Friday, December 26, 2008

Dec. 26: Boxing Day

So I have spent the last week at Leeds Castle, in the south of England with my family for Christmas. It was everything I look for in a vacation - secluded, quiet, in lovely countryside, and with family and the ones that you love. It was really nice because we had a cottage rented on the Leed's castle grounds and had private access to the grounds when it was closed to the public. What did this mean in terms of running?

It meant that on Christmas day, I woke up early (7:30 - early by european standards) with my brother and joined him for his longest long run in preparation for the Houston marathon (His first marathon). It was a beautiful crisp morning, running around the castle and the grounds - it was definitely the nicest, most scenic, and most enjoyable longest long run I have ever done. The 2 hours and 54 minutes felt only like 10 minutes and before we knew it we had finished 20 miles - all of it either going up or down through the rolling countryside. Near the end my family came out to cheer us on for the final 5 miles, which was greatly appreciated! It was a good confidence builder for both of us - it is the longest he has ever ran and it is the longest I have gone since the Berlin marathon.

I also managed another two 6 mile runs 2 days prior. So, for a Christmas week I have managed 32 miles so far, which is better than I expected! I hope to include some pictures when I have time as the running and scenery was spectacular. I am sitting in my hotel in London for the weeked getting ready to get some pub grub and enjoy Boxing Day! Tomorrow we will see Spam-a-lot and hopefully get some miles along the river Thames.

Merry (belated) Christmas! And to all those Canadians out there - Happy Shopping Today!

Cheers!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dec.17: Beers vs. Running

Although the weather was absolutely fantastic tonight for a run I opted to trade sweaty ballz for a few pints with the boys after work. After leaving to head home I snapped the following picture up at La Defense of the Grande Arche and the lights around it.


Tomorrow is my last day of work for before Christmas break. I am quite sure that it will be a wasted day already!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dec.16: Garmin Slave

Yesterday I did not go running...I decided to do something unusual and take the first day of the running week off. Normally I hate doing this because I feel that it just puts you in a big hole right off the bat and it does not allow for flexibility of schedule later in the week. Since I am only running 5 days a week these days I am sure it will not be a problem!

What I did do yesterday was go to the dentist for the first time in France..yep, I'll chalk that up as another, "What the hell just happened?!" experience. With a lot of my experiences here in France I often ask myself the following 3 questions:
1. Is this typically French?
2. Is this typically European?
3. Is this typically non-North American?

Because, quite honestly, the French are as unique to Europe as Texans are to the United States. The North American culture, and predominatly the American culture, is as unique to the rest of the world as the Mona Lisa hanging at the Louvre. So I am often really confused if whether or not what I experience here in France is "normal"...most things are definitely not normal with my North American glasses on. The more I live here the more I learn that things are just typically French and, infact, the rest of Europe behaves differently (either better or worse depending on who I ask!).

Anyhow, Jennie and I arrive at the dentist and we both get called in together. The dentist takes you into her office, fitted with a desk and computer and everything that you would expect a normal excutive office to have. There in the corner is the dentist chair and a little rinse bin.

"So, who wants to go first?" she asks? "Ok, I guess I will." So, on the chair I get with Jennie just sitting in the office chair to spectate. (Weird, don't you think?) Anyhow, moving on to an x-ray she took of my teeth she goes, "Here, hold this," as she proceeds to walk out of the room, taking Jennie at the hygenist (I think) with her. Suddenly I hear the familar beep of the xray machine and everyone returns. Hmmm...I am thinking somewhere in that procedure I should have been wearing a lead vest or some kind of protection?! Seeing that it was harmful enough to take everyone out of the room, I am starting to feel that perhaps that I may not be capable of reproducing after yesterday!

Moving on to the cleaning...or should I say the carwash for your teeth. The cleaning is done completely by high-pressure water. First she goes through with just straight water where it feels like your gums will be blasted off your bone (or, what I refer to as the "rinse cycle"). When I left I checked for any residual flesh splattered on her wall, but did not see any. Then you get the toothpaste water for the final cleaning, still at very high pressure (or the "scrub and soap cycle"). The water was spraying off my teeth and raining down on my face so much that I actually had to wash my face afterwards to get rid of the grit. Before you even realize what happened you hear, "All done!" and you are off the chair. I have got to hand it to them though...it was the most efficient visit to the dentist I have ever had!

With super clean, pressure-washed, teeth I hit the trail tonight for 7.25 miles. I forgot the Garmin upstairs in our apartment and did not realize that until I got down to street level. I was soooooooo close to turning around to get it but not wanting to be accused of being a Garmin slave I decided to head out on a 7.25 loop that I knew. I figure my average pace was 7:20 min/mile +- 5 seconds. It felt great out...definitely the best run in a very long time.

In other news, I sat down and figured out how much vacation time I have for 2009 today. All I can say is that I love being in Europe! I love ALL 55 days of vacation + 9 days holiday for a whooping total of 64 days off!! Yep I could take a long weekend EVERY weekend and still be able to squeeze in a 2 week holiday somewhere! Ok, I am done gloating...!!! :)

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dec.14: A cold 'n rainy weekend

This weekend has just been one of those weekends where you just want to curl up infront of a warm fire, have a never-ending cup of hot chocolate, and cat nap all day long. Yesterday I was able to get out for a 8.25 mile run before the heavy, freezing rain starting falling in the afternoon. That run went as follows:

7:16, 7:11, 7:11, 7:03, 6:58, 6:54, 6:52, 6:30 min/mile

In the freezing rain we decided to do a little window shopping, then we went and watched a terrible movie (Burn After Reading), but were able to salvage the evening by going to the Champs Alysee to look at the beautiful light display that is set up all along the boulevard.

Me on the Champs Alysee...enjoying the lights.


Jennie on the Champs Alysee and infront of the L'arc Triomphe.


Me infront of red lights (in case you did not notice!)


This morning I slept in but managed another 8 mile run, again just before the freezing rain started to fall, as follows:

7:25, 7:24, 7:24, 7:21, 7:22, 7:20, 7:19, 7:02 min/mile

I really, really did not want to do this run. But now that I am inside, warm and out of the elements, and enjoying the Christmas tree I can proudly say that I ran 35.5 miles this week which surpasses (but just barely) my weekly goal of 30-34 miles. This week the goal is 33-37 miles.

I feel as though a am just a mere shadow of what my fitness once was just 2 months ago. I feel as though I still have the basic shape of a really fit and aggressive runner, but that the substance is lacking. I feel as though I can still 'talk the talk' but 'walking the walk' is a little more challenging these days. I just have to remain patient as I continue to build myself back up to where I want to be. It is good to be hungry - it gets me out the door when it is freezing rain and miserable out.

Oh yeah, as a complete aside, I read Edgar Allan Poe's "Mystification" yesterday. I am not really sure what I am supposed to take-away from that particular short story. It definitely did not move me like "The Pit and the Pendelum". If anybody could shed some light, that would be useful.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Dec.12: 1 week until Christmas Va-cay

It is pretty sweet that I only have 1 week of work left before 2 weeks off for Christmas va-cay! Boy how time flies! I was also thinking today out on my run how we are almost at the shortest day of the year already! It seemed just like yesterday that I was enjoying running at 9pm with the sun still up, and now I am already enjoying the sunset every "night" at work at 4:45pm!

Right now we are watching the Grinch. What kind of product to you think the Who's use to keep their hair styled? Their hair is always perfect and some of the styles need some serious glue to keep them intact. Anyhow, we are at the point where the Who's realize that all of their gifts are gone but continue to celebrate Christmas anyhow much to the Grinch's bewilderment.

"And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
Maybe Christmas he thought, doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Tonight I managed to run 7 1/4 miles as follows:
7:25, 7:25, 7:19, 7:18, 7:17, 7:11, 6:25 min/mile

Right now my absolute favorite song to run to is John Mayer's "Say" . Actually, it is just one of my favorite songs - but when you are just running, reflecting, and in your own solitude, it is just the perfect song to propel one leg infront of the other.


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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dec.11: Big Day!

