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After a restful night’s sleep at the B&B two doors down from my great aunt, Ian and I had a leisurely sleep in (our first on holiday!), and enjoyed a bite to eat. We had agreed to meet Rina for … Continue reading
One of the consequences of scrolling through running blogs in your feeder in January is being made aware of a slew of fantastic sounding races that have made it onto 2014 race calendars. Sadly, my races for the year are nearly all mapped out (I’m opting for more quality, less quantity this year because, well, money), so I don’t really have the option of getting overly excited filling up my schedule with exotic locations. Instead, I get to create a ‘to-do’ list of races that I would love to one day participate in sometime in the future (or when I win the lottery, though I hear you have to buy a ticket for that, so I’m not holding my breath).
Take a (virtual) trip around the world with me as I investigate some of the races I would to see in my future! And leave me any suggestions!
This race takes place in Rachel, Nevada. My name is Rachel. Not that I even need to explain any further why I am interested in this one, but it is also takes place at night, and I would imagine fancy dress is encouraged. Because aliens.
I figure, having ticked Houston off the list, I should try and run a marathon in every city I’ve lived in. Why not start here? Besides, I love the idea of carb loading on arepas and queso de mano. I’m drooling. It could also turn into a nice extended holiday. To Aruba.
Continuing the ‘cities I’ve lived in’ tour, Jakarta would be my next stop. I would be equally excited about the food options available for pre- and post-race nutrition. Many of my childhood favourites (chicken satay, sambal olek, nasi goring, beef rending… Oh. My. God. Yes.) would feature prominently, and I would top it all off with a trip to Sambolo beach to relax and watch anak Krakatoa simmer in the distance at night.
I’m a high school English teacher, so this totally appeals. I’m also Italian, and Verona is like a 2 hour drive from my Great Aunt’s house, so I could make it a family affair. I had this in mind for my 30th next month, but the timing for flights was super awkward, so I’ll have to wait until flights are more regular from Scotland. Or until I can afford the better flights. Or a private jet. Whatever comes first.
One of the most famous marathons in the world, London would be great to run for fun, and for the experience. I’m not really willing to get an entry via a charity place, because you need to commit to raising, like, 4.8billion pounds, and I pretty much maxed out friends (and strangers – thank you again!) generosity with the whole sled-pulling trick in September. However, I’ve entered the ballot 5 times and lost out, so we’ll see. I’d also be ticking off a ‘cities I’ve lived in’ marathon, so there’s that.
Because who WOULDN’T want to run this? And I’m using the term loosely – it would be a challenge with all the steps. But steeped in history, and with beautiful views, who cares how long it takes to finish?
This is where I hit a brick wall with trying to run a marathon in every city I’ve lived in. Ponca City, Oklahoma – population 24,974 – does not have a marathon*. I have decided to get around this by picking another race in the same state (totally legit), and have chosen, easily, the Route 66 marathon in Tulsa. The medal is meant to be fantastic, which is a bonus, and I’ve only ever read good reviews, so in all honesty, I need no elaborate reason to want to run this.
Another marathon with a ballot entry, which means my biggest challenge for ticking this off the list is getting a spot in the first place. A couple I know both entered the ballot for this year. He got in. She did not. For the sake of their marriage, he turned down his place.
Any marathon in Australia.
Australia is a weird place. Summer and winter are backwards, and the majority of the island is a barren death-trap. But I’m already starting to save for an Australian trip in summer 2015 with my friend Grant. We’ll check out Melbourne/Sydney and catch up with old friends for a few days, then I’ll journey solo to visit my grandmother. If I can time the trip to include a marathon that is within reasonable train distance, I’m in. There’s also a fantastic cycle trip from where she lives, to the top of Mount Beauty, then back. A challenge I am keen to complete after visiting a couple of years ago and seeing the huge number of cyclists puffing to the top. Also, my old sports massage therapist lives in the same town my gran does, so I’d be looked after. Small world.
*Currently, Aberdeen does not have a marathon either. But I have run several 5 and 10ks here, and – if all goes well – will be running my first ultramarathon here in about 8 weeks.
