A Wellington (New Zealand) Runaround

Yesterday I spent just a touch over 24 hours in Wellington, New Zealand. After landing into Auckland at 4:45AM from Perth (a miserable time for a redeye flight by the way), I then had a quick connection down to Wellington – which is on New Zealand’s North Island, but at the Southern tip. I’d be spending the day at work presenting before heading out very early the next morning. I had a 40ish minute run on the schedule, and the day before a reader (Tony) contacted me via e-mail about going for a quick run. After validating paces and trading biometric details, we decided on a 6PM meet-up in front of the hotel. Which, is where this runaround begins.

The hotel was one block away from the waterfront, so we made a beeline for the water and headed on out along the docks.

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The scene was quite a bit busier an hour or two earlier, likely because not one, but two cruise ships were in port. Including the Queen Mary 2. The other cruise ship, was ironically enough the very ship The Girl and I were on back in November from Dubai to Singapore.

Still, the harbor was full of various boats with people rowing or sailing. And can’t blame them – the weather was spectacular!

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So nice in fact that some people just jumped into the water, no wetsuit at all.

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This upcoming weekend is a big race weekend for ‘Dragon Boats’ – many involving kids and long boats (such as seen below). I noticed from the office building that they were out training quite a bit during the afternoon.

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As we rounded the corner there was a gaggle of folks dressed up in wetsuits. This was a splash and dash event of sorts, with a 1,300m swim, and then a short run (sounded like a 5K run). This is a regular occurrence here. Pretty cool especially given we’re only talking perhaps 400-600m from the downtown core. Straight from the office to the race.

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Alternatively, you could just sit on the beach and watch the event. Far less painful I’d say.

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They even had fancy timing mats all setup too – backyard operation this was not. Pretty cool for a weeknight event (Wednesday night).

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Shortly after seeing the folks in wetsuits Tony led me across the street and over to a small trail. I should have known this was the bad news bears at this point. Here’s the situation looking back after just 20-30 seconds of running up this trail.

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And here’s what it looked like looking forward:

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At that incline, it didn’t take long to get some nice views though of the harbor:

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Though it was sorta hard to notice the views when all I could see was the incline. Of course we both did our best to pretend neither of us was dying as we raced up it. Conversation flowed, but so did air grasping. Up we continued.

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The path was mostly paved, but there were sections with dirt as well. For being so close to downtown, it’s really an amazing venue.

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In fact, this might be a good time to introduce the elevation chart. You’ll notice that it only takes us 1.5 miles to complete this elevation gain of 600ft (~200m). However, more importantly is that four times during this ascent we actually lose 100ft of elevation gain, thus resulting in repeating our gains again and again. So really, it’s like we went up even higher that we did. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Speaking of going up, fear not, there was more of that. This time, with steps. The steps were brutal to run. And run we did. At a fairly good clip I’d say. Along the flats we were roughly 7/min/mile (roughly a 4:20/km pace). Sometimes a bit faster, but then sometimes a bit slower if crowd avoidance. So while we weren’t going that fast uphill, the overall average for the run wasn’t too much slower.

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Finally – we found the top!

A rather nice 360* lookout with unobstructed views over the city in every direction. Really cool. You can see the airport out in the distance in between the two splotches of water.

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Turning around you can see the city waterfront and the cruise ships to the right. The Celebrity ship is just pulling out of the harbor at this point, and the Queen Mary 2 followed it shortly.

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Just to give some context on where we ran, we started at the green dot and worked our way along the coast out a bit and then up the trails to where the red squiggles all bunch together (the peak).

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Time to head back down.

We took at different route back down the hill/mountain/thing. This one seemed to drop off the side of a cliff, but then stabilized to normalcy. Apparently the route planners decided that switchbacks were unnecessary for that initial section. Tuck and roll or something. Below, a return to normalcy.

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This section did have a handful of mountain bikers on it, but we just stepped out of the way of and gave them space (since they were hauling ass).

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This guy is indeed in the air, and then landing on a rather steep section of dirt. We wouldn’t even walk down that ramp it was so steep (just would have slid and fell – and neither of us wanted to look stupid in front of the other).

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It was far less painful going down the hill than back up (not always the case I might point out). Here’s the sign towards the base, pointing poor unsuspecting souls up the hill.

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Almost there! Just a quick underpass under some elevated roadway.

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Woot, back along the flats! You can see a few final swimmers still coming in off the swim segment.

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Most folks were on the run already.

Speaking of which, you know when you’re in a race and pushing it hard (like want to puke hard) and you see other folks out there enjoying a nice leisurely run? Well I was finally one of those ‘other folks’. I’ve got to say, it was a much better position to be in.

