super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Adventures in trail running – XTERRA trail series – Whitford Forest

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

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

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

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


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a running update on all the running I haven’t been doing

rip, dirty old shoes. lets hit the trails, you pink beauties!

Oh hi, glad you’re still there. I know, it’s been a while.

Remember how I had a super-sucky half marathon in Wellington last month? Well, what followed were three weeks of a whole lot of nothing, with a couple of shameful single digit runs and a distinct lack of motivation to go any further.

I tried to cheer myself up and rekindle my love for running by spending more than I’d like to admit in a long overdue pair of running shoes. My faithful Mizuno Wave Nirvana 7 saw me through a handful of half-marathons, a 35km in the bush and numerous other training runs in a little over a year. In total, I calculate they did about 1200km (or slightly over that), much more than the recommended distance for a pair of running shoes. I loved every kilometer in them (ignore the big fat exaggeration for the sake of the nice obituary for the shoes – I actually did flat out hate some of those kilometers) and it’s now time to let them rest in peace. I’ve upgraded to the Mizuno Wave Nirvana 8 (same type of support, different colours). They’re pretty, too pretty, and I’m desperate to get them dirty.

While busy not getting any running done, I also signed up for the superlong course of the XTERRA trail run in Whitford on August 12 (21.8km with a not to shabby elevation chart and a toughness factor of 9/10 as rated by the organisers). I’ll be happy to bag another half marathon (and a trail one!) the day before I turn another year older awesomer. In the mean time, I’ve also guaranteed that, should I go completely nuts between now and December, I have a spot on The Goat run. I signed up for it because it sells out quick (in fact, it did not long after I got my registration in) but I’m yet to commit 100% to it. You see, it’s in Tongariro National Park (which just yesterday was in the news due to abnormal seismic activity), it starts at pretty high elevation and has a 1000m ascent over some of the toughest terrain to run on. No, you don’t have to tell me how silly that sounds.

Note that the trend here is that I’ve been spending a whole lot of money on running-related stuff but not actually doing any running. If the total number of dollars spent actually compared to the number of kilometers run, then I wouldn’t be feeling like such a slob.

Until yesterday. A short 5km with S., who’s also been on a running hiatus, led to the decision to shape up again. We want to enjoy the upcoming trail half marathon and want to go back to feeling like we can actually do this sort of stuff. So stay tuned because the bright pink on the new shoes should not stay bright for longer.


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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.)


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adventures in trail running – XTERRA trail series – Shakespear Park

On Sunday morning, we made our way up to Shakespear Park (about an hour north from home) to enter the first in this year’s series of XTERRA trail running events, the final step in our training for the Big O Trail Run in Rotorua tomorrow.

It was only my second ever organised trail run, as we’ve been mostly picking trails and running on our own, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I know I didn’t expect so many people to be at the park for the run (the only other organised trail event we entered had about 15 people). Shakespear Park, on the other hand, was full of runners keen to get their shoes dirty on the trail.

I’m definitely going to have a go at a couple of other events in the series but I hope they sort out the registration pack pick-up process – we had pre-registered and had to pick up our race bib and timing chip on the day and queued up for nearly one hour. The only reason we didn’t queue for longer was because we ended up having to jump the queue and get in front of people doing the short course (which started later), to avoid missing our race briefing and even the start of the race.

Aside from that small hiccup with registration, the whole event was pretty well organised. The location, for a start, couldn’t be better. A little out of the way for this West Aucklander here but isn’t discovering new places what trail running is all about? It may have only been 11.5km (not that much compared to the 35km we’ll have to face tomorrow), but we got to run through some truly amazing scenery – bush tracks, paddocks, beaches… stunning views from the top of the hills, as far as your eyes could see (before the salty sweat threatened to burn them, that is).