Time: 4:22:30 [RESULTS]
Medal: Hell yes.
I feel that it is necessary to mention that the photo above means absolutely nothing without something to give you an accurate sense of scale. Something like my entire head. So behold, in all its 3.3lbs of neck-breaking glory, the Texas marathon medal, as modelled by myself:
I guess everything really is bigger in Texas.
Ridiculous medal aside, this race was not all happiness and glory. In fact, quite the opposite. I had a restless night, and awoke to some serious stomach cramping (again – I had been plagued by tummy troubles for a few days). After the early morning drive to Kingwood for registration, I offloaded my belongings onto my parents to gain a little respite in the porta loo, somewhat grateful that the sun had yet to rise, as nobody would be able to see my face if they had the misfortune of entering the cubicle after me. The UNFLUSHING cubicle, might I add. I have no idea if this is normal for US races, but the UK porta loos all have a sort of flush mechanism. I appreciate it more now.
After evacuating all of my breakfast and any fluids I had tried to take in, I met my parents, grabbed everything I needed for the race, and told them to aim to pick me up about 4.5 hours after the start. Then I walked over to the growing crowd of runners and made casual chit chat with some of the locals (and not so locals – I met a guy with parents from Aberdeen!), trying to ignore how crappy (ha ha ha) I felt.
At 7:45 the race medal was unveiled. Not normally a fan of seeing what the medal will look like until the finish, I genuinely feel I have to attribute feasting my eyes on this magnificent specimen to helping me finish the race. Several times I almost talked myself into dropping down to the half, especially since there was no hope of getting a PB (in my mind) feeling the way I did, but I knew I’d be annoyed at myself for giving up.
After the national anthem and a welcome from the super friendly race organizers, Steve and Paula Boone, the marathoners set off at 8am (followed by the half marathoners at 8:15). The course consists of four 6.55 mile loops on greenbelts in Kingwood, and although there were a couple of nice sections by lakes (during which I could watch herons flying low for snacks), the majority reminded me a lot of running along the Deeside railway line in Aberdeen – not very inspiring after the first mile of running between trees and other plants.
I completed the first loop in 1:02:08 and wanting to quit. My breathing was heavy, my heart rate was high, and although my legs felt great, I was fatigued and out of fuel. Bonking after 5 miles is not a great feeling. Still, with a race cut-off of ‘sundown’, I thought at the very worst, I could walk the damn thing.
Lap 2 was a bit slower at 1:04:10, and just before I finished the lap, I ran past Raquel, who I met after she got in touch after reading my blog, and we stopped for a photo together. I won’t lie, I was relieved for the short rest!
I had set myself the arbitrary goal of getting to the halfway point before I allowed myself to listen to music. About a mile before the turnaround, however, I pushed this back to 15 miles. Then the next water station (every 1.5 miles or so, and thankfully all stocked with porta loos). Until, before I knew it, I had completed lap 3 (in 1:07:40 – body slowly failing), and decided to ‘treat myself’ to some tunes I had downloaded during the previously mentioned restless night.
Lap 4 was sheer agony. I wanted to walk the entire thing. I wanted to stop. I wanted to be in a soundproof toilet. After necking my body weight in Powerade at the aid stations in an attempt to put any kind of fuel into my body, I was sloshing around so much that at first I was getting annoyed at the person behind me for having such a loud bottle of water. Until I realized there was nobody there. And the sound was coming from inside me. It must have made a slight difference though, because, despite more frequent walk breaks, my pace when I was running was pretty much constantly 9:30/mile. I staggered to the end of the 4th lap in 1:09:38 to cheers of “Come on Rachel!”, only to realize my parents had arrived early and were both taking (numerous, it would seem) photos. I was so, so happy to finish in under 4:30, and my second fastest marathon to date (fine – out of 4).
Crossing the finish line, I was handed (and nearly floored by) my medal, and given a squeezy elephant with my finisher’s number on it. While the official results say I was 83rd, I got handed the squeezy elephant for 82nd place, but since my chip time is faster (marginally) than the guy in 82nd place, I feel no guilt in sticking with it.