Today was a big day for me! No, I did not run, or even exercise for that matter. I woke up early, caught a plane to Pau, worked all day, then caught a plane back to Paris. The good thing about both of these plane rides is that it allowed me to, finally, finish a little project I started about 3 weeks ago. My goal was to read George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' before meeting my family for Christmas. I have been reading nearly every spare moment during the day (on the metro, after dinner, during breakfast, and even smuggled it once into the bathroom at work...I know, even I am disgusted by that) in order to accomplish this task.

Now, for those of you who know this book you must be thinking that I am illiterate right now as the book itself is quite small and could be read in one intense session (or just a few trips to the bathroom). You are probably wondering how I could possibly have the ability to blog if it took me that long to read the book. The reason being is that the book is bilingual - the odd number pages are written in French and their translations are on the opposite, or even numbered, pages. So I read the French, trying to figure it out, then I read the english. I did this line by line for the entire book!

The cool thing about this whole exercise is that it has helped rekindle the enjoyment I used to always have for reading. Plus I think I may have learned a new french word or two! I tried reading French books before but I spent so much time looking up words and it was inconvenient to carry 3 books around with me at all times - the book itself, a dictionary, and a beschrelle (or verb conjucator book). I scanned a random page so you can see what it looks like.



The other cool thing is that the story is excellent - so it helps that I am interested, or I am sure that it would just feel like another boring french class ('cause we all know that conjucating verbs is so very sweet). As I was focusing more on the language aspect of the book, and not so much on the fact that it is a clever allegory of Stalinism, I would like to re-read again sometime and brush up on some of my Grade 11 social studies so I can focus more on those aspects.

No running yesterday (but 1 hour of pilates) or today (because I was trying put a baguette on the table), but will be back at it tomorrow night!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dec. 9: A Tale of Two Runs

It was the underdressed of times,
It was the overdressed of times,
It was the run of foolishness,
It was the run of smartness,
...

During the last two days I have run the exact same 6 mile loop twice. The first time I had a layer or two of clothing too little and the second time, I was a layer or two of clothing too heavy. The first time I forgot to factor in the blustery, cold wind and found that my short shorts and my long-sleeve technical shirt did little to prevent it from whipping through my body like a Gulf Coast Hurricane.

"Being smarter" for the second run, I donned a windbreaker and wind pants...this would be a good strategy if there was a repeat of the same arctic wind that had moved through a day previous. Instead, the extra clothing acted as my own personal sauna, as though I was just running in normal conditions in Houston. It was not like I was running in August, but perhaps early spring!

Nor was I overdressed like the person who finishes a 5km with 4 GUs, a fanny pack loaded with pain killers, and 2 sweaters and a jacket tied around their waist at the finish line because they had no idea of what they were getting themselves signed up for, but you would think that they would learn from their 1 fun-run that they do every 5 years (Ok, I digress...but you know who I am talking about...oh yeah, I almost trampelled their kid too because they were lining up at the start line for a "photo op").

So anyways, here are the splits from the two runs. The first one it is clear that I had a purpose the entire time - I just wanted to get home. On the second one I just took it easy and ran as Jack Daniels would prescribe.

Hell Just Froze Over Run:
7:15, 7:03, 7:04, 6:56, 6:46, 6:56 min/mile

Detox Run with home-made sauna:
7:33, 7:22, 7:27, 7:21, 7:24, 7:26 min/mile

Gotta run...Jammin' out to Trans Siberian Orchestra and this blogging is really interfering with my sweet, sweet air guitar.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dec. 7: Trente Miles cette semaine

After beaucoup amounts of wine last night, sleeping in past 10am, and after writing Christmas cards, I went our for a very uninspiring 6 miles. The only reason why I peeled my lazy butt off of the couch and into the cold, foggy elements was because my goal was to run 30 miles this week and as of this morning I was 6 short. If I am going to run another marathon I better start thinking seriously about building a base again! Actually, "thinking" about it is not this right word to use, I better just friggin' do it!

So, I am back our warm place, enjoying our massively large, Texas-sized 3 foot tall Christmas tree (heavy sarcasm)...but I am truely enjoying it! I could look at a Christmas tree all day...I find it very mesmorising and peaceful...kinda like a sweet, sweet rock garden!

I am a little bummed that we had to go back to using our first artificial tree from our earlier years...I much prefer the big, live ones that you can smell from a block away. With our travel schedule this year it just is not practical. But it really is not about the tree itself, it is about who you enjoy the tree with, isn't it?

My 6 uninspired miles were as follows:
7:30, 7:16, 7:18, 7:10, 7:09, 7:06 min/mile

TOTAL WEEKLY MILEAGE: 30 miles (goal: 30-32)

I am looking forward to doing it all again this week (goal: 30-34).

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dec.6: Oh Christmas Tree

We are just in the process of putting up our Christmas tree, drinking red wine, and acting important so I will keep this short. I ran again tonight...another 6 miles in crisp, cool, and near perfect conditions as follows:

7:21, 7:17, 7:02, 6:51, 6:26, 6:36 min/mile

I started throwing in a few strides in the last 2 miles. The time and duration of each stride was dependent on when I could see that traffic light ahead of me and how confident I felt that I would be able to beat it!

This week has felt really great so far for running. I hate the fact that I have to build up to 40+ mile weeks again when just 2 months ago 60 mile weeks were something that just seemed to happen naturally. Patience is not one of my strong suites, which explains my splits this week being faster than intended, but I am trying desperately to reign the horses in until it is time to open the chutes...at any rate, I am enjoying having consistent running back into my routine.

Time to go, I think that this whine is starting two get too mee...ef im not care full I mite start makeing sum tairible spilling mestakes.

Z-

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dec. 5: Perfect Running Weather

You know that it is perfect running weather when you leave the house wearing shorts, a long sleeve technical shirt, and light gloves and are mildly cold for the first mile...when you return you have a just a little bit of sweat percolating from your hair and you can still see your breath. These phenomenal conditions were enjoyed for 6 miles as follows:

7:17, 7:19, 7:12, 7:13, 6:57, 6:25 min/mile

The last mile is a bit of false advertising - I started the mile with ~400m of 'strides' then I recovered the rest of the way home.

Today while I was running I suddenly realized that in 2 weeks from today I will be leaving Paris to meet my family in England for Christmas. I started getting really excited about all the things that we would do! I found that the thing that I am looking most forward to is joining my brother on his longest long run before his first marathon in Houston! I am really looking forward to having someone else in the family who will fully understand the struggle, the pain, and the accomplishment of the marathon!

That is all for tonight...I am totally hooked on Prison Break!

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dec. 4: Go Elf Yourself

Does this really need a comment?!! Enjoy!
Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dec. 3: Christmas Post 3

Today I did a sweet, sweet hour of Pilates. Then I came home and got hooked into another killer episode(s) of Prison Break. I have just began to watch Season#1 on DVD and I am kicking myself for waiting this long to jump on the bandwagon...what a great show! The only thing that I do not like about the show is that my body is really tense by the time that it finishes...I, generally, have to stretch afterwards to keep from tightening up!

Just a friendly reminder not to forget to set your TiVo to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer! I do not know when it will be on, but 'tis the season!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dec. 2: Christmas Post #2

During Christmas time I have to admit that I always look forward to when my Christmas Shuffle Playlist selects a Trans Siberian Orchestra tune. I think that they do such a awesome version of traditional Christmas songs. As it turns out, they also provide great music to coordinate your Christmas lights too! (I know this has been around for several years, but I just love it!)

Dec. 2: Dave be nimble, Dave be quick...

...Dave jump over a 10m long dog leash stretched across a dark section of the running path at the last second to save himself from falling flat on his ass...

hmmmm...I may have got that last little bit of the riddle wrong?! I was running along, feeling the rain drizzle against my face, the gusty cold air blasting my legs, and running through my own cloud of breath with each exhale when I noticed a dog off to the side of the pathway. I looked for his owner and saw none...I made the "save" assumption that the dog was off-leash, so I continued my stride without delay. I continued upon the dog when suddenly, deep in the depths of my peripheral I saw what looked like a human form, moving in panic towards me. An instant evaluation of what I was about to do led me to jump, without even looking down to confirm my suspicion that there was, indeed, a dog leash 1 1/2 feet above the ground acting as the perfect trap for any unsuspecting runner. I felt the leash just brush the front of my shin as an unplanned shot of adrenalin shot me to safety...narrowly preserving my run just as it was beginning to get good!

