Friday, 31 October 2008

Running and me

There’s a funny post up at Booze Hounds Inc about how runners brag about their running and just generally annoy the people in their daily life with the ins and outs of it all. Now, I don’t doubt I annoy the hell out of the people in my life on a daily basis, but I realized while reading the post that I actually try not to talk about my running in real life.

Running is quite personal for me. When I took up running almost a year ago, I was just emerging from a rather dark period in my life. Full of anger at both myself and others, I needed to channel that energy into something productive. Enter running.

Running saved me. It’s a total cliche to say that, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I had become a person that I not only didn’t like but was actually repulsed by. How could I have let things get so bad? That doesn’t really matter now. The point is, without running, I might still be that person, trapped in a mire of my own making. That’s not something I like to contemplate.

So I run. And when I get back from a run, I clean off, put my running gear away and continue on with the day. Of course, living in this environment, people do notice my comings and goings and the fitness attire that I wear for my runs. I’m asked about it and, uncomfortably, I respond with the truth. When I discover I’m speaking to a fellow runner, some of my tension eases a bit and we’ll have a nice chat but I still continue to hide things. Things like training for a marathon.

Obviously, many people here now know I’m training for a marathon. Having to excuse myself from a weekend excursion is difficult if I don’t explain that my four-hour long run is going to put me out of commission for about a day. And I hate to lie outright by giving some lame-ass excuse. Lie by omission? Sure, you betcha, but I’m not often allowed to get away with that.

It’s the reactions I hate the most. They range from surprise and incomprehension to awe. I don’t want any of it. I don’t want to have to justify myself to the confused and I find the admiration of the others to be oppressive.

Running is my own private joy which I do for completely selfish reasons. I don’t want to share it.

Why then do I blather to you all about it day in and day out? Well, you all are special. (In probably more than one way, but I won’t go there.) In part, it’s because you all understand. You have gone or are going through the same things so there’s that sense of camaraderie which is quite comforting. It’s also nice that most of you don’t know me in the real world. You have no idea what life I’ve led or what kind of baggage I carry around with me. That anonymity, however illusory, helps me enormously.

This is not to say I won’t ever outgrow these feelings and become more like you braggarts one day. Hell, if I finish the marathon in one piece, one of the first things I’m going to do is update my much-neglected Facebook page to say something charming like ‘Xenia just finished running the Florence marathon. What have you losers done today?’ It’ll be nice payback for all those twits from high school who feel compelled to track me down online just so they can brag about how great their lives are. Seriously, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about you back then so why should I care now that you’re married and have produced a squalling brat from your loins.* Hey, wanna see my race medal?

So, yeah. Sorry about the over-sentimentality. I guess I just needed to get it off my chest. Also, I didn’t have much to say today anyways and hadn’t planned on posting at all. You can now all blame Viper for this maudlin post. I know I do.

Happy Halloween, everyone. Enjoy your weekend.

*Not that these aren’t accomplishments, they very much are. I just don’t care for most of the people I went to high school with.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Perty pictures

Thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday and dropped off a pearl of wisdom or two. I ended up rolling out my calves with a broom stick (it was all we had) and, later that night, I massaged my legs too. Today, I woke up to much less sore legs, though my achilles are still a wee bit tight. I got in a short easy run this morning and things feel much better. I'm happy now. :)

There's not much else to say at the moment, so I guess I'll just post some photos for your viewing pleasure. They are all of the Villa Borghese, the park where I run most often. Enjoy.

This is the pseudo-track where I run my speed work. It's actually a venue for equestrian events.

Fun water fountains. It's like drinking their spit. But not.

Roman sarcophagus outside the Galleria Borghese

Happy hump day, everyone.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Need help

The calf insurrection seems to have gone global.

Obviously not a calf but, it's as close as I could get to one in my photo files.

I wrote Monday's post on Sunday night actually, so I didn't yet know how incredibly sore my calves were going to be upon waking up Monday. They are still horrendously tight today, so I skipped out on my 4 miler this morning. Which is fine since it's raining like crazy anyway.

My calves hurt a lot. Is cold stretching okay? I don't remember ever being in this situation before, so I have no idea what's good/bad to do. Please help me. This sucks.

Monday, 27 October 2008

20 miles and a winner

First 20 miler is in the bag. Woo hoo! How do I feel about it? Great, because it’s over and done with. How’s that for optimism.

Taking advantage of daylight savings time (I think you all ‘fall back’ next weekend?), I waited till Sunday for my run, setting out at the lovely hour of 6 am. Everything was fine except that I was forced to take a bathroom stop between miles 7 and 8. I prefer to hold off on a loo break for as long as possible since once I stop, my legs seem to feel much heavier and uncooperative afterwards. All that sitting down, no matter how brief, signals to my legs that work time is over when it is in fact not. It just makes the rest of the run that much more arduous.

The tiredness was compounded by an ache in my left shoulder that appeared at mile 11, another loo stop between miles 14 and 15 and some douchebag in an SUV stopping me to ask for directions just after I’d passed the Circus Maximus. Seriously, people, I’m running here. Leave me alone.

