super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


9 Comments

In defense of lazy days

It’s obviously pretty hard to maintain a running blog when you’re not doing much running at all but I thought it was about time I logged on to clean up some cobwebs around here, while I procrastinate on some actual paid writing work I have to get done.

I was even supposed to have a race recap to write today but I didn’t actually start the race. Sad, I know. I was too. Then I heard it was all on loose sand and now, frankly, I’m not feeling quite so bad about it.

Still, this morning, I got up early to run the XTERRA run in Woodhill. I got dressed and ready to get out and head over to the forest for the run. About 15 minutes into this weird auto-pilot mode, I realised there was no way in hell I was going to drag my hungover ass for about 15km up and down that forest, after a very late night at a friend’s birthday party. I mean, I do some pretty stupid stuff but we’d be trying to redefine stupid right now, if I’d done that.

Since I was already in my running gear, though, I decided to punish myself with a road run. I managed not to throw up for the entire 10km but did feel like I was sweating vodka (lovely, I know), which confirmed that my decision not to head to Woodhill was a wise one. Wise decisions aren’t something I’m known for so excuse me while I pat myself on the back for that one.

As bad as I feel about this morning’s DNS (only my second ever since I started entering running events at a rate of about 1 per month for the last 3 years), I know it was actually a smart decision and, you know, you gotta know when to stop do what’s best for your health and all that. Jesus Christ, I’m such a freaking grownup sometimes. 

But also, I just haven’t really felt like running much lately. And you know what? If I feel like sitting on my ass instead of running for a few days, I’m gonna go ahead and sit on my ass and you’re not going to make me feel guilty about it, internet. Did you hear me, people on Pinterest? Get off my back with your motivational crap.

vegetatemyfatass

Oh dear. Now I really hope you didn’t come here looking for some running motivation. Put your pyjama pants back on, you’re all invited to my pity party.

It’s not all bad, though. Things actually started changing again this week and the mileage of the last few days is almost back to the usual levels but the truth is that the graph for this month’s mileage looks pretty damn miserable. I didn’t actually run at all for the first five days of the month. Five entire days without running, for no reason other than “meh, running schmunning”. I allowed myself a break because, well, I felt like it.

That five-day hiatus was, however, broken mostly because I was (not so) kindly invited out the door for a run because I was apparently getting a little too grumpy to be around other human beings.  I was about to start a “WHO ARE YOU CALLING GRUMPY?!” speech but immediately saw the point and proceeded to dutifully lace up my running shoes. Off I went to get my sweat on and, of course, a mere half an hour later, the world was full of rainbows again. I hate it when other people are right.

peoplewhatabunchofbastard

My point still stands, though. Sure, running is amazing and stops me from wanting to murder people. But I shouldn’t feel pressured to run, or I’ll risk falling out of love with it. The thing that helps you deal with stress should never be a cause of stress. It can be just a phase and it’s ok to allow yourself a break. I mean, if I’m going to get all stressed out about how I’m not doing enough of what helps me deal with stress, then there’s a really serious flaw in my plan.

And I’m not the only one who thinks that. The company I technically still work for even though they made a bunch of us redundant (TOTALLY NOT BITTER!), arranged for us to have this “outplacement support” sessions with a coach who’s supposed to be helping us find a new direction and gear us up for our next job and understand the meaning of life and all that stuff. I had my first session this week and the lady talked me through the stages of grief in job loss. Since I’ve got two sessions to go, I’m not going to say a damn thing about what I think of it. No, no a word. Stop insisting. But in any case, the lady showed me a list of things people do in order to deal with grief and stress and asked me what I was doing and what I normally do to deal with a stressful situation. So I told her. I told her about the running, and the bikram and the baking sessions and how I haven’t really done much of any of those things lately and have, instead, replaced it all with a giant load of nothing, while getting angry at people who say I should be doing something (like, you know, running) because doing nothing is suiting me just fine right now thankyouverymuch.

