Tuesday, November 9, 2010

And we're done...

The running of the original course was nothing short of amazing. The history, itself made the grueling course worthwhile. I mean seriously, at what other race, do you run uphill for 30km? But let's face it, there's a reason why Phidippides and the marathon came to be. If he had survived, would we have decided that it would be fun to put people through 16 weeks of intense training to run 26.2 miles?

The weather was a perfect 67 degrees F - a little chilly in the morning while waiting for the race to start. I actually draped myself in a plastic bag - who knew it could be so warm? I guess everyone especially since the race organizers were handing them out.

The spectators were beyond incredible. To say that the Greeks were proud of their history would be an understatement. A celebration of freedom, the marathon represents more to the Greeks than 42.195km and there were out there cheering everyone on, from the elites to the powerwalkers - handing out olive branches and yelling "Bravo!" and sending congratulations in both Greek and English.

The course was fully dedicated to the original run of Phiddipides, a statue in the middle of Marathon Ave. along with signs touting the original course. On a normal day, one could join a walking tour or walk along the course to relive history. But there would be no water stops along the way and no cheering section.

But the best part of the race was the 6 mile downhill and the finish in the stadium - you can't beat it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dear Athens...

Last night was my last run before we arrive in Athens. Yes, Athens, Greece. No, not Athens, Georgia. A nice easy run and I feel good; barring the fact that I woke up two nights ago with a Charley Horse in my left calf. I can still feel the tightness, but a little more calcium and potassium and my muscles should not do that again.

Side note: I tried looking up ways to ease the pain and everything I found was preventative. But what about when you're actually in the moment and all you want to do is make the pain go away?! Nothing. So, here's to everyone that has experienced a Charley Horse. If you experience it again, breathe through the pain. This is based on my newly gained knowledge as an Applied Physiology and Nutrition student.

Your muscles contract and relax based on the amount of calcium and ATP (or energy) in your body. The calcium activates the energy and proteins necessary to tighten your muscles. But your body relies on energy to relax your muscles. Breathing provides your body with oxygen. Oxygen is necessary for your cells - specifically the mitochondria - to create a maximum amount of energy. Therefore, breathing will create the energy needed to relax your muscles and get you through the pain of a Charley Horse. Now that the science lesson is over, I would like to draft a letter to Athens.

Dear Athens,

Last we met was rather memorable. You could say that you left a mark on me, forever. When I arrived at the airport, my luggage was still in Malta. An 8 hour layover at one of the smallest airports I have ever seen and still, my luggage didn't make it with me - it was also the only time during my trip around the world that I had to check-in suitcase. Not your fault, I know.

But then there was the issue at the hotel. They originally had me booked for three nights and when I changed the reservation to two nights, somehow my reservation was down to one. But I didn't get a refund for two nights, I only received a refund for one. I didn't immediately pay the hotel for the second night because I thought maybe I could find a cheaper place.

Well, the day that I went exploring (and on a hike) toward the Olympic Stadium, I stumbled into a hole. This hole was rather large and in the middle of the sidewalk. The only reason I stepped into it was because I was trying to grab a bottle of water to quench my thirst - it was the middle of summer and the middle of the day. By stumbling, I twisted my ankle. I was in so much pain that I could not stand up. I thought I had actually broken my ankle, instead. After about 5 minutes of shock and pain, I decided it was a good idea to walk 1.5 miles back to the hotel. On second thought, that was NOT a good idea.

I hobbled back into the hotel lobby, sat down on their couch and iced my ankle until it was time to make the decision. Pay for the extra night - hoping to be reimbursed or move? But what did I have to move; on top of the fact that I could barely walk, my luggage still had not arrived . So, I paid the extra night hoping to be reimbursed AND hoping that my luggage would arrive before the next morning because I was leaving for Italy.

It takes 20 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel - by bus. It took four hours for my luggage to arrive to the hotel after it landed. I just made it to the port before my boat left for Italy. And in the end, I received a reimbursement check for the extra night's stay. My ankle reduced in swelling very rapidly - maybe walking home did help, but the memories will be with me forever.

Oh, Greece...how I hope the second trip will be more favorable. Over 26.2 miles of land to cover, I should see all the sights I missed the last time. And I get to spend a few extra days on the island of Crete where I hope to sleep and relax until it is time to return to the life of a non-city city girl.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bottomless Pit...

I can't believe we're already, here - the week where I am on a diet. Not the kind of diet where all I am allowed to consume is liquid, but the kind where I can't finish everything I'm supposed to eat. Two breakfasts: cereal, fruit and toast; lunch that takes hours to finish; an afternoon snack and before I get a chance to breathe I get to have dinner - complete with dessert. And best of all, it's the healthiest that I will eat since the last time I trained for the marathon.

Here's to the Greeks!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I was takin' a bath - well, not really but that's how it felt.

I entered the locker room and it was silent. I checked how many lanes were open in the pool and no one was swimming. I changed, I showered and still no one. Now, this is strange. I swim at lunch and usually, there are multiple people swimming there with me. So I thought maybe I missed the sign saying that the pool was closed or enter with caution. But no, it just so happened that there was no one there.

