super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


What are you thinking about?


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



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.


Some like it hot (the yoga, that is)


The 26 poses of Bikram yoga

(image source: a bunch of different people on pinterest)

I signed up for a 24/7 gym two years ago so I could go to the gym at really late hours when there’s almost no one there. I loathe group gym classes. Actually, loathe is not a strong enough word. Group gym classes bring out my murderous side. I’m one uncoordinated monkey crashing an otherwise perfectly synchronized choreography. It’s not pretty. So my return to Bikram Yoga today, after over a year of absence, was as inexplicable as it was sweaty.

I went through a period of regularly going to Bikram sessions a couple of years ago (go figure) but then the whole exercising in a pool of my own sweat while inhaling other people’s BO thing kind of got a bit old and so I swapped it for the gym instead (where I exercise in a smaller pool of my own sweat but still smell other people’s BO. But no, really, working out is great. Really really).


My yoga routine in the last year or so

My last Bikram session was back in November 2011, according to the nice lady behind the studio counter today (was that a judgmental look on her face when she said the date? I think it was). That last time was after my second half marathon. It felt good at the time but summer was just starting and the whole hot room thing wasn’t so attractive anymore. I thought I’d return to Bikram in winter, as a complement to my running, but then winter came around and I chose running as a complement to running. It’s really not hard to talk oneself out of spending 90 minutes working out inside a 40 degree room.

However, my muscles have been kind of stiff lately and I’ve noticed I’m not as flexible anymore so I thought this was a good excuse to go back and see if it really is true that yoga fixes the bad things running does to you. Regular yoga bores me senseless, unfortunately, so it was back to the Bikram studio for me today.

Most of the poses did feel a bit like the description in the top image but I’m convinced that’s because of the amount of time that’s gone by since my last session and also because my muscles are still recovering from last weekend’s long run.

Most of all, it felt like one massive stretching session. And it hurt really damn good, the way stretching after a long run does. Some of those who preach the benefits of bikram for runners also mention that it helps increase stamina and lung capacity. If that’s true, see you at the next available slot for another bikram session. Controlling my breathing is still one of my main problems when running so if there’s a fairly easy way to fix that then Namaste.

I’m by no means a yogi. There’s nothing zen about it for me and I’ve never been able to get “in the zone” during yoga (that’s something I can only do while running). I was mentally making my shopping list at one point during class. But it’s hard work. Really freaking hard work, for a considerable amount of time. You can’t convince me that’s not a good thing.


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.


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.

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The big 2012 highlights post everyone is writing too


I logged onto Facebook* yesterday morning (I swear it’s not the first thing I do when I wake up… not always, anyway) and it presented me with the option of viewing the highlights of my year, according to Zuckerberg’s fancy algorithms. My first realisation was that the year is, indeed, almost over. The second realisation is that this year was actually a pretty good one. Facebook got some stuff right – my cat’s birthday really is that big a deal – but it failed to mention others. So screw you, Facebook, how about  I decide what the highlights of MY year are?

Well, it turns out that, without fancy algorithms (or proper short-term memory), coming out with a “year in review” post is quite a bit of work. But it’s also a good way to get me to reflect on everything that has happened so bear with me here.

I ended 2011 with an early night in a bungalow on an island without electricity in Vanuatu. By the time New Zealand started letting off fireworks, I was asleep. In fact, I soundly slept my way into 2012, having spent the last evening of 2011 on top of a volcano spitting lava everywhere. That new year’s eve experience is so hard impossible to top that I haven’t even made any plans for this coming December 31. What’s the point? Ryan Gosling could kiss me at midnight and it would still pale in comparison to last year’s experience (sorry Ryan, I still love you).

I went ahead and spent the first day of 2012 with a kastom tribe on the island, making January 1 2012 the best January 1 in the history of January 1. A couple of days later, I flew back to New Zealand and, just a few days after that, it was off to Las Vegas, a trip where I got to see the opposite world of what I’d seen in Vanuatu. Also, my first time flying business class long-haul (full sized bed and unlimited alcohol on the plane? Yes, please).

February was a quieter month and was also the month I ran my first half marathon of the year, the Cathay Pacific Half Marathon, in Auckland. It was a great summer day and I was happy to be ticking off 1/4 of my half marathon goals for the year (little did I know I’d go beyond that goal in the end). March seems to have been a little less eventful on the running front (and I can’t remember what I was doing instead) but, by the end of the month, S. had convinced me to sign up for a 35k trail run in May. Shit was about to get real.

April was all about freaking out about May. It started with a bittersweet PR at the Whenuapai Half Marathon before a first (and non-official) off-road half marathon. I squeezed in a work trip to San Diego (where I got to run in both Balboa Park and along the city’s stunning waterfront) before returning to New Zealand and getting into full on trail running training mode. It was also in April that we decided we needed bigger motivation for this run and so we started fundraising for KidsCan. The response from people we know was amazing and we even got $20 beyond our goal, in spite of starting fundraising so late.

