super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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.



An open letter to race spectators

For pretty horrible reasons, a lot has been written recently about people who willingly get out of bed early in the morning to cheer for runners at events. Even though no one has been nice enough to ask for my thoughts on race spectators, I thought I’d put them out there anyway, because I’m not paying US$18 a year for this domain to not have an opinion on whatever comes to mind.

In the picture above, the person surrounded by wonderfully drawn MS Paint love hearts is my darling mother (convenient since Mother’s Day is coming and, you know, SEO and stuff). The person with the cord awkwardly coming out of her shorts is yours truly. Darling mother is here pictured cheering for yours truly in the last kilometer of the Lisbon Rock n Roll Half Marathon last year, which also came to be known as my worst result ever in a half marathon.

That “worst result ever” (for which I blame the heat rather than myself, obviously) meant that my family, in the first and only one of my races they’ve ever been able to spectate (since I have this habit of racing on the opposite side of the world to where they live), had to stand in the sun for over two hours on a Sunday morning instead of much better ways of spending that time like, you know, anything else.

They didn’t care, though (or, if they did, they kept it to themselves). They were happy to cheer me on even though it was about a million degrees (approximate estimate, probably not the exact temperature) and they’d had to park their car approximately a million kilometres away (also an estimate, possibly not the exact distance) to see me run, a past-time they have zero personal interest in. Mum is actually of the opinion I shouldn’t really run that much, that it can’t be good for me. And yet, look at that. After two hours in the sun doing nothing but dodging other people’s sweat, she was happy to see me run past in the last kilometre and even ran alongside me for a couple of hundreds metres.


Two months ago, I ran a marathon (can you believe how long it’s been since I last bragged about mentioned it? Me neither!). A few of my friends drove hundreds of kilometers to support me. Pictured here is my friend N. (with P. behind the camera). They drove from Auckland to New Plymouth on Saturday, got up early on Sunday to watch me run, saw me cross the finish line and had to drive back to Auckland that same day. They were part of an awesome group of people who willingly drove along the second half of the marathon course, stopping to cheer for me along the way. Every time the pain got really bad and I had to walk, I’d spot N. jumping out of the car and waving his arms around in the distance, shouting “Go Vera!” and I would keep going for a little bit longer. I talk a lot about how important it was for me to eat and drink at the right times but the truth is that seeing these people along the way was more important than 1000 energy gels (no exaggerated estimate here).

Sometimes, my support crew will half-jokingly tells me it was a “tiring” morning waiting for me to finish a run. They know it gets me worked up to hear it because I’m the one with all the muscle aches and I just want to tell them to shut the hell up. But it is exhausting. It’s not their hobby and they’re not getting any personal satisfaction out of it so, to be honest, sometimes I have to wonder why they do it and how they can muster the enthusiasm to get out and do it. Why they don’t just wait for me to get home, shower and then tell them about it. These people will not only cheer for me in the sidelines but also hug me when I cross the finish line all sweaty and gross. They’re weird.

And then, there are the other spectators. The people I don’t even know. The people who don’t even realise how much they keep us all going. People who make signs that make me smile when my cheek muscles feel too exhausted to move, people who hand out extra sugar in between aid stations, little kids high fiving runners along the course…

I’ve come to realise all those people clapping until their palms hurt are a big reason why I enter so many events (about one per month in the last couple of years, sometimes more). For most of us recreational runners, these events are more than just a chance to test ourselves. Let’s not kid around, it does feel pretty good to see people cheering for you and know they admire what you’re doing. How many chances do we get to have that in other parts of our life? Every time someone says something nice to me as I run past them, I feel almost like I’m excelling at what I’m doing even though I’m right there in the middle or back of the pack. Since I wasn’t one of the cool kids doing drugs in school, I can’t be absolutely sure it compares to the high you get from those, but I know that the sense of pride I get out there on the course is pretty hard to beat. I suspect a lot more non-runners would give it a go if they knew how absolutely on top of the world they get to feel at a running event, no matter how far down the bottom they place in the rankings. The next day, you go to work and life might be a little bit shitty, but that’s ok because, did you see yourself yesterday pounding that pavement? Did you see those people cheering you on, thinking you were awesome for even trying it?

