super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Being good on Good Friday

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Look, ma, no meat!

In May, five years will have passed since I moved to New Zealand. A whole half a decade of my life spent in the last bus stop in the world, almost 20,000km from home. It’s a whole lot of time to spend in a place that isn’t your own.

Except, it kind of is my own. I came across this article today, via a friend and fellow expat, that completely translated into words my feelings about living abroad.

It turns out I’m not the only one who’s come to the painful realisation that an expat will never fully feel whole again, no matter what happens. I miss Portugal dearly while I’m in New Zealand and I think fondly of all things Kiwi when I’m back in Portugal. I say “I’m going home” if I’m flying to Lisbon and I tell people in Lisbon about things I have “back home” in New Zealand. “Home” has come to define more than one place. It sounds like – and, for the most part is – a great situation to be in, to have two special places in your heart. But it doesn’t come without a decent amount of heartache.

I’ve grown more than five years in the last five years. Timezone differences mean my mum is asleep when most of my questions arise, when I burn my food, when I’m not sure which clothes I shouldn’t mix up with which in the washing machine, or when I can’t find an important document. If I get good or bad news that I want to share, I usually have to contain my enthusiasm for a few hours (we’re usually about 12 hours apart, depending on daylight savings). For the most part, I think I’ve been doing alright. Every few months, saudade hits harder but I’m fortunate enough to be able to solve that problem with the purchase of a flight home.

Moving this far meant that I had the chance to completely break away but, mostly due to having the most awesome family in the world, I’ve chosen not to.

Today, on my fifth Good Friday at home away from home, I purposefully didn’t eat meat. I have never eaten meat on any of the Good Fridays of my life. I have no real clue as to why, if I’m honest. My mum taught me we don’t eat meat on Good Friday and my grandma taught me the same and I’m pretty sure my great grandmother and great great grandmother didn’t eat meat on Good Friday either. Something something Jesus something, of course. I never really questioned it, especially because there were always plenty of chocolate eggs to make up for not being able to make a ham sandwich for 24 hours.

So if I don’t even really know why we had to do it, why do I choose to keep doing it, right? Well, it might have religious roots but it’s most definitely not a religious thing for me (if there is a God, he/she wouldn’t want to deprive me from steak). It’s a family thing. By continuing a family tradition, even if I’m away from family and surrounded by people who don’t do it, I’m closer to that other home I’m actually away from.

I couldn’t plan my Good Friday as well as I wanted to because the supermarket near home decided to close earlier than expected last night and I couldn’t buy the stuff I had planned for my meatless meals today. This little setback made me realise that, without proper planning, I’d be the world’s worst vegetarian. Aside from a fairly healthy-ish omelette (which did contain enough cheese to feed a small army), my day has been a sugarfest. Hot cross buns, pancakes, breakfast cereal and fruit smoothies.

Days that are heavy with traditions like this one are particularly hard for people who wish they could split into two or who wish science would stop mucking around and hurried up making teleportation a reality. No amount of Creme Eggs (which, thanks to the supermarket closing too early, I also did not have today) can make up for not being able to celebrate Easter back home.

I’ll just celebrate it here at home instead. And as soon as the shops open tomorrow, I’m queueing up for Easter eggs.


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Running in the age of instant gratification

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I am going for a run for the first time in a week and a half soon after this post hits the internet. Bear with me while I bitch about my injury one last time.

I blame society.

Yes, you, society. You and your same-day delivery options, your one-click downloads and your food-in-a-minute recipes. I’m grumpy and it’s your fault.

Being a runner in the age of instant gratification is really freaking hard. I’m not the most patient person in the world anyway so dealing with something that involves slow continuous progress is hard enough, even if it’s something I enjoy. I put off watching movies with plots I find interesting if they’re over 2 hours long because my brain is no longer trained to wait 3 hours to find out what happens. Yes, it’s that bad.

Being injured and forced to wait for things to go back to normal has been a shitfest. I know, I know – the quickest route isn’t always the best and there are no shortcuts to happiness and all other assorted hippie crap you can think of. I’m over it.

This injury has been testing my patience. My patience is failing. F-, patience. Go home and think of what you’ve done.

I’m a proud member of the Instageneration for whom “now” is the only acceptable answer to any “when can I” question. All this sitting around waiting for aches to go away is not something today’s twentysomethings are equipped to deal with.

I’d felt it already during marathon training – the anxiety that comes with wanting to reach a certain level of fitness but actually having to work for it, no “buy now” or “express shipping” options available. It makes me wonder whether this would all have been easier for past generations, used to having to wait months for letters to arrive and having to hit rewind on their cassette players to listen to the same song again. I can deal with slow progress if it means I’m doing what I enjoy so the slow progress of training is not really a bother. But this? Sitting around doing the responsible thing waiting for the pain to go away? This is a slow ride to shitsville and I want to get off this bus and catch the express one.

I might regret this but today I’m finally going to lace up the running shoes again. Cross your fingers I won’t be typing the next post with a bag of frozen peas on my knee. But for now, patience schmacience.


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12 tips for running a marathon and maybe not hating it completely

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I didn’t have the absolutely perfect first marathon experience. Things went well and I finished it but not without an injury that has put me off running for most of the last 3 weeks (almost back, running shoes, I swear!). This means I probably shouldn’t be giving you advice on marathon training, right? Well, wrong. This is the internet. Anyone can have an opinion. Knowing what we’re talking about is irrelevant.