I ran another 6 miles today in the rain, cold, and wind as follows:
7:25, 7:10, 7:13, 7:03, 6:59, 7:13 min/mile

Well, I am a whole 12 miles into a new training program and I still feel good!! Woohooo! (Please note heavy sarcasm).

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Dec.1: Christmas Blog

So my sister has started this initiative in my family that we have to 'scrapbook' one page per day from Dec.1 - Dec.25 and create a little Christmas 2008 Book. The idea is that over the years we can see the themes of Christmas, our celebrations, what moved us, etc (I think that this is the point of this exercise...when she starts talking all 'artsy' with me, my eyes kind of glaze over like a nice honey-baked ham and I drift into a walking coma of sorts).

In Paris there are two major department stores (Galleries LaFayette and Printemps) that have extremely elaborate window displays (like Macy's in New York). The displays are timed to music, have moving components, and are generally themed. Below was one of my favorites of a bunch of 'men' flying too and landing on the moon. What made this display so cool for me was that there was one little guy that would stop what he was doing every 5 seconds or so and just flex his bi-ceps...I thought it was hilarious!



What is also pretty cool is that each window had a little walkway specially built for the little kids so they could climb up, press their little runny noses against the windows, and watch open-jawed as the little store window tickled their imaginations and fantasies! When the little kids were around I think I enjoyed watching them more than the windows!

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Dec.1: Blog Motivation?

When I first started out writing this little electronic running journal, referred to as a "blog", I thought that it would be something that I would look back upon when I needed motivation and go, 'Oh yeah, I totally rocked that workout!' or something like, "Man, I grinded through that run - what an accomplishment!". But instead I find myself going, "Daaaammmmnnnnn...that workout sucked! I cannot believe I actually did that?!" and then saying, "Who would ever WILLINGLY do something like that?!!"

Well, I guess I did! And here I find myself again staring down the barrel of another training season looking for a little motivation to do it all over again! Thank you to my main man Andrew (aka JD, aka White Gebrselassie) for reminding me that Phase I of my Prague training officially started 1 week ago! Phase 1 of training is nothing complex - just run, run easy, and start building up to 35-40 miles/week after 6 weeks. Last week was week 1 and I did 0 miles! But I am not too worried because that is exactly how I started my Berlin training! I think I am like a locomotive...I am a very slow starter, but once I start generating a little steam, you better get off the tracks! Chuga-chuga, chuga-chuga, chooo-choo!

Week 2 has started a little better - I ran 6 miles today as follows:
7:31, 7:31, 7:15, 7:13, 7:14, 7:09 min/mile

I have also decided that since this is a new training season that I will discontinue my tranny count. The decision is based on the fact that some people are starting to find my blog based on 'tranny google' queries. I find that we runner's are a wierd enough batch as it is that we do not need to complicate the issue by adding the tranny lover's clique!

I am still undecided as to what my goals will be for Prague. I had stated earlier that I would like to qualify for New York using my marathon time, but I have some other plans of what I want to do while here in Paris. They are not at all running related, but they do require me to be in shape. They would not allow me to train as I would require. I am not going to get stressed about making any decision now - I have 5 weeks of easy running to figure out what my commitment level will be for Prague.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nov. 29: Bievenue a Paris Papa!

Today was my dad's first full day in Paris so we decided to show him all the main highlights, L'arc de Triomphe, Champs Alysee, Louvre (including Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and my favorite painting - The Raft of Medussa), Eiffle Tower, then dinner at Montmartre. The best way to see all of this is by, of course, bike!
Dad, Jennie, and my sister getting ready to cruise!


My sister, dad, and Jennie approaching the L'arc de Triomphe. Dad wants you to take note of his Lance Armstrong form (He says that you will just have to trust him that his yellow jersey is under his warmup jacket!)
Dad and I at the L'arc de Triomphe.
Me infront of "The Raft of Medussa" at the Louvre. This is one of my top 2 paintings in the Louvre. That speck in the bottom right corner is me (for scale!). I do not have time as to why I love this picture...we will have to save that for another post.
My sister, Jennie, and I crossing the Pont de La Carrousel...the top of the Eiffel Tower is in the background.


The Eiffel Tower - lit blue to represent the blue of the EU flag (12 gold stars are on the other side, which makes the Tower look like the EU flag)


The Eiffel Tower sparkles for 5 minutes at the top of each hour.
Jennie and I in Montmartre - The Sacre Coeur is in the background.
Dad infront of the Moulin Rouge...he was a little disapointed that the dancers were not performing outside today!
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Nov.28: BLACK Friday

LET'S GET READY TO RUUUUUUUUUUMBBBBBBBBBBLE!!

For those of you, you, you, ou, u
Who, who, who, ho, o
Are going, going, going, oing, ing, ng
Shopping, shopping, hopping, opping, ing, ing

Good Luck, luck, luck, luck....!!!!

(The above is meant to be read as though you have that cool echo effect going on in your head...and if possible, try to put a little growl to your voice (kind of like a DJ who was out smoking all night) for the true effect I am trying to go for here. It is meant to convey the level of intensity that you will need shopping today!)

On other news, my dad is arriving in Paris today for the first time ever! I am really excited to see him and show him around a little! He is bringing my road bike, which I am VERY excited about! I already have a few weekend trips planned around France to tour by bike (Did anyone say the Loire Valley?)!

Ok, I have procrastinated not going to work long enough. You guys keep it real today and remember that, perhaps, that $3 DVD player may not be worth an assault charge why you are fighting the masses at Walmart...

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nov. 23: Not Running

This morning I had every intention of getting up early and heading out for another glorious morning run just like I had experienced yesterday. It was critical that I get my run done first thing since I will be travelling to the south of France later today for work (tough work - but someone has to do it!). Yet, here I am sitting in my apartment all alone while Jennie is out bagging another run. What gives?!

It seems that lately Jennie has been slacking on her Friday and Saturday night wine intake. This means that I have to pick up the slack to finish off whatever wine bottle(s) may have been opened. It would be offensive to the French if I left some of their finest wine unfinished...no?! Yep - I hope she is enjoying her run as much as I enjoyed the wine!!

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nov. 22: A beautiful day

Today I woke up and did something that I do not normally do - I ran first thing! What an awesome way to start the weekend! It was crispy and the sun was just high enough to cast long shadows across the pathways that seemed to dance to the same rythym of my pace today. I ran 7.5 miles as follows:

7:31, 7:29, 7:28, 7:29, 7:28, 7:30, 7:25, 7:30 (last 0.5) min/mile

I just love these runs where you just lock into a pace, get lost in your thoughts, and before you know it you are back at your door.

Now we are just getting ready to go storm Paris by bike!

ps - The last 2 days I spent in cultural training and they showed us this video to highlight the differences (and importance) of language...I thought it was hilarious!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nov. 20: TMI?

So, after over 30 years of negligance I finally broke down this week and did some "hair maintenance" on my chest. When I was living in the colder northern climates I found that it was quite advantageous to be born with a natural sweater...in fact a hairy chest such as mine was viewed as a favorable genetic mutation...kinda of like an 'X-Man' quality. I was even referred to by some common X-Men names such as 'Wolverine', 'Sabretooth', and 'Beast'. You can also thank genetically advanced people such as myself for the whole Bigfoot myth - look at all the entertainment my people have provided!

Then I moved to Houston where my natural sweater was no longer an advantage...especially during the hot 'n humid summer months. But this is when I started running and the resistance training proved to be invaluable! Infact, during hurricane season I could just stand outside with no shirt on and let my chest hair catch all the flying debris to keep my neighborhood safe.

Plus the Yeti was something new to the local Texan folk since it is normally found high in the Himalayas feeding on inexperienced ice-climbers and yoodlers. I proved to be an attraction...kinda of like the type you see at the circus (but not the good circus, the kinda seedy - don't bring your kids to the performance - type circus!)

Lately there have been no curious crowds willing to pay 50 cents to see me, the bearded lady, and sword-swallowing midget so I found that I was the one becoming curious...I was curious as to what my belly button actually looked like? I knew that it still excisted deep below the carpeted hair forest because I could still feel its general shape below the turf! To cut a long story short, I can now see my belly button!