The piece de resistance occurred at mile 17 when I was running on a leaf-strewn sidewalk. I unknowingly placed my foot in a divot and nearly ate asphalt. Good news, I didn’t fall down. Bad news, I twisted my ankle something fierce. It felt tender but not like anything was broken or torn, so I kept running figuring it was better for me to get home quickly rather than to take it easy and walk the rest of the way. I iced it down after the run and there's only a bit of stiffness now, so I think it's going to be fine.

I picked up the pace for the last two miles, but this was rendered a bit futile as the last two miles were full of hills. Seriously, I need to plan my runs better, but it doesn’t help that I have to cross over a big fat hill to get home anyway.

According to my training schedule I was supposed to run at an 11:57 pace. Instead, I ran at a 12:11 pace. Considering this was my first ever 20-miler, I don’t really care what my pace was as long as I completed the entire run, which I did. I’ll worry about pacing during my other two potential 20s.

Wagon, I’s falled off it
I had a post-20 miler chocolate meltdown. Damn you, Nutella, damn you and your hazelnut goodness! There goes one of my goals for the 21 day habit challenge. So far so good with the language study though.

And the winner is...
The answers to all of last week’s quiz questions were D. But, seeing as how a question or two were a bit ambiguous, I included everyone in the random number draw. The lucky number was 12.

The 12th commenter was Ted. You were wrong on so many of the questions, Ted, but luck is on your side. Yay for you! Email me your snail mail address and I’ll get the Popener and postcard out to you soon.

If you’re disgruntled by the outcome, don’t fret. There will be several more opportunities for you to cock up win in future. Maybe next time I won’t write such a crappy quiz. Here’s to hoping.

Okay, guys, hope you all have a good week. Catch up with you later.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Quiz #2: The Revenge

So, I was accused of rigging the last contest by a bitter individual who will remain nameless. (*cough*pansy*cough*) I do admit that the questions favored those with knowledge of the classical world. Sue me. I’m an archaeologist and these are my quizzes. Suck it up.

Having said that, I thought I would make the second one a bit easier. And by easier I mean completely random and egocentric. How’s that for fair!

The prize remains the same—a kick-ass Popener and a postcard from Rome. The person to answer the most questions correctly wins. If there are several of you who get all the answers correct (and seriously, you better get them all right), I’ll have the random number generator choose a winner.

All right, people, get crackin’!

1) Why did I decide to study the Romans?
(a) They’re an entertainingly debauched people who left me bits of buildings to study.
(b) Latin was easier for me to understand than ancient Greek.
(c) I would get to travel around the Mediterranean and be able to call it work-related.
(d) All of the above.

2) What is my favorite Roman imperial name?
(a) Augustus
(b) Hadrian
(c) Commodus
(d) Pupienus

3) What do I want to be when I grow up finish my PhD? (Come on 2010!)
(a) employed
(b) The professor who is feared by all undergraduates
(c) retired
(d) Any of the above would do as long as I was finished writing this god-forsaken dissertation.

4) Where would I most like to visit on a non-work related holiday?
(a) Nebraska
(b) Michigan
(c) Ohio
(d) Fiji

5) What was one of my mother’s favorite endearments for me while I was growing up?
(a) angel
(b) sweetums
(c) golden child
(d) squirrel bait

6) How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie roll center of a Tootsie pop?

(a) 1
(b) 2
(c) 3
(d) I don’t care. I don’t like Tootsie rolls.

7) If you’ve recognized the pattern in the answers, then you are:
(a) a genius
(b) a member of Mensa
(c) very astute
(d) pretty average actually

Same spiel as last time. Type your answers in the comments of this post by 5 pm EST on Friday, October 24. The winner will be revealed on Monday.

Good luck, godspeed, and I hope you don’t choke. Again.

This is my last post for the week. I have no idea what to write about anymore. (Sweet lord, I’m turning into Razz. How horrible is that!) My runs are fairly standard and boring. (Except for the ginormous 20-miler I have planned for this weekend. Eek!) There’s also an important deadline hanging over my head, which means I’m not getting out and about much into the city lately. Honestly, the only really exciting thing to happen to me this week is that I finally received my absentee ballot in the mail yesterday. Yay for being able to do my civic duty! Well, at least I’m trying to think of it as exciting.

If you have any post topic ideas, suggest away in the comments. As of right now, I’m completely tapped out.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

P.S.—TFH, sorry dear, but you’ve already won so you’re not eligible for the prize again. Feel free to mess with the other participants though. Anything to amuse yourself. And me too of course. :)

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Potpourri: the sequel

Feed me, Seymour, feed me
My ipod mini is not actually an ipod. Want to know what it really is? It’s the Earbudinator.

I’m now on my fourth set of earphones this year. Wth? In the first three sets it was the left earbud that zonked out. This last set it was the right one. I don’t get it. Is my ipod like a succubus for earphones? Does anyone else go through earphones like water or is my ipod just super special?

