super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


12 Comments

That time I started a race after everyone else and found a new favourite trail

Photo by Allan Ure - photos4sale.co.nz

Photo by Allan Ure – photos4sale.co.nz

XTERRA Waharau last Sunday had all the ingredients to be the perfect shitstorm. Instead, it was one of my favourite trails ever.

Let’s recap and maybe it’ll make sense (although, I’m telling you right now, it’s unlikely).

Due to being on a really tight schedule of not giving a crap about anything that week, I failed to read the organisers’ emails with instructions for the event day and didn’t even check the course map. As a result, I didn’t know the exact length I was supposed to run, not even while I was running it. For someone who’s been entering an average of an event a month (often more) for the last two and a half years, you think I’d have my shit together by now. Nope.

I also failed to check how long to get to Waharau from home until I got in the car in the morning to drive to Waharau. It was 45 minutes to race time (because I’m super talented when it comes to stuff like ignoring my alarm) and the GPS told me the event base was over an hour away. Also, the car told me it had 60km worth of petrol in the tank, which would most definitely not take me to the event base. The 45min I had to do a trip of over an hour had to include a stop at the petrol station where the man behind the counter tried to sell me all sorts of add-ons instead of just taking my card and charging me for the petrol. I may or may not have asked him to “please just hurry up”. And no, I do not want those two chocolate bars for only $2 even though that does sound like a pretty good deal, thank you.

You know where this is headed now, right? Yep, shitsville, that’s where. No matter how hard I tried to make up some time on the road (safer communities together and stuff), of course the race had started by the time I arrived. For the first time in my life (after a very close call at the Auckland Quarter Marathon two years ago), I pinned my bib on my shirt, put the timing chip on my shoe and started a race completely on my own (one of the organisers was nice enough to allow me to start rather than making me wait and do the short course instead, which would start about half an hour later).

I started running seven minutes behind everyone else, which was pretty freaking depressing if you ask me (and I know you didn’t but now you know). But I got over that pretty quickly and found a whole new thing to be depressed about: the brutal hill ahead.

You don’t even want to know the quality of the words that came through my mind as I was faced with that hill right at the start. But they were far nicer words than the ones my mind came up with when I found a whole new hill on top of that one. And then another one. The higher I climbed, the lower my mind sank. The “what am I even doing here? I hate running!” thoughts appeared around about then, probably the result of combining an incredibly hilly trail with running on an empty stomach.

But you know what’s on top of a hill? The start of a downhill. In Waharau, after some rain in the days before, it was the start of a steep technical and very muddy downhill that went on for about 5km to the finish line. And I loved every second of it. The further down I got, the higher my runners’ high reached. In a few minutes, I went from “how am I going to tell everyone that I actually hate running?” to “OMFGWTFBBQ RUNNING IS AWESOME!” again. It wasn’t the easiest downhill course ever but my faithful companions behaved impeccably and there wasn’t a single butt-landing to describe on this post (sorry, not sorry). By the time I spotted the finish line, I didn’t even want the run to end, a giant shift from how I felt about it closer to the start.

After the finish, I got to catch up with a bunch of lovely familiar faces and say goodbye to this year’s famous XTERRA sausages + beer combo, which ended up being breakfast for me that morning (as per usual, seriously hoping you didn’t come here for healthy living advice). The runners’ high lasted a few hours after that and I have now found my new favourite trail in Auckland – one I cannot wait to go back and explore.

See you next year for some more muddy fun, XTERRA. You make my Winter days a whole lot happier.


22 Comments

Half marathons are the new anniversary parties

IMAG0351

A while ago, during some rugby championship thing being held in New Zealand, a bank ran an advertising campaign that involved a series of billboards that pretended to guide Australian visitors to the game venues but instead tried to send them in the wrong direction. I tried Googling it to make my point more valid but couldn’t find it so I guess you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Anyway, it was all a bit of fun and games, really, no one took offense (and no one really cares if they did). One of the billboards told tourists that if they wanted to go out and party hard, they should head to Huntly. The point being that not a whole lot goes on in Huntly. At all. Ever.

You don’t go to Huntly to party. You don’t even really go *to* Huntly. You go through Huntly on your way somewhere else. You might stop in Huntly if you’re low on petrol or need extra road trip food or if you’re absolutely out of your mind. Other than that, not many other reasons to go to this sleepy roadside town, home to just 7000 people and the country’s largest thermal-power station (apparently).

(Just kidding, Huntly. Don’t hate me. Here’s a website that talks about a bunch of cool things you can do in Huntly, just so I don’t feel so bad about myself.)