No doubt that the splash and dash events are typically the most painful ones out there. Nothing but balls to the wall for a short period of time. On the flip side, they’re also amongst the most fun. And, they do a great job of getting people into the sport, like playground crack.

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We were quickly back along the piers working our way towards the hotel.

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As we neared our finishing area we found more of the high school aged kids out practicing. This time in what appeared to be a practice race against other boats. The ‘gun’ had just gone off 1-2 seconds prior.

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In a bit of an ironic twist, we’d end up completing the run directly in front of the New Zealand Olympic Committee museum. It was already closed for the day, so I didn’t get a chance to stop in.

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But outside they had big pictures of Olympians, including triathlete Bevan Docherty.

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Looking back across the harbor you can see the thing that we climbed up.

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I was also impressed to see that both units (Garmin FR610 and Timex Run Trainer 2.0) showed the exact same distance. The slight time differential of 5 seconds is simply while stopped and waiting for a light remembering to stop/start both units. But for them to be spot-on on both is solid as tree cover and switchbacks usually introduce some variations. Here’s the Garmin Connect file for those that are curious.

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With that, we headed our separate ways. Which for me mostly involved contemplating the newfound burning sensation in my legs. Hills in Paris like this there are not.

A huge thanks to Tony for being the guide on the Runaround. It was great catching up about triathlon, running and the local scene, as well as just throwing down on the mountain. Fun times!

Thanks for reading all!

33 Comments

  1. Great post! Also thanks for adding the km pace, not a big thing, but a very nice little thing. Also looking forward to the Timex review :)

    Reply
  2. Harrison

    I'm trying to find a way to get down to NZ for training and perhaps even living. It looks wonderful. Considering studying abroad for a semester or two just to be able to soak in the live style.

    Thanks for the New Zealand post!

    Reply
  3. Wonderful pictures too!!

    Reply
  4. taniwha

    thank you for the metric system.
    I hope you had time for some Pavlova after the run.

    Reply
  5. Pat

    Hey Ray, what camera did you use to take these pictures? I'm on the market for a new camera, and the pics look great.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I use the Panasonic Lumix TS3, which is fully waterproofed. It's what you see 99% of my swim/bike/run shots taken with (product reviews are generally a full-blown DSLR though).

      The TS4 is the current generation of it, I've had this one for a few years now - keeps on ticking! link to amazon.com

      Reply
    • Martin replied

      In Europe I believe the Lumix TS4 is called Lumix FT4.

      Reply
  6. Jim

    Great post from a fantastic city! Can't wait to go back to New Zealand!!

    Reply
  7. I was JUST in Wellington last week after IM NZ. You ran right in front of my aunt/uncle's place on Oriental Parade. Too bad our trips didn't coincide!

    Reply
  8. dave

    Ray,did you stay at the Museum hotel? There's also a fantastic local tri series called the Scorchers, which take place at Scorching Bay, across on the other side from Te Aro where you were staying. The Welly half marathon follows the start of the run you did then stays flat out past the airport and back- really good race for a pb.

    @Harrison life in NZ is indeed great - but be warned summer in Welly is rarely as good as this year and the wind is regularly horrific to the point of being dangerous to ride in. Housing quality is in general appalling and living in NZ is extremely expensive. And I mean extremely - last year we were paying more for a litre of milk than a litre of petrol. Many Americans find NZ very,very backward. There are upsides to that. Visit and study but definitely see the country properly.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, stayed at the Intercontinental across the street. They had some sort of corporate deal, so I just clicked and booked.

      Reply
  9. Matt

    Hey Ray,
    What happened to your foot pod for the first 28 minutes? Did you make Tony carry you? I've had pods die during a run, but never start like that.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It's funny, I noticed that as well afterwards in the GC file. Have absolutely no idea. I've gotta crack open the Timex file and see if it's the same.

      That said, in Sydney yesterday when I turned on the FR610 it wasn't finding the footpod (nor was the Timex), so I figured the battery was dead. I put in a new battery and both watches saw it instantly. It was perfect for my entire run.

      Reply
  10. Vanilla_Thrilla

    As the saying goes - you can't beat Wellington on a good day.

    I used to live there and one of my favourite memories is of being able to go mountain biking around Mt Victoria in my lunch break despite working on the 15th floor of an inner city office building. That's in summer though. Winter is a different story.

    Reply
    • Vanilla_Thrilla replied

      Oh and @dave - many NZers find the USA very backwards as well: God, gays & guns, etc, etc... ;-)

      Reply
  11. Tony Wolken

    She was a good run on a great day! And luckily didn't have to carry DC up the hill! The lungs were burning enough as is.
    Tony

    Reply
  12. Andrew Kerr

    Winters really aren't that bad in Wellington, you guys should try growing up in Scotland. Glad you got Welly on a good day though Ray, we're pretty lucky here with what we have around here.

