Thursday, January 31, 2008

Whatever next...

I suppose as long as there are wild open stretches of water and silly buggers wanting to get out and paddle or row across them, there'll be challenges to have us scratching our heads.

Well-known Kiwi rower, Rob Hamill, winner of the inaugural Atlantic Rowing Race in 1997 and campaign manager to the winning 2001 and 2003 Kiwi entries, has launched a rowing race across the Tasman, between the Auckland and Sydney Harbour Bridges, to be called Bridge 2 Bridge.

He's to direct a team of four in the 2250km race across the Tasman early next year and is calling on an Australian team to compete. Other New Zealanders are also being encouraged to enter.

"This is the chance for rowers, surfboaties or just your Joe Average adventurer to have a crack at a unique challenge," Hamill said.

"It could spell the beginning of a biennial competition raced by teams from around the world."

The Web site's still new and crude, but perhaps something worth keeping an eye on.

Of course, given half-a-chance a few years ago, I'd be signing up in a flash.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kayaking will help us live longer

Jolly well hope so, as I've had the dreaded lurgy for nearly a week now and am feeling pretty darn sorry for myself.

Another new study has hit the papers. As we age, the very DNA in our trillions of cells starts to fray, unravel and disintegrate. But now it appears that exercise (read: kayaking) can delay the inevitable. A study published yesterday hints that fitness buffs appear to have "younger" DNA than the chronically sedentary.

However, we have been cautioned that the old chicken-and-egg question - does exercise preserve healthier DNA, or does healthier DNA enable people to exercise more? - has yet to be answered.

The study's authors examined just the ends of DNA strands. Called telomeres, these act something like the plastic caps on shoelaces (an aglet, my brother tells me), preventing the DNA in chromosomes from unraveling. Previous research has shown that older people have shorter ends than younger folks. Indeed, biologists say they shrink every time a cell divides. This study found that heavy exercisers (those who put in more than three hours a week running, cycling, pumping iron, or other vigorous activity - say, kayaking...) had relatively long telomeres - comparable to those of couch potatoes 10 years younger.

And something that I've known for years was mentioned: "People who choose to exercise are different in so many ways from people who don't." Oh, yeah.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New gear #1

With the 2008 Everglades Challenge looming, I'm reassessing some of my gear - nothing major - and probably primarily to make life a wee bit more comfortable while 'out in the wild.' First up is my sleeping mat. Probably a mixture of age and a slightly dodgy left hip, exasperated by lying on many a hard surface, I traded in last year's REI Lite-Core 1.5 (another trade up from a slightly thinner Thermarest) for the absolute ultimate in decadence - the Exped Downmat 7. While slightly more expensive (okay, a bit more than slightly), nothing can beat a good night's sleep after 14 to 16 or more hours' paddling. And I'm finding the ground's getting harder every time I pitch a tent.

The Exped is pretty awesome - stuffed with 700-fill goose down insulation and 889mm (3.5") thick! It rolls down (sorry, bad pun) to only slightly more than the Lite-Core or Thermarest, and weighs not much more. Inflating it takes only a minute or two - it's not self-inflating. Because of its inner down, you can't inflate it by mouth - quite ingeniously, its stuff bag doubles as a bellows. Clip the bellow end of the stuff bag on to the mat's valve, let the bellows bag fill with air and roll it, forcing air into the mat. Repeat. As there are two valves on the mat, it pays to have the other one closed while inflating ;). The second valve is for running hot air through the mat, if you happen to get moisture inside it.

I've laid my body out on this on the floor at home, and have almost threatened to move out of the family bed - can't wait to try it in the wild!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Little wheels

I get all warm and furry when I see "older" folks doing great things. Gives me hope for when I start "getting that way."

I've just found the Web site of Barbara and Wally, Canadians cycling around New Zealand on recumbants this summer. They're first off traveling around the South Island, and their tales and photos are well worth keeping an eye on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's summer somewhere...

Stuck way up here in the wintery Northern Hemisphere I sometimes forget that it's summer downunder, or New Zealand in this case. Everyone's off school for nearly two months for the summer holidays, and most of the country closes down from Christmas Day for a fortnight, to pack up all the whanau and head off to the bach and beach for a good ol' wind down.

The New Zealand Herald has been posting holiday photos from its readers (two lots now, here and here), which are more than enough to bring a sigh to an ex-pat's heart, and encourage those that haven't yet visited Godzone to think seriously about packing their togs and making their own voyage downunder.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Go the Bolts!

When I first landed on these fair shores, I thought American football was the woosiest game out. For heaven sake, I'm a Kiwi raised on rugby - 80 minutes a game with only a 10 minute half-time, no padding, no game stoppages unless for injury, pretty much the same 15 players playing for the entire match, non-stop.

And then on the field comes these huge Yankee brutes, wearing tights and long socks and gloves, padded to the hilt, with helmets even, special teams left right and center, four hours of game time, which only really boils down to about 15 minutes in total of actual "play" time, and you get to rest between moves.