So thanks for that, all of you people who get up early to watch people run. Your support carries us runners when all our energy has left us. If runners at those events are people trying to be the best version of themselves they can be, you’re also not doing too bad a job of that either, showing the world how people can support others, friends or strangers, for absolutely no reason other than just being good people. I love the hell out of all of you and your selflessness is very much noticed and appreciated, even if my sweaty face doesn’t show it at the time. Let me know if you ever decide to enter an event and I’ll come support you. Provided it’s not too far away, or too early, or too late, or too hot, or too cold. Other than that, I should be able to make it.


Beach bodies and other reasons society sucks


(image credit: dances with fat)

Ah, Spring. It hits the northern hemisphere around this time every year, plus or minus a snowstorm or two. Warmer weather, blooming flowers, longer days, and a whole load of bullshit inundating the internet.

Unfortunately it’s getting colder where I live, which means less time spent outside and more time getting outraged in front of a computer, as the internet throws at me articles about getting ready for “bikini season” and other infuriating crap.

It’s getting exhausting, you know. Every year feels like a lost battle. The same magazines that spend the rest of the year trying to “empower” you are the same ones that vomit out the “tips to get in shape for summer”.

I’m fortunate to live in a country where, somehow, this feels like less of an issue, to a point where I sometimes wish people would care a little more about their appearance (seriously, you guys, would it hurt to change from your pyjamas before going to the supermarket?). Still, like everywhere else, there are issues.

Let’s go back a year or so. Years after I was supposed to have stopped having the skin of a malnourished teenager, a giant pimple grew on my face. It was all the hotness, I tell you. Anyway, I got sick of carrying this thing around with me and having to talk to everyone from behind the giant cheek pimple so I went to the pharmacy looking for a solution. The lady behind the counter listened to my request and instructed me to follow her around the store. I started walking behind her as she made her way to the makeup section and grabbed a foundation that she said would match my skin tone.

That, right there – society’s problem, in a nutshell.

I didn’t want to cover it up. I wanted it gone from my skin. Not because of what it looked like (well, okay, it wasn’t the prettiest I had ever felt) but because of what it meant for my skin. I was looking for some sort of lotion to treat the skin and make the pimple disappear, not just a way to disguise it.

Every single ad that has the potential to be about health actually sends out an obvious message about looks and appearance. Why do we keep confusing these two things? Since when is a “bikini body” a sign of health? Unless I suck my stomach in, I’ve got a layer of nice healthy chubby flesh that hangs over the top of my bikini bottoms. But I assure you I can outrun most of the skinny chicks on the beach.


The whole perceived beauty thing has been in the spotlight recently because of Dove’s latest ad campaign. As much as I remind myself to take anything Dove says with a grain of salt (they are in the business of making you feel like you need their creams and lotions after all), Dove has been consistently making those “real beauty” campaigns for years. Also, Dove is owned by Unilever, who own Ben & Jerry’s. I can’t bring myself to completely dislike people who make Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream. Regardless of our thoughts on the campaign, it’s getting people to talk. Possibly even getting people to wonder to themselves whether they’re actually more beautiful than they see themselves as being.

I could rant on and on for thousands of words about how many people are judging themselves based on completely arbitrary and subjective numbers, but there’s really no point. Just like I’m ranting about “beach bodies” right now, I’m probably two or three blog post reads away from exploding all over the DietBet stuff that seems to be inundating the internet right now (although, when that day comes, I’m not sure I know enough expletives in just one language to describe what I think of how irresponsible that can be). The point is that there are a number of “healthy living bloggers” out there talking about “bikini bodies” and other related crap and carelessly passing on the wrong “skinny = fit” message. This morning, while emptying out my Google Reader, I read yet another one of those “are you ready for bikini season?” posts and officially reached my threshold. Your pseudo-motivational posters with super skinny chicks in tiny bikinis holding weights are irresponsible. The whole “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” crap that Kate Moss probably said out of hunger is something you’d only agree with if you’ve never found yourself in a room with a jar of Nutella.

Have you ever spectated a marathon, for example, or any other kind of sport that requires a fairly decent level of fitness? Next time you do, notice how different those fit people are from the people you see on catwalks (the ones having 2 lettuce leaves and a pea for lunch). Fitness comes in all sizes and shapes. I don’t want to be the skinniest person in the cemetery. I want to be the last one to get there.

