Tag Archives: travel

Never run in Bali after 8am…

Life has been so crazy and busy lately, some things in life have unfortunately taken a back seat. I tried my hardest to do everything at once and not compromise, but of course that isn’t how life works or how humans function. I like to think I’m no mortal human, and can do everything and anything, but that unfortunately isn’t the case.

I’ve been sick about three or four times this year. I never get sick. But that is my body telling me to slow down, stop working so hard, stop doing a hundred extra curriculars, stop running 60km a week, and sleep! I got sick quite recently, right before going on vacation, from again doing too much, trying to do everything without compromise. I had all the normal cold symptoms, plus foggy thinking (helpful at work right?). But no time for a sick day when I’m going on vacation and have a two page to do list to complete prior to departing for Bali.

The incredible thing was, once I reached Bali and slept a solid 10 hours, I had recovered. It was as if I had never been sick at all. Poster girl for perfect health. Fully rested.

The only negative part of my sleep in was that I had planned on going for a run on my first morning in Bali. Again, running had been an item that got cut when busy and sick, and I was excited about getting out and exploring and also getting the legs turning over again. But, by the time I got my act together it was 8:30am and 28 degrees. The sun was out in all its glory and not a cloud to be seen.

Still, i was determined. I am running. I will run and I will enjoy it and I will survive and it will be fun (she says with gritted teeth).

For the first 2km, that was the case. I ran from our villa down to Echo Beach. It was relatively quiet, and was nice to get a feel for the neighborhood. Villas, rice paddies, small shops…dogs and young kids, and the heat was present, but tolerable.


I made it down to Echo, and stopped to take a few photos. 



Stopping to take photos was a mistake. Within 30 seconds the heat had really hit me, I was sweating profusely, and wanted to stop. But no, I wasn’t going to give in. I turned around, turned down a side street to do a loop, and kept going. As I ran it got hotter and hotter, my legs wanted to move less and less, and I started to look less like a glamorous westerner effortlessly running in her cute lululemon gear in 28 degree heat on vacay putting all passerbyers to shame, and started to look like a deranged, dehydrated person dripping in her own sweat, a dumb westerner who thought 28 degrees was nothing, or someone who lost a bet and this was my punishment (or all three combined).


Luckily I found a road taking me back to Jl  Padang Linjong (our street) that was slightly in the shade, not too busy and which only motorbikes really used given its narrow width (though I did see one car!).


I cut my run short – I had no goal but thought 5km was just enough. I couldn’t bear to be out any longer. I got back to the villa and had never been so happy to see a swimming pool. In I went, running clothes, socks and all. I was in such a rush to cool down I even forgot to take the 40,000 or so rupiah out of my pocket that I had taken in the case of emergency. 

The water had never felt so good. And I had never felt so dumb. Don’t run after 8am on Indonesia Jen. What were you thinking? Unless you want a sure way to dehydration and heat stroke. Lucky for me I decided 5km was better than 10, and was easily able to return to the villa (I hadn’t gone too far). I still had a fresh coconut in the fridge, perfect to quench my thirst and help the body recover. And it was a wonderful start to the day, good to get my legs moving again, to run again,  even at a slower (5:17) pace than I would usually run 5km. But best not push myself too hard, that’s when the body rebels and says stop. A short run, a chance to explore the neighborhood by foot, and a opportunity to clear my head and start the day fresh 😊

Saturday running along the Southern Walkway

The Mount Victoria Lookout is a Wellington must do, whether you are a tourist or a local.  It is also a top tourist attraction, ranking 4 out of 209 attractions in Wellington on Trip Advisor.  It has stunning panoramic views of Wellington city, the harbor, and beyond.  Sitting at 196m above the city, it is also not a walk in the park.

