"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity."
Reflecting on the year that was. Twenty twenty-one, 2021. So, here’s my account:
Starting the year, here in New Zealand - things seemed to be fairly “normal” - whatever that means. There was no virus, that shall not be named - no cases in the community, and we were living our lives in relative “freedom”. I begin the year with a trip to the South Island, a solo campervan trip - combining a holiday with the chance to attend The Revenant. It was a magical trip where I had perfect conditions at Mt Cook. The Revenant opened my eyes to an epic crazy navigation endurance race/adventure, a story of survival, a brutal event in the most scenic places. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I experienced was fascinating.
In February - I had decided to do a last-minute trip to Rotorua for the weekend of the Tarawera ultra marathons - it is the premier ultra-marathon of the country. I knew a few friends who were doing it and I wanted to go and support and surprise them. I ended up following and photographing Katie Wright - the winner of the 100 miler and her ding-dong battle with Fiona Hayvice who finished second. I didn’t get much sleep across the 30 odd hours I was there but it was the most amazing emotional moment I have been able to be part of and to capture it all - priceless! The weekend was bit of a blur, but also, I have the most vivid memories of the whole thing, I still get very emotional looking at these photos - something so special. I returned home at the end of the weekend, just in time before Auckland went into a quick lockdown. Sometimes you make decisions which don’t make sense at the time, but they turn out to be the best things you did. This was one of them.
Whiles all this is going on, I had been deep into looking for a new job and had a second interview lined up that very week returning from the weekend in Tarawera. With the city in lockdown, the interview was done remotely via video - something we all know we would have to get very used to as we find out later in the year! Even though I was incredibly nervous, the interview went well. The job offer came soon after, and I made the decision to go for it. I decided this would be a good opportunity to take a few days off in between jobs - as this could be the last break for a while - AND looking back I’m so glad I did.
To the South Island I went again - this time with no grand plans, I flew in on the last day of Northburn 100 miler. Another epic endurance run down south - known as the toughest ultra-marathon in the country. I would see my friend Tanya finish the Southern Season Miler Challenge - it was fantastic, and I was so happy to be there. One of the memories I have is ALL but one finisher saying how horrible this event was, I think just what Terry Davis - the race director, would want to hear, as the website states: "where suffering is the prize and everyone's a winner". That one finisher who didn’t say that - Andrew McDowall a familiar face from up home and his big beaming smile - he had come in second place - I have so much respect for this man, such a deserving result - I love his work ethic and his epic sunrise photos. I bump into Adam Keen there - he says to me why don’t I come along for a “easy” adventure with him. I say why not, I had no plans!
Two evenings later I’m waiting for Adam at a service station, who turns up with Brooke Thomas - ever heard of her! - yes the record holder on the Te Araroa trail! At this point I’m panicking and wondered what I had gotten myself into. Thirty minutes later we were driving to the top of the Remarkables ski area - I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and nervous. Adam assured it was an “easy” adventure, under 10km. What he forgets to mention was the vertical and terrain, and hour or so later - I almost died several times. But Adam promised me an epic adventure, I certainly got that - a beautiful sunset, the moon was up and a huge smile on my face. Ben (and Tanya) who I had stayed with - also took me to Rob Roy Glacier - we crossed rivers, drank from glacier waterfalls, explored incredible Beech Forest. By the end of the trip my energy was totally zapped but my heart was full. It’s just what I needed, and at the time I didn’t how much I needed it.
I had to switch myself into work mode now, back into corporate world. I had been away from the big corporate companies/firms for a few years now. It was back to the central business district (CBD), back to dress shirts, pants, shoes I hadn’t worn in 5 years, and on the ferry for my daily commute! It took me a while to get back into things, and again I started to question my decisions. As part of the role, I would be on a project which involved travel to Wellington and Christchurch. We had several trips - looking back I treasure these trips so much, even though we had 7am starts, flying in and out the night before, full day workshops etc etc. It was tough but rewarding. As all this was happening, I was on a running streak, which would last 110 days starting some time in February. During these trips I would still need to squeeze a run in. In Christchurch one of my teammates joined me on exceedingly early morning run. It was crazy, but we had this sense of great achievement at the same time.
On another Christchurch trip I decided to take extra days leave to extend onto the weekend and stay a night at Mt Cook. It was minus 5 degrees Celsius, but conditions were good otherwise. And onto the next day in Wanaka, luckily an injured Katie meant I would have a relaxing day there and Matariki fireworks in the evening by the lake.
And on the (last) Christchurch trip in early August, a cold snap was just hitting the country. The conditions were freezing. Onto another early morning flight, this time a day trip - as we flew above the Southern Alps - the snow! And like a dusting of icing on the Canterbury plains. For an Aucklander who’s not into winter sports - this was magical! As we started our meeting in the office, this white fluffy stuff started floating outside the window. One of the teammates looked at me and said what’s wrong! “Snow!” I had only seen falling snow, perhaps, two times max - for me this was a novelty. We stopped the meeting for a few minutes to watch the snow, it seems crazy at the time, but looking back I’m so glad I did.
Locked down - Auckland would enter lockdown for more than three months, only a week after that last Christchurch trip. Working from home and video meetings would become the norm. I attempted another running streak, but 30 days in I stopped counting and somewhere around the 60 days - it become the worst thing I did this year, it was horrible. Life in lockdown became more about your own well-being and not what other people were doing. Nothing was consistent and nothing was “right”, I hadn’t picked up the camera for a while and losing touch with my passions. But I know most people were struggling as well, and some days were better than others. Learn to be easy on yourself.
As we enter the end of the year, it’s a vastly different world from 12 months ago, but we adapt and change along the way. This year has been about changes, challenges and keeping composure through it all. And I don’t really know why I made the decisions I did make, but I made them and here I am. Sometimes there is pull towards something; they say you should go with your gut, trust your instinct, and do what feels right, even though it may be completely wrong. There is no right or wrong. Just to go forward, onto twenty twenty-two!