I’m not saying we should all be praising the benefits of a 100% chocolate brownie-based diet (although, admit it, that sounds awesome). All I’m saying is that you don’t have to get your body ready for summer, certainly no more than you should get your body ready for any other season. Your “bikini body” is whatever body you put a bikini on and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t really helping you at all. So, northern hemisphere ladies, put on your bikinis, bathing suits, onesies or tents. Put on whatever you want. Just enjoy your summer (now that I’m already missing mine) and stop wasting time thinking about what you appear like to others. More often than not, others don’t actually give a shit. And neither should you.


Getting off my soapbox now. It’s time for a muffin.



Every time I hear someone say that running is bad for my knees, I want to knee them where it hurts to prove that my knees are actually just fine, thankyouverymuch.

But then other days, weird stuff happens. Meteorites fall on earth, a new Die Hard movie comes out, it rains spiders somewhere, the pope resigns like being the pope is just another office job, and I… I wake up all understanding and nice and stuff. On those weird days, I try to make sense of where those ideas come from.

It’s really easy to assume running is bad for your knees. Look at those hot runners pounding the ground like nobody’s business. It looks like hard work and those knees are getting the impact. But guess what? That’s what they’re designed to do.

Here’s a quick list of things that are bad for your knees: endless hours of sitting on the couch watching episodes of the Real Housewives of Whogivesacrap, getting attacked by a swarm of bees and having some of them sting your knees (now say that last one really fast), getting into a bar fight and getting a bullet right on the knee cap, wrestling a bear and having the bear grab you by the knees and crushing your knee caps with its own giant bear paws. I could go on but I think I’ve made my point. Notice anything missing from that list? Exactly.

What really gets me is that it’s always those with no real health credentials that seem to have instant PhDs in this topic – they are always the outspoken, know-it-all ones. If it’s okay with you, I’m only going to take medical advice from people who actually know what they’re talking about. Like my doctor, for example, who actually went to medical school and who has his own medical practice and who has even run a marathon. If the extent of your medical knowledge comes from type sites or hours of watching Dr Oz, then I suggest you keep that advice to yourself because you might just be causing more harm than good.

The fact is that your body is not designed to be sitting around doing nothing. Moreover, doing that is precisely what causes damage to every single bone, tendon and muscle. Modern society has made it all really easy for us. Don’t get me wrong, I’d also love to have a robot that can pick up my ice cream from the freezer and bring it to me while I sit on the couch watching re-runs of How I Met Your Mother, with my knees safely tucked under the blankets. But if I ever get a robot like that (please, science, please please please!), then it better come coded with a function to also automatically turn on and off the oxygen mask I’ll soon be needing to help me breathe.

Exercise is not bad for you and I’m always shocked to find people spreading this stupid idea around, especially when obesity is at an all-time high (and you can’t tell me that carrying all the extra weight from all those burgers isn’t bad for your knees). “Oh but remember so and so, who died right after the marathon?” Hmm, yeah, thanks for that reminder. Also, exercise-related deaths are publicized precisely because they’re a rare occurrence. Don’t quote me on this statistic, since, other than my kilometers on the road, I have the health credentials of a hedgehog who drank too much Makers Mark (before they started diluting the stuff) but I’m pretty sure you are far more likely to die in your sleep than while exercising.

The key to this is the same key to everything else in life: moderation. A glass of wine won’t kill you (unless it gets thrown at you really hard, maybe). A lifetime as a raging alcoholic will probably cause a fair amount of damage. A marathon won’t kill you. Run double-digit miles every day for the rest of your life without a moment’s rest and, yeah, you might actually collapse.

If done in moderation, running is pretty much the best cardiovascular exercise you can possibly get. Not only that, your knees, like everything else in your body, can get stronger through exercise, if exercise is combined with the right amount of rest. It’s that rest period that strengthens everything, it completes the workout and makes sure you get the full effects of the exercise (and I’m not just saying this because I’m on day #2 of not running).

When was the last time you heard of research showing you that couch potatoes live longer and healthier lives than people who exercise? I don’t watch much daytime TV but I’m pretty sure that “Steve dramatically improved his health just by spending a mere two hours a day sitting down with a bowl of chips” isn’t a sentence that comes up very often. So where do these ideas come from?

