super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Well, it looks like I’m a runner

I had an epiphany the other day. At the hairdresser. Yep, you read that right. I sat on that scary chair facing the scary mirror and the scary guy holding the scissors cheerfully asked me “so what are we going to do today?”. The truth was that I was going to give him far too much money for him to give me a hair style I was going to be able to maintain for about 18 hours after walking out of that place and never be able to replicate by myself ever again. I didn’t tell him that, though. Instead, I just described what sort of cut I was after. He asked how short I’d like it to be and my answer was “short but not so short that I can’t tie my hair up when I run”.

There you go. Epiphany. Right? I mean, the lady sitting two chairs away from me was asking for “curls like these” pointing at a magazine. I wanted him to do his job but not do it so well that I wouldn’t be able to tie my hair up when running. I know, I think I’m stupid too. But anyway, as he was cutting away, I thought about I’d said to him.

You see, I feel like I’ve been running for a while now. In fact, I didn’t run a lot in the last couple of weeks and the result was a crankier-than-usual Vera. Running is as much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth or eating entire family-sized bars of Whittakers mint chocolate (and definitely a lot more of a routine than blowdrying my hair properly but don’t tell that to the guy with the scissors). Running influences my moods as much as coffee and pictures of kittens on the internet. I’ve entered more running events than I can count, have an almost psychotic need to always have an upcoming running event planned and paid for, and would put my racing bib collection right up there on a list of things I’d want to save in case of a house fire. I plan my days around whether or not there will be running involved more often than I plan my runs around what’s planned for the rest of my day. I obsess over running playlists for more hours than I like to admit, my kitchen pantry is filled with trail mix and my browser history makes me look like a Department of Conservation worker from too many hours spent plotting trail runs. Hell, right now, there’s more Gu than beer in my kitchen. So, you know, I’m kind of a runner. Yesterday, I went running after dark for the third day in a row. The first two runs in the dark, on sunday and monday, were also under constant rain. They were short, yes, 5km on sunday and 6.5km on monday. But the fact that I got my poptart-eating ass out of the couch and put my running clothes on while it was raining means that running is more than just something I do whenever it’s convenient.

And I even bet you knew I was going to mention the fact that a couple of months ago I ran 35km (that’s THIRTY-FIVE KILOMETERS, capitals and all) in the bush, which is still right up there in the list of things I’m most proud of (a list that includes things like once riding a bicycle for about 200m in a straight line and that one time I re-watched that scene in Love Actually when Colin Firth talks to Aurora’s family in Portuguese and I didn’t cry*).

But anyway, my point is, I never really felt like much of a runner. Until I asked the hairdresser to leave my hair long enough so I could still tie it up to go running. I guess that’s what makes me a runner, more than the kilometers pounding the pavement, the playlists, the racing bibs, the methodically packaged trail mix bags and even my newly-found tolerance to stomach crap like Gu. I’m a runner because I make running a priority even with things that aren’t quite so obviously running-related. It also makes me a potential clinical case but that’s an entirely different blog post.

And yes, I know this has been a major cliffhanger throughout the whole post so I’ll put your minds at ease: he did leave it long enough. Major relief, I know, I felt it too.

*much


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Hiking the cross-island track with Pa

The other day, while sorting out folders in the external hard drive, I came across the pictures of the morning spent hiking the cross-island track in Rarotonga (Cook Islands) last year. It is still one of the best hikes I’ve ever done and I remember that morning like it happened last week (sadly, it didn’t), when we made our way up to Te Rua Manga (commonly known as The Needle), through luscious South Pacific jungle.

We got picked up from our hotel early in the morning by Pa with his friend Susan, in Susan’s car. It was about 8AM and we could already tell it was going to be another scorching hot day. “So I read online the hike is supposed to take about four hours,” I said to Pa while Susan’s sports car drove on the only road on the island. “That’s if you do the suicide trail. With Pa, it’ll take you two and a half hours,” he replied from the front passenger seat, while I tried to get over my issue with people referring to themselves in the third person. As we drove through the village, it became fairly obvious that Pa is a local celebrity, given the number of “hey Pa!” and waves we saw. “Pa coming through! Pa coming through!” he kept shouting out the window, as Susan’s sports car zoomed through all the scooters on the road.