I had a 2.5 hour trail run on the agenda today, which I was really looking forward to.  However, I was also battling a cold, issues with my asthma, and suffering from long days at work followed by rehearsal, and had taken Friday off work to try to recover from the cough that had started to develop.  So I didn’t want to push myself too hard on the trails, physically or mentally.  I decided to stay close to home, and not venture too far in case I did need to jump out early or turn around.  So the Southern Walkway was perfect – close to the city, 11km each way, with lots of rolling hills, a few steeper ups and downs, but nothing too difficult or technical.  There was also plenty of shade, perfect on a sunny winter day like today. Mount Victoria is the tallest part of the trail, with Mount Albert a close second, so the max elevation is only 196m.  However, you basically start from sea level, so today’s run resulted in a total 509m of elevation gain…and as you can see there were quite a few ups and downs!

Southern Walkway Elevation copyI started this morning from Oriental Parade, near Carlton Gore Road, which is as good as any access point to the Southern Walkway – straight up a big hill, tough going but effective.  However, even that much of a climb was hard on the poor, tired and sick lungs.  I had to take a short break to catch my breath, before setting off again, joining up with the trails in the Mount Victoria Reserve.  Every single time I have run through Mount Victoria, I always get lost.  I take a wrong turn, and end up going the wrong way up a mountain biking trail.  I was adamant that I would not make the same mistake this time.  I was going to check every single sign, every map I came across and find the RIGHT way up to the Mount Victoria Lookout.

IMG_2421Despite my efforts, I ended up on the same mountain biking track I always end up on, and running the wrong way.  Luckily, there were no bikes and no collisions.  But still, here I was again, running a non-running path, getting lost…I could not understand how on earth this could happen to me again! Once I got over my frustrations, I found myself at the car park for the Lookout, and decided that I deserved a break, to take in some of the view.  And what a view it was today…no clouds, you could see all around, 360 degree views.  There were so many people out, so many tourists, locals, families, couples.  And what was best – no one on Pokemon Go.

I love the Mount Victoria Lookout because while you get a beautiful view of the Wellington Harbor, you also get to see all the buildings, all the suburbs, and it puts the city into perspective.  You feel on top of the world, it is a very special feeling.

IMG_2408From Mount Victoria, I ran towards Newtown, up to Mt Alfred, and out to Kilbirnie.  The link between the Mount Victoria reserve and the rest of the Walkway can be a bit tricky to find, once you enter residential addresses, but just keep looking out for signs.  Through Melrose Park, you run past the baboon enclosure at the zoo, and up to Mount Albert.  This was the main goal for me, no matter how terrible I felt, I wanted to reach Mount Albert, the trig station on top of it and stop to savor the view.

IMG_2417Once you reach Melrose Park, it is a brief run uphill to Mount Albert, from the baboons, followed by a small run along the narrow path (pictured above) towards the trig station marking the top of the mountain (for those who don’t know what a trig station is…don’t worry.  I didn’t know until recently, and Mal Law was the one who enlightened me during the sunrise run for RunFest, where we ran to this very point!)

IMG_2416And once you reach the top…Wow.  Just wow.  So much beauty all around.

IMG_2420There was a lot of stopping along the way, not only because I wasn’t feeling great and needed to catch my breath much more than usual, but also to enjoy the beautiful scenery and take some photos.  While I ran for 1:36, I was out for 2:10. I ran 13km overall, because once I made it to Mount Albert (9km along the way) I turned around, and headed to Hataitai to pick up my car (we were heading to a Karma Keg in Petone that afternoon so needed the car).  That resulted in a shorter return of 4km instead of 9km (pictured below).

Sunday July 16 Run And again, while my lungs and my body felt tired due to my cold, my legs felt great.  It was a really awesome feeling, and has been a really great experience, the past few weeks just going for some ‘long’ runs and enjoying them, not feeling any pain, any soreness, and feeling 100% afterwards.  It shows that I can push myself more, I can run longer, I am simply choosing not to.  Because I know, soon, I will have no choice and will have to run longer.  Run three, four, five hours on a Saturday.  Push myself and test myself, keep to a time, a pace, and try to hold onto the fun and the joy of running.  So for now, I am setting out with a goal, trying to keep to it, but not worrying too much if I don’t.  What matters most is the experience, the time on my feet, and the smile on my face when I finish.  Oh, and the Instagram photos, of course.  FullSizeRender(2)

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Beautiful Wellington Skyline

When I was training for Tarawera, I ran along the Wellington Skyline almost every second weekend.