In any case, if I told you that I celebrated 5 years of living in New Zealand by going to Huntly you’d be all like “whaaaat?” and I’d have to be all like “sorry, not sorry” and you’d be all like “SGG is lame! Unsubscribe!”. But, wait. Don’t close your browser window just yet! I can explain.

Last year, on May 26, I celebrated four years in New Zealand with an amazing 35k trail run so, this year, with half a decade to celebrate, I felt like I should do something to mark the occasion. I looked up running events in the general Auckland area for May 26 and noticed that the Huntly Half Marathon would be on that day. Coincidence? Definitely. But that’s not the point.

Last Friday afternoon, since I’d left it too late to organise any decent celebration with friends and couldn’t really think of what else to do, I decided to register for the event. It seemed strangely fitting to celebrate half a decade in the country with a running event. Instead of celebrating by dressing up and hitting some cool club in the big city, I dressed down (in running gear) and headed to Huntly.

I wasn’t expecting a PR for a race I had entered less than two days before it was meant to take place. Not even I’m that stupid. I wanted a nice run and the whole event atmosphere. I got exactly that.

I arrived at the Huntly Domain 20 minutes before the start of the race, picked up my bib and timing chip and headed straight to the bathroom queue to get rid of all the water I’d drunk on the drive down from Auckland. There were hundreds of people around and it had even stopped raining just in time for the start of the race. I chose the domain bathrooms instead of the portaloos close to the start line because I sometimes tell myself I’m too fancy for portaloos. I had to listen to the race briefing from the queue, while trying to figure out where exactly the start line was (I could see it was on the other side of the park but wasn’t entirely sure where). As I was washing my hands, I heard the race start so ran across the muddy domain to the start line, along with a bunch of other people who had to abandon the queue (on the plus side, at least I got to pee).

The really cool thing about half marathons in really small towns is that you get the chance to see the entire town (and you get to see some bits of it twice). You run a full marathon in Auckland and don’t get to see all of Auckland. Same if you run a full marathon in Wellington. But run half of that distance in Huntly and, 21.1km later, you’re a Huntly geography expert.

All of Huntly.

Before we even got to the 4km mark, we had to go over a bridge and back. I like out and backs in the first few kilometers of races because I get to distract myself with trying to spot people I know as they make their way back. This time, I only spotted Mike Tennent, the crazy awesome guy who’s running 52 half marathons in 52 weeks to fundraise for Hospice New Zealand (Huntly was event 3 of 52 for him). I’m not such a big fan of out and backs towards the end of the race because the people I’d normally spot in the beginning are actually pretty speedy and are probably at home, showered and napping by the time I get to the final few kilometers of the race.

Races in small towns are really the best kind of races. I like running in Auckland where there’s a much bigger crowd to cheer you on as you run along, but nothing quite compares to the scenery you see along a countryside event.

I ran Huntly in 2:11 which isn’t my best time but, on the bright side, it’s also not my worst. It confirmed my suspicions that I really can’t just count on luck to break any records and will have to resign to the fact that following a proper training plan is the only way I’ll ever break my current 2:03 PR. That said, it was an amazing run for me. Mostly because of how it allowed me the chance to really think about what these five years in New Zealand had done to who I am. Five years ago, when I moved out of mum and dad’s and straight to the opposite side of the world, I was secretly terrified of not knowing what to do with myself. I didn’t even know for sure whether I could cook my own food or not and was certain I’d damage my entire wardrobe in the first three loads of washing, before getting in real trouble with authorities for not knowing what to do about stuff like taxes and banking stuff.

Half a decade later, I’m doing ok. I think I’ve ruined one t-shirt and burned my toast a couple of times but nothing that could get my adulthood membership revoked. But I guess everyone expected that.

What no one, not even I, expected was for “mall girl” who hated any sort of exercise that didn’t involve trying out outfits inside Zara’s changing room to turn into a bit of an outdoors freak. It was in New Zealand that I went camping for the first time and woke up pleasantly surprised by the fact no animal had tried to kill me in my sleep. It was in New Zealand that I went from finding mud absolutely gross to seeing it as part of the playground for awesome runs and hikes. It was in New Zealand that I discovered that the artificial lights of the mall are actually a little bit shit and that what used to be my favourite way to spend a weekend afternoon is actually just about my idea of hell these days. It was in New Zealand that I discovered that nature is not actually a place where anything can kill you but the place where you can feel the most alive. (all together now: awwwww!)

