super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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ISC Lenco Half Marathon recap

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Pretty Wellington waterfront was still standing there, being all pretty and stuff.

It’s day 7 of the Cold of Doom (I’m sure that’s the correct medical term for the crap I’ve been going through in the last few days) and the marathon is now less than 4 days away.

BRB, off to scream into a pillow.

Alright, where were we?

Right. Sick, feeling like crap, with a marathon this weekend. Not the best state of affairs but I think I’m doing a pretty good job at acting like this isn’t a big deal.

This tapering thing is easier to do while you’re sick because, well, I have no other choice but to get in bed with a box of tissues pretty much as soon as I get home from work every day. It’s getting kind of boring, though. I’ve found myself with far too much time in my hands to stress about how the Cold of Doom is the worst thing that could possibly happen to me just before the marathon (except for, maybe, double leg amputation, I suppose). My lungs are my main worry whenever I run, even when I’m healthy, so the fact that I am one giant bag of snot right now isn’t doing much in the way of keeping me positive about this coming Sunday.

But enough of that. Let me take a break from feeling miserable about life, the universe, and everything. I realised I hadn’t talked about my last half marathon here yet so, instead of running (which I can’t do right now), let’s talk about running.

It was almost two weeks ago now that I flew to Wellington for a 24h trip to run the ISC Lenco Half Marathon. It wasn’t the first time I flew to the capital on purpose for a running event but it was the first time I made such a last minute decision to take a trip like that. It was totally worth it but I returned home completely shattered. The whole thing about running an event out of town is that you feel like you need to get out sightseeing to make the most out of your trip. Your brain says walk around looking at pretty things, your post-half marathon feet say “put us up now!”.

It wasn’t my best half marathon but it also wasn’t my worst. I was 3 minutes slower than my current fastest time but I wasn’t expecting any great times from this one anyway. I had already bitched and moaned about flat running courses here before when I wrote about the other Wellington Half Marathon I ran, and this one shared most of the same route so I knew what I was in for.

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The medal mentions the Round the Bays event, in which the ISC Lenco Half Marathon was included.

The event was very well organised. Then again, the registration packs included a little Whittaker’s chocolate bar so they could have failed at everything else and I would still say wonders about the whole thing. It included a finisher’s medal, which is very, very rare for half marathons in New Zealand, and that was a nice touch. The only issue was that you had to walk over to a tent and stand in a queue for ages, then tell them your bib number in order to get your medal. Two little problems with this: 1) it kind of takes the shine away from the whole “earning” the medal thing, if you have to stand in the queue like you’re about to purchase it. A much better idea would be to just hand them to finishers as they cross the finish line. 2) I’m not entirely sure they were about to know for sure that I had, in fact, finished the run. I could have picked up my bib at the start line and headed to the tent to pick up the medal a couple of hours later. Again, handing them out at the finish line would be a much better way of ensuring that finisher’s medals were going to finishers, not just entrants.

Other than that, the event was great and the atmosphere at the finish line was really good. Wellington put on its best weather and I spent the rest of the day wandering around the city (my Fitbit recorded a total of 38km covered that day, including the 21km of the half marathon), checking all the artsy stuff (yep, I have a Communication *and Culture* degree but describe it as “artsy stuff”. Sorry, mum and dad), and eating everything in sight, before heading to the airport to drink all the wine at the Air New Zealand lounge.

The end. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta blow my nose.


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That awkward time I ran 5k in a denim mini skirt carrying a purse

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Mike Allsop at the finish line of his 777 project

Today, Mike Allsop completed his 7 marathons in 7 continents in 7 days challenge. The man is a legend. There’s no way around it. He also did it all for charity, to help kids living in poverty. He’s as fit as they come (you have to be, to take on such a mammoth task), as crazy as it gets (see previous parenthesis) and apparently a pretty decent human being too.

Mike ran a marathon a day in each of the world’s continents last week, starting in the Falkland Islands on Monday, moving onto Santiago, then up to LA, across to London, down to Casablanca, then to Hong Kong and finally Auckland, today.

I have barely moved from bed in the last 4 days.

It all started kind of turning to custard on Wednesday. First I had one of my old school migraines. Later that day, came the sore throat and the body aches.

