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May 2017

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A little behind in my run reporting here...but it's Christmas and I am on HOLIDAY (as in I even disabled my work email account on my mobile devices and closed the client on my laptop) so here is a giant catch-up.


After the Silvesterlauf (14 Dec) my legs *hurt* on the Monday, and they weren't much better Tuesday. I had to go to Venice for a work trip at the end of the week, and I had figured that the schedule would be too packed for running to be a real option, but there is nothing like a marathon entry to concentrate the mind about keeping the running going.

So that's why on the Wednesday (after teaching my last class of the term YAYYYYY) I was walking out the office door at 13:45 (ending a conversation with a sort-of-employee as I grabbed my coat and such) to make the train to get home...to find that it was utterly pissing it down in Zürich, and cold, and I had to run anyway. 9.1km, 51:25, ending at Sophie's school where I was pretty much FREEZING by the time the tram came, and we were both pretty wet. (At least she had a raincoat.)

And it's also why I decided I had to try to run in Venice one way or another. I asked the U&R coach if this was even possible (she lives in Italy and helps to organize the Venice marathon so she should know) and she suggested a fairly short but scenic route, which I took (mostly) on Friday morning. If you have ever been in Venice then you know how it is pretty much impossible *not* to get lost in all those little alleyways with hardly a continuous road among them. So I was going the way I thought I should to the bridge across the Grand Canal, and saw an enormous domed church on my side that I didn't expect, and thought 'wait is that St. Mark's?' but of course it wasn't. Even so, when I got to the church there was an open piazza so I started running, and chanced it with keeping the running going back through all those alleyways (at least I am pretty good at retracing my own path) and through more alleyways on the correct side of the Grand Canal before I got to the Piazza San Marco. Literally as soon as I got to the end of the Piazza I saw two runners stretching, and I saw about ten more runners as I ran along toward the Biennale gardens, and for all I know they just all disappear into thin air the minute they turn away from that big open waterfront. 7.9km, 48:18 - rather slower than Wednesday but no wonder with all those canal bridges, tourists, and handcarts.

I had come to Venice to give a talk to a workshop about classical philology, along with my former Leuven boss. I am also now that much more known to a bunch of Italian philologists of greater or lesser eminence. One of them is very outspoken with his support for a very conservative view of the field, and of course the use of computers (which is among the things I do) is not conservative in the least, so I was pleased that we managed not to fall into any obvious traps for the unwary non-conservative.

This was always going to be a quick trip - my patience with travelling, not to mention Mike's and Sophie's, has been worn thin since October - and when I saw that three of the four talks on Friday morning were to be given in Italian, and the fourth would be after I needed to leave for the airport anyway, I decided to blow off the workshop, get a decent amount of sleep before running, and then when I was finished and checked out of my convent hotel, having said a polite goodbye to the nuns ("Buon viaggio!" "Merci--er, danke--er, uh, grazie!") I went wandering through Venice for a couple of hours looking for Christmas gifts for my family in the USA. I found a nice pencil etching of a canal scene for my dad, a handmade hand towel for my mother, and a calendar full of cat pictures for my inlaws. :) They all went into my bag and back to Zürich with me, where I took them straight to the airport post office so they *might* even make it to the States by Christmas.

And then Saturday morning I met up with Maike, for our last 'free' run before we hand over our lives to marathon training for the next four months. I'd seen a "4x20 in progression" on some other marathon logs, and thought that 4x20 sounded great and I didn't really care whether there was progression, so that's what we did. 14.2km, 1:38:00. In total that was 31km for the week, which is about what I'd been doing for a week of 10K training, just in 3 runs rather than 4.

And then we came to the UK for Christmas, though even that was looking a bit dodgy there. Since our lives can't ever be simple. Right before her birthday on the 9th, Sophie came down with a fever; that was gone (just) by the day itself, but she spent the rest of the week being very tired and lethargic. Then at the beginning of this week she seemed to be her old self, and then what should appear but...spots. But they didn't itch (yet?) So Mike and I were on tenterhooks waiting to see if we were dealing with a full-blown case of very slow-onset chicken pox, or what. There were a few more spots when I returned on Friday evening than when I'd last seen her on Wednesday evening, but she still wasn't scratching them and there was no sign of fever. So then on Saturday there weren't any new spots, and by Sunday - our travel day - they were going away, so I think this makes the second painless spotty rash Sophie has had that didn't turn out to be chicken pox. At any rate my primary fear was to get to the gate at the airport and have her start loudly complaining that her spots are all itchy and she's hot :b and at least that didn't happen.



