super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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One down, twelve to go

I crossed a goal off the list and got a t-shirt to prove it. I also got a hat and wore it but hats don't suit me so I went with the headless look for this photo instead, for your benefit. You're welcome.

I crossed a goal off the list and got a t-shirt to prove it. I also got a hat and wore it but hats don’t suit me so I went with the headless look for this photo instead, for your benefit. You’re welcome.

When the alarm started going off at 5:30AM and I moved in bed to reach for it and shut it up, the pain on my legs reminded me I had just run 32km the day before. Naturally, I questioned what the flying heck was I doing getting up at stupid o’clock again but then I remembered that, later in the day, I’d have an item ticked out of my list of goals for this year so that helped. This is why I disagree with people saying new year’s resolutions are useless. Call them resolutions, call them goals, call them Harry, call them whatever you want. If they motivate you to get out of bed (even though it’s early and you’re in pain), they’re a good thing.

I had the chance to volunteer as a marshall on the run course of the Ironman 70.3 in Auckland and, with that, I knocked down one of my goals for this year.

Standing around for that many hours wasn’t the ideal recovery strategy  post-long run but seeing all those amazing people getting off the water and onto their bikes, cycling 90km and then running a half marathon like it was no big deal really did help put my pain into perspective. I recognised a few of the faces along the course and collected a bunch of cool little memories, like 76-year old Garth Barfoot looking strong and thanking me for telling him he did or the couple of guys that raised their hands for high fives and they went past me towards the finish line. And I’m not even ashamed to admit that the little kid shouting “daddy! Daddy! You’re an ironman!” as his dad ran past him brought tears to my eyes. It was amazing, those people are amazing. My lack of better adjectives is less than amazing.

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You mean machines. You make me want to go out for a run right now but my legs are all “uh, nope”.

So I’ll stop here. The point is that I’m pretty stoked to cross this one off the list. Running about a dozen of events a year, it’s about time I start giving back to all those people that come along to help out with those. I’m looking for other events to volunteer for but it’s hard because, whenever I find one, I want to run it rather than help out (that didn’t make me sound very nice but there you have it). In any case, I’ve submitted my interest in volunteering for the Auckland marathon this year so I’m not putting this goal behind me completely. Either way, CHECK!


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Running on the web

readalltherunningthings

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

One

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

Two

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

Three

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

Four

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

Five

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

 

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


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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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Amazing people doing amazing things – the Michael Stewart edition

Here I am, worrying about running 1 marathon months from now, thinking it’ll be my biggest feat ever. And just a few hours south from where I live, on the same island, is Michael Stewart, gearing up for his 500th marathon this coming Sunday.

Yep. Five hundredth. Take a second or ten to digest that.

He ran his first marathon 42 years ago and is currently sitting on marathon number 499. All going well this coming Sunday, 42 years to the day, he’ll cross the finish line of the his very special marathon – the Michael Stewart’s 500th Celebration Marathon, a 42.2km run from and to Pinehaven Community Hall in Upper Hutt.

Stewart, also known by some as Mad Mike or Rainbow Man, is known for his bright running gear and so the marathon has a “pink” theme. He will be running with a number of “100 Club” members – people who, like him, have run over 100 marathons.

This weekend, while I probably sleep in and then moan about having to go for a longer-than-normal run, Mad Mike, rubbish truck driver and marathoner extraordinaire, will be setting a southern hemisphere record.

If you’re from the region and keen to enter, it’s only $40 and promises to be a really special event. To sign up, you just need to fill out and post this form.

Click here to read more about the 60 year old from Lower Hutt putting us all to shame and don’t forget to send him some good vibes on Sunday.

photo credit: Hutt Valley Marathon Clinic’s Flickr page


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42.2

Every time I run a half marathon, there’s a voice inside of me that wonders about a few important questions. Some common ones include “why did I add this song in my running playlist?”, “did I really think eating half a chocolate torte the night before the race was a good idea?” and, more importantly, “why am I not in bed like normal people?”

A few minutes after each half marathon, however, I wonder about different things. Lately, I’ve been finding myself questioning whether, with a little more training, I could push it further and keep going for a little while longer.

So it’s time to go a little further. More specifically, twice as far. Less than four months from now, I will be at the start line of my very first full marathon. It was all Stacey’s idea (and I’m putting this in writing here especially in case it all turns to custard). Yes, the same Stacey that had the 35k trail run idea. We had been talking about how exciting it’d be to enter a marathon in an exotic location in some faraway land. After one glass of wine too many, I even emailed the NZ-based travel agent responsible for getting kiwi runners into the Great Wall Marathon.

