super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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A run through the forest, now with 100% less injuries [Riverhead Rampage recap]

I took this photo while running, a pretty neat trick for me these days, considering I seemed to have lost my ability to stand up straight, let alone operate my phone camera while running. BUT THERE YOU HAVE IT.

I took this photo while running, a pretty neat trick for me these days, considering I seemed to have lost my ability to stand up straight, let alone operate my phone camera while running. BUT THERE YOU HAVE IT.

I totally expected my post about the Riverhead Rampage to be a whiny one (which is okay because I’m pretty prolific at whining so those posts practically write themselves).

I was ready to tell you another sad tale of how my crippled ankle couldn’t handle the uneven terrain and the roots and the rocks and all the damn nature and I’d ended up on the ground covered in dirt and tears, looking for my self-respect. And then you’d say something nice to me even though what you really think is “why doesn’t she just take a break to heal up?” and I’d pretend that I was totally going to take a break, even though I’d actually be halfway through typing my credit card details for another trail event on a different browser tab.

WELL. NOT THIS TIME.

The Riverhead Rampage – my fourth running event in four weeks – turned out to be a day of sweet trails, time with good friends and free craft beer so, basically, everything I love about trail running.

I had a feeling it was going to turn into another DNF (and a reason to throw another pity-party for one over here) but I was still pretty damn excited about this brand spanking new event right on my doorstep. It had the sweetest forest trails you can find this side of the galaxy and it was sponsored by the local brewery so included free craft beer (because why use only Strava when you can give your Untappd account a good workout too?). It was pretty much guaranteed to be the perfect day, especially for people with two functioning ankles.

Riverhead Forest and I were going through a bit of a thing. My last big ankle sprain (you know it’s bad when you have to order them chronologically in your head) had happened there, a couple of months before. Matt, the good guy behind the inaugural event, had offered to give a few of us nutters a sneak peek of the course one day after work. It sounded awesome – getting a bunch of friends together for a forest run at dusk, followed by some of the best beer you can find, brewed right there in Riverhead. Everyone was excited.

So, naturally, I ruined it.

Just 2km into that sneak peek into the new course, I had another one of my spectacular falls and sat there in the forest screaming for – oh, I don’t know – it felt like hours, it was probably a decent few minutes. Michael eloquently described my screams as sounding like “someone being attacked by a dog” and, while I’m aware of the fact that I’m no Adele, I’d like to point out that an ankle sprain isn’t the time to pass judgement on anyone’s artistic abilities.

The good news is that we’re all getting pretty used to my shit. Because I’m careful enough to surround myself with the best running buddies around (but not careful enough not to splatter myself on the ground every time I run, apparently), they all took turns to piggy-back me out of the forest (so, really, they all got their workout that day) and, instead of the hospital, this time we knew better and headed straight to the pub, do not pass go do not collect $200.

Fast forward a few weeks, a few races and a few dozen metres of tape and we were all toeing the start line for the event, inside the Riverhead School grounds. A week after the Hillary, and marking four events in four weekends, all I could think about was getting to another finish line. If I could do it without limping (much), that’d be a very welcome bonus.

I decided to be careful and take it really easy, knowing I’d be running past the exact spot where I’d fallen not very long ago (luckily, my spatial awareness on the trails is close to non-existent so, in the end, I didn’t even recognise the spot when I ran past it so trauma avoided).

The first few kilometres through the forest went by and I kept going, slowly and steadily, sometimes a little too slowly, sometimes a little less steadily. But, these days, a run without a fall is a victory in my books. I really just wanted to finish, regardless of how long it’d take. I already had my ticket for a free beer and my only goal that day was to cash it without having to limp to the counter.

And then something surprising happened: I ran pain-free. And for a few moments here and there, I even ran worry-free. Months of running on a sore ankle have got me used to constantly worrying about where I’m putting my feet with each step – it’s a mentally exhausting game that I don’t like playing (especially because I often lose). Not this time.

The long stretches of forestry road helped my confidence and I managed a good few happy kilometres of genuine worry-free running, a feeling I had started to forget about. The rocky terrain near the finish wasn’t enough to wipe the stupidly smug smile off my face – although it did slow me down to almost walking pace.

So there you go. I didn’t screw it up. I got to cross the finish line of one of the happiest runs I’ve had in a long time – with the peacefulness that I get from running on my own and the excitement of knowing my whole running family was out there on that course too. We put our free beer tickets to good use at Hallertau and sat around drinking in the sun, no piggy-backs or painkillers required.

(I did momentarily roll my ankle stepping out of the car near the brewery but this blog has had enough embarrassing episodes to last me a lifetime so I’m going to go ahead and skip that one.)

This was going to be a #beerselfie but the guy next to us noticed how useless we were being at it and offered to take our photo, meaning I can no longer claim the hashtag. THANKS A LOT RANDOM PERSON. (No, really, thanks. It's a cool photo and I suck at group selfies.)

Such good looking people. Such delicious free beer.

While the ankle isn’t 100% recovered and I still have this weird feeling of not having any balance standing on my own two feet, that finish line got me another giant step closer to where I need to be.

The day after the event, I got on a plane to Australia and have since parked my ass inside a campervan, touring the outback (having only run once in the last week and a half), occasionally raising my feet up onto the dashboard (that’s 1/4 of the whole RICE thing done right there) and even sometimes remembering to do the ankle exercises the physio recommended before I gave up seeing her due to my inability to take any of her advice.

Also, Riverhead and I are on good terms again. This running thing isn’t so bad after all.


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Knocking a little bit of the bastard off – a recap of the Hillary 16km

Credit: Allan Ure - Photos4Sale

Credit: Allan Ure – Photos4Sale

After getting cut off at Tarawera, I decided to attempt running a marathon the weekend after even though my ankle was still swollen and sore.

Stop rolling your eyes, I can explain.

The DUAL looked amazing and Tarawera entrants had been given a discount code for it. I’m a freelancer now and I’m in no position to turn down a good bargain. Plus, I thought there was a chance I could maybe perhaps who knows potentially be able to manage a marathon along paddocks, trails and rough scoria.

Nope.

A mere 12km into the marathon, I fell (again) and sprained my ankle (again) right near the top of Rangitoto (again). My “marathon” ended up turning into a 12km run (a pretty good run if I do say so myself) with a few hundred metres of hobbling to the closest aid station for a ride in an ambulance back to the start line (thank you Gary who stayed with me until I managed to get up from the ground and the awesome volunteers at the aid station who made sure I stayed comfortable while I waited to be taken back to the start). So that finish line on Motutapu was going to have to wait another year.

That brought the total of finish lines left uncrossed up to two in just two weekends – a less than ideal state of affairs for someone who, until recently, was pretty proud to claim to never have had a DNF. With the first ever Hillary event just a week after the Great Motutapu Disaster of 2014 and my registration for the 34km already paid for, I decided to ignore all the super smart people that kept telling me it was time for a break and, instead, compromised by downgrading my entry to the 16km event (from Bethells to Muriwai Beach) because, even though my ankle was back to being the size of a golf ball, I couldn’t bring myself to miss out on the first ever Hillary event.