Yeah...definitely TMI...and definitely another good day in Paris!
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nov. 18: Oh yeah...this is a running blog

Although it is only Tuesday, this is a great week! For starters, when I rolled out of bed on Monday morning and looked out my window I was greeted with this sunrise over the Sacre Coeur:



And on Thursday and Friday I am off work to attend Cultural Training! Ok, to be honest I am not sure what I would rather do...work or attend the training. But I am pretty sure that I will have a steady supply of croissants and pain au chocolats to keep me entertained...we shall see!

And to make this week even better, I have actually been running again lately (hence the title of this blog)! I ran 6 miles on Sunday night with Jennie at ~ 9 minute/mile pace.

Yesterday I was leaving work to catch the metro only to discover that the metro was on strike and that all of Paris seemed to be jammed into the metro station trying to catch the 1 train that was running every 20 minutes. "No problem," I thought - like any well planned runner I have a pair of running shoes, shorts, shirt, and clean socks in my office, "I can just run home." And run home I did and it was a BLAST!! It has been a while since I have done serious urban adventure running - I usually avoid it due to the threat of injury or the fact that my legs are just too brittle from extensive training to do some of the maneuvering required to jump obstacles, side step people, and hang fakies when blasting over 5-6 stairs at a time! But yesterday I was just a running fool...now I just need to perfect the army roll while running mid-stride - that would look so cool to do randomly infront of a group of people and just keep running without breaking stride afterwards!!

Today I ran 6 miles in what I believe the Kenyan Way people would call a "progressive run." I had no intention of doing this but once my feet hit the pavement I just let them make the decisions for me. This was not an easy run, nor was it an overly hard run, but it was a GREAT run! It went as follows:
7:30, 7:13, 7:04, 6:39, 5:52, 5:43 min/mile

I have had to restructure my running route to follow alongside lit roads now since it is dusky by 4:45pm and dark by 5:00pm. Since I do not start running until 7:30-8:00pm, I run in search of light! My usual running routes are a little too dark and I believe are used for extracurricular tranny activities during this time of year (2 sightings tonight). My new 6 mile running route is below - it just pains me to see all those beautiful pathways inbetween that I will not be able to run along until next spring sometime!



Speaking of running in darker conditions though - does anyone notice how super dilated their eyes get when coming in from a, generally, dark run. It is obvious why...but after my run today my pupils were huge - I scared myself when I looked into the mirror!

Tomorrow is pilates...going to get my stretch on...sucre!
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

You think you are having a bad day?

This guy just accidentally sat on the sharp end of a tree stump...naked! OUCH!

Nov. 15: Parc Montsouris


Another fun-filled day was spent cruising the streets of Paris by bike on the Velib! Today we rode south to Parc Montsouris. It was originally called Moquesouris (mouse mockery) not without cause as the abandoned windmills of the barren plain were devoid of grain - even for the mice. It was a Parc designed by Napoléon III and Baron Haussmann to give Paris large green areas at its four cardinal points (this one being the southern point).

Nov. 16: The Louvre

Today we spent a few hours in the Louvre. I have a free pass to go anytime I want so we generally just pop in for an hour or 2 at a time because, who am I kidding, I can only process so much in a museum during a given time. Perhaps it says something about me that my attention span for a museum is less than that for a crappy teeny-bobber movie? At any rate, we decided to visit the German, Flemish and Dutch Paintings. Here are some of my highlights:


The Beggars (Pieter Brugel the Elder)
1568
This is a very small picture. I found it quite amusing. Apparently it could be a social satire where the beggars represent different classes of society that are on their way to destruction. The classes are indicated by their headgear: a cardboard crown for the king, a paper coiffe for the army, a beret for the bourgeoisie, a cap for the peasantry, and a bishop's mitre for the church.

The Village Fete (Peter Paul RUBENS)
1635-1638
This picture depicts what I want to do every weekend...eat, drink, dance and be merry with the ones that you love! Apparently, the landscape was painted ~15 years prior to the rest of the painting. The feast is most likely representing the end of the harvest (as noticed by the sheaves of wheat in the foreground). My favorite thing about this painting is the pig's snout poking out of the sty in the bottom right - this is a symbol of gluttony, which is meant to empahisize the picture's moralist intentions.


The Baptism of Christ (Cornelis van Haarlem)
1588
I just found that the actual part of the picture showing the baptism gave me a very eerie feeling - it just seems so dark and cold. If you look above the baptism you will see a dove flying towards you - I suspect that this is representative of the Holy Ghost.


The Slaughtered Ox (Rembrandt Harmenzoon van Rijn)
1655
There are a lot of things one can interpret from this painting ranging from how a once powerful beast has been brought to death not by his own wishes but by those of others. Now he hangs in the same form as Christ during the crusifiction and like Christ, eating his flesh will provide nourishment and salvation to those that eat it. The woman in the background has a slightly bowed head, almost giving respect and honor. Or it is just a dead Ox...you choose!


The Lacemaker (Johannes Vermeer)
1665-1675
This was my whole motivation to going to the Louvre today...I really wanted to see this painting. The book to her right is likely the bible and highlights Vermeer's fascination of combining everyday objects around him into his paintings. I found this picture very peaceful - by being drawn into and focused into the task in which she is very clearly concentrating on gave me the same comfoting feeling I have when working on similar tasks (i.e. making a model as a kid). The picture is done to center our attention on her painstaking work as it is focused and shown in great detail. You notice that other elements of the painting, such as the white and red string coming out of her sewing cushion on the left, are drawn in almost abstract dribbles of paint.
I hope you enjoyed some of these as much as I did!
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I totally want to go to Canada now....

Lately in the Paris Metro stations I have noticed an abundance of advertisements for Canada. It is not uncommon to see country advertisements in the Metro and to be honest, I often find myself going, "Wow, I would love to go there someday!" However, I have to say that I am a little disappointed in the effort Canada made to promote herself. Of all the treasures that we have to boast my country could only manage to come up with the 4 posters below (I apologize for the glare of the lights). I have included rough translations for those who do not know french...


"Come to Canada so you can stay in a TeePee with no heat in the middle of winter when it is -30 degrees outside...WooHoo!"


"Come to Canada where it is so cold that even our bikini model could not pose in her full bikini. Come huddle on our rocky beaches."


"Canadians are so tough that we hike to mountain vistas barefoot."


"Spend 2000 Euros flying to Canada just so you can have a dinner exactly like you have here in Paris."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nov. 9: Cruisin' Paris

Over the last month or so Jennie and I have been slowly buillding our confidence for cruising around Paris by bike. Believe it or not, Paris is an excellent city to cycle in. When we moved I did not even bother packing our bikes because after visiting Paris before our move and seeing the traffic I figured, "No way in hell I will ride in that city!" Here it is ~ 8 months later and I have done a complete 180 - Paris is awesome to tour by bike. So, every weekend now we jump on our bikes and cruise.

The astute reader must be asking themselves, "But I thought that you did not pack your bikes?" True, but Paris has an excellent public bike system called the Velib'. I generally use it everyday to partially commute to work, but it is best enjoyed just cruisin' around Paris on a crisp autumn day!

When we cruise there usually is no real destination, but general areas of interest. Today we started by heading over towards the Place de Bastille (shown below), grabbed a coffee, and sauntered towards the Cemeterie Pere Lachaise.


A coworker of mine told me that the Pere Lachaise cemetery was her favorite place in Paris. After visiting, I can fully understand why. I have pictures below all taken from my camera phone. They do not even come close to displaying the beauty and tranquility of the cemetery.

For Jim Morrison fans out there - his grave is below. (I personally thought that this was one of the least impressive graves...it looks so unkept and, basically, like a glorified garbage can).
Below is Oscar Wilde's grave. After learning more about him on my recent trip to Dublin, I was curious to see his grave. It was not what I expected. I thought it was quite interesting that his admirer's kiss his grave with bright red lipstick (look closely and you will see plenty of kiss marks).

And alien tears will fill for him
Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.
Below is the crematorium. The two smoke stacks (only 1 visible below) sent chills up my spine.
The rest of the photos are a feeble attempt to capture the tranquility of the cemetery.












After the cemetery we rode down past Notre Dame. Here is Jennie on the Velib'. Sure the bike looks dorky, but it sure makes for a great day in the city!