The ‘Skyline’ is a 12km stretch from Makara Hill to Johnsonville, so it is a semi-central Wellington trail run.   There are a number of access points, which you can run, bus or drive to, and the whole stretch is 12km in length.  It doesn’t start right in the city, but it is accessible enough without a car.  If you are after a long run, you can run one way and back, equaling 25km.  Otherwise you can drop out along the way, depending on how you go.  I find parts of the track from Karori to Mt Kaukau pretty tough, so if I am doing it both ways, I often start in Karori, run to Johnsonville and then back (meaning that I get the tougher parts out of the way before the 1/2 way turnaround point…then it is somewhat smoother sailing on the way back).  I have also started and ended through Khandallah, using Mount Kaukau as the access point.  It is about a 6km run from the city to the Mount Kaukau access point in Khandallah, which can be a tough warm up, but a speedy cool down as you run down hill and along the flat waterfront to finish 🙂

What goes up must come down... Oh hello Mt Kaukau

What goes up must come down… Oh hello Mt Kaukau

The ‘skyline’ combines some single tracks, a number of farm roads with roaming cow and sheep, open grass areas and beautiful 360 degree views from one coast to another.  On one side of the ridge, you have vast views of rolling green hills, the sprawling wind farms along Makara Hill and on a good view, like the day I recently was up there, you have clear views of the South Island.  On the other, you can drop down into a number of different Wellington suburbs (Karori, Wadestown, Crofton Downs, Otari Wilton, Ngaio, Khandallah, Johnsonville), with a view of the harbor, the waterfront and Wellington central itself.

The Wellington City Council website has some good information on the walk itself and a nice map showing all the access points and the points of interest along the way.

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Elevation profile from the Makara/Karori end of the skyline, to Mt Kaukau, down through Khandallah and back to the city, ending near Te Papa

No matter which direction you run, you will run uphill, downhill and on the flat.  And no matter where you start from, it will be uphill to begin with, to get up on the skyline.  From there, there are some steep hills, and other valley/peak combinations, but it is generally undulating.  It isn’t too technical, but of course you need to watch yourself, especially when the Wellington winds are blowing.  It is completely exposed to the elements, and you may find yourself hugging the hill at times or being lifted off your feet mid stride by a strong gust.  In this way, it completely redefines ‘windy wellington’, even on a beautiful sunny day like last Sunday where at most there was a light breeze along the waterfront.  Well, a light breeze by Wellington standards…

While I am not currently in super training mode, I have tried to get back into my longer weekend runs, to clear my head, listen to some podcasts and get a bit more active.  One of the best things about training for Tarawera was getting out and enjoying nature, exploring new places, and having a little bit of adventure.  So this past weekend I started in Karori, at the Makara entrance point, and ran all the way to Mount Kaukau.  From here, I dropped down into Khandallah and ran back into town.

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Looking towards Makara and the South Island

Overall, I was simply aiming for was time on my feet, to see how my endurance was and how the body felt.  I went out with an aim of 2 to 4 hours, depending on the weather, how I went and what else I wanted to do that day.  Because I started off a bit later than planned, I cut the run a bit shorter than I originally intended, to 2:10, but it was nice as I still made it back to time with enough time to shower, eat lunch and relax briefly before meeting a friend for coffee.

I ran a total of 21km, which I thought was a pretty good effort given the timing, with 516m elevation gain and 735m elevation loss (as I started up the hill in Karori, and ran back into the city, at sea level).  My max elevation was 425, at the top of Mount Kaukau.  I was out for just under two hours thirty minutes, and listened to some nice new NPR produced podcasts. I had no pain, no soreness or tiredness, and felt totally fine during the run, after the run and the next day, which meant I definitely could have pushed myself harder and probably could have run another 10 or 15 km easy.

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The views up here always take my breath away

While the skyline is a close and relatively dependable track to run, and is really well sign posted, it can be somewhat repetitive and tiresome if you run it often, like I used to.  There isn’t much room for exploring or going ‘off piste’, as there is private farm land around, and if you ran off the main track towards Makara, you may not be able to find your way out! There is also cattle around…which you have to keep an eye out when running listening to music (or in my case, podcasts).  My first introduction to the skyline resulted in me running away from a charging cow who was not happy with being surrounded by approximately 15 runners.  I learned my lesson there and am very wary of them now.

