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.)