super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


12 Comments

That time I started a race after everyone else and found a new favourite trail

Photo by Allan Ure - photos4sale.co.nz

Photo by Allan Ure – photos4sale.co.nz

XTERRA Waharau last Sunday had all the ingredients to be the perfect shitstorm. Instead, it was one of my favourite trails ever.

Let’s recap and maybe it’ll make sense (although, I’m telling you right now, it’s unlikely).

Due to being on a really tight schedule of not giving a crap about anything that week, I failed to read the organisers’ emails with instructions for the event day and didn’t even check the course map. As a result, I didn’t know the exact length I was supposed to run, not even while I was running it. For someone who’s been entering an average of an event a month (often more) for the last two and a half years, you think I’d have my shit together by now. Nope.

I also failed to check how long to get to Waharau from home until I got in the car in the morning to drive to Waharau. It was 45 minutes to race time (because I’m super talented when it comes to stuff like ignoring my alarm) and the GPS told me the event base was over an hour away. Also, the car told me it had 60km worth of petrol in the tank, which would most definitely not take me to the event base. The 45min I had to do a trip of over an hour had to include a stop at the petrol station where the man behind the counter tried to sell me all sorts of add-ons instead of just taking my card and charging me for the petrol. I may or may not have asked him to “please just hurry up”. And no, I do not want those two chocolate bars for only $2 even though that does sound like a pretty good deal, thank you.

You know where this is headed now, right? Yep, shitsville, that’s where. No matter how hard I tried to make up some time on the road (safer communities together and stuff), of course the race had started by the time I arrived. For the first time in my life (after a very close call at the Auckland Quarter Marathon two years ago), I pinned my bib on my shirt, put the timing chip on my shoe and started a race completely on my own (one of the organisers was nice enough to allow me to start rather than making me wait and do the short course instead, which would start about half an hour later).

I started running seven minutes behind everyone else, which was pretty freaking depressing if you ask me (and I know you didn’t but now you know). But I got over that pretty quickly and found a whole new thing to be depressed about: the brutal hill ahead.

You don’t even want to know the quality of the words that came through my mind as I was faced with that hill right at the start. But they were far nicer words than the ones my mind came up with when I found a whole new hill on top of that one. And then another one. The higher I climbed, the lower my mind sank. The “what am I even doing here? I hate running!” thoughts appeared around about then, probably the result of combining an incredibly hilly trail with running on an empty stomach.

But you know what’s on top of a hill? The start of a downhill. In Waharau, after some rain in the days before, it was the start of a steep technical and very muddy downhill that went on for about 5km to the finish line. And I loved every second of it. The further down I got, the higher my runners’ high reached. In a few minutes, I went from “how am I going to tell everyone that I actually hate running?” to “OMFGWTFBBQ RUNNING IS AWESOME!” again. It wasn’t the easiest downhill course ever but my faithful companions behaved impeccably and there wasn’t a single butt-landing to describe on this post (sorry, not sorry). By the time I spotted the finish line, I didn’t even want the run to end, a giant shift from how I felt about it closer to the start.

After the finish, I got to catch up with a bunch of lovely familiar faces and say goodbye to this year’s famous XTERRA sausages + beer combo, which ended up being breakfast for me that morning (as per usual, seriously hoping you didn’t come here for healthy living advice). The runners’ high lasted a few hours after that and I have now found my new favourite trail in Auckland – one I cannot wait to go back and explore.

See you next year for some more muddy fun, XTERRA. You make my Winter days a whole lot happier.


99 Comments

It’s my birthday so I’ve got a gift for you

Did you notice how great yesterday was? That’s because it was my birthday.

(Also, little bit of free useless trivia for you, it was also Left Handers Day so, being left handed, I use that as an excuse to celebrate twice as hard every year. Keep that in mind when you think about buying me only one gift next year.)

I kind of love birthdays. It’s like a second chance to start on (and likely fail at) the resolutions you forgot about four days into the new year.

Also, presents and attention. I’m a sucker for both of those.

With most of my friends galavanting around the Northern Hemisphere on their incredibly poorly-timed holidays (those bastards), this birthday is a bit quieter. But it was still pretty good. It included lunch with friends in the sun (with the weather even tricking me into thinking I was having my birthday in the correct hemisphere), cool gifts, flowers, cute cards and a really nice dinner. It also included an early morning run, which even Nike was amazed at.

Weird, I know, Nike.

Weird, I know, Nike.

This birthday morning run was just one of the many responsible grown up things I’ve done in the last few hours. I’m way wiser now, you guys. Like, totally a grownup. For the first time in months, I was in bed before midnight, another “responsible grown up” move I made in the first few hours of this new, wiser age.