I realised the level of my bitchiness as soon as the words came out of my mouth but, by then, it was too late. She was lovely and understanding and even managed to find a way to praise my decision to slow down, calling it “responsible”. HAHAHA, “decision”. Oh lady. There was no “decision”. There’s been a lot of sitting on the couch with a family-sized bar of chocolate thinking about how I should probably-maybe-perhaps-who-knows be running instead. Next thing you know, it’s midnight and the next day comes again and I find myself “deciding” to sit on the couch with another chocolate bar. I’ve been talking myself out of runs with the same ease Lindsay Lohan talks herself out of rehab. And you know what? That’s fine. Well, for me, not for Lindsay. Get your shit together, Lindsay.

The point is: I don’t need your stupid guilt, Pinterest. I’m not interested in your silly fitspiration, internet. Am I even saying it right? Fitspiration? I don’t actually care. Making me feel guilty about not running is not going to make me head out for a run any faster, it’s only going to make me feel bitter about running, which is the last thing that can happen because then who’ll populate the internet with angry posts filled with annoying animated gifs (other that, you know, everyone else)?

But I now feel like I’ve gone through my bout of chocolate-fueled laziness and, if this week is anything to go by (excluding the DNS from this morning), I’m ready to up my numbers again. I even managed one morning run before work, a true sign that my commitment to this whole thing is coming back.

tumblr_mobb6y1bB51ql5yr7o1_500

In the mean time, while I make sure my running mojo is back to stay, here’s some cool running-related stuff, in bullet points because I really need to move over to the next tab and get writing about the stuff I’m actually being paid to write:

Cliffy was on TV here last weekend and it’s a really lovely movie. Not entirely sure how anyone as badass as Cliff Young can be so sweet but he’s so cute I just wanted to put him in my pocket. Metaphorically. Calm down.

– Just in case you’ve been living under a rock or took a holiday to a different galaxy, the Oatmeal posted his best comic ever this week. Of course it’s about running. In case I’m speaking to the only person on earth who has not read it yet, go read it like 3 or 4 times in a row right now.

– My little Portuguese heart nearly burst with pride when Carlos Sá won the Badwater Ultramarathon this week. A few hours later, my little adopted-kiwi heart got all happy again when kiwi Amy Campbell crossed the finish line of the same grueling race and set a new NZ record for that course.

– While I was busy not running and not writing about running, I somehow got into this Reader’s Choice list of Top 100 running blogs, which includes a long list of blogs written by people who’ve actually been getting off their asses.


11 Comments

What are you thinking about?

IMG_8242

A couple of years ago, while hiking across Rarotonga, the local guide (the cool looking dude in the picture above) told me he was meditating while we were making our way through the bush.

“Bullshit,” I thought to myself (because apparently my inner-voice has no manners). “How can you be meditating if you’re moving?”

You see, this episode happened in my past pre-running life, a few months before I discovered things like runner’s high or those special places in my head that I can only get to while running. My idea of proper meditation involved sitting down with my legs crossed, eyes closed, and a whole lot of “oooom” sounds (something I had never tried either).

Not long ago, Josh Gale wrote a review of a book that Amazon keeps on hinting I should read by adding it to every recommendation email they send me – Zen and the Art of Running. His review, more than Amazon’s tiresome targeted marketing, got me interested in finding out more about the relationship between meditation and running. This week, thanks to a nasty cold, I’ve spent a pretty outrageous amount of time reading about running (and no time actually running). I’ve found myself going through a really large number of articles about mindfulness and running.

“Zoning out”, rather than meditating, is likely to be the most helpful thing I do to cope with long-distance running, on top of things like hydration and proper fueling. You know, those runs when everything just falls into place and you find yourself running effortlessly, going through a training run without even noticing the kilometers ticking by? Yeah, those ones. Unfortunately, it’s something I don’t feel like I have much control over. Sometimes I set out on a long run and the universe is all “yeah, Vera, go you!” and my brain does what it’s supposed to do. Other times, well, it sucks and I just turn around and run back home because why the hell not. The interesting thing for me is that my runs hardly ever come to an end because my body is tired, it’s always my brain that gives up first.

Lately, I’ve been wondering about how great it would be if I could control that element of my running as much as I can control how much I eat or drink during the run. If I could train my brain to go the places it should go, every run would be a pleasure rather than a task, right? Don’t answer, I’d rather keep that hope. Since one of the things I dread the most is the possibility of running becoming so much of a chore that I stop enjoying it, this is something worth considering.

