 Half Marathon

Northburn100 Half Marathon

The terrain started to become steeper downhill for a while, and about 15km in my knees started to play up. Silly knees. This then reduced me to walking speed, and as it got hotter and I got further and further behind, my spirits dropped and I trudged on. About this time I saw a few runners coming up behind me and thought that I was being passed by people doing the 160km race, but it turned out a couple of people had gotten lost, and one was just going for a run. Having a chat kept the tears from rolling for a wee while! One last uphill dash brought on the tears as a car drove past and I admitted how awful I felt for being last, where I was again reminded by Glen that it was about finishing and enjoying it, not winning. So I picked up my sooky boots and carried on.

When I reached the finish line the race finishers and spectators were so supportive, even if I was rather embarrassed about being 45 minutes behind the last competitor with a time of 3hrs 45mins it was so nice to have people cheering you on at the finish. From here I flopped down on the grass and cheered people on coming through, and waited for Brenda and Liam to make their way back.

I am so proud of the achievements of Brenda, and can definitely say I would never have entered this event if it wasn’t for her. To finish the 50km in just over 8 hours is a massive feat, coming in 7th in the under 40’s, and if she chooses not to continue with ultra marathon, to have completed a race like this in that time is something to be very proud of, and to hear so much positive feedback about her from other competitors made me so proud.

To the organisers and volunteers of Northburn 100, it was a fantastic event that was so well run. Such a supportive crew of people working through the day and night to make it what it was, and I have heard nothing but positive comments about the entire event.

To everyone who donated to the Cystic Fibrosis association through the Givealitttle website, thank you. And to Liam Burgess who helped with the fundraising, and who ran an amazing race in an equally amazing time, coming in at an overall 12th place with a time of 6hrs 59mins, thank you for your help in getting the fundraising page out there. I have personally seen where the funds like this go to help people with CF, and without generous people such as you, many would miss out on the opportunities to try the new technologies which make every day life that much better for people living with it.

Northburn100 50km – Post race

He stands up before us at a pre- race gathering, this big burly sort of a bloke, experienced ultra marathon runner, a repeat offender at the Northburn100 by the name of Gordi Kirkbank-Ellis. A big smile on his face looking at all us rookies. “It’s gunna hurrrrt!”
We had been warned.

22 March, 5:15am I picked up Liam and we drove out to Northburn Station to sign in and get ready for the start. All three distances started together, the 50km, 100km, and 161km. Lisa Tamati on the loud speaker getting us all pumped up and ready to go. The countdown began and 6am, we were off! A trail of headlights bobbing along the track.



A quick 5km loop around the Northburn Vineyard brought us back through the start line, a good chance for your support crew to get one last look at you before you headed off to the top of the mountain for a good number of hours. Claire was there, I was feeling pretty good, only a 10th of the way in! Yep, a long way left to go.

The sun eventually started to come up over the mountain and then the headlamps could be switched off. Time to start focusing on some uphill hiking. It was a steady grind all the way up to 1660m. As Terry Davis said at the race briefing the night before, it’s steep, and then it gets really steep, and then it gets ridiculous! There is a section of about 4km where you follow a sheep fence away from any 4WD track we had been running on, sidling along the ridge, a really tough climb. There were a couple of points where I almost wondered if my legs would pull through for the next step!

Up and up and up!

Up and up and up!

Sidling along a mountain ridge was rough underfoot, you had to be weary of the spaniard grass, and careful with every step so as not to roll your ankles. Though the steepest part might have been tackled, there was still more and more uphill to go. Some technical navigation required around some rocky outcrops and then follow a small creek up to the actual top of the mountain and into the sunshine! Again, more careful foot placement on the rough tundra at altitude until we met another friendly marshal and a 4WD track at about 25km. I topped up my Camelbak with water and went to eat my second banana… except when I managed to peel it with my cold and swollen hands, I dropped it!! Gutted! Oh well, an excuse to get into my chocolate biscuits.

