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the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Five things Star Wars can teach you about endurance running

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(I can almost sense you rolling your eyes at this but do bear with me because I’ve given this way more thought than I’m prepared to admit.)

I went to see the One Man Star Wars show on Friday night and it wasn’t actually the lamest thing on Earth, which was what I had mentally prepared for. It was pretty funny so if you’re a bit of a Star Wars fan and can go see it, you should. Then you can do the same thing I did afterwards: go out for dinner and figure out how many Star Wars quotes you get into the conversation before it stops making sense (surprisingly, quite a few).

Since there’s absolutely nothing I can’t relate to running these days, of course I’m writing a post relating Star Wars to endurance running. Star Wars is awesome and full of wisdom and it totally relates to endurance running (and not just in the sense that I sound like Darth Vader when running uphill). You might think this makes no sense, and you’re probably right, but be nice and read on because I made a list for you:

1. Endurance running requires a lot of patience

“I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.” – Yoda

Poor Yoda is a fountain of wisdom but has trouble teaching Luke Skywalker because Luke is a bit impatient. Good thing Luke is a Jedi because he’d be shit at endurance running if he was a regular human being. For us, regular folk, endurance running is about “relentless forward progress” and it’s not something you can get to immediately but rather something you work hard towards achieving. If you don’t have the patience to wait a long time before seeing any big results, you’re better off pursuing an interest that is a little less challenging, like Candy Crush Saga or something. Yoda knows this. Clever little cookie, he is.

2. The harder the training, the bigger the benefits

“Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

The path to becoming an endurance runner is filled with amazing long runs but also a fair deal of pretty shitty I-might-just-turn-around-and-run-back-home-and-eat-some-cake-instead runs. I know that because I’ve had my fair share of both, and have painful memories of some of the bad ones. Bad runs willl only make you a better, smarter endurance runner (or, at least, that’s what I tell myself). It’s only by making mistakes that you can learn not to make them again. We’ve all been there. We’ve all assumed mint chocolate Gu gels wouldn’t taste like crap. The point is: the tougher the run, the steeper the hill, the more you’ll get out of conquering it. Even if you feel like vomiting your energy gel halfway up the damn thing, you know you’ll be much stronger at the top than you were at the bottom. Easy runs, as nice as they might be, won’t give you nearly as much in return.

3. Believe you can and you’re halfway there

Luke: “I don’t believe it.” Yoda: “That is why you fail.”

It wasn’t that long ago that I used to think that people who said stuff like “believe you can and you’re halfway there” were full of shit but then I went and ran a god damn marathon, which I finished even though I got an inflamed IT band right at the halfway point (that proceeded to drive me to tears for weeks). The run was incredibly hard (not just because I was hurt but also because, in retrospect, I don’t think you can call a couple of slow long runs “training for a marathon”). I honestly can’t believe I actually crossed that finish line and didn’t just ask someone to pick me up from the side of the road instead. If I tried to run a marathon today, I’d fail miserably. That day, however, not finishing was not an option, because of how much I visualised myself finishing, both during the run and the few days before that. When you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous how little actual physical fitness has to do with it. My point – or rather, Yoda’s point – is that if you tell yourself you’re going to run a freaking marathon, you bet your ass you’re going to run it right to the end, even if your leg hurts so much you feel like you’re crippling yourself in the process.

4. Make your own path

“You must unlearn what you have learned.” – Yoda

There is so much advice out there about what good running is that it’s hard to keep up and for every theory there’s another one contradicting the first. Don’t make the mistake of blindly following advice from magazines or any of those places (definitely don’t take advice from me because I really have no clue about anything, in general). Forget everything you’ve read, listen to your body and do what feels right. If three bags of jelly beans is what you need to eat at 6am to get you through your long run, then enjoy the hell out of those jelly beans (except the black ones, they’re disgusting, throw them out). Who cares if you’re running barefoot or in running shoes? No one cares, really. And you shouldn’t either. Run as fast or as slow as it makes you happy, as often as you feel like it, wearing whatever you want. You don’t have to drink green smoothies or protein shakes to be a good runner or even do a single fartlek in your entire life (you can and should, however, drop the word fartlek into every possible conversation, because why wouldn’t you?).

