super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


4 Comments

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.


3 Comments

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

Credit: Allan Ure - Photos4Sale

Credit: Allan Ure – Photos4Sale

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

Stop rolling your eyes, I can explain.

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

Nope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


18 Comments

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

VTUM_014207

Credit: Allan Ure – Photos4Sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: Marceau Photography

Credit: Marceau Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: Allan Ure - Photos4Sale

Credit: Allan Ure – Photos4Sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not much, really.

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

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

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

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

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

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


38 Comments

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.

tumblr_inline_miqynmk65p1r2gjl8

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.


17 Comments

Lessons from the Big O 2013 – I’d rather feel like crap than just feel okay

Posing for Mike Tennent's camera, before I knew what I was in for.

Posing for Mike Tennent’s camera, before I knew what I was in for.

I ran the toughest course of my life on Saturday and I’m not even sure I’m prepared to talk about it but if I don’t dump it all onto this keyboard right now, I may never find the ability to talk about it again so, stand back, here goes whatever’s about to come out of me.

The 21km trail I was supposed to run that morning ended up being a 28km trail with brutal elevation (who knew some parts of Rotorua were so close to the sky?) and some of the toughest terrain I’d ever run in my life. When I think of parts of it – and I still do, like some sort of weird PTSD – I just want to use swear words. I’m going to try to choose others and spare you from those but, frankly, I’m so out of energy that I can’t promise much. This will probably be a long one so get a cup of tea or something (and bring me a stiff drink while you’re at it). If you don’t feel like reading this whole thing (why would you?) and you just want to know whether I finished or not, I did. You can leave now.

For myself and whoever poor bored soul has decided to keep on reading, here’s a recap.

I signed up for the Big O on Tuesday after Leah told me she’d be running it in a fairy costume. I thought of my poor tutu abandoned at home and decided that putting some extra miles on it wouldn’t hurt.

Hahaha. “Wouldn’t hurt”. Anyway.

That same week, I got shin splints and a weird 24h bug forced me to work from home the day before the run. Feeling better by Friday evening, I felt too guilty to skip the NZ anniversary drinks of a really close friend, so decided to stop by those anyway (with the race in T minus just a few hours). “Stopping by” turned into cocktails and dancing (because my mind is that weak) and, at midnight, I was standing up in the kitchen separating jelly beans into tiny ziplock bags and hoping for a miracle. I finally fell asleep at 1am, with the alarm set for 5am.

whatcouldpossiblygowrong

Just a few hours later, in pain, sleepy and with a slight hangover, I got picked up by Stacey, a vision from heaven who picked me up with a hot coffee and a muffin. Three hours later (with an intense few minutes trying to follow the America’s Cup because apparently I’m now one of those people who follows boat races), we arrived at the event base in Rotorua. I immediately spotted Mike (who took the tutu photos) and a few other familiar faces and, as the excitement kicked in, I managed to forget about how crappy I felt and how there was absolutely not a single good reason for me to be attempting that run after such a shitty week. Whatever, I was wearing a giant tutu and it was going to be an amazing day out!

Except, not so much.

You see, I wanted to prove to myself that, even under such miserable conditions, I could run a half marathon. The problem is that, even if you ignore the shin splints, the sickness and the hangover, I’m still at the lowest level of fitness I’ve been in the last year. Finishing a half, at this stage, is like a personal Everest. I’d done it the week before on road and I wanted to do it this week on the trail, even though I was feeling even worse.

I know it might sometimes sound like I’m taking the piss when I tell you about how unfit I am and then write recaps of runs a lot of people can’t – or don’t – run. I’m not, though. If you know me, you know I have the eating habits of a stray dog living behind a McDonald’s drive-thru, I stay awake thanks to litres of coffee every day and sleep an average of four or five hours a night. Also, I don’t run nearly as much as some people think I run, just because I keep a running blog. But I have this theory that running is mostly a mental exercise and so, as long as your mind is strong, it doesn’t matter that the rest of you is falling apart.

Just a couple of little issues with that theory: a) it’s mostly bullshit and b) this run wasn’t actually a half.

I had company the entire way – Ruby the dog joined me about 4km into the run and never left me again so we had the chance to bond for a whole 24km of running, walking, sliding down mud, jumping over fences (so many goddamn fences!), getting lost and crying. Yep, crying. Not even embarrassed to admit it. I cried and told Ruby how much of a stupid idea this whole thing was. She listened patiently even though, by then, I had already yelled at her to “stop fucking judging me!” as she stood at the top of hills watching me drag myself up.

