Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mind Games

Perhaps after months of injury and running without the Garmin or any of sort of real goals or ambition, I’ve begun to concentrate on the wrong numbers. Perhaps, instead of worrying about weighing less, I should trust myself to run faster. Miles in the 8:30’s felt great today and I need to get back to speedwork, to pushing, to dreaming about being strong and not skinny.

This all coincides with the talking to I got at work this morning about being more ambitious, about being a leader, about pushing myself and other people. Not sure what to do with all this yet, but I’ll get there.

2011 has been an amazing year for me professionally. I’ve learned quite a lot and I’ve had days when I thought I would break down, physically and emotionally from the stress and exhaustion. Running has kept me sane, healthy and productive.

What I love most about running is that you keep learning with every new step. Here’s to a 2012 full of long work days, fast runs and ambition.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


My weight has hovered around 120 my entire adult life. I’ve been 127 and out of shape or 118 and in great shape, but I’ve never reached 135 or 115. My body (apple shape: barrel chest, muffin top and fairly thin legs) just sort of remains the same. And suddenly that’s very frustrating to me. I run, I weight train, I watch what I eat. My clothes are looser than they were pre-running and people who haven’t seen me in two or three years, say “My, you look great.” But the number on the scale is the exactly same as way back in December 2005 when I pretty much ate whatever I wanted and considered chatting in the sauna to be exercise.

My goal, which I’ve discussed with Nicolas fitness instructor extraordinaire, was to get down to 116.9 (53 kilos) by this week in order to go home for Christmas skinny and with some room for American eating. Last week I was down to 54 kilos, but yesterday I was back to 55 kilos (121 pounds). I know that this is in part because I refuse to give up pb and toast before running and Friday night wine drinking. Is that perhaps what I’ll have to do? That seems awfully sad considering that I do exercise.

This fall I’ve been cross-training much more and running a little less due to hip pain. I feel fitter, my arms are stronger and the tummy under control, but the numbers are driving me mad.

Does your weight fluctuate a lot or does your song remain the same? Any tips for breaking out of these plateaus?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ode to Other Crooked Runners

On Saturday mornings when I go for my long run along the beach, I see lots of people: tourists and locals, young and old, families and singletons. Lots of wonderful dogs. Lots of people working out. But only a few people really fill me with joy and they aren’t tourists or happy grandparents with their grandchildren, no sir.
The crooked runners fill me the joy. Not the fastest, fittest runners. Not the tan women, with tiny waists and big chests, decked out in black Nike spandex. Not the beautiful young couples: French and shiny, on vacation and out for a jog.
No, I like the most desperate people: mostly older, mostly graying men who limp, who favor one side, who breathe so heavily they sound like they’re about to die. The guys who are all about guts and a little bit about glory. People who run, everyday, even though it hurts and their joints are creaky and one shoulder hangs lower than the other. People who run for something far beyond losing weight or looking good, people who have no choice but to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Flash: Do you buy Lululemon?

Until I heard this piece on NPR I pronounced this company Lulu MOON. Funny, huh?

I've never purchased anything so fancy for exercise, and definitely won't now.

Sigh, I wish running was still low-tech, sustainable 1970's style.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Anglo Afternoon

I knew something positive would come of this achy hip business and although this was only the second of my Anglo Fridays I think I’m going to make them a habit.

Throughout these 11 years of living in Spain I've been diligent about integrating: learning both official languages, following local politics; I’ve pretty been strict about not living an ex-pat lifestyle. For years I hardly even had any English-speaking friends. By leaving America, I had said good-bye to all that. And even now, I live my day-to-day life as a foreigner but amongst the Catalans. I am perhaps an interloper, but an integrated one.

But, sometimes, it’s nice to come down off my high horse and surround myself with English speakers and American food. Sometimes, after a week of working for a nationalist government, when it’s not even your nation, you need to speak your own language and talk about your own cultural icons. Just for a few hours you need, well, a womb-like sensation of comfort and love. Yeah, I know that sounds dramatic, but living in a foreign country can be alienating, no matter how nice the weather is.

So, starting last week Friday lunch hour is my little break from the clipped rhythm of Catalan. At 2:15 I leave work and take the metro up to Gràcia, to Studio Australia, which I have renamed near wild heaven. After two classes with Natalia, I’m not sure that I can actuallyfeel my pelvic floor, but I do know that I’m thinking about my body differently, and noticing micro-tilts as I run, and that I trust her in a way that I haven’t trusted anyone new in quite a while. Maybe, it’s the Australian accent, which I interpret as familarly Irish but healthier.

Today I left the Studio at 3:30, feeling flexible, but hungry and as I rushed down to the metro station what did I see but, lo and behold, a bagel shop! I don’t think I’ve had a bagel in about two years. So I got a carrot juice and poppy-seed bagel with real cream cheese and still got back to work on time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rolling With the Punches

A few months ago I thought that on October 31st I’d been running a marathon in Dublin. I registered, I started to train and then life got in the way. It turns out I have to work the 31st, that I absolutely must be in Barcelona on that day. But it also turns out that I haven’t been able to train for the Valencia marathon on November 26th. Why? Well because my body hasn’t dealt with the training as well I’d hoped. (My hip and lower back hurt like holy hell.) Or maybe because working for a politician is not very conducive to having time for yourself (or a back that doesn’t spasm). And although I spend a good part of my long work days and nights dreaming of having Haruki Murakami’s schedule--he runs or swims long distances almost every day, eats a healthful diet, goes to bed around 9 p.m. and wakes up, without an alarm, around 4 a.m. — at which point he goes straight to his desk for five to six hours of concentrated writing--I do really enjoy my job and realize that I'm lucky have it.

