super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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adventures in trail running – XTERRA trail series – Shakespear Park

On Sunday morning, we made our way up to Shakespear Park (about an hour north from home) to enter the first in this year’s series of XTERRA trail running events, the final step in our training for the Big O Trail Run in Rotorua tomorrow.

It was only my second ever organised trail run, as we’ve been mostly picking trails and running on our own, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I know I didn’t expect so many people to be at the park for the run (the only other organised trail event we entered had about 15 people). Shakespear Park, on the other hand, was full of runners keen to get their shoes dirty on the trail.

I’m definitely going to have a go at a couple of other events in the series but I hope they sort out the registration pack pick-up process – we had pre-registered and had to pick up our race bib and timing chip on the day and queued up for nearly one hour. The only reason we didn’t queue for longer was because we ended up having to jump the queue and get in front of people doing the short course (which started later), to avoid missing our race briefing and even the start of the race.

Aside from that small hiccup with registration, the whole event was pretty well organised. The location, for a start, couldn’t be better. A little out of the way for this West Aucklander here but isn’t discovering new places what trail running is all about? It may have only been 11.5km (not that much compared to the 35km we’ll have to face tomorrow), but we got to run through some truly amazing scenery – bush tracks, paddocks, beaches… stunning views from the top of the hills, as far as your eyes could see (before the salty sweat threatened to burn them, that is).

We thought it would be wise to run the mid-course (11.5km) rather than a longer option, as we were so close to race day (less than a week by then, less than a day by the time I got around to finish this post) and we needed to give our muscles time to recover. I am clearly not used to the thought of running a super long distance trail run. Every time I saw a runner along the way who was doing the longer course, I thought to myself “damn, these people are hardcore” and then realised that in less than a week I’d be having to do a lot more than that. And so, of course, I panicked. I panicked because I was having my butt kicked by a course that was less than 12km long.

The whole run was a very good reminder of how different trail running is from road running. At 6km, a really steep incline had me and pretty much everyone else around walking up (and not even walking straight). The hill seemed to go on forever and there was a point when I seriously wanted to move to the side and just sit on the ground and give up on life. My legs felt heavy like they were two iron bars. I kept reminding myself of how it was all a big mental game and how I should be ashamed to ever lose a game against myself. So I carried on up. And up. And up. Telling myself that every uphill meant there was a downhill to come.

The run finished after a small stretch running along the beach with the gorgeous views distracting me from the pain. We crossed the finish line and while S. went for a dip in the ocean, I queued up for our well-earned cold ciders.

It was the perfect morning for some trail running. And the running shoes are only muddy enough to remind us of a good time.


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people are awesome

Will you just check out that fully-coloured progress bar?

Three weeks after starting our fundraising mission for KidsCan, and one week before the big day, we reached our $1000 target! I am super thankful to everyone who has contributed and will be thinking of them and their support when I’m out on that trail feeling like giving up. So thanks all for being amazing and helping us out. The fundraising page will be up for another couple of days so if anyone is keen to take us over our goal, that’d be awesome-times-infinity, of course. In any case, one of the beers I’ll have right after the run this coming Saturday will definitely be for all of you who’ve donated.


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the home stretch and delusional marathon dreams

random photo from our first ever trail run which happened in the same area as this weekend’s run, about seven months ago. We hated it then. Good news is that we didn’t hate it quite so much this time. YAY!

This saturday morning, I glanced at the clock on my computer screen just as the digits changed from 8:59 to 9:00. Oh shit, I thought to myself. It dawned on me that, exactly 14 days from that very moment, I’d be on the start line for the hardest most challenging run I’ve ever done. And so, in good old vera fashion, I panicked a little bit inside. And then I calmed the hell down because, really, what are you gonna do, right?

I’ve spent the past month and a half training for that day which is now a mere 12 days away. I should have trained for longer but that is how late we heard about and signed up for the run. I should also probably have run more. But if you take into consideration the fact that, two days ago, I couldn’t even bend my right knee and spent a super rock ‘n roll saturday night at home icing it, then I guess it’s fair to say I’ve been working my way through this self-imposed training schedule. And all those “I should have” are not worth stressing about anymore.

On Sunday morning, we clocked 17km along Riverhead forest, in West Auckland. It still amazes me that I have so many options for trail running so close to home. I guess that really is part of what living in New Zealand is all about. But, anyway, I digress.

After that run, we headed home and spent some time looking up marathons online. There are some amazing runs out there in the big wide world and we figure our first marathon needs to be in a pretty special location. We’re toying with some ideas at the moment for marathons we can run in a couple of years’ time. For example, we found one that crosses three countries. Between that and the French marathon that has wine stations instead of water stations, it’ll be a hard decision. And then there’s also the Great Wall of China marathon. Walking along the wall is challenging enough but it is, to this day, one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Running a marathon on it would definitely top that by quite a few extra awesomeness points.

At one point, I looked at the link for a marathon in Siberia and said it would be amazing to do something like that. Stacey quickly pointed out that I had just described running 42.2km across Siberia as “amazing” which I guess should be enough to claim some sort of mental health disability benefit.