But wait, there’s more responsible grownup stuff. Mum gave me full access to her credit card to buy myself a nice gift. Young and cray-cray SGG, given access to this sort of thing, would have been all over the Christian Louboutin site checking the shipping options to New Zealand. This newer wiser version of me, however, didn’t even get to triple digits and spent money on things like running shorts and a new yoga mat. I could almost hear mum’s sigh of relief from this side of the world when I forwarded her the purchase confirmation email.

Oh, and I opened a business bank account. How’s that for grownup? Sure, I have no idea what to do with it and I’m dreading my first tax return filing deadline thingy, but I’m now officially a “solopreneur” which is a really fancy way of saying I’m responsible for finding my own income every month, which is equal parts exciting and terrifying.

(Actually, it’s mostly just terrifying but I’m trying to keep this upbeat so play along and don’t ruin my birthday post, please.)

The other thing that comes with being a much wiser, mature and responsible adult is the ability to accept that other people can have nice things too and it’s ok if someone gets something nice for free and you don’t get it too. Apparently.

I think you’ve noticed I love a bright running outfit. Bright running gear makes me happy and anything that makes me happy should make you happy because otherwise you’re a jerk who wants me to be unhappy and no one likes jerks like that. So don’t do it.

Knowing how much I love my bright Pro Compression socks, the lovely folks at Pro Compression decided SGG readers should get another gift, even though it’s my birthday and not yours. Trust Pro Compression to teach me this invaluable lesson about maturity and selflessness (and missing out on free socks).

One of the lovely people who were patient enough to read this entire post will win a pair of Pro Compression Marathon Socks – a sweet, sweet gift valued at US$50. You get to choose which ones you want but if I see you wearing the retro ones and I don’t have a pair of my own yet, then we’ll have problems (how awesome are those? I KNOW!).

Old photo because I couldn’t be bothered taking a new one and, really, they’re the same damn socks.

I’m going to make this really easy for you. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me what kickass thing you think I should do in the next 364 days before I reach the big three-oh. Did you do anything super cool in your twenties? Are you still in your twenties? Have you got long to go before your thirties? If you said yes to that last one, I don’t think I like you that much. But anyway, tell me everything! I’m going to leave the giveaway open until 21 August and you come back and comment as many times as you like. Each comment is an entry so the more ideas you give me, the more chances you have to win.

Clearly, the older I turn the nicer I become – I bet you can’t wait for next year!

Well, I can, so settle down.

Now, the not-so-fine print:
– Pro Compression is sponsoring this giveaway because they’re awesome. This means they’re providing you with the socks but that’s where the deal ends. They don’t pay me to tell you they’re awesome.   But they are.
– This giveaway is open to anyone anywhere in the world. Yes, even you. I live right at the bottom of the world and their socks get to me which means they can get anywhere on the planet.


20 Comments

Taupo gave me ALL the feelings!

YOU GUYS. It’s been a while. How are you? Tell me later, we need to talk about me now.

Here’s the deal: I went to Taupo a couple of weekends ago and ran a half marathon. I haven’t told you all about it yet because I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about it, rather than hitting caps lock and using all the swear words I know.

I wanted to run Taupo again because it had been my very first half marathon, two years ago, and since it was about to become number 13 too, it couldn’t have been that bad the first time. You see, there is some logic in all of this.

So I got on the road for four and a half hours on Saturday afternoon, ran the half on Sunday morning and got back to Auckland on Sunday afternoon. In between those two car trips, I had all the emotions.

On one hand, I ran a new personal best (2:02:31). On the other hand, I learned that, if you’re an idiot like me, a personal best isn’t the best result and can actually leave you pretty pissed off. But also happy, because you know, it’s still a personal best. But not the personal best you wanted, damn it. But yay, shiny new PB! But sucks, not the goal PB. You see the mess in my head? Do you get why I waited over a week to talk about this? So many feelings! So much to bitch about!

feel-all-the-feelings

It’s all my fault, really (as usual). I kind of set myself up for that disappointment. My knee still occasionally hurts, I knew from experience that the course wasn’t exactly a fast one and I am at the lowest point of my physical fitness since I started this whole running deal (courtesy of an injury, a fair bit of laziness and a giant bucket of stress lately). This is also the fourth half marathon I ran this year and that I’ve signed up for within two weeks of race day which, as I’ve mentioned before, isn’t exactly something I’d recommend.

None of those things are the real problem, though. I can live with being unfit and stressed – I can fix unfit and stressed. But I can’t fix stupid. Clearly.