The views from on top of the mountain: spectacular. I couldn’t take a photo but I could see all the way to Lake Wanaka to the West, and as far as the eye could see out over Alexandra and Omakau to the East. A bit hazy at 10am.
Some undulating road and then the down hill started. It was starting to get a bit uncomfortable half way down the 14km or so of down hill. The toes felt hammered in the tops of my shoes, the quads having worked hard to get to the top now having to act as a brake and shock absorber on the way down. And then I got the stitch. It wouldn’t go away for quite some time. Any uphill walking I managed to pinch it out but it’s just so exhausting running through that amount of pain.

Lake level, and ultimately our target (well sort of) still seemed a long way down. We just seemed to be going up and down hills, round another corner and you’d be either climbing or going down some more. We hit the 39km mark which signalled the “Loop of Deception” named because you could see the marquee and the finish line just a few hundred metres away, but we were kicked back out towards the mountain. 11km to the finish doesn’t sound so bad, you don’t think it sounds too far to jog around the farm some more to make up the full 50km.
That is until you hit another gruelling uphill climb. Seriously!? Again!? The sun was out in full force doing Central Otago proud, making it really hot! You felt like you had just climbed half way back up the mountain! And then you’d get a glimpse of where you’re headed – spotting runners ahead of you on the road across the other side of a large gully. How on earth were we supposed to get over there!?! A very steep descent and another sharp incline up is how. My feet were really starting to complain.

The final checkpoint, two lovely ladies sitting under an umbrella with a big basket of grapes and cold water. 5km to go!! The longest 5km.

Through the vineyard and the slowest run down to the FINISH where Claire and my mum were waiting.

Across the FINISH line

Across the FINISH line, Hi Five with Terry Davis

8 hours 16 minutes. Just over 50km and more than 2000m vertical.
To EVERYONE who completed this loop: congratulations!
To those who then went on to attack the 2nd 50km loop: I am in awe. To tell the body it has to go and do that all over again, I just can’t even imagine!
The crazy people who continued on to finish the final 60km loop to complete the 100 miler: there are no words.

This event is internationally infamous for being the toughest mountain race, attracting people from all over the world. “You don’t race it, you survive it!”

Liam had finished a good couple hours before but couldn’t stick around. My parents had brought my 92 year old grandmother along and once again, I told her she walks better than I do ( as I hobbled along on blistered toes, tired knees and aching arches).

The Northburn100 Buckle Shield

The Northburn100 Buckle Shield

While waiting for me to come back in from the 50km, Claire had participated in the half marathon, one of the “fun runs”. It has a gnarly uphill climb too. She completed it. An exceptional achievement and a strong testament to the hard work she has put in over the last 6 months. I am extremely proud and felt somewhat (alright, to be honest, very) emotional when I saw her at the finish line.

At the prize giving today they opened the floor for anyone to share their war stories or say a few words. I had met quite a number of people who made the connection that I was one of the bloggers linked on the Northburn100’s website. It was really encouraging to hear they had enjoyed reading about our adventures. I took the opportunity to wear my bright yellow tshirt and introduce myself. There was quite a buzz around the room when I told them that Claire lives with Cystic Fibrosis and had run in the half marathon. We all thought we’d done it tough!

I am proud to have thrashed my body and lungs in the name of Cystic Fibrosis.

Another post to come! Until then, thanks for reading!!

T’was the Night Before Northburn

It’s tomorrow!

The last few weeks have been pretty lazy training wise. A couple of Bikram yoga sessions, a gentle run around the old reservoir track with Liam, more visits with the chiropractor to keep my back corrected.
Work however, very different story. The grape harvest is just around the corner and I have been very busy trying to get grape samples to wineries for sugar testing, and also trying to keep the boss supplied with data as he tries to manage a huge crop load this season. Lots of walking, lugging buckets of grapes around, counting bunches. I’m a little bit done in to be honest. I have been pulling big days to get ahead so I could have some time off to go and get signed in for the Northburn 100 this afternoon.


I have my race number, I have been weighed in, had my required gear checked, listened to the race briefing. It’s time to have some dinner and then head off to bed. Early start in the morning!

I will check in again after the event, in the mean time, check out our awesome tshirts! Designed by my brother Alan, modelled by Claire. Donate to the cause! We’re nearly at $2000!!