‘You need to find a shoe shale,’ shed Sean.
As I’ve whined before, my shoes (Asics 2130s) are being discontinued. However, in my half-assed online searching, I have yet to find a retailer that’s selling them for super cheap. I think the lowest price I've seen is about $85. That’s not cheap, my friends. Anyone have any retail website recommendations for me? I really want to buy another pair or two before they’re all gone, but I can’t afford to shell out a fortune for them right now.

Ode to my grey running trousers
Oh grey running trousers, how I love thee. Your legs are the perfect length. Your material is soft, breathable and sweatwicking. You form to my un-junk-filled tookus and actually make it look enticing. (Okay, maybe not enticing, but at least passable.) You don’t ride up and give me camel toe. We are a perfect fit. Or we were until I realized you make me look like I have bladder control issues and should probably be wearing Depends. Why do you make sweat marks so visible? Why do I consistently wipe my sweaty hands on my bum and compound the problem? I thought what we had was special. I feel betrayed. No longer will I consider you for my race day outfit. I think we need some time apart. Trust me, it’s for the best.

Yeah, that’s all I’ve got for today. I’m busy. Go bug someone else for a little while. Maybe I’ll find enough time before the weekend to put together another quiz. Or maybe that’ll be next week. Eh, who knows.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Speed demon

A week and a half ago I did a speedwork session. On the schedule was 3 x 1600 m at 9:45 pace. Before setting out, I decided to change the session to 6 x 800 m at 4:39 to 4:52 pace (an appropriate time range according to the McMillan running calculator). The mile speed run always seems daunting to me, so I thought cutting them in half would help.

The times I clocked for the first two 800 m were unexpected. At this point, I decided to scrap the last four 800 m and instead run two 1600 m as I was curious what times I would get. Here they are:

800 m – 3:59
800 m – 4:09
1600 m – 8:51
1600 m – 8:36

Um, yeah. What happened here?

I recalculated the distance of the pseudo-track I’ve been using and realized it may be off by 0.01 mile (so 0.24 mile instead of 0.25). This weekend I made sure to add the appropriate distance to the end of each interval (two fence posts per lap). I intended to follow the previous week’s session of 2 x 800 m and 2 x 1600 m, but I had a weak mental moment on the third run so in all it ended up being one 1600 m and 4 x 800 m. Hope that makes sense.

Ok, so here are the times:

800 m – 3:47
800 m – 3:53
800 m – 4:08
1600 m – 8:37
800 m – 4:05

Yeah, I still don’t get it. I’m slower than molasses during all my medium and long runs, but apparently I’m a little speed demon (relative, of course) for short distances. Hell, I didn’t even think I was capable of running a sub-9 minute mile without risking cardiac arrest.

As of now I’ve made the executive decision to modify the rest of my training schedule. It’s currently set up to have one easy run, one speed or tempo run and one LSD per week. From here on out, I’ll be using a more FIRST-like approach and changing the easy run to another speed or tempo session, depending on whatever is already scheduled for that week.

My crazy speed session times were not the only reason for this decision. I hate to admit it, but I was actually influenced by a comment Vanilla made in his Runners’ Lounge Open Mic interview. He said, ‘I’m in ‘like’ with running, I’m in love with better results.’ I can completely identify with this. Mentally, I grumble and bitch through the entirety of the speed sessions, but I absolutely love the numbers I get and I really want to keep improving. When spring time rolls around and the shorter distances races crop up again, I want to smash my 5K and 10K PRs and I know doing speedwork is the only way I’m going to achieve that goal.

If you all have any advice you want to throw my way about any of this, please feel free. I’d love to know what you think.

Have a great week, everyone.

P.S.--Jenn at Getting Fit and Loving It is running a 21-day habit changing/forming challenge. Entry deadline is today by 11:59 pm EST. I've signed up to do two things: (1) not eat chocolate and (2) keep up with my language study. You may notice a gradual increase in irritability in my posts over the next three weeks. That would be the result of Habit Goal #1. Just FYI. Come on, lemmings, go sign up. Why wait till January 1st to torture yourself? Start now! :)

Friday, 17 October 2008


Forgive me, bloggers, for I have sinned. It’s been never since I made a confession. My sin? I partook of food-like items from the unholiest of places last night.

Yes, from Burger King.

My reason for falling in with the Dark One? I couldn’t take another night of pasta or pizza. Last night, a bunch of us attended the opera (not a full one. The singers didn’t wear corsets or Viking helmets or anything, but it was still cool), so we weren’t going to be able to dine at the Nerditorium per our usual. Instead, people were planning on grabbing pizza slices on the way. That just didn’t sound appealing to me, especially since I’d eaten pizza for lunch the day before. I could have cooked up my own pre-opera dinner, but all I had in the cupboard was pasta. And I really, really didn’t want to eat it. Hence my trip to the Diner of the Dark One.

Was it worth it? Not really. Will I be sinning again? Probably, but I hope the urge won’t strike again until after November 9th when Viv’s weight loss challenge is over. Boy, am I not starting out well with this challenge!

