super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Wharf 2 Wharf recap

The first time I ever entered a running event was two years ago, almost to the day. S. and I decided it was time to go from our little mid-week runs into more of a challenge and we signed up for the 12k version of the Wharf to Wharf version on Waiheke Island (and not just because we wanted an excuse to go to Waiheke Island). At the time, none of us had even run that far. It seemed like a big challenge, which really makes me think about how far we’ve come. We’ve entered dozens of events since then but Wharf to Wharf is the one that got me hooked onto crossing finish lines and so it has a special place in my heart (all together now: awwwww!).

Last year, a 24h flight delay in Las Vegas forced to to pull out of the event. I was at the airport in Vegas when S. texted me from the start line saying they were calling my name because I had signed up but failed to pick up my race pack and, even though I was in Vegas, my heart sank a little bit. I wanted to go back and run each one of those twelve kilometers again. And so today I did.

My memory of the course was, hmm, kind of a little bit distorted. I remembered that there were “a couple of hills”. My brain failed to remind that the whole course is in fact up and down a bunch of hills, with almost no flat areas. But it is beautiful. As in jaw-dropping breathtakingly go-tell-your-mother-she-needs-to-come-see-this kind of beautiful. So beautiful you don’t even care about the hills (much). It starts on the beach (like every run should start) and it ends on another beach (like every run should end). In the middle, just a whole lot of prettiness to distract you from the hills and the pain and the fact that you got up at 5:30AM on a Sunday and not many people would agree with you that that was a good idea.

I ended up bumping into people I knew and running it with more running buddies than I was expecting and even had the visit at the start line from a couple of friends who were staying on the island for the weekend. The social side of this event really is one of its strongest points (it’s a fairly small low-key event as far as races go but it brings together a really nice bunch of people, including adorable looking volunteers handing you water while wearing costumes).

But anyway. Holy ball of fire in the sky, it was hot. And muggy. Really stinking muggy. I supposed that’s as far as I’ll go talking about the weather. I’d complain about it if it had been too cold so I think I’ll just shut up now. It could actually have been much worse. The sun really only decided to come out to play once we crossed the finish line so hats off to whoever controls that stuff up there. Top work.

The other good news is that, unlike two years ago, I managed not to smash my iPod onto the ground right at the start line in Onetangi wharf (an iPod that was only 17 days old at the time and that lasted another year and a lot of running events but never got a new screen). The bad news is that the exercise-induced asthma symptoms I experienced earlier this year made a comeback. Assholes (yes, I’m attributing an adjective that somehow personifies a health symptom. It’s poetic. Just go with it). It awarded me some strange looks and “are you ok?” questions from passing runners and forced me to walk for a few hundred meters to start breathing normally again and convincing myself that no, I was absolutely not dying halfway up that hill. It also led me to make a mental note to add an inhaler to the list of things I’ll be carrying with me during the marathon.

Once I was over that little hiccup, the rest of the run was amazing. We crossed the finish line and headed straight to the water. Being able to do this is, in itself, a major reason to enter this event. More than that, I now consider the ability to go for a dip in the sea the new standard measurement by which all finish lines should be rated.

See you next year, Waiheke. Stay pretty.


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ADRA half marathon recap – the last minute PR

A sunrise. I don’t witness these things often but I’m told they happen every day and not just on race days.

YOU GUYS! I think I’ve got it. The secret to running a really good race can sometimes be a lot less to do with preparation, training and tapering and a lot more to do with just chilling the heck out and heading into it without much planning.

Well, maybe. Don’t listen to me, ok? My only doctorate is in kitty cuddles and even that one is just honorary. But the fact is that the experience from last weekend showed me exactly that and I’m going with empirical knowledge here. So let’s recap, shall we?