I’ve read approximately a bazillion words on the internet and in books about how to train for a marathon and how to go from wanting to run a marathon to actually doing it so, for lack of anything more interesting to say, here’s a bit of a compilation of stuff I figure is pretty important when trying to tick this item off the bucket list.

1. Choose a marathon

The first thing to do is pretty obvious: pick a marathon. Any marathon. But really, settle on it. Decide you’re going to do it. That’ll be your run. Register. Give them money. There you go, now you’re committed. Unless, of course, you back off and ask for a refund. Wuss.

2. Tell everyone

Don’t ask for a refund. Instead, tell everyone you know that you’re going to run a marathon. Yes, everyone. It’s out there now. You’ve gotta do it. People will start asking how training is going and all that stuff. Do you wanna be all like “oh nah, kind of got over that”? Didn’t think so. Verbalising your intentions, unlike what some people think, is not about bragging. It’s about motivation, commitment and taking responsibility for your actions, owning up. Ok, maybe it’s a little bit about bragging too. But you’ve been running your ass off, brag away.

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3. Study the course

Now that you’re fully committed and you know exactly which marathon you’re running, it’s time for what is quite possibly my favourite step in the whole thing: obsessing! Study that course, examine the elevation chart to the littlest detail. And then, of course, plan your training runs accordingly. You’d be silly to run a hilly marathon without some hill training under your belt, for example.

4. Get organised

Find a training plan that works for you or design your own. It’s important that running doesn’t take over your life completely and doesn’t affect other aspects such as work or your social life (it’ll inevitably have some sort of impact on that but you should try to minimise it as much as possible). Make a spreadsheet or note the training sessions down in your diary. If it helps you commit even more, find a running partner or join a running club.

5. Run often but not too often

Finding this balance is perhaps one of the hardest parts of training. A lot of words have been written about the importance of taking rest days so don’t feel guilty about not running. Weekends, however, are for long runs. Break this rule and you shall suffer eternal damnation. Well, or just sleep in anyway, eternal damnation be damned, it’s not like anyone is paying you to get out of bed on Sunday to run. Just keep in mind that you need to work on your endurance and days off work are the best time for that. Plus, you can always take a guilt-free long nap after each long run so just suck it up.

6. Cross train

You think training for a marathon is all about running? Think again. Head to the gym, the swimming pool, the yoga studio, the bakery. Ok, not the bakery. I mean, the bakery too but, really work all the muscles, not just the legs and not just the stomach. I stopped going to the gym for ages and found myself having more upper body pain during a long run than leg pain. Your whole body needs to be prepared for this.

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7. Watch what you eat

You’re not going to have a very good time during that marathon if you keep eating the way you’ve been eating (unless you’ve been eating well this whole time in which case I’m terribly jealous and please tell me how you do it!). Put down the Creme Eggs (or send them to me) and eat more of the good stuff. For actual tips on what to eat, head here, for example. I’m eating chicken-flavoured chips while I type this so I’m really no example. It’s important that you keep in mind that you’re not on a weight-loss diet. You’re eating to fuel up for long runs. There’s no room for guilt, but plenty of room for an extra piece of cake.

8. Enter other races

Consider entering other running events. A half marathon here and there won’t hurt and it’ll keep you in check throughout the training process. That said, don’t underestimate the power of your weekday short runs. A 5k can take you a long way. Well, it can take you 5k away, but you get my point.

9. Get proper running shoes

I know running is all about doing whatever you want and it’s good because it’s cheap and all that stuff but let’s face it – we’re talking about a full marathon, not a jog around the block to the bakery. Get serious about it. Consider getting your shoes fitted. I know it’s not everyone’s thing and some swear by the whole “you can run on anything” philosophy but proper running shoes have saved my ass (well, my feet and knees) multiple times so I’m all for spending that money.

10. Make mistakes. Fix mistakes.

Get all your testing done before marathon day and try nothing new on the actual race. Test your gels, your electrolytes, whether your running watch annoys you on that wrist or not. Are those shorts comfortable? Is it likely that you’ll be chafing? Are the sunglasses going to be a nuisance? Test it all in advance so you know what you’re in for and you can minimise some of the issues.

11. Plan

Tapering week is all about not running (and not going insane). It’s also about planning for the big day. In my case, the marathon was out of town and it involved a road trip and a night away in a motel. Packing was important because I wasn’t going to have all my worldly possessions on hand on that day. Other than the usual stuff you pack for a weekend away, I had to remember the stuff for the race. I chose to run with a hydration pack that included nuts, Gu, chips, Nuun, jelly beans along with my knee brace and a small first aid kit. I was pretty prepared (and the extra weight didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would). You might not want to carry as much with you but it doesn’t hurt to keep these things nearby, just in case you change your mind a couple of hours before the race. I didn’t end up using all of that stuff, obviously, but I’d have had to pull out of the race if I hadn’t had my knee brace in my pack, for example. In the end, the nuts and chips went untouched. I had 4 Gu gels (at 8k, 15k, 26k and 34k) and a whole lot of jelly beans from then on, but it helped me to know that I had a bunch of stuff handy if I needed it.

12. Run the hell out of that marathon

Become officially badass.

