Monday, 30 June 2008

All creatures great and small

I ended up switching my long run to Saturday and running my short 2.5 mile run yesterday morning before going to the excavation. After doing some shopping late Saturday afternoon, I headed over to Port Meadow to check out its running suitability prior to Sunday’s planned run.

Port Meadow is bordered on the west by a canal and to the east by train tracks, the latter thankfully screened by a wooded area. In the center of the meadow is a marshy pond. Although it’s public land, anyone is allowed to graze their livestock on it. I saw only swans and other birds during my walk, but the frequent appearance of dried cow patties throughout the meadow attested to its use by local livestock.

I stupidly went to sleep late, well after midnight, but still woke up when my alarm sounded at 6 am. I got dressed, laced up my shoes and was out the door in minutes, even forgoing my ipod as I was too lazy to strap it to my arm.

During my trot through town (I’m not such a pansy after all) I only came across one other person, a local store owner prepping his shop for the day. He looked at me as if I were clinically insane then continued about his business.

I crossed over the bridge spanning the railroad tracks then descended the hill towards the gates into Port Meadow. Once I cleared the trees I saw that I was not alone. Not only was there a man walking his dog who cheerfully wished me a good morning, but in the middle of the field through which I was planning to run there was a herd of horses, probably about thirty of them in total. They were beautiful. In amongst the group were about a half dozen foals as well. I paused for only a moment, wondering if I should continue on my planned path, but decided that these animals were probably quite used to human company in the meadow, so I continued on.

They paid me little mind. Some would step to the side of the path as I approached, but others would just continue doing their thing and make me trot on the grass around them. I didn’t care. I was just amazed at the situation.

It probably bears mentioning here that I adore animals. For the longest time I actually planned on becoming a vet a la James Herriot until my obsession with archaeology took over completely in high school. Part of me still wishes I had chosen that path instead, but the greater part of me knows that I probably couldn’t have coped well with losing patients. If you screw up in archaeology, no one dies (unless you’re Indiana Jones) and that is much more my speed, I think.

Anyway, I continued on the trail, spotting two herds of cattle in the distance as well as a plethora of bird life in the pond including a large number of swans. I entered into the next field for the last quarter mile of my run, spying eight rabbits on the path, before my turn around point.

As I came back into the meadow I noticed that one herd of cattle had now joined with the horses. All seemed to tolerate the biped in their midst with mild resignation which was much appreciated, I have to say. I tried to keep a careful distance so as not to disturb anyone during their breakfast, but most of the time I was still within arm’s reach. As I passed through the main gate again, I turned around for one last look at my companions for the morning’s run before continuing on, very glad that I had finally tried a new running route and that I hadn’t brought along my ipod.

I will definitely be running in Port Meadow more often now, if only to catch a glimpse of my four-legged friends once again.

Ci vediamo dopo. (See you later)

Friday, 27 June 2008

The best laid plans just got unlaid

I knew I would start excavating next week, but I had somehow gotten it into my head that the work week would be Monday through Saturday. Nope. It’s Sunday through Friday.

Well, shit.

That means my long run now ends up being on the first day of my work week instead of my day off. This is not the end of the world, since the excavation only lasts four weeks but the dig itself makes things a bit difficult scheduling-wise. The park I usually run in doesn’t unlock its gates until about 7:15 am. I have to be at the corner of Nerd and Geekdom at 8 am to catch the bus to site. Needless to say that doesn’t give me enough time on any work day to get my normal morning run in.

I could run after getting back from site, though the copious amounts of sweat would then mix with the dirt that will have covered my skin by then and make it look like I’m sweating rivers of mud. I don’t think that would be an attractive look really. Not to mention I’m going to be worn out from digging in the dirt and yelling at undergrads for eight straight hours.

