super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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The importance of saying no

Cheesecake for lunch. Not the healthiest option but definitely one of the prettiest.

I started the week off on the right foot, running both of Monday and on Tuesday. No long runs, just a couple of post-work 5k, but enough to make me feel on top of things.

I was all on track for a three for three on Wednesday but then, instead, I got home from work and ate a mini Whittaker’s chocolate bar, nearly a whole bag of Coles pigs lollies, some salt & vinegar chips (I don’t even like salt & vinegar chips) and drank a glass of chocolate milk. Then after that, I went out to dinner with friends and tried on a few tapas, including chips and fried chicken, before moving to a different restaurant for Tiramisu. I don’t often report on my meals but this binge eating session was a little too crazy not to share, especially if you consider it was an alternative to running. Life – I’m doing it wrong.

Anyway, I digress. While out with my friends last night, one of them pointed out that I’m always agreeing to things and end up double and triple-booking myself and running out of time to do the things I actually really want to be doing (sometimes what I really want is to be out running, other times it’s simply to go home and play dead on the couch until the cat starts to worry). Basically, my friend worries that I’m a bit of a doormat and says I need to learn to say no. He’s right. Establishing priorities is not one of my strongest skills (unless you’re reading this because you want to hire me to help you establish priorities and you want to pay me quadruple figures in which case disregard what I just wrote, I’m awesome at it).

My marathon training plan has been sitting in the background waiting for me to have time for it. I’ve been squeezing in runs in between other commitments when, sometimes, I should be squeezing those other commitments in between runs. Running can’t become my number one priority (unless someone wants to pay all my bills for me), but from now until marathon day, it needs to be pretty damn close to that.

Training your body for something it is not yet ready to do is not something you can put off and then cram into a week or two at the last minute. I ran a shameful 7.5km last week. In the entire seven days of the week combined. I am now one week closer to that marathon and that is time I will not be able to recover.

So I’m sorry if I can’t make your breakfast/lunch/afternoon snack/dinner/drinks thingy. I’m sure it’ll be super lovely and I’ll totally miss out but I need to be out clocking up those kilometers, if I’m going to survive this thing in March. I may have to just catch the tail end of your meal (I’m very helpful with those few bites of dessert you couldn’t force yourself to finish) but if you are reading this, there’s a big chance you know how important this is and so you’ll understand.

But enough feeling sorry for myself. This morning, mainly driven by guilt over last night’s food antics, I got out of bed with 40 minutes to spare and decided to go for a run before work. I can’t explain to early risers how hard this is for me but suffice to say it’s only happened 3 or 4 times in the last couple of years.

Free fitness equipment along the path near home. Everyone’s excuses are now gone.

I ran my usual route close to home, with a couple of laps of the nearest reserve. The city council has recently installed some fitness equipment along the path which had the side benefit of making the park feel safer even after dark, with more people staying there to use the equipment after hours. I noticed last week during an evening run that I felt much safer running a couple of extra laps after sunset while people were still hanging around the area. So yay for tax money being put to good use.

So, to sum up, cheesecake is awesome, running in the morning won’t kill me, and I need to learn to sometimes say no and go for a run instead. Noted.


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Marathon training – week 1

It still feels a bit weird to talk about marathon training with the word ‘half’ preceding it.

It also feels a bit weird to talk about marathon training for this week when my average mileage was even lower than what I was doing back when I was training for the 35k trail. Still, every week from now until marathon day will be a training week and even if I waste it all on a giant caramel and cinnamon cake (which I may or may not have just done), you’ll get all the details until you’re so sick of it you contemplate disconnecting your internet at home so you don’t accidentally stumble upon this blog anymore.

But until you do that, I’ll be here to give you the exciting marathon training report, week by week, no matter how uneventful it actually is.

Like this first one. This week, I ran a grand total of 25k (divided in 2x 10k and 1x 5k sessions). Nope, nothing else. No gym visits, no other workout, unless slicing up the aforementioned giant caramel and cinnamon cake can be considered a workout. So there you go, weekly report done. Shameful, isn’t it?

Week 2 starts tomorrow and I decided it would be a good idea to set myself some goals for the week, to keep me on track:

Run at least 42.2k in total. A marathon in a week shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. I’m flying down to Wellington on Thursday and I think that flat waterfront is going to help me with the mileage.

