Monday, 29 December 2008


Admit it, you've all missed me, haven't you?

I've finally trekked into the real world and am taking advantage of a bookstore's wifi. Not that I don't love you all dearly, but I've actually been enjoying my disconnectedness and will pretty much continue to do so for the next two weeks with a few exceptions.

My holidays have been fun and festive, but sadly fartlek-free. Today I finally got off my lazy butt for my first full-on cold weather run. Thanks to my holiday loot, I was well prepared for the excursion. Somehow though I don't think those three miles are going to work off the vast quantities of food I've ingested over the past week and a half. We had two dinners on Christmas day thanks to the fact that one of my Greek aunts was back in the states. I haven't had a Greeklish holiday since I was a teenager and, damn, do I miss them. I'm surprised I can even walk let alone run with how much spanikopita, tyropita, pasticho, potatoes, and honey and butter cookies I've eaten. Hell, I've consumed more baklava in one week than most people should ever actually eat in a year. I wouldn't be suprised if I'm actually diabetic now.

Hopefully I'll get another run in this week before Z and I re-enact Cannonball Run again. We're probably leaving on Friday, but that all depends on what Mother Nature has in store for New England and the midwest first.

Our drive from Chi-town to the wilds of NH went surprisingly well as we managed to miss all the major storms by the skin of our teeth. Regardless, the words 'dick', 'douche' and 'a$$hole' were used liberally as we encountered morons from the midwestern states. Observations made during the trip include the following:
  • Leaving Chicago during rush hour, though necessary, was a total pain in the butt.
  • Gary, Indiana is truly hell on earth.
  • Although we never crossed the Michigan border, we encountered many of their fine drivers on Route 90 and made sure to tell them what we thought of their driving skills at every opportunity ... often with shaking fists and gutter verbiage.
  • Hampton Inns are fine establishments. Even more so when compared to the collection of Bates Motels we deliberately passed up along the way.
  • Ohio is not as bad as I remember it being. Cleveland actually looks like a smaller version of Chicago. At least when driving by at 65 mph. Z and I are even contemplating stopping by the A Christmas Story house for shits and giggles on the way back.
  • The Best State Ever Award goes to Pennsylvania for the sole fact that we spent the least amount of time there.
  • The Worst State Ever Award belongs to New York, mostly for the time it took us to traverse the state as well as the unbelievably high tolls we had to pay. Greedy bastards. By the time we finally got off Route 7 (horrific tactical error on my part as navigator), we wanted to stab our eyes out.
  • There is only one Taco Bell on the highway between our departure and arrival points.
  • Thank god Z packed almost an entire restaurant's worth of home-cooked food into the backseat for us to munch on during the trip.
  • Sadly, we were still stupid enough to stop at a Hardees along the way. I think I'm still paying for it, if you know what I mean.
To help you all combat the post-holiday blues and your depression over my continued absence, I leave you with this*.

Happy New Year, everyone. Stay safe. I'll catch you later.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
*Image courtesy of my friend, the Carnivore, who sent this to me two years ago and it still makes me laugh.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Say goodnight, Gracie

Last night, I finally got off my lazy arse and went for a run. It was my first ever evening run, a simple 3.4 miles. It felt good. The temperature was warm enough that I didn't really need to wear my fleece vest, though I was thankful I did if only for the use of the pockets. I'll have to try this again when I get back in January.

As things stand right now, I'm won't be winning anything in the HBBChallenge. Oh well, I'll keep doing what I can when I can. I'm trying to finish off a bunch of work before I leave for the states on Sunday. Once I'm across the pond, there will be a flurry of more traveling (Planes, Trains and Automobiles will have nothing on me), last minute shopping and family time. Then there's a conference I need to prepare for. All in all, I'm going to be super busy and without decent internet access, so this is my last major post for a while. I'll try to update my sidebar with my HBBC progress and check in on some of you, but mostly I won't be posting or commenting much.

So I leave you with some nice images to remember me by. These photos were taken at St. Peter's a week ago.

on the way up to the top of the dome of St. Peter's

interior of the dome

view from the dome

Big Papa's house

hazy close-up of the Pantheon dome (to the left with the ringed steps)

I want to wish you all safe and happy holidays. Catch you later.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Year in Review

This week’s Take It and Run Thursday asks us to write a year in review in 52 words or less. Here’s my summary of 2008, my first year of running. (Note use of contraction to stay within the word limit.)