This leaves me with Plan B—run even earlier in the morning but find an alternate location. I’m just going to have to resign myself to waking up at the insane hour of 5 am (at least on Sundays) and having to take two showers most days. I refuse to arrive on site stinking of B.O. and sporting a humidity-induced curly afro. I know that’s what I’ll end up looking (and smelling) like by the end of the workday regardless, but I will at least have one hour of my day where I don’t look like the before picture on a makeover show.

As for location, there’s another park on the northwestern edge of town that I have yet to explore but which is available 24/7. I’m going to try to head out there Saturday to take a look around and then map out a course on MapMyRun.com to make sure I get my planned mileage in.

I know some of you may be wondering, “Jeez, Xenia, why not just run on the roads, you pansy? My response to your impertinence would be, “Well if I had a death wish, then sure, that would be a swell idea.”

It’s not the cars I’m worried about. After living here for three years, I am quite accustomed to looking right then left before crossing a street. I’ve also driven around here a bit, so that helps my directional sense as well. (Though it now makes me a disaster as a pedestrian and driver in the states.)

Nope, it’s not the cars, it’s the cyclists. There seems to be an on-going yet unspoken battle between pedestrians and cyclists in this town. It’s like the Jets versus the Sharks, only with less dancing and more stiff British upper lips.

Basically, the problem stems from the old adage, ‘you give them an inch and they take a mile’. No one follows their respective rules which results in general chaos, confusion and oftentimes injury. Cyclists are supposed to follow the same rules as cars and stay on their designated paths which 99% of the time are on the edge of the roads, not the sidewalks (or pavements as they say here). This rule totally gets violated every other second. I can’t even count how many times I’ve had to jump out of the way of some stupid cyclist rocketing down the middle of the sidewalk when there’s a perfectly accessible and designated cycling path mere feet away.

But pedestrians are not innocent either. It’s our job to stay on the pavements and cross at crosswalks and generally not mill about the road. Yeah, not so much. Often people will just step off the curb and not even check what’s heading towards them. This almost always results in the screeching of tires, shaking of fists, exchanging of words and, if it’s a severe enough offense, someone gets slapped with a white glove and a duel commences at dawn with a choice of pistols. Okay not really, but that’d be kind of fun to see.

The problem is then exacerbated by the legions of tourists who overrun this place year round. Most don’t speak any English which just adds more fuel to the fire, though I have to say American tourists are some of the most flagrant rule abusers so I guess the language barrier isn’t the primary cause.

Anyway, to make a long story short (too late!), I am not yet brave enough to run on the streets of this town without fearing for my life. The same goes for cycling. Maybe within my next (and hopefully last) two years of self-imposed exile here, I’ll actually grow some (metaphorical) cojones and take a crack at it. Anything can happen, I guess.

On that note, let me wish you all a buon weekend. When next I post, I will have had the pleasure of instructing undergraduates in proper troweling technique, the identification of pottery and, more generally, how to be my bitches. God, I love summer.

Ciao tutti!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

I'm so going to hell

I could NOT stop laughing at this this morning.

Please tell me I'm not the only sicko who'll end up rotting in the seventh circle of hell for this.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Support the girls

This is an open letter to all young women out there. Gentlemen, feel free to skip this post. I am sure it won’t interest you as I will only be talking about breasts.
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Ladies,

I see you in the mornings when I run in the park or in the evenings at the gym. You’re wearing tiny lycra shorts and camisole tops, showing off what the gods, genes and your workouts have given you. I see the looks you get from the males of the species and I understand your fashion choices. I don’t wear that kind of workout attire myself, but I don’t begrudge you doing so. To each her own. But let me tell you one thing about your outfit—wearing that push-up bra or no bra at all is doing you no favors in the long term.

You know where not properly supporting your ta-tas leads to? Work as a National Geographic cover model. You’ll soon have to invest in knee pads or greaves because your hooters are going to be swinging like tether balls and causing some serious damage in the process.

Gravity is already working against you. Don’t make it worse for yourself. There have been plenty of studies conducted on the degree of breast bounce during exercise (up to 8 inches of movement!) and the need for proper support. Hell, even the annoying Tyra Banks has done a show on this.