To make matters worse, I’ve done sod all since Tuesday on the exercise front and I don’t have an excuse. Well, not any good ones. Bah. If it ever stops raining today, I’ll run out and get a 7 miler in. Promise.

Well, with that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?

Y’all made me laugh with your quiz answers. A lot. In a good way. Thanks for that.

Here are the answers to the messed-up quiz:

1) (c) The man was indeed a cobbler, despite evidence to the contrary.

2) The emperor was Hadrian and the boy toy was Antinous. This was a difficult one as most emperors, at least in the early to mid imperial period, were accused of having homosexual and/or pedophiliac proclivities. And just so you can see how far (or not far) off the mark you were, here is a chronological list of emperors up to the time of Hadrian.
  • Augustus, also known as Octavian (27 BC – AD 14)
  • Tiberius (14 – 37)
  • Caligula, real name Gaius (37 – 41)
  • Claudius (41 – 54)
  • Nero (54 – 68)
  • Galba (68 – 69)
  • Otho (69)
  • Vitellius (69)
  • Vespasian (69 – 79)
  • Titus (79 – 81)
  • Domitian (81 – 96)
  • Nerva (96 – 98)
  • Trajan (98 – 117)
  • Hadrian (117 – 138)
Editor’s note: Julius Caesar was not an emperor. He was a dictator, which is an actual Roman political position. He was also Augustus’ great uncle and adoptive father.

3) Priapus is a fertility god and has a gigantic schlong. Check out this painting of him from Pompeii.

Yes, he is weighing his trouser snake python. Braggart.

I really enjoyed all your answers to this one. :)

4) It’s a man, baby!

5) It’s another man, baby!

This is Pothos, one of Aphrodite’s Erotes. He’s the god of sexual longing and desire.

So, who won? That would be TFH, of course! TFH, email me your snail mail address and I’ll get the postcard and Popener out to you next week. Thanks for participating, everyone. Since postcards and Popeners are rather inexpensive and my funding is holding out well, I can easily afford to hold a few more contests over the remaining two months I’ll be in Rome. More chances for you to receive some Italian junk mail and answer silly questions. What could be better than that?

Have a great weekend, everyone. Good luck to all those racing! I’ll be thinking happy thoughts for all of you this weekend and looking forward to some more great race reports next week.

Take care all.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Riddle me this

Today is my friend Bean’s last day in Rome, so this morning we headed out to a museum neither of us had been to before, Montemartini. It’s a late 19th century power station that’s been converted into a museum which showcases ancient sculpture. In my professional opinion, it’s way cool. I wish I’d visited it years ago. Anyway, there was lots of fun stuff for nerds like us to see and make fun of. We followed up our museum visit with a pizza lunch which we took to-go and ate outside the Pantheon then had some of the best gelati (ice cream) in Rome. But first we had to weave our way around a protest to get there.

Italians aren’t happy unless they’re bitching about something. Kind of like me.

I went with my standard combo of chocolate and stracciatella (vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips) while Bean had a fun old time trying to order fig ice cream. The plural for figs in Italian is fichi, pronounced ‘fiki’. Bean was trying to be careful with the pronunciation because by screwing up the second syllable, she would have accidentally said a slang word for vajaja. Well, she screwed it up and the gelati guy had a great time making fun of her. Good times.

Since I have nothing interesting to say on the running front, I thought I would give you all a short little quiz. Five questions, all with pictures and a little bit of a gender-bending theme. The commenter who gets the most correct answers will receive a postcard (because sometimes it's nice to get something in the mail other than bills, bills and more bills) and the best souvenir ever from Rome. Nope, not The David apron or the Hot Priests of Rome calendar. (Editor’s note: Sadly, I’ve learned the men featured in the calendar are not real priests. Guess Big Papa would have thrown up a big stink if they were.) A very non-scientific survey conducted amongst all my traveling buddies has unanimously proven that the best souvenir from Rome, regardless of whether or not you’re catholic, is the Popener.

The Pope + bottle opener = the Popener.

Nowadays, there’s usually Benny on one side and JP on the other. Either way, it’s still awesome.

Okay, folks, here are the questions:

1) This is a funerary stele. The dude’s profession is indicated in the imagery on the stele. Was he (a) a Roman gay-rights icon, (b) purveyor of bras for man-boobs, or (c) a cobbler.

2) This is a sculpture of the boy toy of a well-known second century AD Roman emperor. What’s the emperor’s name? (Bonus: Name the boy toy.)

3) Why is this guy so happy?

(Hint: the dude’s name is Priapus)

4) Is this the arse of a man or woman?

5) These are two statues of the same individual. Is it of a man or woman?

To enter this messed-up contest, just post your answers in the comments of this post before Thursday, October 16 at 3 pm EST. I’ll reveal the winner’s name on Friday. If however, the contest winner just wants the nerdy bragging rights and not the 'prize', I’ll have the Random Number Generator choose a prize winner.

All right, good luck, geeks. Catch you later.

Monday, 13 October 2008

How many ways can you say 'wrong'?