Then we cruised by the Eiffle Tower. This picture was actually taken last weekend on our weekend Paris cruise.


After about 5 hours of our urban biathlon of riding and walking I squeezed in a 6.5 mile run at an average pace of 7:24 min/mile. I saw 6 trannies (sorry, no photos) and am now chillin' and looking forward to the next weekend all ready!
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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Nov. 8: Running again

Today I ran for about 7.5 miles at a pace that only Garmin knows since it decided to go into stealth mode at the beginning of the run while giving me some double-talkin' back talk about a low battery. Whatever, my garmin is dead to me now...well, at least until the battery gets recharged, then I am sure that we will kiss and makeup.

I have said it before and I will say it again. Autumn is phenomenal! And this autumn has been amazing. Today my run was nothing short of spectacular. Amazingly there are still many leaves on the trees, there is a crisp chill to the air, and there is that mysterious autumn afternoon light which sends chills up my spine when running through a wooded area like today.

Each time I go out I wish I had my camera with me to capture just how gorgeous it has been the last 2-3 weeks. But then I remember that 3 weeks ago the concrete next to the Eiffel Tower jumped up and bitch-slapped my camera into a painful and sudden death. Oddly, I was not the klutz holding the camera at the time....!!! At any rate, I think I know what my Christmas present will be!

While running today I was running across a pedestrian crossing where a fully geared cyclist (think Terminator II) was waiting for the light. He had the full body lycra, gloves, time-trial helmet (ok, not really...but it makes for a better visual effect), super-sweet bike, and well you get the idea. In Paris you know that the cyclist is either a tourist or VERY serious if they are wearing a helmet...this guy did not look like a tourist. What I find amusing though is that as we both see each other we both instantly give each other "the head nod". You know the, "hey man, I see what you are doing...and although we are different breeds, I respect what is going on over there."

I always laugh at these situations because it only seems to happen when I know that I am looking super-serious and when I see someone else who is looking super serious. I saw many other cyclists out today, but none of them in full body lycra, and none of them gave me "the nod". Oh oh...after re-reading this last paragraph an entirely new thought has crossed my mind...I am running in a park where I see a ton of trannies and only the dudes in full body lycra are acknowledging me...oh dear, I got to go and map out some new running routes...

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ps- I have not run much this week...but all my bits are starting to feel normal again...this has been a good break that will soon end...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oct.30: Misplaced Smells

Do you ever find that somethings in life are only enjoyable if you, and only you, are the one enjoying/doing it? Take, for example, whistling. That is definately something that is only enjoyed by the whistler. And normally people start whistling because they are feeling happy and relaxed or they are just enthralled in whatever it is that they are doing. It is just too bad that while doing so that they annoy everyone else around them and distract them from whatever it is that they are doing.

Another good example is the smell of certain foods. For example, I love the smell of grilled salmon with hints of lemon and herbs on it if, of course, it is coming from the plate sitting directly infront of me. But if I am about to dig into, oh I do not know, desert and the guy next to me is just about to dig in to a nice filet-o-fish, I find that fishy smell downright revolting!

Then you have the foods where the smell is NEVER good but the taste is oh so heavenly. The only way you put up with the smell is because you know that there is a delicious reward in it for you...Blue Cheese is an example of this for me. When you are eating this stuff, you know you are eating cheese...durn, it is good. I love the stuff that is half mold and half cheese...yummy! But here is the deal with blue cheese, if I am smelling the stuff, I better darn well be eating it because the smell itself is just nasty.

This brings me to the point of my blog today...I am (literally) sick of going into the men's locker room at my gym and being greeted by the strong aroma of blue cheese. It is just ripe ol', "I have not washed my gym gear in a month, but I work out hard everyday," stench. Do not get me wrong, I am glad these guys are paying attention to their fitness. In fact, I applaud them. But how do they not get naseaus (sp?) when they put their own gear on? The guy sitting next to me during spinning today smelled like an after dinner cheese platter.

In other news, my little nephew had to go to the ER the other day because he had stuffed a popcorn kernel so far up his nose that they could not get it out!! Man, I wish Uncle David could have been there for that. I bet that uncle David would have been able to get him to see just how many he could get up there!!

ps: Vic, Jennie wants to thank you for making my blog X-rated and for making her day!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oct29: Running...Again?

Weird thing happened today - I ran again! That makes 2 times so far this week!! And just like the first time, it felt great! It was a nice relaxing 6 miles around a 7:45'ish pace. It was quite chilly - I was bundled in my pants, long sleeve shirt and light jacket. I, of course, was overdressed. It is amazing that 5 years of living in Houston NEVER prepared me for "cold" temperatures such as today.

And for those of you who are wondering...no trannies! I am not suggesting that it is too cold for them to work, but perhaps their clients are to cold to...ahem...enjoy what they are paying for!

Je suis fatigue. Je vais dormer tout de suite.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oct.28: Spinning Encore

I just returned from another spinning class...good times! The biggest challenge I am having right now is calibrating my HR and intensity with each other for cycling. Now, I know that your HR is a function of many things, which is why it is a good thing to monitor it - let's you know how your body is responding to ALL stresses. I have a fairly good handle on calibrating HR to intensity while running, but cycling is a whole new learning curve for me. I guess I got to keep going so I figure it out! Empirical data to analyse and learn from can only be acheived by doing things!

Right now the TV is on in the background and "Les Simpsons" just came on. Do you remember back to when you used to read comics and you used to have a certain voice associated with each character in the comic? (Yes, I am referring to this little thing called "the imagination"). Then one fateful Saturday morning you stumble upon the TV cartoon of your favorite comic only to realize that the cartoon voices are nothing as you imagined?! I have to say that my biggest disappointed was definitely "Garfield". He was totally kick-ass in my mind but a total DUD on TV. Infact, I think I stopped reading Garfield shortly after I saw the cartoon. Anyhow, what is my point (other than being nostalgic about things that aggravated me as a 7 year old)? Well, after years of training my ears as to what each Simpson character should sound like, I may never watch another episode again after hearing how these Frenchies are butchering each character!! This show is definitely lost in translation!

I guess it is just as well...I have moved on to more mature shows such as Family Guy anyhow.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Oct 27: Dillema

So Jennie and I just finished running 4 miles together in the Parc Monceau (just a beautiful gem of a park just next to our apartment). Now I am sitting here with a bit of a moral dilemma...

After the run I had a quick shower while Jennie was putting the finishing touches on dinner. Now that she is in the shower it is my job to "keep an eye on dinner" (as it is still on the stove) and to "tend to things if need be". Now, I have been given this responsibility many times before and EACH time I find myself struggling with the same moral issue. If I let dinner burn, or go bad, or spill over, or something just this one time, then chances are that I will not be allowed back into the kitchen again for a very long time to "help out"! So, 1 bad dinner just might buy me several months of freedom!

Does this dilemma make me a bad person? I don't think so ...I know that EVERY guy out there when placed in this same situation, has the same thought! And ladies, if he says differently, he is lying!

Ok, I hear something boiling over and the smoke detector is going off...it looks like I am going to have some spare time in the nights ahead!!!

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Oct. 26: Random Thoughts

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Autumn is absolutely my favorite time of year. Many people seem to like Spring better...I am not sure why that is. I think it has something to do with new beginnings and everything is fresh...it basically ends a long winter's hibernation - it is time for mind and body to be active again. The flowers are blooming, the leaves are sprouting, and people tend to be giddy with all their pent-up energy from a long winter's grind. I like autumn because everything that was once new finally has a chance to reflect and to learn from a time past. Spring is too full of giddy energy, wondering what will be, how will things turn out, and what does the new season have in store? While autumn is briming with knowledgable hindsight - it is a time to reflect, to learn, to progress. Sure you do not get the fragant smell of new flowers blossoming in a meadow nearby (ok Houston, use your imaination) but seeing a rainbow of colors everytime you look at a patch of trees is hard to beat. Red bleeds into orange, which squeezes between vibrant yellow, while still showing hints of green, with the occasional purple hue sprinkled to keep the pallete full. Plus I was born in this season - perhaps I am biased? To add to this bias, October is by far the best month! I certainly enjoy living back in a place where I am reminded of the season for what it is, not for being something other than "hot" or "not hot".

