super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Auckland Half Marathon recap

It was 6AM and I had been up for 1h30. That’s gotta be a good enough excuse for this pose.

Suppose you had asked me a couple of days ago if I was able to get out of bed at 4:30AM. I don’t know why you’d ask me that either but just play along, please. Anyway, I probably would have laughed at the idea for a solid minute or two before letting you know that, no, it was never going to happen. Especially on a Sunday.

Yesterday, Sunday, my alarm woke me up at 4:30. It was pitch black outside and the cat gave me hateful look when I accidentally woke her up. I couldn’t really blame her. There didn’t seem to be enough coffee in the world to help me cope with that kind of sacrifice. But then I got into my bright clothes, green tutu included, swallowed some coffee and a bagel and the world seemed a little better.

As we made our way to the ferry terminal in downtown Auckland to catch the ferry to Devonport, where the start line was, the only non-running people around us hadn’t actually gone home from their night out yet. I felt less normal than the girls in dresses three sizes too small trying not to vomit on the footpath. It didn’t matter that I was wearing a running headband that said “I run so I can drink”, I was still among the weird people getting up at that time to go for a run. And I liked it.

We arrived in Devonport with plenty of time to spare, the sun was yet to come up and the single-digit temperature was trying to disguise the warm day we’d have ahead of us. The only consolation was that we got to be near the start line to watch the participants of the full marathon. I couldn’t imagine what was going through people’s minds as they got ready to run 42.2km but seeing them certainly helped me get excited about the idea of running half of that. There was a little schadenfreude in knowing that at least I wasn’t in their shoes.

Plus, I was about to run another half marathon in the city I live in these days (this time, across the bridge), only three weeks after running an amazing half marathon in the city that will always be home. So life was good. I just wished all these thoughts were coming to my mind a couple of hours later, after a longer night’s sleep.

We started off running at 7AM. Approximately 5 seconds later, I hit the button on the GPS watch to start tracking and it immediately crashed. It refused to come on again so I had to resort to the iPod, which is far less accurate. I got over my little first world problem pretty quickly. The bright tutu meant that I got a lot more support from other people (runners and watchers) throughout the run. I quickly realised that running in costumes is definitely the way to go, if you need a little extra motivation. And if you don’t mind looking ridiculous in public, which I obviously don’t.

The good weather meant we had thousands and thousands of people watching and cheering for all of us, which was, as usual, more helpful than any training session. This was handy considering my training turned out to be non-existent. Somehow, time flew by since Lisbon three weeks ago and I did nothing but a couple of short runs. I figured nothing could be worse than running in that Lisbon heat and I was right.

I also took a chance and decided to break the old “don’t try anything new” rule for running events and wore my bright pink compression socks on this run. As silly as it is to take a risk on race day, this one ended up working really well. Over 24 hours later, my legs are feeling like I didn’t even run yesterday. So there’s another lesson – compression socks are a go. Shame they are so stupidly expensive but I guess I can survive with just one kidney.

This was half marathon number 5 for this year and it is now time to choose the next one for next month. I am tempted to repeat Kerikeri but also feel like I should go for a new course. Options include the Rotovegas Half Marathon, The Speight’s West Coaster and the The Great Cranleigh Kauri Run in the Coromandel. Not sure which one (or ones?) will be chosen yet. All I know is that all this running thing is giving my credit card a real workout.


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Lisbon Rock n Roll Half Marathon recap

Cropped out of the picture is the half eaten Magnum ice cream I was holding in that same hand. Because ice cream is just what you need after two Gu energy gels. Silly Vera.

Had it not been written in 1859, I’d say Dickens’ famous “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” quote from A Tale of Two Cities was about my half marathon in Lisbon a couple of weeks ago.

And now that we’re past the snobbiest introductory paragraph in the history of running recaps, we can move on to the reasons that made me say that and forget that I actually quoted 19th century British literature in a running post.

The Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Lisbon was my absolute favourite race ever. I very much doubt anything will be able to top that any time soon. It’s not your fault, races in the rest of the world. This one had lots going for it. For starters, I got to run for a bit along the longest bridge in Europe, a bridge which is about 10 minutes from where my family lives. I remember that bridge being built and slowly reshaping the landscape. No one is ever allowed to walk or cycle there and, yet, it was the start line for this run. I was more excited about that than the eHarmony girl is excited about cats. I want that bridge in a basket with a bow tie (weirdest sentence ever I’ve ever written? Probably.)

So on top of the coolest start line ever, and being a really well organized event, what else did this run have going for it? Well, I was home. My BFF was running it with me and it was his very first half marathon. My mum got to drop my off at the bus to the start line. My family was watching on the street as I ran past. I got to run along the streets of the world’s most beautiful city. I got to finish that run and walk to my grandma’s house and eat one of my favourite summer meals ever, because I had asked her to make it and she never says no (one of the criteria that got her the title of world’s best grandmother). Do I need to give you any more reasons? I didn’t think so.

It was also the worst of times, though. Lisbon, in all its end of September glory, is one stinking hot mess. This was my sixth half marathon ever and fourth this year (on road, excluding offroad ones) and it was my slowest one so far. It started off great, I avoided the much dreaded stitch pain and the adrenaline and excitement got me along and off the bridge in pretty high spirits. Seeing the family in the first 4km really helped but, from then on, it all started going downhill (and, unfortunately, only in a metaphorical non-topographical sense). My body started to over heat and there was not enough water that I could drink or pour down my head to help me cool down. The air was much drier than I’m used to, living in mighty humid Auckland, and I felt like, no matter how much I tried, no oxygen was getting to my lungs. This feeling lasted for about 16km which is a really long time to feel like you can’t breathe.