So, anyhoo, here it is late October and I’ve got a gimp hip and low mileage, but I’m not going to let any of that get me down. I will run a marathon and I will run for the rest of my life. I hope. I pray.

Meanwhile, I will concentrate on healing and strength training and losing weight. (Somehow I suspect that being lighter—I’m kind of top heavy—will do wonders for my hip and spine.) To this end, I present my, humble but attainable, November goals:

1. Strength training / Pilates twice a week

2. If it hurts to run, don’t sulk, go to the pool or get on that elliptical.

3. Lay off the sugar!

4. Don’t be a drama queen; this too shall pass.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Few Final Thoughts on Birth Control Pills

I changed a lot in my twenties—went from being a very unhappy, rather dark person to a surprisingly stable, happy, healthy person. That growth came from many things: falling in love and then working (sometimes very hard) to build a marriage, to master two new languages, to adapt to living very far away from home in a rather closed society. I worked in several different places and became confident as a professional. I traveled and learned to navigate the murky world of immigration paperwork. I started going to the gym and dressing like a woman. I accomplished quite a lot in that decade, but I can pinpoint the one thing I did in my twenties of which I’m proudest and that’s getting off the Pill. It didn’t happen until I turned 29, but it happened and that, along with running, has changed me, emotionally and physically, in ways I never would have imagined.
I went on the Pill when I was sixteen. I had a boyfriend and a lot of strong teenage passions: poetry, veganism, radical politics and skinny boys in rock bands. I tried “going off” when I was 19 and studying in Madrid. Not because I had any problems with the Pill (big breasts and clear skin—what was there not to love), but rather because I was single. After a few months off the Pill, I looked like a 14-year-old boy: I was super skinny and had a nasty case of acne, which in turn made me want to just die. Seeing my reflection in the Madrid metro, I hardly recognized myself.
When I arrived to the grime and humidity that is Baltimore in August, I went directly to the dermatologist, burst into tears and begged, “What, what can I do?” And he, like so many American doctors, smiled and said, “Go back on the Pill, my dear.” And so I did, for ten more years.
I was absolutely terrified of ever going off the Pill again and turning into a 14-year-old monster, so when my ortho try-cyclen prescription ran out once I was living in Spain, I took the package to the local pharmacist, whispered my predicament in the tone another woman might use to talk about infertility or incest, and that calm Catalan man skimmed through some thick three-ringed binders until we found a European pill with the same ingredients. In Spain, you don’t even need a prescription for the Pill, just the brand name, “Suavaret, por favor.” And you’re good to go. Suavaret, it’s suave, a light purple color, feminine, kind, easy going down.
When Spanish women hissed about the dangers of the Pill (blood clots, low sex drive, mood swings) I ignored them. They obviously weren’t prone to acne or truly terrified of pregnancy. But, little by little, I began to wonder what my body would be like without the Pill. No round stomach, no big breasts? And my mind? No more mood swings or black-cloud days or sudden crying jags? And—I really wondered about this one—What about that force that fuses body and mind? The ole sex drive? What would that be like?
But I was scared to take the plunge, to deal with the skin problems and possible depression. To catch a glimpse of acne in the closing metro doors and want to scream or hide.
I kept putting going off the Pill on hold. It wasn’t the right time because I had to start a new job, or go on vacation, or fly to a wedding in London, or a book fair in Frankfurt. And then on a flight from Atlanta to Barcelona, my feet swelled up, which sent me on a wild internet search and round of doctor's visits to understand Porque and ended with me saying Basta.
In April of 2008, I stopped taking birth control pills. Did my skin break out? Yes, a little and it still does. Did I get skinny? I lost some weight, but I also started running soon afterwards, so who knows if one thing has anything to do with the other. Did my sex drive come back? Yes! And I never even knew I’d lost it. A whole new world.
Did my mood change? Yes, it was as if a cloud lifted and all the struggles of becoming an adult woman culminated in throwing away the pills I’d been taking every night at ten pm for basically thirteen years.
I felt, and still feel, absolutely fantastic: changed, liberated, recovered. Now, does this mean that I want to tell you “Get off the pill now! Traditional medicine and pharmaceutical companies are evil!” Well, no, not necessarily. I mean, I do sort of think that, but I think every woman has to find her own way out of the labyrinth of hormonal birth control. It’s actually kind of like running, yes I know it’s the secret to life, but I’m not going to proselytize. Every girl has to get there on her own.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day in the Life

