super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Ultramarathon registration addiction issues and other stuff I should tell you about

It’s a day ending with -y so, naturally, I did something ridiculous.

I’ve got a new PR and quite possibly a FKT but don’t you all start congratulating me at once. This morning, and after having made a grand total of zero dollars since the day had started (#partylikeafreelancer), I signed up for two ultramarathons within five minutes. On purpose.

First I signed up for the 50km at the inaugural Tarawera Marathon and 50km event which takes place in 9 days’ time (LOL?) and then The North Face 100km race in the Blue Mountains in Australia in May. This adds to my already existing registration for the 60km at the Kepler Challenge in December and the registration for the 100km at the Tarawera Ultra in February.

All added up, it means that, as of this morning, even though I can’t currently run a half marathon without wanting to vomit a lung, I am registered for four ultramarathons within the next 7 months.

I don’t know about you but, from where I’m sitting, this whole plan looks pretty shit.

I like to ponder every decision so made this flowchart to really ensure I knew that my life choices make approximately 0.0 sense.

I like to ponder every decision so made this flowchart to really ensure I knew that my life choices make approximately 0.0 sense.

Now I’m freaking terrified. Scared shitless. Heart palpitations, sweaty palms and that dreaded what-the-hell-have-I-got-myself-into feeling. The genuine fear that I’m going to end up breaking myself.

I missed this.

I hadn’t had a giant scary goal since the last Tarawera Ultra earlier this year. Training for that damn thing kept me going through some of the hardest months of my life and then, just like that, it was over.

I haven’t run further than 35km in about 9 months. I’ve been lucky if I run anything close to a marathon in the space of an entire week. I don’t even know if I can run 50km in one go, let alone 60km, let alone 100km, let alone 100km again with the worst elevation profile I’ve ever seen. It’s going to be absolutely horrible and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

what??

For the first time in a long time, I genuinely don’t know whether I can actually do this or not. But not knowing is part of the fun, right? (and I swear that’s not the motto of the university I went to).

I didn’t tell you this because I’m the world’s worst blogger (although I am currently 3rd best in New Zealand in the “Beer” category of QuizUp so it’s not like I haven’t been busy): I was in Wellington a couple of weekends ago to speak at an event about running (MUM, I’VE MADE IT!). It was genuinely the coolest thing I’ve ever done since whatever the last cool thing I did was and I promise I’ll write you a proper post about my time in Wellington very soon, now that I’ve scared myself into actually running and intend to blog my descent into madness. In any case, one of the things I rambled on at this talk in Wellington was my apparent need to do things that scare the crap out of me.

Clearly.

My running has been far too comfortable since the Tarawera Ultra last March. Sure, I’ve continued doing enough field research on running while injured to the point where I should be awarded a government grant for my contributions to science. But mostly, I’ve been running as much as little as I’ve wanted and all my marathons have been beer-drinking ones because I had nothing major to scare me into proper training.

But I guess this’ll do it.

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A list of things you definitely shouldn’t do while dealing with a running injury

Let’s make this quick: the reason I haven’t posted anything in – oh I don’t know, you go and check how long it’s been if you’re interested – is because I’ve been sporting a bunch of really hot running-related injuries. I’m too tired of moaning about them to moan about them here so you’re in luck (my friends IRL, however, are probably calling their cell phone providers to switch numbers as we speak).

Considering even the boy who never reads my blog has noticed it’s been ages since I posted, I thought it was time to come here and say some stuff. First I thought I’d post a photo of my lunch. Then I ate my lunch and forgot to take a photo, proving I’ll never be a proper fitness blogger. Then I thought I’d still try to go for the whole good fitness blogger thing and list all the distances, splits and paces of my latest workouts. Then I realised I couldn’t really give less of a shit about other people’s splits and paces so why would you care about mine?

So here we are. Nowhere useful, which is a good place to start.