IMG_20130526_142659

Celebrating being a little bit badass

Lame love declaration aside, it’s been a great half decade and all these good thoughts kept my mind busy during the run and didn’t give me much of chance to freak out about how I hadn’t trained for another 21km at all and had just rocked up to an event I had only just signed up for a couple of days before.

And now I’ve just wasted over 1200 words when all I really wanted to say is that I ran a half marathon in Huntly as a way of celebrating half a decade in New Zealand and it might not have been a conventional celebration but it was definitely an amazing one. The race was really well organised, the volunteers were great, the people in Huntly were all super nice and I even got recognised by another runner who remembered me “dressed in all green” at the Coatesville half a couple of months ago.

Here’s to a lot of other milestones celebrated with running events. I see a little tradition in the making.

Update: this


23 Comments

Will run for free drinks

IMAG0277

Apparently I’m one of those who does anything for a free drink. Okay, calm down, not quite. But I’ll run 9km after work, mostly in the dark, for a free bottle of Powerade. How much does a Powerade bottle even cost? I have a feeling I’m being a bit cheap. Don’t tell me.

It’s the third year in a row that I get an RFID bracelet in the post to enter the Powerade Challenge, which will be on in both Auckland and Wellington until the end of June this year. Last year, I somehow managed to make it downtown a grand total of zero times for the challenge. This year, I’ve had the bracelet for three days and have gone down there once so far so that’s already a 100% increase over last year’s efforts. The secret to excellent results lies in setting the expectations really, really, really low.

The challenge is a simple yet really good marketing idea, for a number of reasons:

- It’s free to enter (free stuff tends to be worth the money)

- It gives you free stuff (with potentially extra prizes)

- It’s fairly easy

- It’s centrally located

- It’s on during Winter, giving people extra motivation to get out there

- It appeals to competitive people

- It can be done at any time, day or night

It may be a 9km run, which is not what a lot of people are up for on weekdays, but it is a very flat course, so the difficulty level isn’t so high that it puts most people off. The challenge starts by the ferry building, in downtown Auckland, where runners scan their bracelets on the Powerade vending machine. They then set off on their way, running towards Mission Bay along the waterfront. About 1.5km into it (maybe less, I was too busy jumping over puddles to notice), a massive interactive billboard shows “GO <RUNNER’S NAME>!” which is a cute little detail if you’re into stuff like seeing your name in neon lights in a big billboard (AND WHO ISN’T?). At the halfway point, at the end of a boardwalk, runners scan their bracelet on a different vending machine, which tells them how long it’s taken them to get there (about 26 minutes if you’re me, about 16 minutes if you’re the human-shaped machine who scanned his bracelet right after me). Then it’s time to run back to the ferry building, another 4.5km, where runners scan their bracelet one final time for the free bottle of Powerade.

My completely unscientific research, based solely on my own assumptions, makes me think that weekdays after 5pm are probably some of the busiest times for the challenge. That’s when I ran it on Thursday and there were a bunch of other blue-bracelet wearing runners out there, probably getting their after-work run in for the day. The fact that so many people run the challenge at the same time helps create a bit of a social atmosphere, even if you’re just doing it on your own and not talking to anyone else, because you see their bracelets and know you’re all running for the same reason. Awww, buddies.

By signing up for the challenge, you also get your own dashboard on the website, where you’re able to track all your runs (which get automatically logged on there) and check your progress. Plus, you can join teams and work towards a collective ranking, further adding to that competitive side of things. I logged that run on Strava, Nike+ and the Powerade website which makes me think all this self-tracking deal is getting a little out of hand.

If parking in downtown Auckland wasn’t such a challenge in itself, I’d probably do it even more often. But I’m still looking forward to taking the bracelet out a few more times before the end of June. I guess if I absolutely had to give some negative feedback about the challenge, I’d say that Powerade could very well promote their brand through the billboards and vending machines and bracelets and all that, but partner with the whiskey store for the whole free drinks part of the deal. Nothing against the blue sugary electrolytes, which tasted great after the run, but I’d run further (and potentially faster) if there were other options on offer.


2 Comments

Stuff and some unrelated pictures of other stuff, while I think of something better to say

Well, well, well.

So much to talk about in general, so little to say in particular.

But I suppose I should update this place, especially since Mal Law’s review of my review last week brought so many new people over. Hi everyone, old and new. Sorry if you came here thinking there’d be something just as interesting to read. I got nothing.

Well, sort of. There’s stuff.

IMG_20130404_225237

I managed not to forget my running gear at home and make it to the Adidas store in time for their weekly group run last week.

