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As my plane touched down in London, I was so happy to be back with my dear friend Richard once again, and eager to rediscover England and everything that it had to offer. Staying with Richard a couple of days before leaving for Germany had been only enough time for two things: to catch up since we had met during our travels in Asia earlier in the year, and to make me excited about seeing London, without having anywhere near enough time to actually see much of the city. I was determined to do quite a bit more sightseeing this time around, and after taking a break partying at wild Oktoberfest, I was motivated to try once again to continue with my training.
After my recent awkward and uncomfortable yoga class in Germany, I was convinced that I needed to take a more proactive approach towards healing, and enroll myself in another class- but this time, hot yoga. I hoped that my new experience with yoga in London (that would be taught in English this time!) might at least turn out to be more helpful than embarrassing, which would automatically be better than it was in Mannheim.
A couple of days later, I found myself quickly readjusting to the busy atmosphere of endless London crowds, and the general air of discontent throughout the city. Once again, I was riding on transportation that always seemed to take too long, next to people who always seemed to be annoyed or bothered, or generally uncomfortable in one way or another. The weather was cloudy and rainy, and the hoardes of unhappy people trudged through the streets: to work, home from work, to work, home from work, in a fluid sea of blacks, browns and greys. Somehow London seemed so much more gloomy to me after my short time at the ever-jubilant Oktoberfest, as overly jolly Bavarians and tourists alike romped through Munich wearing bright and cheery colors, with a steady and constant flow of beer in their veins.
Still, even in this comparably melancholy atmosphere of London, I was elated to see Richard again. And although I stood out pretty clearly in the crowds with an American accent and perpetual smiles, I suddenly felt at home in busy, noisy London.
I was feeling much better after walking many miles my last couple of days in Germany without pain, and I became hopeful once again that I had finally healed. And so, with eager hopefulness, the day after my arrival, I set out with my running shoes on, determined to continue with my training. I wanted to feel the steady rhythm of my shoes landing on the pavement, and my breath being taken away as I pushed myself to run harder, go faster, and continue on the course I had planned out, my own personal race track.
As I set out with my first few steps easing into a quick jog, I was giddy with excitement over finally being able to run again. I had been falling further and further behind in my training for the marathon since my injury, and as the other Team in Training participants had made their way up to twelve miles, I was left hobbling around in pain and frustration. It felt so good to be running again, and training for the first time in weeks.
But after only a couple of minutes, my happiness was forced into a screeching halt. Once again, I felt sharp pain in my hamstrings and my gluteal muscles, and as my cheerful run soon became a limping stagger, I was overcome with disappointment. I sighed loudly, and I seemed to be making a bit of a scene, (as I unintentionally found myself often doing while in London) with my almost instant shift from blissful happiness to terror to utter disappointment within seconds. I could feel the puzzled faces peering over at me from behind my slunched shoulders, and I meekly and defeatedly made my way back to Richard’s apartment. I worried that I wouldn’t heal in time to be able to run the Honolulu Marathon, as time was running out, and I was only a little over a month away from the day of the race. I hoped desperately that hot yoga would be the answer, and finally heal me of my injury.
The next day I woke at sunrise, threw on some gym clothes, and headed towards the tube station, ready to begin another yoga class. I figured it would be much more relaxing and easygoing considering it would be in English this time, and would be pleasantly warmer than the uncomfortably cool studio in the German gym. I was mistaken.
Upon arriving at the gym, I was begrudgingly greeted by a sour-faced receptionist, who demanded to know whether I wanted to purchase a single class for fifteen pounds, or a week’s worth of classes for twenty pounds. I decided to try to get my money’s worth, and pay for the week special for new members, still noting to myself how outrageously expensive it was. The woman directed me to yoga studio, and I opened the door to a room that felt nothing like an exercise studio, but instead a sauna. Shocked to find what seemed to be around thirty people taking the class at once, I discreetly picked out a spot for myself in the back row, far away from the instructor so that he might not notice my total lack of flexibility.