I spent hours and hours and hours and then some more hours climbing up hills, negotiating roots and vines, getting my legs cut by gorse. I fought not to let the mud swallow my shoes and tried my best to block out the constant rain that kept pouring for hours. Partly because of how shitty I was already feeling before I started running, partly because it really was that tough a run, I ended up sinking to a level of low I didn’t even know I could get to, a little basement hidden under the basement of the most negative shit I’ve got in me.

Running often does that to me and I don’t complain because it’s part of what I chase when I run: high degrees of emotions, whether they’re happy or sad. Some of the most unadulterated happiness I’ve felt in life has happened during a runner’s high. Some of the deepest sadness has happened during a runner’s low (is that even a thing? I get it a lot so it should be a thing).

The point is, and this is especially true for trail running, I experience feelings at a much higher frequency when I’m out running and that is a big part of the reason I do it. On Saturday, proving that it wasn’t all bad, I rode quite a good runner’s high between kilometres 5 and 9 (when I slipped and hurt my knee). For those 4km, I took close notice to the fact that I was wearing a giant tutu and running alone through a stunning piece of Earth in New Zealand. And fucking hell, I felt lucky. Luckier than you and anyone else around. I had one earphone on and didn’t bother with my usual BPM-influenced running music. Instead, I put on Yann Tiersen’s Amelie OST, which sounded strangely fitting, and spent a good half an hour smiling to myself in the middle of nowhere, genuinely happy. I don’t get that stupidly happy doing anything else that I do in life. Even if I’d not finished the run, it would all have been worth it for that half an hour alone.

But just like that, I also experienced what I now remember as the absolute lowest of the lows, a sort of feeling I find much harder to translate into words. When I got lost, cold, in pain and didn’t know how much longer I had to go, I wanted to give up. I wanted to sit there and cry. I didn’t sit (mostly because stopping would only have made me colder) but I cried and hated running and hated that I’d put myself in that situation.

I couldn’t remember the happy moments anymore and went into a strange dark place in my head where the finish line didn’t actually exist anymore and I was just going to have to accept I was going to be there forever. I stopped the music and went into a weird auto-pilot mode where I kept putting my feet one in front of the other without really hoping to get anywhere. I didn’t care about the cold. I didn’t care about the screaming knee. I didn’t even care about finishing. I was just empty of whatever it was I was supposed to think or feel and, instead, there was just nothing.

Now that it’s been a couple of days, even though nothing will change the fact that I felt absolute hatred for those moments, in those moments, I can see that they’re just part of what I seek anyway. Who wouldn’t want to feel things in such extreme ways?

The problem, you see, is that life is too comfortable. Way too comfortable. We take the elevator and get takeaways, pay extra for same-day delivery, have remote controls, heated car seats and apps for everything. If we plan things right, we can go whole days without even having to move anymore. We do whatever we can to make life as easy and comfortable as we can because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do. We even measure people’s success by how comfortable their life is. And we sort of stop feeling things. It all becomes average. Not quite freezing, not quite boiling, just an in-between temperature that fits no purpose and that is no good but also not bad for anything. We think that suits us just fine but we’re just crippling ourselves and getting through life missing out on actually feeling things.

In long-distance trail running, there’s no room for that in-between. Everything is heightened, enhanced and technicolor. Happy only means happiest and sad only means saddest. Average is a concept that only exists out of the trail, in the weekdays at work when people ask how we’re doing and we say “okay”, the hours we spend commuting, the time we numb ourselves in front of screens and forget to feel things because feeling things is hard work and drains you out.

A long-distance trail run never goes “okay”. That trail on Saturday left me empty, which was exactly what I wanted it to do (whether I realised it on that day or not is an entirely different matter).

tumblr_m8ckqka0s81rpdtxz

Just about every non-runner I know has asked me at least once why the hell I get out and do these things (especially since the next few days are spent barely moving and bitching about it). I find it such a transcendent thing that I have no skills to explain. I can only hope they assume there must be a really good reason I willingly put myself through the pain I talk about. Because that pain is just the result of a major rush of happiness and genuine feelings are supposed to leave you exhausted. Other runners know. We’re not as stupid as we look. We wouldn’t spend all this money, travel this far, abuse our bodies this much for something average. For that, we have PlayStations.