In my last trail run, I tried giving this whole mindfulness idea a go. I still don’t know much about it at all but that has never stopped me before. I went with the “repeating a word (or mantra) to yourself over and over again” idea for one of the uphills, tried counting my steps while going up another hill, and focused on my breathing (and coordinating my breathing with my steps) on a third climb. As much as cool hip Vera wants to dismiss this sort of stuff as just new-age bollocks, cool hip Vera doesn’t actually exist and the fact is that I ran the three hills that I know for sure I would otherwise have walked. So, there.

New-age stuff 1 Super Generic Girl 0

Now I find myself wondering if the secret to excellent running actually relies more on one particular muscle, rather than the muscles on your legs. (I’m hinting at the brain, get it? Get it?)

The trick might be to actually focus on the run itself, rather than trying to distract myself from the run. I mean, there has to be something right about this because that 60-something year old man in the picture climbed to the top of that hill with no effort, while meditating, while I got up there wondering where I’d left my lungs along the way. Surely this is enough of a reason to consider looking into this some more.

Either that or I’ve just been taking far too many drugs for this stupid cold. Don’t mind me.

Haha. “Don’t mind me”. So clever.

Again, I’m sorry. There’s some pretty strong over-the-counter stuff for colds these days and I’ve been taking it all.

What I really want to know is whether you’ve ever tried meditating while running, what are the best resources for me to learn more about it and, if that’s not what you do while running, what in the world do you do? Tell me everything!

***
Related reading, if that’s what you’re into:
Transcendental Steps
The Zen of Running and 10 Ways to Make it Work for You
Running with the Mind of Meditation


4 Comments

Trying to give this running-commute thing a good try. Maybe.

Random running commute scene one. NZ billboards are kind of cool.

Random running commute scene one. NZ billboards are kind of cool.

You may or may not remember that one time, about a year ago, I announced to the world (or the 3 people who read that post) that I was going to become a running commuter.

It didn’t quite work out as I’d planned. One year later, I’ve run to/from work a grand total of zero times. Until today. After a whole other year of jealously staring at other runners as I sat in traffic, I got my act together and ran home from work.

I have all sorts of excuses for not having done this before, don’t worry. Few of them are actually valid, but that’s an entirely different matter. There’s always a “I need to drive because…” and even though I try to say something that’ll make it sound legitimate, the only real reason I have to drive is because I can’t be arsed with the logistics of not driving to work.

Unless, apparently, there’s alcohol involved. The other night, the company I currently work for hosted a gala dinner as part of a two-day conference it put on. I wasn’t involved in the conference at all but somehow got invited to the gala dinner (score!) and it made perfect sense to get the bus to the office in the morning so I wouldn’t have to count my wine glasses at that dinner, worried about driving home. Seven glasses of wine later (I still counted them), I realised this whole not driving thing isn’t as bad as I remembered (the whole hangover thing is, however, even worse than I remembered).

Since I sweat approximately 456 liters during every run, running to work isn’t really an option, as I don’t actually hate all of my co-workers. Running home from work, while entirely realistic, has its own challenges too. It involves taking the bus in the morning, which means leaving the house earlier than usual. It also means I have to prepare stuff the night before, which can be hard if you’re me and absolutely suck at planning anything in advance.

Random running commute scene two. I may need to run back and buy this sweater.

Random running commute scene two. I may need to run back and buy this sweater.

Some things to keep in mind if you’re going to try run-commuting (from someone who clearly sucks at run-commuting but hey, do as I say not as I do, amirite?):

1. Prepare your clothes the night before
Keep in mind that if you’re planning to carry those clothes back home in your backpack, they should be lightweight. I thought of this today when I woke up and it was raining. It was definitely a boot and coat kind of a day but I stuck with flat shoes that I could easily stuff in my backpack. I’m so dedicated to running it’s unreal.

2. Only take the stuff you will definitely need
I fit every stereotype of the woman journalist you can think of. I carry a bunch of pens in my bag (except on those times when I actually need a pen), plus a notebook, a diary, a paperback book, my Kindle, my wallet, a bunch of keys I never need, and those important faded receipts from the times I went grocery shopping in 2009. You know, just the essentials. In my commuting backpack today, though, I had to really trim it down. Some cash, phone and house keys. The rest stayed home, which is ok because it turns out I don’t need to carry 2009 receipts with me anywhere.