I had never thought about quitting a race as much as I thought about quitting during this one. The thought just wouldn’t leave my mind. My brain and I fought a very tough battle not to quit. I didn’t want my first DNF to be in my hometown, with my family waiting. But I couldn’t breathe and my entire body felt weak. I can’t say I enjoyed the run.  I never expected a personal best in this one, seeing I didn’t train for it, but I didn’t think it would go quite so bad. I felt out of breath and in pain pretty much the entire time. Nothing could distract me from it. My sole focus was on trying to not give up.

This lasted until I saw the 19km marker. From then on, I knew I could do it.  We re-entered the Parque das Nações area (damn you traditional Portuguese cobblestone streets destroying my feet) and, with more and more people cheering on the runners, it got slightly easier. Then, with barely 1km to go, right in front of Gare do Oriente, I spotted the family. Mum, being the giant bag of cuteness she is, even joined me for a couple of hundred meters, wearing sandals. When I crossed the finish line, they were all there. The pain was gone for a while. It came back around about the time dad informed me we had to walk about 15 minutes to my grandma’s house, where he had parked, and then climb the stairs to the fourth floor where she lives. That kinda hurt, dad. I’ll remember that.  But all good, I had my medal so my sweat and my wobbly penguin walk were sort of justified.


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Lisbon Urban Trail recap

I had never heard of the concept of urban trail until I came across the information about this event. As soon as I read about it, though, I was sold. Urban trail is a style of running that combines a couple of my favourite things in the world (running and tourism/sightseeing). The whole idea is to enter a running event in a historical or cultural significant area mixing running with sightseeing. Perfect, right? I thought so too.

The inaugural Urban Trail in Lisbon took place last month, while I was in Lisbon, proving that somewhere, somehow, the running gods decided to sit around a table and conspire in my favor over a few glasses of Powerade.

It was one of the best running events I’ve ever entered (and, as my credit card statement insists on reminding me, I’ve entered a few).  Lisbon is my absolute favourite city in the world so running through its historic parts, even with all those awful hills and hundreds of steps, was the best experience this little running nerd could ask for. When you have a run that passes through some of the most beautiful monuments in Europe and includes a medieval Moorish castle as your halfway point, you know it’s worth waking up with a sore body the next day.

I wasn’t exactly prepared for this run. I didn’t run at all for the three weeks prior to the event, aside from a couple of really short runs that same week. Plus, I sat in a car for six whole days the week before and the only exercise I got during that time involved bursting open packs of road trip food like biscuits and gummy bears. On top of that, about five days before this event, I caught a virus that ensured food wouldn’t spend too long in my stomach for the next couple of days and, as a result, on the night of the urban trail, I was one real unfit mess.

But I was excited. Adrenaline was really the only thing I had going for me that night and it ended up being all I needed. I didn’t run fast and I even had to walk a couple of those hills but, with my reflective yellow shirt and nerdy head torch, I really felt in my element. Having entire streets that I am so familiar with closed off for all of us runners that night, running alongside hundreds of other people in the city I was born in, and seeing entire crowds cheering for us along the way gave me the energy of 100 Gu shots. Portuguese runners, it turns out, are also an amazing bunch of people. At one point, I stopped my iPod and just enjoyed hearing the random conversations going on in the little running groups that kept forming and dissolving along the way. They were all hilarious and cute and witty and I wish I could run with that bunch of people every week.  Also, I ran across Rossio and it was all closed off and I could run wherever I wanted and OMFG LISBON IS BEAUTIFUL.

I took the GoPro strapped onto my wrist but, as predicted, the excitement made me completely forget about it during the run. Luckily, other people are far smarter than me and so there are some neat photos of the run out there. You can check them out here.

So yeah, you get the message. I loved it. I want more night races. More reflective shirts and head torches. More historic streets. Hell, I even want some more of those super steep hills, especially if there’s a medieval castle at the top with a panoramic view of the city where I was born and someone is up there waiting to hand me a muffin (true story).


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snapshots from the past month

The last month came and went in what felt like approximately 2.4 seconds. In the last 28 days, I packed a journey that passed through 14 countries and included hundreds of photos and endless hours of footage that will surely take months to sort through.

It also included a huge lot of sightseeing, too many hours on planes, an enormous amount of time inside a car, pretty mountains, old monuments, snow, beaches, coffees in multiple countries in a day, running on the longest bridge in Europe (well, part of it), entering my first ever night running event (and loving every second of it), visiting the world’s highest glacier palace, and some of the world’s smallest countries (Liechtenstein is so cute I wanted to put it in my pocket – and almost could!).

It included the bitter cold of winter, the crunchy leaves of autumn and the warmth of summer. It had long overdue hugs from family and friends. It included my favourite people, my favourite places, my favourite food.

What will follow, once jet lag finally abandons my body, is a whole lot of blog recaps of all the cool stuff that happened last month, running events included (spoiler alert, I ran the coolest half marathon ever and didn’t die). For now, bed time. Unpacking can wait.

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