Return to the gym. It’s been longer than I’m prepared to admit.

Sit down with S. and draw up a proper training plan for both of us (okay, this is sort of cheating because we’ve already agreed to do this)

Make at least one of the runs this week a morning one. Now I feel like I’m pushing my luck.

Book an appointment with my GP to check on a recurring pain on my knee every time I run. If I’m going to do this, I better make sure I don’t completely destroy my poor bones in the process.

This should be enough to keep me out of trouble.


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Auckland Half Marathon recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Lisbon Rock n Roll Half Marathon recap

Cropped out of the picture is the half eaten Magnum ice cream I was holding in that same hand. Because ice cream is just what you need after two Gu energy gels. Silly Vera.

Had it not been written in 1859, I’d say Dickens’ famous “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” quote from A Tale of Two Cities was about my half marathon in Lisbon a couple of weeks ago.

And now that we’re past the snobbiest introductory paragraph in the history of running recaps, we can move on to the reasons that made me say that and forget that I actually quoted 19th century British literature in a running post.

The Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Lisbon was my absolute favourite race ever. I very much doubt anything will be able to top that any time soon. It’s not your fault, races in the rest of the world. This one had lots going for it. For starters, I got to run for a bit along the longest bridge in Europe, a bridge which is about 10 minutes from where my family lives. I remember that bridge being built and slowly reshaping the landscape. No one is ever allowed to walk or cycle there and, yet, it was the start line for this run. I was more excited about that than the eHarmony girl is excited about cats. I want that bridge in a basket with a bow tie (weirdest sentence ever I’ve ever written? Probably.)

So on top of the coolest start line ever, and being a really well organized event, what else did this run have going for it? Well, I was home. My BFF was running it with me and it was his very first half marathon. My mum got to drop my off at the bus to the start line. My family was watching on the street as I ran past. I got to run along the streets of the world’s most beautiful city. I got to finish that run and walk to my grandma’s house and eat one of my favourite summer meals ever, because I had asked her to make it and she never says no (one of the criteria that got her the title of world’s best grandmother). Do I need to give you any more reasons? I didn’t think so.

It was also the worst of times, though. Lisbon, in all its end of September glory, is one stinking hot mess. This was my sixth half marathon ever and fourth this year (on road, excluding offroad ones) and it was my slowest one so far. It started off great, I avoided the much dreaded stitch pain and the adrenaline and excitement got me along and off the bridge in pretty high spirits. Seeing the family in the first 4km really helped but, from then on, it all started going downhill (and, unfortunately, only in a metaphorical non-topographical sense). My body started to over heat and there was not enough water that I could drink or pour down my head to help me cool down. The air was much drier than I’m used to, living in mighty humid Auckland, and I felt like, no matter how much I tried, no oxygen was getting to my lungs. This feeling lasted for about 16km which is a really long time to feel like you can’t breathe.

I had never thought about quitting a race as much as I thought about quitting during this one. The thought just wouldn’t leave my mind. My brain and I fought a very tough battle not to quit. I didn’t want my first DNF to be in my hometown, with my family waiting. But I couldn’t breathe and my entire body felt weak. I can’t say I enjoyed the run.  I never expected a personal best in this one, seeing I didn’t train for it, but I didn’t think it would go quite so bad. I felt out of breath and in pain pretty much the entire time. Nothing could distract me from it. My sole focus was on trying to not give up.

This lasted until I saw the 19km marker. From then on, I knew I could do it.  We re-entered the Parque das Nações area (damn you traditional Portuguese cobblestone streets destroying my feet) and, with more and more people cheering on the runners, it got slightly easier. Then, with barely 1km to go, right in front of Gare do Oriente, I spotted the family. Mum, being the giant bag of cuteness she is, even joined me for a couple of hundred meters, wearing sandals. When I crossed the finish line, they were all there. The pain was gone for a while. It came back around about the time dad informed me we had to walk about 15 minutes to my grandma’s house, where he had parked, and then climb the stairs to the fourth floor where she lives. That kinda hurt, dad. I’ll remember that.  But all good, I had my medal so my sweat and my wobbly penguin walk were sort of justified.