Running looks like hard work (because it is). Hard work scares people. Except people don’t like admitting they’re scared of hard work so they come up with other reasons why they’re not doing it. “I’d love to run but it’s so bad for the knees” is a cop out. If you can’t run because you already have knee issues, that’s a different problem – but, in that case, running can’t be blamed for it anyway. It’s easier for people to find an excuse and pretend that there’s a higher reason they choose not to exercise, aside from their own laziness.

If it turns out that, by some miracle, they are right and all logical thinking along with everything we know about the human condition is actually flawed, then that’s okay. I’d rather live a long life with bad knees than a life that gets cut short because my sedentary lifestyle translated into heart and lung problems.

Now I better go get my own ice cream since science is stalling on that robot idea.

(If you want to read more from people who actually know what they’re talking about, I suggest reading stuff like this or this.)


10 things about my 20 miles


I took about ten photos along the run but they were all as grainy as useless as this one. I need a better phone for photos along my runs. And a hundred photography courses. Also, it was a road run, don’t let the photo fool you. There were only a few hundred meters like this.

Six hours of sleep, two pieces of toast and a chocolate croissant (don’t take nutrition advice from me) and we were on the road, bright and early this morning. We had water in our hydration bladders, some trail mix in our packs and a vague idea of the route we were going to take.

Thirty-two entire kilometers later (20 miles for you non-metric system adopters), we were at the dairy back near the start, getting a cold coke and celebrating our longest road run to date. Neither of us had run more than 21km since that epic day last May and neither of us had ever done more than 21km on the road.

It wasn’t the easiest of starts. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed when the phone started going off at 6AM. I wanted to close my eyes and ignore all sounds (actually, I wanted to throw the phone against the wall but I showed enormous self-control and just got up instead). I didn’t want to do it. At all. I wanted to get up at 10AM and slowly make breakfast and watch the Come Dine with Me omnibus. Instead, I have no idea who won Come Dine with Me this week (!!!) but I ran 32km before lunch instead. As hard as it is to get out of bed, I don’t think that was a bad trade off. Also, I learned a few things this morning and I bet you’re dying to know what they were (just nod in agreement, it’s fine).

1. I can (prolly maybe) run a marathon. If it goes anything like today, it’ll be really enjoyable for about 20km, fairly enjoyable for another 5km. Then my feet are going to start burning and it’s going to suck really bad, getting progressively worse as my legs decide to join the feet’s pity party. I don’t know how the remaining 10km will go, since we stopped at 32, but I’m fairly sure it’ll be shit. But hey, it’ll be done! (BRB, going to look for some wood to knock on!)

2. The trails are a lot nicer on the soles of our feet (and I suspect the body in general) than the road. I know we’re supposed to do road work for a road marathon but I really started missing the trails towards the end, with every painful step on the solid road.

3. Baz Luhmann says everybody’s free to wear sunscreen. I wish I remembered this more often. Sunscreen and vaseline are a runner’s best friends in summer. It doesn’t matter how well adjusted the backpack straps are, those little bitches always ends up rubbing on my neck and making it hurt on a long run.

4. Breaking the distance down in my head remains the best strategy for any long run. I may have run 32km but, in my head, I actually ran a half marathon and then, after that, a 10km run. It might all add up to the same but, in terms of my attitude, it makes all the difference.

5. 1L of water is most definitely not enough water for a run this long.

6. Maybe my legs wouldn’t have felt so heavy if I had remembered that I had a Gu in my backpack. I didn’t. The final couple of kilometers were a bit of a metaphor of Dante’s Inferno.

7. I’m perfectly happy not having any music out on the trails but I definitely can’t run very far without music on road. I’m not even sure this is weird. I guess the sound of traffic doesn’t have the same soothing zen-like effect that the sound of nature does.

8. Just because you can run for 25km without pain, don’t make the mistake of assuming that maybe, just maybe, that’s how the entire run will go. Pretty soon after that smug thought, everything will start hurting. Everything.

9. Despite being our longest road run to date, there wasn’t much fuss about it beforehand. We decided to do it just earlier in the week and there was no massive preparation or stress around it. We just went and did it. It’s not the first time I am led to believe that the whole “just do it” stuff from Nike is more than just marketing. Those smart cookies might have a point.

10. Sweat between your toes making them rub against each other and burn. This happened. It wasn’t pleasant. I just wanted to leave you with that mental image.