Could first run two miles together in February.
Became part of crazy RBF community.
Lost thirty pounds.
Ran in four countries.
Dealt with shin splints, hip pain, sore knees and fleeting groin pull.
Became a marathoner in Italy in November.
In total, ran eight races (automatic six PRs!)
Beyond proud of myself.

I couldn’t have done it on my own. Thanks guys. Now I’m really looking forward to seeing what 2009 has in store for me.

Happy Thursday, everyone.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


In honor of Glaven going off the deep end again (but this time in reference to me), I thought I would give him some link love and answer his post with one of my own. [Editor’s note: This also helps me as I haven’t run since Saturday and had nothing fun to post for today.] If you’ve got a spare hour or two on your hands, go read his long rambling yet amusing post first then come back to mine if you still give a rat’s ass.

All right, Glaven, here goes...

My quizzes were created by a dozen nerds shackled to desks in the Nerditorium library who were beaten with wet spaghetti noodles when they failed to meet production deadlines ... which was often.

On the subject of your life suckage—all you have to do is be unemployed, go into debt and live off of money that committees only begrudgingly give you because your supervisor knows how poor your normal living conditions are and she’s begged on your behalf.

This is what PhD stands for.

The answers to your quiz questions are as follows:

(1) No, Popeners* don’t shit in the woods. A Popener only has an image of the Pope’s head so therefore the Popener has to do its business in a colostomy bag.
(2) Only if it’s been through its confirmation.
(3) 4
(4) Marcy went too far back in time. Don’t worry, she’ll catch up.
(5) It’s all about brevity, buddy. [Editor’s note: I should probably follow my own advice, no?]

I’ll pass on the palm grease, but thanks anyway.

Xenia is a Greek word. Loosely translated, it means ‘hospitality to strangers’. Its form is nominative feminine singular. The plural would be xeniai if it actually existed. You tried to make my blog name a Latin neuter plural second declension noun, which it is not. Are your eyes bleeding yet? Thanks for helping me revise** my rusty ancient language grammar skills.

As to the second part of footnote 4 ... I just threw up in my mouth a little.

There’s a chance I may be back in Rome in the spring for a short period of time. If I do go, I promise to hold another Popener quiz. I’m doing that just for you, Glaven. And the half dozen other readers who have threatened to lynch me because I have left them Popener-less.

I hope your knee heals up soon. Take care, buddy.

*For Marci and others who don’t already know, a Popener is a bottle opener with the image of the Pope on it. Hence why it is so coveted.

**British term for studying. I’ve heard it so many times in the past three plus years, that I can’t not say it anymore.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Manic Monday

Just a quick one from me today. It’s my last day in Rome and I have lots to do. Therefore, let the bullet points fly!
  • Ran 3 miles on Saturday. Yay for not being a total lazy ass!
  • Walked all over creation on Saturday and Sunday. Ditto ‘yay’ above.
  • No longer afraid that I am going to drown before getting the chance to leave Rome. Thank you, Tiber gods, for sparing me.
  • My mom has been without power for days now because of the ice storm in New England. Thankfully her heat still works. Much love and positive thoughts to her, Marathon Mama and all other New Englanders who’ve been affected by the storm.
  • Looks like I might be driving from Chicago to NH AND back again. Twice the opportunity to egg a few of you. One of you is even encouraging me. Glad to know my readership is officially crazy. ;)
  • I haven’t even thought about packing yet. Crickey.
  • I haven’t done any Christmas shopping yet...well, except for a couple of Popeners for my cousins. Double crickey.
  • What do I buy for an adorable 2 year-old boy who has more toys than FAO Schwartz and is sadly on the fast-track to being the most spoiled child in the universe? Socks?
  • While writing out postcards last night (procrastination, I has it!), I had A Christmas Story playing in the background. Love that movie.
  • I’m not ready to leave Rome yet. I like it here. :(
And for your viewing enjoyment ... signs from the Rome metro. I've tentatively labeled these two as 'The Taker' and 'The Giver'.

The proper way in which to hump the metro car doors.

How to fart in a metro car without smelling it yourself.

Have a great week, everyone.

