super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel – book review

Never-Wipe-Your-Ass-with-a-Squirrel-by-Jason-Robillard

I didn’t realise Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel was such a recent release (April 2013) until about two minutes ago when I searched for some extra information about it to write this review. But look at me, being all early-adopter and stuff.

I bought the book on May 22nd, according to my Amazon account history, after virtually wandering around Amazon searching for books on trail running, days before signing up for my first ultra. The title grabbed me, and not just because it has the word “ass” in it (I’m not that juvenile, really). The full title is actually pretty long: Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel – A Trail and Ultramarathon Running Guide for Weird Folks.

Weird folk, that’s me.

Jason Robillard, the author, is known in the running community for his Barefoot Running University website and for his previous book, The Barefoot Running Book. He’s also known for having pretty much my dream life (writing and running for a living). Don’t you just want to hate him a little bit?

No, you don’t. Because, number one, your mum was right and that’s ugly. Number two: he actually has some pretty good advice to give.

It took me a few pages to really get into the book. It’s got a long list of chapters, which at first I thought interrupted the whole flow of the book. But then I realised that, as a handbook, it needs to have information structured in that easy-to-find way. Just a few pages into it, I discovered a really good deal of incredibly useful advice, not just for trail runners in general but for anyone stupid enough to sign up for an ultra.

(270 days to go, you guys!)

I liked the unpretentious conversational tone of the book, which reads almost as if a trail running buddy was just emailing you his best tips. These days, being the ridiculous gen-y that I am, I judge my opinion on books partly based on how many highlights they get on my Kindle. This one got a few, mostly tips about how to run in different conditions but also stuff like:

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Robillard also says he walks all the hills of any course over 50k and adds that that strategy has actually resulted in improvement on his finish times. Any trail runner who tells me walking is a good idea in an ultra is automatically added to my best friends list and would qualify for a Merry Christmas card if I still bothered sending those.

He also suggests a number of interesting things I wouldn’t have thought would be a good idea, including wearing white cotton shirts when there is a lot of sun exposure and adding “foodless runs” to your training, to help develop the ability of using fat as fuel.

I’d like to share a few of the tips I got from the book but that would be doing it a disservice since what you should really do is pick up a copy and read it yourself (won’t take you long). It’s not exactly Nobel material and it doesn’t try to be. It’s written as a trail running handbook and, as such, it pretty much ticks all the boxes, with a really comprehensive list of practical advice for every trail runner out there.

For a free sample of the book, click here. For more information on the book, check the blog with the same name or head to Amazon for a copy.


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“I don’t have time” and other bullshit we tell ourselves

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(know that meme)

A couple of years ago, when I was all “yay, I have a Kindle! I want to download all the eBooks on the internet!”, a friend recommended a book called How to Live on 24 hours a Day. The title sounded a little silly but I downloaded it anyway for three main reasons: 1) it was free (and I’m a sucker for a bargain), 2) it was short, 3) it got me one book closer to that “all the eBooks on the internet” goal mentioned above. I started reading it with the often misguided low expectations I have of some free stuff  but it turned out to be one of the most enlightening books I’ve read in a while.

How to Live on 24 hours a Day sounds a little like “How to Inhale and Exhale Repeatedly to Avoid Death”. I thought to myself “I’m living. My days have 24 hours. So yeah, I think I’ve got it covered”. Some people (me) need the really obvious stuff spelled out to them. Some people (me) need a book from the early 1900s to tell them to get off Facebook and start making better use of their free time. To live rather than exist, as I think the author puts it at some point.

So, basically, I had a dude from last century schooling me on how to deal with my busy working life as a young adult in the 21st century.

Awesome.

Turns out this book, which is now 113 years old (!) is one of the earliest self-help books ever written. I read a self-help book. But it’s ok. I actually learned stuff. Plus, it’s philosophical in a way that I’m not sure other self-help books are. I haven’t read any others. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But anyway, where was I? 24 hour days. Right. We’ve got lots of those. They come around every day. For the longest time, I got used to dismissing the entire five days of the work week as time when I couldn’t fit anything else in because I was working all day long.

The word you’re looking for is “bullshit”.

Let’s do some math (there’s something you won’t catch me saying very often): I work 8 hours a day. Add an hour for the commute. That’s nine hours. The day has 24. Nine and 24 aren’t even close together, there’s a whole bunch of other numbers in between. Sure, I sleep about 6 or 7 hours every night (on a good night), but that’s only a total of 15 or 16 hours dedicated to working and sleeping (I’m really kicking ass at these calculations, I wish my 7th grade Math teacher was reading this). Anyway, 15 or 16 hours a day for work + sleep. This leaves a whole other third of the day for other stuff. Stuff I didn’t feel like I had time to do. I know it sounds incredibly obvious now but I wanted to smack myself in the face when I read that book. What a load of bullshit I had been telling myself with that “I work all day” crap. I work a third of the day. It might be the best third – when the sun is out – but, mathematically speaking, it’s still only a third. The rest of the time is mine. And I had been wasting it on nothing.

What I’m trying to say is that, more than Runner’s World, online training plans or books by famous marathoners and ultrarunners, it was a time management book over 100 years old that helped me with all the running I’ve been doing.