5. Do it

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

Of course you could see this one coming from miles away (from a galaxy far, far away? Ok, I’ll stop now). The attitude endurance runners have towards running kind of mirrors the attitude people who have their lives together have about life (I mean, I guess. I don’t know. Ask them). But really, the only way I’m going to run an ultramarathon in OMFG 227 DAYS! is by convincing myself that it is definitely going to happen. I’m not going to “try to run it”. I’m going to smash the damn thing, even if I stay on this Whittaker’s chocolate diet I’ve been on and become the first Jabba the Hutt-shaped human to do so. And now I’ve got 227 days to convince myself of what I just said.


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I could totally be a morning runner if mornings started at 11am

A friend of mine succumbed to my constant nagging and took up running a while ago. Great news, right?

Yeah. For him.

Every morning, EVERY SINGLE GOD DAMN MORNING, I get to hear him tell me all about the glorious runs that he goes on before going to work, giving me the opportunity to scratch “feel like a complete loser” off my to do list before I’ve even had the chance to properly wake up.

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Since I apparently hate money, we also somehow had this stupid bet going for a couple of weeks, which involved seeing whether I could make it out of bed for a morning run like him. For every day that I failed, I had to buy him a hot chocolate so of course that meant he got a whole bunch of free hot chocolates (which, according to him, tasted like victory and marshmallows), since not even the thought of having to spend yet another $4 on hot chocolate that I don’t even get to drink was enough to get my ass out of bed.

Luckily he took pity on me and the bet came to an end before I had to start digging any further into my life savings so my future children are safe (and by future children I mean my future 10 cats).

His enthusiastic running reports, however, haven’t ended. Every morning, while I struggle not to throw my hot cup of coffee at his face out of pure jealousy (I know, I think I’m delightful too), I tell myself that one of these days I, too, like any other proper human being, will be able to get out of bed and run before work and then I, too, will be able to stand around the office kitchen telling people about how I’ve been up for hours getting stuff done, instead of getting showered, ready and out of the door in a grand total of about 13 minutes.

Two nights ago, I took extreme measures to make sure there was absolutely no possible way in hell I’d be standing there the next morning, once again, quietly admitting defeat. Here’s a list of what I did to ensure my morning run plan would be successful:

  • I slept in my running clothes.
  • I placed my running shoes carefully by the side of the bed, right where I could see them from my pillow.
  • I put my phone-slash-alarm clock away on top of a chest of drawers instead of on my bedside table, to force me to get up to turn it off in the morning.
  • I changed the alarms to louder, more annoying ringtones, and added really mean self-bullying written messages to show up on the screen every time the alarm went off.
  • I had my running watch and iPod right on my bedside table so they could be the first things I’d see.
  • I left the curtains slightly open so that, if the first few alarms failed to wake me up, I’d at least get up around sunrise and have time for a 5k.
  • I didn’t even read before bed and instead just turned the light off and tried to go the hell to sleep straight away.

It was the perfect plan. There was just no way it could fail.

Fast forward a few (not enough) hours, and the stupid alarm was going off. I dragged myself out of bed, turned it off, noticed I was wearing running clothes, remembered my absolutely fail-proof plan, thought “screw that” and went back to sleep.

So tell me, internet, you with all the answers: what the fresh hell is wrong with me?

It can’t be laziness because I will happily jump out of bed at 5am on a weekend for a long run. Also, I once sat through an entire Nicole Kidman movie and didn’t even try to kill myself so I know I’m tough, I know I’ve got what it takes. So what’s my mental block with runs before work? WHAT THE HELL IS IT? And what do you do to get your butt out of bed for mid-week runs? Did you have to replace your mattress with a bed of nails? Because maybe, just maybe, that’d work for me!

For now, I think I’m just going to finally let go of years of failed attempts at this whole morning run business. It’s obviously not for me and, frankly, if enjoying my warm bed in the morning is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

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Just kidding. I totally want to be right. All the time.

I sort of made up for it a little bit by packing up my running gear and finally going back to the Adidas running club that I hadn’t been to in months. That one is in the afternoon so it’d be hard to come up with an excuse not to go, after the morning’s spectacular failure. I punished myself by running way faster than my chocolate-fueled body can take at the moment and finished the 5km run feeling like my internal organs were trying to squeeze themselves out of my body via my throat. I’m no doctor but I’d say this is a less than desired state of affairs for someone who’s supposed to be training for an ultramarathon. Still, afternoon running is better than no running and I’m happy to report that, after boring the hell out of all of you with my excuses not to run, I’m back to putting some decent weekly mileage on my shoes.

In case you’re crazy enough to think I might not be a complete lost cause, do feel free to share your tricks to make mid-week morning runs a reality. I’ll have a good hard think about all of them, probably while I’m hitting the snooze button from the comfort of my bed.


