Barcelona Marathon Day.

This morning, I left the apartment at 7:00 am to head to my race. One funny thing about Barcelona is that the city does not rise early. Even their marathon doesn’t begin until 8:30, which is quite different from the usual 7:00 am start or even the occasional 5:00 am start. (Remember that one, Jeanie?) I made my way to the Metro and followed hoards of people to the race start. The Metro was packed with men, all quite fierce looking, but I kept my calm.

At the start, I found where my wave (the 4 hour plus group) was to gather, and I found a quiet place to sit to drink my UCAN, a nutrition drink. I drank and watched the crowds warm up. I finally spotted some women, which gave me a little peace of mind that I wouldn’t be left totally behind. Around 8:00 am, I went into the gathering area for my group and waited. I was anxious. I focused on the unique names I saw on race bibs – Valeri, Dani, and Juli, all of whom were men, and Antonio, Pedro, and Juan Domingo, which struck me as sexy names. It helped that the folks in my wave were rowdy. They chanted and greeted one another most enthusiastically. One group sang happy birthday to their friend – a song I recognized only because of the tune. I liked that energy at the start.

Once the race started, my anxiety melted away, and I ran, paying close attention to my mile splits. I said in January that I hoped to hit a personal best – something better than 5:12. I didn’t quite get there. According to my watch, I raced a 5:19, but also according to my watch, I ran 26.76 miles. If my watch is right, then I came very close to a 5:12 marathon. But the race is what it was, and my official time, I expect, will be 5:19. I’m thrilled. When I raced in Austin exactly one month ago, I did a 5:43. That I cut off 24 minutes in one month thrills me to no end.

I noticed some real differences between our races at home and this one. First of all, I saw next to no signs. The one sign I saw said, “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.” I’ve seen that sign at nearly every race, and it struck me funny to see it here. Second, you don’t know a dirty port-a-potty until you’ve run this race. They were practically overflowing. In each one that I opened, I saw human excrement on surfaces not intended for human excrement. Third, they had water stops every 5K and at times, they had no water. Today was a cool day, so that wasn’t a big deal, but it was interesting to me to see that the volunteers at the waterless stops cheered for the runners, almost as if they didn’t notice they had no water to give and thought we might not notice as well.  Fourth, the crowds really did thin out about half an hour ahead of me. There were a couple of long out and back segments where I could see that there were large crowds cheering for the people ahead of me, but by the time I made my way back on those segments, the crowds had evaporated. Without those out and backs, I would have thought there were no crowds at all.

The best part of the race was that Erin ran the last few miles with me, and helped me push towards my goal. It was great to see her friendly face out there. A few miles before she turned up, I met a woman named Stephanie from Chicago who was also running, and we ended up chatting a ways. Before meeting her, I ran in total silence and understood next to nothing being said around me. But once I heard her speak English, I immediately struck up a conversation with her. Running with Stephanie for a bit and then having Erin to talk to made a huge difference. I also appreciate that Erin pushed me when I asked her to. She ran ahead a ways, forcing me to keep up. I needed her.

Afterwards, I picked up my medal, which isn’t gorgeous, but it’s from Barcelona, so I love it, and we made our way back to the apartment. We got cleaned up and then went out with Joe for a wonderful lunch at Mosquito. I enjoyed my first beer here and filled my belly with all kinds of vegetarian goodness.  I know the name Mosquito doesn’t sound appetizing, but it was wonderful. As the website for the place says, it was tapas exoticas! After Mosquito, I might have had a delicious double chocolate cupcake in celebration of the race.

Then we went home and rested the remainder of the day. I did some laundry and took a deep nap. This apartment is certainly starting to feel like home.  It’s a cute neighborhood, no?

Now that the race is behind me, I get to relax and enjoy the remainder of my Spain adventure. I feel so lucky to be here. I could go home tomorrow, and the trip would have felt worthwhile. But I have five more days to explore this place. I feel spoiled!


I’ve been here for almost three full days. Barcelona is a beautiful city. It’s enormous and the streets make no sense to me at all. I’ve learned how to get from Erin’s apartment to the race start, but that’s about all I know.  I’m sure that comes as a huge surprise to anyone who has travelled with me. I’m normally so good with directions.

We have packed a great deal into the first few days.

The Santa Maria del Mar.

Day 1: Fresh off the plane, Erin and I went for a run down to the beach. Then she took took me to the Santa Maria del Mar and the Picasso Museum. Erin, Joe and I met my friend Marylee for lunch at El Corte Ingles, a strange department store/Home Depo/Target type place that had a restaurant on the top level. After lunch, we went to Park Guell, which was designed by “God’s Architect” Antoni Gaudi. Then we saw the Temple de Sagrat Cor at Tibidabo before having dinner at the Gran Hotel de Florida on Tibidabo, where Marylee was staying. Not bad for one day, huh?

Day 2: We swam at Erin’s gym in a crazy metal boxed pool. Then we spent three hours at the Sagrada Familia, the unfinished church dreamed up by Gaudi. There’s a good 60 Minutes clip on it, if you’re curious about it. I could have stayed there for three more hours and definitely want to get a book on the place. After the church, Erin and I had lunch at a strange little place that served things we did not expect. That evening, we went to the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern (said with my best Spanish accent) and saw an awesome blues band called Wax & Boogie. We also went to a vegetarian place called Cat Bar, which had what I consider to be a perfect theme. (Can you tell I miss Bread and Butter?) Again, a super rich day.

The ceiling of the Sagrada Familia.