A couple of days later, Stacey emailed me saying she had found the marathon for us and added a link to the Mountain to Surf Marathon, in New Plymouth. Okay, so not really what I had in mind when we talked about exotic faraway locations (unless, of course, you’re outside New Zealand). But:

1. It’s not in Auckland. One of the things we had discussed was how hard it would be to run a full marathon along a place we know too well. We need the excitement that comes with running in a new location.

2. It involves a road trip. Or a flight. Whichever is the cheapest. Either way, exciting travel-related arrangements to be made.

3. It’s mostly downhill and flat. This could also very well turn out to be a bad thing, since downhills are so tough on the knees, but I definitely prefer them to steep uphills.

4. It starts in Mount Taranaki and ends right on the edge of the island by the Tasman Sea. So, beautiful scenery guaranteed.

5. Registration was only $70. Sadly though, there doesn’t seem to be a finisher’s medal. I might just have to add “marathoner” to my email signature and take that as my badge of honour since kiwis are clearly not into the whole medal deal. If they ask for my bib back at the end of the race, though, as it has happened before, I’ll lose my shit.

Mount Taranaki, a photo taken back in 2009, back when my hair was longer and my marathon dreams were non-existent.

We agreed to sign up for it on pay day but I didn’t trust myself not to chicken out before then and so went ahead and signed up straight away. From now on, the clock is ticking and it’s time to get training. According to the marathon training programme I downloaded from the event’s website, I’m already behind. Training will, of course, be an essential part of my life in the next four months. I’ll probably talk about it a bit all the freaking time so, dear friends, if there’s a holiday you’ve been meaning to take or any plans that involve not having contact with me, now is the time to put those into action.

It’s good to be back in training mode with a major goal in mind. Not to dismiss half marathons in the least (they’re still a challenge), but it was time to move on from those into something more, especially since I can’t bring myself to worry about speed so training to get faster never ends up happening.

Chocolate milk and a cinnamon cookie – an essential part of marathon training.

To prove I’m taking marathon training seriously, the day after signing up I headed to the newly opened Moustache Milk & Cookies bar in Auckland to inaugurate marathon training season with a cookie.

Just kidding. I started marathon training the day I signed up. With a chocolate doughnut. So you know I mean business.


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Lisbon Rock n Roll Half Marathon recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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O for Awesome – The Big O Trail Run recap

I don’t usually put photos of myself on here but when I do, they’re my grossest ones. Here’s one sweaty mess with hands double their normal size, the aftermath of 35km running in the bush. You’re welcome.

On May 26, the fourth anniversary of my arrival in New Zealand, I ran my little heart out in the bush in Rotorua. A whole 35km later, with lots of steep hills in those, I crossed the finish line of the longest, toughest, and most important running event I’ve entered to date.

In the two months we had to train, since the day Stacey emailed me and twisted my arm about signing up for this run, we never reached the distance we had to run that Saturday, on our first long distance trail running event. We had gotten as far as 22km in the Waitakeres one Sunday morning by ourselves, and that ended up being followed by a long afternoon nap to recover from it. Fast-forward a few weeks of half-arsed attempts at hill climbs and long runs and there we were, just before 9am near Lake Okataina in Rotorua, with the cold temperatures used as an excuse for the trembling when what was really making us shake was the nerves and stress and the feeling of OMG what-the-hell-are-we-about-to-do.

We left work early on Friday to avoid rush-hour traffic during the three hour drive to Rotorua. I decided not to run any risks and even dinner was exactly the same thing I have eaten before every major running event (beef ravioli and nearly a whole chocolate log for myself because if I’ve got an excuse to carb-load, I go for gold). I laid out my clothes for the next day, prepared the backpack that I was going to carry with me during the run and the bag with the extra stuff I needed C. to keep with him for the two times I knew I was going to run past him. I went to bed early (well, 10:30, early by my standards). And then I slept like crap, of course, with the pre-run stress-related stomach aches making the usual appearance.

At 9am that day, after following a training plan that was only about as long as Kim Kardashian’s marriage, we had no choice but to start running. And so we ran. And it wasn’t long before the climb was so steep that it started defeating us and forcing us to walk more than run. But it was all okay, we were doing it. Reading about trail running had taught us that walking up some hills was a smart, effective way of conserving energy. When you are about to run 35km and have no idea how that’s going to go, conserving energy is pretty high priority.

pretty views helped. crater lakes make me happy.

