super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Everything’s a bit shit until it isn’t – life lessons from the forest

On Saturday, I ran 33km through Riverhead Forest so I’m putting all my half-written posts on hold to tell you about that even though you didn’t actually ask.

It was a tough day. I knew it was going to be tough because most days have been tough lately even when they don’t include exhausting long runs. But I wanted and needed to be tougher than it.

I don’t even want to count on many days to go until the Kepler Challenge because I wouldn’t want to have a panic attack three paragraphs into a blog post but the fact is that I’m running out of time to feel sorry for myself and need to face the fact that you don’t train for a 60km run just by searching for photos of the track on the internet. But this running thing is really difficult sometimes. And the track, by the way, is really insanely pretty.

But anyway, back to Saturday.

The first ten or so kilometres were the hardest I’d run in a while. I started with a sore foot because it seems to be damn near impossible for me to ever run (or walk or do anything useful) without hurting myself. While the foot was a handy excuse to keep taking legitimate breaks (pro-tip!), it was, as usual, my head that wanted to give up all the time. I felt terribly guilty for the group of people I was with, all training for their own races and having to stop to wait for me when they could just be getting into the flow of the run and enjoying themselves. If this had been a road run, I would have Uber-ed my way out of there in record time. There are no taxi services out of the trails for broken runners, though, so there’s a free million-dollar business idea if you’re looking for one.

I didn't even take this photo on Saturday because I took zero photos on Saturday but here's a photo of Riverhead from a time when I could be bothered taking photos during a run.

I didn’t even take this photo on Saturday because I took zero photos on Saturday but here’s a photo of Riverhead from a different run. And you wouldn’t even know this photo wasn’t from Saturday if I hadn’t just told you which means you can always count on me to tell you when I’m trying to bullshit you.

At one point, it all reached a new level of awful. I had over 20kms ahead of me if I wanted to keep going with them but my head was telling me I could not handle a single step into that forest anymore. Even the thought of returning to the car on my own was daunting because it involved having to keep on moving which was the one thing I was dying to stop doing. I felt paralysed. Without knowing how to deal with it (because who the hell knows how to deal with this level of difficult shit?), and after failing to get me to make up my own mind about what the hell I was doing, one of the friends told me to remember that it was all about putting one foot in front of the other.

Except what I really wanted was to not move. I wanted it so desperately I didn’t even care that not moving meant sitting in the middle of the forest all alone.

Itakeanaprighthere

Not knowing what to decide, I decided not to decide anything and just do as I was told. I convinced myself I was doing it for the others (so I wouldn’t ruin their run) and that seemed to trick my brain into choosing to move. So I did – one foot in front of the other.

I couldn’t stand thinking about the entire distance we were going to cover that day. I couldn’t look ahead and see the inclination of the track without feeling dizzy and sick with fear. All options sounded unbearable so I just chose to look down at my feet and focus on their movement. When we veered off the forestry road and into the trail, I had no choice but to pay attention to the obstacles ahead.

Surprisingly, it was focusing on those that brought me back up from the fog I was in. Every little branch or tree root I ran over without tripping felt like a tiny victory and I kept collecting those along the trail. It wasn’t long before I’d gathered enough of those to feel a bit better and to start thinking that maybe I wouldn’t have to ruin everyone’s run that day. One foot in front of the other.

It's okay to not be okay.

At 20km, I was finally running happy, thinking about nothing but the run. At 30km, I wasn’t even close to wanting to stop. I felt fresher and more energised at 30km than I had felt in the first 10km (and if you think that doesn’t make sense, I’d like to remind you that I live in a country where the Air Force logo is a flightless bird).

That’s the beauty of the trails, really – they’re merciless. They’ll help you get through anything but there’s no kindness out there on them. They offer no shortcut, no easy way out. Once you get yourself there, you’re doing it. If you want to give up, good luck – you’re deep in the middle of lorde-knows-where and the walk/run back will be the same length you already did going in so why don’t you just harden up and keep moving forward anyway? There, like everywhere, the only way to get out of a bad situation is to keep going. One obstacle after another, you keep getting past them and can’t even tell you’re getting stronger. Next thing you know, you go from throwing a tantrum about how you can’t take another step to taking a giant load of them and realising you could, by focusing on that forward movement and taking it one step at a time.

I’m pretty sure running is the answer to everything. You should probably never invite me to be part of your pub quiz team.


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The upsides of not running

Hello, people who still read this thing (mum)! Serious proposal: let’s end 2014 now and jump straight to 2015 WHICH SERIOUSLY CAN’T POSSIBLY BE ANY SHITTIER THAN THIS.

(BRB, knocking on all the wood).

Everyone in favour say yay, everyone against it is dead to me.

life's a piece of shit when you look at it

Here’s something that doesn’t suck, though: the amount of emails and messages I’ve received from both people I know and also people I’ve never met telling me how much they miss reading my ramblings on here. YOU GUYS, you’re the cutest. But don’t blame me (blame the people who upload all the full episodes of Come Dine With Me to YouTube, allowing me to binge-watch it like it’s an olympic sport).