Trust me, in five to ten years you will be doing this in front of the mirror, just like me.*


And that mild an outcome is only for those of us smart enough to wear proper support.

Listen to Aunt Xenia. Unfortunately (or fortunately—depends on your perspective), I was one of those girls who went from flat to a B-cup in three seconds. No cute training bras with the little pink bows for me. Instead it was old-lady Playtex at the age of twelve. (yes, I’m still bitter). Then the damn things kept growing. Thankfully they stopped before reaching a double letter cup size like many other female members of my family.

But I digress.

Proper support doesn’t mean strapping your boobs down with duct tape. There are options in the on-going battle to retain your perkiness long past its natural expiration date. Depending on your breast size, these will vary, but for larger breasted women, you can invest in high quality sports bras from companies like Title Nine or Enell or go the cheaper route by buying cotton uni-boob-making bras and ‘double-bagging’ your girls. Sadly, I am currently forced to do the latter, but I am saving up my pennies to purchase more high-tech bras. If I were immune to chafing, I’d just bind my hooters down with some heavy-duty ace bandages. However I’m not, so I don’t.

For those with smaller cup sizes...well, this is a possible option. Whatever does the job, I guess.

Trust me, when your girls start heading south like the school slut’s dress (and dignity) on prom night, you’re going to wish you’d listened to me. Just ask yourself—do you really want to end up looking like this? The choice is yours.

Ciao tutti.

*Editor's note: The Sweetest Thing is a horrendously bad movie, but it does have a few worthy (low-brow) comedic moments buried amongst the craptasticness of Cameron ‘I overact in everything’ Diaz’s performance. I found a copy of the movie in the Walmart bargain bin and thought the deal was too good to pass up. Sue me.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Gluttony

It’s the start of week 3 of my half marathon training program. All is going well (*knock on wood*) so far with running five days a week. Before I used to run 3 or 4 days, so I’m happy that my body is taking this increase in stride. (heh. I made a pun.)

Along with the running, I’ve been keeping up with cross training and even got back on the strength training bandwagon. I’m a frickin’ workout machine now! It’s a complete 180 from my life just one short year ago and I couldn’t be happier about. Well, except for one thing.

I’m currently eating myself out of house and home.

I’m hungry ALL THE TIME! If I didn’t know better, I would think I was pregnant. (Trust me, I know better.) I just can’t seem to stop being hungry. I try my hardest to make sure that the food I do shovel into my gob is healthy. I keep lots of fresh veggies and fruits around, but of course the occasional sweet makes its way into my pie hole. (Damn you Sainsbury’s decadent chocolate chip cookies. You are the creation of the devil.)

I admit I don’t plan well for all contingencies though. A couple of nights this past week when I was coming home from the gym after 8 pm and I still hadn’t eaten dinner, I swung by the kebab van. The not-so-bad choice: I got a chicken kebab loaded with salad but sans sauce (luckily I’m not a fan of most condiments). The not-so-good choice: greasy chips (fries to you Americans).

I narrowly escaped eating my weight in takeaway pizza last night by promising myself some pudding after my healthy dinner of soup and sandwich. And I am referring to good ole Jello Pudding that one of my friends brought over from the states when she came for a visit, not the lead-brick fruit cake that is the basis of most English puddings which have oh-so-appetizing names like Spotted Dick.

Anyway, this whole food-crazed situation has got me thinking about marathon training. I don’t even want to think about how much worse the hunger pains must be for you crazy marathoning bastards, however, I would like to know how you cope with it. Do you just pig out and hope for the best or do you try to regiment what you put into your gullet? Any and all comments welcome.

Italian Phrases of the Day:
#67 and 66 from the AFI movie quotes list:

Del tutti gin bar nella tutte città nel tutto il mondo, cammina nel mio bar.
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.’ (Casablanca, 1942)

Prendi gli tui zampini dal mi, tu dannata sporca scimmia.
Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape.’ (Planet of the Apes, 1968)

Ci vediamo dopo.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Because this is...Friday!