This sort of stupidity, for example, involves telling everyone – and myself – that I’m just going to take it easy, while, at the same time, going onto an online pace calculator and writing down a goal time (1:58:59 please and thank you) to get an idea of how fast I’ll have to run to get a sub-2h. You know, just in case.

But dreams are free and all of that. The problem really only started being a problem when, that Sunday morning, while in the car on my way to the start line, I decided to get a pen out and write those goal times on my arm. If you asked me to pinpoint the precise second when things turned to shit, that would have been it. Writing those times on my arm meant a change of attitude. I was admitting to myself (and to whoever looked at my arm wondering what the hell that was) that I wasn’t running for fun but with a goal in mind. A goal I was obviously not prepared to reach.

look_marge

BUT YOU GUYS. I came close. So god damn close it ended up being my best half marathon time so far (only by one minute but I’ll take it). The fact that I came so close when I’m this unfit should be enough to make me happy. So why the hell was I so disappointed when I crossed that finish line?

I’ve given this a bit of thought over the last few days and there’s only one logical explanation: I’m an idiot.

The run itself actually went pretty well, for the most part. I ran my fastest 5km, my fastest 10km and my fastest 15km, all a few seconds faster than the times written on my arm. Then, at 18km, it all turned to crap. My ITB pain made an extraordinary appearance and forced me to slow all the way down to walking pace. I had a friend waiting for me at the finish line with a chocolate donut and not even trying to bribe myself with it made me keep going so that should give you an idea of how painful it was.

I walked a few hundred meters but kept my lifelong decision to never walk across a finish line so made sure to run that final bit. And then I stopped and, for the first time, I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. So I was both.

We're not talking about whatever it is that is going on with my shorts. Focus on the fact that I have a medal. And I'm not crying (except on the inside).

We’re not talking about whatever it is that is going on with my shorts. Focus on the fact that I have a medal. And I’m not crying (except on the inside).

The good news is that I’m now one minute closer to that sub-2h so all I have to do is actually get off my ass and train a bit and maybe try to aim for a half marathon that isn’t happening in just a couple of weeks. You know, the way smart people do things. I should probably try that.


35 Comments

Five things Star Wars can teach you about endurance running

chewbacca

(I can almost sense you rolling your eyes at this but do bear with me because I’ve given this way more thought than I’m prepared to admit.)

I went to see the One Man Star Wars show on Friday night and it wasn’t actually the lamest thing on Earth, which was what I had mentally prepared for. It was pretty funny so if you’re a bit of a Star Wars fan and can go see it, you should. Then you can do the same thing I did afterwards: go out for dinner and figure out how many Star Wars quotes you get into the conversation before it stops making sense (surprisingly, quite a few).

Since there’s absolutely nothing I can’t relate to running these days, of course I’m writing a post relating Star Wars to endurance running. Star Wars is awesome and full of wisdom and it totally relates to endurance running (and not just in the sense that I sound like Darth Vader when running uphill). You might think this makes no sense, and you’re probably right, but be nice and read on because I made a list for you:

1. Endurance running requires a lot of patience

“I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.” – Yoda

Poor Yoda is a fountain of wisdom but has trouble teaching Luke Skywalker because Luke is a bit impatient. Good thing Luke is a Jedi because he’d be shit at endurance running if he was a regular human being. For us, regular folk, endurance running is about “relentless forward progress” and it’s not something you can get to immediately but rather something you work hard towards achieving. If you don’t have the patience to wait a long time before seeing any big results, you’re better off pursuing an interest that is a little less challenging, like Candy Crush Saga or something. Yoda knows this. Clever little cookie, he is.

2. The harder the training, the bigger the benefits

“Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

The path to becoming an endurance runner is filled with amazing long runs but also a fair deal of pretty shitty I-might-just-turn-around-and-run-back-home-and-eat-some-cake-instead runs. I know that because I’ve had my fair share of both, and have painful memories of some of the bad ones. Bad runs willl only make you a better, smarter endurance runner (or, at least, that’s what I tell myself). It’s only by making mistakes that you can learn not to make them again. We’ve all been there. We’ve all assumed mint chocolate Gu gels wouldn’t taste like crap. The point is: the tougher the run, the steeper the hill, the more you’ll get out of conquering it. Even if you feel like vomiting your energy gel halfway up the damn thing, you know you’ll be much stronger at the top than you were at the bottom. Easy runs, as nice as they might be, won’t give you nearly as much in return.

3. Believe you can and you’re halfway there

Luke: “I don’t believe it.” Yoda: “That is why you fail.”