May came and, with it, the final stretch of the big training plan. And then it came – May 26, the big day. The anniversary of my move to New Zealand and the day of the biggest physical challenge I’d had to date, a 35k trail run with a heart-attack inducing elevation chart. It was every bit as amazing as I had hoped it would be. After that, I didn’t think the year could get much better. But of course it did.

The next month, we flew to Wellington to run the Wellington Half Marathon. It was the first time we flew on purpose for a race. The weather wasn’t fantastic and my body wasn’t exactly up for a long run that day but it was still a great experience. In August, it was time to finally head back to the trails and get some mud on our shoes. And our shorts. And our shirts. And our underwear. And everywhere else. It was great.

The really amazing month, the one I wait for every year, was September (I mean, rocktember). I got to finally fly home and see my family and friends again and, this time, the long way around, with the final leg of the trip being done by car (after two flights), via 13 countries in 6 days, in an epic European road trip I won’t forget any time soon.

In Lisbon, I entered my first urban trail race (and a night one, to make it even cooler) and loved every second of it. A week later, I ran the hardest and simultaneously most amazing half marathon of my life, along the waterfront of the city I was born and grew up in, with my family cheering me on. The finish line took a while to get to but the reward was grandma’s tomatada so life was pretty much as perfect as it gets right there and then. Back on this side of the world, later that same month, it was time to finally run the Auckland Half Marathon and cross the bridge in a bright green tutu. People were extra cheery thus scientifically proving that costumes are definitely the way to go.

Then November came and I didn’t think I’d be running any more half marathons this year. Turns out, I was wrong (I was shocked too). The ADRA half marathon in Auckland was a last minute decision but resulted in a PR and one of the easiest and most enjoyable half marathons I’ve ever run. I know the year isn’t over yet but I think I can safely say that I closed my half marathons cycle for the year, with a total of six official road half marathons run this year, two over my initial goal of running one every season.

It was also in November that S. and I decided it was time to bite the bullet and commit to bigger challenges. And so we registered for our first full marathon. Come next March, we’ll be seen running/walking/dragging our asses along the course of the Mountain the Surf Marathon in New Plymouth. It sounds maddening to me still but, then again, so did that 35k in May.

December has been a quieter month, with lots of training runs but less long events. We had an amazing time running from one coast of Auckland to the other and I chased my Christmas spirit in the rain in a santa suit.

There were a bunch of other awesome things that happened this year and I’ll probably write about them as soon as I find the time/patience/inspiration to do so on here (must. record. everything) but this is the recap of the stuff I managed to keep writing about as the year went by. Winning lottery has, apparently, been put on hold once again (your move, 2013) but, all in all, I’m happier and healthier than I was last year. Wasn’t that the whole point to begin with anyway?


*Speaking of Facebook, I decided it was time to stop annoying the hell out of my non-running friends with my running-related posts so created a page for the blog on there. It’s actually a secret plot to unleash my running geekery onto the world guilt-free, since I noticed I had to stop myself from sharing running-related links there (remember?) because, apparently, not everyone in the world is as interested in them as I am (whaaaat?). Check it out if you want, like if you like.

P.s.: For a really cool and almost tear-inducing video about this year, check out Google’s Zeitgeist 2012.

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Running on the web


Following the first instalment, here’s another list of interesting running-related articles I’ve come across recently, in between overdoses of the grumpy cat and the Ikea monkey memes.


Some days are just way too busy for me to even consider lacing up my running shoes. Surely I’m doing something wrong, especially if it’s true that Ron Hill has been running at least a mile a day since December 20, 1964. That’s a whole lotta running.


Andrew Murray ran 7 ultra-marathons in 7 continents in less than 7 days. Is this some sort of conspiracy to make me feel guilty about having stayed in bed this morning?


Total Sport founder Aaron Carter spoke to the New Zealand Herald about the tough road to organising running events. An interesw Zealand.


The Washington Post wonders what it would be like if Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was a runner.


Your daily dose of goosebumps is courtesy of Debbie Heald (via Fit and Feminist’s Facebook page).


Did I miss anything good? The internet is kind of big and, in between work, bathroom breaks and a few hours of sleep, there may have been something I missed. Fill me in!


An unforeseen turn of events


Do you ever have weekends when you feel like you can actually relax and have time to do everything you planned to do? For the longest time, I thought they were an urban myth, like blair witch or instant coffee that doesn’t make me want to puke. Turns out those weekends exist, though, and the secret to finding them seems to simply lie in getting my ass out of bed before noon.

This weekend, I decided I was not going to make any plans requiring any more than a five or ten minute advance notice. I fitted in shopping (more hours than I should have – sorry, credit card), quality time with the kitty, family skype time, coffee and magazine reading (the new issue of Runner’s World conveniently arrived in my letterbox on Saturday morning – a free issue from one of those coupons you can get in most event goodie bags), and a cookie baking extravaganza.