The Hillary is a pretty special place. There’s probably no better way to pay tribute to the legacy of Sir Ed than running or hiking that trail (aside from maybe climbing Everest which I intend to do at a quarter past never going up those hills). The Waitakeres are also my local playground and where I do most of my training runs. I’ve done a lot of bitching and moaning along that trail, had some pretty massive meltdowns going up some of the hills and smiled and laughed my way along some of the downhills. As a trail runner, the Waitakeres are my home. Having so many people come from all over the place to run along those trails was like having some really honourable guests visiting your home. You want to be there to witness their jaws drop at the beauty of your backyard.

Also, I badly needed a finish line. As much as I can try to be rational about it and tell myself that it’s totally justified and that I shouldn’t even have started the marathon after the ultra with my busted ankle, the truth is that those two finish lines that I didn’t get to cross, in just two weeks, were a bit of a blow to my confidence.

Timing wasn’t perfect but someone has to keep Rocktape in business so I strapped the hell out of my ankle and made it to the start line at Bethells, where I got to catch up with a bunch of friends. The sun was out, I was in one of my favourite places and a mere 16km away from the finish line. It was going to be a good day.

Te Henga – the track that links Bethells to Muriwai – is a pretty technical piece of trail, far from ideal for a sprained ankle. I took my time along it, really focusing on each step. It was a hot day and I knew that going extra slow meant staying longer under that hot sun but I needed my ankle intact for the inaugural Riverhead Rampage the following weekend (so many cool events, so few healthy ankle ligaments).

I’d done the Te Henga track a few times before and knew that the steps up to Constable Road would be my absolute least favourite part – but I also knew that it is one of the most stunning pieces of trail in New Zealand (in the world, actually) and that no amount of ankle pain is enough to make you unhappy when faced with those views. I MEAN, LOOK AT THAT PHOTO. If you want to feel lucky about life, even when everything else looks a little shit, head to Te Henga. It cures everything.

In spite of the mental exhaustion of having to watch every single step along the trail and even though I had to downgrade to the shortest distance, I’m sure my decision to still run the Hillary event was the right one (hashtag things I don’t get to say very often). I had some pretty good moments along the trail and, even when I felt less than amazing, there was always something to be happy about. At one point, as I was stopped on the side of the trail wondering why I wasn’t home doing a sudoku or something a little less challenging, a trail runner I’d never met stopped and handed me a chocolate bar, saying I looked like I needed it. His act hasn’t shaken my belief that sharing chocolate is craziness but it was one of those gestures you only see happen on the trails. So how can I not love this thing, golf ball-sized ankles and all?

Slow step after slow step, I reached Muriwai Beach, where I realised I was finally going to cross the finish line I so desperately needed. It was all ok. I wasn’t a complete loser, just a runner with a sprained ankle, an incredible lack of self-control and a credit card statement with too many running events listed on it. BUT HOW COULD I NOT? I MEAN, LOOK AT THAT VIEW.

I crossed the finish line, got my little fridge magnet medal and Steve, who had to pull out of the 80km with an injured foot, was there to support the rest of our running family. I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the sun cheering for everyone who came across the finish line and was stoked to be able to see some friends finish, including Glenn who ran the full Hillary after Tarawera and the full marathon at the Dual (you should read his Hillary report, but don’t believe the bit about someone trying to poison him with warm beer. I drank it and it was fine).

It took Shaun Collins and the Lactic Turkey Events team a good couple of years of hard work to get this event approved by the Auckland Council. The council finally allowed the event to happen this year on a trial basis and with stringent measures in place to prevent the spreading of Kauri Dieback.

Like everyone else in the trail running community, I hope this event becomes an annual one. It has the potential to become one of the most significant events in the trail running calendar in the country, showcasing some of the most spectacular pieces of trail in the world (tourism dollars, we like ‘em, am I right?). Not only did it have all measures in place to prevent Kauri Dieback from spreading, I’m pretty sure it actually raised a lot of awareness of the issue. Trail runners want Kauri Dieback gone as much as anyone else (I’ve never seen a trail runner run past a spray station in the Waitakeres without stopping to spray their shoes, regardless of how fast they’re going). The truth is that you’ll be hard pressed to find a community that loves and cares for the trails as much as this one so turning down a trail running event for fear of spreading Kauri Dieback is a bit of an oxymoron (emphasis on moron).


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Let me tell you about that time I ran an ultramarathon in a cyclone

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Credit: Allan Ure – Photos4Sale

Is this the most overdue ultramarathon recap in history? Potentially. Will it be worth the wait? Probably not. Should I stop asking questions and just get on with it? Definitely.

The truth is that I thought this was going to be really easy to write up. I planned this post in my head approximately 43,348 times in each training run. But I guess if I wanted an easy predictable topic to write about, choosing trail running was my first mistake.

Tarawera was nothing like I expected and, yet, it was everything I wanted.

Like some kind of really lame practical joke, a cyclone hit New Zealand during the weekend of the ultramarathon and forced a bunch of changes, meaning nothing went according to plan. The course had to be changed and the new distances became approximately 60 and 70km.

Just in case you have something better to do then read the rest of this, I’ll jump straight to the finish and tell you I didn’t actually get to cross the finish line, as Search and Rescue closed the course and a bunch of us got stopped at 53km. I cried my eyes out for a few minutes, standing there in the pouring rain after being told I couldn’t keep going – I’m one of those ugly criers and there were heaps of people around so that moment is probably not going to feature in my future best-selling autobiography.

By the time we got on the bus, however, I was over the disappointment. I realised I’d actually run an ultramarathon distance in a god damn cyclone, so dangerous that the course had to be closed. If that’s not something to be proud of, then all I’ve got going for me is that time I won the spelling competition in primary school and got a mechanical pencil for a prize.

The truth is that, for such a long run, this ultramarathon ended up having very little to do with running. I got a bunch of life lessons thrown at me in just a few hours, which is why it’s taken me so long to process it all.

In the months leading up to the event, the thought of having to run this ultra in the rain didn’t even cross my mind – now, all of a sudden, we’d be doing it in a cyclone. And my ankle was still sprained, swollen and hurting, forcing me to visit a physio the day before the race to strap the living hell out of it. And the rain. The damn pouring rain. Nothing about it seemed fair but, then again, Macklemore had won a Grammy earlier in the year so I already knew the world was full of injustices anyway.

It turned out that there was no point spending months worrying about what shoes to wear, how many gels to pack, where to place my drop bags, what songs to put on my playlist or any other of the 694 items on my Tarawera to do list. I ended up wearing brand new running shoes for my ultra (ask anyone who runs and they’ll tell you what a giant mistake that is) and not even that made a difference.

Credit: Marceau Photography

Credit: Marceau Photography

As we lined up at the start line at 6:30am, it was still pitch black in the forest. They say the only thing you have to fear is fear itself but I’d like to call bullshit on that because I was pretty freaking terrified about the prospect of an ultramarathon in a cyclone. Carlene used her ukulele to inject some adrenaline into everyone’s veins with the song that you’ll never be able to get out of your head, followed by a Maori chant coming from somewhere between the trees. You try to get through that without getting all goosebumpy and tell me how that works out for you. We all hugged and wished each other luck. That was it right there – the culmination of months and months of training, hours of running in the middle of nowhere, long group chats about what the hell we were getting ourselves into. Our group was all there, all ready (ish). The universe hadn’t looked so right since that time Vanilla Ice danced to Ice Ice Baby on the Dancing on Ice TV show. We counted down from 10 and, just like that, we were off into the forest.