On Thursday, I dismissed the cold as “one of those 24h bugs” and ran 21k after work, the final long run before the marathon. I figured if I got worse, at least the last long run would be done and out of the way and I could just focus on recovering. Good thing I decided to focus on recovering because after I got home from that run, I nearly collapsed in the shower and got in bed with chills and fever. “Not dying” achievement unlocked. But I did sweat bucket loads throughout the night, which is a detail I’m sure you appreciate me sharing with you.

On Friday, I could barely keep my eyes open. The world was simultaneously freezing and on fire and there wasn’t a single muscle in my body that wasn’t making a point of telling me it was there. I could walk from the bed to the kitchen without a problem but then the return trip back to bed was a bit of an effort (which isn’t the way you want to feel, the weekend before your marathon). Saturday is just a foggy memory in my head. I remember cups of hot tea, different types of medicine, a whole lot of tissues everywhere, and an entire day watching old episodes of Big Bang Theory, trying not to stress out about the marathon, interrupted by intervals of stressing out about the marathon.

Today was the fourth day of my self-pity party. Then I remembered that Mike Allsop’s team had set up an event for people to join him for the final 5k of his last marathon this afternoon. There was no way I could run it, with my clogged up nose and my coughing and sneezing fits. But I thought some sun would probably help me so made the last minute decision to head down to the Viaduct just to cheer Mike on from the sidelines.

Because I wasn’t going to run, I didn’t bother getting changed from the clothes I had been wearing all day – a t-shirt and a denim skirt because sometimes I wear clothes that aren’t for running. I took my purse with me and didn’t even bother with my iPod or running watch. I got to where everyone was gathered to join him for the final 5k and hung around for a bit to see him run past. I didn’t get a supporter’s t-shirt (those were for runners joining Mike and I wasn’t going to join Mike) and I didn’t pose for a group photo with all the runners because I wasn’t going to run. I was all on track with my being-responsible-and-not-running-because-that-would-be-stupid goal. My plan was to see him there and then walk to the finish line and watch him cross it (he was going the long way around but the finish line was actually only about 1k from where the 5k group was joining him).

And then… well, then I realised I have a problem. Mike Allsop ran past, high fiving everyone, looking like he hadn’t just travelled across the globe running a marathon a day for the last week. Ultrarunning legend Lisa Tamati ran alongside him. Dozens of people joined them for the last 5k and I watched them as they ran into the distance. I stared at my flowery canvas shoes (no socks), my denim mini skirt, and the purse I was holding. I thought to myself “You’re really sick and you’re not dressed for running. That would be really stupid.”

So of course I took off running and joined the group. Let’s face it, this is probably the only time in my life I’ll ever get the chance to run near Lisa Tamati at a pace I can keep up with. I’d rather have this cold linger around for an extra day or two (nothing some extra pills can’t help with) than miss out on running with these two legends.

When Mike crossed the finish line, he shared stories about his last seven days of adventures. He said that, at one point, I think during his second marathon, one of his knees hurt so bad he couldn’t even walk on it. He sat on a rock wondering how he was going to be able to go on. Then his phone alerted him for a message on the project’s Facebook page, from someone telling him that his adventure had inspired them to go out and start running. And that’s all he needed to get off from that rock and keep on going. On top of raising a hell of a lot of money for KidsCan, Mike is also an inspiration to a bunch of other people, runners, aspiring runners and runners who feel like they probably shouldn’t run but can’t stop themselves anyway. I felt almost ridiculous not joining him for a 5k because of a cold, considering how much he had gone through in the last 7 days. My excuse was no excuse, really. Even if I had to be the dork doing it in regular shoes and a denim skirt.

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Inappropriate running attire


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Every time I hear someone say that running is bad for my knees, I want to knee them where it hurts to prove that my knees are actually just fine, thankyouverymuch.

But then other days, weird stuff happens. Meteorites fall on earth, a new Die Hard movie comes out, it rains spiders somewhere, the pope resigns like being the pope is just another office job, and I… I wake up all understanding and nice and stuff. On those weird days, I try to make sense of where those ideas come from.

It’s really easy to assume running is bad for your knees. Look at those hot runners pounding the ground like nobody’s business. It looks like hard work and those knees are getting the impact. But guess what? That’s what they’re designed to do.

Here’s a quick list of things that are bad for your knees: endless hours of sitting on the couch watching episodes of the Real Housewives of Whogivesacrap, getting attacked by a swarm of bees and having some of them sting your knees (now say that last one really fast), getting into a bar fight and getting a bullet right on the knee cap, wrestling a bear and having the bear grab you by the knees and crushing your knee caps with its own giant bear paws. I could go on but I think I’ve made my point. Notice anything missing from that list? Exactly.