White Hill Classic, Mossburn

I always feel a bit nervous going back to my home town: Mossburn, Southland.

White Hill Classic. Definitely in the country!

White Hill Classic.
Definitely in the country!

The White Hill Classic is a mountain bike and cross country run amongst Meridian Energy’s wind turbines, an event the whole family can get involved in, and one of the only times the wind farm is open to the public. The best part about it is that it is organised and managed by the locals, sponsored by local businesses, supported by the locals, and the money raised is injected back into the community.
And for a community approximately 200 strong, an event like this is quite a big ask so I was extremely impressed by the turn out – people from all over the Southland region and slightly further afield, and all the familiar faces and names that I hadn’t seen or heard in like 8 years.

Claire came with me down south. We stayed with my parents the night before and woke up on Saturday (1 March) morning feeling well rested. The event didn’t kick off until 11am and it was a 10 minute drive from my parent’s farm. Roads I haven’t driven in 8 years still felt familiar even though the farms may have changed. It was a rather fresh morning after the rain and snow on the mountain tops the day before. No one was feeling too eager to part with their track pants or extra sweatshirt.

I had entered the 13km cross country run and after my back injury I hadn’t decided how I was going to run, just plod along at a manageable pace or actually try for a good time and perhaps a placing. Claire signed up for the recreational 9km walk, a very popular option for many locals who just want a piece of the action without being competitive, and an opportunity to get up close to the wind turbines.

I had never been up to White Hill since it opened in 2007. The wind turbines can be seen all over Northern Southland. I was really looking forward to this event. Claire and I arrived nice and early to get our numbers, a chance to catch up with so many people, my aunty and my old high school teachers even!

Claire hopped on a bus with the other walkers to be taken up the road a bit, the mountain bikers were started and then a minute later, the horn sounded and the runners were on their way. I was feeling pretty good, it was a quick start with everyone trying to get out from the main pack, and then we hit the first climb. This was real cross country stuff. Sheep muck and mud and slippery grass. If there’s one thing the country knows how to do…. it’s how to be country!
The cold breeze seemed to just disappear as we grunted our way up the track. Just when you felt you really needed it of course. The sun came out and the views out over Northern Southland were stunning.

Northern Southland Naturally

Northern Southland Naturally

Every few kilometres there was a marshal, another friendly familiar face, encouraging us to keep going. Through an open gate and we were up on top of White Hill, running along the access roads, so close to the enormous wind turbines you could hear them whirring away in the wind. I had unknowingly been keeping my eye on another ex-local girl who was a powerhouse up the hills. A mother of 3 and personal challenges of her own and she was dominating the run! I caught up with her on the top, just over half way, and I ran with her along the flat. She set a really good pace and I was feeling pretty good. We caught up on another runner, listening to his MapMyFitness phone app speak out and then all of a sudden apparently we only had another 2km to go!


Time for some down hill. It was a bit tricky in places but once back on the main access road I just relaxed and worked with gravity to come down off the hill. Into the finishing chute constructed with tailing gates, a high-five with the race director, and a cold Speights signalled the end!
1hr 22mins, 4th woman in, a very very successful event.

Thanks Claire for the photos!

Until next time, thanks for reading!
Only 2 weeks until the Northburn!!

The Hard Yards

I have put off writing this post for the last week because this adventure very nearly broke me and my recovery has been painful and slow.

The Mototapu Track links Glendu to Macetown/Arrowtown over some tussock high country. A 50km four day tramp with relatively new DoC huts and hardly used track is not for the faint hearted. Claire and I had walked into Fern Burn Hut, the first hut on the track, back in the spring for an over night outing. That was challenging enough. My new friend and fellow mountain marathoner Liam Burgess challenged me to do the whole thing with him, all 50km from Glendu to Arrowtown, in a day. Good Northburn 50 training! I was just stupid enough and eager to agree.

All smiles at the begining!

All smiles and ready to go at the begining!