I’ve written so many words already I’m going to spare you a step-by-step account of Saturday. Let me just leave it here, for posterity, that this 28km trail was way, way tougher than my road marathon (and it took me longer too!) and tougher than any other event I’ve ever run. And I know you’re thinking “well, duh” after I gave you the laundry list of all the things that were wrong with me before I even started but I assure you it would have been one of the hardest regardless.

One of the absolute worst moments came at the 20km mark, when I caught up with another runner as we both slowly made our way up another god forsaken hill, trying to avoid all the gorse (he was smart and wore long pants, I’m currently sporting some really hot scratches all over my legs). I told him “not long to go now!” and he looked at his Garmin and said “yeah, maybe 5 or 6km to go, maybe a bit more” and, around about that time, my heart sank all the way down to the bottom of the Earth.

areyoufuckingkiddingme

“NO! We’ve got 1km to go,” I told him (and I’m pretty sure he could feel the panic in my voice). He explained that the aid station at 13km was the halfway mark (is this stuff in the emails the event directors send out? I need to start reading those) and that we were at least 5km away from the finish. He also said something about elevation and how he thought we should be heading down soon but we were weirdly still going up quite a lot. I don’t know, I stopped listening. I was still trying to process the whole “I wasn’t even ready for a trail half and now you’re telling me it’s more than a half” deal. So I took off and left him, obviously (actually, nothing to do with that, he was lovely, but I was freezing and running was the way to stay warm).

What happened next was proof that maybe freezing but staying near someone else would have been the thing to do. Being the self-proclaimed worst trail runner in the world (a title I embrace with more pride than I should), of course I got lost. We were high up in some crazy ass massive piece of farmland, fog so thick you couldn’t see anything in front of you, one wrong turn and I was panicking in the middle of nowhere and blowing my emergency whistle hoping someone would find me. Turns out the whistle did a bucket load of nothing and no one came to my rescue. I managed to backtrack all the way to the last marker I’d seen and found my way back to the track. Not long after, I spotted the same runner again – who had passed me while I was busy getting lost. Having gone through my little panic attack (of which we shall never speak of again), I decided to stick with him. We had a couple of kilometres to go by then and finally started making our way down. My watch marked just over 28km when I crossed the finish line. It took me over 5 hours to cover those – longer than it took me to run a full marathon on the road.

RIP, tutu.

RIP, tutu.

I wasn’t even close to prepared for what the day would eventually bring me. I know some training, less injuries and some better decisions (like, you know, not drinking and dancing the night before) would have made a difference but I’m glad the difference wasn’t between finishing or not finishing. I sort of still managed to prove my point, I guess. I’m more proud of those 28km than any of the longer distances I’ve ever done before and I’m still stupidly excited for everyone who braved that course that day, especially those legends who set out on a 35km and ended up having to accidentally run an ultra (and I’m super glad I ran the Big O 35km last year, when it was actually 35km).

With Ruby finally asleep in the car, Stacey and I took my bottle of wine spot prize to an Indian restaurant (we made sure it was BYO), ordered the banquet (all you can eat out of pretty much all of their curries, plus entrees), spent nearly $50 in lollies at the supermarket and drove back to Auckland singing our hearts out to keep ourselves awake.

The trail that marked the official start of my training for Tarawera ended up being so bad that it had the upside of making me confident that I can run that ultramarathon next year. If I survived Saturday, the way I was feeling, I can survive whatever gets thrown my way.

Settle down, universe, that wasn’t a challenge.


6 Comments

Poor life choices and other stuff I want to tell you about

It might seem like I’ve got something important to tell you but, contrary to every single other time you hear from me, this time I don’t. However, it’s been a few days since I’ve written here and I know you’re bedridden with worry about the hell is going on with me. Right? RIGHT?

Well, wipe away those tears, I’m alright. Never short of things to talk about, what I’m lacking is the time to come here and write thousands and thousands of words about what’s been on my mind (Nutella crepes and Gilmore Girls marathons, for example). But let’s leave those hot topics for later and talk about other stuff. Running stuff, mostly, much to everyone’s surprise. I’m way behind on posting the result of last week’s giveaway so needed an excuse to wave a metaphorical dust cloth around this place. In the interest of time efficiency (and an obvious attempt at disguising the fact that none of these things relate to each other), I’m gonna go ahead and bullet point this bad boy so we can all go back to our lives.