I’ve been getting my running groove back, slow and steady, ever since my leg stopped hurting a couple of weeks ago. Now that I’ve gone through my first period of injury and forced rest, I’m ultra careful about trying not to get hurt again. Those weeks without running were mental agony and if running less means I can avoid going through that stuff again, then I’ll be patient.

So that’s what I’ve been training lately – my patience and my discipline.

To say that I’m failing is a bit of an understatement. I’ve been running often but I’ve also been noticing how a Cadbury chocolate-based diet carries few fitness benefits (it’s one of those studies I had to conduct so you don’t have to. You can thank me later). My pace is slower, my legs are heavier (well, my everything is heavier) and, some days, I’m less motivated to run than Lindsay Lohan is to go to rehab. But it’s a phase, right? Coming out of injury is a funny stage to be in, a struggle between wanting to make sure you don’t completely lose your hard-earned fitness while also ensuring you don’t go out too fast and can recover 100% before breaking yourself again.

IMG_20130410_234810

That’s AM, people. Not PM. I know, I’m shocked too.

As part of my efforts to stay motivated and to become more disciplined, I’ve done two things in particular lately, which are also #5 and #8 on my list of new year’s resolutions (yes, I’m still talking about those).

In the beginning of the month, I started a 30-day photo project (which explains the random photos you see appearing throughout this post). No themes to follow or any of that stuff, just me challenging myself to remember to take a photo a day and post it to Instagram. It’s not about taking 30 photos in a hurry on the last day of April, it’s about a consistent ongoing effort to complete an easy task every day. Much like training for a run, it is something that doesn’t allow for laziness or procrastination, something that you can’t just go and cram into the very last minute. Ask anyone – I’m the queen of last minute. So far, I’m doing okay-ish, but the first few photos were pretty much all taken in the last few minutes before midnight.

IMG_20130414_161150

Morning run along Hobsonville Point last Sunday. Hello, Autumn!

The other thing I did in the interest of motivation was cough out $295 on Friday for the XTERRA trail running series pack. I could have sat here and promised that I’d run all 6 events this Winter but we all know that I’d find excuses to skip one or two, in favor of staying in bed or watching the Come Dine with Me omnibus that airs every Saturday morning. But nothing like seeing triple digits coming out of my account to get my butt into training mode. Excited? Yes I am.

Lastly, a few blogging words about blogging, just to be really meta. In the last couple of days, I got mentioned in the blogs of three awesome ladies: slowgirlfastdog, some kind of runderful, and barefoot marathon momma. They all thought I deserved one of those “Versatile Blog Awards”, which automatically makes them awesome so you should head to their blogs if you don’t read them yet. Anyway, the rules dictate that I link to them (done), post an image of the “versatile blog award” logo thingie

(hang on)

versatileblogger11

there you go.

And it also says that I have to list ten things about myself. I’ve done more than that a while ago, when I wrote the 40 things you don’t need to know about me and stuck it in the About page (go read it if you need to feel normal). I really can’t come up with 10 other things so pick 10 out of those 40 and be amused. Done. I’m also supposed to choose 10 or 15 bloggers (the rules differ on this) and nominate them for the award. Since I’m not sure what exact number to follow, I suppose I can just nominate everyone on my list of daily reads. Done.

A few hundred words about nothing in particular. Seinfeld would be proud.


27 Comments

What’s in your trail running backpack?

trailrunningpack

Winter is fast approaching in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the most exciting things about it is the number of trail runs I intend to enter during this season. The XTERRA Winter series was one of the best things about last Winter and I’ve been missing tripping on roots and sliding down muddy trails.

I’m one of those “just in case” people who thinks it’s better to carry all your gear in and out of the bush unused than to run the risk of needing something in there and not having it. My theory has proven truthful in some cases and trail runs often have mandatory gear, to ensure runners are prepared for any situation they may encounter. I’m not sure I’ve got the perfect trail running backpack but nothing like a few good runs to show what is needed and what can be left at home. For now, here’s a rundown of what’s weighing me down in the bush:

1 – Hydration pack with bladder. This pack is just a Kathmandu one. It’s not my dream trail runner pack but it’s been doing the trick for me, until I decide to let go of the money for the pack I really want. It’s been serving me well, though. It’s a 9L pack with just enough spare room for all the trinkets I stock it with, along with a bladder full of water (and lately electrolytes like the Nuun you see in the picture).

2. (not pictured, because I forgot to take them out and can’t be bothered taking another photo) – running gloves. They’re regular running gloves by Nike, sort of like these, which I only bought because a trail run I entered listed them as mandatory equipment. During Winter, I’m always glad to have them.

