super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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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.


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adventures in trail running – rangitoto romp

Training for your first long distance trail run means, among other things, no more weekend mornings in bed. This sunday was no exception. I was out of bed at 7am to give me time to have coffee, eat and prepare my trail mix for the morning’s adventure: the rangitoto romp. After a quick stop at the bakery (if a trail run isn’t an excuse to start your day with a chocolate log, then I don’t know what is!), we made our way to the ferry building to get on the 9:30 ferry. The trip takes less than half an hour so we hit the trail just before the clock hit 10am.

As usual, starting was the hardest part for me. The first couple of kilometers were hard and my heavy legs really wanted to run back to the ferry and back home and back to bed. But after that, it all turned amazing pretty quickly. It helps that Rangitoto is a real special place – a 600 year old volcano, so young that raw lava and scoria still forms the majority of the terrain on the island. The loose scoria made for some tricky bits along the run. What you see above is a photo of one of the easy parts, really. A lot of our time was spent watching where we put our feet because, really, breaking both legs would not really contribute positively to our training.

We made it back to Auckland on the lunch time ferry feeling a lot better about running and life in general. My calf muscles were still a little bit sore from Wednesday’s run and so, to try to recover a little bit faster, I hardened up and bought a 3kg bag of ice from the petrol station on the way home. Add icing leg muscles on a cold day to the list of things I don’t like doing.

S. had done this run before on the same day I ran the Whenuapai half marathon and she didn’t exactly have fond memories of it. Fortunately, we changed that today. To make this training day even better, we have now reached $450 in donations, meaning we are nearly halfway to our target! If you haven’t helped out yet, please do so. If you have, you rock our sweaty little running socks off. Gross, I know. I’ll shut up now.


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Cathay Pacific half marathon Auckland recap

Last sunday morning was awesome and it wasn’t even spent in bed like all sunday mornings should be. Instead of the usual routine of trying to sleep in while a cat gives me a less than friendly back massage and begs for food, I headed into town and ran my third ever half-marathon instead. Third ever and first of a plan of four for this year. After my first half in Taupo last August and the second one in Kerikeri in November, I was really excited about running a third one.

So excited I injured my knee a week before race day. Am I the clumsiest person you’ve ever met or just second clumsiest? With a bruised and sore knee, I dragged myself out the sunday before for a 15.5km run before deciding it was probably time to just jump straight to the part of the training that involves sitting on the couch eating lots of crap and feeling sorry for yourself. So that’s what I did. One 5km run all week and the knee showed little sign of improvement.

So on race day, I had to sport a super sexy knee brace and hope that I could end the 21.1km course without having to have my leg amputated or OMG a knee brace tan line. Spoiler: I still have both legs.

The data in the images is off my Nike+ app thingy (I call things thingy because I’m technical like that). The organisers of this event didn’t actually record anyone’s time which was kind of sucky for people like me who like to know exactly how long they take from start to finish. My nike+ isn’t always super accurate and actually think I ran more like 21.9km. I also only stopped it about 20 seconds after crossing the finish line so none of that is precise, just a good indication.

This wasn’t my best half-marathon time but it was, by far, the easiest half-marathon I’ve ever done. Nothing to do with the conditions – there were a couple of uphills to annoy my old-lady’s knee, the weather was maybe a little too hot and the staggered start didn’t exactly give me the whole adrenaline rush I normally get from these events. But for some crazy reason, I got really into it and felt amazing the entire time. I remember passing the 6km marker and feeling surprised because I felt we had only just started.

At about the 12km mark, I spotted my awesome friends (*waves!*) who had driven there to see me run. They followed me in the car for a while, stopping often for photos, high fives and just a whole lot of shouting my name. Not sure they have any idea how awesome I think they are for doing that but yeah, they are kind of fabulous that way. They left me at about 18km and drove to the finish line. I ran a really good final 3km along the waterfront, made slightly less amazing by the many walkers I had to dodge and the damn knee that kept on reminding me of its existence. I crossed the finish line only to realise and, pretty much as soon as that happened, my knee stopped hurting. It’s been three days, still not hurting. In fact – and here’s the real first! – nothing is hurting. I was walking around in high heels the day after, which was kind of a novelty for me.

So this is it. First half-marathon of the year done, three more to go. Roll on Rotorua! I’m pretty excited about kicking your ass in two months time!


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santa runners everywhere!

What to do on a wednesday afternoon after a day of work? Join over 900 people all dressed in santa outfits and go for a 3km run along the Auckland waterfront to support KidsCan, of course! The atmosphere was awesome and even though the run itself was very, very short, it was still very much worth registering and making our ways down there for it. Christmas and running together… what’s not to love?

I sort of wished it had been a longer run but was also thankful I didn’t have to run in that costume any longer. It’s summer in Auckland and even real santa (yes, REAL santa!) would swap that suit for a singlet if he was here. Yay, running! Yay, Christmas! I would like more running events to dress up for now, please, thank you.

photos by the lovely pierre gerardieu


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How much did this run suck? Let me count the ways.