Last time we spoke, I’d gone to hell and back at the Big O. Once the physical pain from that was gone (the emotional trauma will hang around for a while), I sank right into the world of running injuries where I’ve been unhappily living ever since. Shin splints on my left leg, ITB pain on my right leg (and occasionally on the left one too, for good measure) mean that I can’t go for a road run longer than 200m before I start reconsidering this whole running deal.

The problem, you see, is that I’ve been running (shit I never thought I’d say). Even though I should just sit at home quietly, both legs elevated and covered in ice, with my chocolate bars handy and Gilmore Girl episodes playing on TV, I have managed to drag myself out for a run every 2 or 3 days. It’s been doing wonders for my mental health (and other people’s personal safety) but very, very little for my injured legs.

I guess it wouldn’t be a massive overstatement to say I’m not exactly smart when it comes to recovery.

(Whatever. I’m a different kind of smart. Just ask my mum.)

(Please don’t ask my mum. I’m not entirely sure where she sits on that issue.)

Anyway. the point is that I feel like I’ve been stuck in a perpetual loop of running injuries for a while now, which is not a great place to be. Ever the practical one, though, I’ve identified the stuff I’ve been doing wrong and listed it all here so you can ensure you don’t end up like me.

1. Running

If you’re injured, don’t run. I’m not talking about tired legs, feel free to run on those, you big badass. But proper pain? Stay home. Put some cushions at the end of the bed, park your ass on it, legs up, 2L ice cream tub in hand. You’re good. Stay there for a while. Running when you’re injured would be very, very stupid, as I’ve discovered.

2. Skiing

Don’t go skiing, that’s stupid. I went skiing a few weeks ago when my left ITB was complaining. You know me, always testing shit out in the name of science. The conclusion, based on the empirical evidence collected during this experiment, is: NO.

brain

3. Bungy jumping

No bungy jumping. Definitely no bungy jumping. I did that last Sunday. At first I thought “SGG, you smart mofo. This is a brilliant idea that will stretch all your muscles and put everything back in its place”. I had this whole theory about how bungy jumps should be the new quick-fix alternative to massages. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good massage as much as the next middle-class white chick with a not-great-but-decidedly-above-average amount of disposable income, but I thought I’d found an alternative that would cost about the same and take way less time to get done. Well, wouldn’t that just be another giant sack of no.

4. Wearing high heels

No high heels. I know, that makes me want to cry too. Except I’ve worn high heels twice this week for two full days and the extra pain I got from those made me want to cry even more. For now, they’ll just have to sit in the closet, looking pretty. So pretty.

giphy

5. Forgetting to ice, elevate, compress, etc, etc, etc.

Ice the shit out of your legs. I get home every evening convinced that I’m going to spend at least a good half hour bonding with a bag of frozen vegetables. Then I sit down and decide that I can’t be bothered getting up again and walking to the freezer for them (a friend today called me “the laziest long distance runner” he’d ever met and I’m afraid he might have a point).

iwanttonotdothings

6. Not listening to the body

I’ve been going through a bit of denial when it comes to all this pain. Most of the time I pretend it’s not even there. Sometimes I convince myself it’s gone. Listen to your body. But listen for longer than a few minutes. I’ve been all “yay, my legs haven’t hurt at all for the last two hours! I must be cured! Let’s go running!”. Yeah… no.

7. Signing up for last-minute running events because I’m weak and can’t help myself

I’ve got a half marathon to run this Sunday, a half marathon to run the Sunday after, a relay at the end of next month and a bunch of other plans for other runs. I’m officially, undeniably, utterly, hopelessly addicted to the rush you get from confirming your registration to an event and adding it to your calendar. I think it’s safe to assume that none of my two upcoming half marathons will help my injuries and it’s probably not crazy to think they might actually make them worse.

