Phil “Big Cat” Guerrero is in NZ…finally! Part 2 of the latest…

8 Sep

New Zealand thus far…

Hey everyone

The last two months were more than I had expected… and that’s an understatement.

I arrived with no expectations. Which should not be mistaken for low expectations, for no expectations is simply admitting I had no idea what I was getting into. While in Korea, fortune put me in direct contact with real-life New Zealanders. Not just the ones you see on that one TV show with 2 Kiwis in New York (turns out one of those Kiwis, Jemaine, lives about 10 minutes away from my house). As I developed my plans to conquer NZ, I began asking my new New Zealander friends questions about where I could get the best anthropological view of the country while training and finding a good time here or there. The general consensus: go to Wellington, or Welly as we call it here. Best decision I made lately.

Just a taste of what I'll be running past!

Just a taste of what I'll be running past!

Anyways, I touched down in Auckland then hopped on the first bus to Welly, catching some proper examples of the NZ outdoor sight-seeing prowess on the 11-hour ride to the capital city.

I truly cannot wait to run this place. This terrain forbids dull moments.

I got in around 7:30 PM and rolled my suitcase to the apartment of one of two contacts I semi-knew in Welly, Jonathan Aumonier-Ward (A.K.A. JAWS). Him along with Amy, his partner and fellow frisbee fanatic, and her brother/another frisbee fiend, Hamish, allowed me to crash on their comfy couch until I got settled. It took a few days, but I found my own place in a house in the Mt. Victoria neighborhood ( ) per the advice of JAWS and friends. And this place, ladies and gents, has TRUE character (haha). I won’t go into detail but if you are that interested shoot me an email. But, I will tell you about my new found friend/flatmate (that’s what Kiwis call people who you rent a house or apartment with). Blair is a charismatic guy who really went out of his way to take me around and show me what’s up in Welly. When I had no friends, he was there and made my adjustment to my new home and city like butter, baby. Mad props to Blair and his girlfriend, Charlotte (AKA Charlie), for being super nice people and welcoming me to NZ. Also huge thanks and shout out to JAWS, Amy, Hamish, and Carin, the gnarly Norwegian who bought me my first beer in Welly and has become a swell friend 🙂

Now I had to find a job. And it seemed like it took FOREVER. From the day I got into Welly, I began to apply to several temp agencies for work. After having multiple entrance/orientation interviews with said agencies, work started to filter in. The first few jobs were restaurant/cafeteria related, ranging from being a cashier at a seafood takeaway joint, to acting as a kitchen hand at a prestigious, all-girls, Christian high school. Seriously. And I swear I had nothing to do with getting placed at the latter job. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye! Eventually, I got set up as a temp administrator at the Environmental Protection Authority of NZ.  Basically, I process applications of people or organizations that want to bring or produce “Hazardous Substances” in NZ (

Waterfront running!

Waterfront running!

I actually really like it and the desk job allows me to give my legs a bit of rest during the day. Luckily, it turned out to be a 2 month assignment, so this helped the living situation and is now giving me a chance to experience more of Welly (instead of eating all my meals at home).

Finally, to the main reason I am in NZ. Running! The running here is second-to-none. Not many places have the access to solid, luscious trails, hills that leave you begging for more, and continuity that makes for endless routes. Everyday I am faced with one of life’s toughest decisions: should I hit the merciless trails that lead to breath-taking views or should I tread the waterfront that is just as “sweet as”? (“Sweet as” = Sweet in American speak; but you can pretty much substitute any adjective for “sweet”, i.e. _____ as = ______)  Before I go on, I got to give a special shout out to Liam for being the only runner willing to join me on my sporadic runs.  Mad props to him for Pr’ing in his yearly marathon a few weeks ago!

Sample rabbit hole...and they get way better

Sample rabbit hole...and they get way better

One of my first trail runs brought me to a scene that made me feel like Alice approaching the rabbit hole. The bushes and trees grew to roof the trail, making it more of a natural tunnel. Add in the constant, and sometimes unpredictable, turns and you have yourself a gloriously challenging trail run. As I run more trails, I come across multiple tunnels like this and I charge them every chance I get.

Wellington Wind Victim :-(

Wellington Wind Victim 😦

So, turns out, Wellington is the windiest city in NZ. Yeah, ridiculous winds. It no longer surprises me when I walk down a street, pass a driveway between two buildings, and nearly get launched into oncoming traffic by the wind raging down the inter-building gap. Needless to say, a quick adjustment was necessary, especially when you are pitter-pattering around with a backpack that uncannily acts like a sail.

Snow on Lambton Quay(pronounced "key"), a popular street in downtown Welly

Snow on Lambton Quay(pronounced "key"), a popular street in downtown Welly

One notable experience with the wind was when the snow came to Welly. I don’t know when it snowed in Welly last, but you have to get excited when you are seeing snow fall into a saltwater bay. The last time I ran in the snow was when I started training in Seoul, South Korea when the city froze over and snow ran rampant for over 2 months.  I figured I wouldn’t have a snow-running-in-a-foreign-country opportunity again, so I hit the bay-side track and enjoyed my time in the snow. That was until the clouds went schizo and began hurling rain and hail, instead of the light-hearted,powdered sugar of the gods. Add in the crazy Welly winds and you have yourself a punishing run. But I pulled a Gloria Gaynor, got home, jumped in a hot shower and took the big spoon role around my heater until feeling returned to my limbs. I don’t regret taking that run, but I’m glad it’s over and that I had a relatively warm place to recover.

This is getting long and I have to get some shut-eye before my next training run. So, I will let you loyal readers go.

Of course, follow the event on Twitter (!/GivePhil5 ) if you aren’t already, and be sure to “Like” our facebook page ( )!

I hope you all enjoyed the entry and there are no words to describe how much I appreciate everyone’s support. Thank you!


Philip “Big Cat” Guerrero


One Response to “Phil “Big Cat” Guerrero is in NZ…finally! Part 2 of the latest…”

  1. Terri de la Cuesta September 8, 2011 at 12:47 PM #

    I’m thinking….at the end of it all….a book….chronicling your big adventure!

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