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the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Five things Star Wars can teach you about endurance running

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

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

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

1. Endurance running requires a lot of patience

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

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

2. The harder the training, the bigger the benefits

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

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

3. Believe you can and you’re halfway there

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

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

4. Make your own path

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

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

5. Do it

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

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


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Running in the age of instant gratification

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

I blame society.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

1. Choose a marathon

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

2. Tell everyone

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

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3. Study the course

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

4. Get organised

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

5. Run often but not too often

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

6. Cross train

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

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7. Watch what you eat

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

8. Enter other races

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

9. Get proper running shoes

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

10. Make mistakes. Fix mistakes.

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

11. Plan

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

12. Run the hell out of that marathon

Become officially badass.

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


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Overcoming “rest day” guilt

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

You’re welcome, paper tissue industry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ISC Lenco Half Marathon recap

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Pretty Wellington waterfront was still standing there, being all pretty and stuff.

It’s day 7 of the Cold of Doom (I’m sure that’s the correct medical term for the crap I’ve been going through in the last few days) and the marathon is now less than 4 days away.

BRB, off to scream into a pillow.

Alright, where were we?

Right. Sick, feeling like crap, with a marathon this weekend. Not the best state of affairs but I think I’m doing a pretty good job at acting like this isn’t a big deal.

This tapering thing is easier to do while you’re sick because, well, I have no other choice but to get in bed with a box of tissues pretty much as soon as I get home from work every day. It’s getting kind of boring, though. I’ve found myself with far too much time in my hands to stress about how the Cold of Doom is the worst thing that could possibly happen to me just before the marathon (except for, maybe, double leg amputation, I suppose). My lungs are my main worry whenever I run, even when I’m healthy, so the fact that I am one giant bag of snot right now isn’t doing much in the way of keeping me positive about this coming Sunday.

But enough of that. Let me take a break from feeling miserable about life, the universe, and everything. I realised I hadn’t talked about my last half marathon here yet so, instead of running (which I can’t do right now), let’s talk about running.

It was almost two weeks ago now that I flew to Wellington for a 24h trip to run the ISC Lenco Half Marathon. It wasn’t the first time I flew to the capital on purpose for a running event but it was the first time I made such a last minute decision to take a trip like that. It was totally worth it but I returned home completely shattered. The whole thing about running an event out of town is that you feel like you need to get out sightseeing to make the most out of your trip. Your brain says walk around looking at pretty things, your post-half marathon feet say “put us up now!”.

It wasn’t my best half marathon but it also wasn’t my worst. I was 3 minutes slower than my current fastest time but I wasn’t expecting any great times from this one anyway. I had already bitched and moaned about flat running courses here before when I wrote about the other Wellington Half Marathon I ran, and this one shared most of the same route so I knew what I was in for.

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The medal mentions the Round the Bays event, in which the ISC Lenco Half Marathon was included.

The event was very well organised. Then again, the registration packs included a little Whittaker’s chocolate bar so they could have failed at everything else and I would still say wonders about the whole thing. It included a finisher’s medal, which is very, very rare for half marathons in New Zealand, and that was a nice touch. The only issue was that you had to walk over to a tent and stand in a queue for ages, then tell them your bib number in order to get your medal. Two little problems with this: 1) it kind of takes the shine away from the whole “earning” the medal thing, if you have to stand in the queue like you’re about to purchase it. A much better idea would be to just hand them to finishers as they cross the finish line. 2) I’m not entirely sure they were about to know for sure that I had, in fact, finished the run. I could have picked up my bib at the start line and headed to the tent to pick up the medal a couple of hours later. Again, handing them out at the finish line would be a much better way of ensuring that finisher’s medals were going to finishers, not just entrants.

Other than that, the event was great and the atmosphere at the finish line was really good. Wellington put on its best weather and I spent the rest of the day wandering around the city (my Fitbit recorded a total of 38km covered that day, including the 21km of the half marathon), checking all the artsy stuff (yep, I have a Communication *and Culture* degree but describe it as “artsy stuff”. Sorry, mum and dad), and eating everything in sight, before heading to the airport to drink all the wine at the Air New Zealand lounge.

The end. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta blow my nose.


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That awkward time I ran 5k in a denim mini skirt carrying a purse

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Mike Allsop at the finish line of his 777 project

Today, Mike Allsop completed his 7 marathons in 7 continents in 7 days challenge. The man is a legend. There’s no way around it. He also did it all for charity, to help kids living in poverty. He’s as fit as they come (you have to be, to take on such a mammoth task), as crazy as it gets (see previous parenthesis) and apparently a pretty decent human being too.

Mike ran a marathon a day in each of the world’s continents last week, starting in the Falkland Islands on Monday, moving onto Santiago, then up to LA, across to London, down to Casablanca, then to Hong Kong and finally Auckland, today.

I have barely moved from bed in the last 4 days.

It all started kind of turning to custard on Wednesday. First I had one of my old school migraines. Later that day, came the sore throat and the body aches.