3. Keep a pair of office-appropriate shoes at work
I realised when I got to work that I could actually just have worn my running shoes in the morning, since I have a couple of pairs of shoes living under my desk. Must remember this next time and then I won’t have to worry about picking shoes that fit in my pack.

4. Your office isn’t too far for this
Just because your office is too far away from home, it doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate running into your commute and use that time more wisely. If you take public transport for example, you can always consider getting off a few stops before the office or home and run the rest of the way.

5. Baby wipes and deodorant are the world’s greatest invention
Not really much to be said about this, really. If you’re just running home, then you can jump straight into the awesomeness that is the post-run shower. If you’re running to the office, though, you better have some of this stuff on you, unless you want to give them a reason to make you run to the unemployment line.

Bringing back the running-commute is the best idea I’ve had all week, unless you count blending a banana with my chocolate milk (and since it’s Friday, I wouldn’t expect it to get any better than this). It’s cheaper than driving, a bazillion times better for the environment, and stops me from wasting daylight sitting in traffic to then have to run in the dark (or, more likely, not run at all because it’s dark). It saves me a great deal of time, since I realised rush hour traffic means that, most times, it takes me as long to drive home as it would take me to run home. Running home also means I don’t have to run after I get home, which considerably increases the amount of time I can devote to watching old What Not To Wear episodes on You Tube. It also highlights the functional side of running, which is a pretty attractive aspect of the whole thing, if you’re into shutting up people who say there’s no point to running. I know I am, which is why I think it’s time to put the running in “running errands” more often.

Let’s hope it’s not another year before I run home from work again.


33 Comments

Countdown to the ultramarathon

Remember when, less than two years ago, I signed up for my first half marathon and made a big deal out of it because it really did feel like the biggest achievement of my life? Of course not, why would you remember that? It can’t have been too bad since I’ve run over a dozen of those since then, but, at the time, it felt pretty hardcore.

And remember a couple of months ago when I ran my first full marathon and it really did feel like it had changed my life? You might remember that since I mention it at every opportunity, including this one.

Two days ago, I signed up for my first ultramarathon.

escalated-quickly

Registration for the Vibram Tarawera Ultra opened at 11am on Saturday and I was all signed up by 3pm, just to make sure I didn’t have much of a chance to talk myself out of it. Come March 15 next year, I will be running SIXTY ENTIRE KILOMETERS (this sort of ridiculous distance deserves that I hit caps lock) of trail goodness up and down the rugged terrain between Rotorua and Tarawera.

Ever since getting that email confirmation, I’ve been in a OMGIAMRUNNINGTARAWERA state of euphoria, which I’m guessing (and hoping) will last for a while, before I realise what I got myself into.

I couldn’t drag myself out of bed on Sunday early enough to hit the trails with friends (thanks to the leftovers of a pretty crappy week, which meant I really needed some extra sleep) but finally got up around 11 and got 12km in just near home. I hated most of it, especially this bit, but it was one of those days when getting out of bed would have been enough of an accomplishment anyway.

Luckily, today was a public holiday in New Zealand (thanks Liz!) and I was able to make up for it.

photo (10)

I met up with Stacey and her awesome puppy Ruby and we headed into the forest for a morning run. We didn’t exactly push ourselves to any extreme limits or anything (a 10km with both walking and puppy-photo breaks) but Ruby seemed to have lots of fun and our legs show evidence of a good time.

photo (9)

285 days to go and I’m officially all out of excuses. Next time you invite me for a trail run and I say I can’t make it, I better have some pretty out-of-this-world excuse for you because March 15 will be here sooner than I want it to be and it won’t be long before I’m huffing and puffing a hell of a long way between Rotorua and Tarawera, in my quest for ultramarathon stardom (or, you know, just survival), a year and two weeks after becoming a marathoner, and a few months before hitting the big three-oh.

photo (11)

In the meantime, a little disclaimer: if you are not interested in trail ultramarathon training ramblings, I suggest you take a gap year from this website and look up different stuff on the internet (I hear Amanda Bynes is putting on quite the entertaining show online these days). I intend to run my heart out in the next few months and use this ultra as an excuse to explore every single possible trail. I am officially out of the post-marathon funk I was in for a couple of months and I’m ready to chase another big goal.

