Frost is in one of her homes in Aramoana, New Zealand. She pans the computer screen around the room and out the window. There’s water immediately outside. It’s winter in New Zealand and Frost does a quick conversion. It’s 15 degrees Celsius, or 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It sounds great, but Frost insists that she’s a summer person and back-to-back winters, in the U.S. first and now in New Zealand, aren’t her wish.
Frost, daughter Skylar, and husband Ron ‘Braz’ Braselton endured a 14-day quarantine to get here. Married to Braz, an American, in 2016, Frost hasn’t yet cemented permanent residency in the U.S. and her time in the states on her most recent visa was up just as COVID-19 was shutting down international travel. The family jetted to Auckland, and holed up in a government-ordered hotel. They were given limited access to the outside, always under supervision of security, but Frost called their hotel location fortunate.
“She did amazing,” Frost said of Skylar on the flight. Air New Zealand has a unique seating option, Economy Skycouch, and the lack of many passengers meant that the whole family each had their own Skycouch. Traveling before COVID-19 tests were readily available, the group’s temperatures were checked upon arrival, and then absent symptoms, they were assigned to a hotel. “We could go out for an hour at a time, but all of New Zealand was on lockdown and there was no one around. There was a big church next door and we could do a 400-meter loop around the carpark,” she explained. Arrivals randomly assigned to a downtown hotel were limited to much smaller parking lots for their already limited time outdoors.
Parenting in such a situation must’ve been especially challenging, but Frost says they managed well. “I took a big bag of toys, and the government gave us some toys and books. We got creative and turned the furniture upside down, made forts, and slides. And then she’d walk around the carpark too, play in puddles, with stones and leaves. It was nice to see her connect to nature like that. It was amazing how you could get through the day like that quickly.”
Frost and Braz alternated runs outside, and Frost surprised herself. “If you’d have told me before that I’d run eight kilometers around a carpark I would’ve shriveled up and died. But I was amazed at how I could get my head into it and just run. Laps around the carpark,” she shakes her at the incredulity. “It’s like those people running track ultramarathons and 24-hour races. I always thought they were absolutely nuts, but now, it’s like, ‘I get this,'” Frost cheered, and then quickly caught herself. “I’m not saying I want to do that. But I’m intrigued.” She ran about 40k that week, in the parking lot. “My Strava looks hilarious, it’s just ding, ding, ding, ding,” Frost laughed.
Quarantine complete, they flew to Christchurch and drove further south.
“It’s amazing, New Zealand crushed COVID-19,” Frost boasted of her home country and the collective national effort. “There were zero cases until yesterday, a whole week with no cases. The entire country was on lockdown for a month, except for essential workers. There are two cases now, from the U.K., in quarantine.” Everything’s open now, except the borders to tourists, and that makes it easier for those in New Zealand to enjoy some of the sites typically filled with travelers.
“We took a road trip to Central Otago last week, Queenstown and Wanaka,” she said. I know what Queenstown’s all about, but Frost swore off a bungy jump or three and instead took her daughter to a kiwi sanctuary. “Most New Zealanders haven’t seen a kiwi, and Skylar’s obsessed with birds,” she quipped. The kiwi is the national symbol for New Zealand, but the nocturnal bird is elusive in the wild.
And then really capitalizing on the absence of tourists, Frost went to Fergburger. “It’s this famous burger joint, it normally takes three hours to get a burger. IT TOOK NINE MINUTES,” Frost reveled–a week later–at the lack of a wait. “It’s amazing, the world’s best burger, just amazing.” A burger is an American thing, so I hate to concede the world’s best title to New Zealand, and we agreed to disagree on global burger rankings.
Everything’s open in New Zealand though, and that includes races up to 100 people. Frost toed the line the previous week at the Mt. Difficulty Ascent. Fifty runners started the 25k, and an equal amount the 44k. Frost went for the shorter event. “I’m still absolutely not in shape, but it was great to race hard, nice to get it done. It was my first race since having Skylar.” The runners in each race started together, but there was no awards ceremony or pre-race briefing, and aid stations were adjusted. There are lots of races coming up, she says, and talks about jumping in some local cross-country races this year too. “The distances are cut in half for oldies like me,” she jokes, in reference to the masters 35-plus category.
Frost is sponsored by Merrell, and also leads Trail Run Adventures as a family business. Braz also guides, and Frost thrives as a mother and absolutely wouldn’t be away from her daughter, so Skylar travels the world too. The couple both worked as guides earlier, but were eager to share their own ideas and own places and launched the venture four years ago. Frost raves about Madeira, the Portuguese island northwest of Morocco. It was there that they got engaged. Their guided trips aren’t limited to trail running, and Madeira’s variety stands out. There’s surfing, canyoning, mountain biking, and yoga too, and the hotel shines with its local cuisine and on-site vineyard. “I’ve fallen in love with the island, the people, the food,” she swears. “The cuisine is just divine, and the pool, massage, it’s where we got started and we use local guides who know the best of the best trails.” The company was up to eight trips a year before COVID-19 halted travel.
Frost has a soft spot for Nepal and Bhutan. “I’ve gone to Nepal four times, always for two months at a time, just with a small backpack. You just get back to the simplicity of life there. It’s just huge there, a reminder of how big the world is. The mountains, the rivers, and how tiny humans are. You don’t get such a good reminder of that as in the Himalayas,” she explained, but then spoke to what brings her back. “The Nepalese love with all their heart. They don’t have a lot, but they love to share [what they do have].”
Absent travel, Trail Run Adventures jumped on the virtual-race craze with a points-based challenge built around mileage and vertical gain. “Some people have intrinsic motivation, and some don’t, and we’re happy to help with that.” Frost herself cedes to needing a motivation boost at times too. “I was never one to be connected to my watch or data,” Frost said, but her Polar watch and age have changed some of that. “After having Skylar, it was good to have someone or something to give me motivation, and it’s amazing what watch technology can do.”
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