For those who have never explored it, it is well worth the hike, even if you simply do the hike up and down Mount Kaukau on a sunny day – the views are definitely worth it.  Though personally, unless I am simply after time on my feet on familiar ground, I plan to explore some different trails around Wellington over the coming Sundays, to try and keep things a little bit more interesting.

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Training for Ultra

It is now 10 weeks until Tarawera and my training is well underway…these past two weeks were my first ones fully into it…and oh my god it is exhausting! Fitting it in between work, socializing and sleeping…thank god I am only doing 60km, I can’t imagine how much more time I would have to commit if I was doing the 100km option!

I’ve had a few people ask me “So are you running like every day?” or “I see you at the gym way more than on the road”, so I thought I would set out what my training has been this past week…it has required a lot of 6am starts and many nights I get home after 8pm…I think I saw my flatmate once this entire week as a result!

Monday:

6pm: 20 minutes of core work followed by 4x500m sprints followed by stair work (the Vista steps, approximately 120 steps total…a series of single step repeats followed by double step ones)

7pm: Restorative yoga

Tuesday:

6:30am: Running specific strength (single leg squats, single leg calf raises (I am up to 18kgs on those!! I started with 6kg months ago!), lateral weighted lunges, 40-50kg deadlifts, hip abduction with band, side plank hip abductions, and a number of core exercises)

5:45pm: Metabolic (this week’s class involved sprints, jump squats (which killed me after Monday’s stair session!), burpees and 10 minutes of killer core work

6:15pm: Personal training with the amazing Mish, this week was some nice upper body work

Wednesday:

7:15am: Run technique

7pm: Restorative yoga

Thursday:

7am: 20 minutes of core/prehab work

1pm: 3x2km threshold repeats with 1.5km warm up and 1.5km warm down, totalling 9km (I managed 8:46, 8:45 and 9:03 for my 2kms so was very happy)

Friday:

6:30am: Running specific strength (a repeat of the above Tuesday morning circuit) + bench presses and push ups

Saturday:

12pm: 24km Skyline return – 12km running (90 minutes) and 12km steady walking back (110 minutes) – in 45km/hr gusts – it was SO exposed and windy!

And Sunday (tomorrow) is going to involve some chest/back/arm work at the gym plus foam rolling,  stretching and resting my little legs.

So yes…training has started to take over my life, and I feel like I am living at the gym.  However, my body is now used to waking up at 6am (It doesn’t want to, but it doesn’t complain as much as it did a few weeks ago) and I am starting to organize my meals a bit better, looking after my nutrition and ensure I am eating well.  Probably not eating enough though – this past week I have been SO much hungrier and in need of food.  Thursday afternoon after my 9km at lunchtime, I had lunch immediately after (a quinoa, avocado, smoked tofu, cucumber, tomato and hummus bowl) but within 2 hours I could hear my stomach rumbling!  So I have to start bringing more snacks to work and making sure I am getting enough protein in each meal to help my body recover.

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Saturday’s gorgeous run along the Skyline

But despite the exhaustion I am currently trying to overcome, I am LOVING the training.  I feel like I am getting so much stronger in my legs, working my way up to 3 sets of 12 18kg single leg calf raises.  And today’s run was SO beautiful.  It was warm (18 degrees) with the sun shining and not a cloud to be seen, and it was very windy (average 47 km/hr northerly gusts, and in some parts I had to stop running because the wind was actually pushing me over and making me trip over rocks etc).  But it was just so beautiful.  I had never done the Skyline before so was a bit nervous, trying out a new route, but it was really easy to follow.

The Wellington City Council has a great brochure with information about the route available online. But it says it takes 5 hours to walk one way, and it also made it seem much longer than 12km given you run from Johnsonville to Khandallah, Ngaio, Wilton and then Karori.  However with a bit of googling and checking other people’s blog posts, I found confirmation that it was only 12km, so I didn’t need to worry (the last thing I wanted to do was to run and find that it was like 20km, resulting in me being stranded at the other end!!)

