Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Goals

Tomorrow I leave for New York City! I'll be stateside for a little over two weeks and here are my goals for the holiday season:

1. Brave the weather. Yeah, suck it up and run outside in 20-degrees. I'm already shivering.

2. Stretch and do yoga twice a week. Baby that hip!

3. Maintain my weight. Losing weight will be impossible, I know that, but I'm going to try not to gain.

4. No drinking. I've been drinking less and less lately, but sometimes in Spain one ends up drinking wine to be polite. Wine = empty calories and mindless eating

5. Become a soup master. Yes, I want to make all kinds of soups with all sorts of different winter veggies.

What are your holiday goals? And how about some tips for running in the cold?

Friday, December 10, 2010

City of Mataró Half Marathon Report

Be forewarned this is a Pollyanna post

I didn’t meet my running goals for November. Instead of running 145 miles, I ran about 90. Beginning November 10th I was dealing with a fierce pain in my left hip. The pain started during a tempo run with The Group and it scared the beejesus out of me because it just wouldn’t go away. I kept running, more like hobbling, made a real commitment to cross-training (spinning and core) and went to the osteopath (aka my speedy marathoner neighbor). My hopes for half-marathon redemption on December 5th went out the window and I seriously considered not running the
Mataró race. However, I’d already bagged out of a 10-k on November 14th due to the hip pain and I didn’t want to live with wasting another entry fee. So, I gave up hopes of a PR and decided to just run for fun. My hip did start feeling better the last week of November, which might be due to switching back to my old shoes and running less. Going into the half marathon on Sunday I promised myself to take it easy. I knew it would be a rough course—the last mile is a steep hill—and that I wanted to be ready for a steep hike the next day. (I’m going to be away from my husband for over two weeks at Christmas time and I really wanted to be able to do a two-day hike with him. Giving it my all at the half and ending up injured seemed not only stupid but very selfish.)

So, I relaxed. On Saturday, I drank water and ate some pasta, but I didn’t freak out about the race. Of course, it crossed my mind that I hadn’t done a long run since
October 24th and I hadn’t really had a pain-free run in weeks, but for some reason I decided that I could run 13.l miles the next day. Slowly, but surely.

On Sunday I woke up at 6:25: I was so incredibly calm that I’d slept through my 6-am alarm. By 7, I was coffeed, peanut-buttered and ready to roll. Charles uttered some sleepy good-luck wishes and I was off to the metro. The green line was, of course, crowded with drunk, glassy-eyed adolescents, two of whom begged for a sip from my water bottle. My new friends from The Group were waiting for me Plaza España with Lady Gaga blasting out the t-top. These new friends are big, fast men and I have to say I felt a bit strange in the car with them—these guys are serious runners, training for 50 milers and sub 3-hour marathoners and yet they treated me as one of their very own.

The race started out downhill, but I kept a 6-minute / km pace, tucking in behind a very nice woman who waved at everyone and thanked each and every volunteer. I liked her racing style and decided to copy. I sang along to my songs, high fived every child spectator and a few adults, and thanked the volunteers. By km 10, I was feeling fantastic, but told myself not to push it, that I would decide at km 12 about speeding up. The friendly lady sped up and an older man came up along side me. He was worried that there were so few people behind us, but I, in my new Pollyanna role, explained that I wasn’t worrying about that at all; I was just enjoying our view of the sea.

Turns out that by km 12, I was feeling tired and hungry. It was nice to watch the leaders coming towards us at this point and instead of concentrating on my pace, I looked out for folks from The Group and called out to all those speedsters.

Km 15 to 18 were windy, gray and boring. We’d left the beach behind and were running through the industrial section of the city, which was paved with (ouch) cobblestones. I was hoping there would be gels or oranges at some point, but there was only water. I tried to surge ahead a bit along km 18, knowing that the infamous hill was coming up. I closed my eyes, managed to pass a few people and then there it was: a super steep incline. A lot of people walked, I shuffled and just said to the guy next to me: “This is cruel.” But strangely, I was elated instead of frustrated. My hip didn’t hurt and I was going to finish the half in 2:09 and comfortably hike to Bellmunt the next day. It wasn’t a PR, it wasn’t amazing, but
I was feeling alright.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

I'm thankful for so many things this year, but a big one is having friends from home in Barcelona.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What Would You Do?

I’ve had a rough last couple of weeks. Work has been stressful, life even more so, and I haven’t gotten much running in because I’ve been dealing with lingering leg pain. Not running makes me less capable of dealing with stress and sadness and thus begins the endless cycle of winter woes! However, I think I’m winning the battle with this leg pain. A trip to the osteopath helped quite a bit as has cutting way back on mileage and switching back to stability shoes. Now here’s my dilemma: I’ve signed up for a half marathon for next Sunday and I haven’t done a long run in over two weeks. Come to think of it I’ve only done one run over 5 miles in the last two weeks! I have been running short distances consistently and cross-training…

Should I try to sell someone my number? Or just run slowly and take it as a training run for my next half on January 31st? I already missed a 10-k due to the leg pain and missing another race would really fustrate me at this point.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Sometimes it rains all day and your hip hurts a lot and that scares you because you're secretly terrified that the joy that is running will suddenly be taken away.
Sometimes you have a long, tiring but positive and productive day at work.
Sometimes, despite promises to yourself to rush to run group right after work, you decide to enjoy your excellent work outfit for a little while longer and you invite your charming coworker to have a beer and sometimes,
not always, but sometimes, that's perfectly alright.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Shoe Review

Anyone who’s ever run a mile in Barcelona knows that Domingo Catalan, owner of Atleta’s shop and world champion in the 100 km, is a running sage. Domingo—who loves cats and New York City, but loathes George Bush—is both wise and witty. He will not allow you to request a specific brand or size of shoe. “Brands and sizes don’t matter!” he yells as he takes a look at your feet. He brings out four or five pairs of shoes, all different sizes and brands and you (obediently and gratefully) try them all on, even if they look too small or way too big.

Last week, my visit made Domingo uneasy. First of all, he was dismayed that such a pretty girl (the man knows how to charm the lady runner) could have such ugly toes. “I’m concerned about those nasty nails,” he said. “And I’m sure your husband is as well.” Secondly, Domingo was running low on women’s shoes. My next-door neighbor, Lourdes, is NYC-marathon-bound and she had just gotten the last pair of Mizunos in our size so Domingo came out with some men’s shoes, the Saucony Progrid Jazz 13. I gave him so lip about the fact that maybe men’s shoes would be too wide for my narrow heels, but he told me that these would be perfect and, of course, they are! After three pairs of Asics 1100s, it turns out that a neutral shoe made for a small man feels great—at once light and cushiony. Also, these guys are bright red with black laces so I feel really cool and tough in them!

At first, the arch felt too flat. Perhaps I was missing that snug arch support you get in the Asics, but after a few runs it seems that the Sauconys have formed to my foot. My toes have lots of wiggle room and so far my knees and ankles feel fine and dandy.

Have any other women tried wearing men’s shoes? Have you switched from stability to neutral shoes?

Monday, November 1, 2010

October Stats and New Goals

My October goals were to

- run 125 miles (this will include a taper week pre-half marathon and maybe a few rest days) I ran 134 miles.
- discover some new long run routes I did, although I still like running along the beach best of all. Cars and pollution make the rest of Barcie a very rough place to run.
- PR in half marathon by a whole heck of a lot Ahem, we all know how this turned out. I pr'ed technically, but I wasn't happy with my performance. I've learned a lot about myself and have been humbled, which is a good thing.
- finish current short story and send it out, then start another Still working on finishing "Mireille," but I have started two new stories. The fall weather will help me write more.
- write outline for thesis statement Big fat zero.
- stop doing so much trash talking at work. Just go in, write my texts, answer my emails, and get out in time to run. I've done well with this one! My mantra: "I'm just a busy little worker bee with fantastic work fashion." I eat my lunch from a tupperware and steer clear of gossip.
- start marathon training! Deep breath. I don't know what to do! After my last half, a marathon just seems impossible--too big & too stressful-- so for right now I'm concentrating on doing more shorter races and being more disciplined about food and cross training. However, I do have the full-marathon training program printed out and I can still dream.

November Goals

-run 145 miles
-cross train for real
-send two stories out
-cut back on sugar
-have fun at my 10k

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Segunda Parte or Wishing a Time Isn’t Enough

I woke up just as happy as a clam at 5:30 am on Sunday morning. The truth of the matter is I just love an early morning sporty activity: race, hiking or bike trip, you name it, it puts me in a giddy mood. I had coffee, loads of water (this would come back to haunt me), and toast with pb and honey. I wrote my splits on my hand and by 7 am, Charles and I were out the door and on the way to the train station. The commuter train, at 7:29 on Sunday morning, was filled with two kinds of crazies: runners and drunk people. That’s, of course, to be expected, but what I didn’t expect was for the drunk kid in front of me to turn green and start puking about five minutes out of the station. I’m proud to say that I had my nerves so under control that I didn’t even wretch when he puked, I just got up and moved to another seat. Charles kept reading his book as we got up to move. I love that man!