For my last couple of runs, I have put my iPod on shuffle as opposed to listening to one of my running playlists. It’s a bit of a crapshoot because I have a lot of odd stuff on there—numerous language learning audio tracks as well as a bunch of instrumental music (mostly movie soundtracks like Gladiator or Last of the Mohicans) because I can’t listen to music with lyrics while reading. It messes up my train of thought which is pretty weak to begin with.

Anyway, during my run Thursday morning, the iPod shuffled onto Michael Jackson’s Thriller.* I honest to god almost started to dance right on the park trail. Vincent Price’s haunting voice transported me straight into the music video and I could recall almost all of the moves involved in the dance sequence. I think Ellen will be the only one to truly understand how out of character this is for me. I don’t really dance...ever. Unless I’m liquored up, but that doesn’t happen very often.

Luckily I restrained myself and kept on running, though I think I had a smile on my face through the rest of the song as I laughed at myself.

Forza!
To wish someone well in an endeavor, the Italians sometimes say ‘forza’. Literally, it means strength.

I would like to wish fellow running blogger Viperforza’ in his suicide mission Summer Solstice Challenge tomorrow. Viper: stay strong, stay upright and, if all else fails, try to make sure you take someone else down with you as you collapse. The more casualties, the more likely you are to get immediate medical attention. Good luck!

Buon weekend tutti!

Italian Phrases of the Day:
From Vanilla’s pick-up lines for runners:

Ci sono due modi da realizzare l’obiettivo del ritmo cardiaco: puoi correre o posso sfilare la mia camicia.
There are two ways to reach your target heart rate: you can run or I can take off my shirt.

Togliamo le scarpe da corsa e ti mostrerò ‘il mio controllo del movimento’.
Let’s kick off these running shoes and I’ll show you my ‘motion control’.

#69 and 68 from the AFI movie quotes list:

Ecco loro sono!
They're here!’ (Poltergeist, 1982)

Ecco è Giovanni!
Here's Johnny!’ (The Shining, 1980)

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* I allow myself to listen only to pre-molester MJ music. If I had to narrow it down further to pre-plastic surgery MJ, I wouldn’t be able to listen to anything but the Jackson Five. That just doesn't fly with me.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Sod's law

There’s a reason I like to run in the mornings—fewer people out and about. Specifically people I know.

I was super lazy this morning so I didn’t get out for my run til well after 9 am (thankfully I’m a grad student, so I can work whatever hours I want). As I headed out of the park on my way back home, I came across a friend’s boyfriend. I knew it was too much to hope that I didn’t look like a hot mess. He was very nice though and remarked on how much he admired both me and his gf for keeping up with our running after the 5K a couple of weeks ago. His lovely Irish accent helped distract me from how god-awful I likely looked and we ended up having a nice chat.

We said our goodbyes when we reached my building. As I approached the main entrance, I saw one of the other tenants locking up his bike. It was one of the hot Australian rugby players. And I looked like unutterable shit. Great.

There was something wrong with the front doors which left us unable to open them, so I suggested we use the side entrance. He graciously opened the gate for me and we chatted a bit. Of course, the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘So, did you enjoy your run?’ I replied with something inane, as per my usual. We parted ways at the top of the stairs. I hurriedly unlocked my door and ran into the bathroom to see how awful I looked.

Oh. Holy. Jesus.

Besides the usual sheen of sweat and curly/frizzy afro-like halo of hair encircling my head, I had the added bonus of unknowingly displaying more cleavage than I had intended. I had intended to show none. And adorning said cleavage? A half dozen bugs a la Jess.

‘Hot mess’ was an understatement.

I don’t think I’ll be hitting the snooze button again for the foreseeable future.

Ci vediamo dopo.