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In which I act as if getting out of bed is a big accomplishment

Hey sun, you’re big and hot and stuff but it looks like I still got out of bed before you this morning. Lazy.

Today was my third consecutive running day so, obviously, I’m here to brag. Take some time to congratulate me on my awesomeness.

Okay, that’s enough now.

After running 5km on Monday after work and then another 5km on Tuesday after work, I got up a whole hour earlier this morning (A WHOLE HOUR!) and ran 9.5km before work.

As a result, life is looking far awesomer than normal today. I was fairly productive at work and even found time to not only pack leftovers for lunch but also to coordinate the colour of my bag, jacket and boots (my usual morning routine squeezes in shower, coffee and feeding the cat in a grand total of 12 to 14 minutes between getting out of bed and out the door so outfit choices are hardly top of mind). But, see, mum and dad, looks like I’ve really got it together now.

I stop myself from falling asleep while running in the morning by taking random photos with my phone. It’s a legitimate part of training. I say so.

There are a few (well, five) reasons why I’m finding it easy to stick to a running routine this week and I bet you’re dying to know more about them. Or maybe you just emptied out your Google Reader and ran out of You Tube clips of cats attacking their own shadows to watch. Either way, here they are:

1. Running goals I’ve got another half marathon next month, potentially the coolest half marathon in history. Having a specific race to train for always gets me motivated. By “motivated” I, of course, mean scared shitless. As a result, I run.

2. Responsibility I’m trying to follow a training plan and, along with my friend who’s also running the aforementioned half marathon, I’m back in the Google Docs shared training plan bandwagon (if it’s not a thing, it should be). Basically, if I don’t run and he does, I feel shitty. Works a treat.

3. Longer days Fina-freaking-lly. It is now fairly light outside at 7am and still light around 5:30pm. The countdown to spring is entering single digits and I’m obviously pretty excited to kiss this winter goodbye.

4. Running-related reading It might be a sign of obsession that I spend so much time reading up on all running-related subjects. I don’t care. The end result is that I get out the door and run. Win.

5. People pissing me off As a general rule, punching people in the face is frowned upon by society so, instead, I embrace the rage and throw it all down on the pavement. In the end, I get fitter and they remain losers – everyone’s happy. Well, not everyone – just everyone who matters.

So I guess that’s the lesson I’m taking from all this. No matter what your reasons are, whether it’s happiness or stress, too much cookie-induced guilt or just overall frustration at all the idiots in this world, the real important thing is to get out there and run the Oreos off. And even if it sucked at the start and it sucked during it, you get to see the sunrise and then blog about it anyway so in the end it’s all a-OK.


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Adventures in trail running – XTERRA trail series – Whitford Forest

Last week, after realising that we hadn’t really done much running at all, S. and I made the wise decision to chicken out and downgrade our entry to the XTERRA event in Whitford from the superlong course to the mid course. Last night, I decided to take things one step further (well, backwards) and worked really hard to convince her that the best thing to do would be not to run the event at all. I tried to bribe her with a flat road run later in the morning and, just so you see how little intentions I had to run this trail, I even offered to pay her registration fee if she agreed to pull out with me.

The fact that I had to drag myself out of bed and all the way to Whitford this morning says a lot about my powers of persuasion (or lack thereof). I don’t fully know why I didn’t want to go to Whitford but I was just not feeling up for the trails this weekend. I remained hopeful that S. would cancel at the last minute but that didn’t happen so I ended up going a lot less prepared than normal – I failed to have my usual pre-run breakfast and didn’t carry a pack for the first time on the trail, having only taken a bottle of water I got a few minutes earlier from the petrol station.

As usual, I’m glad I did go. The only run you regret really is the run you don’t go on and today proved that once again. Truth be told, there wasn’t really much running to be done there. The course was incredibly steep and the muddiest I had ever been on. The best way to enjoy it, as we quickly discovered, was to just embrace the mud. And so we did. We slid down hills, fell on our bums too many times to count, kept taking steps forward only to slide back down again. It was awful and so, of course, we had a great time. It might not have been an amazing run but it was a great workout and I’m already feeling the pain in different parts of the body – which is always a very good sign. After discussing different ways to get our running mojo back, we seem to finally have found it. It had been hiding under a giant pile of mud (which I now hope the washing machine can cope with).