At 7:59, we arrived to Castelldelfels and used the underpass to cross the highway safely. I went to the bathroom twice and then Charles and I headed to the start line, which was at the top of the Canal Olimpic and yes, along the highway.
It’s Spain so they don’t have corrals: everyone (10k, half and full) just squished in there together with all their family and friends pushing and elbowing to their heart’s delight. I do often fear being smothered to death in a Spanish crowd, but somehow all the mothers and children and cousins always disappear and the gun goes off and everyone starts running, pushing, running, pushing and no one (knock on wood) ever dies.

During the first km, I saw a girl wearing a Baltimore t-shirt and decided to talk to her once the crowd thinned out. By km 2, I spotted my friend Anna who was running the 10-k. We chatted and I pushed on. I felt absolutely fantastic and ran up ahead to the Baltimore girl and her mom, whom I chatted with for a bit and then (this would come back to haunt me) I cockily pushed ahead of them as well. According to the plan on my hand I should have run the first 5k in 29:37. I did it in 28 minutes and thought, “Great, I’m banking time.” By km 8 we were at the beach, running along the dunes and I felt like I had to piss yet again. I contemplated stopping off in the dunes, since so many men were, but I decided to wait for a spot-a-pot at the 10-k marker. But, despite the information I had dutifully read on the race's website, there no spot-a-pots at km 10 or anywhere else along the course.

By km 10 I really had to go and I began to feel another sort of pain: period cramps. The Baltimore girl and her mom trotted by and asked how I was doing. “Great!” I lied. They looked very fresh and very fast, and I felt like ass.

I had just done the 10k in 57 minutes, 2 minutes ahead of schedule, but suddenly my body wasn’t cooperating and I was having trouble staying focused. Also, I was sweating like a madwoman, a clammy cold sort of sweat that I get as my period comes down. Carrying the Nathan handheld was becoming excruciating and when I saw Charles at the 12-km mark I gave it to him. I considered stopping at a bar along the beach highway to go to the bathroom, on the one hand I thought I could run so much faster with an empty bladder, but on the other I was terrified of stopping. (Do you think it’s better to stop in this case or just push through?)

We reached a turnaround and the first aid station with Gatorade and food and I was delighted. I ate a little bit of banana, took a few sips of Gatorade, and ate an orange slice. My watch read 1:29 so I was still on track to finish in 2:05!

I slowed down to swallow, I enjoyed the crowds, I smiled,I squinted, and then I realized that the 15-km marker was up ahead. This food station had been around 14.5, not 15! “God damn, it,” I thought, “Get back in this race!” I tried to run faster, but my gut wasn’t having it. My legs weren’t tired, but my body was. Km 15 through 18 were really bad: a lot of people passed me and that’s not a good feeling. I lost my concentration here, let my period woes get the best of me. By km 19, as we were approaching the last hill, a steep bridge, a guy came up behind me and said, “You’re still strong, GO!” I thanked him and ran up that hill pretty fast, even cheering on the full marathoners. I was happy! (It is so important to interact with other people as you race. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I did talk to a guy for a while at km 16, but he wasn’t so friendly. For the next half, I might go I-podless and really make friends!)

But, even as I climbed that hill and despite that little guardian angel giving me that extra push, I knew my goal had slipped away and I didn’t keep the speed up for long. This weird sluggishness is hard to describe—it was as if I didn’t have a higher gear. I sprinted at the end, but I wasn’t destroyed, I wasn’t gasping. I felt somehow, that I hadn’t given it my all, that I had lost focus somewhere back there. Nutrition, I suspect, has something to do with this. I’m very low-tech in general: I don’t have a Garmin. I think Bodyglide is just fancy marketing for Vaseline. My running heroes are George Sheehan and Domingo Catalan, but maybe I need to pay attention to gu’s and gels and all these things you all talk about. These questions will be addressed in a post—tomorrow most likely—once I put away all this disappointment. Bottom line is I want to run four or five times a week for the rest of my life. It makes me happy and although I do want to get faster, I mostly just want to keep running.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marathon of the Mediterranean Race Report Primera Parte

Back in May when I signed up for the “Mitja Marato del Mediterrani” I imagined a beautiful course along the old train route I used to ride into the city, when I lived in the fishing town of Vilanova, way back in 2000.

All last week, I had big plans of leaving work early one day, taking the train to Castelldefels and walking a bit of the half marathon route along the beach. That, unfortunately, never happened because work ended up being hellishly busy. Not in a productive sort of way, but in a lots-of-little-mishaps sort of way. I was coordinating seminar that began Thursday evening and ended Saturday at 2 pm. Somehow, way back when I started planning my training the seminar didn’t seem like a problem. I thought, “I’ll have to work late nights, there’ll be no time to run, but that’s fine because I should be resting anyway.” But working, in heels, isn’t resting. I did run on Friday night at about 11 pm because I was hating my job so much that if I didn’t go for a run, I was going to quite possibly end up in the hospital. So, the first lesson of this training cycle is that speed really doesn’t matter, what matters is that I’m addicted to the running endorphins and no one—not even my boss—can take that away from me.

At 2 pm on Saturday, when I left work, I was very, very hangry. So of course, Charles and I had some difficulty deciding where to go to lunch before catching the train to the race expo. Charles suggested sushi: “healthy, protein packed,” he proclaimed. But I feared getting sick from bad tuna. He suggested just cooking at home, but I said, “I can’t wait another second.” We ended up having tapas at a touristy place on Paseo de Gracia—a big, oily mistake. I ate Spanish omelet, patatas bravas and a very watery salad.

Charles, that lucky duck, slept on the train ride and I nervously read the newspaper. When we got to Castelldelfels and started asking people for the BCN Events Hotel they wrinkled their foreheads, sighed, and then asked someone else who inevitably asked us, “Are you walking?”
The expo, it turns out, was not actually that far from the train station, but it was not a nice walk. Having left the town center, we headed to the industrial park and somehow got stuck in the the middle of the highway, trying to cross over to the very sad, straight-outta-Communist-Russia BCN Events Hotel. Right then and there I started crying. Now, it’s important to note that you have never quite seen ugly, or felt homesick, until you experience the concrete jungle that is Spanish suburban sprawl. It’s an unhealthy, dirty gray that could only come out of the tail end of a failing dictatorship and somehow on Saturday, as the traffic whizzed by us, it got the best of me. I just broke down on the side of the C-31:

Tears dried, we ran across the road and into the hotel where we picked up my race packet from some very grouchy volunteers. Yes, I would be grouchy too if I lived in a concrete jungle and had to spend my Saturday in a windowless hotel, which most definitely has sick-building syndrome, but couldn’t they have least smiled at me? Suddenly, it seemed every other runner was a hollowed-cheeked Spanish man grumpily hauling his race goodies to his car. A man who trains at his gym, who does not speak, but rather grunts, doesn’t get his period, and was probably planning on signing a petition to keep slow folks like me off the course!

Pretty grim you’re thinking, right? But by the time I got back to Barcelona I was actually feeling pretty positive (read delusional). Heck, the suburban sprawl had even grown on me! I spotted girls playing field hockey on a dirt lot along the train tracks and thought, “Oh fall, oh field hockey, oh the shins of my youth! See? Home isn’t so different or so far away!”

Even as I sleepily prepared my playlist and searched for my water bottle in a pile of dirty clothes, I still hadn’t realized that crying while standing on a median strip usually means PMS, like tomorrow-your-period-is-coming-like-a-14-wheeler PMS. Sleepiness just leads to delusions: although Smartcoach had been predicting my time as 2:08 for weeks, and despite being too tired to utter a single word to Charles over my plate of pasta, I continued believing that I would able to run a 2:05 half marathon. I actually thought that, just because I had a few amazing runs this summer and early fall, and a new 10k PR, because running had felt so good and so easy, and because I had faithfully stuck to the plan, that 2:05 was mine.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Half Marathon of the Mediterranean

I will post a race report later, but the news is I finished in 2:08:01. I'm dissappointed; I wanted to run this in 2:05, but I guess I'll get over it. Weather was kind--humid because it's Barcelona, but not sunny, thank god. My P started at km 10, so that was, well, annoying, but also positive because I know now that even with cramps and after working 3 12-hour days in a row I can run a half marathon with a smile on my face and feel great at the end.