As part of the training for the Kerikeri Half-Marathon next month, S. and I ran the Adidas Quarter Marathon in Auckland this morning. I wasn’t nervous at all about it and now I realise maybe I should have been, at least a little bit. Underestimating runs is a really rookie mistake and I’ve been entering these events since January so you think I would have learnt.

Last night, I was still awake at 1am, with the alarm set to wake me up only 4h30 later. I had all my running clothes set aside and ready, something I had done earlier in the day when I was sort of stressing out about having to get up so early. “Don’t stress,” said C. at the time. “You and Stacey do this kind of distance all the time.” I didn’t stress. There was no carb loading, no early bed time, nothing. And there should have been.

At 6:20, S. started ringing me. Still very much asleep, I wasn’t really sure at first why she was ringing me and it took me a few seconds to actually realise that OMFG we’re supposed to be at the start line before 6:45am! I raced to her house and from there, we got on her scooter and raced down to Victoria Park, near where the start line was meant to be. I was still putting my time chip in my shoe and S. was just coming back from the bag drop off area when we heard the run starting. We could see the start line in the distance and there was a fence between us and the rest of the runners. The security guards pointed us in the right direction to get around the fence and we started running right then but were still pretty much the last people to cross the start line, behind all the walkers.

Luckily, dodging the walkers wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected (certainly much easier than it had been around the same spot for Round the Bays, last March). About 1km in, I remembered that, in the mad rush to make it down there in time, I’d forgotten the very first thing I’ve been doing for the past 27 years as soon as I roll out of bed in the morning: going to the bathroom! I didn’t want to make any toilet stops and get stuck behind walkers again so I just focused on trying not to think about how much I needed it. Except focusing on not thinking about it makes you think about it even more. Small glitch in the plan.

I also decided to take my hydration pack for its first run, thinking it would be good training to take it to the half-marathon next month. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t adjust the straps properly or what else it was, but I ended up with burn marks on my shoulders from the straps rubbing on the skin with each step I took. Not fun. Now I’m considering not taking a hydration pack on the half-marathon but I guess I’ll make a final decision after taking it n a couple more outings.

Luckily, the course was flat and we felt good for most of it (other than some soreness, probably due to not having had time to warm up, and my desperate need for a toilet). As we crossed the finish line, I pretty much begged the lady who was handing out bananas to point me to the nearest toilet. At least running and hiking are forcing me to get over my mental block against public toilets.

(What’s that? Enough with the toilet talk, you say? Fine.)

After finishing the run, we realised the scooter had been towed and we had to walk all the way to where the mean people had taken it. More sunday-morning-run-related suckiness, of course.

I guess, looking on the bright side, we had a good run, managed to make up for starting so far behind, finished on a decent time and didn’t get injured. This is how I’ll probably remember it in a couple of days time. Except I’m writing this blog post now and not in a couple of days time and, right now, it sucked arse.

Time to go back to bed.

P.s.: Confused by the different times in the screenshot above? The explanation is here. Basically, net time is how long it actually took me to go from the start to the finish line. The official time is the time that it took me to cross the finish line from the moment the run started (back when I was still putting the chip in my shoe).


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a random photo and five random facts

Kidney ferns on Rangitoto Island, Auckland's youngest volcano

  • Why did it take me so long to start reading One Day?
  • The cab driver that took me from Wellington CBD to the airport on Wednesday was an old Croatian man who has seen the world. Among many other things, he told me about how you used to need a visa to get into Moscow from other places in Russia and how it would take me seven years to see all the artwork displayed at the Hermitage Museum if I stared at each piece for one minute (I googled it and it appears he wasn’t even making it up). I didn’t want the cab ride to end.
  • Sports writing can be beautiful too. See?
  • The captions for these images are among the best things I’ve read today.
  • Judging by the amount of people arriving at this humble blog of mine by searching for orange queijadas recipes (both in English and in Portuguese), I’d say it’s a pretty popular little cake. I had no idea. And now I’m craving queijadas.

(last week’s random photo and random facts are here)


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auckland from above

Apparently, I’m the kind of person that goes on a helicopter ride and forgets her camera. That’s what happened this morning when I started the day with a helicopter ride over Auckland and only realised I didn’t have my camera on me when I sat on the helicopter. You’d think I would have gone prepared, seeing I was actually quite excited about it.

I had to snap away with my crappy cell phone and thought it was okay because I could always edit the photos out later. Turns out I don’t completely dislike this washed-out look my cell phone gives Auckland so have decided to post them without any editing. For the record, though, it was much more colourful and prettier. You’d get better pictures if I wasn’t such a freakin’ retard. Ah well.


Rangitoto volcano


Northhead


Harbour Bridge


Sky Tower