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When I train for my next one, I’ll definitely have to up my game on some of these, namely eating better and cross training more. And maybe tone down the whole “telling everyone about it” bit because I don’t want to put my friends through the hassle of having to change numbers and addresses to avoid me.


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That time I accidentally ran a half marathon

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If you’re a faithful SGG reader, you are probably super smart and extremely good looking, and you know I hurt my IT band two weeks ago during my first full marathon (look at that, I couldn’t even go one whole sentence without mentioning the marathon) and haven’t run since then. I went to the doctor last week and he gave me stretching exercises to do, recommended medication and plenty of rest. He also told me that I could run “but only shorter distances”.

I had bought my entry to the Coatesville Classic half marathon a few days earlier, back when I thought the knee pain was just an entra sore spot from the marathon (mention #2!) and not much else. Turns out it is something else and half marathons are definitely not prescribed as a cure or even relief for IT band issues.

But I can explain, I swear.

On Thursday, after nearly two weeks of constant pain, I could finally walk pain-free. I remained fully convinced I was going to do the responsible thing and not run the half marathon on Sunday, letting the registration fee go to waste (since it was too late for a refund). On Friday, still no pain. Along comes Saturday and, whaddayaknow, another pain-free day. So I thought “you know, I don’t have to lose absolutely every cent. I can go there, pick up my registration pack (which included a free t-shirt and a bottle) and cheer for the other runners for a bit”. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning, right? I don’t know, that’s not what happened.

Later on Saturday, I saw that the bit of the course that went through the inside of Kim Dotcom’s mansion grounds was only 3km into the whole run. That course change announcement that meant we’d run through his property was part of the reason I had signed up in the first place so I thought “maybe I’ll run those first 3 or 4km and then walk back to the start line and be done with it”. That shouldn’t be too bad. Plus, I’d picked up a St Patrick’s Day themed headband from the $2 shop the day before so that was my excuse to get a run in on that day. I matched it with a bright green shirt, green compression socks and even green nails (it may only have been 3 or 4km and I may not have a single drop of Irish blood in me but none of those are reasons not to get festive).

So at 7:30AM on Sunday, I lined up near the start line with all the half marathon runners, ready for my little jog up to Dotcom’s not-so-humble abode. My knee started hurting again before I’d even run 500 meters but there was no way I was going to step to the side less than a kilometer into it, so I kept going. Really, really, really slow. No, slower than that.

The rain was pouring and kept pouring the entire morning so the views weren’t as impressive as they would have been on a clear day but they were still enough to distract me. Kim Dotcom’s gardens are lovely – fake giraffes and all – and next thing I knew, we were leaving the mansion grounds and continuing along the course. I had assumed we would exit his property through the same gate we’d entered but that wasn’t the case and I was a little confused about how to get back to the start line from there so I decided to keep on going a little longer, hoping to see an ambulance or some sort of support car that I could get a ride with. Either none passed me or I was too distracted to notice them so I just kept running slow/ walking my way along the course. It’s described as Auckland’s “most scenic half marathon” for a reason. Scenic is just code for hilly but, for once, I was happy about the climbs (my knee didn’t hurt so much during those) and miserable in the downhills (which I had to walk because the impact on the knee was too much).

To cut a long story short, I ended up slowly running/walking the whole thing. My knee was sending me death threats at about kilometer 15 but I thought that, by then, whatever damage I could do had already been done. After getting through two-thirds of the thing, I wanted the medal.

The Coatesville Classic is, in my opinion, the best organised road running event in the Auckland region. It’s incredibly good value – my registration was only NZ$45 and it included the shirt, bottle and finisher’s medal (medals are rare in half marathons in New Zealand). We got free massages at the end, the race briefing at the start was funny and the course marshalls were some of the nicest I had ever come across, shouting my name and complimenting my St Paddy’s headband (while probably wondering what the hell I was thinking wearing that thing in the rain).

It took me almost a million years to cross the finish line (not really but, if you consider I’m very close to 2h when I don’t run injured, it’s a pretty big difference) but I was pretty pleased to have done the whole thing, considering I didn’t even start it thinking I’d do that much and I walked about half of the distance (maybe even more than half). I was actually genuinely surprised to not have been absolute last.

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Of course my IT band is hurting again (although not nearly as much as it did last week). I’m back to icing it all the time, taking Voltaren and wearing my super sexy knee brace so I’m not expecting to run at all in the next few days. But you know what? It was worth it. The injury will take slightly longer to heal, of course, but I’m happy with the trade off, even if it means I now deserve zero sympathy from people because I clearly bring this onto myself. True. Although, technically speaking, the doctor told me to run “shorter distances” and you can’t argue that this is a 50% decrease in the distance of my last run, two weeks ago (marathon reference #3).

But I get it, I’ll calm down. I realised today that, in the last 4 weeks, I ran 3 half marathons and a full marathon (marathon reference #4), and that includes a solid week without running because of a cold (in between half marathon #2 and the full marathon – marathon reference #5) and two full weeks without running because of the IT band injury, between the full marathon (marathon reference #6) and yesterday’s half marathon.

No wonder I need a nap.


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The missing foam roller and the “smelling policy”

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I went to the gym today. Don’t be silly, of course I didn’t exercise. I went there to use the foam roller, because I listen to you all.

I’m on day number three of no knee pain but also on day number 13 of not running, which makes me want to simultaneously sigh with relief and scream with rage. I haven’t dared to run yet because I’ve been doing the grownup thing and being responsible about it, making sure it fully heals. Virtual pat on my back, please? Thanks.