Hope everyone has a great Sunday. More soon!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The ABC's of a Taper Tantrum

A anal-compulsive behavior (like trying to memorize splits for 21 km)
B bra, I got a new one, to replace the chafer.
C chocolate, I’ve been eating way too much of it.
D dorsal, that’s Spanish for race bib and I’m picking mine up on Saturday once I leave work.
E eating
F Four days to go!
G gu, I never ever have, but now think maybe I should
H hydration, that’s my middle name
I I-pod, yes I’m bringing it!
J jogging, that’s what I’ve been doing this week.
K K’naan, Canadian hip-hop artist and the centerpiece of my new playlist
L Lead legs on my tempo run--what the hell?
M munchies: raisins! granola! peanuts, oh my!
N Nathan handheld, I think I’m bringing him with.
O Overdramatic about everything
P period. My period is late and will probably come on race day. And if it doesn’t we have a whole other problem.
Q quality. Tomorrow will be my last quality, tempo run before the big day.
R route. The route for this half sucks: out and back, out and back, weird windy circle and then out and back again.
S sensational, that how’s my race is gonna be.
T time, I’m obsessed with it. "What should my time goal be? Don’t want to be disappointed but yet it’s good to aim high..."
V very tired, the less I run the more tired I become!
W weather. I’ve been checking it like a crazy person. It’s going to be 68 and sunny, a tad too hot.
X Xtremely nervous
Y Yassos, did a few on Monday just in case I decide to train for that marathon in March.
Z zzzz’s trying so hard to get some despite my work schedule.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Group: Opinions Wanted

Well, I tried out running with The Group last night. And then (and yes, this was crazy) I went running with my friend A. After the The Group, I was feeling kind of weird and self-conscious so it was nice to run with an old friend and just chat.

The Group meets at a local gym along the waterfront and then jogs to a park and breaks into three sub groups: A, B, and C. Yup you guessed it—all the cute young guys are in A and I’m in C with the older men and most of the women. Group C is still pretty fast, though, yikes! The workout started out with stretches and calisthenics, and then we went into the fartlek phase. People were nice, but not particularly friendly—they sort of stuck with their own bunch, which is fine I guess, but not super welcoming. Maybe everyone was tired from work and just wasn’t up for pandering to the new girl. Honestly, I was tired myself and didn’t really feel like making all the necessary introductory small talk: ( Where are you from?; USA; Oh I love New York; Yeah, it's great; But it's pretty nice here, eh?; Yup it is. And repeat ad nausem.)

The coach (shy, very serious, baby-faced) corrected my form a few times, reminding me (as every physical therapist or yoga person I’ve ever encountered has) that I’m too tense and need to relax my shoulders. What can I say? I’m uptight, always have been and always will be! But, thanks to running, I’ve calmed down significantly over the last year and was able to think, “That’s a helpful suggestion, I’ll work on relaxing my shoulders” instead of “Do not touch me, you hippie!”.

I’m not fully convinced that The Group is for me, but I recognize that it might be helpful if I want to a) get faster and b) run the Barcelona marathon this spring. Let’s look at the pros and cons:

1. The Group will force me to do speed work at least once a week.
2. Having a coach might help me break bad habits and teach me a bit about form.
3. I might need other people to get through the long pre-marathon runs and the winter.
4. Having to talk to new people is challenging, but will eventually prove to be positive.

1. The cost: 25 € (about $35) a month
2. The other people. Yeah, I know, that’s supposed to be a pro, but I like being in my own world when I run and I'm hyper aware of other people: how they're feeling, breathing, running.
3. The fact that on Group nights I can’t just run from my house and back. I have to run down to the meeting point, meet, do the workout, and then run (or limp) back to my house. All this means that it takes about 2 hours to get in 5 miles midweek…
4. The Group requires that you wear their official t-shirt to practice and at races. (Strange. Corporate. Scary. Is The Group a sect?)

Do you love your group? Or are you a curmudgeon like me?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cursa de la Mercè 2010

I’m still waiting for the City Council of Barcelona to issue a statement admitting that yesterday’s course was short. Back in June, I ran a very disappointing 10k so I was wary of being over confident going in to this race. Truth be told, and despite that June disaster, I had reasons to be cautiously confident: my August runs—alone and with my father—felt fantastic, and, just last Wednesday, I did a long run at a very decent pace. Yet, I was concerned that the long run may have tired me out, that the first week back to work wasn’t the best time to do a race, and that a 12,000-person event with lots of “fun runners” was not the best place to try for a PR. Still, my plan was to try for a 57:30 finish, a slight improvement over my previous PR of 58:45.

Saturday evening I did some math and decided to aim for a 5:45/km pace. Then, I organized my race playlist, something I’ve never actually done before and which ended up being very beneficial. (Envisioning how you’ll be feeling at every km and what music you’ll need to push you through works wonders!) I got to bed early and was wide awake at 6:30 am. By 7:30, I’d managed to get down two cups of coffee and an apple, but I wasn’t hungry enough to eat anything else: I was excited and jittery and ready to go.

Now, it’s important to note here that I had made a conscious decision to run this race alone. There are people I could have called last week or even Sunday morning in order to meet up with them with at the start. In fact, I even turned down meet-ups with a few other runners. (I was polite and honest, but I’m sure those girls still think I’m a big weirdo.) I needed to run this race alone-- to be selfishly focused and determined. Does this ever happen to you? Do you sometimes not want to share that (mental) racing space? And yes, it was lonely at the beginning. Catalans are such group people--all decked out in the official race shirt, singing and taking pictures and generally being friendly and jovial. But, though I’ve been here for ten years, I’m still very American in my need to be an individual-- a pensive, lonely runner. Sure, all alone at the massively monumental Plaça Espanya, I had some weak moments and thought about texting a runner friend and begging, last minute, for a meet. But then, I would have had to make small talk, instead of staying focused on my race and other, deeper thoughts: my homesickness after a month in the States, discontent at the workplace, and my lack of enthusiasm for my thesis. I stayed strong—checked my cell phone with my bag, reflected on those big life questions, and talked to strangers in the spot-a-pot line instead of people I’d have to commit to staying near once the race began.

It took ten minutes just to get over the starting line, and I ran that first crowded kilometer in 6:12. In order to keep a 5:45 pace, I had some time to make up! Some runners were spreading out onto the sidewalks along the Gran Via in order to get ahead, but that seemed slightly dangerous to me: the scenario of tripping over a tree root and breaking my ankle flashed through my head. But, once I spotted a guy wearing an easily distinguishable green hat and knifing through groups four or five abreast, I followed him through km 4. I used his trailblazing and then passed him, crossing the 5k mark at 27-something! I was psyched! Thank you, Green Hat!

Since I was carrying my own water I didn’t have to stop and get caught in the 5k-water-shuffle either; I just tuned in to my tunes. Families spilled out onto their balconies, old ladies were cheering and I had the rumba catalana carrying me along. At the 8k mark my watch read 45:01 and I actually clapped my hands. Just stay focus, I thought to myself, you have this in the bag. The last two kilometers weren’t easy though—the race ended uphill and the street narrowed, so there was no room and I had little energy left for a sprint. And, I was having trouble concentrating because I realized that I was going to come in under 56 minutes and just couldn’t believe it. Excitement took over. Last year, I did this same race (yes, granted just for fun with co-workers) in 1:05. What a difference, although of course it makes perfect sense: you work at something, you practice persistently, and you get better. But somehow, 55:12 just felt too good to be true. I looked up the race results online as soon as I got home, just to make sure my watch hadn’t been disastrously wrong.

Now, I’m just trying not to get my hopes too high for my half marathon on October 24th, just trying to stay focused on doing what I’ve been doing: running consistently and carefully—avoiding injury and slowly but surely building confidence. So my 10k PR is the good news, the bad is that my goal of running before work is just not happening, but I’m trying not to beat myself up over that. Another one of my (many) goals was to cross-train and except for some swimming in the open sea that just hasn’t been happening either. We’ll see if I can get to tonificación class at the gym this week, although I’ve been fantasizing about getting back into swimming recently. I was on swim team in high school and swimming laps always feels like coming home. Does anyone use swimming as their cross-training? Does it help your running or do you think weights are more beneficial?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

10k PR!

55:12 And this was a BIG race so I had to weave in and out of people and try not to get crushed. I am so happy about this time and feel like I could maybe even improve on it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Goose Eggs & Scaredy Cats

Yes, I’ve just recorded a big fat zero in the running log today because a) I’m exhausted b) I’ve got a throbbing blue toe again and c) tomorrow I have an 11-miler planned and I want to be feeling good. I’m trying to figure out why my toes get bruised in Barcelona, but not in Baltimore. Strange, because it’s hot in both places and, while I try to stay on grass or asphalt, I end up running on sidewalks sometimes in both cities as well. Perhaps my feet are more swollen here after a day of work and walking around the city…Anyway, I’m just going to take some more Tylenol and hope for the best. Dr Sheehan--way back in 1978--already delivered the bad news: "Is your second toe longer than your first toe? If so and you are an athlete you are in for trouble" (Running and Being, p.134).

One of my goals for this fall is to run in the mornings, before work, so that I have evenings free to write and cook, or maybe even hang out with friends or get some of my thesis done. However, that’s going to take some real discipline and a big change in routine and my basic bioritmos. I’m used to getting up at 8 and going to bed around 2 am, and in order to do these morning runs I’ll have to be up and at ‘em by 6 at the latest. Also, I’m scared of the morning dark! In the States, running in the morning seems safer to me, but here I actually feel safer at night. In Barcie, there are lots of runners out at 10 pm, but at 6:30 or 7 in the morning, in my neighborhood, it’s just me, the trash men, a few tired prostitutes and their creepy clients. Hopefully, they’ll just go about their business and I’ll go about mine.