Italian Phrases of the Day:
From Vanilla’s pick-up lines for runners:

Ti piace rapido? Posso essere rapido.
You like fast? I can be fast.

Sono le tue gambe doloranti? Perché hanno corso attraverso la mia mente tutto il giorno.
Are your legs sore? Because they’ve been running through my mind all day.

#71 and 70 from the AFI movie quotes list:

Aspetta un momento, aspetta un momento. Non sentite niente già!
Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!’ (The Jazz Singer, 1927)

È sicuro?
'Is it safe?' (Marathon Man, 1976)

Monday, 16 June 2008

Hydration ruminations

Sunday I had my first long run of my half marathon training program. A mere 5.5 miles, but I enjoyed it. I added in a new path along the river to my regular route to change things up a bit. I saw many people enjoying the fine weather by punting or picnicking along the banks. I wore my sunglasses so I could people-watch at my leisure and not look like a crazy stalker-type person.

As I was running along, I started to think about my future long runs. Soon I’ll be running 8 to 11 miles at a stretch. It took me just over an hour to run 5.5 miles (I had to force myself constantly not to go faster), so 11 miles will bring me up to two hours of continuous running. How I am going to stay hydrated during that lengthy period of time?

There are two obvious choices: find a running path that has access to potable water or carry water with me. Well, this town is entirely devoid of public water fountains and I wouldn’t drink out of the river if you paid me. I know where it’s been (or, more accurately, what’s been in it) and it’s not pretty.

This leaves me with the second option. I’ve seen people carrying water bottles as they run, but I see this getting tiresome after a couple of miles, let alone ten. There’s also the possibility of a fuel belt, but I really don’t think this would be comfortable. Not to mention, I would rather not look like I was taking my fashion cues from Batman.

Obviously, I have limited choices, so something has to give at some point—I either dehydrate myself or look stupid.

Anyway, I thought I would ask what you all do to satisfy your hydration needs during your long runs. The more feedback I get, the easier it will be for me to check my pride at the door and just do what I need to do.

Ciao, tutti.

Italian Phrases of the Day:
From Vanilla’s pick-up lines for runners:

Allora, corri spesso qui?
So, do you run here often?

Credi nell’ amore prima vista o devo passarti di nuovo?
Do you believe in love at first sight or should I pass you more than once?

#73 and 72 from the AFI movie quotes list:

La madre della pietà, è la fine del Rico?
Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?’ (Little Caesar, 1930)

No le stampelle di metallo, mai!
'No wire hangers, ever!' (Mommy Dearest, 1981)

Friday, 13 June 2008

Sono pazza come la merda del pipistrello

[WARNING: Overly long post ahead!]

The post title means ‘I am bat-shit crazy’ in Italian.* All the talk lately about marathon training is only fueling the fire. What’s a girl to do? Find a reason to train, that’s what.

I’m going to be in the states in mid to late August. I really want to run a race while I’m there, since it appears my chances of getting my grubby little hands on a race shirt are greater in the US than in the UK. I’ve been perusing the listings on Runner’s World and Active.com, but have come up with bupkiss. I even emailed Razzdoodle for info since I’ll be in his neck of the woods for a bit as well, but no dice. Last week, however, I uncovered this little gem: the Swanzey Covered Bridges Half Marathon.

Okay, here are the pros:

  • It’s close to where my mom lives
  • I’ll definitely be in NH at this time
  • The course is pretty flat (which, btw, is a miracle in NH)

Now for the cons:

  • To date, the longest distance I’ve run is 6.2 miles
  • I’ve got only 12 weeks to train
  • August is potentially a scheduling disaster considering all the travel I will be doing

I think you all know which way I’m leaning.

I left an innocuous little comment on the blog of the wonderful Lily asking generally if a situation like mine was feasible. Apparently it is. Lily immediately got in touch with me, asking me a bunch of questions about my current mileage and the like. She took it upon herself to devise a training schedule for me. Without being asked. I have to say, Canadians are possibly THE nicest people on the planet. No joke. Thanks SO much, Coach Lily!