Winter blues my ass.


18 Comments

You should hire an endurance runner

Can we all take a moment to acknowledge how awesome runners are? Good. Because runners are the freaking coolest.

If you’re smart (and you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t) there is only one particular timeframe when you don’t want to be around a runner – that period after the long run and before the shower.

I realise that this claim would sound a whole lot more legitimate if I wasn’t a runner too, but the truth is that runners are pretty awesome people. The attitudes developed out on the trails and roads inevitably extend to other parts of runners’ lives.

If you’re an endurance runner, running affects every other part of your life. It affects the social part of it (by making it close to non-existent, if you’re me) and it affects the professional aspects of it too. Nothing is immune to the overflow of awesome.

Among other reasons, here is a succinct explanation of why endurance runners make the best employees:

1. Endurance runners are usually happy and healthy people

It’d be pretty hard to be an endurance runner without a decent degree of health and fitness. Healthy fit people don’t need to take that many sick days. There are also about 235 million scientific studies about how running makes people happier (I’d Google some for you but I live in New Zealand and bandwidth is a luxury so do it yourself). Contrary to what you might be thinking, there aren’t mystery sick days after a long run, because the legs are too tired to make it to work. There’s nothing better than gloating about not being able to move from your office chair because you ran a marathon the day before.

The bottom line is that not only do runners not take days off due to sickness but they’re also always happy in the office, whether their legs work or not.

ijustliketosmile

2. Endurance runners know how to work efficiently

Training for an endurance event teaches runners a lot of things, like the fact that carbs are good and beer has a lot of them, or even what really early mornings look like. It also teaches runners that it’s important to be efficient about things like stride, pace and nutrition so we use our energy sources wisely and don’t crash and burn halfway through the run because we went out too fast. Endurance runners can consistently maintain a comfortable pace allowing them to run for a long period of time. Such smart cookies.

typingfast

3. Endurance runners understand that hard work pays off in the long run

I know I should be ashamed of this lousy “in the long run” pun but I’m really not because it’s true. Every single run counts towards the result of the ultimate event. Every 5km training session is part of a much longer plan towards the goal of the marathon. A marathon isn’t something you can procrastinate on for months and then train for in the last couple of weeks. Knowing that is what gets runners out of bed in the morning when it’s disgustingly cold outside. Training for an endurance event is the proof that hard work is the key to success (hard work and jelly beans, actually) and that you can’t cut corners if you want to achieve that. The mile you ran a couple of years ago, in a moment of insanity, does not count for anything unless it has since been followed by a lot of other miles. This is why so many runners develop almost unhealthy obsessions with tracking every single kilometer of their progress and spend almost as much time analysing their results as they spend running.

Moreover, endurance runners understand that procrastination will only get them in trouble on race day. If you want an employee who won’t spend the day searching for recipes on Pinterest instead of getting work done, you should hire an endurance runner.

tumblr_inline_mieg21T6Kh1qz4rgp

4. Endurance runners love a challenge

Why else would they willingly give away money in exchange for entries to races they’re not entirely sure they can survive?

tumblr_m1gv1fODCz1qfpooo

5. Endurance runners are goal-oriented people

We follow training plans for months at end with one goal in mind. We stay on track (mostly) and count down to the day when we’re going to put all that hard work to the test. We give our co-workers something to look forward to as well – the day when we’ll finally run that stupid event and shut up about it. It’s good to have a goal to look forward to, even if it’s just your co-worker shutting up about something.

leadership

6. Endurance runners are less stressed

Again, far too many studies for me to search for. The point is that we leave our frustrations out on the road instead of bottling them in until the day we take a machete into the office.

I think I’ve made my point. Next time you get a CV from an endurance runner, you should hire them. You don’t want to end up with the unfit machete-wielding guy in the office instead, do you?

nowfuckingpayme


23 Comments

Half marathons are the new anniversary parties

IMAG0351

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of Huntly.

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20130526_142659

Celebrating being a little bit badass

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

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

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

Update: this


29 Comments

Don’t be a running snob

The other day, I got to witness a conversation among a group of runners. They talked about themed runs such as the Color Run and Tough Mudders and whether or not they were a good idea.

