Round the Bridges 12km / Skydiving

An update from down under!

Jesse and I have been camped out in the North Island since we arrived but are definitely finding some time to adventure!

Before getting to that, I have to share a photo of this weta Jesse found on the deck:

IMG_5396That thing was missing a leg and was very angry! It very much reminded me of Antie on Honey I Shrunk the Kids with his long antennae and how he’d open his pincers. Anyone else know what I’m talking about? Anyone?

I also have just two “funny New Zealand foods” photos to share. The first, a beautiful latte from McDonald’s. Why does American Micky D’s not feature these!? (The NZ silver fern probably wouldn’t make sense in the States, but it’s pretty nonetheless. Oh, and delicious. And expensive).


And secondly, the cereal names. Adorable. At $6/box, I can’t afford the Frosties, but I should try to make some Rice Bubble treats. I wonder if there’s a recipe on Pinterest…


On November 16th (a Sunday), Jesse and I ran the Round the Bridges 12km around Hamilton. It was a fairly large road event along the waterfront; I think they had over 6,000 runners this year. Jesse and I both met our time goals and I set a few personal records, all of which happened by accident, but am always pleased to find. It was probably the incredible kiwi dinner we had the night before with some family friends from Jesse’s childhood. It was such a great evening and the food was incredible – just what we needed!

IMG_5410You can see more dorky race photos of me here! I like the one where I’m high-fiving people on the bridge. Which reminds me of a letter I’ve been meaning to write:

Dear Everyone Who Runs,

If you’re running a distance event and a small child reaches out their hand to high-five you, you high-five them back. It makes everyone involved feel happier.

Sincerely, Yours Truly

After our run, we headed home for a quick shower and a bite to eat, then drove down to Lake Taupo for a quick skydiving mission. We were scheduled to jump the day before, but due to wind conditions, we had to postpone for a day.

Jesse’s siblings joined us and by 5:30 PM we were in some jumpsuits, tucked away like sardines in a tiny plane, climbing to 12,000 feet.

IMG_5418 IMG_5412Now because Jesse and I can be such running geeks, we had our GPS watches and heart rate monitors on. We were told not to have any accessories on, but as this might be a once in a lifetime event, we had to risk it.

I didn’t feel nervous; my tandem master (*said in a very deep, game show announcer type way) was Albert and I knew he wouldn’t let me die. He’d gone up 3 times that day already! But then we were the last in the plane, which meant one thing: I had to jump first. This was my only request to everyone, was that I wouldn’t have to go first. My eyes went wide and I scanned the plane for any signs of backing out. Pretty soon Albert was handing me gloves, a hat, and some goggles, strapping me in so I couldn’t breathe properly anymore. He started saying a bunch of stuff to me, none of which I heard properly and hoped it wasn’t crucial information for what was about to go down. He opened up the rattling sliding door, and then he told me to smile for the camera! No more time for second guessing!

He pulled my head backwards and hurled us out of the plane. I remember it being windy and loud, and I vaguely remember thinking “Oh yeah, body like a banana” and adjusting my legs. After a few seconds it occurred to me that I was biting my lip pretty hard so I returned my face to normal. (Jesse claims he was thinking about his wedding ring falling off and worried that I would lose mine. Apparently I was the only person issued gloves!) I felt a tap on my shoulder, the signal to open my arms to “experience the freefall” and eventually Albert pulled the parachute cord and my body shot upright, we slowed significantly, and it wasn’t windy anymore. I could see the beauty that was Lake Taupo, I could see some other sky divers (my family, maybe?) and was quietly reminiscing of paragliding in Europe.

Airport and Town

Albert loosened all the straps and I could breathe again. I asked Albert how long he’d been skydiving for and he said “Just started last week!” I asked if he said that everyone and he laughed and said he started in 1981. Then I asked if he still got a rush from it and he said “No. But you never lose respect”. Which I thought was a brilliant answer. A few minutes later, we were landing. I enjoyed the fact that I was the last of my crew to land, despite being the first out of the plane!

I joined everyone and we waited for the other guys who jumped with us (from 15,000 feet) to land so we go view our photos together.

These were our “exit photos” – taken 2 seconds before our jump.


IMG_2295-jesseWe watched our ground video (we didn’t pay for any actual skydiving photos or video) with the other guys in the plane (they were from the UK, apparently) and ended up buying it. It features their free fall videos, which is basically the same, right?

Upon review of our GPS watch data, here were my findings:

  1. It took us 20 minutes from plane take off to landing.
  2. We traveled 26.5 miles with a max speed of 184.8 mph (which aligns with the minimum of 200 km/h we were promised!)
  3. Our highest elevation was 11,893 feet (close enough to the 12,000 feet we paid for)
  4. I believe my heart rate strap fell upon jumping, but I had a peak heart rate of 176 bpm, which, for just sitting in an airplane, is pretty damn high!

Reflecting on the experience, I didn’t feel as nervous to sky dive as I did to bungee jump. Maybe because the ground was not as close, maybe because I trust a parachute more than a bungee cord, or maybe because I’m older and wiser and was confident that I wouldn’t die (arguably, older and wiser might equate to not jumping out of planes or off bridges, but I digress). In any case, here are some quick throw back photos to bungee jumping with Jesse at Whistler last year!