Day 3: Jen, Erin and I got up early to catch the sunrise along the beach. I ran along the beach for a short bit before we went to the expo to do my packet pickup. After the expo, Erin took me to the Caixa Forum, a free museum funded by a bank. We saw some photography and a cool little video about a group that recreated a live imitation of a photograph. Then we went to lunch at an amazing little tapas place where we ordered six different vegetarian dishes, all of which I loved. When we returned home, I took a solid nap. Now, Erin and the gang are at an Irish Pub celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m at home resting up for tomorrow’s big race.

Tomorrow, I run the Barcelona Marathon. Afterwards, I will get serious about the tourism, the food and the wine. There is still so much to see, including other structures designed by Gaudi. And on Monday, I get to go to classes with Erin. I’m excited to see a bit of her academic experience here.

More to come, but for now I send my love from Barcelona and welcome your well wishes while you sleep tonight as I’ll be running my race in those hours. Dream of me flying through the course, please.

Next Stop: Barcelona.

I’m sitting in an airport (JFK) waiting for my connection to Barcelona. I’m going to visit my friend Erin, who is spending a semester there as part of her business school program. I am also going to run the Barcelona marathon this weekend. I’m super excited about both.

The start of my journey was exceptional. I boarded a flight in Austin and sat down in my window seat expecting to take a nap. It was a full flight, and they were asking people to check bags rather than carry them on. A young guy, a backpacker who looked like he’d stepped straight off the trails, entered the plane with a hiking pack. His seat was in the row one up and across the aisle from mine. He looked around, trying to decide what to do in the face of full and mostly closed bins. Then he started inching into his row, with his pack still on his back.  In my mind, I thought, “What the hell? Where do you think you’re going to put that monster pack?” At that very moment, the guy next to me got a look on his face that said exactly what I was thinking. He was so expressive that I had to laugh, and that started a conversation between us that lasted until we got off the plane.

Sebastian and I talked about my favorite thing in the world — writing.  He gave me tips on how to become a personal historian, a ghostwriter for other people’s stories. It’s something I’ve been interested in for quite some time now. He’s done it and generously walked me step-by-step through his process. I felt like I was sitting in a fabulous writing workshop taught by the most personable of instructors.  We also talked a great deal about how everyone has a story and how important it is to learn the stories of others. I learned so much about him and his family on that flight.

If learning, being entrusted with his story, and being distracted from my usual motion sickness were not enough, Sebastian also gave me tips on what to do in Barcelona, as he’s lived there before. Erin, we apparently need to try the absinthe at a great little bar not far from the circular hotel in Barcelona. Do you know the hotel? If not, let’s figure it out.

The whole exchange was a tremendous gift. I love that I made a new friend to start this journey.  What are the chances that I’ll make a new friend on the next, much longer flight? Normally, I’d say they aren’t too good. But I don’t know. I’m tempted to say they’re good.

And you know what? I have no idea what happened to the guy with the monster pack. Where did he put that thing?

Meeting Diana Nyad!

Every once in a while, the universe hands me a perfect moment. Meeting Diana Nyad after a SXSW screening of The Other Shore and sharing the experience with my friend Meredith, who I had no idea would be there, was just such a moment. 

See the movie when you can. So much in this movie about her quest to swim from Cuba to Florida spoke to me. At one point during the movie, she said, “It’s easy to do anything with heart. And when you lose heart, you can’t do anything.” Amen. I couldn’t agree more.
What a gift of an afternoon. 

Wednesday List #12 – Things I Don’t Understand

I should warn you. I’m in a funk. This list will reflect that.

  1. I don’t understand people who “friend” you on Facebook because you are in a relationship with someone they know or because they are the spouse of a dear old friend of yours and then “unfriend” you because you breakup or they divorce. You either are my friend or you are not. If you think the friendship depends on the existence of a relationship other than the one between you and me, then you are not.
  2. I don’t understand people who come into a conversation with their minds already made up. If you are not here to listen and actually consider what I have to say, please don’t waste my time. I don’t think better of you for having sat down with me. I think you think a lot of yourself.
  3. I don’t understand people who make you feel guilty about being busy and not having seen them in a while. Calling me “stranger” or telling me I’ve got too much going on does not make me thankful that I chose to use my time to call or meet with you. If you are not the kind of friend who can pick up where we left off with no guilt-oriented commentary, I don’t want your friendship.
  4. I don’t understand people who lap swim but are unwilling to share a lane. Seriously? Did you just say no when I asked to split the lane with you? Are you just such a poor swimmer that you can’t keep yourself on one side of the lane? Or are you so entitled that you think sharing a lane is beneath you somehow? By the way, you don’t help anything by the excessive amount of time you spend standing at the wall talking to your friend in the next lane who is also unwilling to share a lane. Swim your damn laps or get out of the pool.
  5. I don’t understand people who inject themselves into your space in a locker room and proceed to spread their clothes, towels and toiletries all over the place. If you walk into a locker room and see that I’m using a locker and a bench on one side, please don’t take the locker right next to me and take over my space. Pick a locker on the other side of the room.  You know, that big empty space full of lockers with not a single person in sight? Go there. 

Bleh. All of this just feels crummy. And of course some of it is completely unimportant, but I lose my patience when my heart is affected, and right now, my heart is affected.

Thanks for hearing me out.

TriDot Progress Report.

I’m now four weeks into my TriDot program. To start the program, I had to do three timed assessments: an 800 meter swim, a 15 mile bike ride and a 5K run. This week, I repeated those assessments to check my progress.  What do you think?

4 Weeks Ago
This Week
800 Meter Swim
16 minutes 47 seconds
15 minutes 50 seconds
15 Mile Bike
1 hour 5 minutes
57 minutes
5K Run
36 minutes 35 seconds
30 minutes 13 seconds