The Last Day…

31 Jan

So the day finally came…61 kilometers from Cape Reinga.  As I mentioned, I was staying with the wonderful Rippingale family in Waihopo, a tiny TINY township north of Kaitaia.  The morning was ripe, and Jane, the Rippingale mother of 4, had a energetic breakfast waiting for me! I ate and just as I was departing, (at 6:30 AM!) their whole family emerged to see and cheer me off!  Throughout the whole run, I really didn’t have much of a physical cheering section.  I had tons of internet support and I am truly grateful for this, but having people yelling and screaming in proximity is just a different experience.  Hearing this encouragement for something so dear to me and that I put so much time and effort in to, was certainly one of the highlights of my run.  In the past I had played sports in front of 1-2 thousand people, and hearing cheers is something I am no stranger to, but this time eclipsed them all, despite being 2 adults, two teens, one 10 year old and a toddler shouting from their porch:-D

After some pics, I commenced the finale.  Little did I know that this run would make the top 3 toughest days!  I was told that the peninsula leading to the Cape was sad dunes.  I was thinking, majestic rolling sandy hills, with the occasional coastal view and photo opportunity.  The views and photo ops were there, minus the rolling hills.  More like near vertical climbs, tight switchbacks, and air drier than an Egyptian sarcophagus.  I took my first rest about 38 km into the run and realized that the larger of my two water bladders was empty.  I started rationing the remainder of my hydration which made it hard to swallow and eat the nutrition necessary to complete the day/run.  Oh, and did I mention it was about 30 degrees Centigrade(85 degrees Farenheit) after running in 60-70 degree Farenheit weather for the last 2 months.

Ok, enough complaining.  I ran all Christmas day starting early morning, resting around mid day and approached the Cape after about 8 hours.  The scenery was breathtaking and I had to stop several times to absorb the last few hours of my journey.  I stopped at a turnoff and was approached by some Asian tourists who asked for several pictures of me.  They had been traveling the 90 Mile Beach/Northland area for several days and had seen me on the road every day they were there.  Others stopped to see if I needed some water or a ride and I respectfully declined with a smile.  It’s all about the little things.

On a different level, the last day of running was a roller coaster.  At times simply surreal: losing contact with reality; semi-out-of-body experiences; lack of emotion completely.  Other times brought flooding, awe-striking sensual overloads: views from road sides only observed from certain angles at slow speeds; cycadas eerily clicking from all-sides, drowning every thought; pounding sunshine sucking the moisture from my pores.  Then came the effervescent affections: euphoric states of uncontrollable rancing(running + dancing); leaky eyes from the despair of remembering a lost father and his words of encouragement; the ecstasy of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel within an arms-reach; the evocation of strength in the realization that my father’s ultimate existence is through me, that his efforts of perpetuating his mark on the world lies in my ability to portray what it means to be his son; the fear and drive of recognizing that this is only the beginning (a beginning to what, I am not sure, but a beginning nonetheless).

Then I finished…and no matter how hard I tried to invoke excessive emotion, the only true feeling I had was thirst.

Cape Reinga is a popular tourist location and, even though it was Christmas Day, many had taken the drive to check out the northern tip of the country.  There is only one road going to the Cape, so anyone headed north that day saw me running.  Thus, I arrived with people staring.  A look of uncertainty, mixed with a dash of judgment, and a hint of gratefulness that they were a distance from my stinky sweaty person.  Eventually many of those looks succumbed to their curiosity and several groups of tourists approached me with questions of why.  After nearly 1 year of explaining my journey, I found myself on auto-pilot, telling of why running, and why New Zealand, and how heavy is my pack, and how many shoes have I gone through.  I tried to show as much appreciation as possible while still catching my breath and satisfying my thirst.