On Monday, proper marathon training kicked off. Weird but true: it's kind of a relief to start. I have put myself firmly back into the hands of the U&R coach, Julia, and she tells me when to run and how fast to run and I just go do it (okay, sometimes I go *gulp* first) and I know that I'll give it my best shot and it will all be fine. I know there are some pretty mind-bendingly hard runs ahead of me, but all I can do is try, right?

As it happens I'm starting marathon training on roads that are pretty unfamiliar to me, in the city of Leamington Spa where Mike grew up. It isn't exactly flat here in the Midlands, although there aren't mountains or anything. Last time I ran around here, two Christmases ago, 3K was a really long way. Funny how things change.

I was super tired when I woke up on Monday, but I was also on a fairly tight schedule to get to Oxford in time to have lunch with a Byzantinist colleague I was introduced to over email, so I had to drag myself out the door first thing. Mercifully, it wasn't quite first thing - the sun doesn't rise until after 8am so that gave me a good 30-45 minutes of having a great excuse to just sit there for a few minutes longer. But I went, and managed not to get lost, and found the hill that Mike had suggested for strides. I mis-programmed my Garmin so that it thought I was doing 2 reps instead of 10, so I had to do my own accounting for the following 8. It's just as well I'm so good with numbers, because the method of going down the alphabet totally doesn't work for me - I tried, but would only hold onto (e.g.) thinking about the 'E' animal for about 1/3 of the hill before my mind wandered, and if I remembered it all the way to the top then it was guaranteed to be gone by the bottom. Also not helped by my simultaneously trying to keep count and plan out what the next few animals in the alphabetic sequence should be. In the end it was far easier for me to do the math from the lap counter on the Garmin.

And then I got home, showered, rushed off to Oxford...and realized that I'd got the lunch appointment wrong - it was meant to be Tuesday, not Monday!! So I stuffed my face at Nando's (since I hadn't had time for breakfast) and spent the next few hours in the library photographing entries in a series of Armenian manuscript catalogues that I can't get my hands on elsewhere - one of my side projects for a while now has been to collect every published manuscript colophon (i.e. notes by scribes) from before 1250, so that I can translate them and collect them in a DB and use them as a nice little historical source. It was just as well that I'd screwed up the lunch appointment, since I only got through half the catalogues in the time I had available.

Which meant that Tuesday was basically a sort of Groundhog Day. Wake up, run, go to Oxford. The main feature of this run was 3x3km in progression (meaning I should be gradually increasing my speed from beginning to end) and this time I tried out the towpath of the canal that runs through Leamington. That worked pretty well, although the bridges over the towpath are low enough that I had to duck a bit. People were just short a century ago, I guess!

Then to Oxford, again. I went a little earlier this time with a hope of getting a headstart on the remaining catalogue work, and coming back earlier, but when I walked up to the library lots of people were standing outside looking cold, because yep, the fire alarm had gone off. By the time we were let back in, I had just enough time to discover that the reading room I needed had closed a day early, unexpectedly, and to find out who I needed to beg to get the remaining catalogues from the closed reading room so that I could finish my job. A damn good thing I got there early, even though I didn't get back to Leamington until about the same time as before. By the time I returned, the brothers-in-law had arrived with their families, and Sophie really wanted some attention from her ever-disappearing mummy.

Julia gave me a Christmas present of two rest days in a row (I wager that won't happen again until April) so yesterday morning I got Mike to drive me up to Coventry where there is a running shop. I love my On shoes dearly, but they are eye-wateringly expensive for a shoe that doesn't ever seem to last more than about 400-450km. At the expo for the Silvesterlauf I had spoken to the representative at their booth, who confirmed that they are much more durable for heel-strikers, but for midfoot- or forefoot-strikers they do wear out in just about exactly the sort of distance I had noticed. So I've been thinking of looking for a normal running shoe that is fairly lightweight, and see how I do in it. Which is how I came away with a pair of Saucony Fastwitch 6 shoes. I also liked the feel of the Asics Gel DS Racers that I tried, but in the first place they are EXACTLY the same model and color as Mike's racing shoes, and in the second place he told me that they are nice to run in (confirmed) but pretty bad for picking up gravel along the river trail at home. So I'll keep them in mind but will try the Sauconys meanwhile.

And then it was a full (mad)house for Christmas here ever since. I went out this morning for an easy hour - 9.75km - to run off some of the enormous feast, and to try out the new shoes. The shoes felt pretty good (though I've got some nagging ankle pain that has been with me since Wednesday) but I've pretty much eaten all of that back over the course of today, so I guess I'll have to do Parkrun tomorrow too...?
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