Friday, 12 December 2008

F*ckin' hell, it's Friday

Panic has officially set in. I’ve got very little time left (9 days!) to get a lot of work done before I fly home for the holidays. Only four days left in Rome. Then I fly to England where I’ll be stuck in another bloody library for four days before jetting off for the states. [Editor’s note: Glaven, I don’t mean to diss libraries, but I’ve currently exceeded my tolerance levels, especially as I’ve been sharing a small study room with Bodily Functions Man. No, I’m not going to go into detail about him. You have imaginations, use them.]

The to-do list doesn’t end when I get to the states either. It seems like I’m going to be bouncing around the country again. I may even be helping my sister drive her car back from NH to Chicago which means I may get the opportunity to egg some of your homes along the way. Or not. Depends on the weather.

The flurry of last minute research has put a kibosh on my exercise goals. The weather hasn’t helped any either. I haven’t run since Sunday. Blah. My sorry ass has only racked up a measly 4.6 HBBC points for the week. That’s pathetic. I hereby make a promise to you all—rain or shine, I will run this weekend. Despite the rain, Rome is a hell of a lot warmer than England or the states right now so I really shouldn’t be such a wuss about it.

Okay, okay, enough blathering. On to the quiz results. The answers were as follows:

1) The Roman water channel is an aqueduct. To get a sense of how big that chamber was, I could stand straight up with my head almost touching the top and I’m 5’5”.

2) The Italian word for ice cream is gelato.

3) The hunk of marble currently being used as a basin in a water fountain is actually a Roman sarcophagus. Yup, dead people used to be in that thing. Mmmm, yummy.

4) The building is the Colosseum.

5) c

One person actually got all the answers right, but I have no idea who they are since they signed in as anonymous. Also, they appear to have posted past my 2 am cut off time, so they’re ineligible anyway. Sorry, Anonymous. Better luck next time.

So, the first one with the most correct answers was Theresa. Yay Theresa! The second winner as determined by the random number generator is commenter #15.

That would be Jenn from Getting Fit and Loving It. Yay Jenn! Ladies, email me your addresses and I’ll get those Popeners out to you on Monday.

All right, back to the grind for me. That is, until this evening when there is a grand extravaganza in honor of the Nerditorium artists showing off some of their work. There will be much drinking and merriment and potentially an ‘artsy’ porn film. Should be good times.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Last Chance Saloon

Last night there was the thunderstorm to end all thunderstorms. It woke me up out of a sound sleep and that is notoriously difficult to do. Or so I’ve been told.

There was thunder, lightning, hail and a whole lotta rain. So much of it that my site visit today had to be postponed until Monday. If it rains again on Monday I’m screwed since I leave for England on Tuesday. Poopsicles.

Anyhoo, on to the quiz. The final quiz. This is your last chance for a Popener, people. Play hard and play dirty. At least do something to entertain me as I’ll be trapped in the library again today.

The rules remain the same—first one with the most correct answers wins a Popener and postcard. A second winner will be chosen by the random number generator, so leave a comment anyway and you’ll still have a chance.

All right, here are the questions:

1) This is a photo of the inside of a Roman water channel.
What is the more common name for this structure? [Hint: The word begins with an ‘A’.]

2) Let’s see how much you actually pay attention to the drivel I write. This is a photo of some of the best ice cream in Rome.
What is the Italian word for ice cream?

3) This is a water fountain in Piazza del Popolo.
The basin is from the Roman period. What was it originally used for?

4) This is a photo of a small part of a very famous building in Rome.

What building is it?

5) This is the Trevi fountain.
Why do people throw coins into it?
(a) People in Rome don’t like small change and just want to get rid of it.
(b) People in Rome like small change but it’s very dirty so they’re just trying to clean it.
(c) It’s believed that throwing a coin in will ensure your return to Rome.
(d) Rome is full of weird people and they all do very odd things like throwing money away.

Leave your answers in the comments of this post by 2 am EST on Friday December 12 (tomorrow) which is about the time my brain will start to function again (that’s 8 am my time). I’ll post the names of the winners then.

Good luck, everyone!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Answers...and more answers

Here are the correct answers to the quiz:

1) Mystic Pizza featured a fresh-faced Matt Damon in his first film role.

2) The 1985 fantasy film starring Tom Cruise was Legend. My sister and I seemed to have an obsession with unicorn movies when we were growing up because we loved this movie as well as the animated film The Last Unicorn based on the Peter S. Beagle book. I hear they’re thinking of making a live action version of it. This just confirms that Hollywood is full of morons.