There was also post race pizza, cookies, soda, and all sorts, but after a stretch and a few minutes to just stay still, all I could manage was half a slice of cheese pizza and a small cup of sprite.
While this wasn’t the race I wanted it to be, it did reiterate to me how important it is to get proper fuel for longer distances. With ultras on the horizon, fuelling is something everyone says makes or breaks your race, so I’m definitely keen to start practicing with different foods on my longer runs now. However, as much as I do believe that getting enough calories down my throat is important, it’s good to know that I can claw through 26.2 miles on next to nothing, even if it was less than pleasant.
It’s also good to know that I have 26 miles clocked up for 2014 already. And that tomorrow is a rest day.
“When you’re young, you don’t really appreciate how what you’re doing will affect you later in life; you just do what you want, and to hell with the consequences.” – My dad.
“Time to bleed, time to breed.” – Also my dad, included for balance, because even though my father is a very smart man, he is not just a font of wisdom.
Earlier this year, I lost a toenail for the second time in my life. It happened without incident – I was sitting on the sofa with my feet up on the coffee table in my living room, happened to glance at my feet, and noticed that there was ‘too much light’ coming from behind one of my toenails. Sure enough, it was hanging on by a thin ribbon of hardened skin, like a creaky old door on one hinge, and I plucked it off painlessly, much to my boyfriend’s disgust (despite the fact that he likes to make neat piles of his toenail clippings all around my apartment, so now you know that).
I looked at my mangled feet, covered in callouses, blisters, and black toenails, and realised that I used to do things like paint my nails, wear moisturiser with socks in bed, and generally make an effort to keep them in a state fit for public consumption. In fact, the first time I had a toenail fall off was a mere 8 days after I’d had a deluxe pedicure, and the little toenail still had a glossy coating of teal polish as I held it in my hand, examining it like some rare gem.
Unfortunately, running is not always kind to feet. Or knees, if I were to listen to my dad’s constant warnings about the health of my poor joints.
I am regularly reminded of the consequences of ‘not looking after your body’ by my father. He used to be an avid rugby player, and there are in existence countless 35mm film slides packed away somewhere with a projector capable of illuminating my dad, clutching a rugby ball and determinedly ploughing through burly men to score a try, onto my parents’ kitchen wall in Houston.
Ever since I stopped being a rippling tower of lard and started running, I have had my dad tell me that I need to be careful of all the impact activities I do, because I’ll live to regret them later in like. Or, perhaps more accurately, my joints will. Having broached the topic of a second hip replacement recently, he may know what he’s talking about. Despite his warnings, I continue to run because it’s something I really enjoy taking part in. And despite me brushing off his advice, he continues to try and be a knight in shining armour for my knees.
At least, that’s how it used to be.
I was recently speaking to my dad on the phone when the topic came up – again. We got to talking about conflicting advice (my doctor is in the ‘use it or lose it’ camp that I tend to subscribe to), and eventually I asked him a question.
“If you knew that you’d have to have both of your hips replaced at your age, would you have stopped playing rugby and listened to the same advice you’re giving me?”
The sigh on the other end of the line, my friends, is what victory sounds like.
“No, Rachel, I would not have.”
Megan recently posted a ’25 Days of Christmas’ thing, which is essentially one of those e-mail surveys that everyone loves filling out in the hopes that other people will read their answers and think ‘what a cool/hilarious/kindhearted/badass/quirky [delete as applicable] person s/he is, gosh darn it!’, except people just delete your answers and waste 30 minutes thinking of their own super meaningful responses. Yeah, it’s like those. Except it comes in picture form. And has a Christmas theme, would you believe it?
Anyway, because I’m not out drinking with workmates I hardly know in gale force winds and horizontal rain, I’m looking for something rock n’ roll to do on my Friday night, so whilst I haven’t answered every question (you’re welcome), I have chosen to indulge myself a bit. Enjoy.
Favourite Christmas movie
Being a teacher, my answer at this precise moment in time is: None at all, I would not be upset at all if every Christmas film ever made went up in flames right this minute. But, if you asked my 9-year-old self this question, the answer would have been ‘Home Alone’, because I had a major crush on Macauley Culkin (I know). I even rented ‘The Pagemaster’ from Blockbuster when it came out. I’d like to think my taste in men has improved, but you can be the judge:
2012 Christmas wish list:
These tights. Because who doesn’t love rainbows?!