Skyline run

The Skyline run – I started at the northern end, ran south west to Karori, then turned around and back to Johnsonville

There were only one or two times where I thought ‘where do I go now?’ but that is part of the fun…exploring nature, adventuring and feeling like you are in the wild!  I started from the Johnsonville end at Carmichael Street, and ran all the way to Karori (by Karori Park/Makara Road).  That was 12km, and I then turned around and walked the 12km back…which was actually pretty tough! I think that running you get into a rhythm and it is easier to just keep going, walking I could feel my glutes and the ground a bit more and slowed down a few times.

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So beautiful – so blessed to live with this trail only 15 minutes drive away!

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Sheep!

But I just focused on the scenery and the stunning views on either side of me, and the fact that the faster I walked back, the faster I could have a glass of nice ice cold chocolate soy milk (bribery and mind games – they work like a charm!). The entire 24km had a 1,000 elevation gain, constantly going between 230m and 430m with numerous peaks to run up and down. Also burned approximately 1,400 calories – great given that I splurged a bit last night at our work team’s get away, having a second serving of dessert, and a few glasses of wine!

The elevation profile – cumulative 1,000m gain

I also got more experience in my trail running shoes (which I LOVE) and using my awesome Ultimate Direction women’s ultra vesta hydration pack, and also figured out that I enjoy eating bananas on long trail runs, but not frooze balls so much.  And afterwards, knowing that I did 24km in that weather when I could have easily said no, was so rewarding.  It gave me a big mental boost, making me think ‘you can actually do this’ – which I need to keep telling myself!

FullSizeRender(1).jpgBut I am now looking forward to my ‘rest’ day tomorrow – my one day off before starting another 6 days that look very similar to the above plan…except next Saturday’s run is going to be 36km around the bays…which again, will be an awesome challenge mentally and physically.  I haven’t done 36km in a long time, hopefully I survive!

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My Sydney marathon – one year on

Today marks the start of my Africa adventure, a trip I am OVER the moon excited for. Three weeks away in Zimbabwe and South Africa, at a time where it is not yet spring in NZ and I am feeling overdue for a vacation. But flying into Sydney this afternoon, with a 16 hour layover, to my surprise I got quite emotional looking out the window into this great city.

Part of the emotions will be the stress of preparing for my trip, all the things to remember, the medications, foreign currency, visa woes and the like. But really, it is because Sydney holds a really special place in my heart. 
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Sydney was my second marathon, and it was the first marathon that I actually trained to finish in a specific time, not solely with the goal to finish. And trained I did. I trained my ass off. My life was run gym work eat sleep. Alas, my body wasn’t conditioned or strong enough, and I ended up with major overuse syndrome, manifesting itself in a painfully tight IT band, TFL (which is by your hip) and glute mede. I was seeing the physio and having needling done two to three times a week. I was confined to the pool for a month, aqua jogging for up to 180 minutes on a Sunday. There was one day, two weeks before the marathon, that I cried four times. It hurt to run, to walk, to sit, to stand. I wanted to give up, but I had worked so hard and felt like I had everyone else’s expectations to live up to. I had forgotten about my expectations, my goals, and the art of enjoying to run.

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I was lucky that I had an amazing coach, Marty, who provided me with some inspiring words of wisdom, telling me that it would all be ok, that I was an athlete, and that my mind was strong. I shouldn’t be afraid to fail, I should be afraid not to try. And regardless I had shown already my determination and ability to put my mind to things. So I got through the mental block and continued on. Flew to Sydney. And ran. 

 
 I finished in 4:15 – well over my goal of 3:45, but i was proud. I finished. I overcame that barrier and that voice telling me I wasn’t strong enough. I also finished despite my physio asking me to do the half marathon (saying that if I did the full, I wouldn’t be able to walk across the finish line let alone run it…that I would be crawling or have to pull out part way through) finishing should have been the goal. In perfect world. But up until 29km I was on track for 3:40, feeling great. Only then, at 29km, with 13 to go, did the sharp stabbing pain kick in. But you know what, while Sydney may have broken my body, it did not break my spirit. 