3) Jennifer Lopez has been married three times, most recently to Marc Anthony. I think Viv’s nickname for him (Skeletor) is the best one yet and I will use it from here on out.

4) The actor I do not want to lick all over is Steve Buscemi. Great actor, just not lick-worthy.

5) Nicole Kidman is the one who needs to stop with the Botox injections...and also stop denying that she gets them. Seriously, we’re not blind idiots. It’s obvious, Nic. And while you’re at it, stop having crap injected into your lips. You’re looking like one big hot plastic mess right now. It ain’t pretty.

The winner of the quiz was Marcy. Yay Marcy! The second winner chosen by the random number generator was commenter #11.

That would be my girl, Viv. Yay Viv! Ladies, email me your snail mail addresses and soon you will be owners of high quality tacky-ass Popeners.

Ask/badger Xenia
Wherein I steal a segment and verbiage from other bloggers, rename it and therefore don’t have to give them credit for it. Huzzah!

There have been some interesting comments and questions from some of you recently, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to respond to them. (Or else I’m dying for blog material and this is all I got. Either way, it works, no?)

Because of the title of the previous post, tfh feared I was preggers.
Response: Thankfully, I’m not. The world can live another glorious day without the fear of me spawning just yet. However, recently, there was a pregnancy scare here at the Nerditorium which required the wearing of a fake wedding ring while purchasing multiple pregnancy tests at the pharmacy. (This is Catholic country, people.) Results were thankfully negative. Just a freakish false alarm. My friend was quite relieved.

With just one quiz left and only two chances to win, Theresa asked ‘Is there a way to bribe the random number generator?’
Response: Bribe the random number generator? No. Bribing the person who plugs the numbers into the random number generator? You betcha!

In response to my imminent departure from Rome, theloosemoose laments a lost opportunity: ‘Leaving Rome in one week?! Damn. There goes my devilish plot of stalking you at the Nerditorium and coercing you into being my running buddy this February...'Cause that wouldn't be weird at ALL, right?

Loose Moose: "Hi! I read your blog all the time. Lace up those shoes, and let's hit the road, shall we?"

Xenia: "Polizia!! Aiuto!!"’
Response: Trust me, a random encounter with an internet stalker would probably end better for me than calling in the Italian police. Potential for molestation increases when the polizia are involved.

Lily and POM are bugging me to post my race photos.
Response: Seriously, you want to see me in all my crappy running non-glory? You’re sad individuals. Fine, but this is all I’m willing to show of me on this blog.

This is a post-race photo of me and my sister Z.

Okay, maybe it’s 25 years out of date, but at least it conveys the general attitude from marathon day.
Me = tired and unimpressed with having another photo of me taken.
Z = proud of her little sister and over the moon about having another photo taken of her.

That’s it for me today. The last pop quiz will be posted tomorrow with the results announced on Friday. Good luck and happy hump day to all.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Late, late, for a very important date...

Sorry about the delay. I was out all morning on a site visit and am only catching up now.

This is going to be the second to last quiz. The last one will probably go up on Thursday of this week. The rules are the same as last time--first one with the most correct answers wins a postcard and coveted Popener. A second winner will be chosen with the random number generator. I'll give you until 2 am EST on Wednesday December 10th (that's tomorrow, folks) to post your answers in the comments because that's when I should be up and able to tally the results.

Okay, here are the questions:

1) Which actor made his film debut in the movie “Mystic Pizza”?

2) Which 1985 fantasy movie did Tom Cruise star in? (Hint: It was directed by Ridley Scott and co-starred Tim Curry.)

3) How many times has Jennifer Lopez been married? (Bonus: How long do you think her marriage to the Walking Corpse will last?)

4) Which of these actors do I NOT want to lick up one side and down the other?
(a) Clive Owen
(b) Eric Bana
(c) Gerard Butler
(d) Steve Buscemi

5) Which of these actresses needs to lay off the Botox pronto?
(a) Nicole Kidman
(b) Jessica Alba
(c) Scarlett Johansson
(d) Kate Winslet

All right. Good luck. Hope your dwindling chances of winning don't make you choke.

Later gators.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Blubber Butt

Yeah, so I think I’ve officially reached critical ass. My week of post-marathon recovery and eating colossal amounts of junk food are the last straw. I’m feeling bloated and gross now and not all of it is due to lady issues. (That comment was for you, Razz.)

