super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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the run I never thought would happen actually did

Last saturday afternoon, after approximately 3,562 attempts at getting C. to join me for a run, it finally happened. Sure, the attitude was something like “I’ll run this one time if that’ll shut you up about it” but the fact is that he laced up his gym shoes, picked a route, and headed out to Titirangi with me for a run/walk/run/walk/walk some more/run/swear that we’re never running anymore/run a bit more/walk/run/complain about how stupid running is/run/walk.

He didn’t hate it as much as I thought he would. After all, I was out running with an asthmatic boy who hadn’t run in a very long time (dude never ever has to catch the bus) and who insists on telling me that cars have been invented so people don’t have to run.

In my very first run by myself, a few years ago, I ran a shameful 700m before thinking “screw this”, turning around and heading back home, coughing my lungs out and thinking that the only way I’d ever exercise again would be if TV remove-lifting actually became a sport. On his first attempt, he managed over 2km (possibly 3km, didn’t really track it that accurately). So virtual high five to him! Now I wonder if this experience will ever repeat itself. Stay tuned.


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caturday – killer kitty edition

It was just another quiet morning in Zara’s household. By household, I mean the cardboard box she’s decided to turn into her home.

She had just finished breakfast and was busy chatting with her pink flamingo when, all of a sudden, a hand trying to cuddle her. Cuddles in Zara’s world are often confused with homicide attempts and she was having none of that.

She managed to get her owners to back off and get the heck out of her cardboard box but they were still pointing cameras at her so she grew increasingly upset. She shook her head vehemently as if to say “oh no no no! I’ve warned you enough times” and prepared to attack.

Her owners were never seen again.


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“prepared runner” or dork? a bit of both, really

Chris’ auntie, who lives in Whangarei, spotted this in the Whangarei Report (the area’s local newspaper). That’s yours truly, during last weekend’s half-marathon.

I’m not one to care about what I look like while running (proof of that was the fact that I got given a chocolate at about the 18km mark and still had chocolate all over my lips after crossing the finish line – so classy!), but this is really making me have second thoughts about the hydration pack. Is there a dorkier-looking running accessory? I don’t think so.

Well. I may be a dork but I’m also a “prepared runner”. What the caption writer doesn’t know is that the stupid hydration pack let me down a few times during the run by clogging up and not giving me water. Prepared, schmepared.


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Hiking up to Robert Louis Stevenson’s tomb

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
 

We only had one day in Apia (the capital of Samoa, on Upolu island) before catching the ferry across to Savai’i so the list of things we could see there had to be very limited. On top of that list was seeing the house where Robert Louis Stevenson had lived, as well as the place where he was buried, on top of Mount Vaea.

With no time to waste, we landed in Samoa, picked up our rental car, dropped our bags at the hotel (which we chose partially due to its proximity to this particular attraction) and headed straight there. We didn’t make it into the house (now a museum) but accessed the bush track that leads up to his tomb through the museum grounds anyway.

It was an incredibly hot and humid day and our bodies, still very much used to winter, weren’t coping very well with it. The hike is not long but it is fairly steep so we were glad we had taken plenty of fluids to keep us going. You can choose the short and steep track or the long and supposedly easier one. We chose short and steep because, really, we just wanted to get up there and be done with the hiking part of it.

After a brief moment of panic, when we had to stop for me to regain my dignity and stop crying because I’d seen a big black lizard staring right at me (remembering it now still makes me a little shaky, if I’m honest), we started the steep climb.

Having what felt like a hundred mosquitoes choosing me as their dinner for the day on top of the hill meant that we were only there long enough to take a few photos and admire how lucky RLS is to be forever resting facing those views from the top of the hill (and he didn’t even have to climb it himself!). He loved Samoa and Samoa loved him back – and still does. The name Stevenson is everywhere, proving he’s still a very important part of Samoa’s life.

The day was cloudy and we even got some much welcome rain on our hike back down so I can only imagine how much more spectacular those views must be on a clear day. Not a bad resting spot, Robert Louis. Not bad at all.


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Kerikeri half-marathon recap

sunrise in paihia. me and a sunrise - doesn't happen often.

On Friday evening, three days after returning from Samoa, S. picked me up and we started our approximately 3 hour journey up to Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. We stay at a lovely hotel, thanks to S. finding an amazing deal on a website a month or two ago. We were so excited about having a little roadtrip and a weekend away just for ourselves, I had hardly thought about the real reason we were driving up. Until a few hours before when it really hit me that OMG we were going to be doing it all over again: 21.1km of pain and excitement and sore muscles and content all mashed together.

After getting to the hotel later that evening, we laid out our running gear, prepared our running snacks (jelly beans and a mix of nuts, that I didn’t even end up eating) and got in bed after setting the alarm for 6:03 (to give us time to snooze for five minutes until 6:07 – don’t ask!).

We jumped out of bed on Saturday morning, got ready and took the (roughly) 2km walk to the Paihia ferry building where the bus to the start line was waiting for us. We got to see the sunrise as we were walking down the hill and along the waterfront and it was around then that I started getting super excited about the day.