Before I dissect my weekend long run for your reading pleasure, let me recount a conversation I had with my friend Canadia the other day. It does have some relevance later on in this post. Barely, but it’s there.

Canadia: Remember a few days ago when we were sitting on the tram across from those two old nuns?
Me: Yeah.
C: The only thing I could think about while sitting there was that they've never had sex before.
Me: Sitting across from two old nuns set off your virgin alarm?
C: Yeah.
Me: Thanks for feeling the need to share that with me.
C: No problem.

My long run went to hell well before it started on Sunday morning. Saturday, after weighing myself at a pharmacy for Viv’s weight loss challenge, I decided I needed to get cracking on strength training again. Restarting the push up challenge (third time’s the charm, right?), I cranked out 43 girly push ups and then added in a total of 120 various crunches and some reps of a pilates back extension exercise. What did that result in?

Sore chest and abdominal muscles for Sunday morning’s run. Joy.

My next major screw-up was not waking up early enough on Sunday morning. I headed out at 8 am for the run as opposed to an hour earlier like I’d planned. At my pace, running 18 miles should take me a little over 3.5 hours, so I was going to be running amongst tourists for the majority of the time. Again, joy.

Having started late, I ended up running near St. Peter’s right before Sunday services were about to begin. It was like seeing a sporting event as various groups of people were carrying banners and signs. One group had the image and name of Gaetano Errico plastered all over everything. Seems that this Sunday was the day he was finally being canonized and parishioners from the Naples area came to Rome to celebrate. Cool.

As I turned around and made my way back towards the river I passed two young priests. My first thought was ‘Damn, they’re hot.’ This was immediately followed by, ‘Holy shit, they’re virgins.’ (See, I told you it was relevant.) I’m pretty sure if I were actually catholic my thoughts at that moment would have been considered a triple whammy once the swearing was factored in.

The LSD was rather uneventful until I crossed to the other side of the river and started on my loop around the Capitoline and Palatine hills. I made an on-the-spot decision to take the route in the opposite direction, starting at the Colosseum, in order to use the toilets there which I knew opened at 9 am. I reached the Colosseum a little before 10 am but found to my horror that the opening hours had changed since it’s no longer peak tourist season. The sign now read 10 am, but that means shit-all to Italians who take their time with everything. I decided to wait it out anyways and kept walking around to prevent my leg muscles from seizing. Five minutes later the doors were still locked and about twenty people, mostly women, were crowded around the doors. This no longer looked like a good bet, so I said to hell with it and started running again, hoping to use the facilities at a bar next to the Theater of Marcellus. [Editor’s note: FYI, bars in Italy are not bars in the North American sense. Instead they're a combination of cafes and bars.]

Entering the bar fifteen minutes later, I was immediately engulfed in a sea of midget senior citizens. It’s pretty sad when I’m the tallest person in the room as I’m only average in height. It seems I landed myself in the middle of an Italian tour group who were taking a breakfast/loo stop. The queue for the toilets was very Italian—no one line, just a mass of people all trying to funnel towards the bathroom doors. Sweaty and with my bladder near to bursting, I knew that waiting there would take forever (old people g.i. and diaper issues being a major factor) and only increase my irritation levels not to mention put me in danger of just saying to hell with it and peeing on the retiree next to me. So, I soldiered on, bladder still achingly full.

On my way back towards the river, I ran into the first bar I could find with a toilet. Not even bothering to ask if it was all right if I could use their facilities, I flew into the tiny loo and did my business, all the while gripping the door handle tightly since the lock appeared to be busted and I didn’t feel like having company right then.

Bladder emptied, I continued along my planned route. The weather was fantastic but the joy was being sucked out of my day as I had to keep weaving in and around tourists for the rest of the run. Bleh. What is it with people when they’re in groups? It’s like all sense of common courtesy gets thrown out the window and they deliberately block the entire path just to see if you’re desperate enough to play Frogger with traffic. Assholes.

My legs were feeling rather heavy two thirds of the way through the run, but I tried to pick up the pace a bit towards the end for a good finish. I completed the run seventeen minutes earlier than I had anticipated and was super confused for most of the day as I tried to figure out where this increase in speed had come from. Had eating cereal bars instead of gummy bears been the key? Maybe it was because I listened to Tears for Fears quite a few times that morning? Was the presence of tourists enough for me to pick up my speed for most of the run?

Nope, nope and nope. The real answer? I didn’t run 18 miles. I ran 16.6. I crossed the wrong freaking bridge and accidentally shaved a mile and a half off my run. Crapola. If I had found this out soon enough after the run, I would have gone back out to make up the distance, but I didn’t figure it out until several hours later. My shower and nap took precedence over my confusion.

The yellow arrow points to the bridge I should have crossed, the red arrow to the one I did. Boo.

This week is a back off week, so my LSD this weekend is only going to be 6 miles. The following weekend I have my first 20 miler. Should be super fun after short-changing this weekend’s long run. Junk.

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. Congrats to Marcy on a great finish in her marathon yesterday! I look forward to reading more successful race reports this week.