It wasn’t that long ago that I used to think that people who said stuff like “believe you can and you’re halfway there” were full of shit but then I went and ran a god damn marathon, which I finished even though I got an inflamed IT band right at the halfway point (that proceeded to drive me to tears for weeks). The run was incredibly hard (not just because I was hurt but also because, in retrospect, I don’t think you can call a couple of slow long runs “training for a marathon”). I honestly can’t believe I actually crossed that finish line and didn’t just ask someone to pick me up from the side of the road instead. If I tried to run a marathon today, I’d fail miserably. That day, however, not finishing was not an option, because of how much I visualised myself finishing, both during the run and the few days before that. When you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous how little actual physical fitness has to do with it. My point – or rather, Yoda’s point – is that if you tell yourself you’re going to run a freaking marathon, you bet your ass you’re going to run it right to the end, even if your leg hurts so much you feel like you’re crippling yourself in the process.

4. Make your own path

“You must unlearn what you have learned.” – Yoda

There is so much advice out there about what good running is that it’s hard to keep up and for every theory there’s another one contradicting the first. Don’t make the mistake of blindly following advice from magazines or any of those places (definitely don’t take advice from me because I really have no clue about anything, in general). Forget everything you’ve read, listen to your body and do what feels right. If three bags of jelly beans is what you need to eat at 6am to get you through your long run, then enjoy the hell out of those jelly beans (except the black ones, they’re disgusting, throw them out). Who cares if you’re running barefoot or in running shoes? No one cares, really. And you shouldn’t either. Run as fast or as slow as it makes you happy, as often as you feel like it, wearing whatever you want. You don’t have to drink green smoothies or protein shakes to be a good runner or even do a single fartlek in your entire life (you can and should, however, drop the word fartlek into every possible conversation, because why wouldn’t you?).

5. Do it

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

Of course you could see this one coming from miles away (from a galaxy far, far away? Ok, I’ll stop now). The attitude endurance runners have towards running kind of mirrors the attitude people who have their lives together have about life (I mean, I guess. I don’t know. Ask them). But really, the only way I’m going to run an ultramarathon in OMFG 227 DAYS! is by convincing myself that it is definitely going to happen. I’m not going to “try to run it”. I’m going to smash the damn thing, even if I stay on this Whittaker’s chocolate diet I’ve been on and become the first Jabba the Hutt-shaped human to do so. And now I’ve got 227 days to convince myself of what I just said.


24 Comments

I could totally be a morning runner if mornings started at 11am

A friend of mine succumbed to my constant nagging and took up running a while ago. Great news, right?

Yeah. For him.

Every morning, EVERY SINGLE GOD DAMN MORNING, I get to hear him tell me all about the glorious runs that he goes on before going to work, giving me the opportunity to scratch “feel like a complete loser” off my to do list before I’ve even had the chance to properly wake up.

notcranky

Since I apparently hate money, we also somehow had this stupid bet going for a couple of weeks, which involved seeing whether I could make it out of bed for a morning run like him. For every day that I failed, I had to buy him a hot chocolate so of course that meant he got a whole bunch of free hot chocolates (which, according to him, tasted like victory and marshmallows), since not even the thought of having to spend yet another $4 on hot chocolate that I don’t even get to drink was enough to get my ass out of bed.

Luckily he took pity on me and the bet came to an end before I had to start digging any further into my life savings so my future children are safe (and by future children I mean my future 10 cats).

His enthusiastic running reports, however, haven’t ended. Every morning, while I struggle not to throw my hot cup of coffee at his face out of pure jealousy (I know, I think I’m delightful too), I tell myself that one of these days I, too, like any other proper human being, will be able to get out of bed and run before work and then I, too, will be able to stand around the office kitchen telling people about how I’ve been up for hours getting stuff done, instead of getting showered, ready and out of the door in a grand total of about 13 minutes.

Two nights ago, I took extreme measures to make sure there was absolutely no possible way in hell I’d be standing there the next morning, once again, quietly admitting defeat. Here’s a list of what I did to ensure my morning run plan would be successful:

  • I slept in my running clothes.
  • I placed my running shoes carefully by the side of the bed, right where I could see them from my pillow.
  • I put my phone-slash-alarm clock away on top of a chest of drawers instead of on my bedside table, to force me to get up to turn it off in the morning.
  • I changed the alarms to louder, more annoying ringtones, and added really mean self-bullying written messages to show up on the screen every time the alarm went off.
  • I had my running watch and iPod right on my bedside table so they could be the first things I’d see.
  • I left the curtains slightly open so that, if the first few alarms failed to wake me up, I’d at least get up around sunrise and have time for a 5k.
  • I didn’t even read before bed and instead just turned the light off and tried to go the hell to sleep straight away.