I ran the entire 42.2km, stopping only to drink water at aid stations, and ran the last one or two kilometers along the harbor and up to the Opera House so fast, so strong, knowing that I could do it. I could finish. The act of actually crossing the finish line, standing at the steps of the Opera House as I wore my medal proud and hugged my Dad, made me realize that Sydney was not just a physical challenge for me. It was a challenge of the mind, and I was immensely stronger for making it through.   

 So it is timely, that just over one year after the Sydney marathon (one year and nine days to be exact) that I am flying back into the city, looking out the window and seeing the bridge (the start of the marathon), the opera house (the finish) and all the parts in between. A great time to reflect on what I have learned since then, and how much stronger I am now. A stronger runner, because I identified my weaknesses, my goals and have spent the last year working on those – I have seen such great results due to that focus…I have transformed my running technique from being a heel striker to a forefoot/midfoot runner, and have increased my calf strength and leaned down in general. But I am also a stronger person. In all aspects of life. And today thinking about September 2015 me versus September 2014 me, the current one has her life together so much more. Because having the guts and the strength to run 42.2 kilometers, whether in pain or pain free, means that you overcome a hurdle you once thought impossible. And for me, finishing the Sydney marathon and running the entire way, even when I was hurting and wanted to stop and give up, meant that I found courage and determination to overcome the pain, and I know that no matter what life throws at me, I will be able to call on that courage again. 

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I will leave everyone with one of the quotes I found that helped give me strength to continue trying and continue training last year. It’s funny, I was so worried at the time about failing in everyone else’s eyes if I didn’t run, if I gave up, I refused to give up. However I know now that I wouldn’t have failed or disappointed anyone. Really, the truth of the matter is that I was unwilling to admit to myself that I could fall apart. Or that I could fail. And that I might not be as strong as I wanted to be. I still am not the strongest person – I have a 60km race to prepare myself for soon and i will likely face some demons training for that. But life is a journey, and life as a runner is always a particularly interesting one!

  

Four States Down, Four to Go

I am half way into my big east coast trip, and I am definitely getting back into the swing is travel again. I forgot how much I loved getting on a plane, knowing that soon you will be in a totally different place. What’s more, an unknown place yet to be explored by you. Sadly, in exactly two weeks, I leave the USA and return to New Zealand. I am excited to return, see family and friends, and start work as a real lawyer, but I am sad to say goodbye to America me. To California. And to this life. I left New Zealand nine months ago, and returning means the end of travel for a while. So I am definitely appreciating it while I can, doing lots, sleeping little, and visiting as many places as possible.

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And this trip is also full of many firsts. The first time to many American states – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. (Although not technically a state). I am half way through, on a bus en route to Philly. I am also doing things a bit differently, I am couch surfing my way through all these places. Yes, I stay at a strangers house, though hopefully by the time I leave we will be friends. So far I have slept in the living room of a house, on a couch, in a private room on a loft bed, and shared a studio on an air bed. All experiences, all part of my trip, and it has led to unique things I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

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And to me, that is what travel is all about. Going outside your comfort zone, leaving your mark, and taking part of a place away with you. Keeping memories of every single destination in your heart. And being a traveller, not a tourist. Tourists observe from the outside, and never truly immerse themselves. Travelers, however, experience a place in all it’s glory. I have been reading a book by Paul Theroux, called ‘The Tao of Travel’ and in it he states that ‘In Mumbai: A tourist would have been in a temple or a museum. I had been in a slum.’ Of course I did museums, and there were no slums to be found in Boston or New York. However I love this quote and can relate to it. Because travel not only holds the possibility of excitement, but also reinvention and discovery of ones self. And the possibility that you may fall in love with a place, be for the museums, skyscrapers, food, culture or even it’s slums, and never want to leave.