Anyway, the foam roller. It was nowhere to be found. Of all the useless stuff lying around that gym (by “useless stuff” I mean the really heavy weights I’m never ever ever going to be able to lift), it had to be the foam roller disappearing. I’m choosing to take it as a sign of the gods. You guys suggested, I tried to do it, it didn’t happen. It just wasn’t meant to be. So let’s move on.

The gym I go to is one of those 24/7 gyms, unstaffed outside regular business hours. I do business-y stuff during business hours so of course I’ve never seen any staff, since the day I signed up for a membership. They do have a feedback notebook lying around that I sometimes read when I get bored with working out and decide to sit on the couch at the gym instead (my rule of thumb is that I have to use the machines for longer than I sit on the couch, which doesn’t always happen). I wrote my little note asking about the foam roller and begging them to bring it back. Then I thought I’d read the last couple of pages of feedback, just in case there were any clues that could lead to solving the mystery of the missing foam roller.

There were none. Sorry, everyone. But there was one particular gem that saved the day because it gave me something to rant about.

You see, there’s this lady who apparently works out at my gym. Let’s call her Carrie (because that’s her name). I don’t know what Carrie looks like. She has nice handwriting, I got that from her note on the feedback notebook. The other thing I know about Carrie is that she smells like roses, especially while she works out. And she wants you to get the hell out of the gym, stinky.

Carrie wrote in the feedback notebook that the gym should introduce what she says she’d heard of other gyms introducing: a “smelling policy”.

Let’s follow Carrie’s arduous journey so we understand the roots of her deep suffering: Naturally Chanel-like scented Carrie goes to the gym, she works out but maybe not enough to break a sweat because that would be disgusting. Next to Carrie, harshing her mellow, is some sweaty stinky person, really going for it. How dare these stinky people do that to Carrie? Using exercise machines to, like, exercise? The nerve. I mean, Carrie doesn’t have to put up with that. She suggests that, in these situations, the gym institutes a policy that allows her to request that the smelling person be removed from the gym premises.

Have you finished laughing yet? Took me a while too.

A few days ago, Gawker’s “Thatz not okay” section responded to a reader who wrote complaining about how she goes to the gym every morning and always sees this woman reading a book on the treadmill, set to a low speed. The reader wanted the lady kicked out of the treadmill for reading a book and walking/running too slow and “sometimes staring at other people on treadmills”.

Carrie and the Gawker reader sound like BFFs. Or twins. Or – plot twister – one and the same person!

But, really, jokes aside, what’s with the self-entitlement, people?

There’ll always be someone faster than the lady complaining about the slow person on the treadmill so how would she feel if Usain Bolt decided she just wasn’t using the treadmill the way it should be used and should, for that, be kicked out of the gym? And what if someone decided that Chanel 5 Carrie’s shirt is too ugly or her hair looks too funky? How would Carrie feel about being forced out of the gym for those reasons?

Luckily for Carrie, there’s a place called Super Generic Girl where, with the adequate amount of Googling, she can find the answer to her problem: buy your own damn exercise equipment and stay home. Alternatively, if that’s too expensive, understand that you are paying a membership just like everyone else and leave your self-entitlement in the shelves by the entrance.

 

Do you agree with a “smelling policy”? Is this really a thing? Does your gym have something like that? If yes, then how much longer until you stop giving those people money?


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This pain in the knee is a pain in the ass

The doctor didn't make me get an x-ray so this'll have to do. It's adapted from the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia. Note: not my real gluteus.

The doctor didn’t make me get an x-ray so this’ll have to do. It’s adapted from the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia. Note: not my real gluteus.

After ten days of self-diagnosis and scaring myself with imaginary surgeries, I decided to do what everyone else had been pestering advising me to do and went to the doctor this morning. Nothing fancy, just my good old GP.

The knee that has been hurting to the point of driving me to tears for 10 straight days decided to stop hurting for pretty much the exact amount of time I spent in the doctor’s office. When the doctor started bending my leg and asked me to tell him when it started hurting, it never actually did. “If you had done that just yesterday, it would have hurt a lot, I swear” I assured him. Mmm Hmm.

My doctor is a fine kiwi chap. On my first ever visit, I remember he told me I was never going to make him rich. Silly man didn’t think I’d get into running, obviously.

I was his first appointment this morning and he welcomed me in a t-shirt, shorts and jandals. Almost five years in New Zealand should have made me blind to this but I can’t help finding it different. Different-good, of course. Different-bad if he accidentally stabbed his toe with <insert name for sharp object found in doctor’s office here because I didn’t go to medical school and, worse, never watched Grey’s Anatomy so don’t know the names of any of those things>. My point is that his relaxed outfit reflects his relaxed attitude. I’d normally worry about something like that, but when I asked him about how long I should go without running for, his answer was something like “you can run when it stops hurting. If you really have to run, try to do it on softer surfaces instead of concrete”. Translated into obsessive runner’s English, he basically ordered me to hit the trails this weekend. Doctor’s orders.

Anyway. He has a bunch of books with images just like the one above (minus my edits, so not quite as insightful as this one) and he touched my knee in a bunch of different places so I suppose he probably knows what he’s talking about. He’s convinced this is ITB syndrome. Iliotibial Band Syndrome, because he called it the proper stuff.