  • NZ On Screen has a really good documentary about Kiwi running legend Arthur Lydiard. You should watch it if you haven’t. You should also watch it if you have already watched it but need a metaphorical kick in the butt to get outside and run.
  • Speaking of Arthur Lydiard, this happened:
1004920_10201715033059000_1624574339_n

Someone needs to take away my credit card privileges.

  • Also, lovely SGG reader Matilda Iglesias scored some pretty sweet Pro Compression marathon socks by leaving a comment in my birthday post. Matilda, please email me (the usual: supergenericgirl at gmail dot com) letting me know which socks you want and what size you wear and I’ll make sure the Pro Compression peeps get those to you!
  • Good news for those who didn’t win but still want to get their hands on the good stuff: the code PCBLG will get you 40% off marathon socks and sleeves on the Pro Compression website. It also gives you free shipping if you live in the US. Treat yo’self!
  • But enough about socks. I ran a trail in the Coromandel a couple of weekends ago that destroyed my body (and my will to live) to the point of wanting to give up on that basic feature that distinguishes me from monkeys: the ability to walk upright. I finished with pain on one foot, pain on one knee, scratches on my arms and legs, a bruised knee and a crushed ego. I also didn’t run for a week after that. It was awesome. No, really.
  • Speaking of trails, I’ve now said it “out loud” on the internet:

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 6.49.10 PM

  • I’ve been doing heaps of running lately and most of it has been in the morning. I’m totally going to write a million words about that soon but I just wanted to use one of these bullet points to brag about it (the secret to becoming a morning runner, I’ve found it!).
  • Finally, when thinking about what to put on here as an update, I wondered what the hell I’ve been up to so I had a look around and the answer seems to be: making myself happy while destroying any possibility of ever being a healthy runner, through poor food choices. As a sort of public service announcement (although more like a reminder), I used my newfound Storify skills and collated a bunch of recent evidence that proves you should never confuse this for a healthy living blog. Storify is being a little bitch and won’t let me embed it but you can see it here.

And now I’ve run out of useless stuff to tell you so I’m going to have a cookie.


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.


12 Comments

When all else fails, go for a run. Or don’t. Whatever, I’m not your mother.

IMG_20130629_095237

Oh hi. How’s it going? Me? Well, funny you should ask. It’s been a shitty few days.

But you know, doors closing, windows opening and all that jazz.

In the mean time, like any proper unemployed freelancing journalist, I’ve been busy buying shoes. Not exactly the type of shoes I grew used to buying in times of emotional crisis but the rough looking trail running shoes you see in the image above (taken when they were about 15 hours old and duly christened out in the Waitakere ranges).

When all else fails, go running amirite? I’m sure there’s some motivational poster crap out there on the internet saying that.

Well, that’s not strictly how I’ve been dealing with it, but this is a running blog so on with the running stuff. I picked the shoes up on Friday, after about 36 hours without sleeping (I’M FINE, YOU GUYS, REALLY!), and tested them out on the trails bright and early (except not bright) on Saturday with Steven and Martin. It was precisely zero degrees when I got in the car to drive there to meet them but I didn’t completely hate them for picking that time. Then we started out on the trail and it was really steep and I still didn’t hate them for picking that route. I was still hungover, hadn’t had any breakfast, was running really slow and they also didn’t hate me for any of those things. Once we got to the top and started running down, I went from “not hating” it to actually kind of loving it and ended up having a great time getting the new shoes muddy and disgusting, as they should be.

And then came Sunday and, with it, another early morning to drive out to Waiuku for the third XTERRA run of the season. It was cold and foggy and the drive was long and I spent some of it making a mental list of things I’d rather be doing instead of driving to Waiuku (turns out, quite a few things). But then I got there, picked up my bib and timing chip and hardened the hell up.

IMG_20130630_211648

XTERRA runs never fail to wake anyone up, not even me. Barely one kilometer into it and I was loving it. Then came the soft sand and I wasn’t loving it so much. I was hating it. In fact, no, wait. Hate isn’t even a strong enough verb to describe how strongly I feel about running on soft sand. You pick a better verb, I’m unemployed. I don’t have to. It was also super foggy which meant the awesome views over Port Waikato were actually just a thick blanket of white stuff. Did I mention the soft sand? And it was freezing! And soft sand. Soft sand everywhere!