It was a bit cool day that Saturday (15 February), the clouds threatened to roll in and dump something on us at some stage. After dropping us off at the beginning, Claire was going to drive around to the Arrowtown end and mountain bike in to Macetown 15km along a 4WD road and meet us there. Liam and I set off at just after 9am with a goal of a “generous” 7-8hours to slog it out.
We made it to Fern Burn Hut (7km) in 1 hour 15mins, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, if we could keep that pace up we were looking at making a pretty good time.

A quick 5 minute stop to have a drink and a chat to the tramper and we were on our way towards Highland Creek Hut. This leg of the track was far more challenging. We had climbed about 400m to get to Fern Burn Hut, now we had to head up another 600m to Jack Hall’s Saddle but only over 3km. It seemed obvious that not many were keen to attempt beyond Fern Burn. Many times I’d look up and find I had lost the track and have to scrabble up or down the steep mountain side to get back onto it.

Highest point, only 10km in, a long way to go yet!

Highest point, only 10km in, a long way to go yet!

What goes up, must come down! It was steep! We tried to run as much of it as we could just to keep the pace up. Once we reached Highlands Creek Hut (+6km) it was trying to rain on us. Another 10mins to have a drink and give the legs a break, we were on the climb yet again. And this was a serious climb. It was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other to aim for the next snow pole before letting myself have a breather. The legs were starting to feel pretty abused.
The track dropped into a gully where we met a small creek and filled up our hydration bladders. We had to climb out of the gully and back up and over another ridge that just seemed unending. It just kept going up and up. The aim was to make it to Roses Hut before we had a decent break but as soon as we got up and over the ridge and Roses Hut was in view, I couldn’t make it. It was only a couple of kilometres away but to get to it we had to make our way down yet another steep descent. We got out of the wind and put our jackets on to have a good munch and a break. We started entertaining ideas about how we would make it to Macetown where we hoped Claire hadn’t given up on us, Liam would ride back on the mountain bike to the car and cellphone reception where he’d call on a favour owed by a mate with a 4WD vehicle nearby, and drive us the remaining distance out.

Roses Hut (+11km) signalled just one more up and over to Macetown following the remnants of a 4WD road up another mountain ridge and over 1270m high Roses Saddle. We kept a pretty steady pace up the road but there was still no end in sight. The valley zig zagged in front of us with the river making its way through at the bottom. We figured we didn’t have much further to go until Macetown, so when the track met the river and then took a sharp uphill turn, Liam and I rock hopped and sidled along the river, crossing it a good number of times for the best path. With every bend in the river I was hoping to see signs of the historic settlement. Eventually we gave up on the river and headed up the hill to meet the track again and another few kilometres and we were at Macetown! (+10km)

It was hard to appreciate how beautiful Macetown is with the green Sycamore trees a lovely contrasting sight to dry brown tussock. The ruined buildings strewn around the ghost town a reminder of the hard life experienced during the 1860’s gold rush. As we walked through, we kept our eyes peeled for Claire and the mountain bike, or just any signs of her having been there. It was already getting on into the evening, probably about 7.30pm, and we had no way of letting Claire know where we were. We just had to keep going. The last push! 15km of relatively flat 4WD road and 22 river crossings!

I thought I could manage the last 15km to Arrowtown. A gentle jog to appease the bruised legs. A couple of times I had to stop and walk a bit because I was starting to find it difficult to breath. The brutal downhill running we had put ourselves through had juddered my back into tensing up. The river crossings started to feel lovely when my wet socks had started rubbing my feet a bit warm and raw.

With about 3 or 4 km to go Liam’s phone started going off with messages as we passed through a pocket of reception. The sun had started going down and we were so close to the finish. We sent a message to Claire to let her know we were almost out! Liam left me with his head lamp and boosted it to Arrowtown. I was very grateful for the head lamp, navigating those river crossings in pitch black was a bit scary. A lot of times I could hardly see where the other side was!

I was very nearly at my wits end. Every river crossing I was so close to having a melt down. I had had enough. Seeing a bobbing light coming towards me was spooky… but it was Claire who had walked in after Liam had tracked her down. Oh the poor girl, so much for our 7-8 “generous” hours estimation. I had received a message from her saying she just didn’t know what to do.
She was sure we were ok, but if we had decided to sleep at a hut then what should she have done? She had asked around what people knew about doing the Motatapu in a day and some had said it took about 12 hours.

