super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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That morning I ran from one side of the country to the other (well, sort of)

The face may say "I'm excited so let's run" but the reality was more like "it's cold so let's run!"

The face may say “I’m excited so let’s run” but the reality was more like “it’s cold so let’s run!”

A couple of months ago, I watched the video shot by Andrew Evans (National Geographic Traveler’s Digital Nomad) of his run across Liechtenstein. Coincidentally, I watched it just days after I had driven across Liechtenstein (during an amazing European road trip I really should tell you more about one of these days) and had one of those I-wish-I-had-thought-of-that-myself moments. Liechtenstein is a tiny country and one of the few where someone like me can actually run the length of it in one go so I was a bit bummed about not having thought of that.

But never mind. On Sunday, S. and I sort of did that. Well, not really. Let me explain. New Zealand can get really narrow in some points. Conveniently enough, one of those points is right near where we live which means we got to run from one side of the country to the other, technically, in what was only a 16k run.

coasttocoast1

I made a sweet, sweet illustration in MS Paint to scientifically prove we ran from one side of the country to the other.

The Auckland Coast to Coast Walkway is an official walk established and maintained by the city council, that takes walkers (or, in our case, runners) from the Manukau Harbour (Onehunga) to the Waitemata Harbour (Viaduct), on the other side of the city (and the island). Along those 16k, whether you’re walking or running, you get a really good taste for what Auckland really is all about. Boring suburbs, yes, some of that. But also an amazing range of great parks and reserves, extinct volcanoes, historic buildings, etc.

Then realised the thick pink lines in that image covered evidence of water on both sides so used all my skills to create yet another masterpiece.

Then realised the thick pink lines in that image covered evidence of water on both sides so used all my skills to create yet another masterpiece, this time zooming in on the map a bit more. SO MUCH TALENT.

The course itself is fairly well marked by blue signs with arrows (if you’re going from Onehunga to the Viaduct, which is the way we went) or yellow arrows if you choose to start from the Waitemata Harbour side. There were only two or three occasions when there wasn’t a sign telling us which way to turn so we sort of had to take a guess. Luckily, the signs were not far apart and, surprisingly, we never got lost along the way. The arrows also tell you where you should cross the streets but I’m not entirely sure you should take their advice every single time (some of them seemed to have been placed in random spots, away from traffic lights or crossings). Other than that, the route was really well chosen, leading us through reserves whenever there was one nearby, and up and down special places like One Tree Hill, Mount Eden and the Auckland Domain.

Not being great fans of routes that loop around and force us to see us the same things twice, we were pretty pleased with this run. There was always something nice to look at and 16k was an easy enough distance, only made slightly more difficult by the elevation of the terrain in certain areas (but that’s only a worry if you have enough will-power to run every single hill, which we don’t).

So there you have it. From one side of the country to the other. Another training run down, about a bazillion to go.

***

Not completely unrelated, there’s a guy who’s not cutting any corners and can actually claim to be running the length of the entire country, top to bottom, rather than across one of its narrowest parts. Dan Burgess is just about finished with his epic running adventure from Bluff (down the far South) to Cape Reinga (right at the very top). He is raising money to aid Parkinson’s UK and Cystic Fibrosis NZ and if you’d like to help his fundraising efforts, you can do so through here or here.


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ADRA half marathon recap – the last minute PR

A sunrise. I don’t witness these things often but I’m told they happen every day and not just on race days.

YOU GUYS! I think I’ve got it. The secret to running a really good race can sometimes be a lot less to do with preparation, training and tapering and a lot more to do with just chilling the heck out and heading into it without much planning.

Well, maybe. Don’t listen to me, ok? My only doctorate is in kitty cuddles and even that one is just honorary. But the fact is that the experience from last weekend showed me exactly that and I’m going with empirical knowledge here. So let’s recap, shall we?

I headed over to the Auckland Domain on Saturday to walk with Kim Allan (an experience I will hopefully be posting about in the next few days, once I can come up with the right adjectives to describe her epic feat). I wasn’t the only one there. Kim had the support of lots of other people, runners and non-runners, and, for a few hours, we all became our own little group of friends. One of the guys I was talking to mentioned the ADRA half marathon that was going to be on the following day in Mission Bay. I had read about it but decided against it a couple of weeks before. However, as he started telling me more about how nice a course it was and how the weather looked like it’d be perfect for it, I started feeling the bug bite. Knowing I absolutely had to get out of the house for a long run on Sunday anyway, as part of my less than stellar marathon training, I figured having some extra motivation wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Living in Auckland sometimes makes you forget not everyone can run alongside views like this one. Volcanoes are awesome.