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When I arrived in Boston, I stayed out in Cambridge. My first evening was spent at a birthday celebration, at a bar on the other side of town near the end of the subway (“T”) line. I tried local brews, and socialized with people i had never met, in a bar I would have never been to otherwise. I fit right in, and by the end of the evening knew all the gossip of the group, and got back to Cambridge at 4am. Tuesday night was bluegrass at a local bar, and Wednesday drinks at the Cambridge brewing Company with couch surfing hosts and surfers. In New York, I stayed in Hell’s Kitchen and Inwood (end of the A line, up at 207th street). I went to the Brooklyn flea market and Hell’s Kitchen flea market, neither in the lonely planet. Had the most amazing grilled cheese from this deli on 10th and west 47th. Took the bus to New Jersey for lunch (no normal sane tourist would ever do that!!) And went to a movie on my last night with my host and her friend. All these people whom I had never met, taking me into their homes, sharing their lives. This human interaction, for me, is what travel is about. You can move through a city totally alone and invisible, as if people see through you. Once you leave, no one notices. It is as if you were never there, apart from the pictures on your camera. But if you interact with people there, your absence is noted. As was your presence. And these moments are not on your camera, they instead last as memories, in your head and heart.

Of course I have done tourist things. In Boston I did the freedom trail, had chowda and explored Harvard and MIT. It snowed, and I experienced some very very cold weather (-16 degrees C one day! I went for a 5km run around Harvard when it was -12). I had a martini at the Top of the Hub, 52nd floor of the Provincial building. In New York I went to the Met, MoMA, and the museum of natural history. I saw Chicago, went to the opera, and explored the Chelsea markets. However I also achieved another first while in New York – I ran my first half marathon.

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As many know, I injured my knee last April. I had been in recovery all last year and only was able to run again as of October 2012. I decided to do the half marathon 6 weeks prior to it taking place. I semi trained, and my goal was to finish. Not be constrained by my knee, or my asthma. No goal for time. If I had properly trained and planned months in advance, my goal would have been 2:15. 13.1 miles. Two hours fifteen seemed like a reasonable first marathon goal, had that been my goal.

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I completed it in 1:54. 1:54. I still can’t believe it. It was the hardest half marathon of all NY ones, as many runners after told me, and probably one of the hardest half marathons in my life, according to some. There was snow on the ground, it was -6 degrees Celsius, and the course was two loops around and through Central Park, which included one very steep and difficult hill – the Harlem Hill.

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I woke at 6, had a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, Gatorade, and put on my many layers. Stretched, made sure I had my inhaler, and took the subway two stops uptown to the park. Told myself ‘you can do this’. I kept thinking positive. Thought ‘You can totally do this.’ And I did. In under two hours. I still can’t believe it. I was in the top 2/5th of finishers. Number 60 in my age and gender group. My first half marathon, in New York, in the middle of Central Park, with snow on the ground. That, is a traveler story, I will never forget. The whole trip could be a failure, but it would still be my best visit to NYC, because of that achievement.

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And as I write this, I am on a bus to Philadelphia. Taking in the sights of the countryside, on this cloudy cold winter day. Moving south onwards to DC. More sights to see, more people to meet (and couches to sleep on!), more fun to be had. Hell if I have to leave America, put away my passport and say goodbye to traveling for a while, I am going out with a bang.

Farewell 2012…

I can’t believe that it is New Years Eve. December 31, 2012. The year has flown by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday I was finishing my job at Buddle Findlay in Wellington, getting on the ferry to drive down to Christchurch, saying goodbye to my home for a year. Researching and preparing for my round the world trip, and then again saying goodbye to my boyfriend, my Mom, and my friends.

Little did I know, at the beginning of this year, what 2012 would bring. It exceeded all my expectations – just blew them out of the water. 2012 will probably be one of the most memorable of my life, a year I will truly cherish. Not merely due to my experiences and the places I visited, but because of the people I met along the way. When I talk about my travels, especially through Vietnam, I focus on the people I met, not what temples or museums I visited. The people. Both tourists and locals.ImageMr Tien, my motorbike driver in Hue, who drove off road through the rice paddies, past small villages, and taught me all about the culture of central Vietnam. Luna and Tom, Hanoi locals who introduced El and me to the local activity of drinking lemon tea and eating sunflower seeds by the side of the road, whilst sitting on child size plastic seats. And I will never forget Abdul, our whiskey-drinking joyful guide in Tanzania, who had a personality larger than my Dad’s personality and mine combined. I will never forget seeing a warthog at the end of our first day, me yelling out ‘Pumba!’, and Abdul driving after him, rhythmically repeating Pumba Pumba Pumba. And driving through the savannahs, listening to ‘Circle of Life’, while he taught us all about the animals, the local culture, and his experiences as a park ranger. It was my very own Lion King.