Eventually, I made my way to the light house at the end of the trail.  And sat down.  For about 30 minutes.  Didn’t really think about much.  Looked at the seas, the pole that points in random directions informing you that this/that great city is x kilometers away, the people there snapping shots of that one time in NZ.  Just as I worked up the courage to ask a couple if they would take some pictures of me, they beat me to the punch and asked the question of me.  So I did and they reciprocated for me, as the conversation lead to me spilling my story. Turns out they were from California too and offered me a ride south, but the wonderful Rippingale’s were en route to pick me up so I declined and began my walk back to the parking lot.  There I saw Jane and her two youngest running down to meet me on the path to the lighthouse snapping pics and hooting and hollering, telling everyone on her way about what I had just done.  It was great to see people who actually knew me again, and once again there were tourists asking about me and my journey.  I was more myself by now and happily responded to their questions while taking pictures and enjoying the interaction.

All in all, I am amazed I can recall this much from the day.  It was a blur, but then it was slow-going and painstaking.  I am ever-perplexed by this dichotomy of time.  Things feel so close and so far at the same time.  They feel so lightning fast and painfully slow in retrospect.  But they feel…and that’s what matters, I guess.  Ok, now I’m just ranting.

So we headed back to the Rippingale House and to my surprise and delight, some homemade Thai food awaited!  I munched and called my family back at home who were having Christmas Eve celebrations while attempting to document my emotions and happenings.  The rest of the evening flashed by and I found myself the next morning slowly realizing it was over.  OVER?!?!  Yeah, over 🙂

So the aftermath.

At this point, just over a month from the last day of running, I am still putting off the actual donation of the funds ($8500 raised; $4000+ donatable funds) until a few media connections workout and for some more funds to roll in.  What media connections, you ask? I am part of a Fraternity known as Phi Kappa Psi and I was recently interviewed for a feature article in our quarterly fraternity-wide publication, The Shield.  Huge thanks to Mike Gawley and any other Ca-Mu brothers who helped in landing this, and to Will Haskett at the Phi Psi National HQ for approaching his media editor and for finding time to hop on the computer and listen to me rant about my event.  Another huge shout out to Willie Lose at Radio Sport Auckland, Newstalk ZB, for approaching his producer about giving me a chance to preach about my event on his Saturday afternoon sports radio show.  Massive publicity boost!  Thanks to everyone who helped getting the word out…my words can not express the extent of my gratitude.

This about ties up the post.  Will be posting when the pictures go up on Facebook and when the money is donated, or any other related happenings.

WOW, I can’t believe it’s over…

Thanks to everyone out there who has kept up on my event and my posts.  It truly means the world to me!

Big Cat OUT!


Mission Accomplished: December 25, 2011 3:32 PM

28 Dec

Full write-up to follow soon!

Whangarei > Kawakawa > Kahoe Farms Hostel/Totara North > Waipapakauri > Waihopo

24 Dec

The beginning of the end…

Day 53 – 62.7 km/39 miles later…

Whangarei… This run brought me back inland a bit but other than a few hills here or there, it was pretty laid back. Yes, that’s what it’s come to: A laid back 39 miles.
Rants on this topic will ensue on a later date.

So, I finished the day and did my daily end-of-run grocery store visit. I was returning back to the hostel and a guy by the name of Trim approached me. Trim is a military man through and through. He mentioned that he saw me running that day two times going to and fro his destination. He asked me how far I had gone and where I am from. I told him and he handed me $20. I had not yet told him I was fundraising. After some further chat, he told me why he gave me the money:
Trim had a cousin in New York and has hitch-hiked/ rode a 10-speed bike across the USA twice! He said both times, he was helped by an American at some point or another, who had given him food, money, a place to stay or all of the above. Trim mentioned his favorite word is reciprocity. So he was reciprocating the generosity he received. Way to go America!
As some of you may know, sometimes people don’t think very highly of Americans overseas. But this guy thought differently and I hope that I can help foreigners view Americans in a different light too.

Huge thanks to Trim for approaching, chatting, sharing your story and donating! Cheers to that!

Day 54 – 54.7 km/34 miles later…

This day brought me to Kawakawa, a small township with a small little hotel and town center, where I just hung out and waited for the next day over 2 liters of chocolate milk(excellent for exercise recovery) and a pizza(not as good, but it was cheap and plentiful:-).