On paper, it wasn’t a brilliant idea but that’s never stopped me before. I’d run 4 times that week and ended up walking 16km that Saturday (and getting sunburnt in the process). Tapering was non-existent. The only thing I had time to do, as far as preparation for a race goes, was a pasta meal for dinner on Saturday night, just in case. I didn’t even know for sure whether I’d be able to run it. Registrations had closed online so my only chance was to drive there at OMG o’clock on Sunday morning and check if I could register on the day. So I inhaled my pasta, used the potential half marathon as an excuse to have a bucket load of ice cream and set my alarm for 5AM (when 5AM was only about 5 hours away).

I thought to myself that if the alarm went off and I didn’t feel up for it, there’d be plenty of other half marathons to run and I could still go for a long run later on in the day. But then 5AM came around and I jumped out of bed with the usual race-day excitement. I left home while it was still dark and crossed fingers that they’d still take my registration. Of course the title of this post alone tells you they did and, at 7AM, I had my bib pinned on my shirt and was lining up at the start line with a bunch of other runners. My kind of sunday morning!

The route followed Auckland’s waterfront from Mission Bay to St Heliers and back to the Port (where we looped around back to Mission Bay) and was similar to the Cathay Pacific half marathon I ran earlier this year. There were only a couple of hills at the start (Cliff Road and I have a love-hate relationship but only in the sense that I love to hate it) but most of the course was nice and flat. The stunning weather was a welcome gift too, especially since Auckland has this habit of giving us a good week only to then present us with a stupidly wet weekend.

There were some times when I felt the tiredness that comes with not tapering but I was feeling strong enough to know I could finish. When I got close to the 16km mark, I realised I had a chance to get a personal record on this one. I got a little too excited about it and considered my chances of a sub-2h but quickly dismissed it. As nice as the course was, my legs felt heavy and tired (handy tip: do not walk 16km in the sun the day before running 21km) and I was not doing my best at pacing myself either. I was just happy with the possibility of beating the 2:05 I had been sitting on since the Whenuapai half marathon back in April.

I swear not all photos of myself have me in running clothes soaked in sweat. No, really.

And I did beat it. 2:03:06 is not quite the sub-2h I keep chasing but I am now 2 minutes closer to it then I was before this last minute decision to run this race. It was also a pretty good little confidence boost for marathon training. I celebrated the best possible way, by having a nap, and now I’m preaching the benefits of not over-thinking (or even thinking) running events and just going for it on the day. Maybe there is some truth to Nike’s slogan after all.


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Amazing people doing amazing things – the Kim Allan edition

Are you ready to feel like a lazy unhelpful uncaring slob? Read on then.

Kim Allan, an Auckland mum, will run/walk 500k continuously, without any sleep, around the Auckland Domain.

You know how sometimes you get in the car and drive because that convenience store located 1km away from home just isn’t convenient enough to walk to? Now think that, times 500.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of all my excuses to avoid the gym being flushed down the toilet.

If attempting to run/walk 500k without sleep didn’t automatically place Kim in the “amazing humans” category, the fact that she is doing this to raise funds for the CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Trust and the New Zealand Spinal Trust grants her an immediate spot in heaven right next to whichever god you think is the most powerful.

“This will be a huge challenge, not only physically but mentally and there are days I simply can’t get my head around being awake for that length of time. But in the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’,” she says in a press release. Kim expects the whole ordeal adventure to take 4 days, during which she will not sleep or rest for any significant period of time.

More from the press release:

Kim, 47 and from Tuakau, first decided to take up ultra-distance events as a way to encourage her four children to stay committed and work through hard times. Her son, Ben, now laughingly points out “Ok Mum, you’ve made your point”.

Having competed in several ultra-events, including the Oxfam Trail Walker and the NZ 24 hour race, Kim decided to attempt something that would provide the ‘ultimate challenge’. She admits there is no guarantee that she can actually do it so the challenge is very real.

Because Kim will not be able to sleep during her attempt she needs encouragement to keep going and the public are invited to come to the Domain from Thurs 22 through to Sunday 25 November to cheer her on. On Thursday Kim will be joined by a group of young people taking part in the first Blue Light International Youth Leadership Program. These young people will join Kim for several laps of the Domain.

Kim hopes to beat the record set by Pam Reed, the American Ultra Runner, who completed 486km in just over 80 hours. Kim’s Blue Light 500kms/0hrs Sleep challenge will mean completing 332 laps around the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile. Kim points out that the time is not important, it’s the distance she is aiming to cover that will break the record. However, the sooner she gets it done the quicker she can get to sleep.

To raise additional funds, Kim is auctioning an entry package to the Tarawera Ultramarathon (which also comes with accommodation at the Holiday Inn, shoes and other running gear, a training programme and a subscription to Runner’s World magazine, a package worth over $1500).