Despite the pain, it was an awesome run. I got home feeling all badass and stuff but was called back to reality when I couldn’t open the bottle of olive oil on my own. Apparently, I’m still a little bit of a loser. But this loser ran a really long way today. So there’s that.


“I don’t have time” and other bullshit we tell ourselves

(know that meme)

A couple of years ago, when I was all “yay, I have a Kindle! I want to download all the eBooks on the internet!”, a friend recommended a book called How to Live on 24 hours a Day. The title sounded a little silly but I downloaded it anyway for three main reasons: 1) it was free (and I’m a sucker for a bargain), 2) it was short, 3) it got me one book closer to that “all the eBooks on the internet” goal mentioned above. I started reading it with the often misguided low expectations I have of some free stuff  but it turned out to be one of the most enlightening books I’ve read in a while.

How to Live on 24 hours a Day sounds a little like “How to Inhale and Exhale Repeatedly to Avoid Death”. I thought to myself “I’m living. My days have 24 hours. So yeah, I think I’ve got it covered”. Some people (me) need the really obvious stuff spelled out to them. Some people (me) need a book from the early 1900s to tell them to get off Facebook and start making better use of their free time. To live rather than exist, as I think the author puts it at some point.

So, basically, I had a dude from last century schooling me on how to deal with my busy working life as a young adult in the 21st century.


Turns out this book, which is now 113 years old (!) is one of the earliest self-help books ever written. I read a self-help book. But it’s ok. I actually learned stuff. Plus, it’s philosophical in a way that I’m not sure other self-help books are. I haven’t read any others. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But anyway, where was I? 24 hour days. Right. We’ve got lots of those. They come around every day. For the longest time, I got used to dismissing the entire five days of the work week as time when I couldn’t fit anything else in because I was working all day long.

The word you’re looking for is “bullshit”.

Let’s do some math (there’s something you won’t catch me saying very often): I work 8 hours a day. Add an hour for the commute. That’s nine hours. The day has 24. Nine and 24 aren’t even close together, there’s a whole bunch of other numbers in between. Sure, I sleep about 6 or 7 hours every night (on a good night), but that’s only a total of 15 or 16 hours dedicated to working and sleeping (I’m really kicking ass at these calculations, I wish my 7th grade Math teacher was reading this). Anyway, 15 or 16 hours a day for work + sleep. This leaves a whole other third of the day for other stuff. Stuff I didn’t feel like I had time to do. I know it sounds incredibly obvious now but I wanted to smack myself in the face when I read that book. What a load of bullshit I had been telling myself with that “I work all day” crap. I work a third of the day. It might be the best third – when the sun is out – but, mathematically speaking, it’s still only a third. The rest of the time is mine. And I had been wasting it on nothing.

What I’m trying to say is that, more than Runner’s World, online training plans or books by famous marathoners and ultrarunners, it was a time management book over 100 years old that helped me with all the running I’ve been doing.

So, just in case you suffer from the same problem as me, I thought I’d tell you that, like me, you’re just full of crap. You’ve got plenty of time. Safely remove that USB, it’s ok. You’re not in that big a rush. And the stuff you wish you could do during the week when you’re not working? Look at all that time you’ve got to actually do it! If the time you spent at work today felt like it was very long, it’s because it was. The good news is that you have another good few hours ahead of you to get stuff done. So wait for that You Tube video to fully load. Watch Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe speech in its entirety. Go nuts and read those terms and conditions (just kidding, ain’t nobody got time for that).

Every time I hear someone tell me they would love to get into running too but they just don’t have the time, I have to wait a few seconds to let my brain go from the instinctive “are you trying to say you’re busier than me? Because I’ll have you know I’m pretty god damn busy!” to something a little more grownup (but also patronising as hell) like “as a matter of fact, you do have time for that, if you really want to do it. You might just not be managing your time right.”

I still have a massive time management problem but I’m much more aware of it now. There are a bunch of things I wish I “had time” to do. I wish I was a morning person (or, alternatively, I wish I could show up for work at 11ish) so I could sit down for breakfast or properly dry my hair instead of the 30 second blow dry that leaves it just slightly-less-wet-but-definitely-nowhere-near-dry. I wish I had time every evening to prepare my lunch for the next day instead of resorting to the atrocious service and stupidly high prices of the cafe at work. But I guess what it boils down to is that I don’t really care enough about these things. Otherwise I’d find the time. If I don’t really want to do something, I’ll find an excuse not to do it. If I really want to do something, I’ll find the time.

