Cliff Walk, Eketahuna

Our weekdays and weekends are just a tangle of days. With Gerry often teaching on weekends and sometimes weeknights, on top of weekday classes, while also running a photography company where traveling is part of the process (when not in lockdown when all jobs gets cancelled), we have no routine. It’s messy. Most days and weekends just come and go. The joy and excitement of ‘normal’ life Fridays (ay, ay, it’s Friday!) is a big miss, especially when Saturdays are workdays. Unfortunately, the dread of Mondays are still there. Must be ingrained after many years of school, Uni, and work-life, or perhaps just everyday life where there are still lots of memes, and people agonising over the dread of their Monday-back-to-the-grindstone fate.

We often don’t make plans for the weekend. And with the recent Level 4, followed by Level 3 and current Level 2 lockdown, we have been spending all our hours at home. Not that I mind too much. But by mid-morning on Sunday, it felt like a good idea to get out of the cabin and go for a drive somewhere. Heck, even if just to give the car battery a charge.

The weather was miserable: super windy, cloudy, with the occasional drizzle. We decided to drive to the Putara trail head on the Wairarapa side of the Tararua Range, and if the weather was okay, to saunter up the mountain for a couple of kilometres before turning back. It was never the intention to go far, but thought an outing in nature might be a pleasant change from four walls. The nearer we got to the parking area, the more the drizzle persisted and the stronger the wind.

Finally getting there, we parked, looked at each other, poured a cuppa while the car was rocking in the wind, and decided to drive back to Eketahuna before risking a slip or windfall blocking the narrow gravel road, trapping us out in the sticks. We had no business sauntering into the mountains on a day like this anyway, even if being prepared, or just for a kilometre or two.

Unbeknownst to us, at about the exact time we wimped out, a female solo tramper was trapped on the ridge between Powell and Jumbo Huts (not too many miles from where we were), and couldn’t move due to the wind threatening to blow her off the mountain. She called Search and Rescue at 9am, hunkered down in the tussock, and was only reached by 5:30pm. She was fine apart from mild hypothermia, and they all spent the night at Powell Hut.

Another man also got in trouble in the same 130k winds, tonnes of rain, sleet and freezing temperatures, just a bit further along the ridge and deeper into the mountain from where she was (Mt McGregor), and set off his PLB at around 9:30pm. SAR couldn’t reach him, and would continue their search on the Monday morning. He spent the night in horrific conditions without a tent or sleeping bag. With the horrendous weather still hammering the country, SAR couldn’t reach him the next day either. Fortunately he still had some battery life left on his phone, had reception and they could guide him to the McGregor bivvy. Luckily he also had his dog with him, and I can only imagine that the extra body heat generated by the dog might have saved his life. Sandwiched between two mattresses with the dog, SAR reached him at 2am on the Tuesday morning in the bivvy. I guess one could argue that he was foolish for walking into the backcountry in imminent extreme weather without more gear (tent, sleeping bag, etc). Perhaps he knew that with the added body heat of the dog he didn’t need a sleeping bag. It is quite easy to judge from the couch and think his foolhardiness could have cost him his life, but we don’t know anything about him or his backcountry skill level.

On the way back to Eketahuna, I searched for some short walks in or near the town and stumbled upon the Cliff Walk. At only one kilometre long, it is hardly worth the effort. But a stretch of the legs has never been a bad idea.

We parked at the campsite side of the track, donned some warm clothes and rain jackets, and set off in the wind. I had to question whether it was a good idea walking in strong wind given that the walk is sandwiched between trees, the tall ones leaning against the wind. Although the trees provided some shelter, it was at the expense of a calm walk and not stressing about being crushed by a redwood.

The walk is on the edge of the bluff/cliff, but between two fences and trees. Not many views of and down the cliff is possible, but the wee walk is pretty in itself. The trees make a nice canopy in places, and the track underfoot is quite smooth (apart from minor windfall), presumably wheelchair friendly.

At only about 920 metres long, it took no time to reach Eketahuna. Another block and we were in the metropolis that is the city centre. It was such a non-event that we didn’t even think to take money for coffee.

On the way back, we made the steep, slippery trip down the cliff on a narrow track to the historical ‘Old swimming pool’. It’s a lovely spot in the Makakahi River that I can imagine would be a popular picnic and swimming hole in summer.

Back at the car without any fallen trees or branches incidents, we poured another cup of coffee from the thermos and drove home. I guess this walkway really is just a commute from the campsite to town, and for the locals, but if one happens to be in Eketahuna on a road trip and have the time for a leg-stretch, this is a nice walk to consider.

Barefoot and zero drop

This is neither a shoe review, nor expert advice. Just an observation.

There are so many theories out there about barefoot running and zero drop shoes, that it gets tangled up and one can easily just lump it all together as one concept. However, this is not the case, as I was sorely reminded of this week.