I used my inhaler about 20 times in the first few kilometres but kept my pace nice and slow. I didn’t know how I was going to feel in the second half of the run and wanted to save as much energy as possible for that. Plus, I had a sprained over-mobile ankle to worry about and was focusing really hard on not splattering myself on the ground that early into the race.

Forsyth and Glenn, who helped me train for this damn thing, stayed with me from the start. I thought they’d take off and leave me behind at some point so was just trying to enjoy having their company while I had it. We chatted the first few kilometres away, going at the slowest pace any of them had ever run.

It wasn’t long before we got to the spot where we had to choose what new distance we’d be doing. F and I were both signed up for the original 60km, while G was meant to be doing 100km. The “short course” option (60km) meant a left turn, the “long course” option (now about 70km) meant a right turn. In hindsight, I know that turning left and running the 60km would have meant that I would have crossed the finish line (as I would have been out of the area Search and Rescue closed before they got there). So it might sound a little odd to tell you that making the “mistake” of turning right and going for the 70km option will stay as one of the proudest moments of my life.

I was given the option of doing something shorter and easier and decided to go for the option that scared me the most (I’d never run more than 42km so going for a 70km run during a cyclone felt like a pretty bold decision to me). My lack of hesitation seemed to surprise everyone, including Tim Day, course director and all round awesome dude who was marshalling the intersection. But it didn’t surprise any of them as much as it surprised me. Even now, knowing I could have finished the whole race if I’d chosen the short course, I’m still proud of my decision to attempt the 70km.

I kept expecting F and G to take off and run their own races but they continued to run along next to me. We caught up with a few other friends along the way, chatted along with some other runners, saw friendly faces at every aid station (Tarawera has some of the best volunteers you’ll ever find) and passed the time talking about random stuff I’ll never be able to remember again. Having them around meant I didn’t get in my own head so much and could focus on each step, making sure I didn’t let my ankle roll again. Every time my mind wandered (as it inevitably does when you’re running out in the bush for ages), I’d come back and notice they were still with me, chatting away like they had nowhere else to be. I kept telling them they should go ahead and run faster (which I totally didn’t mean because I actually wanted the company) and they kept refusing, saying I’d need help if anything happened to my ankle. And so they stayed, letting me set the slow pace, kilometre after kilometre after god damn kilometre, during the toughest run of my life.

Credit: Allan Ure - Photos4Sale

Credit: Allan Ure – Photos4Sale

They stuck with me through all the highs and lows. My highs were pretty high – thanks to industrial doses of Gu Roctane, and my lows were really low, mostly because I’m a giant wimp but also because, in my defense, I was running an ultra in a cyclone on a busted ankle. None of that seemed to matter to them. Every time I told them to go ahead without me, they told me to stop insisting on that. Next thing I knew, after a bunch of smiles and even a good dose of panicky tears, we’d done over a marathon. I kept focusing on my steps, trying to keep the ankle safe, and every time I looked to the side, F and G were still there too, sacrificing their ultramarathon time to make sure I was safe.

It doesn’t matter how many beers I buy these two in my lifetime, I’ll never be able to thank them enough for what they did that day (so I guess no point buying them any beers, right? Right).

By the time we hit the Western Okataina Walkway, the rain had started getting really heavy and I was feeling pretty – how shall I put it? – motivationally-impaired. I had a crying fit that I blame on exhaustion and panic over cut off times (because I’m the worst at maths and thought we were way behind even though we actually weren’t). At that point, when I felt like I was staring at life from the bottom of a gutter, G decided to go ahead for a bit, while F stayed with me and got acquainted with the worst version of myself.

We kept each other going along the undulating trail, managed some high fives and hugs to friends that were running back from the Okataina aid station, and helped each other through the highs and lows. I found some motivation at the end of a couple of packs of Gu Roctane (I’m telling you, that stuff is magical) and even managed to pass a few people along the way. The walkway was turning into a giant mud pool by then. We saw G again at the aid station, where we had to start a 4km out-and-back before being able to return the way we came, up the Western Okataina Walkway again. By then, the cut off times had been brought forward and kept getting shorter and shorter without us knowing because the weather was deteriorating fast (and so was the state of the trail).

We were told we had plenty of time to do the 4km so chucked down a quick drink and off we went. G was then told he had to leave the aid station so went on without us. We did our little loop, got the bracelet to prove we’d done it and, with what we thought was an hour to go, were then told by a marshall we had four minutes to return to the aid station. I know people like to say impossible is nothing but impossible is actually running 2km in 4 minutes so we ran as fast as we could but returned to the aid station to find a bus load people pulled out of the course by Search and Rescue, ourselves included.

I had my giant ugly cry about it (because it sucked, because it was pouring with rain, because I had plenty of energy left to keep going, but mostly because I cry about everything). As we started getting our stuff together to get on the bus, G re-appears, telling us he didn’t want to keep going on his own.

Now, seriously. Do you get why it’s taken me so long to write about it? THIS IS WHY. How do you explain this? How do you talk about the magnitude of what you experience when, in the middle of the ultramarathon (in a cyclone, on a busted ankle!), you discover that you are, in fact, the luckiest person you know, surrounded by the absolute best people in the world?

G had the all clear from the aid station to keep going and cross that finish line (and I know how important that finish line was to him). F could have beaten me by hours and yet they both gave up their finish lines to do the race with me.

I’d been pulled out of the course at 53km with about 17km (or a bit longer) to go. It was, for all intents and purposes, a pretty shit situation. But I’d run 53km in a cyclone with two of the best friends a crippled runner could ever ask for so what was there to be sad about?

Not much, really.

Trail running has given me more joy than I’ll ever be able to fit into a blog post (or a thousand) but nothing could have prepared me for what Tarawera would show me, both about myself and the people around me.

In the end, we got our finishers medals and a giant bear hug from Paul Charteris, only the coolest race director around. And while that medal is now potentially the first thing I’d save if my house caught fire, it’s only one of a million little things I treasure from that day.

There are many things we do in life that make us happier people, but it’s not often that we get the chance to do something that, more than just making us happy, helps define our identity. In fact, there haven’t been that many times in my life when that’s happened and they’ve all stayed as milestones for that reason. Running your first ultramarathon (like running your first marathon) is life-changing because it redefines your identity. On March 15, I became an ultramarathoner, part of one of the most special tribes in the world. And no matter what I do with myself in the future, I’ll always be one of them.

I set off that morning to do something I had no idea I could do. After hours of keeping my head down, minding my steps, swallowing my weight in energy gels and telling myself not to give up, I’d entered the class of people I admire the most. All of a sudden, all the limitations I thought I had got this giant question mark over them. If you can do something you think is impossible for you to do, what is there that you can’t do?

It’s been nearly a month and I’m still in that state of wonder about it. It still amazes me that I managed to run that far since I’ve been surviving on a diet of ice cream, chips and craft beer. But I ran 53km and got on that bus in the pouring rain knowing I could have kept going a lot further.

The only thing I don’t know is exactly how far I can go – and that’s a pretty sweet place to be.