A Kindle Paperwhite.
A lap counter for my rekindled love of swimming.
An all-inclusive vacation to Hawaii/anywhere hot and with beaches.
Nothing that has to be used in a bathtub (I only have a shower).
Favourite Christmas song:
It’s a toss up between ‘Fairytale of New York’ and whatever The Darkness’s festive tune was. (I’m obviously not a Christmas song buff).
Easily the Sony Dream Machine Radio/Alarm/Cassette player that I received when I was about 11 and lived in Ponca City, OK. So futuristic. I loved that thing.
Favourite Christmas decoration:
Could it be any other? I bought this baby the day before I ran the Loch Ness Marathon:
Well, I’ve already posted a picture of my tree (3 feet tall as my apartment is miniscule and cannot accommodate anything larger), so I’ll post my ‘card window’. I don’t have enough surfaces to leave cars about on (and I find it too cluttery), so I slot my Christmas cards into my wooden blinds in my living room. It’s not like having them closed blocks out any light, since I’m in Scotland, and I literally cannot remember how many days ago I last saw the sun. Maybe Sunday?
When I was young my dad would make popcorn and we would use a needle and thread to transform it into tinsel for the tree (and eat the leftovers). I think that may have been the only ‘tradition’ my family had, considering we never lived in the same country for more than a couple of years. I have started a new tradition with Ian, though: good food for Christmas. Last year was fajitas, this year is shaping up to be a spicy mustard chicken dish.
Wrapping paper or gift bags:
Wrapping paper. Don’t be so fucking lazy.
Hardest person to buy for:
My dad. Seriously. This is a conversation we had before Christmas one year:
Me: Dad, what do you want for Christmas?
Me: Daaa-aaaaaaaaad. Seriously!
Dad: I wouldn’t mind a Porsche.
Me: [dramatic sigh and eye roll] Dad!!!!
Dad: I don’t know, get me a copy of The Economist.
On Christmas day, under the tree, a few mysterious parcels would appear labelled: To John, From John.
My dad’s name is John, by the way.
Post a picture of an old Christmas card:
This one is from my grandma (on my dad’s side). Her birthday was on Christmas day, but she died in 2010. This card would have been from a few years before her death when she still remembered/was able to write back to me. I used to write her letters throughout the year, and sometimes I get the urge to write to her, and then remember that I can’t. Anyway, this makes me glad that I’m a hoarder of personal stuff.
It’s also pretty hilarious to come across a bunch of old love letters from my ex with such gems as “you are the centre of my universe” and “I love you with every fibre of my being”. Seriously.
When do you open gifts?
Christmas morning, after some champagne (or whatever cold, alcoholic fizzy stuff that comes in a green bottle happens to be in my fridge). When I still lived at home my brother and I could open one gift on Christmas Eve, but these days I don’t really get enough gifts to make that viable.
Do you travel over the holidays?
Yes, if possible. I’ve managed to escape Scotland’s harsh weather for the last two years, going to Houston for X-mas 2010, and Australia in 2011 (which featured a ‘delightful’ Christmas dinner courtesy of Qantas). This year, however, I’m stuck here, which is not ideal, but it does mean I get to spend time with Ian and friends while they all have some time off work. Plans are already underway, however, for a Texas Christmas in 2013.
So how about you guys? What do you want for Christmas? What traditions do you have? What has been your favourite present of all time? Does Christmas music make you angry? If you receive a gift with ugly wrapping paper, do you hide it behind gifts that you have wrapped for others just so you can’t see its ugliness? Or is that just me? Do you always get a shitty secret Santa present? One year, the person who got my name made a mistake and thought they were buying for someone else. I can’t say battleships was the best gift I ever got.