What really gets me is that it’s always those with no real health credentials that seem to have instant PhDs in this topic – they are always the outspoken, know-it-all ones. If it’s okay with you, I’m only going to take medical advice from people who actually know what they’re talking about. Like my doctor, for example, who actually went to medical school and who has his own medical practice and who has even run a marathon. If the extent of your medical knowledge comes from about.com type sites or hours of watching Dr Oz, then I suggest you keep that advice to yourself because you might just be causing more harm than good.

The fact is that your body is not designed to be sitting around doing nothing. Moreover, doing that is precisely what causes damage to every single bone, tendon and muscle. Modern society has made it all really easy for us. Don’t get me wrong, I’d also love to have a robot that can pick up my ice cream from the freezer and bring it to me while I sit on the couch watching re-runs of How I Met Your Mother, with my knees safely tucked under the blankets. But if I ever get a robot like that (please, science, please please please!), then it better come coded with a function to also automatically turn on and off the oxygen mask I’ll soon be needing to help me breathe.

Exercise is not bad for you and I’m always shocked to find people spreading this stupid idea around, especially when obesity is at an all-time high (and you can’t tell me that carrying all the extra weight from all those burgers isn’t bad for your knees). “Oh but remember so and so, who died right after the marathon?” Hmm, yeah, thanks for that reminder. Also, exercise-related deaths are publicized precisely because they’re a rare occurrence. Don’t quote me on this statistic, since, other than my kilometers on the road, I have the health credentials of a hedgehog who drank too much Makers Mark (before they started diluting the stuff) but I’m pretty sure you are far more likely to die in your sleep than while exercising.

The key to this is the same key to everything else in life: moderation. A glass of wine won’t kill you (unless it gets thrown at you really hard, maybe). A lifetime as a raging alcoholic will probably cause a fair amount of damage. A marathon won’t kill you. Run double-digit miles every day for the rest of your life without a moment’s rest and, yeah, you might actually collapse.

If done in moderation, running is pretty much the best cardiovascular exercise you can possibly get. Not only that, your knees, like everything else in your body, can get stronger through exercise, if exercise is combined with the right amount of rest. It’s that rest period that strengthens everything, it completes the workout and makes sure you get the full effects of the exercise (and I’m not just saying this because I’m on day #2 of not running).

When was the last time you heard of research showing you that couch potatoes live longer and healthier lives than people who exercise? I don’t watch much daytime TV but I’m pretty sure that “Steve dramatically improved his health just by spending a mere two hours a day sitting down with a bowl of chips” isn’t a sentence that comes up very often. So where do these ideas come from?

Running looks like hard work (because it is). Hard work scares people. Except people don’t like admitting they’re scared of hard work so they come up with other reasons why they’re not doing it. “I’d love to run but it’s so bad for the knees” is a cop out. If you can’t run because you already have knee issues, that’s a different problem – but, in that case, running can’t be blamed for it anyway. It’s easier for people to find an excuse and pretend that there’s a higher reason they choose not to exercise, aside from their own laziness.

If it turns out that, by some miracle, they are right and all logical thinking along with everything we know about the human condition is actually flawed, then that’s okay. I’d rather live a long life with bad knees than a life that gets cut short because my sedentary lifestyle translated into heart and lung problems.

Now I better go get my own ice cream since science is stalling on that robot idea.

(If you want to read more from people who actually know what they’re talking about, I suggest reading stuff like this or this.)


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Three ways I’ve sabotaged marathon training lately

I’m hereby giving you permission to tell me stuff like “I told you so” and “we all saw that coming” when, in less than 3 weeks, I take so long to cross that marathon finish line that organisers will have packed up, gone home and started work on the 2014 edition. A few reasons why:

- Today, I went for a run. I didn’t even make it to 5km and that included walking breaks because I needed to double check that what I was feeling wasn’t actually both my lungs trying to escape out of my mouth. I’m not even joking. I’m telling myself that everyone has bad days and bad runs and one bad run doesn’t mean you’re out of shape but nothing really justifies what happened today, less than 3 weeks before having to run 42km.

- After that pathetic waste of clean running clothes, I ate curry (because when all else fails, you should just eat curry) and watched a repeat of The Big Bang Theory that contained the scene above. See Penny and Sheldon trying to touch their toes during their warm-up? When I warm up, I’m Sheldon. With the added disadvantage that I don’t even have a cool Flash t-shirt. Again, 42km in less than 3 weeks time. No toe touching. No Flash t-shirt.