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In defense of lazy days

It’s obviously pretty hard to maintain a running blog when you’re not doing much running at all but I thought it was about time I logged on to clean up some cobwebs around here, while I procrastinate on some actual paid writing work I have to get done.

I was even supposed to have a race recap to write today but I didn’t actually start the race. Sad, I know. I was too. Then I heard it was all on loose sand and now, frankly, I’m not feeling quite so bad about it.

Still, this morning, I got up early to run the XTERRA run in Woodhill. I got dressed and ready to get out and head over to the forest for the run. About 15 minutes into this weird auto-pilot mode, I realised there was no way in hell I was going to drag my hungover ass for about 15km up and down that forest, after a very late night at a friend’s birthday party. I mean, I do some pretty stupid stuff but we’d be trying to redefine stupid right now, if I’d done that.

Since I was already in my running gear, though, I decided to punish myself with a road run. I managed not to throw up for the entire 10km but did feel like I was sweating vodka (lovely, I know), which confirmed that my decision not to head to Woodhill was a wise one. Wise decisions aren’t something I’m known for so excuse me while I pat myself on the back for that one.

As bad as I feel about this morning’s DNS (only my second ever since I started entering running events at a rate of about 1 per month for the last 3 years), I know it was actually a smart decision and, you know, you gotta know when to stop do what’s best for your health and all that. Jesus Christ, I’m such a freaking grownup sometimes. 

But also, I just haven’t really felt like running much lately. And you know what? If I feel like sitting on my ass instead of running for a few days, I’m gonna go ahead and sit on my ass and you’re not going to make me feel guilty about it, internet. Did you hear me, people on Pinterest? Get off my back with your motivational crap.

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Oh dear. Now I really hope you didn’t come here looking for some running motivation. Put your pyjama pants back on, you’re all invited to my pity party.

It’s not all bad, though. Things actually started changing again this week and the mileage of the last few days is almost back to the usual levels but the truth is that the graph for this month’s mileage looks pretty damn miserable. I didn’t actually run at all for the first five days of the month. Five entire days without running, for no reason other than “meh, running schmunning”. I allowed myself a break because, well, I felt like it.

That five-day hiatus was, however, broken mostly because I was (not so) kindly invited out the door for a run because I was apparently getting a little too grumpy to be around other human beings.  I was about to start a “WHO ARE YOU CALLING GRUMPY?!” speech but immediately saw the point and proceeded to dutifully lace up my running shoes. Off I went to get my sweat on and, of course, a mere half an hour later, the world was full of rainbows again. I hate it when other people are right.

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My point still stands, though. Sure, running is amazing and stops me from wanting to murder people. But I shouldn’t feel pressured to run, or I’ll risk falling out of love with it. The thing that helps you deal with stress should never be a cause of stress. It can be just a phase and it’s ok to allow yourself a break. I mean, if I’m going to get all stressed out about how I’m not doing enough of what helps me deal with stress, then there’s a really serious flaw in my plan.

And I’m not the only one who thinks that. The company I technically still work for even though they made a bunch of us redundant (TOTALLY NOT BITTER!), arranged for us to have this “outplacement support” sessions with a coach who’s supposed to be helping us find a new direction and gear us up for our next job and understand the meaning of life and all that stuff. I had my first session this week and the lady talked me through the stages of grief in job loss. Since I’ve got two sessions to go, I’m not going to say a damn thing about what I think of it. No, no a word. Stop insisting. But in any case, the lady showed me a list of things people do in order to deal with grief and stress and asked me what I was doing and what I normally do to deal with a stressful situation. So I told her. I told her about the running, and the bikram and the baking sessions and how I haven’t really done much of any of those things lately and have, instead, replaced it all with a giant load of nothing, while getting angry at people who say I should be doing something (like, you know, running) because doing nothing is suiting me just fine right now thankyouverymuch.

I realised the level of my bitchiness as soon as the words came out of my mouth but, by then, it was too late. She was lovely and understanding and even managed to find a way to praise my decision to slow down, calling it “responsible”. HAHAHA, “decision”. Oh lady. There was no “decision”. There’s been a lot of sitting on the couch with a family-sized bar of chocolate thinking about how I should probably-maybe-perhaps-who-knows be running instead. Next thing you know, it’s midnight and the next day comes again and I find myself “deciding” to sit on the couch with another chocolate bar. I’ve been talking myself out of runs with the same ease Lindsay Lohan talks herself out of rehab. And you know what? That’s fine. Well, for me, not for Lindsay. Get your shit together, Lindsay.