copied from Ana-Maria, one of my all-time favorite bloggers

Friday, October 14th

6:30 wake up
Make coffee
Read NY Times online
Slowly get dressed to go run
7:15 Walk instead of run because my hip hurts
8:00 back home, eat toast with pb and a kiwi, look up "hip pain" on the internet
8:15 shower, dress, blow dry hair
8:33 hastily pack gym bag and run out of the house
8:55 arrive to work for 9 am meeting
9-2:45 work
2:45-3:30 go to gym and stretch like a wild woman
3:30 eat apple and rush back to work
3:30-7: work. eat banana
7:15 go home, eat pb and toast, email my mom, and shower ( I didn’t shower after the stretch sesh at lunch)
8:30 head up to Gràcia to meet L for a drink and “how was your summer” catch-up. Best hour of my week! Sometimes there is nothing better, or more relaxing, than having a glass of wine with an intelligent American woman.
10:00 leave Gràcia a little light-headed, take subway one stop in the wrong direction, correct mistake
10:30 meet Charles a half hour late for dinner at our Friday-night Italian spot. Apologize profusely. Think about how nice the guys are at the Italian spot and beg them to STOP giving us free desserts. Hear all about one guy's recent bike trip.
11:30 take an after-dinner walk with Charles
Midnight: Hit the hay and pray for painless run Saturday morning

Friday, October 7, 2011


I’m swamped with work and life, but getting back on track with running thanks to new routines.

Lately I've been waking up at 6:30 and getting out the door before work so that no matter what happens at the office, I get my run in. Morning running, I've found, has several advantages:

- Only one shower a day

- Fewer slow-moving tourists out and about

- Cooler weather and less humidity

- No late night snacking because I have to hunker down and get to bed!

And a few disadvantages:

- Shorter distances. Due to time constraints I can’t say go for a seven mile run just because I’m feeling good.

- The first mile is slow going because I’m still sort of waking up

- I must drink coffee first but then it makes me so thirsty

My body loves having a routine. I’m getting in bed by 11:30 most nights, which is really excellent for me. And, now I have time at night to take walks with my husband and discover parts of the port of Barcelona I’ve never seen before.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Variety of Confessions

1. In an attempt to keep things upbeat, I haven’t posted a race report about last Sunday’s Mercè 10k. Last year, I got my 10-k PR at La Mercè. Last year, this event was my perfect race. Last year, I worked fewer hours and had a job that allowed me to do things like come home and make a play-list for a race. This year, I got home from work at 3 am Sunday morning, ate a cookie, tried to sleep a few hours and then rushed off to the race. First time out the door, I forgot the chip. Ran back up my stairs and got chip. Coming down the stairs the second time, I thought, "should I really bring the chip--will I want my time on the public record?"

As was to be expected, my performance sucked. 59 freaking minutes. That’s slower than I ran a 10k before my first half marathon!

During the first half of the rest my energy level was pretty normal, but at the 6-K mark something happened, as if I were a balloon and a little demon with a pushpin appeared and popped all the air out of me. Certainly, we can find excuses for this disaster—exhaustion, PMS, humidity. We can say, as my dear Charles did, “just going to the race was a victory.” But I don’t want to make excuses, I want to tell you all that I’m concerned, frightened, worried. What is happening with my body? Why, after a solid year and a half of training, am I so much slower?

2. I’ve never read Kafka. Yes, I studied literature at a prestigious liberal arts college; yes I did a masters in Comparative Literature in Barcelona. Yes, I’m a vivacious and rigorous reader, but for some strange reason I’ve never read Kafka. This weekend I was planning on starting a Clarice Lispector novel, but I think I should probably check out Kafka instead

3. Despite the first part of this three-part post, I would still rather be skinny than fast. However, I’ve got some work to do in both departments and since numbers on the scale have never motivated me enough to actually follow a strict diet for more than a few days, I'm hoping running will inpsire me to eat, well, more rationally. I’m 5 foot 4 and weigh around 118 pounds, and I’m thinking that if I could lose 5 pounds, I might just become a faster runner. Putting the numbers out there in order to keep me honest.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cool Kicks

Ever since I started running seriously I’ve worn Asics 1100's. Several sales people over the years have told me that I’m a mild over pronator and, having no reason not to, I’ve always believed them. Being imperfect in many other ways, it was reasonable to believe that my stride needed some correction as well.

The Asics 1100's are cheap, durable, stability shoes and they’ve served me well. I’ve never (knock—all around the world—on wood) had a real injury. A few black toenails, yes, but nothing much beyond that. Sometimes, though, I have my doubts about using such a cheap model. I think, well, maybe I should “move up” to something better, lighter, fancier. I let marketing get the best of me and dream of having some cool kicks. (I understand that this is not a smart way to think about running shoes, but let's be honest, everyone wants cool shoes.)

So when I went to pick up my race packet for the Mercè 10k, I stopped by the Adidas display and got my gait analyzed. The salesman informed me that I have a neutral gait and when I looked at him, a bit incredulous, he showed me the computer-generated images of my neutral landing, high-arched foot. I’m not sure if this means that all the past analyzers were wrong or that my gait has changed. It’s true that my foot looks thinner and a bit bonier than it used too…Have I finally lost my baby fat?

So, yes, now I have a perfect excuse to get some cool kicks right away. On the one hand I fugure I should order some new, neutral shoes, but I’m also worried that changing up will lead to injury. Am I ready to run free, without stability?