I headed over to the Auckland Domain on Saturday to walk with Kim Allan (an experience I will hopefully be posting about in the next few days, once I can come up with the right adjectives to describe her epic feat). I wasn’t the only one there. Kim had the support of lots of other people, runners and non-runners, and, for a few hours, we all became our own little group of friends. One of the guys I was talking to mentioned the ADRA half marathon that was going to be on the following day in Mission Bay. I had read about it but decided against it a couple of weeks before. However, as he started telling me more about how nice a course it was and how the weather looked like it’d be perfect for it, I started feeling the bug bite. Knowing I absolutely had to get out of the house for a long run on Sunday anyway, as part of my less than stellar marathon training, I figured having some extra motivation wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Living in Auckland sometimes makes you forget not everyone can run alongside views like this one. Volcanoes are awesome.

On paper, it wasn’t a brilliant idea but that’s never stopped me before. I’d run 4 times that week and ended up walking 16km that Saturday (and getting sunburnt in the process). Tapering was non-existent. The only thing I had time to do, as far as preparation for a race goes, was a pasta meal for dinner on Saturday night, just in case. I didn’t even know for sure whether I’d be able to run it. Registrations had closed online so my only chance was to drive there at OMG o’clock on Sunday morning and check if I could register on the day. So I inhaled my pasta, used the potential half marathon as an excuse to have a bucket load of ice cream and set my alarm for 5AM (when 5AM was only about 5 hours away).

I thought to myself that if the alarm went off and I didn’t feel up for it, there’d be plenty of other half marathons to run and I could still go for a long run later on in the day. But then 5AM came around and I jumped out of bed with the usual race-day excitement. I left home while it was still dark and crossed fingers that they’d still take my registration. Of course the title of this post alone tells you they did and, at 7AM, I had my bib pinned on my shirt and was lining up at the start line with a bunch of other runners. My kind of sunday morning!

The route followed Auckland’s waterfront from Mission Bay to St Heliers and back to the Port (where we looped around back to Mission Bay) and was similar to the Cathay Pacific half marathon I ran earlier this year. There were only a couple of hills at the start (Cliff Road and I have a love-hate relationship but only in the sense that I love to hate it) but most of the course was nice and flat. The stunning weather was a welcome gift too, especially since Auckland has this habit of giving us a good week only to then present us with a stupidly wet weekend.

There were some times when I felt the tiredness that comes with not tapering but I was feeling strong enough to know I could finish. When I got close to the 16km mark, I realised I had a chance to get a personal record on this one. I got a little too excited about it and considered my chances of a sub-2h but quickly dismissed it. As nice as the course was, my legs felt heavy and tired (handy tip: do not walk 16km in the sun the day before running 21km) and I was not doing my best at pacing myself either. I was just happy with the possibility of beating the 2:05 I had been sitting on since the Whenuapai half marathon back in April.

I swear not all photos of myself have me in running clothes soaked in sweat. No, really.

And I did beat it. 2:03:06 is not quite the sub-2h I keep chasing but I am now 2 minutes closer to it then I was before this last minute decision to run this race. It was also a pretty good little confidence boost for marathon training. I celebrated the best possible way, by having a nap, and now I’m preaching the benefits of not over-thinking (or even thinking) running events and just going for it on the day. Maybe there is some truth to Nike’s slogan after all.


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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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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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Kerikeri half-marathon recap

sunrise in paihia. me and a sunrise - doesn't happen often.

On Friday evening, three days after returning from Samoa, S. picked me up and we started our approximately 3 hour journey up to Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. We stay at a lovely hotel, thanks to S. finding an amazing deal on a website a month or two ago. We were so excited about having a little roadtrip and a weekend away just for ourselves, I had hardly thought about the real reason we were driving up. Until a few hours before when it really hit me that OMG we were going to be doing it all over again: 21.1km of pain and excitement and sore muscles and content all mashed together.

After getting to the hotel later that evening, we laid out our running gear, prepared our running snacks (jelly beans and a mix of nuts, that I didn’t even end up eating) and got in bed after setting the alarm for 6:03 (to give us time to snooze for five minutes until 6:07 – don’t ask!).

We jumped out of bed on Saturday morning, got ready and took the (roughly) 2km walk to the Paihia ferry building where the bus to the start line was waiting for us. We got to see the sunrise as we were walking down the hill and along the waterfront and it was around then that I started getting super excited about the day.