Whoa. Enlightenment.

So, the bottom line is, I don’t have time for running because I’m any less busy than anyone else. I’ve got time for running because I really freaking love doing it and, so, I make time for it.

Bennett wrote in this book (that, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m highly recommending here): “We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.”

So, if you want to run, get off your ass and run.


Marathon training like the underpants gnomes


The February issue of Runner’s World arrived in my letterbox last week with a painful reminder that the marathon is really close. Wonder if it’s too late to change my entry to that 2.2k option.

I know this is probably the weirdest blog post title I’ve ever posted on here but, as usual, I ask you to bear with me.

I’ve got a marathon to run in about a month and a half. Just under 7 weeks to be sort of precise. I can’t be any more precise because that involves counting the days until March 3 and I am really scared of doing that. If you know how many to go, don’t tell me.

I’ve been doing my little runs and every time S. and I run together we tell each other we “really need to get onto that Google Docs spreadsheet and come up with a plan”. Then a few days go by, we meet up for another run and we remind ourselves that, gee, “we really have to get onto that Google Docs spreadsheet and come up with a plan”. I mean, considering we’ve never run 42.2k in our entire lives and we’ve just come out of an indulgent holiday season, we should probably have a plan. Yeah, we really need to get onto that Google Docs spreadsheet and come up with a plan.

Tomorrow, maybe.

An article on Nerd Fitness* today talks about “crucial mistakes newbies make trying to get healthy”. After gasping at the realisation that I’ve been doing this shit for quite some time now but still make most of those mistakes, I realised that one of them, in particular, is the perfect description of my current situation.

The article mentions a classic South Park episode with underpants gnomes who collect people’s underpants as phase 1 of a 3 phase plan. Phase 3 is profit but they have no idea what phase 2 is.


You’re smart people, otherwise you wouldn’t be here, so you get where I’m going with this. When it comes to marathon training, I’m a freaking underpants gnome.

Now that I think about it, I have a phase 3 (cross the finish line in New Plymouth on March 3), but I barely have a phase 1 and I definitely don’t have a phase 2. I’ve been running as much as possible I feel like but I haven’t exactly been training.

Some might say “well, all those runs count as training”. You’re not wrong, whoever you are. But those are only a very small part of the training. And that’s pretty much the only part I’ve been doing.

I effectively have 7 weeks to quit aimlessly bagging small runs like the gnomes bagged underpants and actually come up with a proper plan that will lead to profit finishing that marathon (preferably without collapsing, but I realise I may be asking too much at this stage).

I need to outline mileage and make changes to my routine (more sleep, less coffee, better food), just like I did the last time I trained for something properly. Most of all, I have 7 weeks to change my attitude and get back into the “I can totally do this” mindset that I got into before that 35k trail run last year. To this day, I’m pretty sure that it was my mental preparation that got me through that race, more than any physical training.

So, yeah. We really need to get onto that Google Docs spreadsheet and come up with a plan. A scarily short plan.


* Bookmark this site for the awesome star wars + lego images, visit regularly for the kickass content.


It’s the little things – my month with Fitbit

You can clip the Fitbit on as discreetly as you want under your clothes or you can show off your embarrassingly low step count, as pictured.

You can clip the Fitbit on as discreetly as you want under your clothes or you can show off your embarrassingly low step count, as pictured.

When I first heard about the Fitbit, the idea of having a tiny little device attached to me and tracking my every move seemed a little too Big Brother-ish for my taste. “Thank goodness it doesn’t have a built-in GPS” was the first thought that came to mind. Imagine all these people finding out I don’t actually run much and that my workout of choice is actually power-walking my way in and out of all stores in the mall.

Over time, though, as I became more and more self-aware of how much I track myself in different ways anyway, I started to see the benefits of the little gadget. When the lovely folk at Fitbit offered to let me try one, I jumped at the opportunity.

Zara also jumped at the opportunity to analyse the different components. And by "analyse" I, of course, mean "attempt to destroy".

Zara also jumped at the opportunity to analyse the different components. And by “analyse” I, of course, mean “attempt to destroy”.