Since July I’ve gained eight pounds. It’s not a whole lot in the scheme of things, but I still had a good chunk of weight to lose prior to gaining those pounds. Basically, the situation isn’t pretty, literally or figuratively.

To combat the increase in poundage, I decided to pound the pavement. For the first time since the marathon, I laced up my Asics yesterday for an easy three mile run. I left the watch at home and just ran for the sake of running. It felt good.

With the holidays nearing, things are going to be crazy with travel and the like, so my life won’t return to normal (at least my version of it) until mid January when I return to England for good. So I need a plan to deal with my situation until then.

First off, I realize how sadistic and unrealistic it is to hope to lose weight over the holidays. There’s too much yummy food about and I have no will-power when it comes to denying myself delicious home-cooked meals and holiday treats like my grandma’s famed chocolate peanut butter balls. (Yes, every Christmas I eat my grandma’s balls. Try not to choke on that image. Sickos.) So the base goal is to not gain any more weight. How am I going to do this? God knows. Here’s my two-pronged plan:
  • portion control
  • get off my fat ass and move
Revolutionary, I know.

Basically, I’m going to try to use something I’ve heard called ‘self-restraint’ when it comes to consuming holiday goodies. I thought for a while that this ‘self-restraint’ was purely mythical, like a centaur or a man who doesn’t attempt to dutch oven his significant other whilst in bed, but apparently it does exist. Huh, who knew.

As for exercise, well, running is always good, except that it’ll be a bit tricky while I’m in the states since my family lives in snow country and I’ve become a complete cold-weather wuss and have never run in the snow. Thankfully, motivation has appeared via the interwebs once again. RunToFinish is hosting the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge from December 8 to January 4. You earn points depending on how much physical activity you do during the challenge and those with the most points at the end can get their hands on some pretty sweet prizes. I may not be getting much running in between now and then, but I’ll have the impetus to pop in a cardio DVD or finally finish that godforsaken push ups challenge. (Seriously, fifth times the charm, right?)

So that’s the post-Rome plan. I’ve got one week left here in the eternal city (where the hell did the time go?!), so I need to cram in as much sightseeing, researching and running as possible before I leave next Tuesday. This doesn’t leave me much time to think up and post those two additional pop quizzes I promised, but since I already purchased four more Popeners to give away to you all, I better do it. I’ll try to get one up early tomorrow, but you’ll only have by the end of the work day tomorrow (EST) to enter, since I’ve got to post another pop quiz later this week. Them’s the breaks, people.

Okay, that’s it for me. Catch up with you all later.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The Twelve Pains of Running

Some of you asked what I’m planning to do now with my running. What, like running one marathon’s not enough now, I have to run another one?! Crazy people.

But yeah, I plan on running another one. Although I may have to coerce someone into being my pacer just in case I end up in a similar situation as Florence. The one race I am adamant about running someday is the Rome marathon. Not only is Rome a magnificent city, but it’s also the focus of my doctoral research so it means a lot to me. Not to mention the race starts and ends at the Colosseum. How freaking cool is that!

The Rome marathon takes place in March though and that’s just not going to be possible for me this coming year as I’ve got too much on my plate to train for it. Instead, I’m going to focus on shorter distance races in the spring and also try to squeeze a half marathon in there somewhere, probably either the one in Reading or Bath.

I’d love to run a marathon in the fall, but picking one is a bit of a problem since I don’t know where I’m going to be then. Most likely I’ll be in England, but there’s a chance I’ll be back in Rome. Then again I also might be in the US in September or early October. So yeah, I have no idea.

There are plenty of races to choose from though, so at least that’s not the problem. After watching Spirit of the Marathon, I’d love to run Chicago. It’s also especially convenient for me since my sister lives there and I can crash with her. One of our fellow RBFs told me they would be running the Dublin marathon in ’09, so that’s another great option. I’ve also considered Berlin and Venice. Eh, there’s no need to worry about it until I know my plans for the fall though. However, if you all have suggestions or preferences, let me know in the comments. I’m all about feedback.

Okay, enough of that. In honor of completing my first marathon and the fact that I haven’t run since, I present to you....