Any hints? Have you changed from stability to neutral shoes? Has your gait changed over the years? Any shoes that changed your life and turned you into a speed demon?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Before 33

Bucket List

Just a few things I want to do before I turn 33 on April 30, 2012.

1. Publish a short story in a print journal.

2. Write a new book of poems.

3. Run a sub 2-hour half marathon.

4. Run a full marathon.

5. Tone the stomach, sculpt the arms.

6. Train to be a spinning instructor, or at least sign up for the class.

7. Volunteer at a race.

8. Host a(nother) great dinner party.

9. Drive on the highway in the U S of A.(haven't done that in years)

10. Publish an opinion piece in a Spanish newspaper.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A few of my favorite things

A few favorites that I'd forgotten about:
1. City bike riding. Love it. I just feel so cool riding around town in heels and a suit.
2. Running in just a sports bra and shorts. Liberating, comfortable and with this humidity just necessary.
3. Jorie Graham. Cool, snobby, always elegant and beautiful.
4. Simplest cous-cous for dinner: Figueres onions, celery, carrots, some beer, olive oil, chick peas, raisins, sunflower seeds, orange slices and cinnamon. Voila, Monday night dinner.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Joy

Last week was lonely.

I did not want to be in Barcelona; I wanted to be in America close to my family. Driving in the car with my brother. Walking into the Blue Whale with sand on my feet to buy a six pack of beer and some avocadoes.

So, I was homesick, plus I wasn't doing well at work. The speech I was trying to write was awful. No narrative. No sense. No punch. No beauty. I spent Saturday morning sobbing and trying to fix it to little or no avail. Saturday evening, Charles--oh-that-patient.saint--and I took the train to Sabadell for the half marathon packet pick-up, but instead of enjoying the atmosphere--it was the town's festival complete with fire-breathing dragons and papier mache giants--I was constantly checking my Blackberry and just being a big old homesick, work-obsessed grouch.

Needless to say I had trouble sleeping the night before the race--sweating and tossing and turning and replaying minor fuck-ups from the long work week. A few times, at 3 and 4 and 5 am, I thought about not even going to the race, but at 6:30 I was wide awake and ready to go.

It wasn't a perfect half, in fact it was my secondest slowest out of the five I've done. It was hilly and humid, and I had no plan so I sort of spaced out after a while. I ran with a fast guy for a few miles, which meant I ran the middle section too fast for moi. My I-pod died and my stomach cramped a bit. But, I was never disheartened: I thanked all the volunteers. I cheered other, faster, runners on. I sprinted to the finish, drank my flat Coke and then talked to all the friendly women runners in the locker rooms after the race. In Spain, we female runners are few and far between, we're all sort of strange people and tend to be, well, pretty awesome.

On Sunday, in an industrial city called Sabadell, I found the joy in running and racing. The joy in participating, which is really nice when you're feeling nostalgic and far from home.

So, right now, I'm in a marathon training lull and I just want to enjoy the fall racing season and save the marathon stuff for Barcelona, March 25, right outside my door. Simple. Supportive. Fun.

All this could change after a few decent long runs, of course, but racing and getting a lil faster just sounds more fun right now. And, right now I need some joy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Redemption Run

I’m happy to report that my 16.5 mile run this Saturday went well. That electrolyte disaster on the NCR Trail was a real blow to my confidence, but I’m getting my groove back. On Saturday I did 16.5 miles in the heat and felt a-okay. I drank Nuun through out the run and had an ice-cream sandwich recovery snack, yum. In fact, I’m a little concerned because aside from a dull pain in one of my arches, my legs felt fine after this run. Perhaps I should have pushed a little harder.

Valencia will be replacing Dublin on my marathon calendar. It will be a cheaper, less stressful, and more ecologically sound trip for us. I’m not convinced that it’s the best option for my first marathon, but right now it’s what works best for our budget and my work schedule. The cut off is five hours, which is at once daunting and merciful!

This Sunday I’ll be running a half marathon in the city of Sabadell. I’m not familiar with the city or the course and it’ll be fairly hot so I’m just going to use this race as a test for my fueling/hydration plans. I’ll carry my handheld filled with Nuun and use water stops along the way.

Upcoming Training looks like this:

Monday: easy 6
Tuesday: easy 4
Wednesday: 7 miles, 5 at tempo pace
Thursday: easy 6
Friday: easy 4 / swimming
Saturday: swimming
Sunday: Half

Monday: swimming
Tuesday: easy 6
Wednesday: 4 and gym class
Thursday: easy 6
Friday: easy 4
Saturday: 17
Sunday: 3 and swimming

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Indecision: Should I Change My Marathon City? Or Seeds of Doubt

All doubt begins with a lousy long run.

The Monday after a wonderful week of running barefoot along the shores of the Outer Banks, my father and I headed out to the North Central Railroad Trail for a fifteen miler. It wasn’t as hot as it had been in Baltimore, but we started late and it was definitely humid. However, neither the heat nor the humidity suffice to explain what happened to me that day.