I was a little worried it was one more thing to add to what already feels like a giant list of things to remember every morning. I’ve got a strict morning routine that consists of a set list of tasks performed in a very meticulous order within the precise time it takes me to get out of bed and out of the house each day. It goes something like: cursing at the alarm, showering, getting dressed, making and drinking coffee, combing hair and cleaning teeth, putting shoes on, leaving the house. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 (is it even $200? I haven’t played Monopoly in a while). I can count on one hand the number of times in a year I even manage to put earrings on, just because I never managed to make that a step in this strict routine of mine. So, poor Fitbit, it didn’t look like this thing would stand a chance.

The USB charger survived Zara which means it's pretty strong stuff.

Hardware analysis: the USB charger survived Zara which means it’s pretty strong stuff.

But it did. In fact, it has almost become one of those things I once thought I’d never need and now can barely live without, like my cell phone, Pineapple Lumps or Gilmore Girls marathons. These days, I’ll curse at the alarm while hitting the button to get the Fitbit to stop tracking my sleep and I’ll unconsciously put it in my pocket (or clipped somewhere onto my clothes) as soon as I get dressed so that no step goes untracked.

I’m not going to get into the technical details of this wee thingy. First because, well, I’ve just called it a “wee thingy” so that should be a sign of how much I know about it. Also, because if you want technical specs, you really shouldn’t come to the blog of someone who has trouble operating a can opener without adult supervision. It’s easy to install (easy as in you pretty much don’t have to do anything other than watch it happen), the battery lasts a decent amount of time (I’ve only had to charge it once in the month I’ve been using it) and it automatically sends your data to your dashboard whenever you’re within a short distance of the USB dongle (which I just leave plugged into my laptop all the time).

The whole setup was finished before I had time to take proper screenshots.

Serious bloggers take screenshots of stuff like software installing, right?

This tiny little thing has made a huge amount of difference in my life in the short time we’ve been getting to know each other. It has taught me a couple of things about myself, too. Turns out I was a little smug about my lifestyle when the reality is that, when I’m not running, I’m actually pretty damn lazy. That 10,000 daily average step count that any average healthy person should take? Not so easy to get to for lazy bones over here, as it turns out. But, on the plus side, I get motivated by stats and numbers and seeing the percentages go up on my Fitbit dashboard was enough to want to do better every day.

Having the Fitbit on me meant that I was always looking for a chance to up my stats for the day. Sure, I’ll take that cup back to the kitchen for you. Yep, of course I don’t mind taking the rubbish out again even though it’s totally not my turn and it’s been my turn for like the last twenty turns. I ain’t doing it for you, though, I’m doing it for the stats!

I don’t know if it’s 100% accurate and, to be honest, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter if it says I took 8,234 steps when I only took 8,232 and it doesn’t matter if it says I slept 7:42 when I actually slept 7:44. It gives me an idea of how I’m doing and, most of all, it gives me the motivation to do better. If you don’t believe me, you should at least believe the smart folk at Tech Crunch who have just named it one of the best health gadgets for 2013.

Out for a run with the Nike+ watch, the iPod Nano (with Nike+ software) and the Fitbit because there's no such thing as too many tracking devices.

Out for a run with the Nike+ watch, the iPod Nano (with Nike+ software) and the Fitbit because there’s no such thing as too many tracking devices.

What really strikes me as powerful is the focus on the little things. It’s not for runners or super buff gym nuts. It brings the attention to fitness and health to everyone, whether they enjoy working out or not. You don’t need to take part in any physical activity outside of your normal daily routines to see how you’re doing (although you’ll probably find that you need to make some changes to become healthier). It’ll track the long runs but it’ll also track those quick steps from the bedroom to the kitchen or from your desk at work to the staff room and all those other tiny little things that add up to a day in your life. According to some studies (which I purposefully choose to ignore), those small doses of exercise are actually healthier for you than endurance running, for example, so of course you should pay attention to them. It’ll also do stuff like track your food intake and count your calories if you enter information on everything you eat. I’m really not into counting calories so my food log lasted about two days before getting completely forgotten, but it’s an option for those who want a more complete report. In the brief moment of delusion when I believed I’d be using the “food log” capabilities, I downloaded the free Fitbit Android app to make it more convenient to add the food. Like most of the apps on my phone, I can’t say it’s been getting much use.