More importantly, I ran 3 times in the last 2 days, and 4 times in the last 3 days even, since I also ran a 5k on Friday morning before work.  Out of those 4 times, two of them were morning runs. I didn’t get a super long run in like I had expected (12k was the longest distance the watch recorded this weekend, and it included a couple of kilometers of walking). It didn’t matter, though. I’m still pretty happy to have gotten some kilometers under my belt. The hardest step is the one out of the door yadda yadda kind of thing, you know. My laundry pile has never had as many running clothes but I’ve also never felt so motivated about this whole marathon training thing.

I blame the sun. And also, I blame all this getting out of bed at the crack of dawn thing I’ve been doing. It dawned on me the other day (see what I did there? Hmm? Hmm?) that I have only slept past 9:30AM once this year (last weekend), and that one time was planned. I wanted the feeling of spending the whole morning in bed back again. And you know what was weird? I didn’t like it. I felt like I had just wasted a whole lot of time doing nothing. This is the same person that up until a couple of years ago would never get out of bed before 11 on a weekend, unless there was a very good reason to do so (and there were very strict criteria to define what “a very good reason” consisted of, excluding basically everything except for the apocalypse).

This Sunday, for example, I got out of bed at 6AM to run. There was no running event with a set time at stupid o’clock or anything, just me wanting to get a run in before the sun was too high up. I got to run before a lot of people were even out of bed and so the whole day was freed up to do other stuff. Turns out “other stuff” ended up including more running and I couldn’t resist another run in the evening, as dinner simmered away.

So this is awkward. It looks like all this running may have accidentally turned me into a morning person. I still dislike getting out of bed but a bulldozer no longer has to hit the walls of the bedroom for me to actually get up – especially if there’s running to be done. See you out there before 7AM sometimes. Apparently, it won’t kill me.


All this nothing we’re doing is actually killing us

I would not pick a fight with this 93 year old. But then again, I probably wouldn’t pick a fight with any 93 year old -they’re always so adorable. Just not usually this badass.

I caught bits of a TV show the other night where doctors were trying to figure out the mystery cause of some weird symptoms a lady had been displaying ever since giving birth to her son. She had put on what she described as “copious amounts of weight” following the pregnancy and had been suffering from a myriad of symptoms that doctors didn’t seem to be able to associate with any particular disease. The last doctor she visited analysed her lifestyle and realised that her extremely poor diet and absolute lack of exercise were mostly to blame. It took her a couple of months of dieting, combined with exercising three times a week, and her symptoms began to disappear.

Of course it’s not always this obvious but, more often than not, the equation really is that easy. We can try to make all the excuses we want for what we do to ourselves (“I really deserve this tenth piece of brownie because I took the stairs to that second floor instead of taking the elevator”) but the fact is that a healthy lifestyle usually leads to a healthy life. It’s not really rocket science. Of course there are diseases that can happen in spite of someone taking the best care of themselves but you are pretty much guaranteed to avoid a number of issues if you just take responsibility for your health.

It’s a harsh reality, though, and we always find a million excuses. I speak for myself here. But when I started thinking about it watching the show, it hit me how painfully obvious and in-your-face this fact actually is.

Eventually, we will all start decaying before we finally die (what an upbeat post, I know). As much as modern medicine can do for us, it’s the cycle of life and the planet would really be in trouble if we all stopped dying. No matter how many artificial limbs or organ transplants you get, eventually, your machine needs to stop moving. But does that mean the process needs to be a slow painful one?

I came across this Ted talk today and it was as inspiring as it was eye-opening. Charles Eugster is right – old age has come to be synonym of a number of health problems. But does it really have to be? I mean, look at him.

The 93-year old oarsman and bodybuilder hits the nail on the head: We are over-nourished, over-medicated and physically inactive and that inactivity is a major cause of death.

“Natural healthy aging is unseen, covering by a blanket of disease. In fact, it is falsely assumed that disease is a natural consequence of aging. Lift up the blanket and there could be surprises,” he says.

He gives some good statistics and makes some great points so I highly recommend you get yourself a cup of tea and sit through the whole 16 minute video.

Eugster also goes into much deeper issues such as retirement age/ life expectancy (which has not only health but also financial consequences).  I don’t fully agree with absolutely everything he says. He calls retirement a “massive health calamity” and a “future financial disaster”, I call it a lifelong dream, but I do see his point. Life doesn’t have to start ending 20 or so years before it’s actually expected to end.

His point is simple: look after yourself and those problems that we grew used to associate with aging will disappear. And if you’re going to use your age as an excuse, then quit it right there. Eugster started well into his 80s so, really, your point is invalid.

Oh damn, I feel like I’m coming across as preachy. Am I coming across as preachy? Maybe I am. Listen, I’m definitely no role model. I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a family-sized bar of mint chocolate and I have no intentions of ever doing that. But, on the other hand, I’ve made a bunch of little changes to my lifestyle in the last couple of years and, even with my regular slip-ups, it all has had an amazing impact on my health. I’m millions of midnight snacks away from an actual proper healthy life but videos like this are a great use of  “inactive time”.

I’ll shut up now. The point is, let’s stop sitting around. It’s killing us.


photo source: Ted Blog
For further reading on Eugster’s achievements, check out his website and this article he wrote for the Guardian.