When you find yourself on the phone to your mother at 2 am searching for the soothing voice of sympathy, you’ve done something stupid. I have been battling this cold for nearly a week now, and although yesterday morning I was chipper and enthusiastic, I was not 100% fit to run. But the sun was out, and that’s kind of like my kryptonite, people. Not so much that is destroys me, but it has an overpowering effect on me, leaving me unable to resist it’s seductive lure of sexy warmth.
So I ran the 10k, and it hurt to breathe, and I was in a substantial amount of discomfort throughout, and I intentionally avoided looking at my heart rate because I wanted to avoid a freak out. And then it was over, and I entered a delusional stage that made me feel like I had the power of the HULK (and the overall sex appeal – ie. none). Witness:
And then I felt progressively worse as the day wore on. Here is a visual representation of the remainder of my afternoon (remembering that I have a sunshine fetish and it was BEAUTIFUL outside):
Fast forward nearly 12 hours, and I was shivering on my sofa, speaking to my mom in Houston about how crap I felt and getting reassurances like ‘Your throat wont close off and suffocate you in your sleep’, and ‘I promise you don’t have Meningitis, you’d be too sick to phone me if you did’ (I tend to become
a bit a total freak-out hypochondriac when I get really ill, especially at night).
I can’t remember when I eventually got to sleep, but I woke up at 6:30 to get ready for work. By 10 am I was headed right back to my bed, via the pharmacy for some pain relief drugs and Vicks Vapour Rub (amazing stuff). One power nap and a bit of planning for next week done, I feel no better and no worse.
Knowing that I’ll miss spin class tonight is a bit of a bummer, so in an attempt to cheer myself up, I have registered myself and my unsuspecting mother (a lithe and spirited 55 year old) for a fancy dress 5k in Houston during my planned visit in October.
She said in a recent conversation: “I’ll make sure to read your blog sometime soon.”
We’ll just wait and see how much truth there is in that statement, shall we?
***EDIT*** Costume suggestions welcome (and encouraged) in the comments section!
Let me introduce you to my situation using a simple equation:
children with rancid hygeine habits + me = monster cold before a race (again)
Seriously, about a month ago I noticed a chocolate Minstrel on the floor of my classroom on a Friday afternoon. Being a responsible adult, I ignored it, and left as soon as the bell went. It was still there on the following Monday, and I watched as kids trampled over it, kicked it, asked why it was there, etc. Essentially, I was waiting for a kid to misbehave enough so that I could tell him (it’s usually a him) to pick it up and put it in the bin. This Monday, they were angels. At the start of the very last period, a class entered and sat down, taking out their notebooks. One boy noticed the Minstrel and picked it up. The conversation followed as such:
Me: [Child], would you mind putting that in the bin?
Child: But it’s a Minstrel.
Me: Excllent observation, [child], but it has been getting acquainted with the floor all weekend, and the underside of many shoes this morning. I think it should get acquainted with the bin.
Child (eyeballing the piece of candy like it arouses him): I think it should become acquainted with my belly.
Me: Seriously, bin.
(At this point the class are enthralled)
Child: Five second rule.
Me: It is way beyond the fi-
He eats it. The class erupt in a unanimous ‘EEEEERRRGHHH!!!’ He swallows.
Me: That is disgusting.
So you can see, children have no awareness of germs and how they destroy weekends. And this results in me catching nasty diseases off them CONSTANTLY. I guess the upside is in about 10 years I’ll be immune to pretty much everything. The downside, however, is that the day before a race I’m hoping to do well in I end up soaking numerous tissues in snot, it hurts to breathe, my head feels like it’s going to explode, and I get cranky. Please witness exhibit A:
Regular readers will maybe remember the ‘dark event’ of April, the Glenlivet 10k, which was my first DNS. The reason I didn’t take part was a monster cold, fever, dizziness, and a concerned boyfriend telling me I should stay in bed. The race tomorrow will not be a repeat. Even if I have to jog the freaking thing, I am not losing out on another medal, and I am not wussing out of a race that is practically on my doorstep. Also, they’ve sent out the race shirts, so I’d never allow myself to wear it if I didn’t actually complete the course. It’s bad luck.