- Last Friday, on a whim, I bought flights to Wellington and paid for the registration for the ISC Lenco Half Marathon which happens… this Sunday. A 24h trip to the capital to run 21k along its waterfront. It’s as good an excuse as any, right? Wrong. Less than stellar planning: three days after that, I’m supposed to be doing the final long (like actually really pretty freaking long) run before the marathon.

I laugh, you guys. I laugh so I don’t cry.


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Whatipu weekend

My Fitbit is pretty happy with me right now. It doesn’t know that I’m going to be on deadline at work tomorrow and probably won’t move much from my desk. All it knows, in its current blissful ignorance about the future, is that I had a pretty kick ass weekend.

And I did. It started with a bush hike in Whatipu on Saturday (which consisted mainly of going up and down what felt like never-ending hills) that made Fitbit believe I had climbed the equivalent of the Empire State Building (152 floors climbed). A slow 21k trail run on Sunday ensured the Fitbit was pleased all weekend long. 341 floors later, it told me I had climbed the equivalent of Angel Falls today. I’ll take that.

But forget the numbers and stats (whoa, who is this?). The word that best describes this weekend is “hills”. I was either going up or down one of those beasts and, even now, I still can’t make my mind up about which one is harder. My lungs complain about the uphills but my knees make a big deal out of the downhills. It’s ok. There was cider and wine, good food and good conversation. Plus, Auckland put out another stunning summer weekend and we stayed at the cutest lodge, complete with its own little library and everything. I didn’t even mind the fact that there was no cell phone coverage in the area which meant I spent nearly 48h without checking my email or Facebook. Miraculously, I survived.

I didn’t read any of the books available at the lodge but, instead, finished Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run. It ended up being a pretty good book, as far as running books written by athletes go. It had a fair deal of bragging (but I suppose he can brag…) but it was mixed with some pretty insightful and useful advice and the race recaps were exciting to read.

You know those weekends when you feel like you really made the most out of the time you had to yourself? Yeah, one of those.


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What if you got hurt today?

RoadID

Am I the only super pessimist runner who, on solo runs, always spends sometime wondering about all the bad stuff that could happen that very second and how would anyone she knows find out about it? Just me? Surely not.

I’ve had my share of near-misses with cars (but nothing that’ll make me give up my iPod while running) and I know there’s a reason even 5k events have ambulances stationed at certain points along the course. Bad stuff can happen any time, whether you’re out on a long run away from home or on a quick jog around your neighbourhood.

Oh dear. If you came here to be cheered up, it really wasn’t your best choice, was it? Here, have a look at this squirrel kissing a kitten. It’s okay. You’re not about to be hit by a car while you’re singing along to Will.I.Am and Britney during your run. Probably. Maybe. I mean, who knows, right?

The truth is… you might.

(I’m sorry. Here, look how this kitten hugs his teddy bear!)

But what if you do? Or what if you just get heat stroke and collapse? Or you trip and fall and hit your head? I mean, how many times has that almost happened to you while running?

(Cheer up. You almost fell but you didn’t and you made it home. Look at this panda cub trying to reach the window!)

Anyway, I usually take my phone out with me on my runs, mostly so I can take crappy photos to populate my Instagram and so I can check my email when I’m waiting for the green light. These days, my supposedly super rugged phone is a super rugged piece of crap, though. It takes me about 3 minutes to even load my contacts’ list so, if I’m in a life or death situation, I’m not going to sit there waiting for it to work. Especially because it’ll probably crash twice before actually loading any contacts and if there’s something I don’t need is an anxiety attack over the phone, on top of whatever else is already happening to me.

But even assuming that my phone worked properly (one of these days I’ll stop being such a cheapo and I’ll buy a new one), how many of you have a pin code on yours? So yeah, in a lot of cases, even assuming the stars align and you take your phone and it works properly, it’s still really not the best solution. I have an ICE number on my phone (I recorded it during a First Aid course I took last year), but I don’t want to rely on someone else being able to navigate to that, especially in a situation where timing might be everything.

So I went analog for safety while running and got myself a Road ID wrist band.

I thought I would only wear it out during long runs but the model I got is so discreet that I actually wore it for a couple of days before taking it off. I pretty much immediately forgot it was on my wrist (and I don’t normally wear bracelets anyway).