I was pretty optimistic about this run, mainly because the website said it was a mostly downhill course. I may have gotten overly excited about the word downhill and it wasn’t exactly as I expected. Right at the start, there were two quite big uphills that, along with the sun aiming for the invisible bullseye on the top of our heads, made for a pretty uncomfortable first couple of kilometres. But it did get better.

The first 6km were spent trying to get comfortable and from then on, I managed to get in the zone and just enjoy the course. We were running through backcountry roads with lovely green farms around us and the sun was shining (at times a little too strongly) so life was pretty good. I wore my hydration pack (nerdiest accessory ever?) which was handy because it meant I could run past all the water stations. It did clog up a couple of times, which was weird, and it leaked for a while, leaving a big wet patch on my lower back (so sexy, I know!).

At the 15km mark, I felt myself starting to get a little tired. The “maybe I could walk just for a few seconds” thoughts started to appear and I really didn’t want to walk. I had the jelly beans and nuts mix in the hydration pack but had put a Gu in the pocket of my running pants. It was the first time I ever tried Gu (after a last minute decision to rush out and buy a couple the day before). I’m not sure it did anything for me, to be honest. The vanilla bean taste wasn’t as bad as I’d read it would be and I did stop thinking about walking but it’s not like I ran any faster or anything. I think it had the same effect a couple of jelly beans would have had and it was way messier to eat than those so not sure I’ll be having it again.

The second half of the course was considerably better than the first and it did include a few downhill bits as promised. There were also a lot more people cheering us on during the second half, as we got closer and closer to Kerikeri, which really helped (to the little boy that was giving all the runners high fives, you made my next few hundred metres a lot easier!).

Around the 17km mark, I finished off the Gu and, for some stupid reason, also lost the ability to get any water out of my hydration pack (there may have been a couple of swearwords involved, as I tried to get the damn thing to work). In the end, I just gave up on water completely.

The highlight of the run was seeing another km marker in the distance and thinking “oh, good, that must be the 19km mark” and then getting closer and realising that I was wrong and it was actually the 20km mark! That never ever happens (the opposite, unfortunately, happens to me quite often). I think there may have been an out loud “YES!” at the sight of that marker.

The run finished inside Kerikeri domain. I’m not a fan of running on grass and those final 100m are always the hardest but I was super happy to see the finish line and realise that I had done it again.

we know how to celebrate in style. well, kinda.

We celebrated with hot chips and a couple of beers, sitting in the sun waiting for prize giving to start. The bus then took us back to Paihia where we spent the rest of the day lounging around the pool, eating yummy food and napping, before having one of the earliest nights ever (in bed by 8:55pm, I got a glimpse into what life as an elderly lady will be like).

On sunday morning, I woke up to a whole lot of muscle pain. I spent the day looking like a 70 year-old who had been in a coma and was now re-learning to walk. The weather was amazing, though, and after treating ourselves to some good food, we made our way back to Auckland, stopping over at one of the best beaches I’ve ever found in New Zealand, where we took time to stretch some more.

pretty beach is pretty!

All in all, this was a great half-marathon. I am pretty keen to return to Kerikeri and run the same course again. I managed to beat my time from my first half-marathon in Taupo (albeit in much different conditions this time) and I know I can do even better than I did this time. We are now in the process of choosing a half-marathon to run sometime within the first three months of 2012 (one of the four we’re planning to run next year!) and I know it will be better. Unlike this time, we’ll actually train and be prepared for it. I was definitely not fit enough to do this half-marathon this time (and my body is now reminding me of it with every movement). We didn’t follow a training plan (despite having good intentions), most of our runs were about 5km or 6km only and we ran a grand total of approximately 10km in the two weeks leading to the half. Not ideal.

I feel like it my lack of training could have easily turned this into a nightmare and put me off running for a good while but, luckily, that wasn’t the case at all. I’m super pumped about the idea of picking another half-marathon, drawing up a training plan and do a few long runs leading up to race day. Roll on 2012!


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Throwing coconuts into blowholes

 

The Alofa’aga Blowholes in Savai’i are one of the coolest things to see in Samoa. The whole visit takes only a few minutes but the blowholes are pretty impressive, even on a calm day like the one when we visited, last Saturday.

I’m no expert on these things but the internet says these blowholes are among the most impressive in the world and who am I to doubt the internet, right? We didn’t have much time and had to make a short list of the shortlisted things to see in Samoa but I’m glad we included a visit to this place.

We visited the blowholes during my Saturday of doom – I was sick the entire day (and by sick I mean I felt like I had gone to Savai’i to spend my final day). It’s surprising I even remember seeing these, since I don’t actually remember everything from that day.

Still, I marveled at how high the water goes when it roars through the lava tubes and, most of all, I marveled at John’s braveness as the old Samoan villager threw coconuts into the blowhole, only to have them spat out in his direction just a second or two later. His timing was impeccable and he always moved to the right place, which makes me think he’s quite experienced at it.

The blowholes can be accessed through the village of Taga, in South Savai’i. You will pay a small access fee to one of the villagers and can then park very close to the blowholes.

We had the company of some village kids who no doubt see this phenomenon all the time but still stood near us while we watched it.