I-immediately-regret-this-decision-anchorman

8. Treating my stomach like a dumpster

The problem with being injured is that I’m wasting precious training time for Tarawera. Since I can’t run, I should probably be doing other stuff that will impact my performance on the day, like sleeping properly or eating healthier. Except, lolz. Maybe after this cupcake.

idratherhaveahotdog

9. Refusing to see a doctor

Go to the doctor. Don’t be an idiot and go to the doctor. Don’t be this particular idiot who is refusing to go see the doctor because the doctor will probably say she can’t run for a while and then she’s going to have to punch the doctor in the face and no one wants to see that happening (especially because, in case you forgot, he’s actually a pretty cool guy).

10. Obsessing over these injuries

I spend an average of 92.6% of my waking hours checking to see if my legs still hurt. Hang on a second. Yep, still hurting. Doing this, surprisingly, will not make them heal any faster.

And now that I’ve given you a bunch of hypocritical advice that I’m probably going to continue to ignore, I’m going to sort the stuff for the half marathon I’m running on Sunday. Just me, my shin splints and my retarded IT band.

P.s.: I keep meaning to mention and then getting distract by checking whether my legs still hurt or not (9:18pm update: they still hurt) but, in case you haven’t seen it yet, go check out my article in the Guardian and, if you’re in New Zealand, go grab the latest Wilderness magazine and check out my profile of the amazing Ruby Muir in the latest issue of NZ Trail Runner. DO IT!


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Marathon training like the underpants gnomes

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The February issue of Runner’s World arrived in my letterbox last week with a painful reminder that the marathon is really close. Wonder if it’s too late to change my entry to that 2.2k option.

I know this is probably the weirdest blog post title I’ve ever posted on here but, as usual, I ask you to bear with me.

I’ve got a marathon to run in about a month and a half. Just under 7 weeks to be sort of precise. I can’t be any more precise because that involves counting the days until March 3 and I am really scared of doing that. If you know how many to go, don’t tell me.

I’ve been doing my little runs and every time S. and I run together we tell each other we “really need to get onto that Google Docs spreadsheet and come up with a plan”. Then a few days go by, we meet up for another run and we remind ourselves that, gee, “we really have to get onto that Google Docs spreadsheet and come up with a plan”. I mean, considering we’ve never run 42.2k in our entire lives and we’ve just come out of an indulgent holiday season, we should probably have a plan. Yeah, we really need to get onto that Google Docs spreadsheet and come up with a plan.

Tomorrow, maybe.

An article on Nerd Fitness* today talks about “crucial mistakes newbies make trying to get healthy”. After gasping at the realisation that I’ve been doing this shit for quite some time now but still make most of those mistakes, I realised that one of them, in particular, is the perfect description of my current situation.

The article mentions a classic South Park episode with underpants gnomes who collect people’s underpants as phase 1 of a 3 phase plan. Phase 3 is profit but they have no idea what phase 2 is.

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You’re smart people, otherwise you wouldn’t be here, so you get where I’m going with this. When it comes to marathon training, I’m a freaking underpants gnome.

Now that I think about it, I have a phase 3 (cross the finish line in New Plymouth on March 3), but I barely have a phase 1 and I definitely don’t have a phase 2. I’ve been running as much as possible I feel like but I haven’t exactly been training.

Some might say “well, all those runs count as training”. You’re not wrong, whoever you are. But those are only a very small part of the training. And that’s pretty much the only part I’ve been doing.

I effectively have 7 weeks to quit aimlessly bagging small runs like the gnomes bagged underpants and actually come up with a proper plan that will lead to profit finishing that marathon (preferably without collapsing, but I realise I may be asking too much at this stage).

I need to outline mileage and make changes to my routine (more sleep, less coffee, better food), just like I did the last time I trained for something properly. Most of all, I have 7 weeks to change my attitude and get back into the “I can totally do this” mindset that I got into before that 35k trail run last year. To this day, I’m pretty sure that it was my mental preparation that got me through that race, more than any physical training.

So, yeah. We really need to get onto that Google Docs spreadsheet and come up with a plan. A scarily short plan.