This was the day I was interviewed and that was certainly a highlight. Such a cool experience and if you weren’t able to hear and still want to, the link is 2 posts below. Hope everyone enjoyed it:-)

Day 55 – 64.9 km/40.3 miles later…

One of the sweetest stops of the trip for sure! Kahoe Farms Hostel. Hosts: Lyndsey & Stefano. Super cool couple. They’ve had this hostel for over 20 years, and despite it being in the middle of nowhere(of course I mean this in the most endearing way :-), it has been very successful.

Lyndsey was there to greet me with some mint water, a private sponsored room and a shower. The latter item there was desperately needed for the first 2.5 hours of that days run was on a dirt road and I was filthy.

I eventually met Stefano: an Italian by birth, loyalty, and culinary skill. Also a chill and down-to-earth guy, who fiends for a game of football(soccer for you North Americans) and hosts the first soccer game of the year in the world! Every New Year’s Eve, they organize a tournament and the final begins at midnight. Since New Zealand is one of the first places to start each day, Stefano claims his game to be the first in the world.

Stefano and Lyndsey were both very hospitable and genuinely caring people. Their hostel felt more like a home than an accommodation business. It was an absolute great stop and I truly hope to keep in touch with them. Thanks a ton, Lydsey & Stefano, your support was amazing!

Day 56 – 53.5 km/33.2 miles later…

Along I went and finished in a wee town called Waipapakauri(Waipap for short). There I stayed in a OLD hotel complete with casino style carpet, antique furniture, and floral wallpaper. Made me feel real retro. Haha. I was told about this place by a guy named John. John heard me on the radio interview and got in touch with me through Radio NZ. He offered to let me crash at his place in Pukenui on Day 57, but I already had a place to stay. I had told him that I would be staying at the Waipap and so he cruised down to say hi. Cool dude and very knowledgeable about the history of the Far North, particularly how “Gumdigging” was the rage(Wikipedia it, interesting) and how professionalism and money has hurt rugby. To tell you the truth, I can’t really disagree but that discussion is for another forum. He donated $25 and “shouted” (Kiwi speak for buying someone something or covering the cost for someone else) me a beer at the bar in the hotel. Huge thanks for the help and for the donation, John. It was cool chatting, too!

Day 57 – 37 km/23 miles later…

For the second-to-last day of my run I arrived to a house in a tiny township called Waihopo, which is the home to about 15 people. 6 of those people are part of the Rippingale family who welcomed me into their home for the evening and will pick me up from Cape Reinga when I’m done! It was by luck that I got in touch with them. I had met a guy Brad(see Day 52 post) who is hiking NZ and one of the first people he met here was a kid named Jack on a bus to the Far North. Brad gave me Jack’s details and so I messaged him. His family was super generous to host me on Christmas Eve and show true hospitality by taking time out of their Christmas Day to drive 45 minutes one-way to pick me up from the tip of the country. A very chill family with nice and talented kids, the Rippingale’s were a serendipitous find, making my final stop a relaxed and fun one. They even let me play Halo! Big time thank you to Darren, Jane, Jack, Quinn, Ella, and Ty for having me in your home and we will surely be in touch!

So that puts me up-to-date and in massive anticipation for my final 62 km run to finish my journey of epic proportions. Now time for bed to rest up and wake early for the long-awaited conclusion…Just ragin, gumpin, and shufflin! Let’s do this!

Big Cat

Link to interview with Radio NZ!

21 Dec


Forgot the thank yous :-(

21 Dec

Hey Everyone
Today I had the interview and it went great but I forgot to give some certain shout outs/thank yous that I had planned so here they are:
Mom, Diane
Grandma Emy
Aunt Cerise
Uncle Ross
All my Robles family aunts uncles and cousins

The Block Buddies
Seoul Survivors and Oxy Olde Boys
Phi Psi Brothers

Everyone that has given me a bed to sleep on or food to eat. Mad props!

This was the list I had and time went too quick for me to give you all proper shout outs on the radio.

That’s all for now. I will post the radio link when I get it.