I didn’t feel too good from the get go, not awful, just sort of sluggish and at about the four-mile mark I actually burped up some vomit. Gross, I know, but that’s exactly what happened. I pushed on though, I knew that this was my only chance to get a long run in over vacation and that I had to finish. We stopped at the bathroom at the seven-mile mark, but strangely enough, even though I’d been sipping water the entire run, I couldn’t urinate. Nothing came out, which is really odd, because if given the opportunity to use a bathroom I pretty much always can. I guess I should have realized that this was a bad sign, but we carried on. My dad chatted away, and seemed unscathed by the distance or the humidity. The man is incredible!

The next 8 miles were the hardest I’ve ever run. I was thirsty, but drinking water didn’t help. My legs weren’t tired, my knees or hips weren’t sore, but my body was just moving through molasses. At mile 13, I tried to urinate again, this time amongst some sticker bushes in the woods, but no luck. I told my dad I had to walk for a few minutes and then we began to jog the last long mile. I could feel the chafing setting in and our shoes were literally squishing with sweat. When we stopped running, I wasn’t exactly relieved. I was actually quite terrified. I thought if 15 feels this bad, how will I ever run 20 or 26.2?

Once inside the air-conditioning of 7-Eleven, where we stopped for water and Gatorade, I didn’t feel better but much, much worse. My hands were shaking and I thought I was going to pass out. Instead of telling my dad this, I just sort of tried to “keep it together” in the store and on the expressway riding home. But, about five minutes from home I said, “Stop the car!”, opened the door, and puked my guts out.

There was no hiding my condition from my mom, as soon as I walked in the house—all pale and purple-lipped—she said “Get up in bed!” And I did just that. Under about three blankets, I stayed in bed and shivered and worried that my training had simple fallen apart. That my body had finally, and fully, failed me.

Fast forward a week. I’ve put things in perspective. I’ve realized I should have had some sort of sports drink on the run and reapplied body glide, but the shadow of self doubt still remains. And the thought of flying to Dublin, paying for three nights in a hotel, taking two days off from work, and possibly failing miserably scares the hell out of me. Should I really travel so far for something that my body seems so unprepared for?

And thus, the seed of doubt began to sprout. Yesterday, on my first day back to work, during the still sleepy month of August, I was surfing the Internet and saw that, lo & behold, I have an out! The Valencia Marathon, just three hours away by train, will be held three weeks later than the Dublin event and it’s on a Sunday so I wouldn’t have to take off from work. Which means I’d be less stressed, because you all know I get kind of crazy about having to ask for time off. And less stressed about flying and wasting Charles´vacation on my own personal misadventure. I’d also have three more weeks of wiggle room! Maybe an extra long run…
But then again it’s always good to stick with a plan. And I did like the idea of running a friendly marathon in cool weather, in a beautiful green place, as opposed to a very a rather dull marathon without many other women or slow people, just lots of serious, speedy Spanish men…

So I guess I’ll torture myself with this debate during this week’s training runs!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shelter from the Storm

My few loyal readers may have noticed that I’ve sort of fallen off the wagon in terms of tracking my marathon training. I’ve been very busy, but I have been running. However, instead of boring you with a list of my workouts I’ll just share one great one:

Last Friday I left work at three and rushed home to meet my father. We ate some toast with pb and honey and headed out for a fifteen miler sans Garmin. (I’d forgotten to recharge the battery and hey, I know the route already.) My dad wore his stopwatch, but we really didn’t worry about time. We just ran and talked about family and marathons and my favorite or least favorite parts of my route. We slowed down a few times, but we never stopped, we just ran along the port of Barcelona, together. And about 2 hours in, my dad finally said what I needed to hear, “if you can do this run, you´re gonna be fine in the marathon.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Low-grade sickness

All last week I had a sort of low-grade sickness going on: chills, itchy throat and major stomach pains. For a while I thought I had E Coli, but then decided it was just a nasty combo of heat, work stress and smog. Anyhow, I won’t bore you all with the details, but suffice to say I was exhausted and even started thinking that I might be anemic. Vegetarian +woman+ runner? I probably should check those iron levels because all I wanted to do all day, everyday was sleep.

I managed to get in three runs + one day of CORE

7 miles on Tuesday

5 on Wednesday + CORE

13 on Sunday

Not what I had planned, but hey sometimes you get what you get.

This week my dad arrives! I can't wait to run and bike with him.


Monday: 3 miles

Tuesday: 6

Wednesday: cross train CORE

Thursday: 7

Friday: cross train CORE

Saturday: LR 10 miles with Dad 5 on my own

Sunday: 4 mile recovery

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Compare and contrast. Best short shorts.

I didn't buy my first pair of running shorts until after my first half marathon. Up until that point I’d just stuck with capri tights. I wish I could say that thanks to running I lost tons of weight, looked amazing, and therefore was no longer modest about showing off my upper thigh, but that's not really the case.

Anyhow, last summer, I trained in tight shorts. The European way. The Spanish ladies rock the spandex top and bottom and when in Rome…even if you look kind of like an embutido.

On my visit to Oxford, Mississippi last August I couldn’t get over the fact that the college co-eds basically had a uniform for class, working out, and walking around town: oversized tee-shirt and Nike tempo shorts. I thought that I’d never wear such revealing shorts: I mean if 22-year-old sorority girls weren’t looking that great in them what would I look like?

