Thursday, February 14, 2013

Taupo and Rotorua Adventures

Happy Valentine's Day, 'mericans! Being situated in Tomorrowland, I'm lucky enough to experience my most favorite holiday (insert sarcastic tone here) twice... yesterday was Valentine's Day in New Zealand (really no big deal from what I can discern), today is Valentine's Day in the Facebook/Twitter-verse (really quite a big deal to a lot of people from what I can discern).  So that's fun.

More fun, for sure, has been my last week of Middle Earth adventures.  Having already explored lots of parts of the South Island, now my focus is on the North Island.  I had my last really big weekend of Ironman training so I decided to pack up my bike and head over to Taupo, where the race will be held, check out the scene of the crime, and then meander my way back to Auckland with a stop in Rotorua.
For my sister and her valentine, who are in the process of building him a man cave in their basement
Taupo is a lovely little resort town situated on the biggest lake in New Zealand, which is more clear and pollution-free than any American lake I've ever seen.   And they are apparently extremely serious about keeping that lake in pristine condition.  There have been multiple communications from the race directors warning that before entering the lake during race week, all triathletes must participate in compulsory "wetsuit dipping" under the supervision of "Didimyo Dave" and receive a required key ring proving  said "dipping" has occurred.  So I'll add that to my pre-race to-do list, even though I have no clue what is going on or who Didimyo Dave is or how he's involved in any of this triathlon nonsense.

Lake Taupo
I spent two days in Taupo, riding the bike course on the first day and topping it off with a little run-off-the-bike.  Have I complained sufficiently here about the rough roads in New Zealand?  No, you say?  More complaining welcome and, in fact, desired?  Well, OK, then....the roads here are really rough.  Roads are basically all constructed using a VERY heavy chip seal, which is jarring at the least, mentally exhausting at the worst, and definitely have a negative effect on speed.  The Taupo course is just as rough as anywhere else I've seen.  But I was warned by Friendly Kiwi Triathlete Jo to be ready as she'd ridden the course the weekend before and lost a bottle and a flat kit and who knows what else as the surfaces shook things off her bike.

Quick aside on Friendly Kiwi Triathlete Jo, which I think shows a little bit about how charitable and awesome people (especially triathletes) are down here.  Jo's an Auckland triathlete who is in my age group, did the Auckland 70.3, and is doing Ironman New Zealand.  When scoping out the competition for those races, we'd both found each other's blogs and independently reached out to each other-- me asking for some her advice on triathlon-ing, her to offer advice.  She competed as a pro a couple years back at Ironman Wisconsin and said everyone was so nice and helpful when she was in Madison that she wanted to return the favor, and she's been an incredible source of information for this slightly-out-of-sorts-feeling American girl.  So hooray for international triathlon alliances and helpful triathletes!  This is kind of a special sport, huh?  And her blog's really funny....check it out.
Told you Kiwis are laid back
After hanging out in Taupo for the evening after my big bike, I headed out the next morning for the longest run of my Ironman build, again on the race course.  When it comes to training, and particularly Ironman training this time around, I have lots of deeper thoughts on my mind (Zoolander?  Anyone?)  so I think I'm going to write a separate post about that, but for now.....long run done completely blind (i.e., I had my Garmin on but I didn't allow it to show pace and only looked at my pace at the end) for the first time in a LONG time, with results that pleased and surprised me, check.
My, that's a mighty big bike you have

A nice thing about New Zealand is that there are so many nomads around that when you've done things like checking out of your motel before a long run that leaves you pretty darn gross and sweaty, it's not that hard to find a place to get a shower.  I paid $4.00 for a six-minute shower at this SuperLoo....and it was TOTALLY worth it.

From there, I hopped back in the car and headed to Rotorua.  Rotorua is known for two main things -- thermal pools and Maori (indigenous) culture.  I got a taste of both.  After Iceland, the thermal baths were somewhat of a let-down (and the smell of sulfur throughout the entire town kept making me temporarily concerned that the car was on fire), but to soak in warm water did feel pretty good after my big training weekend.  Turns out, I realized later, that hot tubs after big workouts are sort of counter-productive and may have actually led to some extra inflammation, but whatever.

Steam from thermal pools and the car Adam is letting me use (which was never on fire)
A thermal lake that is pretty darn hot

Parks in Rotorua just have random thermal foot baths for your soaking pleasure
The Maori stuff was cool, too.
A meeting house in a Maori village
But the highlights of Rotorua, for me, were outside of those two traditional attractions.

After a long run, few things make me happier than breakfast-for-dinner, and Rotorua did not disappoint.
Except they call it Brekkie for Dinner, which sounds so much more charming.  I will say, one of my favorite things about New Zealand is how they shorten words all the time.  Breakfast is brekkie.  Presents are pressies.  Relatives are rellies.  Avocados are avos.  And so on and so on.  I'm keeping this one in my lexicon when I come back to the States. 

Also, I took some time in Rotorua to visit a farm.  I don't know why, but it was there and I wanted to go.  I've grown sort of fond of sheep, having seen approximately 3 million of them since I got here, and this was my chance to get up close and personal.  So I did.   I had no hesitation getting that close to all the farm animals.  BUT, the damn birds milling around, trying to swoop in and steal the leftovers.... those were terrifying.

Baby llama is only 2.5 weeks old
Now I'm back in Auckland, Adam and Pip are on their own little holiday, so I'm house-sitting and cat-sitting and feeling awfully much like I actually live in New Zealand.  It's a pretty cool feeling, I gotta say.    I may or may not have googled "how to get a long-term New Zealand visa" and contemplated staying once or twice, but short of finding myself a Kiwi husband in the next few weeks, it doesn't look like there's a way, so my time in paradise will eventually end and I'll be back to the snow and dark of Chicago.  Bummer.   
Being a little tri-dork, I keep checking into motels and hostels with my foam roller and frozen peas. 

This was actually in Auckland during a ride, but I appreciated the honesty. 

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