When do you run? Are you scared of the dark? Or perhaps of lonely trails in the country? Running on trails scares the bee-jesus out of me!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How to Beat Jetlag after a Long and Lovely Summer Vacation

1. Get a direct flight.
2. Read Running & Being on the plane.
3. Drink some red wine halfway through the book (even though Dr Sheehan himself wouldn´t).
4. Sleep the last three hours of the flight.
5. Take the aerobus home, unpack, and then, right when you're about to get all weepy and homesick, go out and run 5 miles. This will keep the sadness at bay a little while longer.
6. At 4 pm, when you’re feeling dangerously nostalgic and drowsy, walk down to the sea and swim out to the buoys. Yes, you´ll still miss your family and the lush greenness of America, but you might just get a good night´s rest.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sticky Summer Update

A small miracle has occurred right here in Baltimore, Maryland: I've been in the USA for two weeks and have managed to only gain two pounds. Apparently, one can eat treats (brownies, Starbucks lattes, and apple pie) all the damn day and basically drive everywhere, but still stay healthy by running at least five days a week in swamp-like stickiness. Yes, it has taken me 31 years to figure this out, but so far, so true.

My half-marathon training has been going fairly well, despite the rather devastating humidity, I got in 35 miles this past week. Truth be told, since I've been home, I've only gotten in one speed workout, but I have managed to do two ten-milers with my dad and we had a great four-mile race last Sunday.

Now, friends, the big question: to marathon or not to marathon? My inclination has always been to wait and see how my second half-marathon in October goes. I've always thought that if I could shave a decent amount of time off my 2:14 finish from last May, I would take the plunge and sign up for the Barcelona marathon for March 2011. But, if I don't improve my half time substantially (this means by at least five minutes) will I be horribly disappointed? Is it silly to think it necessary to be around the two hour mark for a half to realistically consider training for a full? I've read horror stories about injuries or five and a half hours of misery from people who weren't truly prepared. Is it really necessary to run a full marathon, for me, this year? The sensible, practical part of me says, no, it's not necessary at all and probably not a very good idea, but there is something deeper, more visceral and stronger that says, "I really want to try for this now."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Heading for the Hills

Yesterday, I was bad. First, I skipped a pool date with my friend Aitor. I pleaded "too much work," but the truth is I was just exhausted. On the walk back from work I stopped at the fancy Scandinavian bakery and bought an organic chocolate spelt muffin. As if “healthy” meant not fattening. Perhaps you’re wondering how it tasted? Very, very good.

When I got home from work I found that the latest issue of The London Review of Books had arrived. And I am, you see, a LRB junky. I devour the thing in two nights usually. No talking to my husband, no cleaning, no cooking-just reading. But yesterday I promised myself just one article and then some sleep. So I did just that: I read the one article and then took a long, delicious nap. It's been a long time since I've taken a nap during the week and it felt at once luxurious and necessary.

When Charles came home, he wanted to show me a new running route he'd been thinking about all day: Avenida Miramar on Montjuïc. Yeah, it's a mountain! So although 8 km of speed work were on my training schedule, I did 7 hilly km with Charles. Keeping up with him is speed work enough for moi. This route, which I would be a little wary of doing on my own, was absolutely breathtaking! At the Hotel Miramar we stopped and took in the whole city. Yes, I'm excited to go home for a month, but I'm really going to miss BCN for running.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Real Runner Now

Yes, I did what was once unthinkable: I took the hot needle to my black toenail. If that doesn't make you cringe, please keep reading…I'm happy to report that this new form of torture actually didn’t hurt a bit! Some blood and fluid (no pus!) came out and my (very soft) nail is now white instead of purple! Our bodies are really quite simple, I guess.

I've only operated on the right toe so far, but lefty is bugging me too. And I ask, why now? I have been running in new shoes, but they seem to fit fine and they're just an upgraded model of my trusty Asics, not a different brand or anything. There's been no significant increase in mileage either. 25 miles a week --give or take--since May... I’m thinking the culprit might be the heat. As I've gotten used to it, I've done longer runs later in the day and my feet probably swell and rub against my sock. After spending an entire workday reading about this on the internet, the basic conclusion on runner’s toe seems to be suck it up. Which, of course, is what I’ve done in the past. The thing is, I never much minded ugly toes in fall or winter, but now it’s August and I’m about to start my holiday and I really want to show off my lovely tan feet with some pretty pink polish. The sad, soft toenail with a hole in it is really ruining my look.

Now, I would like to ask you all for some advice:

a) Can I get me scheduled pedicure on Friday? And just paint over holeymoley? Let’s consider the person who has to do the pedicure…

b) Should I search for new shoes or just go with it? These new guys (Asics 1150) don't seem to hug my arch as tightly as the 1140s, but can't I adapt? I really don’t feel like shelling out more cash in order to solve a problem which I realize is actually inevitable.

c) Can I run 4 miles this afternoon?

Sorry for the gross out and please share your toe stories.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Feeling Famous

I’ve been postless for a few weeks because there is just so much for me to do in Barcelona in the summer. Some bad: eating way too much ice-cream, drinking many, many cold beers, staying out late and dancing in the streets, getting tan, which looks good now but will lead to a well-deserved lecture from my mom and the dermatologist. Some good: swimming in the sea, biking, and running. Despite two busy weeks at work, way too much drinking, and more biking than usual, I ran 105 miles in July. Up until now my goal was simply 25 miles a week, over vacation I'll be aiming for 30.
Right now, Barcelona is hosting the European Athletic Championships. Yesterday we watched the women’s marathon and wow, those ladies are fit. The fastest are all well into their thirties and have had at least two children. Interesting, hmm? I guess life just makes you a tougher, better runner. The coolest thing about Barcelona being the host city for this event is that the runners all train along the beach, right where I run. So as I plod along the Paseo Maritimo elite athletes fly by in their cute warm-up suits. Some even stop and take pictures, and two (one guy from France, one chica from Portugal) actually waved to me. So, yeah, this week I’m feeling famous.
Today: a 5-mile recovery run after yesterday’s brutally hot 8-miler and then I might go watch some of the men’s marathon, which starts and finishes about five blocks from my apartment! This time next week I’ll be on vacation, in Baltimore, frantically figuring out new, safe and shady, routes for my upcoming long runs. Good thing I'll have my dad to help.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I have a little over 500 miles on my ASICS Gel-1140s so it’s time to buy new shoes. I got these 1140s on sale here in Barcelona last February and was planning on just ordering the exact same shoes from Road Runners Sports and have them shipped to my parents’ for my August arrival. That way, I’d benefit from the euro/dollar exchange rate and avoid packing running shoes for my flight stateside. However, last night I saw that the 1140s have been discontinued! Should I just order the new 1150s from RRS or is it best to pay the extra money and purchase the shoes at a local shop, where I can try them on?

Advice and shoe stories appreciated.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pre-Sheffield 10-Mile Run

Lo Bueno:

1. Lo & behold: Barcelona runners are suddenly friendly! Little actual waving, but some did nod in acknowledgement of the heat. Usually people just push on by. It’s not like suburban Baltimore where people smile and greet when they see another human on foot as opposed to in car.
2. Thank goodness there are water fountains every mile along much of the beach.
3. I remembered to put my sunscreen all over.
4. I was supposed to be at work, but instead I was running!
5. During the euphoric stage of this run, I psyched myself up to get serious about speed work and hills once I’m actually on vacation. I envisioned my dad timing me at the track at my old high school. Funny what goes through your head on a hot run in the sun.
6. Richard Buckner & Barricada on the I-pod.

Lo Malo

1. Basically no shade. I'd trade those other runners and their timid nods for some more trees in a New York minute.
2. Hot water from the fountains. Yuck, a hot stream coming atcha is not refreshing.
3. By mile 8 the ‘screen was in my eyes.
4. Am I perhaps crazy to take a vacation day in order to make sure I get a long run in before a trip?
5. I actually need to start that speed work right away and it’s hot, hot, hot.
6. Stupid-ass, ugly Nike I-pod armband.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Catcalls While Running Naked

You’re thinking, “Jesus, she got over her body insecurities quickly!” Not so fast, I just went running sans I-pod, something I’m trying to do on shorter runs this summer. Previously, I mentioned that I like running naked in order to be able to hear my breathing, the sound of the wind, and the crashing waves, but tonight what I heard loud and clear were the catcalls. The catcall is an art form in Spain, and I have to say, sometimes, on a Monday morning, on the way to work, a compliment—especially one with what the Spanish call a bit of gracia (flair or grace)—puts a smile on my face and reminds me why I like living in a culture somewhat well, warmer, than my own. However, why someone, on a disgustingly sticky evening, would choose to call out GUAPA and then proceed to make kissing noises at an extraordinarily sweaty girl in spandex shorts and mismatched socks is beyond me, but it made me laugh and pick up my pace a bit.

