super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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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.


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

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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.

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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.

 


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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!


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XTERRA Auckland Trail Run Series – Shakespear Regional Park

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There was a time in my life when I thought waking up at 7AM on a Sunday was just about the worst thing that could happen on a weekend. To be fair, though, there was also a time in my life when I thought denim on denim was acceptable and that the Backstreet Boys had some cool songs so I guess I haven’t always made the best decisions.

As it turns out, denim on denim is not okay (ever) and I can even admit that the Backstreet Boys were not that great (sorry, 14-year-old super generic girl). On top of that, getting up early on a Sunday is scientifically proven (by me) to significantly improve your weekend. This last statement proves even more truthful if, as based on empirical evidence collected today, you’re getting up early to drive an hour north to one of the most beautiful places in the region for the first of a series of trail runs that will keep me out of trouble throughout winter.

It only took me two Xterra events and approximately 10kg of mud in my washing machine last year to realise I wanted to do them all this year (that was even one of my new year’s resolutions). Last month, because I apparently hate having money in my bank account, I signed up for the whole series (all six events, from now until September). I figured that at least, that way, I couldn’t chicken out when the weather gets really miserable.

It looked like it was going to be really miserable today. There were weather warnings in place and Metservice said it was going to be raining all through to Monday. Actually, now that I think about it, the first sign that the sun was going to come out was the rainy forecast on the Metservice website. But I digress…

Today’s Xterra event in Shakespear Regional Park was the first of what promises to be an epic season of winter trails. I played it safe (which is only one level up from chickening out, but will do for me right now) and entered the mid course, which meant I only had to run a little over 10km. But 10.5km on trail and 10.5km on road are two completely different things – almost not even the same sport. There were some big hills to get over, the type of stuff you run/walk up and then almost struggle not to slide down, but there wasn’t nearly as much mud as there could have been, which made things easier.

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My love for trail running has been growing by the bucket load lately (just in case you hadn’t noticed). It’s easy to dismiss it because of the whole logistics of actually heading out to the trails (it’s not exactly hard but it’s definitely harder than just heading out your front door for a road run around the neighbourhood) and it’s easy to tell yourself that, you know, running is running and you can run anywhere so head out the door and run. Except not really. Actually, not at all. I have to keep reminding myself that no amount of road running can make me half as happy as running on the trails does, for reasons I’m not even sure I can explain. No 10km on the road can compare to an Xterra 10km or any 10km out on the trails. You can ask me why but the question will go unanswered. I have no idea why. All I know is that I didn’t want today’s run to finish when it did (I wanted to be done with the uphills, but I was perfectly happy to slide downhill for a while longer) and that’s pretty much the best testament of a good time.

It’s also always a good sign when you come home from a run and immediately look up when the next one in the series is going to be. Riverhead Forest and I have a date on June 9th. And you. You should definitely come along too.

P.s.: Chris was kind enough to welcome a group of sweaty runners into his home for coffee and food after the event today. This kind of support crew is hard to find.

P.p.s.: I hope none of my former English Lit teachers read this and think I can’t spell Shakespeare’s name. I swear I can. Blame whoever named the park.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.


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What’s in your trail running backpack?

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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?


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Adventures in trail running – XTERRA trail series – Whitford Forest

Last week, after realising that we hadn’t really done much running at all, S. and I made the wise decision to chicken out and downgrade our entry to the XTERRA event in Whitford from the superlong course to the mid course. Last night, I decided to take things one step further (well, backwards) and worked really hard to convince her that the best thing to do would be not to run the event at all. I tried to bribe her with a flat road run later in the morning and, just so you see how little intentions I had to run this trail, I even offered to pay her registration fee if she agreed to pull out with me.

The fact that I had to drag myself out of bed and all the way to Whitford this morning says a lot about my powers of persuasion (or lack thereof). I don’t fully know why I didn’t want to go to Whitford but I was just not feeling up for the trails this weekend. I remained hopeful that S. would cancel at the last minute but that didn’t happen so I ended up going a lot less prepared than normal – I failed to have my usual pre-run breakfast and didn’t carry a pack for the first time on the trail, having only taken a bottle of water I got a few minutes earlier from the petrol station.

As usual, I’m glad I did go. The only run you regret really is the run you don’t go on and today proved that once again. Truth be told, there wasn’t really much running to be done there. The course was incredibly steep and the muddiest I had ever been on. The best way to enjoy it, as we quickly discovered, was to just embrace the mud. And so we did. We slid down hills, fell on our bums too many times to count, kept taking steps forward only to slide back down again. It was awful and so, of course, we had a great time. It might not have been an amazing run but it was a great workout and I’m already feeling the pain in different parts of the body – which is always a very good sign. After discussing different ways to get our running mojo back, we seem to finally have found it. It had been hiding under a giant pile of mud (which I now hope the washing machine can cope with).

In retrospect, perhaps wearing my brand new running shoes wasn’t a wise decision.

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