Sounds fancy. Also, kind of validating as far as injuries go. Look at me all real runner with a proper runner’s injury. But also, ouch. According to the fountain of all 21st century knowledge, Wikipedia, here’s what’s going on south of the muffin tops:

The iliotibial band is a superficial thickening of tissue on the outside of the knee, extending from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee, and inserting just below the knee. The band is crucial to stabilizing the knee during running, moving from behind the femur to the front while walking. The continual rubbing of the band over the lateral femoral epicondyle, combined with the repeated flexion and extension of the knee during running may cause the area to become inflamed. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliotibial_band_syndrome)

So, really, ew.

I was told to keep icing it, keep taking Voltaren, advised to add Voltaren gel to the equation (because I’m not giving those guys enough money already) and stretch every day (every day? Like, seriously? People stretch every day?). I left the office before he had time to mention the foam roller so that’s my full list of recommendations. My jandal-wearing kiwi doctor also told me that I could do physiotherapy if I wanted to but, for this sort of thing, he finds that “it just doesn’t do much and it’s a real pain in the ass having to go to the sessions”.

After describing a potential treatment as “a pain in the ass”, he told me I could go home and Google more stuff about ITB syndrome to find out more. I like that my doctor openly tells me to look stuff up on the internet. He doesn’t realise I skim it for information on every little pain or itch and always end up dreading amputation.

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So far so good, though, I may just be able to keep both of my legs and, here’s the real shocker, this knee might actually heal completely. I’m looking forward to being reminded of what it feels like to walk properly.

(I know you’re all incredibly smart people but I read an article today about a woman trying to sell her kids on Facebook to pay for her boyfriend’s bail so, you know, the world is kind of full of idiots. Which is why I need to add to the bottom of this post that no one should ever, ever, ever, under any circumstance, take medical advice from me. Ever. Take advice from my jandal-wearing doctor and Google your pains away. No, really. Don’t.)


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A list of stuff I’ve done recently that doesn’t matter because it wasn’t running

Day 8 of not running. But who’s counting, eh?

Me! That’s who.

If I wasn’t so lazy and numbers didn’t bore me so much, I’d tell you how many hours it’s been since I last ran. It’s a pretty big number, I know that much.

The good news is that I haven’t killed anybody. The bad news is that I apparently woke up screaming in pain in the middle of last night thanks to my knee. It seems that, when I’m asleep, I have a tendency for drama. Luckily I don’t remember any of this in the morning.

It’s been a pretty uneventful week, to say the least. I’ve been limping my way to and from work and didn’t stray very far from the bed on the weekend either. But the fact that nothing is going on doesn’t stop me from giving you a really long and detailed update on all the nothing that’s been happening. All the hours that I would normally have spent running on a regular week have now been filled with other activities. So let’s recap. Over the last week, instead of running, I:

- Complained about how much my knee hurts.

- Got a full-body massage and fixed the back and neck pains that the marathon had caused.

- Went to a rock concert hours later and got some of those problems back, as well as adding “ears” to the list of sore body parts.

- Told everyone about the marathon (I swear I’ll shut up, people. One day. But really, a marathon!)

- Complained about how much my knee hurts.

- Iced my knee

I bothered with the towel in the beginning but now I just put the peas right onto my knee. I switch between different frozen vegetables to shake things up a little, since I'm basically ALWAYS icing my knee these days. I'm doing it right now, in fact. And you can't even tell from there! Such an exciting life.

I bothered with the towel in the beginning but now I just put the peas right onto my knee. I switch between different frozen vegetables to shake things up a little, since I’m basically ALWAYS icing my knee these days. I’m doing it right now, in fact. And you can’t even tell from there! Such an exciting life.

- Kept whichever pharmaceutical company manufactures Voltaren in business.

- Kept track of how many days I’ve gone without running

- Expected everyone to compliment me on the fact that I haven’t punched any of them even though I’m clearly two steps away from complete madness due to not being able to run.

- Talked some more about the marathon. Did I mention I ran a marathon?

- Iced my knee

- Read about running

Reading this book hasn't been helping much in the way of containing my rage. I WANT TO RUN! But I can't even go one step beyond where I am right now without limping.

Reading this book hasn’t been helping much in the way of containing my rage. I WANT TO RUN! But I can’t even go one step beyond where I am right now without limping.

- Made sure everyone in a 10km radius knew I’d run a marathon. Like, really, it was an entire freaking marathon!

- Slept in until 10:20 on a Saturday and 10 on a Sunday instead of getting up before the cat in order to run. So much free time, what do you guys do with it?

- Avoided the foam roller even though everyone tells me it’s the best thing since sliced bread (but they also add it hurts like hell and sliced bread doesn’t so that’s -10 points for the foam roller, +10 points for bread I don’t need to slice myself).

- Iced my knee

- Kept track of how many days it’s been since I last ran. Eight entire freaking days, and counting, in case you’d forgotten.

- Hung out with the cat more than the cat wishes I would

That's her "this is the longest this idiot has spent trying to play with me" face. I'm afraid there's plenty more to come, Zara! I haven't even told you all about my marathon yet!

That’s her “this is the longest this idiot has spent trying to play with me” face. I’m afraid there’s plenty more to come, Zara! I haven’t even told you all about my marathon yet!

- Signed up for half marathons (one of them less than a week from today) because making running plans is the only thing keeping me from absolute madness.