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Happy Belated Birthday Dad! No, I do not suck as a son - I actually called on the actual day! But should I ever get stuck with short-term memory loss or some other condition that makes me forget this period of my life and I am forced to use this blog as a historical document to recap the who, the what, the where, the why, and the how, I want to know that I was one of those people that remembered things...not just "things" but the "important things."

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I have been watching too much House lately. That is quite clear by my last statement! Plus, truth be told I can only remember what I have in my Outlook calendar...and what Jennie reminds me about! Maybe I do have short-term memory loss? Did I already say that earlier??

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Two days in a row now I have seen the Paris Firemen (or 'Pompiers') out on group runs. There are about 15-25 of them all running in formation along the street. It is clear that the entire Firehall is out together, spending time on their fitness together...and it seems to work - they all look really fit. So, what happens should a call come in? No problem, 2-3 guys are driving 2-3 firetrucks/EMS vehicles behind along the street to pick them up should an emergency arise. Perhaps I should join them on their runs? The firetruck/EMS vehicles are definitely the best SAG wagon anybody could ever ask for!

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Steeeve - I think you and Andrew are right. My story is not yet complete with the marathon. Sometimes I wonder if I should be an epic story writer though - perhaps I am more adept to be writing short stories, or poems, or editorials for the weekly newspaper, or heck, even a blog? Hmmm...but those are things that you can read on the toilet...the epic novel is something you need to take with you everywhere you go and spend time focused on it if you ever want to complete it. But sometimes if you put the novel down for too long you have to go back and re-read the final chapter to get caught back up. I remember the last chapter being really, really good - time to go re-read it!

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Why can I never think of a cool Halloween costume until I move to a place where nobody would appreciate it?! (It also does not help that I have no party to show it off too!). Next time that you know that I am back in town, and it is Halloween - please invite me to your party because I gaurantee you that I will have the BEST costume there. It is retro, it is reality based, it was (is?) a cultural phenom, and only I can pull it off. Want to know more...invite me to your party!

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I have decided that one of my "to-do's" (or item to put on my "bucket list") is to own a Moped (or scooter) while living in Paris. It may not be this time I am here...but sometime. It is just way too cool not to do that while I am here. After consulting with my brother-in-law we have decided that it would be best done with a total retro looking bike. I am thinking an WWII looking scooter painted in army green with a side car. While driving I will wear goggles like parachuters wear. I guess we all have dreams...I am going to hold tight to this one! (But perhaps I should think of a few back-up plans incase this one does not work out as I hope!)

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I do not have a "bucket list" or a "100 things to do before I die list". I will not make said list because I think I takes away sponteneity. But by saying that I am NOT going to do something one might argue that I WILL do something - it is just the opposite of what I said I was NOT going to do. So, in effect am I making a list of "100 things NOT to do before I die"? Is this any better than actually making a proper list?

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I do NOT want to go bungy-jumping. If I am going to pay to fall off of something, I would rather go skydiving. Plus, I think skydiving would be better for my back...no?

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I think that in nature's attempt to be ironic that the day that I finally learn French will be the last day I ever live in France. I have no evidence of this, and trust me this day is a loooooooong ways away, but I just have that feeling that I will never be completely fluent!

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Good luck to everyone running the Houston Half today! That was always a fun event...one that I miss.

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I went running today and it felt great! I ran 6.6 miles at an average pace of...who cares?! I ran and that is all that matters right now. I was able to think about everything and nothing all at the same time...can you tell?!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oct22: Update

So today I received an email from my main man JD asking me how things were coming along, if spinning was a new consistent form of post-marathon cross-training , or if, infact, my last post was just a one-hit-wonder (que "Achey Breaky Heart"). I figure I could reply directly or I could blow a little dust off this blog and write a little recap here. This blog has been a little quiet lately because there really has not been any action. Perhaps a little history is required...

Exactly 2 weeks and 3 days prior to the Berlin marathon I completed my final threshold run. It was nothing epic. It was a short workout I completed in heavy rain on the track. It was one of those workouts where you feel like a complete stud. I was in top fitness so a shortened threshold workout was easily achieved but to add icing to the cake I had a captive audience of about 12-15 other runners who were all sitting in the bleachers waiting for the rain to dissipate. "Wimps," I thought, "If you are scared of getting wet, perhaps you should have stayed on the treadmill." (DISCLAIMER: I have nothing against treadmills, but do not go running with black clouds overhead if getting wet is not your MO for the evening). My right foot was slipping a lot within my shoe, but I thought nothing of it at the time. Anyhow, I returned home, felt absolutely great about starting my taper and was confident that I made it to Berlin, injury-free.

Then I woke up...

... the next morning and the front of my shin was swollen, sore, and I could barely flex my foot to walk. I remember being amazed that a 160lb guy could actually have a cankle. I limbed around all day, and the following day, and with each passing day my dreams of breaking 3 at Berlin started to fade. But then I remembered some advice I received from Steeeve on runs taken from a not too distant past, "Once the taper starts you will not lose any fitness...the work has been done. Now is the time to make sure your body is 100% for your race." (Or something like that). And when I consulted the bible (aka Jack Daniel's Running Formula) I could even find a table the quantifies how much fitness I will lose with each day of non-running. So, I stopped worrying about it and did not run for the 2 weeks prior (except for a little Tranny Spotting tour with my boys when they arrived in Paris).

I should also add that I decided not to go to the doctor. Why? Because last time I paid 30 Euro to do squats while he checked out my form (from behind) with a typical french gaze that makes me feel as though I am being undressed by his eyes. This time I knew what the answer would be, "You cannot run a marathon this week." So, being cheap and knowing what was required I opted just to chillax.

That takes me to the marathon. I had no idea how I was going to do...all that I knew was that I wanted to run the first mile with JD and then see what happens from there. Chances are that when you let a 2:48 marathoner pace you the first mile that good things will happen to you too! Amazingly, my sore spot did not hurt during the marathon. Well, it did when I thought about it...but that is normal for the marathon.

Since the marathon I have only run 3 times because I still am having some problems (albeit very minor). I have been trying to hit the gym more often but do you know that thing that you sit on all day (rhymes with pass)? That is how I have been feeling this past week...I think I coughed up one of my lungs at the Eiffel Tower on the weekend. Perhaps it is all the second hand smoke I get here in Paris or perhaps my body is trying to tell me that it needs a little "me time" (Mani's and pedi's are scheduled for next week).

Either way, I am still enjoying the time off and am staying motivated to get running again by all the awesome results I hear coming from the Houston running community. I am glad that I am motivated to get out there soon because that thing that I have been feeling like is starting to get a little bigger!!! No more croissants for me until I start earning them again through sweat and tranny sightings!

Keepin' it real in Paris!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oct.14: Spinning Class

Before I "officially" called myself a runner, I used to do everything else but. I had very strict rules - I would never do the same exercise two days in a row and I would always make sure that I did something everyday. This meant that I spent hours at the gym doing different classes or playing squash, riding my bike, playing ultimate frisbee, and actually enjoying a happy hour or two! So, when did this all change (i.e. when did I actually start calling myself a "runner")? It is hard to say exactly...it is sort of like the first couple weeks where you are dating someone. When was the day that you actually starting "going-out"(Unless, of course, you still roll grade-school style and ask someone to be your boy/girl friend inbetween drama and english class...or better yet, get your best friend to ask her best friend if she is interested in maybe going out)). What criteria do you use to say, "Yes, we started dating on this exact date." Everyone has different criteria (which can be problematic for the dating example I just gave if the guy and girl involved have two different criteria - how on earth will you ever figure out when to celebrate each month anniversary (oops, grade school example again))!!!

Anyhow, back to my point - I think I "became a runner" when I started to buy all of my running shoes 1 size bigger to avoid getting black toe nails on long runs. There was, obviously, a large grey zone in there somewhere but I think I was just rounding second base with running when I finally made this decision (again, I am carrying my grade school example throughout this post!).