The good part: the majority of the runners who chimed in basically agree that the more running events the better, regardless of whether they’re obstacle runs or not.

But then there were the others – the runners who said stuff like “those events attract too many non-runners who should not be on the course” and “waste of time since it’s got a lot of distractions and so you can never get a PR”.

It’s during times like these that I wish some people weren’t allowed an internet connection.

itslikeyourbeggingmetohateyou

I’m not saying these people should enter events they obviously have no interest in entering. The problem is that some of them were talking as if the fact that these events exist in the first place is a bad idea and they were giving out a shitty your-fun-is-ruining-my-fun and I’m-more-serious-about-running-than-you-are vibe.

As far as I see it, “fun runs” are the best thing to ever happen to running. A lot of people who run marathons these days started by entering 5km fun runs and realising they actually quite enjoyed it. If all we had were uber competitive long distance events, then who would enter them?

Not me. My first ever running event was a 12km fun run on Waiheke Island. Sure there was no coloured powder being thrown at us and no obstacles (unless you count my lack of fitness as an obstacle, in which case the whole thing was one giant obstacle course). It was running just for the hell of it. And it got me hooked.

ijustwanttohavefun

A lot of my friends who don’t really enjoy running will consider entering stuff like the Colour Run and other fun events like that, because those other aspects of the event take the focus out of the running part of it. Probably because running feels like a pain in the ass and so the variations in those events allow for a distraction from that. And who knows? Maybe someone who doesn’t like running all that much will enter something like a Color Run and then get hooked on the whole crossing the finish line feeling and we’ll have another runner (this is basically my secret hope for everyone I know who’s ever told me they me they would enter one of these even though they don’t like running… but no pressure, you guys!).

If timing is really all you are about, then sure, stay out of themed runs. Don’t even go close to an obstacle course. But please don’t say these are a bad idea because then I’m going to have to write a blog post badmouthing you and I’m gonna go ahead and think you’re a massive snob. And this “ew…non-runners!” attitude? I don’t have any polite words for that. Was it really that long ago that you too were a “non-runner” entering your first event? If you’re going to say stuff like that, I’m going to want to see your Olympic medal rack first.

yourestupidshutup

The most amazing thing about running as a sport or hobby is how democratic it is. Fast or slow, anyone can do it. Some people can only run 2 or 3km, others go to 5km, some will make it to a half marathon, eventually run a full marathon. Then some run ultras. Some run every day for years at a time. The one thing all those people have in common, though, is the fact that they are all runners. The really amazing thing I’ve discovered, through meeting different runners, is that no one will look down on you if you run slower and shorter distances than they do (or they do a really good job at disguising how lame they actually think I am). As far as other runners are concerned, you’re just one of them. I know a bunch of people who can’t run as far as I can and I know a bunch of people who can run a hell of a lot further than I can. I don’t feel superior or inferior in relation to them. But I do feel superior to who I was two and a half years ago, before my first running event.

There is always going to be someone better than you. And there is always going to be someone worse. As long as we’re better than who we were before, then it’s all good. Fast or slow, it doesn’t matter.

Just don’t be a jerk.


13 Comments

XTERRA Auckland Trail Run Series – Shakespear Regional Park

IMG_6339

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.

IMG_20130519_143833

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.


13 Comments

I went to a Nike run and all I got was a free singlet and a kick in the butt

Screen shot 2013-05-13 at 11.55.02 PM

You would think that what with being into running and keeping a blog about the subject, I’d know more about stuff like the global Nike She Runs events. You’d be wrong. But last night, I crawled out from under my metaphorical rock and heard about it for the first time.

I’d seen something on Facebook last week about a 10k run organised by Nike downtown on Monday evening so thought it would be a good excuse to resist the gravitational pull towards the couch. I assumed it would be a very low-key deal, just a bunch of ladies getting together for a run along Tamaki Drive, so it sounded like a nice relaxing way to end the first day of the week.

Nope.

I realised I was wrong when, while walking around trying to figure out where the store was, I spotted the stage with the big screen, the bright lights, the DJ and the wave of pink shirts eagerly awaiting the start of the run.

Definitely not the casual running club thing I was expecting to join.