And now that I’ve rambled on enough about training and countdowns and fun marathons that are too far from my budget and OMFG ONLY 12 DAYS TO GO, I’m going to remind you that you can still donate and help us raise money for KidsCan. Do you hate New Zealand children? I didn’t think so.


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route changes and a new heart-attack-shaped elevation chart

The Big O Trail Run is now a big X, due to some necessary last minute changes to the route. Blame it on the new landowner of part of the original route (which circled Lake Okataina), who decided he/she didn’t want any stinking runners going through his/her property. This is the bit where I kind of want to write a fairly long rant about that person’s attitudes towards a running event that had been happening there for years but I’m going to stay all zen and shit and not say a word about it. On the bright side, we will now run past the same point (the event centre) twice during the run, meaning we will not only see people twice but we will also have a chance to refuel if we need to (and I definitely will need to because there is no way I can carry enough water for 35km).

The changes to the course also mean, obviously, changes to the elevation chart. I had all my fingers and toes crossed for that bastard hill at the start of the original route to disappear but… nope! It’s still here, in all its steep glory. I have never in my life run 35km, let alone 35km offroad. But to be honest, the elevation chart scares me far more than the distance. Look at all those threatening pointy bits!

Sixteen days to the big day. We continue to do light runs on weekdays and longer runs on weekends, as per our super amateur self-imposed training plan. We will do one long trail run this coming weekend (location TBC) and the, the following weekend (the final weekend before the run of doom), we will enter the Shakespear Regional Park trail run, part of the XTERRA Auckland Trail Run series. After that, it’ll be tapering and carb loading time (quite possibly my two favourite parts of the training).

We’re also continuing to collect donations for KidsCan here so do donate if you feel like doing something nice (or if I know where you live and you don’t want any unpleasant surprises).


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on why I’m going to harden up and become a running commuter (sometimes)

I’m not a dumb person. No, really, I swear. Yet, for some crazy reason, it took me over a year to actually decide to get organised and run home from work. It’s not that genius of an idea now, is it? I mean, running with a purpose, from point A to point B – that’s pretty straightforward. And really, it’s actually quite logical to think of running as a means of getting somewhere, more than just running for the sake of running. However, the thought had only crossed my mind for a few seconds a couple of times before quickly being discarded because the logistics of it all just sounded too complicated. Spoiler alert: they actually aren’t.

On Wednesday, I bought the hydration backpack that I’m going to wear during the run of doom on OMG TWENTY ONE DAYS. It’s a 9L backpack (that includes the 2L hydration bladder) so it’s got room for a few things without being too bulky. I wanted to try it out but had no real reason to, with my running buddy going away for the weekend and us being a few days away from hitting the trails for a proper long training run again. That’s when the little lightbulb lit up above my head. I could use the backpack to commute home from work. Freaking genius, I thought.

I realise it’s not something everyone can do but I live less than 10km from work so, really, any excuse I can come up with should be overruled by the fact that I’m just a big fat wuss. There are actually two routes that I can choose from (short and hilly-ish or long (well, 12km) and flat). On Friday morning, I wore clothes that I could easily fold into my backpack (plus a long coat that I had to leave at work) and got on the bus to work with my backpack. At home, I left my usually heavy-as-bricks shoulder bag with most of the stuff I usually carry (clearly unnecessarily). The backpack had some food, my debit card, ID, keys, iPod, phone and phone charger, as well as running clothes. I got changed into these after work and headed out the door before it started getting dark.

I chose short & hilly and ran 8.5km home. These days, it gets dark pretty early in Auckland so it was almost pitch black by the time I got home but the short route is also busy with lots of cars so I never felt unsafe. It was cold, though, and that was the main reason I headed for the short route rather than the long one when I left the office.

After the cold (must remember to pack an extra layer), the second most annoying thing about this commute were the traffic lights. Of course I got them all red. I could see the sky getting darker and darker as I waited for the lights to turn green for pedestrians while I looked at the driving commuters all nice and warm in their air conditioned cars. I got home about 45 minutes after leaving the office. It seemed longer than that because, once it started getting dark, there wasn’t much for me to look at anyway so it got a bit boring. But then I realised that, on some days (most days, actually), that is pretty much the duration of my commute home anyway. Except this time I managed to save money, squeeze in an outdoors workout (and skipping the late night gym workout) and lower my carbon footprint. Because I didn’t feel like I had to workout that evening, I also got extra time to do whatever else I wanted to do (read: lie on the couch eating pop tarts and re-watching HIMYM episodes. Don’t judge!).

It was only 8.5km but it made all the difference in my training week overall and, for that reason too, it is something I am going to make an effort to incorporate into my routine at least a couple of times a week. I don’t like the idea of running to work in the morning (having to shower at work would mean I’d have to get up earlier and be more organised, two things that are never going to happen). But an evening commute sounds easy enough and means I can no longer use the short winter days or work as an excuse not to run. This way, work actually almost becomes a reason to run.

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