I’m REALLY excited about the prospect of training for and running a half marathon. However, considering the cons, I want to go into this with a conservative outlook. I will not be signing up for the race until mid-July to give myself time to adjust to the training and see if this is something that my body can handle. If it will, then I’ll find a way to deal with the scheduling nightmare that is August.

I’m also determined to go into the race with very minimal expectations. Basically, I just want to finish, preferably injury-free. In an ideal world, I’d come in under 2:30:00, but this isn’t Utopia and I’m not a miracle worker. This race, if I run it, will be to get my feet wet, so to speak, in longer distance running. I’ll save time goals for the Reading half marathon in March.

All right, now that I’ve lowered the bar so much a mouse couldn’t even limbo under it, let’s talk about how much fun I’m going to have bitching about my training runs and how much you all are just going to looooove reading about it. Hoo boy, it’s going to be a whole lotta fun! Dontcha think? Anyone? *crickets* Bueller?

Tag, you’re it!
The Laminator has tagged me. I thought I was going to luck out of this, but I guess not. Here goes:

Here are the rules:
Each player answers the 5 questions on their own blog. At the end of your post you tag 5 other people and post their names. Go to their blogs and leave a comment telling them they've been tagged and to look at your blog for details. When they've answered the questions on their own blog, they come back to yours to tell you.
I’m going to defy the rules and issue only one challenge...to Coach Lily. Come on, you know you want to. ;)

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?
Non-existent. I was turned off of running my freshman year in high school when I joined the track and field team (I did two field events) and the devil-coach made me run 2 miles on the first day of practice. I hated every bloody second of it. It would take the passing of thirteen years before I considered trying it again.

2. What is your best and worst race experience?
Worst: I don’t really have a worst. They’ve all been pretty good so far. Give me time, though. I’m sure that will change.
Best: Blenheim 7K. It was my first race, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. It was a frickin’ hilly course which I wasn’t well prepared for, but I promised myself I’d run the entire distance and I did. Crossing the finish line felt utterly amazing.

3. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?
Worst: Following a beginning runner’s program that had me running 5 days a week. I nearly put my legs out of commission within the first three weeks of my running career.
Best: I’m going to have to agree with Lam—Listen to your body.

4. Why do you run?
I started because I was looking for a cheap form of exercise (another illusion shattered). I continue to run because I love the feeling of accomplishment I get every time I lace up my shoes and hit the trail.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.
I’m half Greek. My father immigrated to the states in the early 70s. He looks like a shorter, six-months pregnant version of Saddam Hussein. Needless to say, I look nothing like him, but my mother assures me I am in fact his daughter and not a by-blow of the milk man. If you want to know what my life was like growing up, watch the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. My dad didn’t have an obsession with etymology or Windex, but he did extol the virtues of Pericles to me every now and then once I had decided on a career in archaeology.

Buon weekend, everyone.

Italian Phrases of the Day
#75 and 74 from the AFI movie quotes list:

Sono dipesa dalla gentilezza dell’estranei.
‘I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.’ (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951)

Dimenticalo, Jake, c’è Cina-città.
‘Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown,’ (Chinatown, 1974)

*Note: Pazza (‘crazy’) is the feminine form of the adjective. The masculine is pazzo.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

It's the end of the term as we know it...

I bought new running shoes today and they only cost me a kidney. I tried on about six different pairs in the store and the guys were very patient with me as I took my time in deciding. I came away with a pair of ASICS GT-2130s and a free pair of socks. The Asics are very comfortable and have more cushioning than my New Balance 680s. I took them out for a 3 mile run this afternoon and they felt great. The shoes only have one little problem with them--the accent color is pink. It’s not that I never wear pink. I do. I have a pink dress shirt that I get complimented on every time I wear it. But pink is not a color I want on my running shoes. It’s not like I need to ‘feminize’ my running shoes to let people know I’m a girl. That’s what my breasts are for. With any luck the shoes will be covered in dirt by the weekend. At least enough so I’ll no longer sneer at them.