4 Days Left!!!!

GIVE PHIL 5 RADIO NZ INTERVIEW; and latest updates

20 Dec

FIRST: I just received an email from Radio NZ and they are going to call me for an interview tomorrow(Wednesday 21 December) at 2:20 PM, NZ time (5:20 PM Tuesday, December 20, Pacific Coast time). Here is a link that gives you several ways to listen:

And the latest updates:

Hamilton > Mercer > Auckland > Orewa > Kaiwaka

Day 47 – 54 km/33.6 miles later…
(Day 48 – Rest)

I left Tirau about 7:30 am after another riveting conversation with Antoinette and went on my way towards Cambridge and then eventually to Hamilton. I had been waiting for Hamilton to meet up with my buddy, Rawiri(Raw) King, and his fiancé, Jess Berber. Raw and I played rugby for the Seoul Survivors in Korea before he moved back to his homeland, NZ, to return to school.  Jess joined him there an they have been in Hamilton since.

The day had been wet and it was sadly just the beginning of a 5 day stretch of terrible, wet, blistery weather. My feet paid for it. I won’t post any pics, but my feet have never been so thankful to see the sun
Anyways I got through the day and arrived to Hamilton and gave Raw a shout. 10 minutes later I see Jess on her bike, set to accompany me on the last 4 km of the run. At there place was a hot shower and protein shake or me to gulp down. We caught up, chatted for a bit then went out for dinner on Hood St., a popular Hamilton bar strip. I liked the name more than anything, so Raw and I looked as gangster as we could and took a pic with the street sign :-).

Crashed that night well rested and relaxed, looking forward to sleeping in and taking care of some chores.  Sadly, I had to say good-bye to my trusty Kindle that took a terrible dive in Taupo. Finished the day with some homemade hamburgers and a relaxed evening with Jess and Raw.
I’m really happy I decided to head through Hamilton, for initially I wasn’t planning on it. It was great to see both of my wonderful hosts again and it was fantastic to see them doing well. Huge thanks to Raw and Jess and hope to see you both soon!

Oh yeah… If all goes well, this will be my last full rest day!

Day 49 – 67.8 km/42.1 miles later…

Took off in the rain once again and made my way to a little truck stop town, Mercer. It’s right before the highway turns into a motorway and boots the cyclists and pedestrians to the curb/surface streets.  Luckily, the day seemed to pass quick. It was a pretty flat run making it easy and allowed me to focus on my technique for a good while.
Shout out to my buddies back home, Nick, Matt, Tim, and Dre for calling me via Viber and making my day, while I was alone at the truck stop restaurant 🙂 Certainly a cool surprise.

Day 50 – 58 km/36 miles later…

Another rainy day but a big milestone for the run…Auckland! Since I could no longer run on the highway, I had to take surface streets, the main one being the Great South Road. Sounds epic, right?? 🙂 One big observation I developed after going through several major cities: surface streets have a higher capacity for tougher terrain. Basically, they are hillier and the hills are steeper. This day they only lasted for the first couple hours, then once I got into the Auckland suburbs, the land flattened and made for smooth sailing into the city and Mt. Eden, where I was staying at a hostel that evening. I past a few Auckland landmarks, one being the theme park, Rainbow’s End, but was disappointed when I found no gold or leprechauns 😦 On my way out I also passed by the historic Eden Park, a famous rugby park where the All Blacks won the World Cup this year!

Day 51 – 54 km/33.6 miles later…

Orewa… And back to the beach! But another day of clouds and rain making the dogs(feetsies) howl despite the layers of tape:-(. But I got there, stayed in a hostel, met a cool Englishman, a traveling Montanan, and a Kiwi who cut me up some aloe vera for my blisters. A laid back night for a laid back beach town. Was off the next morning by 7 for the next leg…

Day 52 – 63.4 km/39.4 miles later…

The next stop was a small inland town called Kaiwaka. Got there in about 8.25 hours sticking to my average of just under 8 km/5miles per hour.
The destination brought me to a small motel where I stayed. It was a pretty average night but it was the lunch stop that was special…

About halfway through my run, I stopped at a place called Top O The Dome, a little cafe coincidentally located at the top of the main hill in a township called Dome Valley(all quite appropriate, right? 🙂 There I came across a guy known as DBBrad. Brad owned an architecture/construction business in the states until he felt he was not going in the right direction. So he sold his business, and hit the trail. The Te Araroa Trail that is.  This trail was recently opened and spans the entire length of the country, through treacherous and bushy terrain most of the way.