Anyway, since I’ve been too ill to really do anything today, I’ve had some time to think. A while back, I was tagged in one of Danielle’s posts about 7 things she is loving at the moment. The concept (bravo you brainy beasts who can see where this is going already!) is to list 7 things you are into right now, then tag 7 people to do the same. Like chain mail. Or a pyramid scheme. I hadn’t gotten around to doing this before because I was busy and it really is hard to pick just 7 things that rev me up, but I think I’ve managed it. And so, without further ado, 7 things I’m digging just now:
1. My new microwave
This was an impulse buy when I was buying some DVD’s in Asda to shove on for the end of term. I’ve wanted a microwave for years because sometimes you just want to stick a tin of tomato soup in a bowl and have a quick dinner with minimum mess. I also want friends to be able to cook their microwave dinners when they come round at 8:30 pm after a long day at work without having to send them away again for non-microwavable food. So I bought this bad boy because it was on offer. Immediately afterwards, I realized three things:
Luckily, I managed to blag a lift off of one of the guys at the gym, and I set it up as soon as I got in.
2. The running track around Rice University, Houston
(Photo above taken by my dad, at my request, about a month ago)
I’m originally from Houston, TX, and that’s where my family live just now. I love my annual/bi-annual trips home because I get to hang out with my family, who I actually think are pretty cool, despite my 15-year-old view that they would always be, like, sooooooo annoying. I also like going back for warmth and guaranteed sunshine. And because Texas is 6 hours behind, even with a ‘sleep in’, I wake up at about 6 am – the perfect time to head to the running track around Rice University for a couple of laps of the 3 mile loop. It’s great because there are always runners of all abilities, the trees make the run scenic despite being practically downtown, and you get a pretty decent share of whack-out pedestrians (there is this one Mexican chick that pushes a chihuahua around in a baby stroller – no joke).
My next trip to Houston will be in October, and in addition to seeing my family, I’ll be seeing my friends. In particular, loads of my high-school class (it’s our 10 year reunion – holy shit, that decade flew by). One of my old classmates is my friend Nikki, who has agreed that we should totally do a race together. So we’ve signed up to the Huntsville Half Marathon, and we’re going to rock it! And then hit IHOP for some carbs!
This one might seem a bit lame to readers that do not reside in Scotland, but I have become so unaccustomed to seeing sunshine, that when it does emerge from behind grey clouds, I can literally feel myself cheer up. Sunny days in Aberdeen are bittersweet, though. They make me appreciate the beauty of the city, but they also make me want to move somewhere where I could enjoy outdoor activities a lot more regularly than Scotland. And in warmer temperatures!
4. Study Leave
Don’t get me wrong, despite all my bitching, I like my job. Teenagers are pretty amusing, what with their ridiculous questions, and their ‘fashion’, and their drama. But with increasing class sizes and cutbacks everywhere, study leave is a blissful time of peace during which you can try to catch up with all the marking, planning, organizing, and paperwork that has been slowly (or quickly) mounting up throughout the year. You can just get stuck into work and soldier through. Unless you get cover.
5. Torture Devices
Items like foam rollers and spiked physio balls. Bringers of pain, but the good pain that you know is ultimately doing you good. NB: Don’t use the wooden Body Shop massage roller with maximum force on your quads whilst grimacing through the pain – you’ll just end up unable to run properly for about a week. Stick with the bright, cheerful devices, like the ones above.
6. Marks and Spencer’s Special Reserve Prosciutto
This stuff is delicious. And it makes me think of my mum’s parents as the tiny village in Italy that my Grandad is from is the same place this delicious meat product is from: San Daniele del Friuli. Anyway, I think it’s cool that I’ve been there.
7. The Spelling Mistake on the Original Race Bibs for Tomorrow’s Baker Hughes 10K
(Photo courtesy of @Dawdles)
I mean, what more can I say about this?
So the final part of this exercise is to tag 7 other bloggers so they can share 7 things they love. And the 7 are:
Well, today is my last day in Australia. I went for an 8k run this morning which was hard after two days of long runs, but I feel better for making the effort. Can’t say I’m too happy about saying goodbye to my family (or the sunshine and heat), but work is a bitch.
Scotland: lock up your sons.