Catch you later.

Friday, 10 October 2008


My tempo run yesterday yielded some pretty interesting numbers. Four miles at an average pace of 9:55. Squeeze me, what did I just type?! I recrunched the numbers three times to make sure that was right. That’s just two seconds slower per mile than my 5K PR pace. And this was just a tempo run on some hilly terrain. Things are beginning to look up for me speed-wise.

The soon-to-be-marathoning Roisin (good luck, buddy!) has tagged me. I’m supposed to list six random things about myself and then tag ten other people. I’ll list the randomness, but I’m half-assing the tag bit. I’m tagging Razz (ha ha sucker!) and then anyone else who hasn’t been tagged but wants to do it or just needs some blog fodder.

Okay, here we go:
1. I’ve never skied or ice skated even though I grew up in NH.

2. I applied to be on the Amazing Race with Ellen. We obviously were not accepted. My sister and I then planned on applying together (you’re not allowed to apply with the same person more than once), but I am currently ineligible because I live abroad. (A-holes.)

3. I have a history of ganglion cysts (thanks for the genetic ‘gift’, Mom). They’re benign little bastards that reside in and around my wrists. I had one removed from the top of my left wrist when I was 19. Two small ones have cropped up over the last couple of years, one on the side of my left wrist and one on the top of my right wrist. (FYI, mine aren’t anywhere near as prominent as the ones pictured on the Wiki page. Those are gross.) If and when I need to get them removed (only if they cause me pain, which currently they do not), I’m going to end up with a bunch of scars that make me look like a depressed idiot who doesn’t know how to commit suicide properly. Oy.

4. Speaking of scars, I have a scar which runs down the center of my lower lip. When I was two, I fell down and broke my lip open on a lollipop stick. Thankfully I ended up needing just one stitch. For the longest time there was a little dot of scar tissue beneath my lower lip that looked a bit like a whitehead. Not pleasant to have especially as I entered my teen years. But eventually my lips filled out some and that little dot is now no longer visible.

5. I’m currently working on my fourth university degree and have just begun my twelfth year as a student in higher education. Afraid of the real world much? It’s amazing how overeducated yet unknowledgeable I am.

6. I’m afraid I may alienate a lot of you with this last random personal fact, but whatever. I don’t often drink alcohol. It’s not a religious, moral or medical thing. I just don’t like the taste of it. This makes me a complete anathema to the archaeological community since archaeologists have a tendency towards alcoholism. I guess it helps them forget why they decided to pursue a career with no job prospects. Anyway, I’ve tried loads of different drinks (beer, wine, most hard liquors, a million different cocktails), but all of it tastes like poo to me. I’m still open-minded and will have a glass of champagne at a wedding or try someone’s drink at the pub if they offer, but otherwise I just end up having water or a soda. Yes, I do know how unutterably boring I am.

Okay, that’s way more than enough about me. Good luck to all you racers this weekend. I can’t wait to hear all about your triumphs come Monday. I’m especially interested in the reports of you marathoning virgins. So far Chia’s account has scared the ever-loving hell out of me (I heart you, Chia, but your marathon experience was freaking brutal!), so I need some reassurance that my decision to run Florence isn’t completely mad. Yes, I’m selfish.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


The title of this post is an homage to Jeopardy, my favorite game show ever (besides the one in the 80s where the contestants kept shouting ‘No whammies! No whammies!’), because basically I’ve got nothing of import to say so you’re now going to be inundated with the randomness of my mind and photo files. Good luck, young paduas!
  • I’m sensing a pattern developing here with my running. My alarm screeched at 7 am this morning, but I shut it off and went back to sleep. Here’s hoping tomorrow works better for me...and that there is no retaliation from the anti-procrastination weather gods. Eek!
  • My best friend Ellen emailed me one of the best blogs ever: Scottish Actors! I love me a soft burr and some Gerard Butler, as has been well documented on this blog in the past. Yum...
  • And just so I’m not accused of sexism (again), here’s a little something for the men.
Probably not a native Italian. Just a guess though.

This poster was plastered all over most of the metro stations as of the end of last week. Why is it remarkable, you ask? Because I saw the photo shoot during one of my first early morning runs around the Colosseum a few weeks ago. I wondered what the photos were going to be used for and now I know. Obviously it was a rush job considering the posters went to print in less than a couple of weeks. Apparently that didn’t give them enough time to Photoshop out her black undies either. Tsk.
  • Can I get a hairdryer? Apparently not. A couple of us ladies here at the Nerditorium have been on the hunt for hairdryers, but we’ve been S.O.L. for about a week. No one has any. Department stores, pharmacies, supermarkets? Niente. I didn’t bring one with me because, well frankly there was no space available in my already overstuffed luggage and I also didn’t want to chance blowing a fuse either in the building or in the actual hairdryer itself (and I’ve actually witnessed both happen). I’ve had to keep my hair up in a claw clip for days and it’s beginning to annoy the hell out of me. My friend Canadia (can you tell where she hails from?) and I searched high and low today. We found plenty of shoe stores, stationeries, department stores, violin shops and even a place that sells archery equipment. Finally we came across this tiny hole in the wall shop which mostly sold pet supplies but, miraculously, they had one travel hair dryer which Canadia purchased. She’s been sick for the last few days so I let her have it. I’m a good friend, aren’t I? (grrrr...)
  • What did I find today while out and about? A rubbish bin a fuoco (on fire)!

