super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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ADRA half marathon recap – the last minute PR

A sunrise. I don’t witness these things often but I’m told they happen every day and not just on race days.

YOU GUYS! I think I’ve got it. The secret to running a really good race can sometimes be a lot less to do with preparation, training and tapering and a lot more to do with just chilling the heck out and heading into it without much planning.

Well, maybe. Don’t listen to me, ok? My only doctorate is in kitty cuddles and even that one is just honorary. But the fact is that the experience from last weekend showed me exactly that and I’m going with empirical knowledge here. So let’s recap, shall we?

I headed over to the Auckland Domain on Saturday to walk with Kim Allan (an experience I will hopefully be posting about in the next few days, once I can come up with the right adjectives to describe her epic feat). I wasn’t the only one there. Kim had the support of lots of other people, runners and non-runners, and, for a few hours, we all became our own little group of friends. One of the guys I was talking to mentioned the ADRA half marathon that was going to be on the following day in Mission Bay. I had read about it but decided against it a couple of weeks before. However, as he started telling me more about how nice a course it was and how the weather looked like it’d be perfect for it, I started feeling the bug bite. Knowing I absolutely had to get out of the house for a long run on Sunday anyway, as part of my less than stellar marathon training, I figured having some extra motivation wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Living in Auckland sometimes makes you forget not everyone can run alongside views like this one. Volcanoes are awesome.

On paper, it wasn’t a brilliant idea but that’s never stopped me before. I’d run 4 times that week and ended up walking 16km that Saturday (and getting sunburnt in the process). Tapering was non-existent. The only thing I had time to do, as far as preparation for a race goes, was a pasta meal for dinner on Saturday night, just in case. I didn’t even know for sure whether I’d be able to run it. Registrations had closed online so my only chance was to drive there at OMG o’clock on Sunday morning and check if I could register on the day. So I inhaled my pasta, used the potential half marathon as an excuse to have a bucket load of ice cream and set my alarm for 5AM (when 5AM was only about 5 hours away).

I thought to myself that if the alarm went off and I didn’t feel up for it, there’d be plenty of other half marathons to run and I could still go for a long run later on in the day. But then 5AM came around and I jumped out of bed with the usual race-day excitement. I left home while it was still dark and crossed fingers that they’d still take my registration. Of course the title of this post alone tells you they did and, at 7AM, I had my bib pinned on my shirt and was lining up at the start line with a bunch of other runners. My kind of sunday morning!

The route followed Auckland’s waterfront from Mission Bay to St Heliers and back to the Port (where we looped around back to Mission Bay) and was similar to the Cathay Pacific half marathon I ran earlier this year. There were only a couple of hills at the start (Cliff Road and I have a love-hate relationship but only in the sense that I love to hate it) but most of the course was nice and flat. The stunning weather was a welcome gift too, especially since Auckland has this habit of giving us a good week only to then present us with a stupidly wet weekend.

There were some times when I felt the tiredness that comes with not tapering but I was feeling strong enough to know I could finish. When I got close to the 16km mark, I realised I had a chance to get a personal record on this one. I got a little too excited about it and considered my chances of a sub-2h but quickly dismissed it. As nice as the course was, my legs felt heavy and tired (handy tip: do not walk 16km in the sun the day before running 21km) and I was not doing my best at pacing myself either. I was just happy with the possibility of beating the 2:05 I had been sitting on since the Whenuapai half marathon back in April.

I swear not all photos of myself have me in running clothes soaked in sweat. No, really.

And I did beat it. 2:03:06 is not quite the sub-2h I keep chasing but I am now 2 minutes closer to it then I was before this last minute decision to run this race. It was also a pretty good little confidence boost for marathon training. I celebrated the best possible way, by having a nap, and now I’m preaching the benefits of not over-thinking (or even thinking) running events and just going for it on the day. Maybe there is some truth to Nike’s slogan after all.


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fudge for lazy (ahem, tired) hungry people

You know how sometimes you get home and you’re tired and feel like crap and head straight to the cupboard for one of those pre-cooked meals in a packet that you just need to add water to or heat up in the microwave? And then you eat them watching some equally cheap show on TV and feel sorry for yourself and resolve to not be so lazy from then on, except the next day comes around and work is stressful so you go home and do the same thing all over again except this time with more tears and maybe you forgot to turn the dishwasher on and doing dishes by hand is too much work so you reach for the old paper plates from that last barbecue from years ago before all your friends had babies and stopped having time for barbecues?