We thought it would be wise to run the mid-course (11.5km) rather than a longer option, as we were so close to race day (less than a week by then, less than a day by the time I got around to finish this post) and we needed to give our muscles time to recover. I am clearly not used to the thought of running a super long distance trail run. Every time I saw a runner along the way who was doing the longer course, I thought to myself “damn, these people are hardcore” and then realised that in less than a week I’d be having to do a lot more than that. And so, of course, I panicked. I panicked because I was having my butt kicked by a course that was less than 12km long.

The whole run was a very good reminder of how different trail running is from road running. At 6km, a really steep incline had me and pretty much everyone else around walking up (and not even walking straight). The hill seemed to go on forever and there was a point when I seriously wanted to move to the side and just sit on the ground and give up on life. My legs felt heavy like they were two iron bars. I kept reminding myself of how it was all a big mental game and how I should be ashamed to ever lose a game against myself. So I carried on up. And up. And up. Telling myself that every uphill meant there was a downhill to come.

The run finished after a small stretch running along the beach with the gorgeous views distracting me from the pain. We crossed the finish line and while S. went for a dip in the ocean, I queued up for our well-earned cold ciders.

It was the perfect morning for some trail running. And the running shoes are only muddy enough to remind us of a good time.


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people are awesome

Will you just check out that fully-coloured progress bar?

Three weeks after starting our fundraising mission for KidsCan, and one week before the big day, we reached our $1000 target! I am super thankful to everyone who has contributed and will be thinking of them and their support when I’m out on that trail feeling like giving up. So thanks all for being amazing and helping us out. The fundraising page will be up for another couple of days so if anyone is keen to take us over our goal, that’d be awesome-times-infinity, of course. In any case, one of the beers I’ll have right after the run this coming Saturday will definitely be for all of you who’ve donated.


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the home stretch and delusional marathon dreams

random photo from our first ever trail run which happened in the same area as this weekend’s run, about seven months ago. We hated it then. Good news is that we didn’t hate it quite so much this time. YAY!

This saturday morning, I glanced at the clock on my computer screen just as the digits changed from 8:59 to 9:00. Oh shit, I thought to myself. It dawned on me that, exactly 14 days from that very moment, I’d be on the start line for the hardest most challenging run I’ve ever done. And so, in good old vera fashion, I panicked a little bit inside. And then I calmed the hell down because, really, what are you gonna do, right?

I’ve spent the past month and a half training for that day which is now a mere 12 days away. I should have trained for longer but that is how late we heard about and signed up for the run. I should also probably have run more. But if you take into consideration the fact that, two days ago, I couldn’t even bend my right knee and spent a super rock ‘n roll saturday night at home icing it, then I guess it’s fair to say I’ve been working my way through this self-imposed training schedule. And all those “I should have” are not worth stressing about anymore.

On Sunday morning, we clocked 17km along Riverhead forest, in West Auckland. It still amazes me that I have so many options for trail running so close to home. I guess that really is part of what living in New Zealand is all about. But, anyway, I digress.

After that run, we headed home and spent some time looking up marathons online. There are some amazing runs out there in the big wide world and we figure our first marathon needs to be in a pretty special location. We’re toying with some ideas at the moment for marathons we can run in a couple of years’ time. For example, we found one that crosses three countries. Between that and the French marathon that has wine stations instead of water stations, it’ll be a hard decision. And then there’s also the Great Wall of China marathon. Walking along the wall is challenging enough but it is, to this day, one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Running a marathon on it would definitely top that by quite a few extra awesomeness points.

At one point, I looked at the link for a marathon in Siberia and said it would be amazing to do something like that. Stacey quickly pointed out that I had just described running 42.2km across Siberia as “amazing” which I guess should be enough to claim some sort of mental health disability benefit.

And now that I’ve rambled on enough about training and countdowns and fun marathons that are too far from my budget and OMFG ONLY 12 DAYS TO GO, I’m going to remind you that you can still donate and help us raise money for KidsCan. Do you hate New Zealand children? I didn’t think so.