This post is inspired by Ezethan

On Feeling Good

This weekend I went to a nearby beach town with three good friends and while I had a great time and laughed quite a lot, the whole weekend was tinged with a bitter sense of disappointment because, after months of half marathon training, I thought I would be thinner and more toned by now. All winter I imagined feeling absolutely estupenda in my bikini, but in reality I just felt fatter than the other three girls, none of whom run, all of whom smoke and drink and eat badly. Yes, I know that life isn’t fair and that I should be just be content with the fact that running makes me feel amazing and that I’m greatly lowering my risk for lung cancer and heart disease by exercising and eating well and NOT smoking…That I should take a certain, evil, sort of comfort in knowing that these bon vivants may one day pay for their gluttony…But the thing is I still wish running could transform the way I look—could make me lean in a way I’ve never been and probably never will be. When I hang out with people whose habits are so bad and they look so good, it makes me think that all this sweating and agonizing over food is getting me absolutely nowhere, that maybe I should just accept chubby as my natural state.

But at 8 o’clock last night—when I got back from the beach and the weather had cooled down a bit—I headed out to run the 10.13 kilometers necessary to complete my weekly goal of 40k. I ran slowly at the beginning, feeling silly yet again—why keep running, I thought, when I’m still chubby and still slow. Of course, a half hour in to the run, I wasn’t feeling fat but rather strong. And by the time I got back to the house—soaked in sweat—I had forgotten about my bikini body and had had time to think through my work week and make constructive professional plans for July, August and beyond. For me, running is only going to work when I remember that the race is individual, that comparing my body to my friends’ is not at all productive, and, that even if I'm not looking good, I am feeling good.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wide Awake: My Summer Solstice

June 23rd, 1:03 am: I went to sleep exhausted after a hot, humid 5k. Apparently being stressed at the office makes my legs really tired! But by 4:55 am, I was wide awake, fretting over work. A half-hour run was obviously not enough to calm my crazy ass down. Good thing it's a short week--I get off at 2 today and don't work Thursday or Friday! Tonight is La Nit de Sant Joan, the shortest night of the year and the Catalans will celebrate with coca, cava, and fire.

This afternoon I hope to run 10k before our Sant Joan party. Will I be able to run on three hours of sleep and then get all the party prepping done? Sometimes it's hard to be a diligent runner and an impeccable hostess all in one day. Once the festivities begin on our terrace, I'll try not to overindulge in coca or cava .

Oh, God, I love those candied fruits. The coca, in case you're wondering, tastes a lot like hot cross buns. And cava is a sparkling wine, the Catalan champagne.

My breakfast this early morning: about four cups of coffee and a delicious rice milk, banana and melon smoothie with a dash of cinnamon. Yum! I think this will be a summer staple. Just hope it gets me through this morning at the Museum.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I'm still here, I've just been busy running!

Not to worry: I'm still here, worrying about work and trying to diet. Same old, same old, it's sad, I know. But I've also been exercising like a mad woman! The weekend of June 12th we had an amazing bike trip from Ripoll to Olot to Girona. 30 km the first day and 60 km the second. There were some steep hills, but we made it up; the scariest part was flying down. There were eight of us and we had a terrific time at the youth hostel in Olot--drinking wine and playing a fiercely competitive game of Trivial Pursuit.

My next bike trip will be in late July, the second annual bicicletada through the Empordà, with my dad. Here are some pics from ´09:

One of these days, I'll write a detailed post about bike trips through Catalonia, but let me just tell you that the routes are absolutely spectacular and the best part is that you can just hop on the train with your bike, right in Barcelona, and within ninety minutes you’re riding through the countryside--towards the mountains or towards the sea.

But, back to running, my true love. This past week, despite the trials and tribulations of the international art world and agonizing over my bikini body, I had a great running week. I ran over 40 km total and got back to my Saturday Long Run. I only went 15.5 km since I left the house a bit late, but it still felt fantastic, and I crossed paths with one of my old favorites, the super serious runner.

Sunday morning I did a slow 5k recovery run sans musica. I'm going to try to do my shorter runs without the I-pod this summer. I like just trusting myself, saying "no motivation needed, I got it right here within." Listening to my breathing. Listening to people's conversations at stoplights. Being aware of cars and then suddenly of the sound of the wind and of the sea.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Today at work, I wrote up a race report, which—in a moment of frenetic multitasking— I somehow deleted. But you know what? That’s really for the better. The report was long and actually quite boring: a description of Saturday’s 10k complete with lots of complaining about the heat and the fierce wind. Blah, blah, blah.
Before leaving the Museum, I printed out a new half-marathon training program, and then I came home and went out for a run. Truth be told, I was scared to run because Saturday was the first time—almost ever— that running hasn’t been fun. Not at all fun. I didn’t smile once that whole race. Throughout the entire event, I was disappointed in my legs, in my I-pod, in my body.
Tonight’s run, I had promised myself, would be slow. After Saturday’s fiasco, I knew the heat meant I had to take it easy. However, right from the start my legs felt fantastic. I didn’t even need to stop for water; I just ran. And ran and ran. It was like the old days! Back in February when I did those first long training runs and felt absolutely on top of the world: fully confident in my legs, extraordinarily grateful for my I-pod, and suddenly, beamingly, proud of my body. I thought about my dad’s 10k this past Saturday, which had been slow and hot as well. He’d been sick the week before, but he struggled through those Dreaded Druid Hills. I thought—as I often do on runs— about having children—yes, no, maybe so—, about work, and about how much I miss my family, about the greatness of Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen, and, by the time I hit the 5-kilometer mark, I realized I was running at the pace I’d been aiming for on Sunday.
Running, I realize, isn't about the race, or the 57-minute 10k, or even about losing ten pounds. It's about that time for thinking, that control and discipline that gives way to epiphanies and to ecstasy.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sad Scarlett

Remember how I wanted to get a PR this evening for my 10 k race? Well, I never should have written that on the internet! I aimed for a 57:45 finish and got 1:00:03. WTF?!? Back in February, at the very beginning of my half marathon training I did a 10k in 58:45 on a much hillier course. I thought I'd come some far! I thought I could run much faster. Please, please, please tell me this is the heat! Or perhaps running with friend instead of running my own race? Or due to the fact that my I-pod died at km 1? Longer report soon; I'm too disappointed to write about it now.

Better get my ass in gear!

Monday, May 31, 2010


Well, it's been slow going since Wednesday, but--despite having to deal with the likes of Heinrich Müller and other postmodern playwrights-- I did get my goal of 40 kilometers in this week. But wowser, I'm so, so slow. Maybe I'm just tired out from a semester of schoolwork and a lot of work at actual work, however my legs actually hurt during my 10 k on Saturday evening. My legs never hurt that much while I'm running! I could feel my knees pounding every time my foot hit the ground. Perhaps this is just a phase--let's hope so because I have a race next week and then a bike trip (with super hardcore bikers) the following weekend. For now, I just want to keep up my goal of 40 kilometers a week (24.85 miles) and maybe (I don’t even want to say it) PR on Saturday!
By mid-June I'll start a new half marathon training program. If you have any suggestions for a good intermediate training program, please share! I want to run this next one in under 2:10.

Since I finished my last German literature paper on Sunday, I treated myself to a day of beauty today:

a visit to the waxing center, a visit to the tailor to get some summer dresses taken in, and a visit to the running store to buy some new shorts:

Why is shopping for running clothes so much more fun than shopping for regular clothes?

What kind of running shorts do you like and why?

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Last night I was suppossed to do ABS. That's what was written in my journal for this week. 10k and abs. However, when I got home Charles was having a crisis about his entire LIFE so I dragged him out of the house and we walked down to the beach. I saw lots of other runners and yes, they gave me pangs of guilt, but I just held my head high and walked and talked and listened. I was a friend and good wife--sometimes that's just what you have to be.

Today: lunch run! + abs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Estiu, Catalan for Summer

L'estiu has arrived! It's a holiday here in Barcie--the second Easter, whatever that means--so this morning I woke up late and prepared two salads, one for lunch, one for dinner: quinoa w/ citrus dressing and avocado & grapefruit. Yum!

After popping the salads in the fridge, I headed out for a 10k along the beach. It was about 80º by the time I got out there, so I took things pretty easy and just thought about all my upcoming summer fun:
1-Bike trip. June 12-13. Ripoll-Olot-Girona
2- Minorca. June 24-28. Island getaway with three wonderful friends. This one hasn't been booked yet, but hopefully I'll be able to budget it in despite the pay cut.
3- Sheffield. July 2-4. Quick weekend trip to meet an old friend's new baby. Do hope we get to take a hike in the Peak District. But hike or no hike, I'll definitely be getting drunk over there in the north of England.
4. Dad's visit. My father arrives July 14th and I'm so excited to run with him! We'll also do another weekend bike trip through the Empordà while he's here.
5. August: home to Baltimore. Hooray! My dad has already signed us up for one race in August and I'm looking for more!

Now, I just have to get through my last few Masters papers and some rough events at work.