Okay, me neither. That was a slight exaggeration. But the point is that sometimes I’m tired. Really tired. And lazy. But mostly tired. And I want some dessert. But I also don’t want to move too many muscles.

Enter the perfect fudge recipe for the tired full time worker and runner in need of a sugar fix.

You need: one microwaveable bowl, cake mix (I used vanilla but I suppose any cake mix will do), icing sugar, butter and milk (and sprinkles, if you’re feeling festive). THAT’S IT! The instructions are here, complete with photos and everything. Follow those steps and eat until your stomach cries of happiness. Seriously, this paragraph alone took longer to write than it takes to make this fudge.

When it comes to stuff like cake mix, I’m a pretty vocal supporter of the making it from scratch movement. It’s therapeutic, easy, and extra delicious. I don’t think I’d ever bought a packet of the thing before until I came across this recipe and decided that the future of humanity depended on me figuring out whether this was as amazing as it sounded. Plus, if I make cake batter from scratch and I don’t put it in the oven, there’s something to do with its magnetic field and laws of gravity somethingsomething that just makes it go straight into my belly. Because screw you, salmonella).  So now I’m a convert. I might just have to have a packet of cake mix at home at all times, just in case I need to make good use of 3 minutes and get me some more of this fudge.


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The importance of saying no

Cheesecake for lunch. Not the healthiest option but definitely one of the prettiest.

I started the week off on the right foot, running both of Monday and on Tuesday. No long runs, just a couple of post-work 5k, but enough to make me feel on top of things.

I was all on track for a three for three on Wednesday but then, instead, I got home from work and ate a mini Whittaker’s chocolate bar, nearly a whole bag of Coles pigs lollies, some salt & vinegar chips (I don’t even like salt & vinegar chips) and drank a glass of chocolate milk. Then after that, I went out to dinner with friends and tried on a few tapas, including chips and fried chicken, before moving to a different restaurant for Tiramisu. I don’t often report on my meals but this binge eating session was a little too crazy not to share, especially if you consider it was an alternative to running. Life – I’m doing it wrong.

Anyway, I digress. While out with my friends last night, one of them pointed out that I’m always agreeing to things and end up double and triple-booking myself and running out of time to do the things I actually really want to be doing (sometimes what I really want is to be out running, other times it’s simply to go home and play dead on the couch until the cat starts to worry). Basically, my friend worries that I’m a bit of a doormat and says I need to learn to say no. He’s right. Establishing priorities is not one of my strongest skills (unless you’re reading this because you want to hire me to help you establish priorities and you want to pay me quadruple figures in which case disregard what I just wrote, I’m awesome at it).

My marathon training plan has been sitting in the background waiting for me to have time for it. I’ve been squeezing in runs in between other commitments when, sometimes, I should be squeezing those other commitments in between runs. Running can’t become my number one priority (unless someone wants to pay all my bills for me), but from now until marathon day, it needs to be pretty damn close to that.

Training your body for something it is not yet ready to do is not something you can put off and then cram into a week or two at the last minute. I ran a shameful 7.5km last week. In the entire seven days of the week combined. I am now one week closer to that marathon and that is time I will not be able to recover.

So I’m sorry if I can’t make your breakfast/lunch/afternoon snack/dinner/drinks thingy. I’m sure it’ll be super lovely and I’ll totally miss out but I need to be out clocking up those kilometers, if I’m going to survive this thing in March. I may have to just catch the tail end of your meal (I’m very helpful with those few bites of dessert you couldn’t force yourself to finish) but if you are reading this, there’s a big chance you know how important this is and so you’ll understand.

But enough feeling sorry for myself. This morning, mainly driven by guilt over last night’s food antics, I got out of bed with 40 minutes to spare and decided to go for a run before work. I can’t explain to early risers how hard this is for me but suffice to say it’s only happened 3 or 4 times in the last couple of years.

Free fitness equipment along the path near home. Everyone’s excuses are now gone.

I ran my usual route close to home, with a couple of laps of the nearest reserve. The city council has recently installed some fitness equipment along the path which had the side benefit of making the park feel safer even after dark, with more people staying there to use the equipment after hours. I noticed last week during an evening run that I felt much safer running a couple of extra laps after sunset while people were still hanging around the area. So yay for tax money being put to good use.