If you’d like to contribute to Kim’s fundraising efforts, click here. You can also follow Kim’s amazing effort by liking her Facebook page and maybe even join her for a lap or ten of the Auckland Domain, from 9am November 22.

Image credit: Kim Allan’s Blue Light 500km/0hrs sleep, in aid of The CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust Facebook page.


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42.2

Every time I run a half marathon, there’s a voice inside of me that wonders about a few important questions. Some common ones include “why did I add this song in my running playlist?”, “did I really think eating half a chocolate torte the night before the race was a good idea?” and, more importantly, “why am I not in bed like normal people?”

A few minutes after each half marathon, however, I wonder about different things. Lately, I’ve been finding myself questioning whether, with a little more training, I could push it further and keep going for a little while longer.

So it’s time to go a little further. More specifically, twice as far. Less than four months from now, I will be at the start line of my very first full marathon. It was all Stacey’s idea (and I’m putting this in writing here especially in case it all turns to custard). Yes, the same Stacey that had the 35k trail run idea. We had been talking about how exciting it’d be to enter a marathon in an exotic location in some faraway land. After one glass of wine too many, I even emailed the NZ-based travel agent responsible for getting kiwi runners into the Great Wall Marathon.

A couple of days later, Stacey emailed me saying she had found the marathon for us and added a link to the Mountain to Surf Marathon, in New Plymouth. Okay, so not really what I had in mind when we talked about exotic faraway locations (unless, of course, you’re outside New Zealand). But:

1. It’s not in Auckland. One of the things we had discussed was how hard it would be to run a full marathon along a place we know too well. We need the excitement that comes with running in a new location.

2. It involves a road trip. Or a flight. Whichever is the cheapest. Either way, exciting travel-related arrangements to be made.

3. It’s mostly downhill and flat. This could also very well turn out to be a bad thing, since downhills are so tough on the knees, but I definitely prefer them to steep uphills.

4. It starts in Mount Taranaki and ends right on the edge of the island by the Tasman Sea. So, beautiful scenery guaranteed.

5. Registration was only $70. Sadly though, there doesn’t seem to be a finisher’s medal. I might just have to add “marathoner” to my email signature and take that as my badge of honour since kiwis are clearly not into the whole medal deal. If they ask for my bib back at the end of the race, though, as it has happened before, I’ll lose my shit.

Mount Taranaki, a photo taken back in 2009, back when my hair was longer and my marathon dreams were non-existent.

We agreed to sign up for it on pay day but I didn’t trust myself not to chicken out before then and so went ahead and signed up straight away. From now on, the clock is ticking and it’s time to get training. According to the marathon training programme I downloaded from the event’s website, I’m already behind. Training will, of course, be an essential part of my life in the next four months. I’ll probably talk about it a bit all the freaking time so, dear friends, if there’s a holiday you’ve been meaning to take or any plans that involve not having contact with me, now is the time to put those into action.

It’s good to be back in training mode with a major goal in mind. Not to dismiss half marathons in the least (they’re still a challenge), but it was time to move on from those into something more, especially since I can’t bring myself to worry about speed so training to get faster never ends up happening.

Chocolate milk and a cinnamon cookie – an essential part of marathon training.

To prove I’m taking marathon training seriously, the day after signing up I headed to the newly opened Moustache Milk & Cookies bar in Auckland to inaugurate marathon training season with a cookie.

Just kidding. I started marathon training the day I signed up. With a chocolate doughnut. So you know I mean business.


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Auckland Half Marathon recap

It was 6AM and I had been up for 1h30. That’s gotta be a good enough excuse for this pose.

Suppose you had asked me a couple of days ago if I was able to get out of bed at 4:30AM. I don’t know why you’d ask me that either but just play along, please. Anyway, I probably would have laughed at the idea for a solid minute or two before letting you know that, no, it was never going to happen. Especially on a Sunday.

Yesterday, Sunday, my alarm woke me up at 4:30. It was pitch black outside and the cat gave me hateful look when I accidentally woke her up. I couldn’t really blame her. There didn’t seem to be enough coffee in the world to help me cope with that kind of sacrifice. But then I got into my bright clothes, green tutu included, swallowed some coffee and a bagel and the world seemed a little better.

As we made our way to the ferry terminal in downtown Auckland to catch the ferry to Devonport, where the start line was, the only non-running people around us hadn’t actually gone home from their night out yet. I felt less normal than the girls in dresses three sizes too small trying not to vomit on the footpath. It didn’t matter that I was wearing a running headband that said “I run so I can drink”, I was still among the weird people getting up at that time to go for a run. And I liked it.