As I laid out my yoga mat on the floor, I looked at the crowd around me, finding many of the other people in the class to be doing what appeared to be warm-up stretches, while deep in concentration. I had no idea why this could be, considering that we would have a full hour and a half of stretching ahead of us, and the room was already a staggering 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees celsius) which would pretty much do all the “warming up” a person would need, in only a few seconds. A woman in the front row wearing a sports bra and black leggings stretched nimbly, bringing her beautifully sinewy spandex-clad leg up to her head with such poise and grace that I subconsciously cowered in embarrassment watching her. She showcased her gently toned abdominal muscles while balancing on one foot in acrobatic yogic perfection, and I became slightly bitter by her obvious need to show off.
I let out another sigh, looking at the clearly practiced individuals around me, doing their routine (and completely unnecessary) warm-up stretches as I sat nervously, while sweat beaded on my forehead in the “relaxation-inducing” heat of the room. I had been under the impression that I was supposed to find serenity through yoga, but in this overpriced, ridiculously hot exercise room, I felt only annoyed and claustrophobic- as the walls seem to be closing in on me with a powerful combination of overwhelming heat and competitive earth-yuppie energy.
Suddenly, the instructor burst into the room with more zeal and enthusiasm than I had seen from anyone throughout all of London. He introduced himself quickly while sizing up the crowd before him, speaking with what I took to be a posh London accent, with a hint of hipness. He wore a pair of black slightly clingy exercise pants (trousers for those of you from England), and nothing else. His expertly sculpted muscles shamed me and my quickly disappearing athletic-toning that I had worked so hard to create in my previous weeks of training. The muscles I had built from running before my injury were now covered by thin, soft layers of evidence of my undeniable love for food: the stewed meats and (twice daily) beer in Ireland, as well as juicy sausages with fried potatoes and even more beer in Germany. I had figured that once I started running again I would burn it all off, but the time since my last run was becoming more and more distant. But even before the class began, I may have had already lost ten pounds, through the buckets of sweat that were now dripping off my body.
As the instructor made his way to the front of the room, I noticed something strange and slightly alarming- he was wearing a microphone headset. And, before I could decide how I felt about this jazzercise-like approach to yoga, he stepped onto a small elevated stage, and shouted instructions through his microphone, immediately resembling more of a disc-jockey than a yoga instructor. I wondered, upon leaving the United States, had I entered a strange and unknown international land of yoga-fusion? I knew that the U.S. had sufficiently butchered the ancient practice of yoga quite a bit already, but it seemed that I had encountered something that proved to be even more extreme. Perhaps what I had found was a combination of the elements of yoga with a ultra-modern twist of a boot-camp fitness class, much like the way many foreign foods are melded into one super-category, such as the increasingly popular faux-culture of Asian-fusion.
I obediently followed the instructor’s directions, now feeling as though I had entered into a strange and hidden cult, as he stood looking unquestionably cool, yet idol-like on the pedestal before me, gesturing grand and impressive movements that the masses followed earnestly.
Within the first few minutes, I looked around the room, realizing that the intense heat radiating through the air was taking effect on the other class members as well. I had never seen so much sweat before, as it poured down the backs of the people around me, soaked their hair, and dripped into their eyes.
It was sweatier than both a Cambodian dance club and a gypsy punk rock concert put together (both of which I can say from experience are extremely sweaty), and I was increasingly more afraid with each moment that I would soon feel a whiplash of someone else’s perspiration hit me square in the face, as they lifted their head up, while flipping their wet hair to keep up with the quickly changing movements.
As I looked forward, closely watching the hip-hop all star yogi-Adonis guide us through the class, I noticed that the man positioned closely on the yoga mat in front of me was wearing the tiniest shorts that I have ever seen. This is saying quite a lot since I used to live in Southern California, the land of tiny shorts- and I was both horrified and impressed by how he was able to wear such small amounts of closely clinging spandex without flashing me at every single movement. He was also covered head to toe in a carpet of thick black curly hair, springing from every pore of his skin. Looking around me, I found that there were quite a few men in the room who closely resembled him in both hairiness and uniform, and I found this to be a little unsettling, considering we were all in such close proximity, and contorting our bodies in such odd and sexually suggestive ways. Somehow I had found myself inescapably involved in what seemed to be an English underground hell-themed orgy-sex cult with hairy strangers, cleverly disguised as a hot yoga studio.