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route changes and a new heart-attack-shaped elevation chart

The Big O Trail Run is now a big X, due to some necessary last minute changes to the route. Blame it on the new landowner of part of the original route (which circled Lake Okataina), who decided he/she didn’t want any stinking runners going through his/her property. This is the bit where I kind of want to write a fairly long rant about that person’s attitudes towards a running event that had been happening there for years but I’m going to stay all zen and shit and not say a word about it. On the bright side, we will now run past the same point (the event centre) twice during the run, meaning we will not only see people twice but we will also have a chance to refuel if we need to (and I definitely will need to because there is no way I can carry enough water for 35km).

The changes to the course also mean, obviously, changes to the elevation chart. I had all my fingers and toes crossed for that bastard hill at the start of the original route to disappear but… nope! It’s still here, in all its steep glory. I have never in my life run 35km, let alone 35km offroad. But to be honest, the elevation chart scares me far more than the distance. Look at all those threatening pointy bits!

Sixteen days to the big day. We continue to do light runs on weekdays and longer runs on weekends, as per our super amateur self-imposed training plan. We will do one long trail run this coming weekend (location TBC) and the, the following weekend (the final weekend before the run of doom), we will enter the Shakespear Regional Park trail run, part of the XTERRA Auckland Trail Run series. After that, it’ll be tapering and carb loading time (quite possibly my two favourite parts of the training).

We’re also continuing to collect donations for KidsCan here so do donate if you feel like doing something nice (or if I know where you live and you don’t want any unpleasant surprises).


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adventures in trail running – rangitoto romp

Training for your first long distance trail run means, among other things, no more weekend mornings in bed. This sunday was no exception. I was out of bed at 7am to give me time to have coffee, eat and prepare my trail mix for the morning’s adventure: the rangitoto romp. After a quick stop at the bakery (if a trail run isn’t an excuse to start your day with a chocolate log, then I don’t know what is!), we made our way to the ferry building to get on the 9:30 ferry. The trip takes less than half an hour so we hit the trail just before the clock hit 10am.

As usual, starting was the hardest part for me. The first couple of kilometers were hard and my heavy legs really wanted to run back to the ferry and back home and back to bed. But after that, it all turned amazing pretty quickly. It helps that Rangitoto is a real special place – a 600 year old volcano, so young that raw lava and scoria still forms the majority of the terrain on the island. The loose scoria made for some tricky bits along the run. What you see above is a photo of one of the easy parts, really. A lot of our time was spent watching where we put our feet because, really, breaking both legs would not really contribute positively to our training.

We made it back to Auckland on the lunch time ferry feeling a lot better about running and life in general. My calf muscles were still a little bit sore from Wednesday’s run and so, to try to recover a little bit faster, I hardened up and bought a 3kg bag of ice from the petrol station on the way home. Add icing leg muscles on a cold day to the list of things I don’t like doing.

S. had done this run before on the same day I ran the Whenuapai half marathon and she didn’t exactly have fond memories of it. Fortunately, we changed that today. To make this training day even better, we have now reached $450 in donations, meaning we are nearly halfway to our target! If you haven’t helped out yet, please do so. If you have, you rock our sweaty little running socks off. Gross, I know. I’ll shut up now.


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every kilometer counts and so does every dollar

While out in the Waitakere wilderness on Wednesday (aren’t alliterations just so much fun? No? Ok then), S. and I talked a lot about how motivation plays a big part in getting ready for what will be the biggest challenge of our lives so far. Sure, our bodies need to be fit, but a big part of it (maybe the biggest) is nothing to do with fitness. We’re motivated to push ourselves but that personal goal, albeit massive, isn’t quite enough.

So we decided we needed a bigger purpose. Instead of running 35km in the forest just so we become officially the most badass people we know, we’ve decided to do it for another reason too, and a much more meaningful one at that. After debating about it for a while and coming up with different ideas, we settled on fundraising for the KidsCan Charitable Trust and raise money for children in need in New Zealand.