It was the perfect plan. There was just no way it could fail.

Fast forward a few (not enough) hours, and the stupid alarm was going off. I dragged myself out of bed, turned it off, noticed I was wearing running clothes, remembered my absolutely fail-proof plan, thought “screw that” and went back to sleep.

So tell me, internet, you with all the answers: what the fresh hell is wrong with me?

It can’t be laziness because I will happily jump out of bed at 5am on a weekend for a long run. Also, I once sat through an entire Nicole Kidman movie and didn’t even try to kill myself so I know I’m tough, I know I’ve got what it takes. So what’s my mental block with runs before work? WHAT THE HELL IS IT? And what do you do to get your butt out of bed for mid-week runs? Did you have to replace your mattress with a bed of nails? Because maybe, just maybe, that’d work for me!

For now, I think I’m just going to finally let go of years of failed attempts at this whole morning run business. It’s obviously not for me and, frankly, if enjoying my warm bed in the morning is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

8920016I_Am_Not_a_Morning_Person

Just kidding. I totally want to be right. All the time.

I sort of made up for it a little bit by packing up my running gear and finally going back to the Adidas running club that I hadn’t been to in months. That one is in the afternoon so it’d be hard to come up with an excuse not to go, after the morning’s spectacular failure. I punished myself by running way faster than my chocolate-fueled body can take at the moment and finished the 5km run feeling like my internal organs were trying to squeeze themselves out of my body via my throat. I’m no doctor but I’d say this is a less than desired state of affairs for someone who’s supposed to be training for an ultramarathon. Still, afternoon running is better than no running and I’m happy to report that, after boring the hell out of all of you with my excuses not to run, I’m back to putting some decent weekly mileage on my shoes.

In case you’re crazy enough to think I might not be a complete lost cause, do feel free to share your tricks to make mid-week morning runs a reality. I’ll have a good hard think about all of them, probably while I’m hitting the snooze button from the comfort of my bed.


9 Comments

In defense of lazy days

It’s obviously pretty hard to maintain a running blog when you’re not doing much running at all but I thought it was about time I logged on to clean up some cobwebs around here, while I procrastinate on some actual paid writing work I have to get done.

I was even supposed to have a race recap to write today but I didn’t actually start the race. Sad, I know. I was too. Then I heard it was all on loose sand and now, frankly, I’m not feeling quite so bad about it.

Still, this morning, I got up early to run the XTERRA run in Woodhill. I got dressed and ready to get out and head over to the forest for the run. About 15 minutes into this weird auto-pilot mode, I realised there was no way in hell I was going to drag my hungover ass for about 15km up and down that forest, after a very late night at a friend’s birthday party. I mean, I do some pretty stupid stuff but we’d be trying to redefine stupid right now, if I’d done that.

Since I was already in my running gear, though, I decided to punish myself with a road run. I managed not to throw up for the entire 10km but did feel like I was sweating vodka (lovely, I know), which confirmed that my decision not to head to Woodhill was a wise one. Wise decisions aren’t something I’m known for so excuse me while I pat myself on the back for that one.

As bad as I feel about this morning’s DNS (only my second ever since I started entering running events at a rate of about 1 per month for the last 3 years), I know it was actually a smart decision and, you know, you gotta know when to stop do what’s best for your health and all that. Jesus Christ, I’m such a freaking grownup sometimes. 

But also, I just haven’t really felt like running much lately. And you know what? If I feel like sitting on my ass instead of running for a few days, I’m gonna go ahead and sit on my ass and you’re not going to make me feel guilty about it, internet. Did you hear me, people on Pinterest? Get off my back with your motivational crap.

vegetatemyfatass

Oh dear. Now I really hope you didn’t come here looking for some running motivation. Put your pyjama pants back on, you’re all invited to my pity party.

It’s not all bad, though. Things actually started changing again this week and the mileage of the last few days is almost back to the usual levels but the truth is that the graph for this month’s mileage looks pretty damn miserable. I didn’t actually run at all for the first five days of the month. Five entire days without running, for no reason other than “meh, running schmunning”. I allowed myself a break because, well, I felt like it.