On Thursday, I dismissed the cold as “one of those 24h bugs” and ran 21k after work, the final long run before the marathon. I figured if I got worse, at least the last long run would be done and out of the way and I could just focus on recovering. Good thing I decided to focus on recovering because after I got home from that run, I nearly collapsed in the shower and got in bed with chills and fever. “Not dying” achievement unlocked. But I did sweat bucket loads throughout the night, which is a detail I’m sure you appreciate me sharing with you.

On Friday, I could barely keep my eyes open. The world was simultaneously freezing and on fire and there wasn’t a single muscle in my body that wasn’t making a point of telling me it was there. I could walk from the bed to the kitchen without a problem but then the return trip back to bed was a bit of an effort (which isn’t the way you want to feel, the weekend before your marathon). Saturday is just a foggy memory in my head. I remember cups of hot tea, different types of medicine, a whole lot of tissues everywhere, and an entire day watching old episodes of Big Bang Theory, trying not to stress out about the marathon, interrupted by intervals of stressing out about the marathon.

Today was the fourth day of my self-pity party. Then I remembered that Mike Allsop’s team had set up an event for people to join him for the final 5k of his last marathon this afternoon. There was no way I could run it, with my clogged up nose and my coughing and sneezing fits. But I thought some sun would probably help me so made the last minute decision to head down to the Viaduct just to cheer Mike on from the sidelines.

Because I wasn’t going to run, I didn’t bother getting changed from the clothes I had been wearing all day – a t-shirt and a denim skirt because sometimes I wear clothes that aren’t for running. I took my purse with me and didn’t even bother with my iPod or running watch. I got to where everyone was gathered to join him for the final 5k and hung around for a bit to see him run past. I didn’t get a supporter’s t-shirt (those were for runners joining Mike and I wasn’t going to join Mike) and I didn’t pose for a group photo with all the runners because I wasn’t going to run. I was all on track with my being-responsible-and-not-running-because-that-would-be-stupid goal. My plan was to see him there and then walk to the finish line and watch him cross it (he was going the long way around but the finish line was actually only about 1k from where the 5k group was joining him).

And then… well, then I realised I have a problem. Mike Allsop ran past, high fiving everyone, looking like he hadn’t just travelled across the globe running a marathon a day for the last week. Ultrarunning legend Lisa Tamati ran alongside him. Dozens of people joined them for the last 5k and I watched them as they ran into the distance. I stared at my flowery canvas shoes (no socks), my denim mini skirt, and the purse I was holding. I thought to myself “You’re really sick and you’re not dressed for running. That would be really stupid.”

So of course I took off running and joined the group. Let’s face it, this is probably the only time in my life I’ll ever get the chance to run near Lisa Tamati at a pace I can keep up with. I’d rather have this cold linger around for an extra day or two (nothing some extra pills can’t help with) than miss out on running with these two legends.

When Mike crossed the finish line, he shared stories about his last seven days of adventures. He said that, at one point, I think during his second marathon, one of his knees hurt so bad he couldn’t even walk on it. He sat on a rock wondering how he was going to be able to go on. Then his phone alerted him for a message on the project’s Facebook page, from someone telling him that his adventure had inspired them to go out and start running. And that’s all he needed to get off from that rock and keep on going. On top of raising a hell of a lot of money for KidsCan, Mike is also an inspiration to a bunch of other people, runners, aspiring runners and runners who feel like they probably shouldn’t run but can’t stop themselves anyway. I felt almost ridiculous not joining him for a 5k because of a cold, considering how much he had gone through in the last 7 days. My excuse was no excuse, really. Even if I had to be the dork doing it in regular shoes and a denim skirt.

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Inappropriate running attire


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Three ways I’ve sabotaged marathon training lately

I’m hereby giving you permission to tell me stuff like “I told you so” and “we all saw that coming” when, in less than 3 weeks, I take so long to cross that marathon finish line that organisers will have packed up, gone home and started work on the 2014 edition. A few reasons why:

- Today, I went for a run. I didn’t even make it to 5km and that included walking breaks because I needed to double check that what I was feeling wasn’t actually both my lungs trying to escape out of my mouth. I’m not even joking. I’m telling myself that everyone has bad days and bad runs and one bad run doesn’t mean you’re out of shape but nothing really justifies what happened today, less than 3 weeks before having to run 42km.

- After that pathetic waste of clean running clothes, I ate curry (because when all else fails, you should just eat curry) and watched a repeat of The Big Bang Theory that contained the scene above. See Penny and Sheldon trying to touch their toes during their warm-up? When I warm up, I’m Sheldon. With the added disadvantage that I don’t even have a cool Flash t-shirt. Again, 42km in less than 3 weeks time. No toe touching. No Flash t-shirt.

- Last Friday, on a whim, I bought flights to Wellington and paid for the registration for the ISC Lenco Half Marathon which happens… this Sunday. A 24h trip to the capital to run 21k along its waterfront. It’s as good an excuse as any, right? Wrong. Less than stellar planning: three days after that, I’m supposed to be doing the final long (like actually really pretty freaking long) run before the marathon.

I laugh, you guys. I laugh so I don’t cry.

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