super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Countdown to the ultramarathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter blues my ass.

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Half marathons are the new anniversary parties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of Huntly.

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

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

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

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

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

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Celebrating being a little bit badass

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

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

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

Update: this


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XTERRA Auckland Trail Run Series – Shakespear Regional Park

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There was a time in my life when I thought waking up at 7AM on a Sunday was just about the worst thing that could happen on a weekend. To be fair, though, there was also a time in my life when I thought denim on denim was acceptable and that the Backstreet Boys had some cool songs so I guess I haven’t always made the best decisions.

As it turns out, denim on denim is not okay (ever) and I can even admit that the Backstreet Boys were not that great (sorry, 14-year-old super generic girl). On top of that, getting up early on a Sunday is scientifically proven (by me) to significantly improve your weekend. This last statement proves even more truthful if, as based on empirical evidence collected today, you’re getting up early to drive an hour north to one of the most beautiful places in the region for the first of a series of trail runs that will keep me out of trouble throughout winter.

It only took me two Xterra events and approximately 10kg of mud in my washing machine last year to realise I wanted to do them all this year (that was even one of my new year’s resolutions). Last month, because I apparently hate having money in my bank account, I signed up for the whole series (all six events, from now until September). I figured that at least, that way, I couldn’t chicken out when the weather gets really miserable.

It looked like it was going to be really miserable today. There were weather warnings in place and Metservice said it was going to be raining all through to Monday. Actually, now that I think about it, the first sign that the sun was going to come out was the rainy forecast on the Metservice website. But I digress…

Today’s Xterra event in Shakespear Regional Park was the first of what promises to be an epic season of winter trails. I played it safe (which is only one level up from chickening out, but will do for me right now) and entered the mid course, which meant I only had to run a little over 10km. But 10.5km on trail and 10.5km on road are two completely different things – almost not even the same sport. There were some big hills to get over, the type of stuff you run/walk up and then almost struggle not to slide down, but there wasn’t nearly as much mud as there could have been, which made things easier.

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My love for trail running has been growing by the bucket load lately (just in case you hadn’t noticed). It’s easy to dismiss it because of the whole logistics of actually heading out to the trails (it’s not exactly hard but it’s definitely harder than just heading out your front door for a road run around the neighbourhood) and it’s easy to tell yourself that, you know, running is running and you can run anywhere so head out the door and run. Except not really. Actually, not at all. I have to keep reminding myself that no amount of road running can make me half as happy as running on the trails does, for reasons I’m not even sure I can explain. No 10km on the road can compare to an Xterra 10km or any 10km out on the trails. You can ask me why but the question will go unanswered. I have no idea why. All I know is that I didn’t want today’s run to finish when it did (I wanted to be done with the uphills, but I was perfectly happy to slide downhill for a while longer) and that’s pretty much the best testament of a good time.

It’s also always a good sign when you come home from a run and immediately look up when the next one in the series is going to be. Riverhead Forest and I have a date on June 9th. And you. You should definitely come along too.

P.s.: Chris was kind enough to welcome a group of sweaty runners into his home for coffee and food after the event today. This kind of support crew is hard to find.

P.p.s.: I hope none of my former English Lit teachers read this and think I can’t spell Shakespeare’s name. I swear I can. Blame whoever named the park.


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

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

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

Nope.

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

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

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

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

Well, shit.

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

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

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

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

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

Checkmate, Monday.


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A love letter to the lava trails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Will run for free drinks

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Apparently I’m one of those who does anything for a free drink. Okay, calm down, not quite. But I’ll run 9km after work, mostly in the dark, for a free bottle of Powerade. How much does a Powerade bottle even cost? I have a feeling I’m being a bit cheap. Don’t tell me.

It’s the third year in a row that I get an RFID bracelet in the post to enter the Powerade Challenge, which will be on in both Auckland and Wellington until the end of June this year. Last year, I somehow managed to make it downtown a grand total of zero times for the challenge. This year, I’ve had the bracelet for three days and have gone down there once so far so that’s already a 100% increase over last year’s efforts. The secret to excellent results lies in setting the expectations really, really, really low.

The challenge is a simple yet really good marketing idea, for a number of reasons:

– It’s free to enter (free stuff tends to be worth the money)

– It gives you free stuff (with potentially extra prizes)

– It’s fairly easy

– It’s centrally located

– It’s on during Winter, giving people extra motivation to get out there

– It appeals to competitive people

– It can be done at any time, day or night

It may be a 9km run, which is not what a lot of people are up for on weekdays, but it is a very flat course, so the difficulty level isn’t so high that it puts most people off. The challenge starts by the ferry building, in downtown Auckland, where runners scan their bracelets on the Powerade vending machine. They then set off on their way, running towards Mission Bay along the waterfront. About 1.5km into it (maybe less, I was too busy jumping over puddles to notice), a massive interactive billboard shows “GO <RUNNER’S NAME>!” which is a cute little detail if you’re into stuff like seeing your name in neon lights in a big billboard (AND WHO ISN’T?). At the halfway point, at the end of a boardwalk, runners scan their bracelet on a different vending machine, which tells them how long it’s taken them to get there (about 26 minutes if you’re me, about 16 minutes if you’re the human-shaped machine who scanned his bracelet right after me). Then it’s time to run back to the ferry building, another 4.5km, where runners scan their bracelet one final time for the free bottle of Powerade.