The point is: I don’t need your stupid guilt, Pinterest. I’m not interested in your silly fitspiration, internet. Am I even saying it right? Fitspiration? I don’t actually care. Making me feel guilty about not running is not going to make me head out for a run any faster, it’s only going to make me feel bitter about running, which is the last thing that can happen because then who’ll populate the internet with angry posts filled with annoying animated gifs (other that, you know, everyone else)?

But I now feel like I’ve gone through my bout of chocolate-fueled laziness and, if this week is anything to go by (excluding the DNS from this morning), I’m ready to up my numbers again. I even managed one morning run before work, a true sign that my commitment to this whole thing is coming back.

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In the mean time, while I make sure my running mojo is back to stay, here’s some cool running-related stuff, in bullet points because I really need to move over to the next tab and get writing about the stuff I’m actually being paid to write:

- Cliffy was on TV here last weekend and it’s a really lovely movie. Not entirely sure how anyone as badass as Cliff Young can be so sweet but he’s so cute I just wanted to put him in my pocket. Metaphorically. Calm down.

- Just in case you’ve been living under a rock or took a holiday to a different galaxy, the Oatmeal posted his best comic ever this week. Of course it’s about running. In case I’m speaking to the only person on earth who has not read it yet, go read it like 3 or 4 times in a row right now.

- My little Portuguese heart nearly burst with pride when Carlos Sá won the Badwater Ultramarathon this week. A few hours later, my little adopted-kiwi heart got all happy again when kiwi Amy Campbell crossed the finish line of the same grueling race and set a new NZ record for that course.

- While I was busy not running and not writing about running, I somehow got into this Reader’s Choice list of Top 100 running blogs, which includes a long list of blogs written by people who’ve actually been getting off their asses.


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When all else fails, go for a run. Or don’t. Whatever, I’m not your mother.

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Oh hi. How’s it going? Me? Well, funny you should ask. It’s been a shitty few days.

But you know, doors closing, windows opening and all that jazz.

In the mean time, like any proper unemployed freelancing journalist, I’ve been busy buying shoes. Not exactly the type of shoes I grew used to buying in times of emotional crisis but the rough looking trail running shoes you see in the image above (taken when they were about 15 hours old and duly christened out in the Waitakere ranges).

When all else fails, go running amirite? I’m sure there’s some motivational poster crap out there on the internet saying that.

Well, that’s not strictly how I’ve been dealing with it, but this is a running blog so on with the running stuff. I picked the shoes up on Friday, after about 36 hours without sleeping (I’M FINE, YOU GUYS, REALLY!), and tested them out on the trails bright and early (except not bright) on Saturday with Steven and Martin. It was precisely zero degrees when I got in the car to drive there to meet them but I didn’t completely hate them for picking that time. Then we started out on the trail and it was really steep and I still didn’t hate them for picking that route. I was still hungover, hadn’t had any breakfast, was running really slow and they also didn’t hate me for any of those things. Once we got to the top and started running down, I went from “not hating” it to actually kind of loving it and ended up having a great time getting the new shoes muddy and disgusting, as they should be.

And then came Sunday and, with it, another early morning to drive out to Waiuku for the third XTERRA run of the season. It was cold and foggy and the drive was long and I spent some of it making a mental list of things I’d rather be doing instead of driving to Waiuku (turns out, quite a few things). But then I got there, picked up my bib and timing chip and hardened the hell up.

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XTERRA runs never fail to wake anyone up, not even me. Barely one kilometer into it and I was loving it. Then came the soft sand and I wasn’t loving it so much. I was hating it. In fact, no, wait. Hate isn’t even a strong enough verb to describe how strongly I feel about running on soft sand. You pick a better verb, I’m unemployed. I don’t have to. It was also super foggy which meant the awesome views over Port Waikato were actually just a thick blanket of white stuff. Did I mention the soft sand? And it was freezing! And soft sand. Soft sand everywhere!

Then why the hell did I enjoy it so much? I have no idea. But there you have it. The next XTERRA is on July 21 in Woodhill Forest and you can still sign up and come get muddy too. There probably won’t be as much sand involved this time.

Surely not.

Please let there not be any soft sand.

Regardless, these two trail runs ended up doing wonders for my sanity (if very little for my sleep deprivation). So those idiotic motivational posters on Pinterest might not actually be completely wrong. When your magazine closes down and you’re out of a job, go get some mud on those shoes. You’ll probably feel better if you do.

 

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