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* Bookmark this site for the awesome star wars + lego images, visit regularly for the kickass content.


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Run, eat, nap, repeat

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5k on the first morning of the year

The good news is that we’re over 72 hours into the new year and I haven’t completely mucked it up yet. I’m just really glad that none of my new year’s resolutions included losing weight or watching what (and how much) I eat. Otherwise, I’d have failed 2013 by now and should be sent to the back of the 2012 class and told to change my ways. Instead, I’m sitting at my laptop with my third cup of coffee of the morning and a cupcake, because cake for breakfast makes me happy and this is not a proper healthy living blog.

It hasn’t all been bad, though. I ended last year with a run on the last day (a fairly decent one too, about 13k, with a 13k walk back home) and decided to start 2013 with a morning run on the first day of the year. Things got a little derailed about 12 hours into the new year when I had scorched almonds for lunch (I may have gone a little overboard with my scorched almond purchases over the holidays and have a surplus I need to work through). But whatever, it was ok because I ran that day. And the next morning, I ran again, mostly because my bright lime green Pro Compression socks arrived in the mail and I couldn’t wait to take them out on the road (don’t ask me about how many scorched almonds I ate afterwards, though).

Bright and tight!

Bright and tight!

On the third day of the year, I felt slightly burnt out and thought taking a rest day would probably be a good idea. Runners World agrees (see resolution 7 for serious runners). So I sat on the couch, being all serious runner and totally fulfilling the non-running part of the running goals. And I napped. Oh, how I napped. I’ve realised I’m so good at it I’m tempted to add it to my resume. If you want expert tips on napping, I’m right here. Just don’t try to reach me between 2pm and 3pm because I’ll likely be practicing my napping skills.

That is until Tuesday when I have to go back to the world of full-time employment. If this was a fiction book, this would be the bit where the lead character is faced with intense emotional distress and where the reader and the lead character bond over the pain and suffering the character is going through. Except this isn’t fiction and I’m really back to work on Tuesday.

I realise it’s all been a lot easier because I’ve been on holidays at home with no plans in the last few days (hadn’t done this in years and it has been nothing short of blissful). Things will get harder from next week when a whole 10 hours of each day will be taken up by work so I’ll need extra motivation. Kiwi entrepreneur Vaughan Rowsell has challenged himself to run 1000k (1 million meters) in 2013. He’s inviting everyone else to join his 1 million meters challenge in any way people feel like joining, whether that’s walking, swimming, cycling, rollerblading, etc. I love the idea because it can be taken up by anyone and can be as easy or difficult as you decide it is (admit it, 1 million meters walking is definitely a lot easier than 1 million meters running in a bear suit while balancing an egg on your head and playing the ukulele). I reached 1000k running last year so trying to keep up with him will be a way to guarantee I stay on track. I also challenged myself to run 4x a week this month (right now, the count is at 2/16) so that should help my motivation.

gratuitous breakfast cupcake photo

gratuitous breakfast cupcake photo

The marathon is, as of yesterday, less than two months away (an email from S. as just reminded me of that). I’ll get right onto worrying about it, just after this next cupcake.


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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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How Lord of the Rings and VFX relate to marathon training (at least in my head)

Well, if we’re going to talk about numbers, this week was a massive catastrophe. Good thing we’re not going to talk about numbers then, or else I’d have to admit to you that I didn’t get anywhere close to the goals I had set up for myself. Among the reasons I didn’t run nearly as much as I should have this week I include: work commitments (those bills aren’t gonna pay themselves, apparently), meteorology (can’t control the weather, amirite?) and just overall laziness. You know, the usual. And yes, I am feeling stupidly guilty about it but guilt won’t really get me running any faster or longer so I’ll just harden up and get over it now.