You can choose out of a few different models, with different colours and sizes (you can even get stuff like a tag for your shoe laces, if you prefer that to a bracelet) and the whole ordering process is very straightforward. You choose everything that gets engraved in the stainless-steel plate. The website has a bunch of suggestions of what to add, if you’re not sure, including tips on what medical information to give and even some inspirational quotes. It shows you what your bracelet will look like and gives you the option to make changes at any time during the process.

Living in New Zealand, I’m pretty used to getting ripped off on shipping costs from some US-based sites so paying around $2.50 for shipping was a really pleasant surprise (only about $1 more than to ship within the US). I got an email informing me that the bracelet had been shipped just two days after ordering and had the package in my mailbox in the time they said it would take for it to arrive.

The bracelet came in a neat metal tin and the Road ID website includes a section on how you can “think outside the tin” and re-use it, which I thought was a really nice touch (also, emergency wine glass!). It included a brochure letting me know that Becky had carefully packaged my bracelet (I’m a sucker for details like that) and some coupon codes to hand to my friends, along with the history of the company.

Road ID have a bunch of other items, all dedicated to safety outdoors (like high-visibility and reflective running and cycling gear) that I encourage you to check out. The bracelets are almost essential to any outdoors athlete, whether you’re a runner or a cyclist, but I think they’re a good idea for anyone who gets out and about (because, well, shit happens). I know a lot of keen hikers who should definitely invest in one of these.

If anyone looks at it and wonders if I’ll ever need it… I really hope I don’t. But I reckon 20 bucks is a pretty low price to pay for peace of mind (not just yours but of those around you too). And if you think it’s unnecessary, I hope I never have to prove you wrong.

My ability to conceal my emergency contacts' information from the internet is only as good as MS Paint allows it to be. Don't judge.

My ability to conceal my emergency contacts’ information from the internet is only as good as MS Paint allows it to be. Don’t judge.

Road ID has emailed me a discount code following my purchase. The code is ThanksVera22242623 and can be used 20 times in the next 27 days (it was valid for 30 days but they sent it 3 days ago and I was too lazy to blog about it then). Go ahead and get $1 off now.

This is not a paid/sponsored post. Road ID didn’t not contact me about writing this. I paid for my bracelet like everyone else and I’m writing about it because I truly believe it’s a great product that everyone should consider getting.


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Five themed runs we need in New Zealand

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Some days, this is my definition of a fun run.

New Zealand running events organisers, let’s have a bit of a chat.

Having one of the most beautiful countries in the world as the scenery for all our running events means any run in New Zealand is guaranteed to be awesome. A lot of running events are referred to as “fun runs” (usually shorter events like 5 or 10k ones) and, although the fun is always there (if you’re into running, calling it a “fun run” is actually a little redundant), there are a lot more ways to add fun to the fun run.

I see a lot of international running events that not only add an extra element of fun to the run but, through that extra element, manage to attract new runners (people who aren’t too sure about running for the sake of running but who will take part in a running event if there’s something else in it for them). I follow the New Zealand running calendar pretty closely and haven’t seen any like the ones I will list below (do correct me if I’m mistaken and some of these actually exist in the country. Also, sign me up).

Here are five themed runs I would love to see in New Zealand:

1. The Color Run - I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who hasn’t heard of these. Even my tiny little country West of everything is getting one this year. Our neighbours have a Color Run tour. Are we going to let Australia have something cool and not get it ourselves too? I know I already run in pretty colourful gear but it’s time to get messy. Well, messier.

2. The Zombie Run  - You know you love this idea. I don’t even have to say anything else about it.

3. The Beer Belly Run – I run and you hand me beers along the way. Make it New Zealand beer and we can even say we’re promoting kiwi companies. Deal?

4. The Donut Run – A run where aid stations hand out donuts is pretty much my definition of the perfect run. But I’m flexible. If donuts aren’t ideal, make it a biscuit run or a cake run. Or, since this is New Zealand, a pie run. Basically, feed me the good stuff.

5. A Wine Marathon – One day, a few months ago, I heard about the Marathon du Medoc and it immediately became a bucket list item. Not only do you run across gorgeous scenery but all the aid stations are stocked up with wine instead of water. New Zealand, why don’t we have this yet? With the amazing vineyards we have in places like Marlborough or even Waiheke Island, this really needs to happen.

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