I had once read an interview with Mal Law where he said that one of the secrets for long-distance running was to break it down in your head. Out there on that day, I knew my little brain couldn’t cope with the idea of running 35km. So I convinced myself that wasn’t what was going to happen. The course actually helped a lot with that. We passed our starting point twice in total, meaning we had two precious opportunities of seeing our “support crew”. I used those to reset my brain.

The first 10km were, by far, the hardest, as it normally happens with me during a run anyway. It didn’t help that they were so incredibly steep (a 5km climb up to the trig and then back down, on a track that often felt more like fine sand than compact dirt). But, in my head, I was only running 10km. No biggie. The view from the trig was amazing enough to make me forget about the fact that my legs felt like they were on fire and, once we ran back down, we had 10km ticked off and “only” 25km to go. The following 6km, though, were out on a track in and out of the bush (3km each way), back to the starting point. So I told myself I was only going to run another 6km. Again, no biggie, had done it plenty of times before.

During those 6km, we had to make a couple of stops, one of them to crack out the first aid kit and plaster the hell out of the only blister I got during the run (a victory in itself, if you ask me, since I was expecting to have at least both legs amputated).

Those 6km weren’t as steep as the first 10km but still had challenging bits. We stayed in a good mood for way longer than I’d expected, though, and by the time we had reached 16km in total, we were back at the start point for the final stop near our lovely supporters (who did a wonderful job of being there at the right times to feed us while stopping themselves from dying of boredom in the process). We stopped for food, water and a bit of a stretch and then it was off into the bush for the final 19km on our own. I tried to hit the ‘reset’ button in my mind again and forget about the previous 16km. I was going for a 19km run, something I’d done before too. The fact that I had just ran 16 other kilometers had to be quickly forgotten.

we’re not running uphill! yay!

I felt better at the start of those 19km than I had expected to. Adrenaline is a wonderful fuel. Adrenaline, jelly beans, chocolates, Gu shots, salt & vinegar chips, water, coca-cola… Between what I had packed and the wonderful job the organizers did with the aid stations, I had more than enough resources for hours worth of a very high sugar high.

In fact, about 22km into the run, in a section where we got off a bush track and into another by crossing a road, Chris and a couple of friends happened to drive past, right when I was stopped (for probably too long) at an amazingly-stocked aid station. They described me as being on some sort of high, jumping up and down in excitement and offering them jelly beans and jet planes. The sugar high lasted a few more kilometers but, of course, I eventually crashed.

no blue sky. but also, no rain. win!

The final 7 or 8km were one sluggish descent into madness. I was physically exhausted but it was the mental exhaustion that was making every step harder to take. I saw trees changing shapes (all part of the famous runners’ high, as I later found) and even talked to myself out loud to keep myself from stopping. The range of emotions out on that trail was far too wide to properly put into words. Physical pain, which had been my biggest worry, turned out to actually be the least of my problems.

With about 3km to go, I stopped seeing the arrows marking the track and convinced myself that I’d taken a wrong turn and was horribly lost in the bush and would probably never be found again. When you’re that tired, getting that desperate and silly is not that hard. My brain wasn’t up for rational thinking anymore and emotions were in full control.

pretty new zealand is pretty.

I ran and ran and ran and tried telling myself that no, of course I wasn’t just getting further into the bush and away from everyone else. After a few minutes (could have been a few seconds, felt like a few hours), I spotted a runner disappearing into the distance. I wasn’t lost after all. I ran faster to catch up and, as I got closer, the runner smiled and told me “we’re almost home”. Not long after that, there it was – a sign saying we had only 1km to go. The final kilometer that, of course, felt like a whole marathon. I reached the grass area that I knew was part of the park where it was all going to end but it took me a while to spot the finish line. When I eventually did, I didn’t hold back the tears. Screw pride, I was freaking knackered. But I was done. Holy crap, I was done.

I crossed the finish line to proud familiar faces who couldn’t care less about my sweaty mess and hugged me anyway. One of the organizers saw me crying and told me I should sit down. I told him I was okay, just really happy to have finished. The free sausage sizzle (kiwi-style prize, as it should be) tasted like the most exquisite meal in the world. As I started cooling down, my pride was really the only thing that wasn’t hurting.

I was incredibly happy to have done it in such a beautiful place too. The bush near Lake Okataina is beautiful and reading up on the Okataina volcanic centre showed me it’s also quite a special place. That run was the perfect way to celebrate my fourth kiwi anniversary: challenging, hard as hell at times, pretty enjoyable for most of it, and rewarding like few other things I’ve done before.

(to my non-kiwi blog readers, I didn’t forget how to spell. The title is a kiwi reference that you can see here and here.)