And this year really helped me realize who I am as a person. I learned a lot about myself along my travels, and became more confident and stronger. I moved to San Diego, to a brand new law school, where I didn’t know a single soul. I had never even been to San Diego – I had no idea what to expect. I thought it could be an opportunity to reinvent myself – no one knew me, so I could be anyone I wanted to! However I soon found that I was the exact same person here. Just improved. I had no constraints on my personality based on prior high school dramas. It was refreshing, and reaffirming.

And as I said above, this year has really been the best year of my life. San Diego has been, and still is, the most amazing, beautiful city to live in. I found it hard at first. My first day of law school, when I ended up crying because I couldn’t decide what to wear. Going to a law organization mixer, not knowing a single person, but leaving having met over a handful of people, one of whom has become a very close friend. Trying to hold my own in law classes, where preparation is vital, participation is mandatory, and expectations are high. I spent more time in the library this year than my previous 4 years combined. But I have met the most amazing people, and had the best American experience a 23 (now 24!) year old American-Kiwi could have hoped for.

I flew to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with a friend’s family, and experienced true Midwest hospitality. I got to visit her college, met her college friends, and even saw her college football team play, and dominate, their rival team. I dressed up for Halloween on three different nights. I went to Disneyland, learned to play flip cup and participated in a Color Run. I took the most interesting legal courses of my law school career, and really felt like part of a community. I was adopted for Christmas, and made to feel welcome and at home amongst a family I had never met.

And all my experiences are thanks to the wonderful people I met here, who will always hold a place in my heart. I was meant to leave the USA on December 23, but I then postponed my departure until January 18. I am now staying until February 13. I don’t want to say goodbye to America, because that means I return to New Zealand, have to start work, and resume my mundane life without 3 story bars, the ocean on my doorstep and sunshine year round. However the real reason I don’t want to leave, the reason I kept delaying my departure, is that I don’t want to say goodbye. Goodbye to the wonderful people here. My amazing friends. My new family. They are the reason that despite 3 months of traveling through 13 countries, San Diego is really what made this year the best year of my life. Friends are the family you choose for yourself. And once I leave, once I return to New Zealand, I don’t know when I will see my San Diego family again. I know there will be many tears when I leave, and I may have to be dragged onto the plane against my will. Of course I am excited to return, and excited to see what 2013 brings, but I doubt any year will ever top this last year.

So here is my year in review. The places, and people, that shaped my year.

Yogyakarta - Borobudur, and the friends I made.

Yogyakarta – Borobudur, and the friends I made.

Siem Reap, and our wonderful tuk tuk driver, Mr Golden Stone, in Phnom Penh.

Siem Reap, and our wonderful tuk tuk driver, Mr Golden Stone, in Phnom Penh.

Hanoi and Hue - Mr Tien and I on the motorbike, Tom and El eating nam, and Mr Tien's cousin, El and me at the incense shop in Hue

Hanoi and Hue – Mr Tien and I on the motorbike, Tom and El eating nam, and Mr Tien’s cousin, El and me at the incense shop in Hue

Halong Bay Sunset

Halong Bay Sunset

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

Serengeti National Park

Tanzania Safari – The view from our camp in Serengeti.

Tarangire National Park

Elephants, at Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

My new brothers and sisters from PAD, at the Padres game - my first ever baseball game

My new brothers and sisters from PAD, at the Padres game – my first ever baseball game

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Cindy and Lauren after the Color Run

Nike Hoops!!!!!

Nike Hoops!!!!!

Thanksgiving with the Foleys in Mayfield, Ohio.

Thanksgiving with the Foleys in Mayfield, Ohio.

OHIO - Ohio State v Michigan Game

OHIO – Ohio State v Michigan Game

So thank you to my San Diego family. I will visit you soon. Never forget you. I love you all.