Hope the Italian Oscar the Grouch wasn't in there...

Random, but just plain awesome nonetheless.
  • People at the Nerditorium are slowly finding out about me running the Florence marathon. The rise in my stress levels seems to directly correspond to the increasing number of people who know about the marathon. As my father would say in his lovely broken English, ‘This no good.’
  • A friend said I should wear a toga while running the marathon. I vetoed it because of chafing issues, but there might end up being a laurel wreath involved on race day. As long as I don’t end up looking like a wannabe Jesus, I guess it won’t be too bad.
  • If you haven’t already heard, Viv’s having another weight loss challenge! This blogger is most definitely signing up so I can get my weight down for race day. If you’re interested, head on over to her blog and sign up now! All the cool kids already have. ;)
That’s it for me today. Later gators.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Divine intervention

Friday I was supposed to get in my 5 to 6 mile tempo run. For various reasons, it never happened. So Saturday I gave it a go and the gods showed their displeasure at my procrastination by first raining on me and then pelting me with hail. Lots and lots of hail, each the size of an M&M. It hurt like a mofo. I ended up having to take shelter under a tree until the worst of it passed. By the time I had completed one loop, I was wet through, super cold and very unhappy so I cut the run short. As soon as I entered the door of the Nerditorium, the rain stopped.

The gods, though angry, still have a sense of humor. But it’s obviously a cruel one.

My 16-mile LSD was supposed to happen on Sunday. Yep, that’s a big old no on that one too. I had plans for a long walk along the Via Appia (the picture above is of the actual Roman paving) with some friends on that day and I knew I wasn’t going to be up for that after running in the morning, so I pushed the LSD to this morning. This required that I wake up a little after 5 am, so as not to shoot the rest of my day straight to unproductive hell.

Bleh. I did it though and with minimal grumbling.

As the Nerditorium is a rather old building, the heating is non-existent so I’ve been freezing for the last few days. What I always forget, however, is that the world outside is never as cold as it is indoors. This is doubly true when I go for a run. But, do I think of this when I suit up as if going for a run in Antarctica?

Hell no.

I wore a long sleeve tech pullover over a short sleeve tech shirt and then topped that off with my fleece vest and long pants. When I was all dressed and ready to go, I took one last look at my outfit and realized my entire ensemble was black. And I was going to be running in the pitch dark for at least an hour and a half.

I’m a smart cookie, aren’t I?

The funny thing is the pullover is marketed as reflective wear but it only has one tiny vertical strip running from between my shoulder blades up to the nape of my neck. Even if I hadn’t been wearing the fleece vest over it, it’s still useless, because my ponytail covers it up. I think I should write to Champion and tell them what reflective gear should actually look like. Their design team is obviously composed of morons. Then again, I did buy it, so who’s the bigger moron, really? Yeah, I thought so.

It seemed a good idea not to listen to my ipod while it was still dark since I needed to be alert for oncoming traffic, muggers and people who might mistake me for one. It was actually quite pleasant listening to the city slowly come alive. On my way past Castel Sant'Angelo and running towards St Peter’s, I crossed paths with another fellow pre-dawn runner. I have a feeling he was a member of the clergy. He wasn’t wearing anything religious, but he’s the only runner here who has ever smiled at me. Italian runners are not very friendly, even less so than the Brits if you can believe that.

I went without my ipod for two hours, until the city was very much wide awake and the sounds were no longer a pleasant distraction but a cacophony of craptasticness. Overall, the run went really well, even though I was a little warm from the multiple layers and my poor planning had me venturing into a pretty sketchy area on the south side of the city (note to self: don’t do that again) and left most of the hilly terrain for the last three miles.

I’m a little sore in the knees and hips, but nothing too bad. My only complaint is that I live on the fourth floor of the Nerditorium and the kitchen and library are both on the first floor. Stairs are not my friends right now. I still need to figure out if the freezers work, because I really should ice down my joints. Sadly (or fortunately—I haven’t figured it out yet) an ice bath is not possible, because all they have here are shower stalls. Eh, I’ll work something out eventually. Hopefully before marathon day rolls around...

Before I end this post, I would like to wish my mother a very happy birthday. She’s spending the day with her mom, who is on the fast track to senility, and her eldest sister who constantly bickers with their mother. Should be fun times. Bet you wish I was there to supply the color commentary, don’t you Mom? Well, you’ll have to settle for a phone call, because that’s all I can swing right now.

Have a great day, Mom. I’ll talk to you soon.

All right, have a great week everyone. I’ll catch up with you later.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Breaking News

Last week before I jetted off to England, I mentioned I might come back with some news. Well, I have. Instead of explaining it, I’ll just let you read it for yourselves.