- Avoided the foam roller some more

- Drank beer

- Limped

- Faced the foam roller. Didn’t die. Not sure it helped either. Kinda meh. Stay tuned for more exciting updates, as soon as I can be bothered driving to the gym to use that thing again.

- Ate everything in sight. Fact: marathons will make you hungry.

You know how some people save special wines for special occasions? I do that with breakfast cereal. This box of cinnamon-flavoured cereal travelled from Portugal to New Zealand with me last October. I saved it for a celebration. Running a marathon qualified as special enough.

You know how some people save special wines for special occasions? I do that with breakfast cereal. This box of cinnamon-flavoured cereal travelled from Portugal to New Zealand with me last October. I saved it for a celebration. Running a marathon qualified as special enough.

- Realised that signing up for a half marathon in less than a week’s time was probably what some might call a “mistake”. By some, I mean every sane person on Earth.

- Iced my knee

- Got the Ice Ice Baby song stuck in my head

- Got excited about being able to take 10 steps without pain, only to realise the pain is back and the next 10 steps are going to be agony

- Researched post marathon blues on the internet and found out that they’re a thing. But, fear not, there are cures.

- Drank wine

Two different types of wine. There have been more. I don't complain so much about this part. Post-marathon hydration is important.

Two different types of wine. There have been more. I don’t complain so much about this part. Post-marathon hydration is important.

- Dropped the marathon into every possible conversation. You have an iPhone? That’s cool. That’s the one with the Apple-shaped logo, isn’t it? Fruit is awesome. I had a banana before I ran a marathon last week.

- Complained about how much my knee hurts.

- Bragged about the marathon.

You guys. My knee hurts. Like, really, it’s time it stops hurting now. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 things: runner’s knee, ITB syndrome or gangrene. Just kidding. Don’t look it up on Google Images. Oh, you just had to, didn’t you? That’s gross.

Anyway, it’s probably one of the first two. Before you tell me that I should go see my doctor, I know. I know. I’ll get onto it soon. Give it another day or two. Don’t make me admit that I’m really terrified the doctor is going to tell me I can’t run for a month or two. Heads will roll and probably not just in a metaphorical overly dramatic way.

Because have I mentioned it’s been 8 days since I last ran?

But also, I ran a marathon eight days ago. So there’s that.


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The day I became a marathoner

(Warning: this isn’t a funny post. It is lengthy and detailed. Read at your own risk but perhaps get a cup of tea or something first.)

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I’ve spent hours trying to come up with the words to write about the experience of running my first ever full marathon yesterday. I’m a writer and I’m supposed to know how to use words so that they say what I’m thinking but I’ve rarely felt as lost for words as I feel right now. So I’ve decided to just sit here and spill onto the WordPress dashboard whatever comes to my mind about that day, regardless of whether it makes much sense or not. I just want a record of it, for my own sake, even if I can’t translate my feelings into words in any language. Just assume that whatever you get from what I write, it is like one of those sachets of powdered juice that have had way too much water added to it. The reality is an undetermined number of times stronger than what I can describe.

On Sunday, just before lunchtime, I became a marathoner. It went right up there to the list of biggest achievements of my life.

I’ve been asked “how’d it go?” a lot in the last few hours. Possibly the hardest question I’ve been asked in a long time (since I chose social sciences and stopped having math classes in school, probably). I don’t know, you guys. I want to say “it went great” because I finished but I also want to tell you about how I had moments of pain (physical and mental) that I thought would be beyond my abilities to overcome (so, in that sense, not so great). It was horrible and amazing and painful and joyful and brilliant and terrifying and exhausting and energising and every other adjective in the OED. It was like a whole lot of emotions that you’re supposed to feel over a long period of time (days, months, years) all condensed in a few hours. I laughed, I cried, I felt worried, relaxed, tired, distracted, focused, happy, sad, and all the other emotions in between. I took my body and my mind to a limit that I wasn’t sure they could take it and I crushed the voice in my head that kept telling me to stop. That I didn’t have to do that. That no one needed to choose to be in pain. That I could just go to a bakery and go sit by the beach with a donut instead. That’s what I wanted, a donut. Why the hell was I not sitting down eating a donut?

Because I wanted to be a marathoner more than I wanted a donut (and that’s saying something because I really freaking love donuts).

I won’t lie to you: I was scared shitless. Just freaking terrified. I went through the week before with my “no big deal” face on about the Cold of Doom but I lost hours of sleep worrying about my weaker-than-average lungs. I wondered whether I was just being stubborn and irresponsible for putting myself through the marathon right after (still during?) the worst cold I’ve had in years. I didn’t want to get sicker. But, most of all, I didn’t want to give up.

On Saturday, after getting to the hotel, I laid all my running gear on a spare bed in the room, ready for the 5AM start the next morning. We’d been given the chance to start at 6:30AM, with the marathon walkers, so a few of us runners chose to do that. I knew I’d be slow and I couldn’t see a reason not to start an hour earlier and get it out of the way. The alarm went off at exactly 5AM and I took about 0.03 seconds to jump out of bed. I had a muesli bar, half a banana and cheap instant coffee from the hotel. I got ready in between numerous toilet breaks. My stomach hurt with anticipation. I got a text from Stacey telling me it was raining outside. Crap, I hadn’t even thought about that possibility. I blocked it off my mind. “You’re not giving up because water’s falling off the sky, you idiot.”