But first let me backtrack a bit. For the past five or so years, I’ve run in Altra. Since I always walk around barefoot in the house, going zero-drop was a no-brainer. No fuss, not frills, no getting used to it or gradually phasing it in. To be honest, I don’t think interchanging between zero-drop and six to eight or even ten millimetre is something that will really affect the average runner (if a blind test was done). But according to the experts, this is not the case and one shouldn’t just jump into zero-drop shoes.

In my arsenal I have Torin for on-road, TIMP for more cushioned off-road, and my trusty go-to trail shoe, the Lone Peak. Heck, I even have a pair of less cushioned Superiors in the mix for shorter trails, which I absolutely also love.

Our daily 8k run is fairly hilly, with an elevation of around 125m. I guess some stronger and fitter runners may call it undulating. But some of the hills I am yet to jog all the way to the top.

So this week I took a pair of Altra Delilah (gifted to me by my friend, Nina) for this daily 8k hilly on-road run. A (discontinued) women specific (mens equivalent is the Samson) minimalist performance shoe with a razor-siped sole grip, suited to road, track, trail and anything between. It is zero-drop (obviously) and has no cushioning worth mentioning, just a thin rubber sole to protect your feet from stones and the like. It is pretty much as close to running barefoot while still wearing shoes as one can get, and is meant to help you improve posture and running technique.

It should therefore come as no surprise that I immediately could feel a difference in my running style: not landing as hard as with a more cushioned shoe, and ‘trotting’ more, for lack of a better word. I felt silly, self-conscious, and was glad to be in the country where not a lot of people could see me. I tried my best to run as normal as possible, and thought I managed okay apart from the downhill sections.

And clearly the shoes did ‘improve my running technique’ as my calves were terribly sore the next day – muscles I probably don’t use on a daily short trot. I realise that with a plonking-style of running one doesn’t use your muscles as much, perhaps relying more on shoe ergonomics, and your own joints to propel you forward? But there was no escaping the fact that these shoes will not help propel or soften the blow on landing. I was forced to use more muscle in order to save my joints. Which I think is a good thing. Trouble is, I would obviously have to ease into this, and perhaps change my initial plan of running in them twice a week, to just once a week for starters. Of course this all looks nice on paper and I’m sure these shoes will improve my running style and activate muscles that I don’t normally use, but will I stick to this plan? Only time will tell.

Footnote:
While we’re talking Altra – if you buy the TIMP 2, go for half a size bigger. It was designed to be ‘snug’, but it is snug to the extend that the size changed. They fit okay and I will no doubt pile on the mileage, but on technical terrain there is no room to manoeuvre, which is very tiresome to feet if you’re constantly rubbing and bumping against the sides and front. But then again, I like my shoes loose fitting.

Blue Range Hut blues

Date: 25 January 2021
Distance: 8km out-and-back
Time: 1:45 going up | 1:30 going down

An invitation came along for a walk up to a hut, which was the perfect opportunity to get my bum off of the chair and do something physical for a change. To be fair, we have started jogging 4km most days of the week for the past month or so to try and get back into some form of fitness and routine. It has been a hard slog, and sometimes a real challenge just to cover those 4km, but we have been going reasonably steady for the past month.

Continue reading

Just like that – hip hip (not) hoorah

hip

For almost two years now (since I’ve been diagnosed with FAI) I’ve been working on my mobility by spending a fair amount of time on a foam roller, a ball, or anything else that helps break up the fascia adhesions and tightness that hinders mobility. I’ve discovered that releasing the “knots” in the quad of the FAI hip brings instant relief for any discomfort or pain, and therefore started to focus 99% of my energy on that area. During this time I’ve also taken up some body-weight strength training in the form of lunges, squats, hip thrusts, deadlifts etc. I was unfortunately not very religious about it and my routine was rather haphazard. Things were going okay until last summer, but as with most things in life, when things get tough or life gets busy, looking after oneself goes out the door. Admittedly, I’ve been rather lax the past few months about my hip. I didn’t have much pain, and when I did experience some discomfort, breaking up the adhesions in my quad did the trick. This happened a few times a week, and apart from that I didn’t bother to keep up my maintenance and conditioning in any of the other areas of my body, let alone balancing out left and right. This has turned out to be a big mistake. Continue reading

5 things no one tells you, bla-bla-bla …

Is it just me, or is everything your read these days on running forums and in running magazines, a number crunching game? For instance: “6 things you need to do right now”, “I did squats for 14 days and here’s what happened”, “do these 3 exercises right now”, “4 stretches that will fix all your problems”, “these 7 health foods aren’t so healthy”, “31 runner friendly recipes”, etc. You can almost not find an article that doesn’t contain a headline similar to these. But, I’m getting off topic.

getting_older_s.jpg

This post really is just a message I wish someone had banged into my head 20 years ago. And despite knowing what I know now, I still find it difficult to practice what I preach, but here goes nonetheless. Even if I fail miserably and have to say to myself 20 years from now, “I told you so!”. Continue reading