In a series of quick and awkward movements, I followed the instructor’s lead, as he switched to warrior pose, telling us that we must all be warriors. His words had become golden to me, and as I copied his guided movements as one of the many sweaty and loyal sheep around me, he made me believe that I was a warrior, as he said I was. I wondered briefly if the heat was beginning to effect my ability to think clearly, but lost in the focused concentration I needed to survive, that suspicion quickly faded, and I found myself once again imitating the instructor’s movements, trying desperately not to show my extreme fatigue and discontent.
In a moment of weakness, I reached for my water-bottle, and I was caught in my mistake, as jazzercise-yogi saw me, and told me to wait, and that I could hydrate later. I felt like I was about to faint, and tried to focus on each pose, hoping that the class would soon be come to an end. Over and over again I was cruelly teased with the prospect of being finished, as he instructed us to lie flat on our backs (generally used as the last and final pose of a yoga class) and then maliciously told us to flip over, and continue with each slippery sweaty, painful pose, until finally, the class ended.
I left the studio drenched with sweat, not thinking to bring a change of clothes for my trip back to Leyton on the tube. I must have smelled horrible, but I was too tired to care. I hoped that at least my potentially putrid stench might deter the other tube riders from crowding too close to me in the train cars. An hour later, I found myself back at Richard’s apartment, and felt both oddly recharged and incredibly tired. I never made it back to the hot yoga studio that week to get “my money’s worth” of the twenty pounds I cashed out. I hoped that even though I didn’t return, this one dedicated hour and a half of intense hot yoga could bring me a little bit closer to being able to train again for the marathon.
The remainder of my stay was spent focused on enjoying my remaining time away, while trying not to dwell too much on my looming training deadlines, and my still unrecovered injury. The remainder of my stay was spent focused on enjoying my remaining time away, while trying not to dwell too much on my looming training deadlines, and my still unrecovered injury. I visited the British Museum, the National Museum and the Tate Modern Art Museum, remarking on how impressively vast each collection was, and on how Egypt must be entirely robbed of its ancient artifacts, and France, of the work of its most famous impressionists. I walked through Camden and Greenwich, Notting Hill, Knightsbridge and Piccadilly Circus, and always found more and more places I wanted to explore.
I met up with other close friends that I had also met in Asia, as always charming Mickey showed me around the city, and silly and sweet Gary came out from North London for a visit, while fun and cheeky Matt met up with us in a bar. I also met up with a few friends who had also come to Germany for Oktoberfest, (including my dear friend Charlotte, as well as the two wild New Zealand boys, Greg and Kevin,) and I wondered why I had formed the terrible habit of making such wonderful friends who live so painfully far away. It suddenly seemed that everyone lived in London but me (excepting Michaela, who was only a short flight away), and I decided that I wanted to stay forever, though my bank account was running frightfully low, and flight back to the US was quickly approaching.
The last week of my stay, Richard and I took a short trip out into the country in a quick refreshing break from the chaos of the city, staying overnight in beautiful rural Suffolk,while also passing through the charming seaside town of Southwold for a day of sightseeing. I was happy to finally able to enjoy the lovely English countryside (as I had dreamed about on the way to Germany), though I was still unable to run freely through the wild grasses, as I had blissfully imagined.
And soon, I found myself faced with my last night in London, with a plane scheduled to leave for San Francisco in the morning. That night Richard took me through all the most famous sights at once- a whirlwind of lovely and touristy old and modern London. We went up in the London Eye, and looked down at the glowing Houses of Parliament, and strolled over the Tower Bridge, and drank hot chocolate.All of this was done while trying not to count down the minutes before my imminent departure, until all the sights we could cram in one night were seen, and we were both too exhausted to continue on.
The next morning we woke at 3am, and trudged through the rainy streets hauling my three suitcases behind us to the bus stop. As though the world were trying to tell me that my time in London was not over, the steps it took to get back to the airport seemed to be filled with extra difficulties,as we missed one bus, were taken to the wrong location by another and became more and more wet from the falling rain. We finally hailed a taxi in defeat, which took us to the train station, to a train that would take us to the airport.
An hour later upon arriving at the airport, we fell upon another glitch while I made my way, zombie-like with tiredness through each remaining obstacle. I was informed that my ticket was determined to be “no longer valid,” for reasons that are still unknown to me, and my luggage was initially refused, until I promised the baggage checker to never pack so much again, if he would just let me go. And, contrary to what I had secretly hoped, it was all worked out in the end, and I was finally forced to leave this place with which I had quickly become so fascinated and enamored.