So, to sum up, cheesecake is awesome, running in the morning won’t kill me, and I need to learn to sometimes say no and go for a run instead. Noted.


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Amazing people doing amazing things – the Michael Stewart edition

Here I am, worrying about running 1 marathon months from now, thinking it’ll be my biggest feat ever. And just a few hours south from where I live, on the same island, is Michael Stewart, gearing up for his 500th marathon this coming Sunday.

Yep. Five hundredth. Take a second or ten to digest that.

He ran his first marathon 42 years ago and is currently sitting on marathon number 499. All going well this coming Sunday, 42 years to the day, he’ll cross the finish line of the his very special marathon – the Michael Stewart’s 500th Celebration Marathon, a 42.2km run from and to Pinehaven Community Hall in Upper Hutt.

Stewart, also known by some as Mad Mike or Rainbow Man, is known for his bright running gear and so the marathon has a “pink” theme. He will be running with a number of “100 Club” members – people who, like him, have run over 100 marathons.

This weekend, while I probably sleep in and then moan about having to go for a longer-than-normal run, Mad Mike, rubbish truck driver and marathoner extraordinaire, will be setting a southern hemisphere record.

If you’re from the region and keen to enter, it’s only $40 and promises to be a really special event. To sign up, you just need to fill out and post this form.

Click here to read more about the 60 year old from Lower Hutt putting us all to shame and don’t forget to send him some good vibes on Sunday.

photo credit: Hutt Valley Marathon Clinic’s Flickr page


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How Lord of the Rings and VFX relate to marathon training (at least in my head)

Well, if we’re going to talk about numbers, this week was a massive catastrophe. Good thing we’re not going to talk about numbers then, or else I’d have to admit to you that I didn’t get anywhere close to the goals I had set up for myself. Among the reasons I didn’t run nearly as much as I should have this week I include: work commitments (those bills aren’t gonna pay themselves, apparently), meteorology (can’t control the weather, amirite?) and just overall laziness. You know, the usual. And yes, I am feeling stupidly guilty about it but guilt won’t really get me running any faster or longer so I’ll just harden up and get over it now.

I did put together a bit of a training plan with S. on Monday evening (while not running because of the rain) so that’s gotta count for something. I then flew to Wellington for work on Thursday and, on Friday afternoon, managed to drag myself to the path along the waterfront (part of the route of the half marathon I ran there back in June). It was a lovely, albeit fairly short, run, during which I only stopped a couple of times very briefly for the photos you see here (Instagram is my new excuse to take breaks during runs).

The conference that took me to Wellington ended on Saturday night with a gala dinner at Te Papa Museum (hands down my favourite museum in the country). They had a guest speaker come and give a bit of a speech after the awards ceremony (or was it before? I don’t know, it was in between wine). The speaker was Wayne Stables, a name that didn’t ring any bells to me but must make serious Lord of the Rings fans’ hormones go a little nutty. He’s the big visual effects guru at Weta Digital, Sir Peter Jackson’s film company.

It was during his talk to the conference guests that I realised two things:

1. I need to immediately take a weekend off to re-watch all Lord of the Rings (including the bits during which I fell asleep in my first and, so far only,  attempt)

2. I’m so obsessed with running and marathon training I’ll find a link between that and anything else in life.

All the man did was stand there for a few minutes talking about his amazing work in movies such as Lord of the Rings, Tin Tin and Avatar. My brain related pretty much each one of his sentences to running. One of his key messages was that working with massive visual effects productions means you have a lot of really big overwhelming challenges – like, for example, creating all the vfx for the battle of Helm’s Deep in LOTR or the super long continuous shot that was the chase scene in Tin Tin. There are a million little details that have to come together to create those scenes. If you think of the whole scene as one big thing, you’ll be completely stumped and overwhelmed by all the details that need looking after (stuff we don’t even think of as we watch the movie, such as cloth motion or the most realistic way to get water falling). So the key, he says, is to break those big challenges into tiny little ones and look at each detail at a time, rather than having the whole big picture in mind.

D’ya get it? D’ya? D’ya? Don’t tell me I’m the only one who made an immediate correlation to training for a 42.2km long run (not to mention that the marathon is only part of a much larger goal to run a 75k trail run, but that’s a whole new blog post). It’s all about breaking the massive challenge into little ones. Simple and yet genius. I went back to my hotel room later on having run a grand total of zero kilometers that day but with the distinct sensation that sitting through that talk  represented some sort of progression in my training.