I walked the last little bit (probably about 1.5km) with Claire and was extremely happy to have finished despite my moments of doubt. 12.5hours, 50km, ups and downs both physically and mentally. Perfect Northburn 50km training.

Motatapu in a day!

Motatapu in a day! – Strava

Motatapu profile. Leg shredding stuff!

Motatapu profile. Leg shredding stuff!

The next day I was very immobile. My legs had been absolutely shredded. My toes were very tender from jamming up the tops of my shoes on the downhill. Returning to work was a bit difficult, having to walk around the vineyards, admiration but no sympathy from the boss!
My back was feeling a bit stiff which I was expecting. But on the Tuesday as I was ducking under rows on the vineyard, I stood  up too quickly, hitting my back on the horizontal cordon of the vine above me. On Thursday I almost couldn’t get out of bed. I have never experienced such immobilising back pain. I am on light duties at work for a week and have physio and chiropractor appointments booked to give my poor back some much needed attention. There’s only a month to go until the Northburn!!

Until next time, thanks for reading.



When Preparing for a Mountain Race: Get Your Mountain Goat On!

Isthmus Peak: That's where we're headed!

Isthmus Peak (can’t actually see it from here): That’s where we’re headed!

If you haven’t read the post written by Claire, I think you should. After feeling a bit low about her situation a few months ago, I can only be encouraged by what she wrote and be more determined than ever to keep going with this journey – only 5 more weeks! That is a scary thought!

There’s been a lot happening on the vineyards recently. I have been busy counting and weighing bunches of grapes, to estimate how much fruit we can expect at harvest, and monitoring a late powdery mildew outbreak. Doesn’t sound like much when I write it down, but try doing that over about 300ha of vines in the space of a couple of weeks, and then get back to me. It involves a lot of walking. So when Claire asked me a couple weeks ago what I had planned for training on the weekend, I think I said I hadn’t planned anything, because I didn’t want to do anything. She had a couple of ideas in mind and I was going to regretfully decline, I was still recovering from the Big Easy.

But I couldn’t let her go climbing a mountain alone! On a Friday evening (31 January) she picked me up and we travelled through to Lake Hawea where we camped for the night at Kidds Bush camp site. It was a gorgeous evening, no wind, we were treated to an amazing  sunset – not your typical orange and red, but silvery rays as the sun dipped behind clouds and then the mountains.

The mountains. Wow, I live in such a beautiful country! These ridges seem to just rise out of the ground, tall and steep and almost forbidding. Reminded me of travelling through the Scottish Highlands.

The DoC ranger recommended we make a start on the Isthmus Peak track early in the morning to get as much done before the heat of the day hit. Good advice! The next morning we packed up our camp site and drove to the start of the track by 8am.
It didn’t take long and the lungs were heaving and the legs were feeling the work. Claire thought she wasn’t coping as well as she had hoped but when we turned around, we had probably just climbed the first 100m vertical over 1km, and I wasn’t finding it overly easy either! Climbing mountains with Claire is great because not only is it just good for the both of us, but though she may have some limitations, she gives it 110% of her ability. And that’s what gets her lung function up from 44% to 51%, and us both to the top of Isthmus Peak (1386m) in a little more than 2 hours over 8km. Just like regular little mountain goats!

Honestly, it really doesn't get much better than this!

Honestly, it really doesn’t get much better than this!

What a stunning day. Again, so glad we acted on the ranger’s advice and got going  early, it was really hot! Which also means blue skies and views worth the hard work. At the top we had Lake Hawea to the East, and Lake Wanaka to the West. New Zealand does Scottish Highlands complete with Scottish thistle!
Such a steep climb means a steep descent. Just like the Big Easy marathon when you’re looking out for any levelling off or even a slight uphill gradient, considering the possibility of walking down the mountain backwards, you know your poor legs have taken a hammering.

In our true style, it was off to Kai Whakapai in Wanaka for a drink and some hot chips.

Until next time, thanks for reading!