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Free advice: Don’t get injured seven weeks before an ultramarathon

Lying with your leg raised above your heart definitely shouldn’t be a part of your ultramarathon training.

Let’s get something out in the open now: I’m not great at dealing with huge amounts of pain. Or minimal amounts of pain. Or mild barely-noticeable discomfort. If you’ve run with me before you know I spend approximately 50 to 65% of the run complaining about different aspects of it. No one runs with me and wonders whether I’m enjoying it or not. They always know I’m not. And they know so because I provide them with extensive commentary on the many ways the run sucks.

But even I will admit that sometimes I do exaggerate and not all runs suck. My run on Sunday, however, sucked on a large number of levels. A plethora of levels, if you want to be a snob about it.

You see, I was really looking forward to coming here and making you all jealous about how I live within a half hour ferry ride of a 600 year old volcano where I can go to do my run/complaining about running combo whenever I want. That’s precisely what I set off to do early on Sunday morning.

But then, PLOT TWIST. Six kilometres into the whole thing, as we were making our way back down from the summit, I failed to notice one of the steps and fell pretty spectacularly, flat on my face on a boardwalk, thus ending a good, hmmm, let’s see, week and a half of running without any sort of pain.

The few moments after the fall went something like this: massive crying fit, screaming, some more crying, another decent amount of screaming, wondering how in the actual hell I’m going to get down from that volcano, more crying, wondering how long until I can run again, a bit of screaming, wondering if I’ll be able to make the start line at Tarawera, another little cry, wondering why the Beatles broke up, some more crying (only partially over the Beatles) and a bit more screaming.

And that was just the initial 40 seconds.

(I know that’s a lot of detail but I need to make sure my future biographer has enough to work with so bear with me here.)

Forsyth, who was running behind me and clearly has his priorities very well defined, paused my Garmin immediately (and managed to do so while I was screaming so badly it sounded like a Rebecca Black song). Steve, who runs downhill at about 460kph (give or take a few hundred kph) was so far ahead he couldn’t hear me yelling in despair (unlike everyone else on the North Island and potentially the good people in Australia as well). A couple of hikers caught up with us while I was busy fighting for my life right there on the ground (ok, sort of) and the man walked down to find Steve. He ran into a DOC worker with a truck who walked up to meet us and offered to take us back down to the wharf. I would have hugged him with relief but, at this stage, I was still lying on the boardwalk.

I'mok

To cut a super-long story slightly shorter but still fairly long, Forsyth piggy-backed me out of the track (he’ll tell you he “carried me down a volcano” and, while not entirely untrue, you should know the truck was about 200m from where I fell) and the lovely man from DOC took us down to wait for the ferry. Since it was only 10:30AM and only losers who smash themselves on the ground need to be taken off the island so early, it was just the three of us on the ferry. The good part: according to what the man announced over the microphone thingy, should anything go wrong, they had about 75 life jackets per person on board for us and the guy suggested we could “throw them all out in the water at once and build a raft”. Instead, we spent the journey back eating cake and drinking beer while Steve and Forsyth worried about the sort of impression I was going to cause in the emergency room, with a potential broken foot and smelling of booze. But I don’t think the emergency room is the place to worry about making good first impressions so I went ahead and drank it anyway.

The hospital part of this whole adventure had some good Kiwi moments, like the nurse deciding that I didn’t need to have my blood pressure checked after all, because the machine was out of battery. “Yeah, you look alright”. I’M NOT GODDAMN ALRIGHT. I’M IN A WHEELCHAIR.

But I actually kept my cool about that. What really pissed me off was when she asked me to describe what happened:

Vera – So I was running down from the summit of Rangitoto…
Nurse (writing down on a piece of paper) – Okay, so walking down…
Vera – No. Not walking. Running.
Steve – Well… It was more like jogging, really.
Vera – I WAS NOT JOGGING.

LIES

(I was probably jogging.)

I tried to describe things a bit better in the form they gave me to fill out but, once again, Steve wasn’t much help. When the form asked me to tick the box describing the type of activity and I had to choose between things like “work”, “leisure” or “sport”, I went to put my tick on “sport”, to what Steve said: “I’d say leisure. You weren’t being that sporty.” This is the same man who also told me my description of the accident on the hospital form was “no Hemingway” and told me to “break a leg” when they wheeled me into the room for an x-ray.

[NON-SPONSORED AD: Running friends available. Free to a good home.]

Anyway. I got myself a nice little ligament sprain on my right ankle and have had to learn to walk with crutches for the first time in my life. I’m not a fast learner and my “good foot” has banged on one of the crutches twice so far. I can’t even hold a cup of coffee and stand upright at the same time so that’s all of my good party tricks taken away in one go. Showering has also been interesting, since one of my feet can’t touch the ground (come on, don’t act like that’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever told you here). So, before you ask, recovery is going swell.

The only bit of good news I have is that my first physio appointment today went pretty damn good. I got told I was doing “everything right”, which is something I don’t hear very often (or, you know, ever) and the nice physio lady told me I can maybe probably potentially go for a really short run in a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks from now will be a month from my ultramarathon so you do the maths to figure out the square root of how screwed I am.

It’s bad, you guys. I’m Keanu Reeves-sad. My last post here bragged about running over 70km in 48h and I’ve now spent the last 48h relying on people to help me do pretty much everything. I’m not the most elegant person on crutches and I’ve realised I wouldn’t exactly be a role model if I ever had the misfortune of having a permanent physical disability.

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To top it all off nicely, I finally met Julian last night while he was up in Auckland for work. Few things are worse than getting injured and catching up with a runner who’s just been given the ok to run for the first time that day after 7 weeks of injury. But whatever, it’s this sort of adversity that builds character, amirite? And also, I hopped my way into the brew bar (hopped, hops, Jesus, I’m like some kind of pun genius right now), drank three delicious beers and forgot about the pain for a bit.

But now the pain is back. And I’m still lousy on crutches. I continually bang my leg on them and continue to insist on trying to carry stuff in my hands while using the crutches which means everything I touch becomes damaged in some way, like some kind of ridiculous inverse Midas effect.

I know what you’re thinking. Poor SGG, let me send her some get well soon cookies and some speedy recovery chocolate.

Yes, you should definitely do that.


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K2M or how I learned to stop worrying and love the roads

Okay, help me out. Pretend there’s a paragraph here where I give you a really good reason for not having written anything in over a month. Go on, don’t make this awkward. Will you believe me if I tell you it’s because I’ve been busy following my super strict ultramarathon training plan for Tarawera? Oh dear, I nearly typed that whole sentence with a straight face. Let’s not even try. Let’s just get over it, like some of you do with hills (I don’t, I just stand there at the bottom and cry. In fact, it’s not inaccurate to say that’s a big part of what I’ve been doing in the last month).

But, actually, there’s been other stuff. In between hours of sitting on my ass eating ice cream straight from the tub (or, as I like to call it, freelancing), December ended up being pretty kickass. I ran my 13th half marathon event for the year, entered a Santa Run, a Beer Mile (A BEER MILE, YOU GUYS! Running is a beautiful thing!), witnessed an amazing feat of endurance and finished my first ever trail marathon (FIST PUMP!). But these are all stories to bore you with another time. Before all that, right at the end of November, there was K2M. In the year I ran my first ever marathon (aren’t you proud of how long it’s been since I last mentioned it?), got my New Zealand residency, ate an unofficial world record number of cronuts, and did a bunch of other cool stuff I can’t remember now, K2M still manage to top it all.