But then, back in Barcelona, in September, I did some long runs in some very humid weather and realized that the Euro short tights are rather, well, stuffy and thus I took the plunge: I ordered the Nike shorts and discovered that allowing air to flow is very comfortable. And that my thighs were slimmer than I had previously believed.

Now, are Nike tempos totally chafe free? Well, I’m not sure, but better safe than sorry so I always apply mad amounts of bodyglide. For months I’ve been a Nike tempo convert, but lately I’ve decided that it’s a pain to smear on all that bodyglide for shorter runs and that the Euro style can be quite convenient for shorter mid-week workouts.

For the time being, I’ll stick with the Tempos for the longer runs. Euro shorts are also revealing, in a less flattering way actually. I’d rather show some skin then outline my crotch. What about you?

What are your favorite running shorts?

Seeing that I’m showing off my thighs all over town, do you think one day I’ll also be able to show off my tummy?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hungry, hungry sharks

My appetite has certainly decided that I’m training for a marathon. I went way too wild with eating this weekend: wine and chocolates Saturday evening at a Montjuic picnic and then potato chips at the beach on Sunday, beer in the evening and pizza for dinner. I basically rolled my big belly out of bed this morning!

So let’s see if I can justify any of this through my training…

Week 8

Monday Planned cross train Reality: Did weights for arms.

Tuesday Planned 6 miles Reality: 7 fairly fast miles!

Wednesday Planned 6 miles Reality: work ruined my plan. Big fat 0

Thursday Planned 5 miles Reality: 3.5 miles with the Abster

Friday Planned: cross-train ARMS and CORE Reality: 3 miles I always prefer running to strength training.

Saturday: Planned: 14 miles Reality: 14.3 miles

Sunday: swimming and/or 3 mile recovery run Reality: major core and abs + a short swim. It’s now Monday and I’m really hurtin’ from yesterday’s crunches and planks, but I will keep up with it in order to one day in the distant future be able to strut at the beach!

Week 9: Concentrate on healthy eating!

Monday: Easy 6

Tuesday: CORE

Wednesday: 7 miles 5 at tempo pace

Thursday: 6 miles + CORE

Friday: 3 miles easy

Saturday 15 miles

Sunday CORE + swimming

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In summertime it's toughy

Weeks 6 and 7 of Marathon Training

Things haven’t gone exactly as planned, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone badly. That’s the great thing about running: there are benefits everywhere you look. If you don’t follow your training plan exactly it’s not the end of the world because running still improves your emotional and physical health, it still makes you more beautiful, a more productive worker, a more patient spouse.

Week 6

Monday: Planned: easy 6 Reality: 6

Tuesday: Planned: rest. Core and arms. Reality: Big fat 0

Wednesday: Planned: 7 miles, 5 at tempo pace Reality: 7 miles, 5 at tempo!

Thursday: Planned: 6 miles Reality: 4 miles with Abby. Hamstring pain perhaps from the night before.

Friday: Planned: 3 miles or cross training Reality: 0. Stressful day at work and then a dinner with friends from Bmore. The alcohol was needed and totally worth it.

Saturday: Planned: early am 6 miles and then at 7pm a trail run with Charles. Reality: Slept in and then did 10.5 mile train run with Charles in the evening. Very hilly. Charles, who had never run more than a 10k in his life had a great run. He whooped my ass!

Sunday: Planned: swimming Reality: 8.5 miles along the beach. Felt great.

Total: 36 miles

Week 7

There wasn’t really a plan because Charles had his operation on Thursday, which meant I was rushing to finish work projects from Monday to Wednesday and then spent two days at the hospital. The hospital, and being with Charles over these first few days of recovery, have certainly put marathon training in perspective for me. If I make it to Dublin that’s great, and if not that’s quite fine too. Being able to run is a privilege and I want to be able to run a few times a week for the rest of my life.

That said, I only ran 19 miles during week 7, but I did do a local 10k in the scorching sun. I ran a 56:54, which is almost two minutes slower than my PR, but was still a record of sorts considering the weather and my exhaustion. Blood, and lots of it, just tires me.


I’m not sure that summer is the best time to train for a marathon. The heat is killer and we have visitors and vacations that put a monkey wrench in training plans. Perhaps I should have waited and set my sights on the Barcelona Marathon in March of 2012, but I love the idea of running in Ireland amongst other pasty white people. Certainly, training through the winter and doing a local marathon would be easier, but I also think the first one will be awful so just go ahead and get it over with. My dad will be here for the second half of July and it will be nice to do some running with him. I am a little nervous about getting in long runs in the States this August. The logistics of running (water fountains, safety) are just so much easier here and it will be hard to say to my family, “I only see you twice a year, but tomorrow I’ll be busy for about four hours!” Hopefully I can talk my family into participating: running, biking with water, or picking me up in a car in case of heatstroke or any other emergency…

Week 8 Plan

Monday cross train

Tuesday 6 miles

Wednesday 6 miles

Thursday 5 miles

Friday cross-train ARMS and CORE

Saturday: 14 miles

Sunday: swimming and/or 3 mile recovery run

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Let Me Eat Cake

First off, some non-running highlights from the weekend. This Sunday Gabriele and Gabriele arrived to Barcelona. These guys, both seventy-three-years-old, left Switzerland on May 29th and rode all the way here. That’s quite far and quite fast on mountain bikes. We celebrated their arrival with paella at Els Pescadors.