The 12 Pains of Running*

The first pain of running the marathon gave to me
A pair of decimated knees

The second pain of running the marathon gave to me
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

The third pain of running the marathon gave to me
Shredded quads
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

The fourth pain of running the marathon gave to me
Severe shin splints
Shredded quads
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

The fifth pain of running the marathon gave to me
Hitting the famed Wall
Severe shin splints
Shredded quads
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

The sixth pain of running the marathon gave to me
Geriatric hips
Hitting the famed Wall
Severe shin splints
Shredded quads
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

The seventh pain of running the marathon gave to me
Plantar fasciitis
Geriatric hips
Hitting the famed Wall
Severe shin splints
Shredded quads
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

The eighth pain of running the marathon gave to me
Calf insurrection
Plantar fasciitis
Geriatric hips
Hitting the famed Wall
Severe shin splints
Shredded quads
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

The ninth pain of running the marathon gave to me
Finding the puke threshold
Calf insurrection
Plantar fasciitis
Geriatric hips
Hitting the famed Wall
Severe shin splints
Shredded quads
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

The tenth pain of running the marathon gave to me
Debilitating glute cramps
Finding the puke threshold
Calf insurrection
Plantar fasciitis
Geriatric hips
Hitting the famed Wall
Severe shin splints
Shredded quads
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

The eleventh pain of running the marathon gave to me
Battling runner’s runs
Debilitating glute cramps
Finding the puke threshold
Calf insurrection
Plantar fasciitis
Geriatric hips
Hitting the famed Wall
Severe shin splints
Shredded quads
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

The twelfth pain of running the marathon gave to me
Bloody bra chafing
Battling runner’s runs
Debilitating glute cramps
Finding the puke threshold
Calf insurrection
Plantar fasciitis
Geriatric hips
Hitting the famed Wall
Severe shin splints
Shredded quads
Two blood blisters
And a pair of decimated knees

Feel free to write your own version. I’d love to read it.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

*I actually suffered almost none of these during or after my marathon. Well, with the exception of sore quads and glutes and the possibility of losing at least one toenail.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Race Report: Florence Marathon

Alternate title: Follow the thin green line

Alternate alternate title: It's a long one, folks, so get some coffee first

Florence and the Arno river

I didn’t act the way I thought I would. I thought I would be emotional, weepy, spastic. Although I was still rather anal about laying out my clothes and such the night before, I was fine. It didn’t feel like I would be running a marathon the next day. The lack of fear and nerves allowed me to fall asleep at 9 pm, getting in a good solid nine hours of sleep for race day.

On race morning, as I was suiting up and packing my bag, Z presented me with my birthday present. Custom made t-shirts! On the front of mine, it said “It’s my birthday and my sister loves me” and on the back it had my name and the number 30. She said she wanted to have it read “and my sister made me wear this shirt” but she ran out of iron-on letters. Her shirt said “Happy Birthday [insert my real name]”. She knows how to embarrass me, I’ll give her that.

We ate breakfast at the hotel, with runners clustered around the other tables. Then we headed out to the bag drop-off on the other side of the river. Z and I marvelled at the amount of exposed skin and public self-fondling going on in the changing tents, particularly since the ‘performers’ were all men. It was just plain fascinating. [Editor’s note: There was a 6:1 ratio of men to women at the marathon. It was a total sausage fest.]

As we were walking towards the buses, it started to sprinkle, so I donned my complementary salmon pink rain poncho from the race organizers (tres chic and no, I’m not showing you a picture of it). Z took some photos of us and then I was charging off into a bus to be taken to the start at Piazza Michelangelo. Z filmed me as I was crammed like a sardine in the bus with other runners, almost all men. Her camera attracted a lot of attention which we both found amusing.

view of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo

A short drive in the B.O.-filled bus (seriously, gentlemen, deodorant is a necessity not an option) and then we were at the piazza where the skies continued to spit down on us. I immediately got into the port-a-loo queue, stupidly in the women-only area. It took freaking forever. After that, I hopped on over to the apparently gender neutral port-a-loos and was pleasantly surprised when many of the men allowed me to cut in front of them. Chivalry is not dead after all.

By this point, it was pouring buckets. I stayed in the port-a-loo queues until the last possible second before lining up with the 5 hour pace leaders, of which there were four. The arms of my long-sleeved shirt were soaked as were my shoes. To protect my ipod, I turned it around on my arm to face my body.

Standing in a sea of drenched runners, I still wasn’t nervous. Instead, I was just freezing cold and praying the rain would stop at some point. When the crush of bodies began to move forward, I reminded myself repeatedly to run my own race and enjoy myself.