It turns out that, in spite of my many, many, many talents (shut up), it is actually impossible for me to find the right words to adequately tell you how cool K2M was. This whole time, I’ve gone full 90s-teenager-in-the-same-room-as-Robbie-Williams and the only thing that comes out is “OMG SO AWESOME” which, really, doesn’t make for a very interesting blog post. But since I’ve just dipped into my savings to renew this domain for another year, I’m going to get over my little mental block and just tell you about how cool it was and add that, if you’re finalising your race calendar for this year, you need to get your shit together and sign up for K2M now. Yes, even you living outside New Zealand. Take a second mortgage and start looking at flights.

If you’d asked me a couple of months ago if running an overnight relay of over 300+km fitted within my definition of fun, I would have been all like “please stop emailing me while you’re drunk”. But now? Now I want to relay my way everywhere. Turns out I’d be doing fun all wrong before, without sleep deprivation or stinky vans or far too much running. Fun means cramming all your stuff into a van with five other runners for over 27h (less, if I’m not on your team, because I’m all about value for money and making sure I give other teams a fair chance) and running your way across part of the most beautiful country in the world, non-stop.

Let me take this opportunity to do some quality bragging, since I don’t get the chance to do that very often: our amazing team of six collectively ran over 300km in 27 hours and 25 minute, averaging around 50km each, from Papakura to Mount Maunganui (only one of the prettiest places in the world). It was the most fun I’d had since the last time I had a shitload of fun, whenever that was.

I know you’re probably wondering how the hell I managed to do that. I am too. It’s still one of life’s great mysteries, like Roswell, the pyramids or people who think Nicole Kidman is a talented actress. I guess we’ll figure all that out later. I just wanted to give you a bit of a general update now and will probably leave the details for other posts (because now that I’ve done one relay I’m obviously a relay expert).

I didn’t prepare much, as you might remember. The whole team just kind of came together because Kiwis are crazy and will agree to whatever you suggest to them, whether or not you’re holding a knife when you ask them. Other than getting people to agree (which took an average of 0.05 seconds per person x5), all I did was hire a van two days before the event and empty out the confectionery aisle at my local supermarket the evening before. That morning, we all got in the van, turned the radio on and “Eye of the Tiger” started playing. I’m not making this shit up. Then at midday we started some crazy, sleep-deprived 27 hours of running and driving and dancing in the middle of the road and hurting and laughing.

Here’s sort of how it worked: each of the six of us ran 3 legs of the relay, to individual totals of around 50km each. We decided to do it the way the website suggests it for teams of 6 (you can also do it as a team of 12, if you’re smart) and each ran 2 consecutive legs (which meant that we only passed our batton – which was actually a neat fluoro bracelet – at every second exchange point). Turns out, as the organiser told us in the middle of the night while we waited to use the toilets inside a church hall in the middle of nowhere, we could have run the legs in any order we wanted, as long as there was always one of us out there running. This would have been really handy information to have before the start of the relay, so we could have tricked Michael into running the whole thing (Michael was our super speedy machine who went on to run a Double Hillary the following weekend like it was no big deal).

Yeah, that fast.

Yeah, that fast.

But I’m glad we didn’t (and I guess so is Michael). Even with the Great Big Mac Incident of 2013 and even with the giant tantrum I threw in the middle of a field when I’d been awake for 24h and was told I was going to have to climb the stupid hill in front of me, running all those kilometres and sharing each of those sweaty milestones with that group of people turned that weekend into one of the best weekends of my life.

(Awwwww. I know.)

There’s a bunch of stuff that happens when you’re awake for that long in a small van with a group of people who are as crazy and as sleep deprived as you. It all starts super civilised, with questions about how work is going and Steve in the back of the van making us Japanese mayo and smoked salmon wraps. So super fancy. But then you fast-forward to 4am and I’m in the McDonald’s carpark in Matamata stripping down to my knickers in front of everyone to get ready for my next leg. This after having an impromptu party around midnight dancing to the Cake cover of “I will survive” in the middle of the road wearing our reflective gear. So, you know, stuff escalates pretty quickly.

The thing about K2M (and I guess, relays in general), is that it might involve a hell of a lot of running (300 ENTIRE KILOMETRES, MY GOOD LORDE!), but it’s actually very little about running.

I’d told myself that K2M would be my goodbye to road running for a while, since road running had left me injured for the biggest part of the year and, not only am I a bit bitter about these stupid injuries, I’m also training (lolz) for a trail ultramarathon. I was tired of my stupid road runs on my own. They were monotonous and repetitive and K2M was going to be the perfect way to end that. I’d gone through ITB problems, shin splints and a bunch of other stuff that the doctor kept saying was due to running on roads. I was finally going to follow his advice and move solely to nicer softer surfaces. But then K2M happened and I’m all in love with the road again. Roads have vans with friends inside them and those friends check on you and hand you water every few kilometres and make jokes when you’re tired and make you feel like, even though you might be doing something the vast majority of the world would call stupid, you’re really not alone and maybe the vast majority of the world should really go sit in the corner and rethink its attitude.

In the end, rather than being a break in my Tarawera training, K2M did wonders for my ability to think I can actually run this damn ultra. Between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, I ran a total of 76km (because I’m an idiot and ran a half marathon on Sunday after driving back from K2M, but that’s a therapy session we’re going to leave for another time). If this isn’t a confidence boost in ultra training, then I’m all out of ideas.

Over 27h and 300km later, NO MURDERS!

Over 27h and 300km later, NO MURDERS!

And even if it hadn’t been for that, K2M gave me a really good bunch of good friends. Steve, Michael, Rob, Carl and Kirsty were just “people I knew from running” before this relay. Now they’re the people who put up with my shit day and night inside a van and were still happy to drive alongside me during each of my legs of the race, stopping every couple of kilometres to check if I was okay. Does that fit all the canonisation criteria? Because it should. I don’t even want to ask them how long it took for the nightmares to go away but I hope we’re cool now. I mean, we better be because we’ve already decided we’re going to do it all over again next year (with a bit more training, a bigger van and absolutely zero Big Macs). SO COME WITH US!

What I’m trying to say in this really confusing way is that it’s really hard to write a proper recap of all the crazy stuff that happens when you get yourself into something this massive. Can we just go with “OMG SO AWESOME”? No? Too late? Anyway. Add K2M to your 2014 events calendar, make it part of your new years resolution. And it better be the 1% of the list that you actually manage to achieve this year (I’m kidding. I trust you guys and I know 2014 will be epic. I don’t like to brag but I had TWO naps on the first day of the year alone so now it’s just a matter of pacing myself so I don’t get all my resolutions done within the first month).

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So yay for relays, for running friends, for rediscovering the love for road running, for breaking mental barriers, for thinking there’s no way you can do something (like, hmm, running 76km in 48h) but still going out and giving it a go anyway, for getting out of your comfort zone and discovering that that’s where all the fun is and that you’re actually a hell of a lot stronger than you think you are.

(Also, happy 2014! Go do awesome shit!)