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a tropical island getaway got in the middle of everything else…

…and it was equal parts terrifying and divine. But mostly divine.

In any case, normal blogging should resume now. I’ve got a handful of posts I want to write about the three and a half days I spent exploring Samoa but, for now, I’ve got to save my words for NaNoWriMo, which I desperately need to catch up on. I haven’t written a single word for it in over a week (which, yes, is making me rethink the whole thing). I logged onto the website for the first time in days today and the little dashboard thing told me that, at this rate, I’ll be finishing my novel on January 13, 2012. Boy, do I have a crap load of writing to get done in the next few days!

I also didn’t run at all while I was in Samoa and had a pretty pathetic excuse for a run today – the final run before the half-marathon this saturday. I had the best intentions and took all my running gear with me to Samoa but sunday was the only day when I actually had free time to go for a run (after feeling sick as a dog on friday and saturday) and I was told jogging/running was not recommended on sundays as it is a rest day in Samoa. I’m not one to offend anyone’s costumes and beliefs (at least not intentionally) so the running clothes came back to Auckland untouched.

Stress levels? Pretty much back to really freaking high. I’m a lot less fit and a lot more unprepared for this half-marathon compared to the last one (and this is a very objective statement) so I can only count on the track and the weather and the running gods to help me out on the day.

And to think that it was just yesterday that I was taking the photo above…


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I went whale watching and all I got was a full sick bag

a little bit of a whale, a cloudy day and a boat that rocked a lot


I’ve met so many people who have whale-watching as an item on their bucket list so I feel like I’m doing a bit of public service here by announcing that it’s really not all that it’s cracked up to be. This, I believe, is my first travel-related post where I write about an experience I wouldn’t repeat.

But maybe you’ll do it/ you’ve done it and you’ll love it/ you’ve loved it. If you have a strong stomach, which I don’t. And if you enjoy being out at sea, which I don’t. Come to think of it, why did I go whale-watching anyway? Why was it something I wanted to do? I’m not sure. A whole afternoon I will never get back.

My memories of that afternoon are now a bit blurry (thankfully!) but then so was my vision on the day. Seasickness is a real bitch and one that accompanies me every time I step onto a boat. That afternoon was no exception. And the longer we stayed afloat, with the boat rocking like crazy, the more I thought that I was not going to make it back to dry land.

All that could even have been worth it if I’d seen some whales but, in those four or five or 345 hours I spent on that godforsaken boat (it’s hard to judge time when you’re having the worst time of your life, really), all I could do was keep my head between my knees or inside the barf bag, taking the occasional quick peek every time someone on the boat went ‘oooooh’ or ‘aaaaah’ or ‘look!!!’ – and still, the best I saw was what you see in the photo above.

Am I the only one who hated a bucket list experience? Have you ever done something you were really looking forward to do only to be massively disappointed by it?


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Inspired!

After my mini-meltdown about the half-marathon last week, I’m feeling a lot more positive about things this time. It may have something to do with all the marathon excitement that populated the internet in the past few hours (with a friend finishing the marathon in Porto – his first marathon!), people I have met finishing the NYC marathon and other cool stuff like finding out that the fourth place belonged to a Portuguese lady (is she fast or what?). I mean, between the article about the couple who got married *while* running a marathon and this great read about the un-sporty turned runner, there’s a lot of running goodness out there on the interwebs right now.

I am sure it this positive vibe I’m getting is also somewhat related to the fact that, after running 6km on Saturday and feeling like crap, I ran 16km on Sunday and felt amazing. Not sure what happened there but boy was that a good run! I think that’s exactly what I needed: a good long run to put my mind at ease and remind me that, yeah, I’ve done it before so I know it’s not impossible.

On sunday morning, in spite of the cloudy (sometimes rainy) weather, S. and I headed over to St Heliers for what we thought would be a 12km (maybe 14km) run. Our goal, when we started, was to run non-stop for 45 minutes, then stretch, turn around and run another 45 minutes to where we’d started.

The temperature was just ideal and all the other runners around really added to our motivation. Once our 45 minutes were up, we decided we could keep going a bit longer and ran another 5 minutes to the port, where we sat on the grass overlooking the shipping containers and had a good stretch. Then we turned around and ran another 50 minutes back, with a total of 16km (according to her app) or 16.25km (according to mine) done. The best part? We felt great afterwards! And may I add this was a mere 30 something hours after my epic running fail when I met up with her, ran 1km (yes, one!) and had to walk home with some sort of weird stomach pain? I was glad to see that hadn’t stuck around.

The half-marathon is now less than two weeks away and I’m feeling a LOT better about it. We’re making a girls’ weekend out of it, staying at a cool hotel and heading to the street party that the town is putting on after the half-marathon too. I don’t know what I’m more excited about but the important thing is that I no longer feel like Kerikeri is the place where I am going to die. Win!

On a less positive note, I’m so far behind on NaNoWriMo it’s not even funny! I wrote about 300 words last night and felt myself hitting a bit of a dead-end in the story so decided to sit there and let it simmer for a while. Time to stop over-thinking it and get that word count up, seeing as that’s what this challenge is all about anyway.

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