We had biscuits and water in our backpacks but Pa told us there was no need for any of that. That same morning, he had gotten up and smoked some fresh tuna himself and had also made us smoked tuna sandwiches with freshly picked lettuce and apple. On an another container, he had packed us up some bananas and starfruit (or carambola).

Pa recommends sturdy walking boots for the hike – and we quickly learnt why, as we started the steep 400m climb through intricate roots. Our guide, however, did it in jandals, even though, as he told us, he prefers to do it barefoot.

The track was much steeper than I had predicted and, in some places, there wasn’t much of a track at all. In some parts of the hike, there were so many little tracks going off in all directions that it made me wonder how anyone managed to do the trek without a local guide. And yet, carrying the lunch of the two sort-of-fit-but-not-really westerners behind him, Pa climbed up to the Needle and then down again, always at the slow but steady pace he had warned us about in the beginning. We made a few stops when he told us about the fauna and flora of the area, as well as many stories of his over 4000 times on the trek. We made our way through intricate roots – “they are your staircase” – and sweetened our way through the jungles with fresh guavas right off the trees.

He is, as he describes himself, “a spiritual man”. And also a herbalist, natural medicine guru, an endurance athlete, and fluent in several languages. He told us about his years away from the island, living in Germany and about his many children, scattered around the world, living their dreams. Always looking ahead, Pa told us of those who didn’t survive the trek and those who were so transformed by it that they returned to their countries but are still in touch with the guide on a regular basis. He told us about the famous TV personality in New Zealand, who hiked the track on the first day and, seeing Pa wearing no shoes, decided to do the same. And then proceeded to book two other cross-island treks in that same week.

That morning with us was Pa’s 4011th hike to the Needle, known in Rarotonga as the point of male energy. The Dalai Lama considered the Needle one of the eight remaining energy points in the world. Years ago, Pa led the Dalai Lama and his monks to the base of the rock, where they buried an urn with the 900-year-old remains on an ancient master. Pa pointed us to the urn, hidden under a fern.

From the top, the panoramic views show you an infinite sea and how the rugged jungle shapes the island. “I’ve pissed on each one of these mountains,” says Pa, pointing at all the high peaks in front of us and somehow managing to take away the poetry of the moment. “What about the Needle? Have you been right at the very top?” C. asked, looking at the sign saying “climb at your own risk” and the chain next to it. “Pa has climbed it 22 times! But I don’t go that way,” says Pa, looking at the chain. He points at the gap in the middle of the rock, hinting that that’s where he starts his climb. “Do you wear any climbing gear?” C. asks, later telling me he could tell what the answer would be. “Climbing gear? I wasn’t born with any gear! Pa climbs with a grass skirt,” he says, and then laughs, knowing damn well his answer is entertaining for his newfound white friends.

But then there was silence. It lasted a long time as we sat up on the top contemplating the views. I was the one who broke it after a while, when I had to ask him if he realised how lucky he was. I didn’t mean just him, I meant every single person living on that island. With his back leaning on the Needle rock, his eyes looking right into the sea, he said: “Having travelled to other countries and lived in other places, yes, I know exactly how lucky I am”.

If you’re visiting Rarotonga, make sure you get in touch with Pa for one of the best eco tourism experiences of your life. He lives up on the mountain but comes down to take people on the track about three times a week (he opened an exception for us and took us alone on a Saturday, even though he normally takes people in groups and only during the week). For more information or to make a booking, click here.

 


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a running update on all the running I haven’t been doing

rip, dirty old shoes. lets hit the trails, you pink beauties!

Oh hi, glad you’re still there. I know, it’s been a while.

Remember how I had a super-sucky half marathon in Wellington last month? Well, what followed were three weeks of a whole lot of nothing, with a couple of shameful single digit runs and a distinct lack of motivation to go any further.

I tried to cheer myself up and rekindle my love for running by spending more than I’d like to admit in a long overdue pair of running shoes. My faithful Mizuno Wave Nirvana 7 saw me through a handful of half-marathons, a 35km in the bush and numerous other training runs in a little over a year. In total, I calculate they did about 1200km (or slightly over that), much more than the recommended distance for a pair of running shoes. I loved every kilometer in them (ignore the big fat exaggeration for the sake of the nice obituary for the shoes – I actually did flat out hate some of those kilometers) and it’s now time to let them rest in peace. I’ve upgraded to the Mizuno Wave Nirvana 8 (same type of support, different colours). They’re pretty, too pretty, and I’m desperate to get them dirty.