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Pain-free running and other weird stuff that happened today

I ran this morning. I know it sounds like no big deal especially if you’re on Strava, Nike+ or any of the other 238 apps I use to track my runs, because then you know that I’ve actually been running quite often since I became unemployed self-employed. But it’s kind of a big deal because, for the first time in about eight months, nothing hurt when I ran.

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I got up early even though it was Saturday (now that I’m unemployed self-employed, differentiating between weekdays and weekends is a social convention I no longer feel the need to abide by). I had a coffee, half of a piece of toast with nothing and half of a piece of toast with peanut butter on it (what actually happened was that I felt too lazy to put something on my toast and started eating it and then realised halfway through that having toast with nothing is just terribly sad, even by my standards, so I put my big girl pants on and sorted it out with peanut butter).

(Peanut butter is the duct tape of foods. There’s nothing it can’t fix, even if we’re talking about a disgrace like a half eaten piece of toast. But anyway, this is a parenthesis about a parenthesis and I don’t want this to get too complex so I should probably get back to the main topic now.)

Gratuitous cat photo because it's Caturday and this is the internet. Zara is perfecting her stretching poses. She's a fitness nut.

Gratuitous cat photo because it’s Caturday and this is the internet. Zara is perfecting her stretching poses. She’s a fitness nut.

I had half a banana in the car on my way to this run, which is a bad idea if it’s a stupidly hot day and you’re going to leave half of a banana in the car for the next three hours. Just a little life tip for you, because I’m all about adding value to these posts.

I then started running the same way I’ve started every single one of my runs in the last eight months or so: I had some random overly upbeat song blasting in my ears (could have been Lady Gaga, yes, but this blog is not a place for judgement) and I put one foot in front of the other waiting for some part of my body to start screaming (usually my IT Band or my shin, because I’m a proper runner with proper runner injuries).

Gaga wasn’t even halfway through preaching about my right to live however I please when I started noticing something weird going on: the fact that nothing was going on.

For the first time since about March, not one single part of my body was hurting or complaining about anything. I had enough water and plenty of energy (after eating a gel for the first time ever before a run, which appeared to have taken away my usual desire to give up a couple of hundred metres into the run). But no, oh no, not this time. This time I was all like “yeah, Gaga, you tell ‘em!” and things only really started hurting a bit when I got halfway up the first hill. But when I say hurting, I mean on the inside, in my heart (aww), because I remembered I hate running uphill. Still no physical pain. Like, none.

Are you as weirded out by this as I am? I kind of hope so but, if not, here’s a video compilation of dogs acting like humans. Animals acting like humans is like the 17th weirdest thing there is.

(I didn’t actually watch the video so it might be completely crap, but I did Google it for you when I could have been doing other stuff like eating ice cream or learning cross-stitch so I do hope you appreciate my efforts. And now I went off-topic again, awesome. Potential employers, don’t you all start calling me at once.)

I ended up running about 22km (FIST PUMP!) without even a hint of pain throughout the whole thing.

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All I could complain about was the amount of hills (most of them were actually just gentle inclines but one man’s gentle incline is another man’s Everest and any man’s gentle incline is definitely a mountain by my running standards). And also, the sun frying my skin. I’m not one to exaggerate but that was like the hottest day ever since whenever the last hottest day was. At least.

I took an inception-type selfie to show the weird running singlet tan lines I'm currently sporting. Then I went ahead and posted it here. NEW LOW.

I took an inception-type selfie to show the weird running singlet tan lines I’m currently sporting because of all this running in the sun deal. Then I went ahead and posted it here. NEW LOW.

But, not sure I mentioned, no pain. Eight months of running with pain every single time (it usually disappears during the run but it’s normally always there at some point) makes you forget what it’s like to run pain-free. For the sake of reference, eight months is around about the gestation period of a polar bear or a hippopotamus (another little nugget of wisdom for you). My point is that 8 months is a really long time to do anything, including running in pain. I sometimes wonder how the hell I didn’t just give it all up and channel my energy into a different hobby like Jenga or something. I guess the reason I didn’t give up during these 8 months is a little bit related to how shit I am at Jenga but also probably really good evidence of how much I love running.

Little problem, though: since I don’t feel like I had to tough it out and get over any pain this morning, the whole run ended up being pretty uneventful – less than ideal when you want to write about it for your running blog. I mean, what else am I supposed to tell you about it? I stopped at a dairy and had a Coke halfway through (Coke Zero, because I’m obviously all about healthy choices). But that’s it, really. No major adversity to overcome or anything. Just a nice long run to start off the weekend. I guess I got so used to bitching about pain I’m a little lost about what to tell you about my next few runs. Am I going to even have anything to tell you? Who knows.

Actually, I got a pretty decent sized blister so I’m sure you’ll hear from me again soon.


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Kerikeri Half Marathon recap

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Last Friday was my last day of working in an office with other people for the foreseeable future.

I haven’t figured out whether that’s good news or not so let that sentence just sit there, all neutral.

This whole self-employment thing has been a long time in the making and I’ve had a few months to get used to the idea.

Except, I haven’t yet.

All week long, with my registration for the half on Saturday all paid for and confirmed, I worried about going away for the weekend instead of staying home setting everything up for this new self-employed life. Going away felt silly and irresponsible. But staying would have been some kind of stupid self-inflicted punishment for a situation that I couldn’t control anyway.

So on Friday, after one final work drink in an office full of people, I packed my bag and made my way up to Kerikeri where I could run a half and not think about things all weekend. When in doubt, not thinking about things is always my favourite option.

To cut a long story short because I’m a freelancer now and this post is costing me a shit load of money, I ran the half, walked bits of it whenever my leg hurt (so smart) and then went ahead and had one of the most fun weekends I’ve had in a while, without worrying a single time about how, for the first time in years, I didn’t have an office to go to on Monday morning and would have to start paying for each cup that fills the bottomless pit of my daily coffee needs.

But wait. This is a half marathon recap, not another one of my pity parties. Let me throw in some words about the Kerikeri Half: It’s really pretty. Like, New Zealand-kind of pretty, all clean and green and stuff. It doesn’t have that many runners (about 2000 this year, give or take a few hundred because I can’t be bothered checking the numbers now), and it doesn’t have that many spectators (since it’s mostly through backcountry roads and there aren’t thousands of people up there who can be arsed standing in the sun to watch some idiots go past – no judgement, I wouldn’t either). It’s the perfect road run for not thinking about things, so my plan was, as usual, flawless.

The first 7km of the course included a decent hill or three but, from then on, it was pretty much all downhill (the good, non-metaphorical kind) to Kerikeri Domain. When I wasn’t struggling with my stubborn shin (yes, still), I actually managed to get some happy kilometres in. The pretty views distracted me from the effort of road running, the pressure on the shin and the worries I’d left back in Auckland and, 21km, some beers and a massage later, everything was ok again.

I ran a 2:03 and still haven’t cracked the sub-2h barrier I keep talking about, but I also realised it’s not that much of a big deal to me. Kerikeri was another reminder that running, for me, is all about what it does to my head. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll totally be all like hell to the mothereffing yeah when I get a 1:5X:XX but that doesn’t actually beat what I got from Kerikeri on Saturday.