That five-day hiatus was, however, broken mostly because I was (not so) kindly invited out the door for a run because I was apparently getting a little too grumpy to be around other human beings.  I was about to start a “WHO ARE YOU CALLING GRUMPY?!” speech but immediately saw the point and proceeded to dutifully lace up my running shoes. Off I went to get my sweat on and, of course, a mere half an hour later, the world was full of rainbows again. I hate it when other people are right.

peoplewhatabunchofbastard

My point still stands, though. Sure, running is amazing and stops me from wanting to murder people. But I shouldn’t feel pressured to run, or I’ll risk falling out of love with it. The thing that helps you deal with stress should never be a cause of stress. It can be just a phase and it’s ok to allow yourself a break. I mean, if I’m going to get all stressed out about how I’m not doing enough of what helps me deal with stress, then there’s a really serious flaw in my plan.

And I’m not the only one who thinks that. The company I technically still work for even though they made a bunch of us redundant (TOTALLY NOT BITTER!), arranged for us to have this “outplacement support” sessions with a coach who’s supposed to be helping us find a new direction and gear us up for our next job and understand the meaning of life and all that stuff. I had my first session this week and the lady talked me through the stages of grief in job loss. Since I’ve got two sessions to go, I’m not going to say a damn thing about what I think of it. No, no a word. Stop insisting. But in any case, the lady showed me a list of things people do in order to deal with grief and stress and asked me what I was doing and what I normally do to deal with a stressful situation. So I told her. I told her about the running, and the bikram and the baking sessions and how I haven’t really done much of any of those things lately and have, instead, replaced it all with a giant load of nothing, while getting angry at people who say I should be doing something (like, you know, running) because doing nothing is suiting me just fine right now thankyouverymuch.

I realised the level of my bitchiness as soon as the words came out of my mouth but, by then, it was too late. She was lovely and understanding and even managed to find a way to praise my decision to slow down, calling it “responsible”. HAHAHA, “decision”. Oh lady. There was no “decision”. There’s been a lot of sitting on the couch with a family-sized bar of chocolate thinking about how I should probably-maybe-perhaps-who-knows be running instead. Next thing you know, it’s midnight and the next day comes again and I find myself “deciding” to sit on the couch with another chocolate bar. I’ve been talking myself out of runs with the same ease Lindsay Lohan talks herself out of rehab. And you know what? That’s fine. Well, for me, not for Lindsay. Get your shit together, Lindsay.

The point is: I don’t need your stupid guilt, Pinterest. I’m not interested in your silly fitspiration, internet. Am I even saying it right? Fitspiration? I don’t actually care. Making me feel guilty about not running is not going to make me head out for a run any faster, it’s only going to make me feel bitter about running, which is the last thing that can happen because then who’ll populate the internet with angry posts filled with annoying animated gifs (other that, you know, everyone else)?

But I now feel like I’ve gone through my bout of chocolate-fueled laziness and, if this week is anything to go by (excluding the DNS from this morning), I’m ready to up my numbers again. I even managed one morning run before work, a true sign that my commitment to this whole thing is coming back.

tumblr_mobb6y1bB51ql5yr7o1_500

In the mean time, while I make sure my running mojo is back to stay, here’s some cool running-related stuff, in bullet points because I really need to move over to the next tab and get writing about the stuff I’m actually being paid to write:

Cliffy was on TV here last weekend and it’s a really lovely movie. Not entirely sure how anyone as badass as Cliff Young can be so sweet but he’s so cute I just wanted to put him in my pocket. Metaphorically. Calm down.

– Just in case you’ve been living under a rock or took a holiday to a different galaxy, the Oatmeal posted his best comic ever this week. Of course it’s about running. In case I’m speaking to the only person on earth who has not read it yet, go read it like 3 or 4 times in a row right now.

– My little Portuguese heart nearly burst with pride when Carlos Sá won the Badwater Ultramarathon this week. A few hours later, my little adopted-kiwi heart got all happy again when kiwi Amy Campbell crossed the finish line of the same grueling race and set a new NZ record for that course.

– While I was busy not running and not writing about running, I somehow got into this Reader’s Choice list of Top 100 running blogs, which includes a long list of blogs written by people who’ve actually been getting off their asses.


12 Comments

When all else fails, go for a run. Or don’t. Whatever, I’m not your mother.

IMG_20130629_095237

Oh hi. How’s it going? Me? Well, funny you should ask. It’s been a shitty few days.

But you know, doors closing, windows opening and all that jazz.

In the mean time, like any proper unemployed freelancing journalist, I’ve been busy buying shoes. Not exactly the type of shoes I grew used to buying in times of emotional crisis but the rough looking trail running shoes you see in the image above (taken when they were about 15 hours old and duly christened out in the Waitakere ranges).