Once I introduced myself to Brad our interaction took off, but sadly I had to cut it short to get on my way. Nonetheless we exchanged several stories, theories on travel, North and South Island contacts, and emails to keep in touch. Brad was a super-cool dude and I look forward to meeting up with him later on his hike around the Wellington area.  Check out his website and blog here ( for information on him and his adventures and also some pics of us and a short video of my little spiel! Cheers buddy, see you soon!

Ok so that pretty much catches me up to where I am today… Whangarei (pronounced Fahngeray). But you will have to wait a few days to hear about this one.

Be sure to check out the Facebook page( for more pics and you will hear from me soon…
Peace out chyall!!

Big Cat

Taupo > Tokoroa > Tirau

18 Dec

FIRST: Be sure to check out the Facebook page for the latest pics: !!!!

Day 43 – 51.5 km/32 miles later…
(Day 44 – Rest)

Taupo! After raging the Desert Road and finishing my longest run I was feeling really good. So I used that energy and the motivation from staying with awesome Johanna in Turangi to hit the road the next day for 51.5 km straight!  Being on the road along water once again, took my mind off the task and made the run mostly smooth. That was until I went straight onto the arterial route that takes you to highways away from Taupo instead of towards. I blame this on my buddy Matt Evans for distracting me while running with texts from California on the new app we’ve been using. And of course, this new highway/route was NOT on the outdated maps on Google, so when I attempted to find myself on my phone, it suggested I was in the middle of a scenic reserve! Thanks Google 😛 I basically had to hop a couple fences and trailblaze through chest-high brush to get to a street that made any sense on my “smart” phones’s map.
Anyways, I was set to stay with my buddy-from-Korea, Rawiri’s, mom in Taupo. Her name is Janine and she made the stay fantastic. I had decided to rest there for two nights to recover from the previous long runs and from the agony brought on by dropping my Kindle and shattering the screen 😦 That thing was my lifeline, for every stop I took and at least an hour prior to sleeping, I would be reading to my little heart’s desire.
Janine let me vent about this and numerous other life problems I had been lamenting about on my runs, making it easy to tell she is a seasoned mother. She fed me well, gave me Internet access and a comfy bed to sleep in. Huge thanks to Janine for the fine hospitality.

Day 45 – 66.5 km/41.3 miles later…

To Tokoroa for the longest run yet(by two kilometers :-). This evening I was lucky enough to find a host via couchsurfing, Philip, and he was a cool engineer, raised in Tokoroa, living in a house with several other engineers who all work at a local paper mill. We shared our stories, kicked back, and watched some TV for the evening, pausing now and then to share more stories. It was a really relaxed night and a huge thanks to Philip, Russell and the other residents for letting me crash. Wish you the best of luck in the future and hope your travels/couchsurfing experiences are a ton of fun!

Day 46 – 32 km/19.9 miles later…

I arrived to a little town called Tirau and awaited to get picked up by Mrs. Antoinette Steeghs. I also contacted her through couchsurfing and what a great find it was. The second I met her I could tell it was going to be a nice evening, for she was easy-going and bubbly, making the ice-breaking pass with no thought at all. She drove me to their farm outside of Tirau where I met her husband, Jack and eventually met her two sons, Brett and Rory.
As I was just hanging out and kicking back, Antoinette invited me to join her sons on their boat in the local lake to do some water sports. It had been ages since I was on a lake so I jumped on the chance and an hour later we were out there, without a worry in the world. I elected not to hop on the wakeboard, lest I injure myself, but both boys did, along with Bretts friend who also joined us. We finished up and headed back to their farm for dinner and chatted for several hours about tons of different subjects. Eventually we all had to go to bed but it was a great stop for me and the Steeghs family is certainly a great one. I hope to meet up with them again in the near future!  A huge thanks to Antoinette and Jack for the meals, warm bed, and fun conversation. It is greatly appreciated 🙂

Getting closer to being up-to-date on the blog …Slowly but surely!

Thanks for reading,

Big Cat