I did a lot of cooking this weekend, but my greatest achievement was my peach cake, a simple adaptation of my mom’s traditional apple cake recipe. I didn’t do much measuring and simply replaced white flour with whole wheat and switched the apples for some juicy peaches. Juicy is bit of misnomer here; the peaches were about to rot, which, I think, is why the vegetable lady gave Charles a whole basket of them for free. I thought, what can we possibly do with so many peaches so I made peach salsa and then peach cake. The salsa turned out alright, the cake is absolutely delicious, a perfect texture and bursting with sweet cinnamony peachy goodness.


3 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup sugar / 1 cup applesauce (Original recipe for all sugar, but applesauce works well as a substitute)

3 teaspoons baking powder

4 eggs

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup fresh squeezed oj

6 very ripe peaches

Some extra sugar (I used all natural cane) and some cinnamon

1. Peel and slice the peaches. Place them in a shallow bowl and sprinkle them with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

2. Mix dry ingredients and then add eggs, oil and orange juice.

3. Pour half the batter into a greased bunt pan and then top with a layer of peaches. Pour in the rest of the batter and finish off with another layer of fruit.

4. Bake at 350 for about an hour.

5. Let cool for several hours. Brew a strong pot of coffee and enjoy!

Week 5 Marathon Training

Monday: Planned: 5 easy Reality: Big fat 0.

Tuesday: Rest from running. Arms and abs. Reality: Big fat 0. Why? Well, I got home late on Monday night and thought I’d just run the next day, but the next day we had terrible thunderstorms and I forgot my socks and shorts for the gym. Big fail!

Wednesday: 7 miles, 5 miles at Tempo Pace Reality: 5 miles at lunch. The sun was winking at me from behind a cloud around 2pm so I decided to get a quick run at lunch.

Thursday: 5 miles. Arms and abs. Reality: The tempo! Kind of. 6.2 miles in 58 minutes. I was tired though and so hungry. I ate lunch around 2 pm and went running at 8:30 with a growling tummy, not a good plan.

Friday: run 3 / swim Reality: 0. I was super sleepy and grouchy because I had a work dinner at 9 and “nothing to wear.” Instead of running I tried to take a nap and then ironed my clothes for the dinner.

Saturday: 14 miles Reality: 13.3 miles. The first half of this run went well, but then I got really thirsty and could feel the salt on my face and the beginnings of chafing. When I got to the Hotel Vela, (about 11 miles) I really wanted to just call it a day and walk home, but I gave a myself a talking to and made it to the post office, where I stopped and basically bathed in a water fountain. I did do arms and core once home.

Sunday: swimming Reality: 5 miles with Charles sans Garmin. This was a great one. Sometimes it’s so nice to run without that stupid watch and when I keep up with Charles I know I’m running a fairly decent pace. Do you ever feel like the Garmin can bring you down?

Week 6 plans

Monday: easy 6

Tuesday: rest. Core and arms.

Wednesday: 7 miles, 5 at tempo pace

Thursday: 6 miles

Friday: 3 miles or cross training

Saturday: early am 6 miles and then at 7pm a trail run with Charles. We’re not so sure about the distance, but I think it’s about 6 or 7 miles.

What do you all think about splitting up a long run? This week it’s the best I can do with my schedule and the heat...

Sunday: swimming

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Running Abroad

A quick mid-week post after a sucky day at work, a mediocre run and delightful dinner.

Let’s compare running in the US versus running in Spain.

Shoes: USA wins. Running shoes in Spain are much more expensive than in the US and Road Runners Sports has, woe is me, stopped shipping internationally. So I’ll just be ordering shoes to my parents’ house and picking them up in August. I’m 32; this kind of thing makes me feel like I’m still in college.

Watering holes: Spain, well Barcelona, wins. There are public water fountains throughout the entire city. I’ve carried that handheld throughout New York, Maryland and Mississippi and that just tires me out and makes me feel all crooked.

Spot-a-pots: Spain, well Barcelona, wins again. During the summer months the beach is lined with public restrooms and you can go in any bar or ice-cream shop all sweaty and just head straight back to the can. Why no one says, “Senora, can I help you?” I have no idea, let’s just chalk that up to cultural difference and be glad!

The peer group: USA wins because running is more popular there and thus there are more slow people like moi. Here runners are a committed, serious breed and while that does make for a lot of attractive men doing intervals in the park, it makes a chubby pale girl feel a little lonely at times.

Decathlon: Spain wins because they got it and the USA just don’t! Decathlon is paradise, a cheap sports store with anything you could possibly need for camping, swimming, biking, running. And they have generic Bodyglide for about a third of what you would pay in the US. (And generic gels for people who can eat them without puking.)

Races: A tie here. In Spain the entry fees are much cheaper and there are some amazing courses, but the organization is not always great, which means sometimes there is a lack of water or post-race snacks. The few times I’ve run even small races in the States I’ve just been blown away by the organization and all those delicious treats (bagels! chili! beer! hot apple cider!!! cookies! donuts!?!)