And then I started watching this woosy game, particularly College football, and understanding the rules a wee bit better, and getting to recognize a few players, and perhaps even start appreciating the athleticness of those "brutes". Then we moved to San Diego, home for my other half. And thus the Chargers, and SDSU's Aztecs, for which we even had season tickets, became "my" teams. And a few years back, the other half's dad (my father-out-of-law) took me to my first NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium. Not only did we drink a lot of beer, but the atmosphere was quite amazing. And the noise! (Can't even remember if we won or not - not the fault of the beer, I hasten to add.)

And every year now I've avidly watched the season on TV, cheering the Chargers on - groaning when Schottenheimer would make a dud call during the last few minutes of a close game, cheering when LT and Gates and Merriman and Cromartie and Kaeding and all the others did their thing. Waved Drew Brees farewell. And sometimes wishing Rivers had a wee bit more humility... And wondering how on earth could we then get a new coach who had at one time been a coach for the Raiders (and I was taught to "hate the Raiders"!)!

And on Saturday, I didn't see any woosy players as Packers and Sea Hawks fought it out in driving snow, with bare arms.

And yesterday, I had my heart in my mouth as we beat those Mannings - and that's another story in San Diego Chargers' history...

And next weekend we're playing the Patriots (the "cheaters", as they're disparagingly called in San Diego, I learned over Christmas) for a place in the Super Bowl...

Go the Bolts!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

08's first paddle

An excellent day out on the water yesterday - temperatures were forecast for around C13 degrees or so (mid-F50s), but it was much warmer, with a clear blue sky. Even had to take my jacket off not two minutes from the put in.

A paddle for three purposes: to shock the heck out of myself with nigh on 20 miles (32kms) to ensure that, yes, indeed, I did need to get my training act together for the upcoming Everglades Challenge - and that sure worked. It was an excellent sail down the lake, and I knew I'd pay for it with headwinds all the way home. Took two hours down, and two-and-a-half back. And my arms were a wee bit weary by the time I hit the beach. So, yes, it's panic mode training levels now.

Second, another test for the SPOT tracker - I'd had it on the top of my PFD, where my strobe normally goes, but that was still not enough line of sight to the heavens. So this time I had it clipped on to the back of the boat. But more on that later. I'm still not 100% convinced that this fun bit of equipment is all that it's cracked up to be, particularly for hikers who are in and out of bush etc.

And, third, a test of the new base I'd bought some months ago for my Pacific Action Sail. Wind pressure had been causing my precious for'deck to implode, thus I'd had to bring the sail feet further aft near the for'ad hatch, where the deck was a bit stronger. With this new base, I can put the sail back in its original position, get a better sail shape, and not worry about my deck. Thoroughly recommend it. You can order them from Greg at Xstreamline on 310-514-9514 - and all up, it's around $90 or so. Greg will ask you for the camber angle on your deck, where the base will sit, and he'll cut the foam to fit - or you can cut it yourself.

All-in-all, an excellent day out. And no pain the next morning.

Friday, January 11, 2008

RIP, Sir Ed

A very, very sad day in New Zealand yesterday. The country's most revered person, Sir Edmund Hillary died, at 88. I cried. Not only has this man personified the epitome of scaling 20th century heights in being the first to summit Everest, and being one of the world's great adventurers in driving a tractor to the South Pole and jet-boating up the Ganges, but he dedicated his life to improving the lives of many Nepali. He even lost his first wife and daughter to the Nepalese mountains.

Nothing I write can give credit to Sir Ed. He leaves a huge hole in many hearts, but will live forever as the epitome of courage and fortitude and plain old good common Kiwi sense for many who know and to come.

May we all knock off our own old bugger.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Back into the groove

Well, hopefully. Happy New Year to you all, folks!

Perhaps that I didn't quite get around to laying any specific New Year resolutions is one reason for a feeling of a little disjointedness. But I'm fairly happily resolved that in this day and age, when so much is buzzing around and you have to pick and chose what really matters, then all you can do is the best you can do for those the most immediate to you. So this will mean continuing to bring home the bacon to provide for my family, to be a fully supportive colleague to those I work with and for, to be the best parent and role model I can for the wee one (now sporting three teeth and last night discovered that being one top and two bottom I can clack them together and scare the hell out of my mums), stay healthy, try and limit myself to at least one glass of wine a night, and to try and get some exercise in. The latter is my big current concern. Running or biking, kayaking or swimming around the neighbourhood used to be a thrumbing passion - now with this wee sprog in the house, that need seems to have been abated. And I have the Everglades Challenge to paddle in seven weeks! Never in all my 46 years have I experienced the ticking clock syndrome - that absolute maternal surety that I needed to give birth and have my own child. I've always been happy to be an aunt (from Guatamala, as my brother tells his kiddies) or a support to girlfriends wanting their own child. Now, perhaps, there's more to my psyche than I had previously thought. I talked about this with SandyBottom when she visited last weekend, being the proud mother of two great young children (and not so much children anymore!). She knew what I meant.

So on we go! On y va! 2008 and beyond!