I was wearing white hooded sweatshirt that Richard had bought me as a tender joke, reading in huge black letters and a giant red heart across the front: “I ♥ London”. He told me that this gift was given to me as a way to “blend in,” but obviously in wearing it I became even more conspicuous as the lone American in a sea of British. It made me sad now to wear it, knowing I would no longer be able to make a fool of myself as a goofy American tourist in my cheesy London sweatshirt.
We said goodbye, hoping to see each other again soon, while trying not too become too sad by this painful departure, though it was impossible to hold back all my tears, as much as I tried to stay cheerful. And finally, I reluctantly made my way through security, and onto the plane to San Francisco. Sixteen hours and three airports later I was back in California, greeted with the unhappy news that my luggage had apparently refused to leave, and had been lost during my transfer in Dublin. I knew the world had wanted me to stay.
Looking out the window of my car at the foggy San Francisco Bay, I wondered nervously if I would heal in time to still be able to train for the marathon. Only a few weeks remained until the race, and I knew that if I didn’t start running again soon, I would have to forget about going to Honolulu, and give up on the marathon altogether. I hoped desperately that my injury would finally heal, and I only had one more week before it would be too late.
As we walked through the crowds and carnival stands with games and food on either side, I was both overwhelmed and happily excited to be part of such a nationally esteemed and celebrated German tradition. Being part of this overindulgent and carefree adult fantasy of the festival, I felt the curiosity of a child surge through my body, as I was eager to see what we would find in the huge beer tents around us. With the “warm-up” beer I had just devoured working its way pleasantly through my bloodstream, I was already fueled with enough alcohol to make the pain of my injury disappear, and my thoughts focused on other distractions, such as decadent food, and the wild singing and dancing I had been promised to find inside these giant white structures.
We stepped inside cautiously, at even at this point in the early evening the tent was filled with a wild array of singing, dancing and an overall atmosphere of carefree merriment, as the crowded halls were packed with the happiest bunch of people I had ever seen, in the most ridiculous and wonderful clothes anyone could ever imagine them wearing. The tent was filled with rows and rows of tables, yet no-one sat at the tables, because everyone stood on the benches, dancing, instead.
A band perched up on a large stage in the center of the tent, played Bavarian festival music interspersed with cheesy American songs that had obviously gained huge amount of German popularity, as everyone sang happily together at once such songs as, “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Sweet Home Alabama”. Eagerly, I hopped up onto a bench, bringing Charlotte and Michaela with me, and soon we found ourselves each holding a giant stein of beer, joining in with the joyous festivities of the festival. The stein was so heavy that a few times I put it down momentarily with aching arms, but only to find myself being immediately scolded by whomever had caught me in this clearly blasphemous, anti-Bavarian act. If I was going to be at Oktoberfest, I was going to be commanded to continually be dancing on benches, full stein in-hand. This was clearly a rule of the festival. After lifting the stein repeatedly to clink cups and yell “PROST!” every couple of minutes, while dancing wildly, perched precariously on benches, I decided that this could definitely qualify as cross-training.
A few beers later, and several “new friends” later, I found myself deep in the midst of Oktoberfest excitement. As the tent became more crowded, I could see that the hoards of people around me had also fallen into a amber-hued daze, due to a continual cycle of the giant beer steins being quickly devoured- and quickly replenished. Intoxicated with alcohol and wonderment, I was soon found to be leaping from table to table, smiling with a grin so big it could only mean that I was well past a point of tipsy. I waved my arms happily, dancing in synchronization with the hundreds of people around me, to the YMCA- with full and honest enthusiasm.
The next day, after sleeping in until noon, and devouring a breakfast of various meats, cheeses and bread, Michaela and I said goodbye to Charlotte, and after revisiting Oktoberfest in broad daylight (which appeared to be a completely different place) we made our way toward her home in Mannheim. I took pictures out the window as Michaela drove, and she laughed at my excitement in seeing the German countryside, as we made our way towards Neuschwanstein Castle.