In any case, and even though it’s only been a month, I’m definitely a lot more health conscious since I started wearing the Fitbit. Carrying this little gadget with you around might not get you to join the gym but it might make you think twice before getting in the elevator again. And, in a world where more and more people are dying from diseases related to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, if that’s not worth US$99, you’re doing life wrong.


The running shoe store took all my lunch money

Shiny new shoes. Won't be shiny for long.

Shiny new shoes. Won’t be shiny for long.

If you really, really, really, really forced me to make a list of the things I dislike the most in life, the top three would go something like: 1) avocados, 2) leopard print anything, 3) triple digit payments going out of my bank account. Today, though, I had to bite the proverbial bullet and invest in a new pair of running shoes, parting with the money that will hopefully mean I remain injury-free throughout marathon training and the rest of the year. At least there was no avocado in my food so it was still a good day.

It was a bittersweet moment. I’ve been faithful to Mizuno for the last couple of years – first with the Wave Nirvana 7 that I bought before my first half-marathon and then with the slightly cuter but still just as comfortable Wave Nirvana 8 that I bought right after the 35k trail and proceeded to baptize with a super muddy Xterra event, proving that I don’t deserve to have nice new things.

By my calculations (margin of error ~100%, since I’m a journalist, not a mathematician, but you’ll just have to trust me on this), I’ve run about 400km on the Wave Nirvana 8. They haven’t quite reached the end of their lifespan but, if I kept them as my only pair of running shoes, they would have gotten pretty close to that by March, when I’m running the marathon. I’m no expert but I’d say running your first marathon in an old beaten up pair of running shoes is probably not ideal. Plus, as evidenced below, the top of the shoe is doing even worse than the sole. The Wave Nirvana 8 still have a few hundred kilometers in them (provided the top doesn’t completely disintegrate) so, for the next couple of months, I’ll be alternating between those and the Asics during marathon training. Come marathon day, though, I’m pretty sure these Asics are the pretties I’ll be lacing up sometime in between numerous panic-induced bathroom breaks.

Yep, old shoes are old.

Evidence that a new pair of shoes was in order

The good news is that, according to the nice man who took all my lunch money at the Shoe Clinic today, both my previous pairs of Mizuno shoes seemed to have been good for me. He did the usual filming while I ran on the treadmill and showed me how my running posture has changed in the last couple of years. I don’t over pronate nearly as much as I did before and so I was allowed to “downgrade” to a neutral shoe. I was pretty happy to see I was running a lot straighter and got to nerd out watching my foot land on the ground in a less idiotic way than it used to before. Look, ma, improvement!

After trying a couple of different pairs, I settled on the Asics Gel Cumulus 14. I put them on for a little treadmill test and it was like running on a fluffly cloud. A really lightweight, pink and slightly too expensive fluffy cloud. I felt like I was cheating on Mizuno but I really didn’t want to take the Asics off anymore and couldn’t resist taking them out for a lap of the local reserve, after I got home. Pretty pink Asics, let me take you out on a few running dates. I can’t be entirely sure yet (the magical words here are “30 day money back guarantee”) but I think this might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Apparently I don’t look like an uncoordinated idiot running in these.


Christmas Day run


Santa came a little early for me this year and instead of what I’d asked for, he brought me a cold. Jerk. Anyway, he redeemed himself on Christmas Day, the first day in a week when I woke up without a sore throat and a nose full of snot (descriptive enough for you?) so now we’re back on speaking terms. (Love you, Santa! xoxo)


Since I had been laying low for a few days and was spending Christmas in one of the prettiest places in New Zealand, I thought a run would be the best way to work off the 439374 (approximate figure) Cadbury Favourites I’d eaten at about 2AM the night before (I take Christmas very seriously).


I failed to pick an appropriate time for a run and ended up starting at lunchtime, sweating bucket loads (you got over the snot part, you can get over the sweat too) in the short 6k around Turangi, from near the town centre to just past this bridge over the Tongariro River and back.


I managed to make some friends along the way like the stunning fellow you see above. Now, for some unknown reason, I’m nursing a sore knee so it looks like my only workout this Boxing Day will be unwrapping some more of these chocolates and getting up for second servings of Christmas desserts.

Happy Holidays, everyone!