One of my favorite classes I used to do approx. 3 days a week was spinning. Today I returned...tour de france style! I am always a little aprehensive when trying new things in Paris because the language is still a big barrier for me and I often find myself in those awkward situations where you are like, "what the hell?" However, usually after you do something several times you learn to anticipate what will be said next and you are able to develop sort of a practised routine. Take going to a restaurant for example. The first time I went it was quite awkward. But over time you learn that they will ask "interior ou exterior?" (inside or out), "combien..." (how many people), "est-que vous choissisez?" (What do you want to eat), etc...you learn the routine and you fill in what you do not understand with what you think they are most likely saying and you answer accordingly. Learning a new language is more about statistical probability of what you think will happen next in any social situation, reading all non-verbal clues to support or deny your analysis, and then acting in a way consistent with the most probable outcome....well, so far it is!

Today in the spinning class they had the music pumping (awesome music too - tribal Rhianna type beats...very cool) and a colored disco ball hanging from the ceiling glowing. It was only 45 minutes but I was completely knackered at the end. I spent most of my time just watching all the other participants for clues as to what to do. But that can be problematic because if you latch on to the over-achiever in the class you will be tired a little too quickly whereas if you follow the slacker you will wonder why you bothered even coming. What was also interesting was that a lot of people loved to do cat-calls along with the music...it was definitely an interactive group!

This week I am going to try to get back to the gym a little. The Wii Fit and I are having an argument...yesterday my Wii fit age was 41 so I am giving it the silent treatment this week.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Oct. 11: It has been 2 weeks...

...since the Berlin marathon (ok fine, 13 days) and I am now outside the window of where I will not allow myself to make any future running plans. You see, I find that immediately after any big race in which you just commited 5 months of nearly every spare minute of your spare time to training for that there are a lot of emotions involved. So, I will not let myself make any rash decisions until after a 2 week cool-down, or buffer, period as to "What should I do next?"

Also looming on the horizon is an impending move to Lagos, Nigeria. My colleagues there tell me that it is a losing battle to try and outrun the mosquitoes while running in a zig-zag pattern to avoid sniper bullets and hostage taking vans. So, I am thinking that I may be finding a new fitness hobby other than running once I move (perhaps swimming - because I want to maintain my Michael Phelp's style diet!). But I cannot be living my life waiting around for my company to tell me when this move will occur. So, until I am actually boarding a plane with Malaria pills in my carry-on I will continue to look forward and make plans for my next adventure because it sure would suck to let opportunities pass you by when you could be bagging them!

So, today I have signed up for 2 new marathons:

1. GOAL MARATHON: Prague International Marathon - May 10, 2009
2. Training Marathon: Paris Marathon - April 6, 2009

With what long-term goal do I have in mind? Other than just giving me something to do in my downtime, and the fact that I loooooove doing intervals on the track by myself, I sure would like to get gauranteed entry into the New York Marathon using a marathon time. I believe this to be 2:55:00, but I am sure Steeeeeeve will correct me if I am wrong.

Phase I of Jack Daniels starts November 23.

If I anybody is interested in joining the fun, just holla!

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Oct. 7: Help!

Since last Wednesday I have been living the bachelor lifestyle. Myself, JD, and The Koz returned from Germany and left Jennie and her parents as they continued on to Italy because, let's face it, why settle for a 2 week Eurpean vacation when you can make it 3?! They are scheduled to return late this Thursday night, which means that I am starting to panic a little because this apartment is starting to look a little messy. (Actually, it 'started' looking messy on Saturday but it is only now beginning to concern me).

So, does anybody know what I am supposed to do with this stuff (picture below)? I know that the machine on the bottom left works because I have seen Jennie put dirty dishes in and, magically, pull the same dishes out (but clean) several hours later. Is there a pull-cord to get it started on the back or something? Any suggestions or advice will be useful!


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Monday, October 6, 2008

Oct6: Vive la France!

So today I was sitting in a meeting and I found myself rubbing my chin between my thumb and my pointer finger trying to look pensive, scholarly, or if I were lucky both. Usually when I try this I just end up looking confused and perplexed...However, I figure that with constant practise that one day I will master the pensive stare along with all of the appropriate gestures to suggest that I truely do care and that I am not, indeed, thinking about a beach somewhere in Maui. You would think that after 7 years of college, 6 years of work and 5 years of marriage that I would be a master by now...but no, I think I need a Sensai (think Karate Kid) to show me the way!

Anyhow, before I got distracted in that last paragraph I noticed that I had a little beard stubble. Stubble, at work...and it is not even noon yet to have my noon-o'clock shadow?! Oops, I did not shave this morning. "No biggie," I thought...but then I thought again and wondered when the last time I actually shaved for two days in a row? Hmmm...either my memory is slipping or I am sub-consciously trying to be like Brett Favre or Tom Brady (except I do not have a rocket arm with lazer precision). "Yeah, that must be it," I thought.

To distract myself I combed my fingers through my hair in another attempt to look like I was rigorously pondering a key point that was just made. Then I noticed, "Durn, my hair is long...when was my last haircut?" I only heard crickets. "Well, of course, long hair is the trendy thing these days...it shows that I am still young 'n hip," I convinced myself. To be honest with you I was starting to get a little worried...when did I stop caring?!

The first break of the meeting did not come a moment too soon because I desperately needed to confirm that, despite just turning 30, I was still hip 'n trendy and not just sloppy and forgetful. So I went and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and realized that somewhere in my travels today that the top 2 buttons of my shirt came undone as well. My chesthair was flowing gracefully in the breeze, my hair was sticking straight up and out (like a chia-pet), and my beard stubble seemed to have caught some tissue from blowing my nose earlier. Today I think that I can finally call myself an honorary French man!

A+

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Oct. 5: Test 1, Test 2...Test, test...

It has been one week since the Berlin marathon. During that week I have doing zero exercise, eating rich Bavarian food in the German countryside, and hitting Oktoberfest in Munich for the mind-warping 1 litre + beersteins. So, today I decided to stretch out the legs a little just for a little test run to assess how things truely are.

I ran 3 miles at an average pace of 7:53 min/mile. (I am glad that this is my first run after the marathon or I might be a little concerned!). Both of my little-cows (calves) were burning from the beginning, which was not a surprise since these babies were the first to go in the marathon! I did not have any pain in my right leg shin, which prevented me from running for the entire 2 weeks prior to Berlin (talk about a taper!).

It was good to feel the fresh wind on my face, light rain, and the fact that I was back in Paris! Believe it or not, I did not even look at my Garmin during my run!! I know, hard to believe, but I was running today because I WANTED to, not because I felt compelled to. I found that about 3-4 weeks before Berlin running was starting to become a bit of a chore...I find that I feel this way near the end of all intese training seasons. So, I will be taking the next couple months to give my body and, more importantly, my mind a break before the next goal (I think I already know what this will be, but I am going to try and enjoy Berlin just a little while longer before I move on! I will wait until I have to dust the finisher's medal before I look to the next horizon!)

Sadly I find myself alone today. Jennie is in Italy with her parents and my 2 virtual training partners have already returned to Houston. I already miss them and wish I could rewind a week so that we could hang out together all over again! They are 2 of the best drukens I know!

A+

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Berlin Marathon: Sept. 28, 2008

Finish Time: 2:57:45

Mission Accomplished (sub 3)!

Full updates to follow once I kick JD (aka Mr. Keller) out of my apartment and I have some more time! I think he might be ready to start writing his own training books after posting an AMAZING 2:48:21!! (Also, Mission Accomplished!!!)

Also, my man, The Koza, deserves a big shoutout for finishing his first marathon in an impressive 4:00:52! Stay tuned to see him smash that at Houston!

Later!

ps - Sorry for the lack of posts...family, vacation, and work have made it busy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sept. 7: Wolverhampton Marathon, England

"Sir, excuse me sir...ahem...sir. Sir, please step forward. SIR!"

"What?! Oh, you are talking to me?! Sorry...I was sleeping with my eyes open there!"

"No problem sir, but could you please put your carry-on in the tray along with any loose change or anything else in your pockets?"

"Oh yeah, sure, no problem."

"Your jacket sir.."

"Oh yeah, oops sorry! Normally I am a much better traveler than this! I am wither tired or need some ridalin" I said apologetically to the baggage security lady and to the other 2 or 3 people waiting behind me.

"You look tired," she replied, "have you had a long day?"

"Yep," I replied with a little chuckle as my lips curled over wryly, "You could say that I have."