Then why the hell did I enjoy it so much? I have no idea. But there you have it. The next XTERRA is on July 21 in Woodhill Forest and you can still sign up and come get muddy too. There probably won’t be as much sand involved this time.

Surely not.

Please let there not be any soft sand.

Regardless, these two trail runs ended up doing wonders for my sanity (if very little for my sleep deprivation). So those idiotic motivational posters on Pinterest might not actually be completely wrong. When your magazine closes down and you’re out of a job, go get some mud on those shoes. You’ll probably feel better if you do.

 


8 Comments

Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel – book review

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

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

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

Weird folk, that’s me.

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

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

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

(270 days to go, you guys!)

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

972002_618837678128889_1133614897_n

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

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

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

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


16 Comments

XTERRA Auckland Trail Run Series – Riverhead Forest

The true sign of a good time is putting a load of laundry in the machine and having to set it to “very dirty” (which, thankfully, is an actual setting on my machine) and cross fingers your clothes will go back to their real colour.

That’s what happened today, after running the XTERRA event in Riverhead (event 2/6 of the series, after Shakespear Park).

Riverhead, in case you don’t know, is a forest in Auckland where all the mud in the world is kept and it was the stage for the second event of the XTERRA series.

This morning, the weather was miserable, my legs were heavy and my head hurt a bit from not drinking enough water. I didn’t feel like I should be running.

But I should know better than to doubt the ability that the trails have to make everything better.

It all started looking upwards when I met up with some friendly faces before the run even started (including people who knew me as SGG before they even met me as Vera and still wanted to hang out with me anyway). I was also worried that, without proper trail running shoes and all that talk about how clay is just the most slippery thing ever, I was going to end up with two broken legs.

Once the run started, all the climbing and sliding down muddy trails felt far too fun for my crankiness to survive and I ended up having a blast (without breaking legs in the process). I wasn’t much of a fan of the slippery climbs, with my old road running shoes, but thankfully trail runners are the nicest people you can find and with a push here and a hand there, everyone made it to the top (even me).

The weather cleared up just enough for us to get our running done before the rain returned and the views from the top of our steepest climbs were nothing short of amazing (made slightly less amazing by the fact that I had to quickly hold onto something as I was climbing my way to the top of one of the hills and accidentally grabbed a bunch of gorse).

I was slow and took a while to get my mind in the right place but caught myself smiling like an idiot as my feet dug through mud pits and mud splashed everywhere. If there is one secret to enjoying muddy trails, it’s really to just not give a shit. Once you stop caring about where mud is going, then you can just go for it.

My hands were so caked with mud I didn't dare take my phone out for any photos so I made you a really realistic representation of what I'm pretty sure I looked like from behind.

My hands were so caked with mud I didn’t dare take my phone out for any photos so I made you a really realistic representation of what I’m pretty sure I looked like from behind.

And here's another super artistic illustration of how it actually felt to get through that mud.

And here’s another super artistic illustration of how it actually felt to get through that mud.

Ski lessons came in handy dealing with the slippery downhills and I manage to only fall on my ass once, an absolute victory in my books.

I can’t say I loved every second of the run today (definitely didn’t feel any love for the holding-onto-a-gorse-bush bit) but, once I got into it, the time I spent enjoying it far outweighed the time I spent in the beginning wishing I was back in bed. After crossing the finish line, I got to my favourite part of these events – the cold cider + sausage + friends combo.

I’m counting this run as training for the Tarawera Ultra. Some bad news for volunteers at that event next year, though: my run today was only just over 1/6th of the length of Tarawera (since I’m entering the 60km) and, judging by how long it took me, I suggest you take sleeping bags.

But for now, I’m going into the new week after a fantastic event that brightened up an otherwise pretty dull Sunday. Roll on Waiuku!

Now I’m off to get the mud off my shoes, which is a whole other workout in itself.

Speaking of shoes, I’m going to pour yet some more money into this running thing by buying a pair of proper trail running shoes, to avoid having to deal with any more of these one-step-up-three-steps-down hills. I looked at the Inov8 tent at the event and told the lady I’d go back after the run but was far too muddy to try anything on. Do you have Inov8 shoes? Love them? Any other brand I should be looking at? Spill the details!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 479 other followers