I don’t want to go all Mother Teresa on you, you see. But I know that when I’m out on that trail, I’ll be as desperate as I will ever have felt in my life and I’ll probably want to give up. Lots of times. No, more times than those. So, in a way, this isn’t completely selfless. Doing this run for KidsCan will mean that, when it gets really, really tough and I feel like I can’t push it any further, I’ll have some extra motivation in my mind.

This is where you come in. We have set up a fundraising page which will be open for donations over the course of the next four weeks, as we prepare for the big day. If you can, please help us help KidsCan. We put the page up last night and already had a few donations come through and I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate every single one of them and how much every single one of those people who have taken the time to support this cause will be on my mind during that run. Each of those dollars going to KidsCan is another reason for me to get out there and run.

So if you can spare a dollar (or a bit more), please head to our page and click the donate button. It’s super quick and easy, every single cent goes straight to KidsCan, and you’ll get about 3456 karma points in return. I’ll think of you as I drag my sorry self up and down those god forsaken hills.

P.s.: For more information on KidsCan, head over here. They explain it way better than me.

P.p.s.: We’ll be posting updates on the fundraising page and I’m probably going to go all trail-running obsessed on you over here for a while. If I don’t die on that trail, I promise to go back to sometimes writing non-running related posts again. Pinky promise!


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a last minute off-road half marathon

You know how sometimes you ask people why they do a certain thing and they answer “because I can”? Yeah, that’s not why I signed up for this 35km trail run. Quite the opposite, actually. I signed up because I didn’t (don’t) think I can do it. Which is exactly why I’m going to try.

Today we are exactly one month away from the big day. Am I ready? Not even close. But of all things I’ve tried to do to somehow prepare for this, running an off-road half marathon for the first time in my life yesterday was, by far, the best one.

It was a last minute decision, made after a short night run with S. on Monday after work. We sported some sexy head torches and headed up and down beach reserves along the harbour, when we realised we’d have a public holiday just two days later. I was jet lagged after flying in from the US the day before from a week of very little running and so the idea of running 21km in the forest on Wednesday sounded nothing short of a nightmare. So I agreed to it.

And then came Wednesday morning. We set on the track after grabbing some sugary goodness from a bakery on our way to the beautiful Waitakere Ranges. After stuffing down a strawberry jam and cream pancake while trying not to die on a windy gravel road on our way to the Whatipu car park, we started running.

And then about 1km into it, I stopped (for the nth time). My legs were as heavy as rocks and I was breathing like someone in the middle of a full-blown asthma attack. So I panicked and threw a tantrum, of course. Told S. I’d wait for her in the car, that trail running was not for me and I was done with it, that there was no way I could ever do it. S. did her part and told me to snap out of it. She said I could do it, that it was all in my head. Don’t tell her I said this but, yeah, she was right. She must have been right because we ended up running our little hearts out in that bush and loving pretty much all of it.

It helped that the landscape was breathtakingly beautiful (giving us an excuse to stop every now and then for some photos) and it also helped that the weather was nice.  It also helped that, rather than being the chickens I wanted us to be when we took off, we ended up making the decision of running the whole damn thing (we had the chance to cut it down to 15km at an intersection and still decided not to).

I had to keep reminding myself to breathe properly and yes we did walk when the inclines were too strenuous for our poor little legs. But we also ran. And ran. And ran. And, about halfway through it, I even admitted how much I was enjoying myself, prompting S. to remind me of my little brain spasm at the start of the track.

So yesterday, after a month of training (with a week to forget, training-wise, in the US), I ran my first ever off-road half marathon. I got home with very sweaty clothes, mud and even blood on my legs , I swallowed a bug in the process (whatevs, extra protein, right?).  But S. was right, it was all in my head. And once I convinced myself that I was going to do it, I did it.