Barcelona Completed.

I came home from Barcelona and promptly fell into work and routine mode. Here is a wrap up to the Barcelona experience, which was amazing thanks to Erin.

Day 5: I woke up the day after the marathon feeling great. Much to my surprise, I was walking like a normal person, which made me wonder if I hadn’t worked hard enough during the race! Erin and I hit the gym for a swim and spin to loosen up from the race. (If it hasn’t been clear from my posts, let me stress that Erin was a gem about my training while I was there. She got me passes to her gym so that I could keep up with every bit of my training. That meant so much to me and reminded me what a supportive friend she is.) After working out, we got ready for school! This day was Erin’s last day at her MBA program in Barcelona, and I got to go to class with her. I loved loved loved it. I loved being on a campus again and thinking about media, art and love in the context of developing truths about life. After an incredible class, we had dinner with her philosophy professors and classmates.

Day 6: After a late night out with her professors and classmates, Erin and I got up ridiculously early to catch a plane to Seville. We flew Ryanair, which was an experience, and arrived in Seville around 7:30 in the morning. We checked into our adorable bed and breakfast, the B&B Naranjo, drank an obscene amount of coffee, and then set out to the incredible Museo de Bellas Artes where I saw some of my favorite art.

After the museum, we went to the Casa de Pilatos and saw strange combinations of Christian and Moorish influences.

We wandered Seville in the rain, which we discovered is somewhat hard to do with the narrow and slick roads. Then, because we were exhausted, we called it an early night.

Day 7:  The next morning, we got up early for a run. We ran along the water and, thanks to Erin’s sense of adventure and direction, we entered a park that led us to Plaza de Espana. I didn’t have my camera on me, unfortunately, but it was stunning. After our run, we lunched near the Seville Cathedral and then went on a three or more hour tour of the Cathedral. It’s the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the third largest Christian cathedral, after St. Peter’s in Vatican City and St. Paul’s in London. The tomb of Christopher Columbus is there (pictured below), and it houses the third most important art collection in Spain. I loved it, and I loved the view we had from the bell tower.

After touring the cathedral, we wandered the Jewish Quarter, saw a flamenco show – which was incredible – and had a late dinner at Choco Y Late before putting this amazing day to bed.

Day 8: The next morning, I went for a short run before we hit Alcazar’s Palace. It’s an enormous structure, but I was most taken by the gardens.

I could have wandered those gardens for hours. Hours and hours. But we didn’t have a lot of time, so we wandered through and then visited the General Archives of the Indies and walked by the bullfighting arena before heading back to the airport to catch our flight back to Barcelona.

Day 9:  The next morning, we hit the gym again one last time for a swim and a spin. Then we visited the Barcelona Cathedral, the Santa Maria de la Pi (another church), Las Rambles (a big shopping area where I might have indulged in some gelato), La Boqueria (an enormous market of fish and fresh foods), and the most amazing part of the day – La Pedrera, one of the apartment buildings designed by Gaudi, who also did the Sagrada Familia.  At La Padrera, I learned that, for Gaudi, interior and exterior walls are not part of the support system for his designs. They are fascades, curtains, decoration – nothing more. He was such an imaginative architect. I loved seeing his work. Here are photos of the exterior and the rooftop.

The next morning, I flew home.

I loved Spain. I loved running in Spain. I loved touring Spain. I loved hanging out with my dear friend in Spain. I’m so grateful for every opportunity I had there. I cannot thank Erin, Joe and Jen enough for welcoming me into their home in Barcelona and allowing me this incredible adventure.

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!

Barcelona.

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?

Going Places in 2013.

I didn’t plan it this way, but 2013 may be the year of travel.

I have three international trips planned. I’m going to Spain in March to see my friend Erin and run the Barcelona Marathon. I’m going to Germany in July for a family reunion. I’m going to Austria in October for an early celebration of my 40th birthday.

I also have a number of domestic trips planned. I’m going to Rochester, New York, in February to see an old friend and boarding school roommate. I’m doing an Ironman next year, so I’ll spend a week of June in Idaho. I have a reunion of dear childhood friends planned in Iowa for the first part of August. It’s also looking likely that I’ll be doing Hood to Coast at the end of August. Then just now, I got an email from my friend Jennifer about planning a trip for her 40th birthday. When and where that will be, I don’t know, but I plan to go.

Those are just the confirmed trips. I’m considering traveling to St. George in May for a half-Ironman. I have my eyes on an out-of-state marathon in December close to my actual birthday, but I won’t know until January if I can get in. I also suspect I’ll be traveling some to just see friends in various places.

That’s a lot, huh? Maybe 2013 is looking a bit better than I thought…

Wedneday List #3 – Things I Won’t Do.

At Toastmasters today, I was asked during table topics (which, for you non-Toastmasters, are questions that require the delivery of a brief, impromptu speech) what career I would choose if I had life to do over again. My answer had more to do with life choices than career choices. I talked about how I would re-do college and be a party girl rather than a straight-laced responsible student because maybe then I would date more, get married and have kids blah blah blah. When I sat down, I felt like a broken record, and I felt broken.

That got me thinking. During this time of year, I often think in terms of lists, primarily lists of things I want to do. I think it’s time for a list of things I don’t want to do anymore.

  1. I don’t want to dwell on not being married.
  2. I don’t want to dwell on not having kids.
  3. I don’t want to dwell on relationships that failed.
  4. I don’t want too much work to be my excuse for backing out of plans or trips. 
  5. When it comes to writing, I don’t want to claim that I just don’t have time.
  6. When it comes to running, I don’t want to say that I just don’t have a faster gear in me.
  7. When it comes to travel, I don’t want to blame not traveling on not having someone who will travel with me.
  8. I don’t want being alone to be my excuse for not learning how to cook.
  9. I don’t want shyness to be a reason for not dancing.
  10. I don’t want fear of change to keep me from…anything.

These things need to exit my vocabulary and my mindset. Talking about them does me no good. Thinking about them does nothing to move me forward. I want forward movement. Better yet, I am capable of it.

A Poem I Didn’t Write.

I spent this weekend at the Grand Canyon. With three dear friends, I hiked from the South Rim down to the Colorado River, camped one night, and then hiked back up.

It’s going to take me more than a few days to process what we saw and did. For now, I offer this poem written by my wonderful and talented friend, Maria Rivera. It sums up the joy of this trip just beautifully.  She calls it, “You’re Not a Monkey.”

You’re not a monkey.
But sometimes,
when you’ve
finished all you have to do,
Words like “wheee” and “free” and “sway” and “play”
Reach out,
telling you it’s time
To find the nearest tree.

To pick out a branch
Around which to wrap your tail
and swing
like there’s no
tomorrow.