What a happy-go-lucky post, you're thinking, hmm? Here's the grouchy part:

My running enemies of the day are not cars but people on Segways:
Enough said, I think.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Operación Bikini

Yup, that's what all the b oo t i f u l Spanish ladies start in January. They diet and gym, and look fantastic on the city beach by June. So, I'm getting serious about this a little late, but I've been busy training for the half and thinking about doing all my masters work! Honestly, although I'd love to look great in a bikini, I really just want to get stronger and run faster. The running is going well because I love it. Ah, I'm just a little pleasure hound at heart. Running just feels good! And that makes it easy. Yesterday I ran 14 easy km at the midday and at night I did a simple core workout (planks, crunches, sit-ups) that felt impossible. My abdominal muscles are simply non-existent and I want them strong before I have children.

So my fitness goals for summer:

1) tighten up that core!

2) run faster 10-ks

3) eat more green, leafy vegetables and stay away from salty snacks and ice cream

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Just a quick post before I get back to my paper writing. Due to my day job, which often overflows into night, I didn't run on Monday or Tuesday so today I went wild with a three-way- combo special.

Part 1: The first 4k were a slow jog with Anna. Her knee is still sore, so we just moseyed along and talked about the same stuff we've been talking about since fourth grade: boys and summer plans, basically.

Part 2: Anna turned back and I got the crazy idea to do hill repeats up the ramp of the Hotel Vela. You gotta watch out for the rookie roller bladers coming down the hill while you're going up, but all in all a fun workout.

Part 3: For the last half of the run, I did my own lil fartlek: fast song all out, slow song recovery. And now I am spent. Must get back to paper--goodnight internet, goodnight tired legs, goodnight other runners, goodnight moon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Cars are the Enemy"

Throughout my childhood, my dad always reminded me that "cars are the enemy." He's been hit a few times while running and taught his children well.

Today, as they sip their coffee and read the Sunday paper, most people here in España are concerned about the 20% unemployment rate and the drastic budget cuts announced this past Thursday, and yes, those things worry me too. In June, my salary will be cut 5% and I worry that xenphobia and racism will increase here as the crisis worsens, but I have another--more specific--concern this morning and that's cars and certain jerks who drive them. Why do people (especially 45-to 50-year-old men in Mercedes or BMWs) always run red lights? Yesterday, at the tail end of my run, four cars (3 Mercedes, 1 BMW) ran a light. The fourth car almost hit me and a guy with two little girls. The four traffic cops, sitting in their cars at the busy intersection, shrugged and reminded us, the silly pedestrians, that it's important to look both ways, even when your light is green.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Black Cloud Monday

Does this ever happen to you? The black cloud? An dull, tired ache that stays with you even after your third cup of coffee? The heavy sensation that everyone around you is skinny, has a great job, and beautiful children and thus that your life, in comparison, sucks? Well, sometimes this happens to me on Monday. But not to worry--I'm heading out for an evening run with Abby and she'll assure me that I'm actually doing just fine. That I'm not skinny, that my job is rather silly, that I have no idea if I'm ready to have children, but that my life is interesting and meaningful nonetheless.

I confess: Yesterday we didn't end up doing the 5k. (Thank God.) The race filled up quickly and I thought, "No shirt, no way!" Anna, who did sign up on time, and is skinny, has a great job, and a beautiful child, reported that that the out-and-back course was super boring. I did 10k along the beach in an hour, almost exactly. I wanted to break 59 minutes, but some British tourists and French children foiled my plan! How dare they walk slowly through the port on a spring Sunday!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pastanaga, that's Catalan for carrot

And last night, Charles was my carrot. I've decided that I have to get faster. For the past several months, I was just concentrating on finishing those 13.1 miles, but now I've got to get more serious. So Charles and I left at 9:30 pm for a 10 k route. We were both exhausted from long days at work and the first 4 km we just sort of moseyed along. I let Charles talk and kept up with him easily. (My only problem: my new running shorts which ride up. Does anyone have any suggestions for shorts that don't ride up and aren't obscene?) By the middle of the run, I told Charles to go ahead, that he would be my pastanaga, and I just tried to keep in sight. That worked until about km 8, when I felt like I was going to puke. Well, no one ever said this was going to be easy.

No run this morning. I already miss the long Saturday run! Tomorrow a dreaded 5k!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Race Report Empúries: Long Version

Part I: Transportation

This story starts on Thursday, April 29th, the day Charles and I drove to Torelló for his grandmother’s funeral. We took the trusty Kangoo, the quintessential little work truck for electricians and plumbers throughout Spain.

That night, as we drove back down to Barcelona, something seemed a little off—the car was swerving in and out of our lane. You all should know that I'm a real nut about cars and car safety. Basically, I live in Europe because I hate driving, so I thought, maybe we're not swerving--maybe, I'm just tired. But, I could tell something rather serious was going on, because Charles is both an excellent driver and a very calm, even-tempered person and he was nervous as hell. Despite some very scary grinding metal sounds and not be able to go from first to second gear, Charles managed to get the Kangoo into its parking space on level minus 6 of our narrow, most likely illegal, parking garage. At 7 am, on Friday morning, the mechanic said it was best to have the car towed in right away since, from the sound of it, the steering column might snap at any given moment.

This caused me to pretty much freak the fuck out: “How,” I asked, “Are we getting to the race?” It seemed to me that Charles’ entire company should stop stressing over the Spanish economic crisis or an eight-storey apartment building full of small children and old people without hot water and start thinking of a way to get me to Empúries by 8 am Sunday morning. I whined and thought only about myself. That’s the kind of selfish behavior runners get accused of, I know. And apparently the accusations are right on. “I’ve been preparing for this for months! There is absolutely no reliable public transportation in that area! You have to get another car!” I shouted at a man who works 40 hours a week, goes to school full time in the evening, and had just buried his grandmother.

Charles, you see he's always right, told me to stop acting like a baby and promptly left for work.

At noon, he called and told me that we had a car for the trip; he’d gotten a hold of the infamous Peugeot Boxer than no one ever wants to drive (or park) in city traffic:

So, Friday evening Charles moved this mofo to a different parking spot every half hour and, on Saturday, we left the city just before the police closed off the main roads for the May Day rallies. Yes, we really should have gone to the May Day protests, especially this year, but then that’s a whole other blog.

Part II: The Race

I could write about the tiny hostel room where we watched a soccer match in black & white or our pasta dinner with the crazy cokehead waiter, but those stories aren't that interesting. What's important is that I--queen of disorganization and general laziness-- packed my own very special breakfast and woke up at 6 am Sunday morning--the first time I've been awake before Charles possibly ever. Not only did I bring my own special granola in a tiny glass jar, I had also prepared my special thermos of American coffee, which was still hot nearly 18 hours after being brewed. 18 hours? Yuck, I know, but all the bars were closed in the sleepy fishing town of L'Escala so I had two delicious cups of coffee while most other runners had none.
By 6:15, I was dressed and lathered up with sunscreen, so I took some blurry pictures out the hotel window, did some half-assed stretching and then took some pictures of Charles until he woke up. It was a short walk to the Roman ruins, where the race was set to begin. There were actually quite a few people at the race whom we know sort of tangentially, so Charles chatted while I waited in the bathroom line. Charles had told me on Saturday morning that he definitely wasn't going to run, not even the 10k. "You don't need me to do that," he said. And I really didn't. It's strange, but I really prefer running alone. I mean yes, sometimes it's easier getting out the door if I talk Charles into coming or if I know I'm meeting Abby for a Thursday night run, but once I'm running I want to be by myself.
So, as we headed to the startline, I didn't try to make any friends, I just concentrated on telling myself to start out slowly. That wasn't easy because even though it was a small race, we were all--full thoners and halvers--squished together on a very narrow path. I put some slow hip-hop on my I-pod and tried to just plod along 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, until the pack thinned out a bit. The first 8 or 9 km of the race were the same out and back for the marathon, the half, and the 10k, which started 5 minutes after us. I must say the first twenty or so minutes were glorious: we were running though beautiful farmland and it was raining, but not cold. At around the 5th or 6th km (the distances were not marked!), it began to really pour and the 10 kers began to blow by me, but I was feeling totally fine. Two guys fom work whizzed by me and called out, "Looking good!" And I sort of laughed thinking, "God, I must look like a drowned rat." But I knew right then that I was going to finish the race.

When I'd been running for 59 minutes, I saw Charles and he took an awful, fat drowned rat picture of me. Then, suddenly, all the 10kers verged off toward their finish line and I thought, "Baby, you better slow down." I didn't have to work too hard on slowing down, because I had a big hill awaiting me. On the other side of that hill was a fantastic stretch: narrow (somewhat slippery) streets through the Old Town. Old Catalan ladies and young Moroccan girls cheered us on from their doorways. Dutch tourists called down from their balconies. I felt like I was famous.

At some point though that high sort of drifted away and I wanted to know, rather desperately, how far I'd run. There were no markers in the street and the policemen I called out to just sort of shrugged and said, "What kilometer? Uh dunno, but good job!" I couldn't find anyone else with a blue number! Everyone around me was wearing the full marathon black bib. A volunteer motioned for me to veer off toward a sign that read, "21.095" and suddenly I was alone, so I just kept running. The full marathoners rejoined me at some point--packs of men passed me and nervously looked back at my number. They smiled, relieved when they saw that I was just a slow halfer and not a girl kicking some serious full marathon ass.