Though I was able to quickly tackle the pronunciation of “Donnersbergerbrücke”, I found that every time I was about to say the name “Neuschwanstein”, I would just give up before trying and inevitably humiliating myself in the process. Luckily I had lots of practice with avoiding names, as I have suffered through countless occasions where I have been expected to know the name of someone I don’t, and have to make it through the night without them ever being the wiser. And so, we made our way up the mountain, after stopping at Hohenschwangau Castle as well, yet another name I didn’t dare try to pronounce. As we made our way through the tour group into the “English speaking” area, I began to hear mid-western American accents, and realized that touring German castles must be a popular American tourist destination.
It seemed that every which way I turned, I heard an American accent coming from somewhere-but not the kind of speech I was used to from home-this was a mix of comically exaggerated Southern drawls, and twangy vowels that I had always pegged as fictional stereotypes. I figured this kind of accent was only present in the speech a few hillbilly-types that were raised and bred through generations of unpleasant-sounding thick rough American accents, which I heard about on so and so’s trip to Oklahoma or someone else’s meandering through Alabama. But, here it was, everything I was sure was mostly just redneck myths and cowboy tales, ringing in my ears around every corner! I was instantly reminded of a show I used to watch when I was in middle school, called The Torkelsons. I figured that this was a clear sign that I needed to explore more of my own country.
Two castles later and much patriotic embarrassment later, we hopped back in the car, and finished the journey out of Bavaria, and into Mannheim.
After the walking up hills and touring around of visiting the castles with no beer to ease the pain, I was beginning to feel my injury cripple me once again, and I became worried once more that I would not recover in time for the marathon. I had remembered however, the advice given to me by the sports massage therapist in Dublin to cross train and take yoga, and so I set this as my new mission- I would take exercise classes in Germany. Michaela was determined help bring my back to full running health, so she had signed us up to participate in both yoga and spinning at her local gym. I was slightly hesitant, knowing that they would be taught in German, but decided to give it a try because I wanted to heal as soon as possible, and because I was curious about attending a gym in a foreign country, especially Germany.
I had always thought of overall fitness and stamina to be something that was regarded highly and taken seriously in all of Deutschland, and once I popped myself onto a stationary bike for the spinning class we took together, I was once again to find that another stereotype I had projected onto Germans was indeed correct. I figured that I could just keep myself unnoticed in the class, while watching other people and following what they are doing, so I wouldn’t be found out as a foreigner smuggling myself into a German class, with no idea of what anyone is saying. But sooner after I had decided that this would be my plan of action, Michaela looked over at me from her neighboring bike, and looking over my gym-wear of hot-pink nylon shorts and a loose black t-shirt with a matching pink sports bra peeking through and giggled, “Camille, you look so American!“. So much for blending in.
And then, suddenly, the class began. Our instructor was an height and slightly brawny middle-aged man with blondish brown hair, and head to toe black German spandex. I was at once amused and intimidated by this slightly comical, yet also fierce individual. Within moments, he instantly picked me out of the crowd as either new or different or ridiculous, and said some things in German to the class, and laughed, loudly. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was just saying I was new to the class, but suspicions told me he make have been making fun of my absurdly American hot-pink shorts and the blatant expression of confusion on my face. The man sitting next to me found the instructor’s hilarious as well, and chuckled heartily, perched on his bike with a similar outfit of sleek black spandex, which I figured must be a German standard for gym-wear. The instructor shouted something that appeared to be the German equivalent of “Go!”, and cranked up the techno-hip-hop megamix on the giant speakers positioned behind him. Then in synchronized unison, and in a varying array cool black spandex, everyone started pedaling madly and I followed, watching carefully to make sure I was doing this correctly.
Only two minutes into the class, the man next to me was dripping with sweat. Though I generally regard myself to be an overall pretty sweaty person, this man was clearly no match for me. As tiny streams formed on his forehead, running down his face and down his back, he turned to talk to me, and I felt strange moist droplets sprinkle onto my bare skin. I winced audibly in immediate reaction, but he didn’t seem to notice, and leaned in towards me, and yelled something in German into my ear, and laughed, though I was certain that at this point he could tell that I had no idea of what he was saying. Then the instructor would shout again in German, and though I couldn’t understand him, I still found his upbeat encouragement strangely motivating. But thirty minutes later, he was still pedaling swiftly to the racing beats, and I was lagging behind. We would stand and pedal, then sit, then stand then sit again, constantly changing the resistance of the bike setting from what I termed as “difficult” to “very difficult”, then “slightly manageable”, which really, I think was meant to be “easy”. This was my first spinning class in any country, and I was shocked to discover how difficult it was, and also surprised that no-one ever mentioned how terribly uncomfortable the seats were. Though exhausted by the grueling workout I was enduring, I was relieved to find that my leg was relatively pain-free, and only really hurt when I turned the resistance up too much on my bike. It felt good to be exercising again, and the energy pumping music vibrated through my body, forcing me to continue on through the class. An hour and a half later, the class ended, and I sighed in relief, ready to be done with German fitness forever, when Michaela reminded me that I would be attending a yoga class immediately after. I was exhausted, but a few minutes later, the high of endorphins and the delayed drug of super-techno took its hold on me, and I was ready to conquer another class.