So, just in case you suffer from the same problem as me, I thought I’d tell you that, like me, you’re just full of crap. You’ve got plenty of time. Safely remove that USB, it’s ok. You’re not in that big a rush. And the stuff you wish you could do during the week when you’re not working? Look at all that time you’ve got to actually do it! If the time you spent at work today felt like it was very long, it’s because it was. The good news is that you have another good few hours ahead of you to get stuff done. So wait for that You Tube video to fully load. Watch Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe speech in its entirety. Go nuts and read those terms and conditions (just kidding, ain’t nobody got time for that).

Every time I hear someone tell me they would love to get into running too but they just don’t have the time, I have to wait a few seconds to let my brain go from the instinctive “are you trying to say you’re busier than me? Because I’ll have you know I’m pretty god damn busy!” to something a little more grownup (but also patronising as hell) like “as a matter of fact, you do have time for that, if you really want to do it. You might just not be managing your time right.”

I still have a massive time management problem but I’m much more aware of it now. There are a bunch of things I wish I “had time” to do. I wish I was a morning person (or, alternatively, I wish I could show up for work at 11ish) so I could sit down for breakfast or properly dry my hair instead of the 30 second blow dry that leaves it just slightly-less-wet-but-definitely-nowhere-near-dry. I wish I had time every evening to prepare my lunch for the next day instead of resorting to the atrocious service and stupidly high prices of the cafe at work. But I guess what it boils down to is that I don’t really care enough about these things. Otherwise I’d find the time. If I don’t really want to do something, I’ll find an excuse not to do it. If I really want to do something, I’ll find the time.

Whoa. Enlightenment.

So, the bottom line is, I don’t have time for running because I’m any less busy than anyone else. I’ve got time for running because I really freaking love doing it and, so, I make time for it.

Bennett wrote in this book (that, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m highly recommending here): “We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.”

So, if you want to run, get off your ass and run.


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I’m a grandma (and other thoughts on using a kindle)

So… ebooks, eh? I’ve seen a number of articles recently talking about how ebooks are outselling print books on amazon.com. At first i thought ‘pff, no biggie. they’re probably including ebooks in that number’. But apparently not. So that’s quite substantial.

I spent about one year (I kid you not!) contemplating buying a Kindle but I couldn’t make my mind up about it. So Chris bought me one, mainly to shut me up about it, I think.

I struggled with the idea for so long because I’ve always been a real bookie and have always spent quite a bit of money on books and I felt like getting a Kindle would be like giving in and joining the dark side.

I have now been a Kindle user for a couple of months and my idea of it has somewhat changed. What I’ve come to realise is that my fear of the Kindle completely replacing print books was unfounded. The fact is that they can co-exist and I don’t actually feel like I must buy the kindle version of books rather than the print version, if I do want to have the print version.

All in all, I am a true convert. I’ve read a few books on the Kindle and the user experience is fantastic. That screen is perfect for reading (please spare me your comparisons to tablets – they are completely different devices), the battery life is amazing and the device is so light that it is a real relief, especially if you carry all your worldly possessions in your handbag like I do.

However, there are a few things that need to improve:

  • I can buy any print book I like from a number of different websites and have it shipped to NZ (in some cases, at no extra cost – win!). However, some kindle ebooks are not “available in my region”. This is as stupid as the DVD regions and the publishing industry really needs to sort its shit out and get rid of this region bullshit. If an ebook is not available in my region, I’ll buy the print book.
  • I can only buy books from amazon.com, not from amazon.co.uk. I found an ebook that was cheaper on the UK site than the US version but, being in the Asia Pacific region, I have to pay more if I want to get that ebook delivered to my Kindle, since it has to be downloaded from the US Amazon site. Seriously, people, that is not the point of the internet. So if a kindle ebook is more expensive in the .com site than the .co.uk one, I head to Book Depository and order the print version with *free shipping worldwide*.
  • Some kindle ebooks are more expensive than the print version of the book (even the hardcover). What is this I don’t even! I mean… why? Why? Once again, when that happens, off to Book Depository I go, to add the print version to my shopping cart.
  • Kindle ebooks seem to take longer to be released. This isn’t normally much of an issue for me, except with a handful of authors whose books I’m always exciting to get my hands on.

In spite of all this, a couple of days ago, I gave in and bought my first non-99c kindle book. Up until now, I had only read free ebooks or 99c ones because I still have a giant pile of print books to read (and therefore couldn’t justify investing in any others). But the real reason is that I have a big issue with paying for something that I can’t hold in my hands. It’s a generational think, I guess. Maybe younger generations (oh dear lord!) are probably okay with this, having grown up with iTunes and all that.

I still find it hard to accept paying for something that used to be an object but now won’t materialise into anything in my living room. Chris thinks this is just another sign that I am an 80-year old lady trapped inside a 26-year old body and maybe he is right – at least in the sense that it’s part of my mentality and something that takes time to adapt to.

So, yes, yesterday the grandma caved in and gave Amazon US$9.90 for He Died with a Felafel in His Hand. I told myself it was okay to spend double digits (in NZ currency) on something I wouldn’t get to hold just because the print version, for once, was more expensive. To me, this purchase marks the beginning of a change of mindset. Maybe I will get used to paying for books I can’t hold. But I know, for sure, that will not stop me from buying print books. Not until the publishing world gets their shit together about prices, release dates, regions and assorted crap. And I’m not even sure I want them to.

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