As we crossed the start line, I spotted Z immediately. I waved frantically as she simultaneously filmed me and protected her camera with an umbrella. Things were starting out well. Because the course looped back and forth across the city multiple times, Z was going to have a chance to see me at several points along the course, a fact I appreciated immensely.

The first three kilometers were downhill. I hung with the pace group and listened to their banter while fervently hoping the rain would at least slow to a trickle which it in fact started to do. People began to chuck their ponchos left and right, but I decided to keep mine on for at least a little while longer.

I know this may be difficult to believe, but I’m actually kind of a quiet person when I first get to know people. Because of that, I opted not to strike up a conversation with the people around me. Instead I just listened in on snippets of conversation and, eventually, pushed play on my ipod.

Disaster hit at the 3 km mark. I tried to turn down the volume on my ipod to no avail. Then, suddenly, it died. Holy mother of god, I thought, I’m going to have to run the next 25 miles without music. Fuuuuuuuucccckk! At this point we hit level ground and that’s when Disaster Part 2 hit me—we were going too fast.

At the race expo I snagged a free pace bracelet for a 5 hour finish. I assumed the pace leaders were going to run at an even pace, about 11:26 per mile. Yeah, you know where assuming gets you? Out of the gate too fast, that’s what. When we passed the 3 km mark, I checked the pace bracelet and realized we were going a full minute faster per mile than I had anticipated. Either they were planning on running positive splits or they were overexcited and not realizing how fast they were running. Being as they were Italian, it was probably the latter.

We hit the 4 km mark at the same pace and I knew I was on the path to burning myself out before I had even hit the 10k mark. That’s when I decided to let them go. Surprisingly, I wasn’t angry about it, though I admit I was rather frustrated. The one thing I didn’t want to do was go out too fast and that’s exactly what I’d done. But because of my surprisingly zen-like attitude that day, it was easy to let it go. This is when I noticed that there was a narrow green line on the road marking the race route. The rain had washed it out in places, especially on the cobblestone streets, but most of it was still there. It was nice to see it. It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz and, subsequently, the story I wrote on my blog this past summer. Needless to say, that put a smile on my face.

At the 5 km mark, I stripped off the poncho since the rain had slowed. It finally stopped around the 7 km mark. At km 8, my ipod resurrected itself. I think I should call it lil Jesus or iJesus now.

There weren’t a whole lot of people along the race course except for in the city center, so much of the race was rather quiet. The people we did pass though were very kind and enthusiastic, even those leaning out their windows who shouted encouragement. All throughout the race I had people look straight at me and say “forza” (strength), “brava” or “dai” (which, though unfortunately pronounced like the English word ‘die’, means “come on!”). In response, I would always smile back at them in thanks which they seemed to appreciate immensely. At one point I even high-fived two little kids. It made their day.

I passed the 10k mark still at a too-fast pace but not as much as before. The 12km mark was right next to our hotel. When I saw it, I was hoping to see Z, but she had told me that she would next see me at the Duomo, so I didn’t hold out any hope. But I should have. She was right on the sidewalk, waving frantically. I waved back, so happy to see her. She yelled encouragement and I kept on trucking.

From km 10 to 15, I actually managed to average my goal pace of 11:26, but that would be the last time I would run that fast. From 15 km on, my pace steadily decreased. I wish I’d been running with someone at this point to keep me motivated to stay on pace, but that wasn’t meant to be in this race and that was all right because I was still enjoying myself. At the 20 km refreshment stop, they were handing out chocolate crostata, little pie-like tarts. I know it’s inadvisable to eat anything new on race day, but I threw caution to the wind and grabbed one along with a cup of water and proceeded to shuffle-run the next three minutes as I chowed down. I must have been a sight. :)

Between the 22 and 23 km mark, I spotted a lone port-a-loo on the side of the road. I’d been needing to pee for a few miles by now, so this was definitely my oasis moment. I ran up to the door and ripped it open, thankful I didn’t catch anyone in medias res. I did my business and was back on the road in less than 45 seconds. Compared to the horror stories I’ve heard from some of you, I’d say the only way my experience could have been better was if I hadn’t had to stop at all.