Thank you. This confirms that your registration and your payment was successful. You are now registered for the Firenze Marathon.

Barring injury (*knock on wood*), I will be lining up on November 30 to run my first marathon ever in Florence, Italy. That’s the same day I turn the big 3-0.


To echo the words of another running blogger, all I can say is: Good lord, what have I done?!

This is probably the worst time EVER for me to be training for a marathon what with my busy schedule and all, but what the hell. No time would be ideal for me except when I’m retired and then I’m sure my bones would be so brittle they’d snap like twigs from the slightest movement.

So since I’m now terrified beyond belief by what I’ve just done, I’m going to heap vituperation upon your heads. After all, it’s your fault that I’m in this mess.

You people are awful influences. (Quite the contrary actually.)
I hate you. (No I don’t.)
I never want to see you again. (Please don’t leave me!)

Have a great weekend, everyone.


Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Fashionista, I am not

In the comments of Monday’s post, Meg asked how long I was staying in England. Well, right now I’m sitting in Terminal 5 of Heathrow airport waiting for my ever delayed flight back to Rome. Yeah, it was a super quick trip.

I had planned to get in a run this morning before doing some last minute errands and then hopping on the bus for the airport. That didn’t happen. Instead I stayed up later than I wanted to last night doing laundry, packing, cleaning my place and talking to my sister on the phone. Thankfully, my flatmates and I have some crazy ass deal for phone, internet and cable so we get most international calls (including all those to the states) for free. Considering I live with two other North Americans, we’re definitely getting our money’s worth.

So, no run today, but I will be getting in a run tomorrow barring natural disaster. Make sure you keep me to that promise. I don’t want to fall behind with my running. It’s the only thing that’s helping me cling to sanity at the moment.

Since I have nothing useful to say on the running front, I’ll talk about something else. How about clothes? (I can already hear the groans from the male readership. Suck it up, guys.) When I was in the midwest this summer, I went on a bit of a shopping spree led by my sister, who doubles as my personal stylist. Over this past year I’ve managed to drop a bit of weight, enough to necessitate a new wardrobe. Yay me.

Anyway, most of the clothes I purchased I would never have thought of trying on if it hadn’t been for Z. The shirt I am wearing today is one of her picks. It’s a deep purple three-quarter length sleeve shirt with a circular cut-out in the neckline. I like all of those details. What I’m not quite sure about is that beneath the cut-out and right between my boobs the material is slightly gathered and falls straight down from there. I know that’s a poor description, so I’ll say it in plainer terms.

It looks like I’m wearing a maternity shirt.

I keep expecting some woman to walk up to me, pat my stomach and ask me when the baby’s due. At which point I would punch her in the pie-hole and subsequently be arrested by airport police for assault. In America, I think my actions would be considered justifiable, but I’m still unsure about the international legal ramifications. If anyone knows, please inform me in the comments.

The shirt is super comfortable though, so I’ll keep wearing it until the above-mentioned incident, or something similar, occurs. I’m rather oblivious to current fashion trends, so this shirt style is probably all the rage now, but I wouldn’t know it because my face is stuck in books or looking at decaying buildings most of the time. Eh, I’m okay with the trade-off.

This summer’s shopping trip was focused solely on dressing me appropriately (i.e. non hobo-like) for Rome for two reasons: (1) I don’t have money enough for an entire wardrobe revamp, and (2) I want to lose some more weight.

Weight loss-wise, I’ve hit a bit of a plateau. A three month plateau. Thankfully I’ve not regained any weight but neither am I losing it and trust me, there’s still plenty that needs to be lost. I made a promise to myself to be at a certain weight by the time my birthday rolls around at the end of next month. I’m currently 15 pounds away from that mark. Z thinks it’s achievable, but I’m a bit skeptical. As long as I lose some weight before then, I’ll be happy. I have yet to give a name to this personal weight loss challenge. Operation Dumbo Drop came to mind but was quickly discarded because I don’t hate myself that much. If you can think of something funny, possibly even Italian related, I’d love to hear it. It would be great if it were motivating. I need all the help I can get.

UPDATE: The travel day from hell is finally over. First, the British Airways flight was delayed by an hour and a half which was cutting it really close for me making it to dinner at the Nerditorium tonight. Then that hope got totally shot to hell when we were told that half the luggage was never loaded onto the plane and therefore did not arrive with us. Dickheads! We wait around an extra hour and a half at the gate and you can’t be bothered to pull your collective thumbs out of your collective asses to do your jobs! WTF?! My dissertation is in that suitcase. I asked when they’ll deliver it to me and they said hopefully tomorrow, but they don’t know for sure. Rome is going to burn (again) if I don’t have it in my hands within 24 hours.

And to top it off, after waiting in a freaking hour long queue to register my lost bag, I was just about to board the next train to Termini station when the damn doors shut in my face and the train left without me. I had to wait another 30 minutes for the next one.

This day is not helping my stress levels. Grrr....