In retrospect, perhaps wearing my brand new running shoes wasn’t a wise decision.


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Well, it looks like I’m a runner

I had an epiphany the other day. At the hairdresser. Yep, you read that right. I sat on that scary chair facing the scary mirror and the scary guy holding the scissors cheerfully asked me “so what are we going to do today?”. The truth was that I was going to give him far too much money for him to give me a hair style I was going to be able to maintain for about 18 hours after walking out of that place and never be able to replicate by myself ever again. I didn’t tell him that, though. Instead, I just described what sort of cut I was after. He asked how short I’d like it to be and my answer was “short but not so short that I can’t tie my hair up when I run”.

There you go. Epiphany. Right? I mean, the lady sitting two chairs away from me was asking for “curls like these” pointing at a magazine. I wanted him to do his job but not do it so well that I wouldn’t be able to tie my hair up when running. I know, I think I’m stupid too. But anyway, as he was cutting away, I thought about I’d said to him.

You see, I feel like I’ve been running for a while now. In fact, I didn’t run a lot in the last couple of weeks and the result was a crankier-than-usual Vera. Running is as much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth or eating entire family-sized bars of Whittakers mint chocolate (and definitely a lot more of a routine than blowdrying my hair properly but don’t tell that to the guy with the scissors). Running influences my moods as much as coffee and pictures of kittens on the internet. I’ve entered more running events than I can count, have an almost psychotic need to always have an upcoming running event planned and paid for, and would put my racing bib collection right up there on a list of things I’d want to save in case of a house fire. I plan my days around whether or not there will be running involved more often than I plan my runs around what’s planned for the rest of my day. I obsess over running playlists for more hours than I like to admit, my kitchen pantry is filled with trail mix and my browser history makes me look like a Department of Conservation worker from too many hours spent plotting trail runs. Hell, right now, there’s more Gu than beer in my kitchen. So, you know, I’m kind of a runner. Yesterday, I went running after dark for the third day in a row. The first two runs in the dark, on sunday and monday, were also under constant rain. They were short, yes, 5km on sunday and 6.5km on monday. But the fact that I got my poptart-eating ass out of the couch and put my running clothes on while it was raining means that running is more than just something I do whenever it’s convenient.

And I even bet you knew I was going to mention the fact that a couple of months ago I ran 35km (that’s THIRTY-FIVE KILOMETERS, capitals and all) in the bush, which is still right up there in the list of things I’m most proud of (a list that includes things like once riding a bicycle for about 200m in a straight line and that one time I re-watched that scene in Love Actually when Colin Firth talks to Aurora’s family in Portuguese and I didn’t cry*).

But anyway, my point is, I never really felt like much of a runner. Until I asked the hairdresser to leave my hair long enough so I could still tie it up to go running. I guess that’s what makes me a runner, more than the kilometers pounding the pavement, the playlists, the racing bibs, the methodically packaged trail mix bags and even my newly-found tolerance to stomach crap like Gu. I’m a runner because I make running a priority even with things that aren’t quite so obviously running-related. It also makes me a potential clinical case but that’s an entirely different blog post.

And yes, I know this has been a major cliffhanger throughout the whole post so I’ll put your minds at ease: he did leave it long enough. Major relief, I know, I felt it too.

*much


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10 things I learned during the Wellington Half Marathon

1. Flat courses aren’t actually easier

I spent this entire time wishing I could run a half marathon on a flat course. I got all excited when I saw that the route of the Wellington one was flat as a pancake. Turns out that pancakes as metaphors for course altitude are actually pretty boring (as oppose to real pancakes you get to eat, which are, of course, more than a bit awesome). A flat course means your body is always performing the same movements, with the same force (or, in my case, lack thereof). Boring. This flat course taught me how to love the hills.

2. No training = No PR

It’s actually a pretty obvious equation, when you think about. I didn’t. I came out of that mammoth 35k in the bush at the end of May and barely moved for the following couple of weeks, thinking I had time to train for Wellington. I didn’t. Next thing I knew, it was time to fly to the capital and harden up. Not my worst time but certainly not my best. Mental note: to run faster, run often.