Probably bullshit. I better get my ass on the road and run because, at this rate, special effects really are the only way I’m ever going to be seen crossing that finish line.


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Amazing people doing amazing things – the Kim Allan edition

Are you ready to feel like a lazy unhelpful uncaring slob? Read on then.

Kim Allan, an Auckland mum, will run/walk 500k continuously, without any sleep, around the Auckland Domain.

You know how sometimes you get in the car and drive because that convenience store located 1km away from home just isn’t convenient enough to walk to? Now think that, times 500.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of all my excuses to avoid the gym being flushed down the toilet.

If attempting to run/walk 500k without sleep didn’t automatically place Kim in the “amazing humans” category, the fact that she is doing this to raise funds for the CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Trust and the New Zealand Spinal Trust grants her an immediate spot in heaven right next to whichever god you think is the most powerful.

“This will be a huge challenge, not only physically but mentally and there are days I simply can’t get my head around being awake for that length of time. But in the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’,” she says in a press release. Kim expects the whole ordeal adventure to take 4 days, during which she will not sleep or rest for any significant period of time.

More from the press release:

Kim, 47 and from Tuakau, first decided to take up ultra-distance events as a way to encourage her four children to stay committed and work through hard times. Her son, Ben, now laughingly points out “Ok Mum, you’ve made your point”.

Having competed in several ultra-events, including the Oxfam Trail Walker and the NZ 24 hour race, Kim decided to attempt something that would provide the ‘ultimate challenge’. She admits there is no guarantee that she can actually do it so the challenge is very real.

Because Kim will not be able to sleep during her attempt she needs encouragement to keep going and the public are invited to come to the Domain from Thurs 22 through to Sunday 25 November to cheer her on. On Thursday Kim will be joined by a group of young people taking part in the first Blue Light International Youth Leadership Program. These young people will join Kim for several laps of the Domain.

Kim hopes to beat the record set by Pam Reed, the American Ultra Runner, who completed 486km in just over 80 hours. Kim’s Blue Light 500kms/0hrs Sleep challenge will mean completing 332 laps around the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile. Kim points out that the time is not important, it’s the distance she is aiming to cover that will break the record. However, the sooner she gets it done the quicker she can get to sleep.

To raise additional funds, Kim is auctioning an entry package to the Tarawera Ultramarathon (which also comes with accommodation at the Holiday Inn, shoes and other running gear, a training programme and a subscription to Runner’s World magazine, a package worth over $1500).

If you’d like to contribute to Kim’s fundraising efforts, click here. You can also follow Kim’s amazing effort by liking her Facebook page and maybe even join her for a lap or ten of the Auckland Domain, from 9am November 22.

Image credit: Kim Allan’s Blue Light 500km/0hrs sleep, in aid of The CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust Facebook page.


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Marathon training – week 1

It still feels a bit weird to talk about marathon training with the word ‘half’ preceding it.

It also feels a bit weird to talk about marathon training for this week when my average mileage was even lower than what I was doing back when I was training for the 35k trail. Still, every week from now until marathon day will be a training week and even if I waste it all on a giant caramel and cinnamon cake (which I may or may not have just done), you’ll get all the details until you’re so sick of it you contemplate disconnecting your internet at home so you don’t accidentally stumble upon this blog anymore.

But until you do that, I’ll be here to give you the exciting marathon training report, week by week, no matter how uneventful it actually is.

Like this first one. This week, I ran a grand total of 25k (divided in 2x 10k and 1x 5k sessions). Nope, nothing else. No gym visits, no other workout, unless slicing up the aforementioned giant caramel and cinnamon cake can be considered a workout. So there you go, weekly report done. Shameful, isn’t it?

Week 2 starts tomorrow and I decided it would be a good idea to set myself some goals for the week, to keep me on track:

- Run at least 42.2k in total. A marathon in a week shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. I’m flying down to Wellington on Thursday and I think that flat waterfront is going to help me with the mileage.

- Return to the gym. It’s been longer than I’m prepared to admit.

- Sit down with S. and draw up a proper training plan for both of us (okay, this is sort of cheating because we’ve already agreed to do this)

- Make at least one of the runs this week a morning one. Now I feel like I’m pushing my luck.

- Book an appointment with my GP to check on a recurring pain on my knee every time I run. If I’m going to do this, I better make sure I don’t completely destroy my poor bones in the process.

This should be enough to keep me out of trouble.

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