"Really? What were you up to?" she asked again in a manner that was slightly beyond the realm of pleasant exchanges, but one of genuine interest.

"It is a bit of a long story...one that I would only have the time to tell you if you decided to give me a cavity search." (And that my friends is either the quickest way to gaurantee that you will be searched, or that they will laugh and send you on your way. Thankfully I never did tell her the story, but it is one that I would like to capture without the awkardness of strangers and rubber gloves).

The story starts just 48 hours earlier on Friday night where my Eurostar train was leaving the bright lights of Paris en route to London. With my sister, Michelle, and brother-in-law, Jamie, living in London, and the fact that I always look forward to returinng to english speaking countries, I rarely need an excuse to take-off to London for the weekend. However, this was the same weekend that my sister-in-law, her husband, and my neice and nephew arrived in Paris to visit. So, a VERY good excuse was required indeed! My excuse, the Wolverhampton marathon (and lucky for me excuses centered around running and running events are as good as they get in this family!).



Since we were receiving company this weekend I was sad to be travelling alone, but happy that I would be meeting Michelle and Jamie in London and that they would be joining me to Wolverhampton for the marathon. This would be my second marathon in 2 weeks. Or, as Dr Jack Daniels has prescribed, this would my second longest, long run (to use Strider terminology) in my marathon training program. So, why run 2 marathons to train for 1 marathon? Hmmm...that is a great question!

The answer is quite simple. With my 30th birthday looming ever so closely I find that I do not have the typical fears of growing old, or of getting my first grey hair on my head, or having my hair migrate south for the winter onto my shoulders and back to never return for the following summer. Instead, I am faced with the reality that my days of getting age group medals are numbered. My experience and observations in Houston have made me realize that, generally, the 30-39 age group for men is by far the most competitive. So, I have begun to make the mental transistion from running the race for hardware to running the race for the finisher's medal! Marathons ALWAYS have finisher's medals, so why not fatten the trophy cabinet by running a few extra here and there?!!

Ok, I am out of time for now...I will update later with pics, splits, HR, etc...
Final Time: 3:08:09





Saturday, August 30, 2008

Aug 24: Longford Marathon - Ireland

It was mid Sunday morning and I found myself watching the rolling green Irish landscape flash by inbetween small naps stolen from the seat of the bus taking myself, Jennie, my sister and my brother-in-law from Dublin to Longford - about 2 hours west. I looked at the others with me and saw that they were doing the same - we were all, no doubt, a little tired from the day before spent sightseeing (i.e. beer tasting) in Dublin and the early morning required to catch this bus. I dozed off again with fresh memories of the events that brought me to this particular trip.

About 20 weeks ago it was time to draft up another training schedule for yet another marathon. The marathon in the crosshairs this time is none other than the world record course - Berlin. The final training schedule was derived from my favorite passages in the bible (aka Daniels' Running Formula) and consultation with my running partner back in Houston. As a side note, I used to call my "running partner" back in Houston my "running buddy" but I have decided that no "buddy" would ever suggest some of the sick, sick workouts he has suggested to another "buddy". One such suggestion from my running partner was to run 24 miles for our long runs, in which we have 2 scheduled for Berlin. Like most things suggested between "buddys" (remember that before this training started that he was still my buddy) this suggestion seemed like a good idea at the time!

A sudden jolt from the bus awoke me from my slumber. It was 9:50am - we were almost at Longford. I had decided to run my first 24 miler within a marathon - this way I was gauranteed a supported route and a mental break from running loop after loop over my usual running routes back in Paris. The Longford marathon was choosen because it was close and fell on the date pre-determined in our training schedule.

I arrived in Ireland a day earlier to meet up with my family and to explore Dublin. We started the day taking a bus tour around Dublin. Making notes along the way as to where we would like to retourn. Once we reached the Guiness brewery, however, no notes were required - all that was required was an immediate disembarkment (plus it was just starting to rain and we were on the top of the uncovered bus!).

Here is Michelle, Jamie, and Jennie being the cool kids and sitting in the back of the bus in Dublin town.


The Guinness brewery tour was really interesting. It took several hours before we found ourselves at the end of the tour in the Gravity Bar (the highest bar in Ireland) enjoying a sweet, sweet mixture of hops, barely, water, and brewer's yeast. I figured that with my long run planned for the next day that a few pints of Guinness would be perfect carb loading. Or, perhaps I am just a sucker for advertisement and was convinced by the statements made in Guinness's first Newspaper advertisement (shown below). The statement that "Guinness builds strong muscles" had me asking for more!



Similar advertising continues to this day on the streets of Dublin!


10 million pints of Guinness are drunk everyday - here Jennie and I are in the Gravity Bar making our contribution to that total!
In fact, doctors used to prescribe Guinness to their patients! Knowing that it was "just what the doctor ordered" we continued to a local pub called Ryan's for more! There I ate beef-stew...a typical pre-race meal...no?!
Back on the bus, we had finally arrived at this sleepy Irish town called Longford (population ~ 9000). With only 45 minutes to go before race time I started to get concerned of whether or not my dietary choices from the day before would affect my running. Or more importantly, what about my dietary choices this morning? With nothing open for breakfast (and me just not not taking this run seriously I neglated to pack anything) I was able to find some high octane fuel in the form of an egg 'n cheese McMuffin and a Snickers bar. Now, if an Egg 'n Cheese McMuffin can sit under those heat lamps for months without changing or going bad, it makes you wonder just what kind of acid one needs in their stomach to break them down. Maybe I should have a banana too so I at least feel like I am doing something right?!

Jennie and I eating the breakfast of Champions...I'm lovin' it!
After getting my bib and working my way into the crowd packed tighter than a sardine can the gun sounded and we were off (and here in Europe the smell is generally the same as a can of sardines as well)! The plan - just run 7:15-7:30 pace and repeat (26 times to be exact).
I started off trying to run at this pace and was, generally, successful. It was quite fun - just running and soaking it all in. With each passing mile I just kept feeling better and better so I decided that just as long as I could chat with whoever was running beside me, then my effort level was probably ok. The problem with this strategy was when I started running next to a big Polish guy who, apparently, had the same strategy...boy, people like us are really annoying! After trying repeatedly to get him to go ahead of me (instead of running me into the ditch), I decided to pick up the pace and to just get on with this run.
Now, if I may take a second, one of the main reasons that I never really got into blogging (until recently) was that I was always impressed by reading other people's blogs with their detailed (step-by-step) accounts of their races. I often wonder, "How in the heck do they remember all that stuff? How can they tell the difference between what happened at mile 9 and mile 11?". So, not trying to be someone I am not, here is my race summary:
11am - Race start
11am - 2:04:40pm - Some heavy rain, annoying Polish guy, a neat town called Roosky, a spectular trail along a lake, a decision to accelerate while still keeping the effort level low.
2:04:40 pm - Race (for me) finish
And all of that, occured somewhere along this path! The start (Longford) is in the bottom right; Roosky is the northern most point; and yes, it was basically a route all through the countryside.
Here I am at the finish.


It don't mean a thing if ya ain't got that bling...me and my medal!
My splits were as follows:
1-5: 7:06, 7:05, 7:18, 7:23, 7:25 (36:19)
6-10: 7:14, 7:08, 7:10, 7:09, 7:13 (35:55)
11-15: 7:11, 7:10, 7:05, 7:06, 7:02 (35:34)
16-20: 7:00, 6:58, 6:52, 6:46, 6:52, 6:56 (34:31)
20-25: 6:56, 6:58, 6:52, 6:46, 6:43 (34:17)
26 - 26.2: 6:36, 1:23 (7:59)
Total chip time: 3:04:40
For those of you more visually inclined, here is my HR and Pace chart. My HR was very well controlled until I decided to pick up the pace a little around mile 14. After that, it was just a steady incline up. This is another great reminder for me as to why negative splits (if you can plan it) is the way to go - you minimize the time your body has to spend working!
This chart is my pace shown relative to my overall average pace.
My marathon PR is 3:04:38 (Mobile, Alabama) - this marathon was just 2 seconds slower! I am not at all bothered by that - PR'ing was not an objective of this workout. Sure, perhaps I ran this training run a little harder than I should have, but I am blame Guinness!