While busy not getting any running done, I also signed up for the superlong course of the XTERRA trail run in Whitford on August 12 (21.8km with a not to shabby elevation chart and a toughness factor of 9/10 as rated by the organisers). I’ll be happy to bag another half marathon (and a trail one!) the day before I turn another year older awesomer. In the mean time, I’ve also guaranteed that, should I go completely nuts between now and December, I have a spot on The Goat run. I signed up for it because it sells out quick (in fact, it did not long after I got my registration in) but I’m yet to commit 100% to it. You see, it’s in Tongariro National Park (which just yesterday was in the news due to abnormal seismic activity), it starts at pretty high elevation and has a 1000m ascent over some of the toughest terrain to run on. No, you don’t have to tell me how silly that sounds.

Note that the trend here is that I’ve been spending a whole lot of money on running-related stuff but not actually doing any running. If the total number of dollars spent actually compared to the number of kilometers run, then I wouldn’t be feeling like such a slob.

Until yesterday. A short 5km with S., who’s also been on a running hiatus, led to the decision to shape up again. We want to enjoy the upcoming trail half marathon and want to go back to feeling like we can actually do this sort of stuff. So stay tuned because the bright pink on the new shoes should not stay bright for longer.


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10 things I learned during the Wellington Half Marathon

1. Flat courses aren’t actually easier

I spent this entire time wishing I could run a half marathon on a flat course. I got all excited when I saw that the route of the Wellington one was flat as a pancake. Turns out that pancakes as metaphors for course altitude are actually pretty boring (as oppose to real pancakes you get to eat, which are, of course, more than a bit awesome). A flat course means your body is always performing the same movements, with the same force (or, in my case, lack thereof). Boring. This flat course taught me how to love the hills.

2. No training = No PR

It’s actually a pretty obvious equation, when you think about. I didn’t. I came out of that mammoth 35k in the bush at the end of May and barely moved for the following couple of weeks, thinking I had time to train for Wellington. I didn’t. Next thing I knew, it was time to fly to the capital and harden up. Not my worst time but certainly not my best. Mental note: to run faster, run often.

3. Do not go to a yoga session (or anything you haven’t done in months) 3 days before the half marathon

Your body will ache. Three days isn’t actually enough time for me to get it all back to normal, as it turns out, especially since my back had already been hurting. On that note…

4. If your back hurts, running is not going to fix it.

Contrary to what my mind likes to tell me, running is not the solution to all of life’s problems. Almost all of them, yes, but not quite. Like back pain. Running made it worse. Oh-so-much-worse. Voltaren is my new BFF.

5. If you are told not to wear the same pair of running shoes longer than 700km, don’t be a tight-ass about it, buy a new pair of shoes and shut the hell up.

Running 1200km+ on the same pair of shoes and then assuming they’ll still be comfortable for a further 21km? Stupid move.

6. You better just come to terms with the fact that you’re not going to enjoy some runs. It’s okay.

You wake up some days and you don’t really feel like running, for one reason or another. It’s okay. Sometimes that happens to be the day you not only paid the entry fee to a half marathon but you also flew to that city for that particular reason. Harden up. Whatever. Get over it. Onto the next one.

7. Don’t panic about the weather.

Just because you nearly got blown off a pier while trying to walk along it the day before, it does not mean you can’t wake up to beautiful sunshine and almost no wind the next day. Case in point: Wellington’s schizophrenic weather which was very much a pleasant surprise on race day. Stop worrying, damn it.

8. Good or bad, you’re 21km closer to where you want to be.

I know this sounds like terribly hippie new-age crap but it’s a comforting thought for when you finish a half marathon that you didn’t particularly enjoy and that leaves you wondering why you even bother.

9. Running events are the perfect excuse for a weekend away.

I may not have had the best time during the run but the weekend in Wellington was all kinds of lovely. Flying to another city just because of a running event might sound silly to some but that’s only if you make it solely about that couple of hours and nothing else.

10. Stop whining. 

Running 21km and crossing the finish line is pretty damn awesome. No one cares that it took you five minutes longer compared to your previous PR. You shouldn’t either.

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