We arrived in Devonport with plenty of time to spare, the sun was yet to come up and the single-digit temperature was trying to disguise the warm day we’d have ahead of us. The only consolation was that we got to be near the start line to watch the participants of the full marathon. I couldn’t imagine what was going through people’s minds as they got ready to run 42.2km but seeing them certainly helped me get excited about the idea of running half of that. There was a little schadenfreude in knowing that at least I wasn’t in their shoes.

Plus, I was about to run another half marathon in the city I live in these days (this time, across the bridge), only three weeks after running an amazing half marathon in the city that will always be home. So life was good. I just wished all these thoughts were coming to my mind a couple of hours later, after a longer night’s sleep.

We started off running at 7AM. Approximately 5 seconds later, I hit the button on the GPS watch to start tracking and it immediately crashed. It refused to come on again so I had to resort to the iPod, which is far less accurate. I got over my little first world problem pretty quickly. The bright tutu meant that I got a lot more support from other people (runners and watchers) throughout the run. I quickly realised that running in costumes is definitely the way to go, if you need a little extra motivation. And if you don’t mind looking ridiculous in public, which I obviously don’t.

The good weather meant we had thousands and thousands of people watching and cheering for all of us, which was, as usual, more helpful than any training session. This was handy considering my training turned out to be non-existent. Somehow, time flew by since Lisbon three weeks ago and I did nothing but a couple of short runs. I figured nothing could be worse than running in that Lisbon heat and I was right.

I also took a chance and decided to break the old “don’t try anything new” rule for running events and wore my bright pink compression socks on this run. As silly as it is to take a risk on race day, this one ended up working really well. Over 24 hours later, my legs are feeling like I didn’t even run yesterday. So there’s another lesson – compression socks are a go. Shame they are so stupidly expensive but I guess I can survive with just one kidney.

This was half marathon number 5 for this year and it is now time to choose the next one for next month. I am tempted to repeat Kerikeri but also feel like I should go for a new course. Options include the Rotovegas Half Marathon, The Speight’s West Coaster and the The Great Cranleigh Kauri Run in the Coromandel. Not sure which one (or ones?) will be chosen yet. All I know is that all this running thing is giving my credit card a real workout.


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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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adventures in trail running – XTERRA trail series – Shakespear Park

On Sunday morning, we made our way up to Shakespear Park (about an hour north from home) to enter the first in this year’s series of XTERRA trail running events, the final step in our training for the Big O Trail Run in Rotorua tomorrow.

It was only my second ever organised trail run, as we’ve been mostly picking trails and running on our own, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I know I didn’t expect so many people to be at the park for the run (the only other organised trail event we entered had about 15 people). Shakespear Park, on the other hand, was full of runners keen to get their shoes dirty on the trail.

I’m definitely going to have a go at a couple of other events in the series but I hope they sort out the registration pack pick-up process – we had pre-registered and had to pick up our race bib and timing chip on the day and queued up for nearly one hour. The only reason we didn’t queue for longer was because we ended up having to jump the queue and get in front of people doing the short course (which started later), to avoid missing our race briefing and even the start of the race.

Aside from that small hiccup with registration, the whole event was pretty well organised. The location, for a start, couldn’t be better. A little out of the way for this West Aucklander here but isn’t discovering new places what trail running is all about? It may have only been 11.5km (not that much compared to the 35km we’ll have to face tomorrow), but we got to run through some truly amazing scenery – bush tracks, paddocks, beaches… stunning views from the top of the hills, as far as your eyes could see (before the salty sweat threatened to burn them, that is).

We thought it would be wise to run the mid-course (11.5km) rather than a longer option, as we were so close to race day (less than a week by then, less than a day by the time I got around to finish this post) and we needed to give our muscles time to recover. I am clearly not used to the thought of running a super long distance trail run. Every time I saw a runner along the way who was doing the longer course, I thought to myself “damn, these people are hardcore” and then realised that in less than a week I’d be having to do a lot more than that. And so, of course, I panicked. I panicked because I was having my butt kicked by a course that was less than 12km long.

The whole run was a very good reminder of how different trail running is from road running. At 6km, a really steep incline had me and pretty much everyone else around walking up (and not even walking straight). The hill seemed to go on forever and there was a point when I seriously wanted to move to the side and just sit on the ground and give up on life. My legs felt heavy like they were two iron bars. I kept reminding myself of how it was all a big mental game and how I should be ashamed to ever lose a game against myself. So I carried on up. And up. And up. Telling myself that every uphill meant there was a downhill to come.

The run finished after a small stretch running along the beach with the gorgeous views distracting me from the pain. We crossed the finish line and while S. went for a dip in the ocean, I queued up for our well-earned cold ciders.

It was the perfect morning for some trail running. And the running shoes are only muddy enough to remind us of a good time.