I did put together a bit of a training plan with S. on Monday evening (while not running because of the rain) so that’s gotta count for something. I then flew to Wellington for work on Thursday and, on Friday afternoon, managed to drag myself to the path along the waterfront (part of the route of the half marathon I ran there back in June). It was a lovely, albeit fairly short, run, during which I only stopped a couple of times very briefly for the photos you see here (Instagram is my new excuse to take breaks during runs).

The conference that took me to Wellington ended on Saturday night with a gala dinner at Te Papa Museum (hands down my favourite museum in the country). They had a guest speaker come and give a bit of a speech after the awards ceremony (or was it before? I don’t know, it was in between wine). The speaker was Wayne Stables, a name that didn’t ring any bells to me but must make serious Lord of the Rings fans’ hormones go a little nutty. He’s the big visual effects guru at Weta Digital, Sir Peter Jackson’s film company.

It was during his talk to the conference guests that I realised two things:

1. I need to immediately take a weekend off to re-watch all Lord of the Rings (including the bits during which I fell asleep in my first and, so far only,  attempt)

2. I’m so obsessed with running and marathon training I’ll find a link between that and anything else in life.

All the man did was stand there for a few minutes talking about his amazing work in movies such as Lord of the Rings, Tin Tin and Avatar. My brain related pretty much each one of his sentences to running. One of his key messages was that working with massive visual effects productions means you have a lot of really big overwhelming challenges – like, for example, creating all the vfx for the battle of Helm’s Deep in LOTR or the super long continuous shot that was the chase scene in Tin Tin. There are a million little details that have to come together to create those scenes. If you think of the whole scene as one big thing, you’ll be completely stumped and overwhelmed by all the details that need looking after (stuff we don’t even think of as we watch the movie, such as cloth motion or the most realistic way to get water falling). So the key, he says, is to break those big challenges into tiny little ones and look at each detail at a time, rather than having the whole big picture in mind.

D’ya get it? D’ya? D’ya? Don’t tell me I’m the only one who made an immediate correlation to training for a 42.2km long run (not to mention that the marathon is only part of a much larger goal to run a 75k trail run, but that’s a whole new blog post). It’s all about breaking the massive challenge into little ones. Simple and yet genius. I went back to my hotel room later on having run a grand total of zero kilometers that day but with the distinct sensation that sitting through that talk  represented some sort of progression in my training.

Probably bullshit. I better get my ass on the road and run because, at this rate, special effects really are the only way I’m ever going to be seen crossing that finish line.


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Marathon training – week 1

It still feels a bit weird to talk about marathon training with the word ‘half’ preceding it.

It also feels a bit weird to talk about marathon training for this week when my average mileage was even lower than what I was doing back when I was training for the 35k trail. Still, every week from now until marathon day will be a training week and even if I waste it all on a giant caramel and cinnamon cake (which I may or may not have just done), you’ll get all the details until you’re so sick of it you contemplate disconnecting your internet at home so you don’t accidentally stumble upon this blog anymore.

But until you do that, I’ll be here to give you the exciting marathon training report, week by week, no matter how uneventful it actually is.

Like this first one. This week, I ran a grand total of 25k (divided in 2x 10k and 1x 5k sessions). Nope, nothing else. No gym visits, no other workout, unless slicing up the aforementioned giant caramel and cinnamon cake can be considered a workout. So there you go, weekly report done. Shameful, isn’t it?

Week 2 starts tomorrow and I decided it would be a good idea to set myself some goals for the week, to keep me on track:

Run at least 42.2k in total. A marathon in a week shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. I’m flying down to Wellington on Thursday and I think that flat waterfront is going to help me with the mileage.

Return to the gym. It’s been longer than I’m prepared to admit.

Sit down with S. and draw up a proper training plan for both of us (okay, this is sort of cheating because we’ve already agreed to do this)

Make at least one of the runs this week a morning one. Now I feel like I’m pushing my luck.

Book an appointment with my GP to check on a recurring pain on my knee every time I run. If I’m going to do this, I better make sure I don’t completely destroy my poor bones in the process.

This should be enough to keep me out of trouble.