I filled out a form, got asked what time I was expecting (an hour would be fine, thank you very much), and was then handed a bib with a colour to reflect my expected pace (pink) and given a singlet (also pink) to wear on the run. We were all then told to warm up together by doing a couple of laps around a patch of grass and, since I never warm up before a run (it just adds to the hard work but counts for nothing so why not just run?), I started rethinking the whole idea. But, you know, free singlet.

After waiting around for a while, we took off running along the waterfront towards Mission Bay. It was a nice cool evening and there were a bunch of other runners out there (a lot of them looked like they were doing the Powerade Challenge). The ladies in pink weren’t joking around though and it wasn’t long before a whole bunch of them disappeared into the distance.

Well, shit.

I was going for a nice little jog with the girls. Getting my ass kicked was not part of my Monday plans. At first I thought it’d be ok. I can do my own 10k, at my slow but comfortable pace, no rush. But as the pink wave continued to disappear into the distance, I started picking up my pace too. I blame the bib effect. You’re all set for a nice relaxing run by the waterfront after work, no big deal, but you pin a piece of paper with a number onto your shirt and BAM, you’re racing the world.

It felt horrible for a while. And then I felt horrible about how horrible it felt. I saw a bunch of fresh faces running past me and wondered how they managed to stay like that. Then I realised the answer is pretty simple: training. From what the lady with the microphone had said during the warm up, this was an event that most of the people there had been training for together over the last few weeks. I felt a little like I was crashing someone’s party and I couldn’t even handle the booze. I haven’t trained for anything in nearly three months and I’ve been blaming injury trauma (yes, it’s totally a thing) for the fact that I haven’t been running any decent distances or making any major efforts.

But last night I officially ran out of excuses. It’s been a while since I last had to accessorize my leg with a bag of frozen peas so I’m not really allowed to continue using my knee as an excuse not to get off my ass anymore.

I ended up running faster than I’d expected (at first I thought it had been a personal best but, looking at my previous stats, it turns out I’m just not very good at remembering my times) and took the short detour to Sal’s on my way to the car. I took home one of their massive pizzas and I’m pretty sure I did score a personal best for the time it took me to inhale half of it.

I don’t exactly know how I feel about the whole women-only event thing but I clearly throw any convictions out of the window pretty quickly when there’s free stuff on offer. And giant delicious pizza afterwards.

Checkmate, Monday.


11 Comments

A love letter to the lava trails

IMAG0287
You know you really love trail running when you willingly give up the comfort and warmth of your bed for it before the sun is even up and then end up riding a massive runner’s high for the rest of the day, even hours after leaving the trails.

IMAG0292
That was my day today – a whole morning out on the trails with a bunch of other crazies who also thought that was a good way to spend their Saturday morning, followed by an afternoon and evening of grinning from ear to ear like an idiot because of the morning adventure. Who needs drugs when you can just run your ass off instead? Today was one Ryan Gosling visit short of the ultimate perfect day.

IMAG0298
The trail of choice was Rangitoto but, instead of the planned Rangitoto Romp (which I’d done before), we chose a different track to the top, and stopped by the lava caves on our way back down to the wharf.

IMAG0288
After a week of pretty much non-stop rain, it was great to finally have some dry weather (and, from mid-morning onwards, even stunning blue skies – high five, weather gods!). The views from the volcano are just one of the many good reasons why I’m never going to say no to a trip back to the island. Seeing the Auckland skyline from afar gets me all in love with the city every single time.

IMAG0301
The other reason would have to be the island itself, really. It’s so easy to go about our days and forget how amazing it is to have a 600 year old volcano less than a half hour ferry trip away from the city. Raw lava, loose scoria, the largest pohutukawa forest in the world, and an unspoilt moon-like landscape to explore. If everyone in the world had one of these at their doorstep, we’d all be much happier people.

IMAG0296
And kidney ferns. Kidney ferns are adorable, all curly and cute and everyone should get to take photos of them.

IMAG0293
Did I mention I love Rangitoto? And that it’s after 10pm and I’m still on a runner’s high?

(Thanks to the awesome group of people who ran with me on Rangitoto today, including Chris and others who found this blog before meeting me in real life and decided that hanging out with me was a good idea anyway. Fools.)