When all else fails, go running amirite? I’m sure there’s some motivational poster crap out there on the internet saying that.

Well, that’s not strictly how I’ve been dealing with it, but this is a running blog so on with the running stuff. I picked the shoes up on Friday, after about 36 hours without sleeping (I’M FINE, YOU GUYS, REALLY!), and tested them out on the trails bright and early (except not bright) on Saturday with Steven and Martin. It was precisely zero degrees when I got in the car to drive there to meet them but I didn’t completely hate them for picking that time. Then we started out on the trail and it was really steep and I still didn’t hate them for picking that route. I was still hungover, hadn’t had any breakfast, was running really slow and they also didn’t hate me for any of those things. Once we got to the top and started running down, I went from “not hating” it to actually kind of loving it and ended up having a great time getting the new shoes muddy and disgusting, as they should be.

And then came Sunday and, with it, another early morning to drive out to Waiuku for the third XTERRA run of the season. It was cold and foggy and the drive was long and I spent some of it making a mental list of things I’d rather be doing instead of driving to Waiuku (turns out, quite a few things). But then I got there, picked up my bib and timing chip and hardened the hell up.

IMG_20130630_211648

XTERRA runs never fail to wake anyone up, not even me. Barely one kilometer into it and I was loving it. Then came the soft sand and I wasn’t loving it so much. I was hating it. In fact, no, wait. Hate isn’t even a strong enough verb to describe how strongly I feel about running on soft sand. You pick a better verb, I’m unemployed. I don’t have to. It was also super foggy which meant the awesome views over Port Waikato were actually just a thick blanket of white stuff. Did I mention the soft sand? And it was freezing! And soft sand. Soft sand everywhere!

Then why the hell did I enjoy it so much? I have no idea. But there you have it. The next XTERRA is on July 21 in Woodhill Forest and you can still sign up and come get muddy too. There probably won’t be as much sand involved this time.

Surely not.

Please let there not be any soft sand.

Regardless, these two trail runs ended up doing wonders for my sanity (if very little for my sleep deprivation). So those idiotic motivational posters on Pinterest might not actually be completely wrong. When your magazine closes down and you’re out of a job, go get some mud on those shoes. You’ll probably feel better if you do.

 


11 Comments

What are you thinking about?

IMG_8242

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


9 Comments

Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel – book review

Never-Wipe-Your-Ass-with-a-Squirrel-by-Jason-Robillard

I didn’t realise Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel was such a recent release (April 2013) until about two minutes ago when I searched for some extra information about it to write this review. But look at me, being all early-adopter and stuff.

I bought the book on May 22nd, according to my Amazon account history, after virtually wandering around Amazon searching for books on trail running, days before signing up for my first ultra. The title grabbed me, and not just because it has the word “ass” in it (I’m not that juvenile, really). The full title is actually pretty long: Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel – A Trail and Ultramarathon Running Guide for Weird Folks.

Weird folk, that’s me.

Jason Robillard, the author, is known in the running community for his Barefoot Running University website and for his previous book, The Barefoot Running Book. He’s also known for having pretty much my dream life (writing and running for a living). Don’t you just want to hate him a little bit?

No, you don’t. Because, number one, your mum was right and that’s ugly. Number two: he actually has some pretty good advice to give.

It took me a few pages to really get into the book. It’s got a long list of chapters, which at first I thought interrupted the whole flow of the book. But then I realised that, as a handbook, it needs to have information structured in that easy-to-find way. Just a few pages into it, I discovered a really good deal of incredibly useful advice, not just for trail runners in general but for anyone stupid enough to sign up for an ultra.

(270 days to go, you guys!)

I liked the unpretentious conversational tone of the book, which reads almost as if a trail running buddy was just emailing you his best tips. These days, being the ridiculous gen-y that I am, I judge my opinion on books partly based on how many highlights they get on my Kindle. This one got a few, mostly tips about how to run in different conditions but also stuff like:

972002_618837678128889_1133614897_n

Robillard also says he walks all the hills of any course over 50k and adds that that strategy has actually resulted in improvement on his finish times. Any trail runner who tells me walking is a good idea in an ultra is automatically added to my best friends list and would qualify for a Merry Christmas card if I still bothered sending those.

He also suggests a number of interesting things I wouldn’t have thought would be a good idea, including wearing white cotton shirts when there is a lot of sun exposure and adding “foodless runs” to your training, to help develop the ability of using fat as fuel.

I’d like to share a few of the tips I got from the book but that would be doing it a disservice since what you should really do is pick up a copy and read it yourself (won’t take you long). It’s not exactly Nobel material and it doesn’t try to be. It’s written as a trail running handbook and, as such, it pretty much ticks all the boxes, with a really comprehensive list of practical advice for every trail runner out there.