3. Energy gels

4. Nuts

5. First aid kit. I’ve got a number of first aid kits at home so I gathered the most useful stuff out of them and combined them in a resealable plastic bag (to keep the weight down) for whenever I need it. Plasters (bandaids for you non-kiwis) have come in handy a number of times so I’m always happy to carry that little bag.

6. Chocolates. A trail run without a chocolate or ten along the way? Madness.

7. Ice spray. I’ve used this so many times I can’t even imagine setting out on a long run without it.

8. Whistle. Another item I bought because it was mandatory for a trail running event. Haven’t had to use it yet, thankfully, but wouldn’t want to die in the bush for lack of it. Plus, I think they cost about $2 for a pack of 3 so it’s hardly the item that makes trail running expensive.

9. Emergency blanket. I was already used to carrying this on hikes and have made it part of my trail running gear, again, after seeing it listed as mandatory for a trail run.

10. Sunscreen. Ok, that’s not always in the pack – mea culpa. But it’s a pretty important one.

11. Sunglasses. Not always, especially if you’re in dense bush, but they can come in handy sometimes. I don’t bother with expensive sunglasses anymore (once you break 4 or 5 pairs, while running, you turn to the $10 ones).

12. Road ID

13. Cell phone. Even though there are a lot of parts of the bush that have no cell coverage, it always pays to have a way of communicating with others on hand.

14. Merino layer. It’s warm and lightweight so I carry one on most runs, just in case. I usually carry a lightweight waterproof layer too, another thing I forgot to include in the photo.

Am I missing anything? What do you always carry with you out on the trails?


23 Comments

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.


9 Comments

Run, eat, nap, repeat

541752_10200153960793169_1774165168_n

5k on the first morning of the year

The good news is that we’re over 72 hours into the new year and I haven’t completely mucked it up yet. I’m just really glad that none of my new year’s resolutions included losing weight or watching what (and how much) I eat. Otherwise, I’d have failed 2013 by now and should be sent to the back of the 2012 class and told to change my ways. Instead, I’m sitting at my laptop with my third cup of coffee of the morning and a cupcake, because cake for breakfast makes me happy and this is not a proper healthy living blog.

It hasn’t all been bad, though. I ended last year with a run on the last day (a fairly decent one too, about 13k, with a 13k walk back home) and decided to start 2013 with a morning run on the first day of the year. Things got a little derailed about 12 hours into the new year when I had scorched almonds for lunch (I may have gone a little overboard with my scorched almond purchases over the holidays and have a surplus I need to work through). But whatever, it was ok because I ran that day. And the next morning, I ran again, mostly because my bright lime green Pro Compression socks arrived in the mail and I couldn’t wait to take them out on the road (don’t ask me about how many scorched almonds I ate afterwards, though).

Bright and tight!

Bright and tight!

On the third day of the year, I felt slightly burnt out and thought taking a rest day would probably be a good idea. Runners World agrees (see resolution 7 for serious runners). So I sat on the couch, being all serious runner and totally fulfilling the non-running part of the running goals. And I napped. Oh, how I napped. I’ve realised I’m so good at it I’m tempted to add it to my resume. If you want expert tips on napping, I’m right here. Just don’t try to reach me between 2pm and 3pm because I’ll likely be practicing my napping skills.

That is until Tuesday when I have to go back to the world of full-time employment. If this was a fiction book, this would be the bit where the lead character is faced with intense emotional distress and where the reader and the lead character bond over the pain and suffering the character is going through. Except this isn’t fiction and I’m really back to work on Tuesday.

I realise it’s all been a lot easier because I’ve been on holidays at home with no plans in the last few days (hadn’t done this in years and it has been nothing short of blissful). Things will get harder from next week when a whole 10 hours of each day will be taken up by work so I’ll need extra motivation. Kiwi entrepreneur Vaughan Rowsell has challenged himself to run 1000k (1 million meters) in 2013. He’s inviting everyone else to join his 1 million meters challenge in any way people feel like joining, whether that’s walking, swimming, cycling, rollerblading, etc. I love the idea because it can be taken up by anyone and can be as easy or difficult as you decide it is (admit it, 1 million meters walking is definitely a lot easier than 1 million meters running in a bear suit while balancing an egg on your head and playing the ukulele). I reached 1000k running last year so trying to keep up with him will be a way to guarantee I stay on track. I also challenged myself to run 4x a week this month (right now, the count is at 2/16) so that should help my motivation.

gratuitous breakfast cupcake photo

gratuitous breakfast cupcake photo

The marathon is, as of yesterday, less than two months away (an email from S. as just reminded me of that). I’ll get right onto worrying about it, just after this next cupcake.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 494 other followers