We walked over to the yoga class, and Michaela explained to the instructor that I would be taking it, and that I have a running injury, and mainly, that I don’t speak a word of German. This petite, zen-friendly hippie-esque woman who slightly resembled Shakira (a stark contrast to the last instructor) immediately displayed a look that was easily translatable across an international sphere of understanding, to be total and utter horror. She asked Michaela if she would be taking the class and would translate to me, but Michaela explained that she would not, and that I could simply follow the movements without the instructor’s verbal commands. The woman looked frantic, but then quickly devised a plan, explaining to Michaela that she could not teach the class if there were not more than two participants, and without Mish, it would only be myself and a man who was listening to our conversation carefully, clearly eager to discover the outcome. But Michaela was set on my recovery, and is most definitely a determined German, she decided to take the class after all- to the instructor’s obvious dismay.
Michaela then went down to the locker to change, and German Shakira then explained in a mixture of German and choppy English what I should be doing. I could tell that she was working hard to locate specific words in her English vocabulary, but the limited amount she possessed ended up in confusion for both of us, and small interjections of attempted English by the man who also took the class, until Michaela returned and joined us. The next hour was spent with my attempts at participating in a variety of odd yogic poses, quickly realizing that running, along with my injury, made me possibly the least flexible individual on the planet. I tried bending my body and stretching in ways that had been quite easy to me in previous classes I had taken at home, yet now my muscles were strictly unyielding, and I fumbled in embarrassment with comically awkward stiffness. As the yoga instructor methodically chimed each instruction, she looked over expectantly at Michaela, who then repeated each phrase and command in English, while I tried to do my best to follow. It would have been quite a funny scene for an outside observer, and the man in the class seemed greatly amused, but was gracious enough on my behalf to keep himself from bursting out into laughter at the sight of this total absurdity. Again and again the instructor was startled by my obvious lack of flexibility, but her practiced meditation had proved useful now, and she was able to almost completely retain a calm exterior. However, every couple of minutes, I witnessed small intermittent glimpses of disappointment and frustration, suddenly revealing how she truly felt.
The class ended with German Shakira holding a small, lumpy object, that she explained to serve as a symbol, representative of her heart, that we should cherish and hold tightly to our chests, wishing for happiness for ourselves and the people around us. Michaela explained this to me in German as I looked quizzically at what this might mean, and we both restrained ourselves greatly from bursting into laughter at the ridiculous scene that this posed for us. And soon, the class was over, and I was glad to be done with the gym.
The rest of my time in Mannheim was spent happily frolicking around town exploring, while also taking a one day trip into Strasbourg, a small city in France, close to the German border.
Michaela and I toured around Strasbourg for a bit, taking in the beautiful scenery, eating delicious tarte flambée, as well as Nutella crepes. As we walked along the Barrage Vaubin, I suddenly realized that after walking all over the city, I barely felt any pain in my leg at all. Later that night, Michaela and I returned to Mannheim, and toured around Mannheim city center as well as the nearby Hiedelberg the next day before we said a heart-breakingly sad goodbye. And so, in the pouring rain, and while fighting back tears in not knowing when I would see my dear friend again, I left on a flight back to London, hopeful that a recovery was near in my future.
Armed with my fancy new foam roller and an overdetermined will to heal, I set out to Germany to begin my next adventure, hoping desperately for a chance to run again in this new destination, with my first steps onto the welcoming streets of Munich. As I had found myself in London easily forgetting how unbelievably long it takes to get from one place to another, I had realized this only too late on the day of my departure to Germany. Though I was scheduled to fly out at 6pm, waking up at noon (without packing the previous night) proved to be detrimental to my ability to make it to the airport in time for my flight that evening. I quickly threw my things together into the medium-sized suitcase I brought (careful not to over-pack this time) and tossed in my new exercise tool, zipped it up, and ran out the door. Little did I know that Stansted Airport which claims to be in London is far, far away from any semblance of a city…or a civilization.