It was almost a rite of passage. Some people throw parties to mark special occasions, I apparently now run half marathons (just like when, back in May, I ran the Huntly Half to celebrate my five years of living in New Zealand). Kerikeri last weekend was a bit like that seemingly wasteful blank page at the start of any new paperback that seems to fit no purpose but actually acts as a divider between whatever came before and the book you’re starting then.

So running wins again. It’s all the good things I always say it is and then it’s also a really good avoidance mechanism for shit you don’t want to think about. Wait, that sounds bad. Replace “avoidance” with “coping”. Replace “don’t want to think about” with ‘there’s no point worrying about”. Yeah, that sounds better. Leave it like that.

Not running the half to spend the weekend at home worrying about how this new life thing is going to work out would have taken me nowhere useful. Instead, I got another 21km further on my feet and about a billion kilometres further in my head. So, when in doubt, go for a run and don’t think about things. It’s gonna be okay anyway.

(I didn’t take a single decent photo during the half, as evidenced by the only photo I could find in my phone to add to the post, but you can see a bunch of cool shots here.)


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My leg isn’t broken so I’m obviously going to run an overnight relay in 2 weeks

GOOD NEWS, YOU GUYS. The doctor says my leg is fine and I just need to “take it easy” for a while. So I’ve decided to go and take it easy on the road from Auckland to Mount Maunganui in my very first team relay in two weeks time.

Ever since the doctor texted me back an all clear on the x-ray last Tuesday (have I mentioned how much I love how informal kiwi doctors are? Oh, I have), I’ve finally started getting excited about this overnight relay thing.

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(Pause to try to not freak out about how it’s only 16 days away.)

Anyway, I’ve been giving it some serious thought for a while (a couple of days) so, obviously, I feel like I’m qualified to write about it.

The Kura 2 Mount relay starts in Papakura (South Auckland, yo) and ends in Mount Maunganui which, in case you’re like me and maps mean nothing to you, is really freaking far away from Papakura. Like, keep zooming out, it’s further than that. The way we’re going is not even the direct way, of course, so it’s going to be over 300km away, which is what you’d describe, in non-metric terms, as a hell of a long way. Also, since New Zealand is one of those countries that OH DEAR GOD WHY DO THEY EVEN EXIST WHERE THEY DO?, there are mountains and hills and all sorts of weird terrain everywhere, just to make life that little bit harder more fun.

A team of six of us (hopefully along with lots of other teams with lots of other nutters) will start running on Friday morning and finish the next day on the beach where I intend to have the world’s longest nap (Guinness Records official people, you might want to head there for this one).

I had a look at the maps for each of the legs yesterday and, after I finished running around the house shouting WTFWTFWTF! and eating all the carbohydrates in sight (just in case), I sat down and called dibs on the option that’d give me the absolute least amount of hills. But even if you take out the hills (which I did because the other ones were too slow to choose – suckers), it’s still a hell of a long way to run.

So. A bit of a problem: The same person who currently struggles with the idea of half marathons will somehow be running nearly 54km within 24h in about two weeks.

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But anyway, I’m pretty sure I’ve done enough bitching on this blog in the last couple of months to last me until at least 2016 so I’ve decided that it’s all rainbows of positivity around here now. FIFTY FOUR KILOMETRES! YAY! Pain, yay! Blisters, yay! Chafing in awkward places, yay!

I have a feeling I’ll be talking about this a lot in the next couple of weeks (probably not so much about the awkward chafing, don’t worry). But for now, since I’m still figuring it out what the hell I got myself into, fetch your reading glasses and let’s go over what I think I’ve done right so far (don’t worry, it isn’t much):

1. I put together a team that pretty much kicks ass
My relay team consists of both people I’ve run with and people I’ve never even met in real life. They all kick ass in their own way and at a much faster pace than I do. At least half of the team has basically simultaneously volunteered to do the hilliest legs (because being able to feel your legs is clearly overrated in their world). One of them found us a volunteer before we even brought up the need for volunteers. It’s good to have people who are on top of things because then you don’t have to worry about things like pretending to know what you’re doing.

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2. I’ve started getting organised
Even if you only really start organising it 2 weeks in advance, there’s still time to get stuff done (did you hear that? Go put a team together and join us!). This relay is really bringing out the OCD in me, which is great if you’re me, less great if you’re someone in my immediate surroundings. The logistics of this sort of event are a lot more complex than any other event I’ve entered so, obviously, I’m giving myself permission to go fully mental. Think lists-of-my-to-do-lists kind of mental.

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Still, I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing yet. How many jelly beans do I pack per leg? What am I going to have for breakfast once I’ve been on the road for 24h and everything tastes like Gu and feet? What’s the most effective way to remove fresh roadkill blood from my running shoes? What colour of compression socks matches a high-vis vest? About two weeks to go and so many important questions remain unanswered. Except that last one. Nothing goes well with a high-vis vest.

3. I’ve been talking about it
The only thing I love more than running is talking about running (and, more specifically, bitching about how hard running is). An overnight relay with a whole team of runners is the perfect excuse to go nuts on the running talk. These people are going to be running with me for over 30 hours. They’ll be in the van while I’m running and they’re responsible for picking my scraps off the ground if my body decides to disintegrate during the third leg (which is entirely possible). Ideally, I’d like them to like me and I’d like them to know me well enough to be able to judge at what point during the course they need to start throwing muesli bars at my head to wake me up while I run.

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We started off with emails but then realised it wasn’t 2008 anymore so got ourselves a little Facebook group thingy and now everyone sees when everyone sees posts so we can be all WHY THE HELL IS IT TAKING YOU LIKE 20 MINUTES TO ANSWER MY QUESTION ABOUT TOILET PAPER ROLLS? But I’m trying to chill out. Maybe toilet paper rolls aren’t as important to them as they are to me. The key is to understand that my life is basically in their hands for 30 something hours so I better be nice to them. Oh well. Nobody said this relay thing was going to be easy.

4. I’m running again MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!
You’ve got a relay in about two weeks and you’re sitting there writing about how you’ve got a relay in about two weeks instead of being out running? Well, general consensus would be that that’s idiotic. But it’s not all bad, really. I’ve been trying to get back into my old running routine and, even though I’m not quite there yet, I’m definitely putting some kilometres on my legs. It turns out that signing up for an overnight relay is a sure way to scare you into getting your ass running again.

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I’m going to come back here a few times in the next couple of weeks with some actual proper information (lolz) about getting my shit together for this relay. All I really wanted to do now is tell you about it so you can tell me to stop freaking out. It’s just running, right? It’s one day and one night of doing what I love doing (sometimes), with a bunch of people who love it too. The website tells me it’s “guaranteed to be the craziest 30 hours of my life” and it basically sounds like one big party with a bunch of friends. Except instead of sore feet from dancing, you get sore feet because you’re running an unbelievably long distance that you’re pretty sure you’re not able to run but will try to anyway because what would be the point of trying otherwise?

Now tell me: have you ever done a relay? Or heard of someone who’s heard of someone who’s run a relay? If so, get in touch. I’ve got a couple of questions for you (actually, 352 questions, to be precise. Some of them about toilet paper). Also, join me. No, really!


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Motivational quotes don’t get me motivated and summer brings out all the idiots

Buzzfeed got a bunch of fitspo qotes and fixed them. All the others are here

Buzzfeed got a bunch of fitspo qotes and fixed them. All the others are here.