Celebration
It’s the last week of term. Last Thursday was my final day of teaching (thank you, jebus!) so now I can focus most of my time once again on my dissertation. That is when I’m not going to a party. The end of term requires that every separate entity in this university (departments, colleges, clubs and organizations) has its own celebration. I’ve been to two parties already and have at least three more to go. That’s not including all the birthday parties either. It seems most of my friends are June babies. I guess Labor Day is a very productive day...so to speak.

Anyway, all this celebrating is temptation overload. So much food and drink and it’s all free. The party on Friday is being held at an Indian restaurant and everything is being paid for by the college. It’ll be a miracle if I don’t gain 10 pounds in the next week.

Ci vediamo dopo. (See you later)

Italian Phrases of the Day
#77 and 76 from the AFI movie quotes list:

Soylent Verde è gente.
Soylent Green is people!’ (Soylent Green, 1973)

Ci vediamo dopo, bambino.
Hasta la vista, baby.’ (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991)

Monday, 9 June 2008

Race Report: Race for Life 5K

Saturday was sunny (miracle!) and warm (I won’t complain about the heat since most of you in North America are getting roasted) and basically just a really good day for a race. The Duchesses of Hazard congregated at my place since I live just two seconds away from where we were running. We got hydrated, pinned signs onto each others backs and then set off for the park.

The race itself was run almost entirely within the park which made for a wee bit of a problem—limited space. There were 2,500 women running and the park paths are not that wide. It took us almost three minutes to cross the start line and even then we spent the first minute of the race just walking. Most slow people did not abide by the request to keep to the right side of the path, so we had to do a lot of weaving in and out throughout the whole 5K.

This was the first time I have run without my trusty little iPod, as a courtesy to my team mates. I should have just said to hell with them. As we crossed the start line, the song ‘Holding Out For a Hero’ was blaring out over the speakers. It’s not a bad song...until it loops continuously in your head for 30 minutes. Not doing that again if I can help it.

The Duchesses ended up separating evenly into two groups during the race. I was running alongside the two who had more running experience until we were separated for about a mile but then they caught up to me again. We tried to chat, but ended up spending most of our time dodging around people. Sometimes I was forced to run between people, so I would place my hands together in front of me so as to avoid hitting them, but it made me look like I was praying. I looked odd, but at least I didn’t accidentally knock anyone out cold.

I was the first of the Duchesses to cross the finish (yeah!) at 31:20 according to my watch. Not bad, considering the conditions. It was also a charity run so I was not shooting for a PR or anything, just a good run. Two Duchesses came in just seconds after me and the other three about four minutes later. We were all pretty chuffed with ourselves. We found a spot of grass to stretch out on and chat about the race. Everyone was excited by the day and proud of what they had achieved, personally and for the cause. At least three of them mentioned wanting to keep on with running and asked me about upcoming races in the area. Seems the running bug is catching on.

There was only one thing that marred the perfection of the day. My shoes. It appears they need to retire and soon. My left shoe rubbed against my heel in an uncomfortable way and during today’s run, it gave me a good sized blister. I had hoped they would last until August, but now I can see that that was just a pipe dream. I’ll be heading out to the local running store within the next day or two and getting another pair. Thankfully, I have a Xenia-Needs-To-Stop-Being-A-Miserly-Wench fund, so all is good on the finance front. Just cross your fingers that the fellowship I interviewed for today comes through, or else I’ll have to start working the street corner to pay for my research trip to Rome in the fall. And I’ve already told you how cheap the Brits are, so you know I’ll have to put in a lot of overtime.