To the surprise of absolutely no one at all, running four events in one month with a sprained ankle (including an ultramarathon in a cyclone) ended up running me to the ground (potentially the worst unintentional pun I’ve ever made but I’m not even going to bother with the backspace key).

Since we last spoke, as far as running is concerned, I’ve been doing approximately three tenths of fuck all, which makes a running blog something really hard to maintain.

I’ve done a handful of cool little runs (including a loop around Uluru which I’ll tell you all about another time) but nothing else really worth writing home about. In an ironic turn of events, the same doctor that kept telling me to take a break from running now tells me I need to start running more (BE MORE CONFUSING, I DARE YOU).

Among other plans (none of them being “learn some god damn moderation”), I’ve got a 60km ultra to run in December, followed by an attempt at the full Hillary Trail and then the 100km at the Tarawera Ultra in February. The glue that binds these three things together is the fact that I’m 100% sure that I am 100% unable to do any of them at this stage.

that's a god damn bitch of an unsatisfactory situation

A mix of injuries, sickness and just overall not-being-bothered has led to the terrifying situation of a closet full of clean running clothes (and not a single sticky empty packet of Gu in sight). It all snowballed into not even wanting to talk about running because talking about running reminded me that I should be running but wasn’t (psychiatric students wanting to use me as a guinea pig for their experiences should totally email me).

So, since I don’t have much running to talk about, and while I re-learn to put injiji socks on properly again (only half-joking), let’s talk about my new area of expertise: not running.

I’m more useless than the g in lasagna when I’m not running but I’ll admit it has its benefits. I turned 30 less than a month ago and I’m old and wise now so, instead of looking at the negative in everything, I’m going to try this really neat exercise called looking on the bright side.

So what’s so great about not running? I’ll tell you.

You’re reminded of why you love to run

You know the whole “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” thing? It’s true. Not being able to run – for whatever reason – has reminded me of why I love running. Because I’ve been running way (way, way, way) less than before, I have a new sense of appreciation for every time I lace up my shoes and head out for a run. I don’t take any run for granted and, after such a long time not being able to do it, I have learned to appreciate every time I’m able to get out there, even if it’s just a boring 5k along the road.

There’s a lot of strength to be gained from stopping to recover

This long break from running came from, among other things, a long tradition of not listening to my body and running while injured. In the end, my body forced me to stop. So now I’ve learned that breaks are okay – they’re needed and they don’t mean you’re a loser (other things, however, do mean you’re a loser so I’d check for signs of stuff like enjoying movies with Nicole Kidman, wearing leggings as pants or being unable to distinguish between you’re and your). Sure, I’ve lost some fitness. But I’ve also gained strength. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve ventured out for runs expecting my body to be a lot less fit than it turned out to be. While I sat there eating tins of creamy rice (LIKE A LADY) thinking my muscles were slowly disintegrating, some of them were apparently getting stronger. I have since ran up hills (what you people call small inclines) that I always swore never to run up. This doing nothing thing works, people. Try it.

It’s ok to be gentle with yourself

Overall, I did lose a bit of my fitness in the last three months. But I’ve also learned to be kinder to myself. My body does what it can and I no longer push it to the very limit just to see if I can. I can’t be surprised when it breaks and doesn’t recover immediately. Instead of being an ungrateful little bitch, I’m thankful for everything my body can do, even if, at the moment, it isn’t as much as it was able to do before.

You start paying more attention to your body

One of the injuries that forced me to take a break was a back injury back in April. Every time I tried to run after that, I’d end up limping my way back home holding onto my own back to try to stop the pain (so sexy). I kept trying to straighten my back while running to stop it from hurting but nothing seemed to work (or at least not for more than a couple of minutes at a time). The first time I managed to run without my back hurting felt like a huge victory. Since then, I’ve learned to pay more attention to my posture and how each part of my body moves while I run. I may not have gained any speed but I feel smarter about my running.

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You learn to calm the hell down

I’m sure you’ve noticed how much I love running. It’s kind of a thing. Not being able to run is, therefore, the opposite of my thing. My spare time, for a long time, was for running. Doing other things, like not-running, was never an option. Taking a break from running led to a bit of an identity crisis. What kind of runner am I if I’m not out there running? And what person is this if not a runner who runs? And why am I asking myself such stupid questions? Then I learned to relax. Taking a break is okay. Running is very much a part of my identity and a couple of months without my running shoes didn’t take that away.

If you’re smart, you’ll cross train instead of sitting on your ass eating biscuits and drinking beer for three months

I guess I’m a different kind of smart.

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What I’m really saying is that, if you’re having to take a long break from running like I had to, the most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself. Don’t be a hero, have another nap.


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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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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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