Weather: Please take into account I’m basically comparing Barcelona and Baltimore here and I’m going to give the point to Barcie. I can take the heat, sure, it slows you down, but poco a poco you get acclimated. I find dressing for the cold East coast winters a real challenge. It’s freezing for the first mile and then I just start sweating in all those layers.

Catcalls: Obviously, Spain takes the cake in sheer quantity on this one. If a man calls out to you in the States it’s usually kind of threatening or weird, whereas along the streets of Barcelona it’s pretty common and somehow more lighthearted. For years I would just tell myself that the piropo is part of Spanish culture, don’t get all worked about it, but the truth of the matter is sometimes when I’m running alone late at night I really don’t want to hear people’s drunken hisses. (Obviously the whole Euro – American debate about what constitutes sexual harassment has taken on a whole new life with the DSK arrest, but that’s for another post.)

Have you run in different countries or different regions of the US? When you consider where you would like to live in the future do you take possible running routes into consideration?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Week 4 Marathon Training

Monday: Plan: easy 6 Reality: 5 miles late night.

Tuesday: Plan: 6 Reality: 0 miles. I got home from work at 10 pm. It was pouring rain and I hadn’t ironed any clothes for Venice. I managed to pack my suitcase without crying and wake up at 5 am with a fairly decent attitude so a goose egg as far as mileage, but a gold star for mental health.

Wednesday: Plan: Venice, probably 0. Reality: 0 miles and A LOT of delicious food.

Thursday: Plan: Venice, probably 0. Reality: 3 miles

through Venice.

Friday: Plan: Return from Venice and try for a 10 miler in the afternoon. Reality: 6.2 miles in the evening. I had a work event at 9 pm so I escaped the office at 7:30, ran quickly, showered, gave Charles a hello kiss and got back to work. No one was the wiser.

Saturday: Plan: 15 mile hike with friends. Reality: Amazing 16-mile rainy uphill adventure. I conquered my vertigo fears and wasn’t even sore the next day. Thank you, quads, you’re getting so strong.

Sunday: Plan: easy 10 Reality: I got off to a very late start, but thankfully it was cloudy so leaving the house at 1:30 pm wasn’t a complete suicide mission. A. ran the first 3 miles with me, which was nice. I was five miles in before I even realized I was doing a long run. Ten was my goal since I’d had a very long week, but I was feeling good—not fast but steady—and made this a twelve miler. No gels, just water and some gatorade once I finished.


+ My mileage wasn’t high this week and I didn’t get in any speed work, but somehow just getting four days of running in gave me a confidence boost and calmed my nerves. Also, it was nice to have a decent long run after last week’s disaster.

- I really need to be stricter about my diet. I eat cookies because I think, “Well, I run so I deserve it” and we all know that ain’t right. I need to plan more meals and have snacks on hand.

Week 5 Plan:

Monday: 5 easy

Tuesday: Rest from running. Arms and abs.

Wednesday: 7 miles, 5 miles at Tempo Pace

Thursday: 5 miles. Arms and abs.

Friday: run 3 / swim

Saturday: 14 miles

Sunday: swimming

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Week 3 of Marathon Training

Monday: Planned easy 6 Reality: easy 6!

Tuesday: rest Reality: rested

Wednesday: 6 Tempo Reality: I ran about 7 miles, but they were hard! The humidity was killing me and it wasn’t easy to keep a tempo pace. My shorts were wringing wet.

Thursday: Easy 6 Reality: Five and change with the Abster. Pace was decent.

Friday: cross Reality: Drank too many beers after work and went to bed destroyed from the work week.

Saturday: 13 miler Reality: This run sucked and I don’t know why. When I got about six miles from home I seriously wanted to cry. My legs weren’t hurting, I just had a sort of all over body tiredness. It wasn´t a hangover either. Just a weird sort of burn out. It was cloudy and super windy, so I can’t even blame the heat. Culprit: lack of sleep throughout the week, I think. Please tell me what you think! Have you had failed runs like this, where you just sort of turn off?

Sunday: long bike ride with Charles Reality: Charles went to visit his grandmother and I went to the beach. Cross-training was a 20-minute swim in the very clean, but freezing cold sea!

Week 4 Plan:

This won’t be easy because I’m traveling to Venice for work, but I’ll hope for the best.

Monday: easy 6.

Tuesday: 6

Wednesday: Venice, probably 0

Thursday: Venice, probably 0

Friday: Return from Venice and try for a 10 miler in the afternoon

Saturday: 15 mile hike with friends.

Sunday: easy 10

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Staying Out of Trouble

Running is my time to think. My hour to push through the frustrations of the day and come through with a few epiphanies or at least feeling calmer and more optimistic. Tonight I realized that I’m getting too caught up in office politics, getting upset and overly sensitive about supposed slights and perceived trespasses. I want to be involved and recognized on demand, when in reality I don't need to be involved constantly and Catalans don't recognize work the same way Americans do.

I work in politics, but my job is to read and to write. A perfect job, so why do I go looking for trouble? It’s like middle school all over again.

So, the next time I feel the urge to write an email, make a phone call, or utter a sarcastic remark that will just stir up trouble, I’m going to take a deep breath, take out my trusty green notebook and write.

It only took 32 years and tonight’s six sweaty miles to figure that out.