After skydiving, we were all filled with adrenaline but also quite hungry so we took our complimentary coupons to a buffet place in town to recap and have a small feast (funny enough, the UK guys showed up well).

We stopped briefly to admire the lake and drove back home.


Such an epic day, I must say.


En Zed (Volume 1)

Did I make the announcement on here? Have I told you all? I know there are friends and family who follow me here and knew already, but to those who don’t, Jesse and I are in New Zealand for the next few months. We made the final commitment right after our France trip, booked our flights, quit our jobs, packed up our house, and said a (temporary) good-bye to the US. Here I’ll include a small “Academy Award Winner” speech and say thank you to my parents for watching our beloved Riley and my houseplants, to many of our friends for storing the crap we couldn’t fit in storage (including our cars), to those other friends who will miss us dearly and check in regularly, and to everyone else who are insanely supportive (albeit a little jealous).


Anyways, before the big send off Jesse spent a few days in Coeur D’Alene with our good friends and their brand new house while I camped out at my parents’ place. I was able to get in a good run with the dogs, watch some football, eat ridiculous amounts of Halloween treats, and do some pumpkin carving with the little ones.




Jesse joined us as some point and we then spent two days packing our actual bags and headed to the Spokane airport.

The next few days were a bit of a blur. Between various fumbles of airline customer service (I’m looking at you, United. This may end up being it’s own blog post. Stay tuned), the longest flight in the whole world, and countless connections, we made it to the southern hemisphere. My favorite part was the plane ride to Hamilton from Auckland. The plane sat only 19 people and our “flight attendant” was also the co-pilot. There were no overhead bins and the under-the-seat storage barely fit my feet. Needless to say, my carry-on was much too big. After quite a lot of anxiety in the luggage size / weight department, it ended up being buckled into its very own seat for the 25 minute flight.


Hellooooo New Zealand! We arrived on Halloween; Jesse’s dad picked us up from the airport and I was eager to see and do and explore. We took in Hamilton Gardens first thing (it was nice to walk and feel human again) and then we waited at the house for any trick-or-treaters. Apparently…Halloween isn’t a big thing in New Zealand. We got exactly zero kids. Oh well, more foreign candy for me! Which is funny, because logging into Facebook, my friends back “home” showed countless posts of costumes, parties, candy, decorations, pumpkins, and stories. Not that I missed it – Halloween is actually my least favorite holiday, but it was interesting to observe.

The next few days were filled with various activities: a play about Anne Boleyn, a visit to Lake Rotoroa, the street market, a long run, and the A&P show!

AP show

I was particularly interested in the sheep dog trials – because 1) it’s impressive and 2) this is what Riley should be able to do, right?

I also enjoyed the tiny sheep and goats, the alpacas and their bizarre sounds, and figuring out that “hot dog” does not mean the same thing in NZ as it does in the US. Oh, and Jesse saved the day in the goat barn. Sneaky little things!

Jesse’s sister arrived later in the week and we enjoyed hanging with her, per usual. We adventured to Lake Karapiro for a day of kayaking, since it was a beautiful day and it was fun training for the upcoming events we have on! Well, except for the way back when it was extremely windy and the waves began breaking and we were paddling against the current. Oh well! The lake’s inlets were the best – peaceful and overgrown, eventually leading to some waterfalls.


We finished off week one with a walk at Maungatautari, which is spectacular both inside and out, rose gardens, and some yard work (which is always surprisingly satisfying)!

IMG_5370 IMG_5379IMG_5383

So far, some things about NZ that are odd and / or I need to get used to:

  • Driving on the right side of the car / left side of the road
  • The accent
  • Meat pies
  • “Flat white” or “long black” coffee
  • Weet-Bix and Vegemite
  • Everything is so expensive ($10 for basic face wash? I just can’t…)
  • No Thanksgiving
  • It’s summer!
  • The metric system

Some Wisconsin Time

My last day of work snuck up on me. It was a bittersweet last day, which is probably how most last days should be. We ate cake and finished up some loose ends, then I unplugged my computer, hugged all my office mates, and drove home to continue the never-ending task of packing. I had a sad good-bye dinner with my best friend Brittany and the next day, Jesse and I were on a plane to the midwest.IMG_5197IMG_5201

We had a really dreadful flight itinerary, leaving Portland in the evening, flying to Denver, then Chicago (enjoying a 5 hour layover at midnight), then a quick flight up to Madison. We rented a mediocre compact and drove up to Stevens Point to my Grandma’s house. My mom was there as well and we spent the next few days catching up with my extended family.

We took an afternoon to get in a good run along the Green Circle Trail, which was actually a really decent trail around the city. In total, it’s about 26 miles through forests and parks and other natural areas. The segment we did ended up being just shy of 16 miles. Along the way, we kept seeing signs that the trail is used for cross country skiing during the winter. Bonus for Stevens Point!


We were in Wisconsin at a particularly beautiful time of year (normally it’s flat and fairly boring). But this time the trees were gorgeous colors of reds and yellows. And my absolute favorite fall colors: Green and Gold!

We took in the Packers vs. Panthers game at Lambeau Field. My home away from home.


(Rodgers was on fire and the Packers stomped them. It was amazing.)

We flew back to Portland after a few days and resumed packing, cleaning, hauling, donating, and having ridiculous dinners of coffee and chocolate cake.