Runners were pretty thin on the ground in the back of the pack, but I tended to see the same people again and again. I seemed to be stuck in the run-walk zone. I’d pass people as they were walking and then they would pass me again when they started to run. Surprisingly, it didn’t annoy me. I actually found it quite comforting. Well, until the race-walker passed me. That was a wee bit demoralizing. All in all, though, it felt more like one of my training runs rather than a race. Though not as motivating, it was a more comfortable feeling to have.

Some time after the halfway point, I felt a bit of an ache in my left arch. It didn’t seem to be anything serious though, so it was easy to tune out. It reminded me that I need to look into getting some more supportive insoles for my shoes though. My lead-like legs were a little more difficult to ignore, but since I’d experienced them on almost all of my long runs, it didn’t dampen my spirits any.

the Duomo

another view of the Duomo

When I passed the Duomo the first time at the 28 km mark, I missed seeing Z. This marked the last long out and back of the race. It was quite nice though since it was predominantly in wooded park land. Again, there were few spectators, but it was a very pleasant environment particularly as this was the beginning of the Marathon Walking Dead portion of the race.

I succumbed to my first walk break at km 30. Even though I had planned on walking through all the refreshment points I didn’t until this point. This is where I switched over to my Plan B—walk 1 minute and run for 10. It was a good strategy. It kept me moving and motivated while giving my legs the rest they needed.

At km 34, I got a boost from a drum band stationed along the race course. I got another unintended boost right after km 35 when I had to launch myself in front of an ambulance that was going to cut me off on the very narrow race path. No way was I going to slow down and suck exhaust fumes for the next ten minutes. I could see two racers through the windows of the ambulance, both sitting up and not apparently on the verge of death, so I looked at the driver and shook my head vehemently then skirted around the front bumper, even pushing myself up and out with my hand on the ambulance hood and then I sprinted for a good 100 meters to make sure I was clear of the vehicle. The driver probably wasn’t too happy that he had to wait for me, but whatever. He could kiss my ass.

The last five kilometers were both amazing and frustrating. As I made my way back towards the city center, only some of the course was cordoned off so I had to deal with a lot of pedestrians, tourists and locals alike, crossing my path and generally being pains in the ass. The strollers were the most annoying. Seriously, people, I know there weren’t a lot of us runners left on the course, but we were still well within the 6 hour finishing time. Keep the roads clear for us slow pokes!

Making my way along the river and back towards the Duomo, I saw a lot of runners already finished and wearing their space blankets and medals. This had the potential to be very demoralizing, but instead it was heartening. They all made a point of looking at me and clapping or shouting out encouragements which kept me running. As I passed the Duomo I saw Z again telling me I was almost there and to keep going.

When I saw the 42 km marker from afar, I ran flat out to the finish, passing three other runners along the way. In honor of all of you guys, I made sure to give my best gymnast dismount pose as I crossed the finish, a big grin on my face the whole way. I was so happy when I crossed the finish, the race announcer approached to interview me afterward. He asked me how I felt and I said I was so happy to be done.

San Croce

The finish line

I made my way down the shoot, grabbed my medal, water, food and space blanket (I know there’s an actual name for it, but I like calling it a space blanket) and met Z on the other side.

Race swag #1: Long sleeve technical shirt that says "Run Like a DeeJay'. I have no idea what this means.
[Editor's note: Blogger keeps messing with the orientation of this photo. I'll fix it later.]

Race swag #2: sweet running jacket

Z willingly hugged her stanktastic sister and helped me shuffle all the way back to the bag pick-up and then the hotel. Sadly, lied to me and told me there were bathtubs at our hotel. Not in our room there wasn’t. So no ice bath, but otherwise, I felt pretty good post-race anyway. A bit stiff all over and with heavy legs but no more so than after my 20-mile LSDs.

That night we went out for a pizza dinner in celebration. Falling asleep that night was the easiest it’s ever been. All I could think was that I was finally a marathoner. It felt fantastic.

The next day we walked around Florence a bit and then took the train back to Rome. At the end of dinner at the Nerditorium that night I was surprised when everyone started singing happy birthday and then brought out cake and prosecco. I promised my friend Canadia that I would drink champagne on my birthday since it’s my champagne birthday and prosecco was as close as they could get. I kept my promise.

This was by far my best birthday ever. I hope they only keep getting better from here on out.

To steal and modify a line from Caesar, the events of my 30th birthday can be summed up in these three Latin words:

veni, cucurri, vici
(I came, I ran, I conquered)