As we passed through a suburban development with beach houses from the 1960s, a small miracle occured: I saw a something spraypainted on the road surface. Yes, it was sort of washing away but it distinctly read: 15 km 1/2. I only had six more kilometers to go! That was nothing! My left knee hurt and I wanted some Gatorade and then...miracle number two occurred: I spotted an aid station and some twevle-year-olds offering water and...sponges? No-orange wedges! I took one and sort of half ate, half smeared it on my face and then, a third--what seemed-to-be miracle happened: I saw Charles! He was wearing a black trashbag, but I still recognized him. I called out "How much longer?" And the woman standing next to him said, very clearly and very confidently, "Tres!" But you see, that didn't sound right because remember I had just recently experienced the first miracle of seeing the 15 km marker? Also, that would have meant that I was on pace to finish in 2:07:00, which really would have been a miracle.

I followed some blue arrows on the pavement and started down a narrow road canopied by pine trees. I was totally alone and I was tired and I had been lied to, in a very cruel way, by Charles' new friend. Also, I was wondering if I was still on the right course. I called out to a man pissing in the woods, "Am I going the right way!" And, he, rather abruptly, zipped up and said, "Yeah! Go! Go!"

So I kept running and other liars along the way called out "You're almost there!" "This is nothing!" or "It's just around the bend!" When I'd been running for 2 hours and 10 minutes, I knew that I wasn't going to achieve any great time and I realized that I had no idea how far I had to go, or how much further I could keep running, but then I did come around the bend and see the sea. It was incredibly beautiful and I remembered why I love the Alt Empordà, and why I fell in love with Catalonia and decided to live here so many years ago, and why I had decided back in January to do this very race. And I thought, "just breathe in and enjoy this." I searched for Van Morrison on my I-pod and decided to just relax. And then, I came around another bend and saw the finish line and the clock that read 2 hr 14-something and I ran like una loca.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

First half marathon: Mitja marató d'Empúries


It was rainy and wonderful.

Starting off from the ruins:

We ran along the sea for the middle part of the race:

Yes, I wish I had run faster today and trained harder the last few weeks. This race probably wasn't a particularly good choice for my first half marathon, either. Most of the other runners were fast and experienced. I didn't have many peers! And, yes, it was humiliating to be one of the "ultimas." However, it was also exhilarating to run the first half of the race in a downpour and to know, the entire time, that I had trained for this and that I was going to finish no matter what. The scenery was spectacular, but this was a small race (less 500 people) and the kilometers were not marked so I ran the last 5 or 6 km alone, with no idea how far I had to go and no one to pace myself against.

Details and photos to come. But for now, I did it! And it's funny-- while I was running those last few lonely miles, I kept imagining that I would cry at the finish line, but I was totally calm. I think Charles was closer to crying than I was. He was so proud and I was just like, "Hey, do they have any gatorade?" (They didn't--just some good old Fanta Limón.)

Friday, April 30, 2010

It's my birthday

So what's on tap:

1) budget meeting at work. Yeah, that'll be rough.

2) lunch with a friend from Cali

3) last run before half marathon. Due to some family stuff, I haven't been running in two days so I am psyched for a long, slow evening run along the beach.

4) A trip to La Esquinica with the Baltimore / Barcelona ladies.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Almost there

Only 5 days to go! I'm getting a little nervous because the half marathon cut off is 2 hours 30 minutes. Kind of strict, huh? Please note that the above picture from the race's website is all men and all serious. (In Spain, running is still a man's world. In most races, you're lucky if 10% of the participants are women.)Basically, I've accepted that I might come in last in the mitja marató, but that doesn't bother me!

So, some questions, in case anyone out there would like to offer some advice:

1) I've been running in capris up until now because a) it hasn't been that hot and b) because my spandex shorts ride up, don't have pockets, and show off some very pale thighs. Will I be too hot in my capris? Should I just stick with them as to not add an unknown to the race?

2) To I-pod or not to I-pod? I've become pretty addicted and feel that music helps me run, but I also thinks it's important, especially in a race, to be aware of other runners around you. (Now of course, it's important to remember that there may not be any runners around me since most other participants will probably be very tall, fit, speedy French and Catalan men who have never even seen fast food or touched a donut.)

3) Coffee. American coffee. How will I transport it? You see on Saturday night we'll be sleeping in a wee village and Sunday morning everything will be closed before the 8 am race. Is it really gross to prepare a thermos of coffee the day before?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fog Shovelling

Left the house late, at 8 pm, and got sidetracked at the neighborhood pasta shop. The pasta ladies ordered some pizza slicers from the US, you see, so I stopped in to admire the new cutlery. Apparently the best pizza slicers don't come from Italy but rather from Italian knifemakers in America. This, clearly, is important stuff to know before setting off on your run or getting started on your German literature paper.

It was a quick, misty run. There were moments, along the beach, when I could only see a few feet in front me and I felt as if I were running totally alone, shovelling through the fog.

6.5 km in 39 minutes. Short and sweet. And done. Tomorrow 10 k in the early evening.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Last Long Run or Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

Less than 2 weeks for the half marathon! I did my last long (well, long-for-me) run on Saturday. 18 km in 1 hr 58 minutes. I was tired, more tired than I've ever felt during any of these long training runs. Hmm, did the last weeks of training suddenly catch up with me? Or perhaps it's simply Frühjahrsmüdigkeit, spring tiredness.

I was due for six miles this evening but as I walked home from my German literature class this afternoon, the sky began to darken. Was this just typical spring weather or was the cloud of Eyjafjallajokull ash passing over us? By 6:30 I was safe inside my piso and it was pouring so my run was canceled and thus far my Frühjahrsmüdigkeit has kept me from the gym.

So, yes, I've been pretty lazy today, but last week my Three Changes Challenge (see
went fairly well:

1. I did bring lunch to work twice. God, today I had an awful lunch out with two catty co-workers so I'm really going to stick with this goal for the rest of the week.
2. I've been doing my sit-ups (ugh) and push-ups. So many sit-ups that my stomach hurts like hell.
3. I've been reading (some) for my masters. An hour each and every day--no. And I haven't written anything. But I will this week!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Correr a correos

Yes, that's what I did today: a quick run to the post office where I mailed two baby presents, one to NYC, one to Sheffield, England. While it may be normal and acceptable to walk around town in workout gear in the US of A, it's simply not in Barcelona so I was a little worried about waiting in line at the post office in running tights and a tech shirt. I mean a quick stop at the grocery store after a run doesn't usually seem so out of line, but suddenly, at Correos, beneath the beautiful ceiling and amidst people in stylish winter coats, I felt, well, ridiculous and dorky. I was number 689 and number 682 looked very familiar. He was, I realized all too quickly, my very tall, very handsome German-American neighbor, K. I hid behind a marble column until he left! Thankfully he must have mistaken me for a lost tourist. Good thing he didn’t realize his ever-so elegant neighbor has been parading around town in running gear!
After successfully avoiding K, I continued down to the beach and ended up doing a 5 mile run in about 45 minutes. Pretty fast for moi, perhaps Map My Run is wrong.