I was pretty optimistic about this run, mainly because the website said it was a mostly downhill course. I may have gotten overly excited about the word downhill and it wasn’t exactly as I expected. Right at the start, there were two quite big uphills that, along with the sun aiming for the invisible bullseye on the top of our heads, made for a pretty uncomfortable first couple of kilometres. But it did get better.

The first 6km were spent trying to get comfortable and from then on, I managed to get in the zone and just enjoy the course. We were running through backcountry roads with lovely green farms around us and the sun was shining (at times a little too strongly) so life was pretty good. I wore my hydration pack (nerdiest accessory ever?) which was handy because it meant I could run past all the water stations. It did clog up a couple of times, which was weird, and it leaked for a while, leaving a big wet patch on my lower back (so sexy, I know!).

At the 15km mark, I felt myself starting to get a little tired. The “maybe I could walk just for a few seconds” thoughts started to appear and I really didn’t want to walk. I had the jelly beans and nuts mix in the hydration pack but had put a Gu in the pocket of my running pants. It was the first time I ever tried Gu (after a last minute decision to rush out and buy a couple the day before). I’m not sure it did anything for me, to be honest. The vanilla bean taste wasn’t as bad as I’d read it would be and I did stop thinking about walking but it’s not like I ran any faster or anything. I think it had the same effect a couple of jelly beans would have had and it was way messier to eat than those so not sure I’ll be having it again.

The second half of the course was considerably better than the first and it did include a few downhill bits as promised. There were also a lot more people cheering us on during the second half, as we got closer and closer to Kerikeri, which really helped (to the little boy that was giving all the runners high fives, you made my next few hundred metres a lot easier!).

Around the 17km mark, I finished off the Gu and, for some stupid reason, also lost the ability to get any water out of my hydration pack (there may have been a couple of swearwords involved, as I tried to get the damn thing to work). In the end, I just gave up on water completely.

The highlight of the run was seeing another km marker in the distance and thinking “oh, good, that must be the 19km mark” and then getting closer and realising that I was wrong and it was actually the 20km mark! That never ever happens (the opposite, unfortunately, happens to me quite often). I think there may have been an out loud “YES!” at the sight of that marker.

The run finished inside Kerikeri domain. I’m not a fan of running on grass and those final 100m are always the hardest but I was super happy to see the finish line and realise that I had done it again.

we know how to celebrate in style. well, kinda.

We celebrated with hot chips and a couple of beers, sitting in the sun waiting for prize giving to start. The bus then took us back to Paihia where we spent the rest of the day lounging around the pool, eating yummy food and napping, before having one of the earliest nights ever (in bed by 8:55pm, I got a glimpse into what life as an elderly lady will be like).

On sunday morning, I woke up to a whole lot of muscle pain. I spent the day looking like a 70 year-old who had been in a coma and was now re-learning to walk. The weather was amazing, though, and after treating ourselves to some good food, we made our way back to Auckland, stopping over at one of the best beaches I’ve ever found in New Zealand, where we took time to stretch some more.

pretty beach is pretty!

All in all, this was a great half-marathon. I am pretty keen to return to Kerikeri and run the same course again. I managed to beat my time from my first half-marathon in Taupo (albeit in much different conditions this time) and I know I can do even better than I did this time. We are now in the process of choosing a half-marathon to run sometime within the first three months of 2012 (one of the four we’re planning to run next year!) and I know it will be better. Unlike this time, we’ll actually train and be prepared for it. I was definitely not fit enough to do this half-marathon this time (and my body is now reminding me of it with every movement). We didn’t follow a training plan (despite having good intentions), most of our runs were about 5km or 6km only and we ran a grand total of approximately 10km in the two weeks leading to the half. Not ideal.

I feel like it my lack of training could have easily turned this into a nightmare and put me off running for a good while but, luckily, that wasn’t the case at all. I’m super pumped about the idea of picking another half-marathon, drawing up a training plan and do a few long runs leading up to race day. Roll on 2012!