For a free sample of the book, click here. For more information on the book, check the blog with the same name or head to Amazon for a copy.


4 Comments

Trying to give this running-commute thing a good try. Maybe.

Random running commute scene one. NZ billboards are kind of cool.

Random running commute scene one. NZ billboards are kind of cool.

You may or may not remember that one time, about a year ago, I announced to the world (or the 3 people who read that post) that I was going to become a running commuter.

It didn’t quite work out as I’d planned. One year later, I’ve run to/from work a grand total of zero times. Until today. After a whole other year of jealously staring at other runners as I sat in traffic, I got my act together and ran home from work.

I have all sorts of excuses for not having done this before, don’t worry. Few of them are actually valid, but that’s an entirely different matter. There’s always a “I need to drive because…” and even though I try to say something that’ll make it sound legitimate, the only real reason I have to drive is because I can’t be arsed with the logistics of not driving to work.

Unless, apparently, there’s alcohol involved. The other night, the company I currently work for hosted a gala dinner as part of a two-day conference it put on. I wasn’t involved in the conference at all but somehow got invited to the gala dinner (score!) and it made perfect sense to get the bus to the office in the morning so I wouldn’t have to count my wine glasses at that dinner, worried about driving home. Seven glasses of wine later (I still counted them), I realised this whole not driving thing isn’t as bad as I remembered (the whole hangover thing is, however, even worse than I remembered).

Since I sweat approximately 456 liters during every run, running to work isn’t really an option, as I don’t actually hate all of my co-workers. Running home from work, while entirely realistic, has its own challenges too. It involves taking the bus in the morning, which means leaving the house earlier than usual. It also means I have to prepare stuff the night before, which can be hard if you’re me and absolutely suck at planning anything in advance.

Random running commute scene two. I may need to run back and buy this sweater.

Random running commute scene two. I may need to run back and buy this sweater.

Some things to keep in mind if you’re going to try run-commuting (from someone who clearly sucks at run-commuting but hey, do as I say not as I do, amirite?):

1. Prepare your clothes the night before
Keep in mind that if you’re planning to carry those clothes back home in your backpack, they should be lightweight. I thought of this today when I woke up and it was raining. It was definitely a boot and coat kind of a day but I stuck with flat shoes that I could easily stuff in my backpack. I’m so dedicated to running it’s unreal.

2. Only take the stuff you will definitely need
I fit every stereotype of the woman journalist you can think of. I carry a bunch of pens in my bag (except on those times when I actually need a pen), plus a notebook, a diary, a paperback book, my Kindle, my wallet, a bunch of keys I never need, and those important faded receipts from the times I went grocery shopping in 2009. You know, just the essentials. In my commuting backpack today, though, I had to really trim it down. Some cash, phone and house keys. The rest stayed home, which is ok because it turns out I don’t need to carry 2009 receipts with me anywhere.

3. Keep a pair of office-appropriate shoes at work
I realised when I got to work that I could actually just have worn my running shoes in the morning, since I have a couple of pairs of shoes living under my desk. Must remember this next time and then I won’t have to worry about picking shoes that fit in my pack.

4. Your office isn’t too far for this
Just because your office is too far away from home, it doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate running into your commute and use that time more wisely. If you take public transport for example, you can always consider getting off a few stops before the office or home and run the rest of the way.

5. Baby wipes and deodorant are the world’s greatest invention
Not really much to be said about this, really. If you’re just running home, then you can jump straight into the awesomeness that is the post-run shower. If you’re running to the office, though, you better have some of this stuff on you, unless you want to give them a reason to make you run to the unemployment line.

Bringing back the running-commute is the best idea I’ve had all week, unless you count blending a banana with my chocolate milk (and since it’s Friday, I wouldn’t expect it to get any better than this). It’s cheaper than driving, a bazillion times better for the environment, and stops me from wasting daylight sitting in traffic to then have to run in the dark (or, more likely, not run at all because it’s dark). It saves me a great deal of time, since I realised rush hour traffic means that, most times, it takes me as long to drive home as it would take me to run home. Running home also means I don’t have to run after I get home, which considerably increases the amount of time I can devote to watching old What Not To Wear episodes on You Tube. It also highlights the functional side of running, which is a pretty attractive aspect of the whole thing, if you’re into shutting up people who say there’s no point to running. I know I am, which is why I think it’s time to put the running in “running errands” more often.

Let’s hope it’s not another year before I run home from work again.