    And Vanilla Thrilla, that's a great reposte to Dave's slightly odd post.

    Reply
    • dave replied

      Andrew - also grew up in Glasgow, but have lived, worked and studied in the US and NZ. Vanilla_Thrilla is absolutely right but I also stand by what I said. Sorry it came across as odd; I love NZ more than anywhere I've lived.

      Reply
  13. glurple

    I'm very pleased that you got to experience Wellington on a good day.

    Reply
    • glurple replied

      I was really worried that you might have been there on a cold and blustery day (of which there are many in any given year).

      Reply
  14. Ted H

    Hear it's snowing like crazy in France... so, a very nice getaway for you!!

    Reply
  15. What a great run! Do you stop to take the pics or take them while in motion? My sister lives in NZ (Southland) and I have been looking into flying to Auckland (since you have to) and then driving down, taking the ferry from Wellington to the South Island, stopping at spots along the way.

    Reply
    • taniwha replied

      At least on NI, take the train from Akl to Welly: stunning landscape!

      Reply
  16. Keith S

    What a great run you had. I was in the same happy place as Vanilla above. From my home I could be running through there in 5 mins, or mountain biking in 3. And it is just magic.Then there is Otari Bush, Tinakori Hill, Botanical Gardens, Ring of Fire.
    I've never been anywhere that offers so much so close to the city.

    Reply
  17. Ola

    Didn't Tony want to be captured on photo? I think that everyone that is hospitable enough to show you around and accompany you for a run should be allowed their 15 minutes of fame - who knows which people might start to recognize him! :-)

    (and no, I'm not satisfied with his back)

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I feel, I actually have a front-picture I took along the way, but it came out fuzzy (sweat on lens). :-/

      Sorry!

      Reply
  18. Ola Nissen

    Ah, never mind. I'm just teasing you a bit. But it would be nice I think to try to capture your training companions, as you did with the latest Sydney post. Always fun to see who gets to train with the famous Rainmaker ;-)

    Reply
  19. Pip

    My home territory! Ironically I was in Queenstown that day, but my (women's only) running group meets at 6pm at Te Papa. They were up Mt Vic that night too! Ignore the negative remarks about Welly. It's true the houses can be poorly heated and a bit damp, and that the winters can be a bit rugged, and that it can be a bit of a test of wills riding a road bike in our wind sometimes, but you've nicely captured a lot of the positives. We're a pretty active city and our geography allows us to be. From my office on The Terrace I can be up on the trails and knocking out a fantastic run through the bush during my lunchtimes. I have a gym membership but most of my workouts are outdoors. Frank Kitts park at 6.15am while the sun is rising over the harbour is far superior to a sweaty gym floor! I moved down from Auckland 11 y;ears ago and seriously drank the Wellington Coolaid. Glad to see you got to visit us this time around!

    Reply
  20. Gary

    Awesome to see you running in New Zealand! Wellington is a wonderful city for running with the combination of the fantastic waterfront and the trails up in the hills. Next time you need to spend more than 24 hours here and see more of the country!

    @dave - not sure what you mean about housing here being appalling. I think my house is pretty nice, and I've lives in lots of countries around the world. Either you experienced a shack here, or you are used to mansions.

    Reply
  21. Hey Ray, glad you enjoyed the Mt Vic run around! Wish I'd been able to connect earlier! In any case Tony has done a great job accompanying you on one of the best running routes in Wellington! Like I said on twitter hopefully will be able to connect with you when you are here again or when I visit Paris!

    Reply
  22. Nicci

    Awesome that you visited my home town! I didn't know about that steep trail up from the bay, will check it out. Good on ya Tony for being such a great host :) Come back soon :)

    Reply
  23. I know this is an old post but I just found it now. Great to see you went for a run up Mt Vic - being an NZ native currently living in Aus makes me miss that hill like crazy. Grew up riding MTB and cutting my racing teeth on those trails.

    Cool to see you did a fair chunk of the World Mountain Running Trophy course on that run from 2005 when the WMRT was held there and when Jono Wyatt smashed everyone by minutes every lap.

    Makes me want to move home, crappy weather or not. :)

    Reply
  24. Jason W

    You're making me home sick... I used to do those splash and dashes when I was last living in Wellington... 20 years ago... But my parents still live on the far side of Mount Vic, so I ran Grass St last Christmas and it just about killed me too. Perth just doesn't have the hills. Great post and I'll have to send people this way to see photos of Wellington at its best.

    Reply

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