Monday, April 12, 2010

La Familia

My weekend began Friday evening with a much needed nap. I had had a long, rather disappointing meeting from 4 to 6 and when I got home around 6:30 I was exhausted so I slipped into bed with the book that had just arrived—Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. One minute I was reading about Haruki’s training runs along the Charles River and the next thing I knew my own Charles was saying, “Hey it’s 8:30!” I jumped out of bed, thinking it was 8:30 in the morning and that I was late for work, but Charles, laughing uncontrollably, assured me that it was 8:30 de la tarde.
I was tired, I was out of it, and I was hungry! And so when Charles explained that we were meeting his sister, Raquel, and brother-in-law for dinner at 10:30, I was, well, mad as hell. 10:30 that’s late even in Spain for dinner and it would be all a whole group of us meeting so we wouldn’t even, possibly start eating until 11…
Our food arrived at 11:17 and I had already downed a beer. I wanted to DEVOUR everyone’s food, but concentrated on eating slowly and nodding my head politely at people’s conversations. No one ordered dessert, which saddened me. At 1 am we left the restaurant and Charles announced that he was exhausted and turning in. And of course, I was tired too and should have gone right home—I had a long run planned for the next day, but I felt this strange familial obligation to stay. Raquel had driven down to Barcelona for the dinner— a two-hour drive, on a crowded highway—and I know she’s been having a rough time at work lately. At work and at home, actually. The least I could do was stick around for an after dinner drink. And so, by 3am Raquel was crying on my shoulder and encouraging me to order another beer. I was thinking of Murakami, he who left behind his jazz bar and late nights and began to rise at 5 am, write for three or four hours and then run. I thought: Whose path, whose code should I follow? Haruki Murakami’s or Vito Corleone’s? My sister-in-law is in dire straits, how I could be so cold, so selfish as to say “Chin up, buttercup, I gotta leave now, I’ve got a training run tomorrow.” (As a side note, I’m already in trouble with my in-laws because the half marathon is the same day as Charles and Raquel’s cousin’s first communion.) So, dear readers, I stayed in the smoky bar until closing time, 4 am, but when I crawled into bed next to Charles, I whispered, “You owe me one.”
My Saturday morning (if you want to call it that, I woke up—definitively— at noon) was brutal. I’m here to tell you that headaches are caused not only by alcohol (I only drank 3 beers and 2 glasses of wine over a very long 5-and-a-half-hour period), but also by intense inhalation of second-hand smoke. Anyway, long story short, I felt like ass, and (this is unrelated to me behaving like I was in the Godfather) my right pinkie toe, which had been feeling bruised all week, was suddenly throbbing. I fuelled for my run with some peanut butter and honey on toast, but then proceeded talked to Ali on the phone instead of actually leaving my apartment.
Charles, who had worked that morning, got home at 2 pm and I guilted him into coming running with me. “At least for the first few miles, then I’ll take off on my own,” I said. But, about a mile into it I knew that a long run was not going to happen, so I just accepted that I would do a 5-miler with a gruelling headache. Charles left me in the dust once we got to the beach and I went slowly and begrudgingly until about the third mile when something suddenly clicked and I, quite miracously, got my running mojo back. My head still kind of hurt, but suddenly my legs were working and I was in a running groove: right then and there I decided to give up my drinking and silly sentimentality for at least the next three weeks and focus, not on family obligations, but rather on yours truly. No more drinking. No more late nights. I will be Haruki: grouchy, solitary, and dedicated.
Saturday night, we headed over to our neighbors’ to watch the Madrid-Barça match, which thanks to some impeccable tiki taka, Barça won. Yes, there were temptations for drinking (and for silly sentimentality), but I— rather stoically—drank water. By 1am I was in bed and Sunday morning, bright and not all that early, I completed my long run of about 17-18 km in 2 hours and 4 minutes. This included a bathroom break at Vila Olimpica and a Gatorade purchase in the BCNleta. The run felt fantastic and I didn’t even indulge at Sunday vermouth with the neighbors or at the new Vietnamese restaurant where we ate on Sunday night. Sunday vermouth after a long run and Vietnamese food sans beer—pretty impressive, huh? Now I just have to work on getting up at 5 am and working on my novel.

Monday, April 5, 2010

PMA (goals for spring/summer 2010)

My little Easter break is ending, and, as usual, I didn't get as much done as I would have liked. I still haven't seen my friend K's new baby. I'm still finishing my paper on Edward Said, which is due tomorrow. I haven't organized my spring / summer clothes or even folded any laundry, but I did get a fantastic 10-miler in on Saturday and I got to see some friends for dinner one night and my in-laws for lunch one day. Charles and I have had fun going to the movies and to the grocery store together. We've actually had time to just be together: to walk to the beach, to take naps, to go for a few runs. I had a great conversation with my mom yesterday and now feel a bit better about our summer vacation plans. (Living far from home, I get super neurotic about vacation plans. I need to know--months in advance-- exactly how much time I will have with each family member, when, and where.)

This morning, during my 5-miler, I decided on a few goals to help me make it through the next few months with a PMA (positive mental attitude Bad Brains style:

1) work on my masters (read or write something) for at least an hour everyday
2) keep up with running after the half marathon. Sign up for some races for June and July.
3) do some sort of strength training three times a week
4) do not gossip at work about stupid work stuff. I will eat lunch by myself, with a book, just as I have my whole life.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back Trouble

Training has been going well: On Friday, I completed my first 10 miler in 1 hr 40 m and yes, the run was hard—I had to sing along and clap to Whenever God Shines His Light around mile 8—but afterwards I felt fantastic. I was a little stiff that evening as I walked to The Man Bar to meet my lady friends, but I was in perfect condition for our annual neighborhood hike from Barcelona to Sant Cugat early Sunday morning. (Two years ago, that 3-hour hike was pretty tiring, but this Sunday it felt like what it actually was, just a walk in the park.)
Here's the thing, since last week my lower-to-mid back has been hurting like a mofo. Is this from running? I suspect it's linked to my pretty much non-existent abdominal muscles. Advice? Exercises I should do? Crunches, I know. But I'd rather run 20 miles than do 10 sit-ups.

Ok--just four weeks to go until my half. Here's the route:,3.111191&spn=0.046407,0.07699&z=14

Right along the beautiful Costa Brava...the problem will be the tramuntana.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adobe of Work / Adobe of Healthy, Happy Lifestyle

I had a wonderful week with my mom and now am back to the grind: work and my masters. So far my running this week consists of 5 miles on Monday night. Sigh. And, yes I'm in panic mode--1 month to go for Empúries! Tomorrow I have to do a presentation on Jihad and The Modern World at 8:30 am! I'm definitely going to slip in a lunch-time run with some new tunes: Caroline Herring and some classic Van Morrison.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Long Run Goals

Ok, so I'm still at work and have done no running today. But tomorrow I will do a long run at lunch, no matter what! My mom is arriving Saturday so I think after these two weeks of late work nights I will be ready to rest and eat. Best get a long run in before that.

My idea is to run all the way to the "3 Three Towers" of Sant Adrià tomorrow. Pretty scary, huh?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Slow-ass Fashion

I expected to have a great run today since I had had two days off: one planned rest day and one historic snow day, but no siree. I ran a slow 8k (49:50) on the treadmill and, because I only ran 8k and not 10k, forced myself to do my dreaded sit-ups and ten, very sad, push-ups.
What's my problem? Why so slow? Perhaps because the gym is so agobiante (stifling)! I can't stand the out-of-focus flat-screen TVs or the fact that you only get four types of people: 35-year-old Spanish hetero businessman, beautiful Spanish or Argentine women ages 28 to 37, buff gay men of various nationalities ages 23 to 31, and American sorority girls on their junior abroad (19-21). What I love about running (outdoors, of course) is the diversity. At races you see all different kinds of people and body types, and their build tells you little about their performance. Yeah elite runners tend to be small and lean, but the general crowd is a mixed bunch. Running is about the mind reckoning with the body. I’ve seen chubby middle-aged women making great time, whizz past buff young men who end up puking at the end of a race.

My whole life I've wanted a long, lean body and suddenly I'm pretty happy with the boxey one I've got. I realize though that this venture has little to do with long legs, a flat stomach or even with heart rate, and much more to do with an attitude.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Icy / hot

No running today due to a surprise snowstorm in Barcelona. It hasn't snowed like this here since 1985. I should have just gone to the gym, but halfway there my feet were totally soaked and I was freezing so I just headed home and ate some chocolate cake. Very bad, I know, but I just wasn’t prepared for this winter weather.
The good news is I got an email back from the half marathon coordinators explaining that the course is fairly flat. Hallelujah! My only concern is that it’s going to be hot…maybe I need to work more on living in the moment.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Marató de BCN

Despite having to work Friday night and Saturday evening, I had a great weekend, thanks, of course, to running. I walked home from work sobbing on Friday night. No need to go into the gory details, but let's just say the art world is full of assholes. I'm sure most workplaces are though. Anyway after my breakdown, Charles and I went out for Asian tapas at a new place in Sant Pere: Doble Zero We shared a vegetarian sushi platter and I had two, much needed, glasses of wine.

Saturday I woke late, and got ready for a long run. I had coffee, an apple and lots of water. Next time I think I should probably drink less coffee and eat a little more. I ran for an hour and 40 minutes and have no real idea how far I went, but I'm hoping it was almost 15 km. During the run I felt great, slow but strong. The weather was perfect for running: sunny with some wind, probably in the mid-fifties. My goal of going I-podless? I don't see it happening. It's one thing for a race, but on a longer solo run, the music carries me through.

When I got home I was starving and before showering or even stretching I ripped open a bag of Special K and went hogwild. I'm thinking I should have eaten some cereal an hour or so before the run. Once showered and still famished, I headed to our neighbors' terrace for a lovely, sunny, and very healthy, lunch (chicken breast, hummus, three different salads, pesto pasta and an amazing homemade flan for dessert). I had some wine too, in order to prepare for work at 5 pm. Work we'll skip and I'll just say that by 9 pm I was at home watching The Wire with Charles.

This morning I was up by 8 am and on the street by 9:45 to see the first runners of the Barcelona marathon fly by my house. Those guys were amazing to watch, km 37 and they were going all out. Oh but how I love watching all the participants!
Everyone had their name on their number, so it was fun to call out in people’s native language. Vinga Joan! Come on, Patrick! Allons-y, Pierre! I cheered like a crazy woman. As I've mentioned previously, Catalans are not very eager running fans, but I think my enthusiasm made up for their coldness. In fact, I think I scared a few grouchy natives, but I hope I brightened a few lonely runners' day. My wonderful neighbors (hostesses of Saturday's lunch) were looking great when they came by and they finished strong: 4:04 and 4:14. Very impressive.

I must say the Barcelona Marathon needs some better organizers and better advertising. A beautiful city with excellent weather and they can’t even get 10,000 people signed up? Maybe that should be my new job!