My completely unscientific research, based solely on my own assumptions, makes me think that weekdays after 5pm are probably some of the busiest times for the challenge. That’s when I ran it on Thursday and there were a bunch of other blue-bracelet wearing runners out there, probably getting their after-work run in for the day. The fact that so many people run the challenge at the same time helps create a bit of a social atmosphere, even if you’re just doing it on your own and not talking to anyone else, because you see their bracelets and know you’re all running for the same reason. Awww, buddies.

By signing up for the challenge, you also get your own dashboard on the website, where you’re able to track all your runs (which get automatically logged on there) and check your progress. Plus, you can join teams and work towards a collective ranking, further adding to that competitive side of things. I logged that run on Strava, Nike+ and the Powerade website which makes me think all this self-tracking deal is getting a little out of hand.

If parking in downtown Auckland wasn’t such a challenge in itself, I’d probably do it even more often. But I’m still looking forward to taking the bracelet out a few more times before the end of June. I guess if I absolutely had to give some negative feedback about the challenge, I’d say that Powerade could very well promote their brand through the billboards and vending machines and bracelets and all that, but partner with the whiskey store for the whole free drinks part of the deal. Nothing against the blue sugary electrolytes, which tasted great after the run, but I’d run further (and potentially faster) if there were other options on offer.


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On being free to run (and do whatever else you want)

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I had plans to post something about my run from last Thursday today because, after feeling less than stellar for most of the weekend, I’m finally feeling okay. The problem was that I got sidetracked by DOS emulators and abandonware and ended up wasting spending the evening playing my favourite video games from when I was a kid (Micro Machines 2! Xenon II! Theme Hospital!). The whole blog post + gym evening plan was replaced with retro gaming + burgers + more retro gaming and so, here we are right now. I’ve warned you before that this is not a healthy living blog. And no, you can’t have your money back.

But where was I going with this? Oh, right. Last Thursday.

I’ll save you from looking it up – last Thursday was April 25th. April 25th is one of my favourite days of the year. It’s so so good it’s actually a public holiday both in Portugal and in New Zealand (and Australia), which means I get to be home and watch midweek TV (which always gives me a new sense of appreciation for my job) and I get to Skype family back home because they get a day off too, those lucky things.

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It’s a day off in both countries for different reasons, though. I’ll explain: New Zealand celebrates ANZAC day, a day which commemorates all Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought in World War II. Portugal celebrates the carnation revolution, the end of a dictatorship regime that lasted for 40 years and left some pretty big scars in the country.

My grandparents grew up in a dictatorship. We’re talking real dictatorship, not just a stricter-than-average government. These are not distant relatives I’m talking about either, this is the lady who taught me to tie my shoelaces and the man that, to this day, will slice bread for me so I don’t accidentally cut myself. They’re grandma and grandpa, who I talk to every week, who I grew up with. They weren’t allowed to speak their minds. Even my mum and dad lived a few years in that regime (although my dad’s only memory of the revolution is being sent home from school early). In 1974, after 40 years of oppression, everything changed and, every year, on April 25th, my country celebrates that, regardless of how shitty the economy and everything else is there at the moment (and, let me tell you, it’s pretty shitty). No other holiday is as important as this one (no, not even Pie Day) because when you have decades of not being free, you learn to appreciate your freedom.

Two things about this previous paragraph: it proves that you can learn stuff on Super Generic Girl (bet you didn’t expect that) and it serves as an explanation as to why my run on Thursday was so good.

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I headed to the bush early in the morning. It wasn’t even properly planned, but more of a “meh, let’s wake up and see what the day is like” kind of thing. There weren’t many people out on the trail yet so it was really nice and quiet for the first few kilometers. Running that trail gave me a chance to reflect on how we are so used to taking our freedom for granted, like it’s no big deal. That run was the best way I could think of to celebrate my freedom that morning. I mean, holyfreakingmothernature, look at the photos on this post. This is the halfway mark of my run on Sunday. If you don’t think this is the perfect spot to reflect on freedom or whatever else you feel like reflecting on, then we’re just going to have to agree to disagree, and you’re just going to have to be wrong.

The run also gave me a good excuse to go home and nap for the rest of the afternoon, which is pretty much the smartest and most logical way to spend a public holiday. Write that down too, that’s the second thing you’ve learned here today.

I’m all out of insightful stuff to say now. I’ve got some Jones in the Fast Lane to play. I swear I’ll go the gym tomorrow. Maybe.