I’ve ran a grand total of 5 painful kilometers in the last week and a half so, naturally, it’s time to get my rant on.

I’ve been doing what I can to be a good runner and look after my injured leg. And what I can do is not run. Except not running is turning me into a miserable bitch so it’s basically been a choice between a leg that moves painlessly and a brain that isn’t subconsciously working out ways to hurt other people.

Fun times, you guys.

This is all being made even harder because of the timing of this whole injury thing. I’m not just talking about the events I’m supposed to be training for (I’ve got a relay in a month’s time and, at this stage, I’d need a relay team of 24 people just to run to the bakery across the road from home). There’s more.

You see, this weekend is Auckland Marathon weekend. Naturally, people are excited. Excited people talk about things that make them excited. Excited people talking about things that make them excited expect their excitement to be met with excitement too. Getting excited about marathons is hard when you have limbs threatening to crack.

(That said: go you good things! I’ll be cheering for you from wherever I am, probably sitting down feeling sorry for myself.)

Lesson: If you’re going to get a running injury, don’t get a running injury while everyone around you is excited about their marathon.

Also, the weather is getting warmer, which would be great if I wasn’t hating on everything right now. Like all “lifestyle” articles popping up about getting in shape for summer. Nicer weather has brought a bunch of seasonal runners out to the streets, those “trying to get in shape for Summer” types. Regular running Vera would find that pretty cool, yay for people focusing on themselves! Injured-no-running-hates-everything Vera sees them as she drives past on her way home to put ice on her leg and wants to yell at them to get their stinky running shoes off her reserve.

And yes, I judge you if you’re running around the park because Summer is coming and you want to look good on the beach. I judge people who talk about getting ready for “bikini season” because that’s the type of superficial crap that doesn’t help anyone make any permanent change that’ll actually make them feel better about themselves.

The other day, the lady who comes to sell sandwiches at lunchtime asked why I wasn’t buying a cookie with my sandwich. Before I had time to explain to her that I’d been sent some chocolate that I’d been working on all morning, she told me “probably for the best, Summer is coming!” and since I don’t understand why my cookie intake is in any way more related to the change of seasons than to the phases of the moon or changes in tides, I went ahead and bought the stupid cookie anyway.

(Maybe that was her plan all along? Well played, lunch lady, well played.)

The “getting fit for Summer” thing annoys me more than I care to explain. As a side-effect of trying to fit into a bikini that is not their size, some people will get a bit fitter. But fitness is a consequence they’re not even thinking about. They want the thigh gap and the flat stomach that doesn’t hang over their bikini bottoms. Once Summer is over, they won’t see a reason for their gym membership anymore. So their excuse to be out there running around my reserve while I have to go home and cry about how I can’t run is actually pretty stupid. Also, your leg doesn’t hurt and mine does so, naturally, I want you dead.

(I warned you I was bitchy.)

Lesson: If you’re going to get a running injury, get a running injury during Winter, when most people don’t really give two shits about working out either.

To top things off nicely, I’m less than two weeks away from making a pretty massive life change that, on the plus side, will involve the possibility of never having to speak to people again but, on the other hand, will involve the possibility of never having to speak to people again. It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying and, if history has taught me anything, is that I don’t deal very well with drastic changes, even ones I want to make (you’d be nodding along right about now if you’d seen me in the first couple of months of living in New Zealand). I’d usually cope with stress by running it all off but, instead, I’m coping with stress the only other way I know how to: by writing about how much not running is making me hate everything.

Lesson: If you’re going to get a running injury, don’t do it when you’re about to start freelancing from home and you’re so stressed about that life change it actually makes you want to vomit.

I’m finally off to get my xray today. In the meantime, I’ll be staying away from fitness websites for a while because motivational quotes are starting to drive me insane. No, internet, I most definitely should not be running right now. And I’d really appreciate if you stopped trying to make me feel like crap about that.


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Panmure King of the Mountain half marathon recap

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Silly mother nature putting volcanoes in the middle of what could be a perfectly nice flat route.

Here’s the thing about living in Auckland: there are a crap load of volcanoes all over the place (about 53 of them so far, but who knows when others might join the party). We live in constant fear that an eruption will cause us to spill our soy lattes all over our overpriced rugs.

But on the other hand, those volcanoes mean lots of nice views of the city, which is pretty much all you have to look forward to in life when someone decides that one of those beasts should be at kilometre 18 of your half marathon. Like yesterday, at the Panmure King of the Mountain half.

This is apparently a pretty iconic Auckland race (you can read more about it here to save me all the paraphrasing). There was a bit of a hiatus but the race came back this year and, even though I made a solemn promise to never again enter events with “mountain” in the name, I went ahead and registered, for some reason (the reason being that I’ve got the self-control of a lab rat).

It was all a bit uncertain for a while. After the Waitakere Half, I decided to be all responsible and didn’t run a single kilometre for an entire week. Believe it or not (and I can’t blame you for not believing it), I was genuinely considering skipping this half in favour of doing the responsible thing and continue to give my leg a proper rest. But then two things happened: 1. I didn’t have any pain in the couple of days before the event and 2. I randomly got bib #1, which had never ever happened before.

Now you ask “what difference does that make, you fool?”. Absolutely none, of course. But I really wanted to run it anyway so I took the whole bib #1 thing as a really good excuse sign.

And here’s something I don’t often get to say about my decisions: it was a good one.

(Let that sink in for a bit.)

No clue what I was laughing at but here's a photo of my #1 bib because I'm a giant show off.

No clue what I was laughing at but here’s a photo of my #1 bib because I’m a giant show off.

It was a pretty tough half for me but the pain in my leg wasn’t actually much of a pain in the ass, for a change. In fact, it completely disappeared about a quarter of the way through so I can’t even use it as an excuse for my slower-than-usual time. Actually, I’ll half-blame it on it. This bitch of an injury (will give it a proper medical term once I get around to getting the x-ray done, promise) meant that I didn’t get any decent training done in the last month or so and I definitely feel the loss of fitness.

I tried to go slow and not mistreat my leg too much, just in case. For a while, I couldn’t see any other runners anywhere and was fully convinced I was the absolute last person on the course. I had a brief “what’s the point?” moment but then realised that I never race anyone other than myself anyway and so kept going at my slow let’s-try-not-to-make-this-worse pace. Instead of worrying about my time, I focused on enjoying the scenery which, aside from a bit of boring suburban running, was pretty damn nice.

Luckily, the bit I had to run on sand was pretty short, otherwise this recap would include some pretty ugly words.

Luckily, the bit I had to run on sand was pretty short, otherwise this recap would include some pretty ugly words.

I can’t tell you how happy I was to give myself a mostly pain-free half marathon. It was the perfect reward to a week spent desperately wanting to run but choosing to do the right thing and staying home icing my leg instead. I missed pain-free running to the point of forgetting how it felt like. Turns out, it feels amazing, even at  slower pace. So I guess all that rest last week was good for something and if not running for a while means I get to enjoy running again the way I did yesterday, then I’m all over that idea.

So, just so you don’t think you’re wasting precious bandwidth on this for nothing, I’ll go ahead and say it: you were right.

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