3. Do not go to a yoga session (or anything you haven’t done in months) 3 days before the half marathon

Your body will ache. Three days isn’t actually enough time for me to get it all back to normal, as it turns out, especially since my back had already been hurting. On that note…

4. If your back hurts, running is not going to fix it.

Contrary to what my mind likes to tell me, running is not the solution to all of life’s problems. Almost all of them, yes, but not quite. Like back pain. Running made it worse. Oh-so-much-worse. Voltaren is my new BFF.

5. If you are told not to wear the same pair of running shoes longer than 700km, don’t be a tight-ass about it, buy a new pair of shoes and shut the hell up.

Running 1200km+ on the same pair of shoes and then assuming they’ll still be comfortable for a further 21km? Stupid move.

6. You better just come to terms with the fact that you’re not going to enjoy some runs. It’s okay.

You wake up some days and you don’t really feel like running, for one reason or another. It’s okay. Sometimes that happens to be the day you not only paid the entry fee to a half marathon but you also flew to that city for that particular reason. Harden up. Whatever. Get over it. Onto the next one.

7. Don’t panic about the weather.

Just because you nearly got blown off a pier while trying to walk along it the day before, it does not mean you can’t wake up to beautiful sunshine and almost no wind the next day. Case in point: Wellington’s schizophrenic weather which was very much a pleasant surprise on race day. Stop worrying, damn it.

8. Good or bad, you’re 21km closer to where you want to be.

I know this sounds like terribly hippie new-age crap but it’s a comforting thought for when you finish a half marathon that you didn’t particularly enjoy and that leaves you wondering why you even bother.

9. Running events are the perfect excuse for a weekend away.

I may not have had the best time during the run but the weekend in Wellington was all kinds of lovely. Flying to another city just because of a running event might sound silly to some but that’s only if you make it solely about that couple of hours and nothing else.

10. Stop whining. 

Running 21km and crossing the finish line is pretty damn awesome. No one cares that it took you five minutes longer compared to your previous PR. You shouldn’t either.


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So, hmm, now what?

pictured: random non-running related snippets of the last few days, reminders of how I’ve been really busy, you know, not running.

I had heard of it before. That hiatus that settles in after a big run. You train for months, run the event you trained for and then… well, then nothing. You tell yourself you’ll definitely hit the road again as soon as you recover but, really, the recovery excuse gets used for far too long.

In the period since the Big O Trail Run on May 26 and today, I have run a grand total of around about 26km (of which nearly 16km of those were yesterday). Lame, I know. It’s not even that I was in pain (I was only in pain for a couple of days following the run). My legs just didn’t want to run. I ran a shameful 3km a week after that event and, despite not sore, my legs just didn’t feel like moving.

I don’t even really have a good excuse. I’ve been allowing myself as much crap food as I want (although, surprisingly, I haven’t been craving as much bad stuff as I used to) and I’ve been taking time out to do stuff I hadn’t done during training (stuff like sleeping in or taking a nap on a weekend). I’ve also been reading more and spending a lot of energy trying to stay warm. I’ve even taken a ballet class (a good 20 years after the last one), and found a way to relate it to running and, somehow, justify in my head being in that studio rather than out on the road (exercising different muscles, stretching, yadda, yadda, yadda).

What I need is a new challenge. The Wellington Half Marathon is coming up this weekend and I’m ready to fly down to the capital and get blown by the wind gusts as I try to run along a mostly flat course along the waterfront. I haven’t exactly trained for it, unless you count weeks of chocolate intake as training for a half marathon. And once that run is finished this coming sunday, I’m in serious danger of having no goal to work towards.

One thing I know: I want to get back on the trails. The road does very little for me these days and I find myself looking up bush tracks online in my spare time. I need something big and something better, something that will force me to panic and work hard for it. After two months of obsessing over that 35km distance, there’s an emptiness that comes with having no set goal to train for. With the cold days of winter well and truly here to stay, I either find a new challenge soon or I risk taking up hot-chocolate-drinking as my new sport.

This week’s self-imposed homework: get out there and run (no tapering needed when training was non-existent) but, most importantly, pick a new challenge to work towards.