At 6:30AM, we lined up at the start line. It wasn’t raining there. A runner asked us if it was our first marathon and our positive answer was received with a look that translated into “you have no idea what you’re getting yourselves into”. “Please don’t scare me,” I told the lady. “But you’ve done half marathons, right?”. “Yes.” “Oh, you’ll be fine then.” I freaking hope so. The guy with the shotgun (yes, an actual shotgun to start off the race), pointed it up to the dark sky and yelled that we had 20 seconds to go. Oh boy, I needed the toilet again. The shotgun went off and the fright made me jump even though I totally knew it was coming. And then we started running. That was it, we were on our way.

Some of us carried torches because it was still pitch black. A few minutes later, it started raining. It rained until around the 10km mark. The sun started to come up but the clouds weren’t letting much light come through. I was freezing. I didn’t have my iPod on because I wanted to be as alert as possible. It was dark and the road was open to traffic. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other trying not to think about how long I had to go, because I knew the number was overwhelmingly big. I told myself I was just going to go to the halfway mark, where I knew my wonderful support crew would start popping up. I was going to run until I could see familiar faces, that was the goal. I’d figure the rest out later.

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Eventually, the sky cleared up and the rain clouds were replaced with a blazing sun. It was like running in different seasons. The sun was burning my head (and I now have a sunburned scalp to prove it). It made me almost miss the rain. I put my iPod on and tried not to think about what I was doing and all the things that were making me feel uncomfortable. The backpack bouncing up and down (and I have a couple of burn marks from that too), the wet clothes, the congested nose. Luckily, I managed to store that all in the back of my mind. By the time I saw the 14km sign, I was loving it. I loved it and then loved it some more and, at 20km, I spotted my friends for the first time. They had taken the nearly 5 hour drive from Auckland just to cheer me on and, even though I much prefer when they meet me for dinner and I’m not sweating through every pore, I couldn’t have been happier to see them right then and there. I knew I was almost halfway and I started thinking about walking but I saw them and didn’t want to walk in front of them so I gathered the strength to keep on running.

The finish line of all of my longest road runs had turned into my halfway point and I was ecstatic to realise I could keep on going. At the 22km mark, however, I decided to walk a few meters, just to mentally reset and get myself ready to run the rest of the way. I took maybe a dozen walking steps and then decided to run when my knee cap felt like it had popped out of place, making me scream with pain. A spectator came from the other side of the road to help me out. I had ice spray on my backpack and she got it out and sprayed it on my knee. I walked a bit longer and, 100m or so later, picked up a slow running pace again. But I was in pain. A whole lot of pain. My knee was sending me a clear message that I really should stop. I was responding back that I hadn’t gone all this way to now give it all up because of a stubborn knee. We had this argument for a whole 20km, in a run/walk negotiation that ended up lasting longer than I had anticipated, interrupted by pauses to put the knee brace on and re-apply ice spray. I know for a fact that I could not have kept running if I hadn’t had my knee brace on me, which makes me really thankful I ran with a backpack that was so well stocked it gave the idea I was going camping.

The last 20km weren’t as pleasant as the first 22km but my exhaustion grew directly proportional to my excitement to finish. I questioned my ability to finish for a couple of kilometers and tried to assess whether the pain on my knee was something that I should really worry about. In the end, I decided to truly take it one step at a time and not worry about anything more than the road immediately ahead of me. Painful step after painful step, I ran my way to the 30km marker, being cheered by my wonderful crew at different spots along the way. I grew mentally stronger as time went by, because I knew that each step taken was one step less that I’d have to take to reach my goal.

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Eventually, I switched from taking it one step at a time to one kilometer at a time. I told myself to re-assess the knee pain at every kilometer marker and gave myself permission to give up if I thought I was causing permanent damage. “There’ll be more marathons,” I thought. But there was also this one, right now, and I was mentally strong like I hadn’t been before and I didn’t want to waste that. So every kilometer marked the decision to run one more. And then one more. And then one more. At 35km, I had 7km to go. I told myself that 7km was something I could do before breakfast so there would be really no excuse to give up now. I bargained with myself “get to 5km to go and we can worry about the knee again”. And then there were 5km to go. I kept switching between running and walking and using the ice spray along the way. The extra pressure caused by the knee pain was getting the rest of my body extra tired too. I tried to focus on the music. I even tried to quietly sing along, hoping that’d take me somewhere else.

With a mere 4 kilometers to go, things got messy inside my head. I was exhausted, drained out. I wanted it done. I started thinking about the things I’d been told by people who’d done this before. Kim Allan, an experienced ultramarathoner, told me to “smile through the pain” so I repeated that out loud to myself a few times, like a mantra. Then I tried to actually do it, I tried to smile. I figured if I could fake a smile, maybe it’d turn into a real one. But boy, I was knackered. And not the “that was a tough day at work” kind of knackered, more like the “I just want to sit here and not move forever” kind. I wanted to see my friends again but they had all headed down to wait for me at the finish line. I needed something else. So I took the tough love approach with myself and thought about how I really shouldn’t be such a wuss. I got emotional in a sappy gooey way. I thought about my life and how truly wonderful it is, how I have a job and I have my health and my family and friends, how I get to travel and explore the world and do the things I always wished I’d do. I thought about my mum and dad and their daily struggle with circumstances they didn’t choose to be put through. I thought ‘if mum and dad can get through each day, you can get your stupid legs to keep moving”. And so I kept moving, my brain in a puddle, thinking about how I could have it so much harder and this was nothing compared to what other people go through. “Smile through the pain” got replaced with “stop being such a freaking baby”, which I said out loud a couple of times.