Italian Phrases of the Day
#79 and 78 from the AFI movie quotes list:

Striker: Certamente non sei serio.
Rumack: Io sono serio ... e non mi chiami Shirley.*

Striker: ‘Surely you can't be serious.’
Rumack: ‘I am serious ... and don't call me Shirley.’ (Airplane!, 1980)
*Note: Some things just don’t translate well.

Apri le grandi porte, HAL.*
‘Open the pod bay doors, HAL.’ (2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968)
*Note: I’ve got not idea how to translate ‘pod bay’. I don’t read Italian sci-fi. Instead I went with ‘open the big doors’. It’s adequate, I think.

Merry—I’ve been busy lately, so I haven’t gotten around to translating the runner’s pick-up lines yet. I’ll do it later this week.

Ci vediamo dopo. (See you later)

Friday, 6 June 2008

Racing for lives and memories

Tomorrow my team and I (dubbed the Duchesses of Hazard) will be running in the Race for Life 5K. It’s an all-female race raising money for Cancer Research UK. The Duchesses have done some great work these past few weeks, collecting 345 GBP in sponsorship funds. I couldn’t be prouder of our efforts and plan to make a good showing in the race, for no other reason than I’m the duchess who’s been running the longest and I can’t let those upstarts beat me.

The race organizers sent each of us not only our bibs but also back signs on which we can write who we’re running for. I knew the moment I signed up who I would be commemorating—my friend Margaret, my grandfather and my Aunt P.

Margaret was one of my blogger buddies. We’re members of a wonderful book- and chocolate-crazed community called the CBs. Margaret chronicled her battle with cancer on her own blog as it was easier for her to communicate her progress to friends and loved ones that way as opposed to wasting her energy repeating herself ad nauseum. Then she would make her way on over to the Bar & Grill, the CBs’ home, and chat and laugh about anything and everything. Margaret passed away on October 31 at the age of 48. I was never fortunate enough to have met Margaret in person like some of the other CBs, so I run this race not only for Margaret, but those CBs who knew who better and feel her loss more deeply.

me and Grandpa back in the day

My mother’s father was the salt of the earth: a farmer, railroad worker, WWII vet, father of seven. He was a true southern gentleman who always held the door open for my grandmother. He put great thought into all his words and would speak in a slow Tennessee drawl. I loved listening to him talk. When I was little, I would wear one of his Stetson hats and sit on his lap while he entertained me with stories or by poking fun at Grandma. He was the one who got me interested in our family genealogy which I continue to work on today. Grandpa had lung cancer, the result of almost a lifetime of smoking. Even towards the end, when he was in hospice care, he was still himself. Unable to talk and barely move, he tried to tug Grandma into bed with him for ‘one last go’. They did end up having seven kids after all. He passed away in the spring semester of my senior year in college. I’m running this race for both him and my Grandma, who still misses him terribly.

Aunt P kissing the Blarney stone in Ireland

Last but certainly not least, I am running this race for Aunt P, my mom’s eldest sister. She’s the one who got me into quilting. She even made me a quilt, the center square of which was taken from one of my grandpa’s shirts. Aunt P found out she had the latter stages of uterine cancer when she nearly hemmoraged while driving from Missouri to her home in Iowa. She had surgery, went through chemo and has now been in remission for over six years. When her hair started to grow back after the chemo, Aunt P and my mother celebrated her recovery by going on a road trip together from Iowa to Vancouver where they then took a cruise to Alaska. A few years ago, Aunt P completed her goal of visiting all 50 states. Two years ago, she applied for a passport and, at the age of 61, left the US for the first time ever to come visit me in England. Since then she’s visited Ireland with me and been on a cruise to Mexico. This coming spring she and my mother are set to invade the UK again so that I can take them on a tour of Scotland. My aunt continues to be an inspiration to me and a constant reminder to always live life to its fullest.

So on Saturday I’m going to run, I’m going to remember and most importantly I’m going to enjoy life. Because that’s what these three individuals have taught me and I want to prove to them that I was listening and have taken their lesson to heart.

Have a good weekend everyone.