If you think running is a lonely sport, I think swimming is the loneliest sport. So imagine that I am jumping into an empty pool, I swim a few laps and realize that if I swim as if no one is watching ('cause this time no one is watching) then I start to flounder. I don't breathe correctly, water gets up my nose, I start running, doing water aerobics; everything but swim.

Luckily, there were a few people that joined me after about 10 minutes of alone time. But I just couldn't get into a swimming workout. I still was able to workout since I am floating all of my weight in the water and getting from one end to the other - it's just a lot less graceful. So, as soon as I saw someone waiting for a lane, I decided to get out. Why waste a lane when someone who wants to swim deserves it? I'll tell you why - because that person isn't grateful for the lane; she wants a middle lane to swim in and not a side lane. And I wish I had told her, "Hey lady! When you're waiting for a lane, you take what you get - beggars can't be choosers. And P.S. I only got out because you were waiting. I still had 10 minutes left of bath time."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Running for your life...

That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but with the shorter days, it's getting harder to run at "night." A planned 5:30 run turned into a 6:10 run and it seemed like we pounded the pavement for an hour to just end up where we started from.

Maybe part of it was to get out some pent-up energy. It's not that I was being lazy all day - I woke up early to meet my parents downtown, went to another state for brunch, did some window shopping and still felt sluggish enough to go for a 6-mile run. Maybe part of it was to just get home so I could spend time with my lonely puppy. But there was definitely a part of me that wanted to get out of the park at night - even if I did have my running buddy with me.

Or maybe, I just wanted an excuse to eat. The taper period is always so interesting for me because I eat a lot - a lot more than normal, too which isn't a good thing when you're not running as much, but certainly helps with the carbo loading. I know I'm two weeks out, but this is where nutrition becomes just as important as the weeks of training that I've done up until now. If I don't have enough fuel for the race, I'm not going to enjoy the marathon at all. Just because I'm hungry at Mile 18 doesn't mean that I'm going to pick up the pace and "sprint" the next 8.2 miles - it's just not possible and there aren't enough gels in the world to make up for good solid Greek food at the end of the race.

P.S. I just got my bib number so weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! - race day is almost here. and eeeeeeeeeeeek!! - race day is almost here. But, I am going to make such a feast for next week that I've already starting the grocery list.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Running home...

Have you ever noticed that it's easier to run away than to run back? 56 streets and a few avenues later, I was home. But this time, I had thought of everything under the sun and it still took forever to get back.

Nutrition -
Note to self: don't eat donuts and hot chocolate for breakfast thinking that you'll burn the calories, later. My blood was clogged with so much sugar today that I felt like my body had to work three times as hard as moving a ton of bricks. And if anyone tells you that it doesn't matter what you eat while you're training for a marathon; it's just about getting in enough calories, think again.

Obstacles -
Why is it that when a moving object comes directly at you, you don't move (or even better, you decide to move right in front of me)? It's only three miles from work to home, but I felt like I ran twice as far weaving in and out of traffic (humans, bicycles and even a 18 foot box truck - the driver glared at me like I was in HIS way and then continued with some sexist comment).

Balance of Transit -
So...it didn't take me that much longer to run home than it would to take the train. Therefore, I should run home everyday, right? Well...it's not wrong, but it's not entirely right. Running home means leaving a lot of things at the office so although the commute is just as long, it's kind of inconvenient. But what about running with a backpack? I could do that with just a little extra planning. And then, the ultimate - why not ride my bike? If only I didn't fear city traffic like I do sharks, it would be an option. I have no problem riding in the park where motor vehicles are not allowed, but I haven't figured out how to safely get from my home to the park. And in the end all these excuses just really mean that I'm lazy.

Three miles; three topics. Not too bad for someone who refuses to listen to headphones while running. I'm sure there were more, but I was so tired and hungry when I got home that I quickly forgot how excruciating the run was and starting gorging food (not donuts) and drinking gatorade. Let's hope I continue to forget so that I can continue this "tradition" - maybe trend is a better word or better yet, fad - from one week to the next.

Another swim in the bank...

Man, swimming has to be one of the most tiring sports. I swam for 25 minutes at most and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow last night and definitely through my alarm this morning. I did try a little bit of a workout in the pool - not just swimming laps back and forth. For 8 lengths of the pool, I swam without using any leg power - just arms. And for 8 lengths of the pool, I swam without using my arms - just leg power. What a difference it makes!

And with the switch-up, I more or less was able to count how many laps I did to total about 36 (hopefully, I lost count and I swam more). Even if I have nothing to think about, I can't keep track of how many laps I do - it's just too many laps to track in my head. A few years ago, I swam with a friend after work and we would bring pennies to track how many laps. Some days, when they switched the lanes to go from the width of the pool to the length of the pool, it was easy to track.

Lesson learned: If you want to track your laps, find a longer pool.