As I was busy working my way out of those bad thoughts, I spotted the 40km marker. That was all I needed to see. For some reason, 40 seems like a much bigger number than 39. I had run 30+ kilometers before but I had never reached 40 in my life. I had a “holy shit, these legs just ran 40km on their own!” moment and my fake smile turned into a big genuine one. I had 2 tiny little kilometers to go. I was happy. And so I ran. And ran. And ran. I turned down the last street to see the park where the finish line was, right at the end. I wanted to walk a few steps, my knee was complaining again. I walked maybe five steps and a girl came up from behind and told me to keep pushing through. I wanted to tell her she didn’t know how much pain I was in but the voice inside my head reminded me to “stop being such a freaking baby” and so I went back to running pace with her.

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It wasn’t long before I spotted familiar faces again and they started trying to make their way to the finish line before me. “I don’t mind slowing down for you guys,” I told them, only half-jokingly. Then I looked ahead and there it was, in the distance: “FINISH” in big bold font. There’s no giving up now. I ran the happiest meters of my life towards that finish line, could not have stopped smiling if I had tried, my mind in a mess of emotions, barely able to believe I was going to be allowed to stop.

Maybe one day I’ll get to a point where marathons aren’t such a huge deal. This one was my very first one, though, and it’ll forever have a special place in my heart. It was the first time I realised I could do it. The girl who hated PE in school, the girl who struggled with TB as a kid and had weak lungs thanks to that, had just become a marathoner.

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A friend who has run a marathon before told me a couple of days before that I was about to discover an overwhelming sense of possibility, like nothing could stop me from doing whatever I wanted. That stupid knee couldn’t stop me and neither could exhaustion so I guess she may very well have a point.

Ever since I crossed that finish line, over 30 hours ago, I’ve been the happiest I’d been in a long time. Feeling proud of myself is sort of a rare thing for me, because I’m one of those “too hard on myself” types and always think I could have done better. Yesterday, however, I left my heart on those roads and now I’m just enjoying this weird feeling of complete satisfaction.

I’m a marathoner now and I’m never not going to be a marathoner again. I think this is what they call life-changing.

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Overcoming “rest day” guilt

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If Bridget Jones’ iPod had gotten stuck playing Adele’s Someone Like You on repeat for a week, she still wouldn’t have gone through as many Kleenex as I did in the last few days, thanks to the Cold of Doom.

You’re welcome, paper tissue industry.

This whole week, I was home right after work, usually in bed. Tapering was already part of the plan but it came accompanied with one of the worst colds I’ve had in the last few years, just for good measure. So instead of “running less” and “cross training at the gym”, as I had planned back in my healthy days, I ended up running zero and doing nothing instead.

During that time, among other things, I played with the cat, spent daylight hours in my pyjamas, read a lot, slept a decent amount, and perfected the art of feeling sorry for myself. For the first time in the last couple of years, there are more “regular” clothes than running clothes in my laundry hamper. Plus, I’m pretty sure all this extra time I’m spending at home is freaking the cat out a little bit.

All these afternoons of going home after work and not getting changed into running clothes were taking their toll on me. I was (and am) sick of being sick. So yesterday morning, I got out of bed before the sun was up and ran 5k (another clear sign of illness, but a different type). The marathon on Sunday will tell me whether this was a really good or really bad idea but I just couldn’t handle not running anymore.

But more importantly, I ran because I was feeling guilty.

Even though the Cold of Doom was as unexpected as the Spanish Inquisition, I was supposed to be tapering this week anyway. Not running is okay. Not running is expected.

But every time I open my browser there’s some running-related website reminding me that I should get off the couch and run, that I should run on good days and run harder on bad days, that everything is okay if I ran today and yadda yadda yadda. While those sayings are usually inspirational when I can run, they’re like spit on my face when I can’t.

This whole week, as I drove past dozens of runners getting their sweat on every day, I felt a mix of guilt and jealousy. At times I thought I should get out and join them, even if only for 20 minutes, but those thoughts were always quickly kicked to the back of my mind by another coughing or sneezing fit.

Guilt can be a good thing, if you’re really just being lazy. It does get your ass off the couch, it does take your hand off the Pringles container. But sometimes, you have to stay on the couch and, sometimes, that extra salt from the Pringles is a good idea. Like when you’re about to run a marathon and have been attacked by the Cold of Doom.

Luckily, Thursday’s early morning 5k didn’t have a negative impact on how I was feeling. I’m still keeping the paper tissue industry alive and well, with a marathon the day after tomorrow, but I’m not worse than I was before that run and, at this stage, “not worse” is pretty damn good to me. That 5k run helped with my confidence too. I was starting to only sort of remember running like you remember that friend from high school that you only hear from every so often and I needed to make sure I still knew how to properly tie up my shoelaces.

So, for my own reference, and for the sake of everyone else out there torturing themselves with another motivational running quote on Pinterest: it’s okay if you didn’t run today. In some cases, it’s actually the best thing you could have done for yourself today. You smart thing, you. Now eat another Pringle.

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