That being said, I walked the half-hour long trek to the tube station, took the tube to the train station, and took the train to the airport, only to pass by what must have been acres and acres of green open farmland before reaching the airport, hours later. Gazing dreamily over the lush green fields as the train churned steadily through the lovely English countryside, I sighed sleepily. A sharp contrast from the endless busy streets of London, the fields outside my window instilled a new curiosity in me, as I wondered what the other rural areas outside London looked like. I was beginning to feel like I was in Ireland again, though there was clearly a dissonance here, in the apparent lack of sheep and rolling hills. I imagined myself running gleefully through the fields outside my window, smiling brightly, yelling over and over again in joyous exuberance, “I’m cured! I’m cured! I can run again!” but stopped myself quickly, knowing that self-pity was useless, and that I should be excited about my upcoming adventures in Germany…though the fantasy of pain-free prancing through fields remained steadfast in my mind.
After a good deal of intense training on using public transportation during my first few days in London, I was skillfully able to manage the subway well enough to make it to the correct station without any problems, though the signs in German were initially intimidating. I later found that an initial intimidation accompanied many of my experiences in Germany, such as speaking with the locals (who always proved to be much nicer than they seemed at first) and eating giant sausages (which were almost as long as my arm in some cases, yet were thin enough and so delicious that I wished they had been longer).
Once I arrived at my station, I was pleasantly able to confirm another stereotype, (in addition to redheads in Ireland) German words and names are ridiculously long, and usually include overwhelming numbers of both syllables and letters.
My destination was named Donnersbergerbrücke, which included about three more syllables than I was prepared to handle-though still, I arrived safely and soundly, and only a bit worn out.
As I made my way toward a meeting spot, a girl I had never seen before came suddenly bounding towards me from around a corner. She was dressed entirely in traditional Bavarian dirndl, and was yelling excitedly in a charmingly thick German accent, “that’s her! I know it is!” I must have looked startled, because she laughed loudly, while continuing to skip her way towards me, only to be followed by my close friends Michaela and Charlotte, both of which I had met earlier in the year while traveling in Asia.
We hugged happily, glad to be reunited, remarking on how none of us ever expected to see each other again so soon. Though Michaela was from Germany, Charlotte had flown in to meet both of us in Munich for Oktoberfest from Northern England, and of course, I had come all the way from the U.S. to see them both! Michaela introduced me to the first girl I had seen, Martina, who was letting us all stay in her apartment in Munich while we visited for Oktoberfest. We started walking back to the apartment as they told me about their first night at Oktoberfest (which they had visited before coming to meet me) and right away, Michaela could tell that something was wrong by the way I was limping slightly as I walked. She asked if everything was all right, and I explained that I was suffering from a running injury that had surfaced a couple of weeks ago. I told her about the foam roller I had recently purchased, and once we arrived at Martina’s apartment, I took out the roller and began my exercises.
The girls all laughed as I awkwardly (if you see this photo you will know why they laughed at me) positioned myself onto this strange contraption, a two foot foam cylinder with about a ten inch diameter. This exercise is extremely painful in normal situations but even more painful with tense muscles, so I winced audibly with each roll, hoping that this pain was for a reason, and that I would soon be cured of my ailment.
The next day, Michaela, Charlotte and I headed out for some Munich sightseeing, and after a bit of convincing, Michaela and I decided to act like true Bavarians for the day, and go out to see the city while wearing our dirndl.
I was elated to find that in Munich, wearing dirndl as an everyday outfit was actually quite a common practice. Michaela explained to me that most people in Bavaria own their own dirndl or lederhosen, that they wear on special occasions such as Oktoberfest, but also as a regular outfit! I found this to be delightfully charming, and felt a bit of pride in my German heritage as I walked down the street in my pink and green dirndl that I was sure to have ready before making my way to Munich. I had purchased it online before I left, from an American costume store that sold it for a refreshingly cheap price. It was by no means completely traditional, but in considering the one-hundred euro difference between buying a real Bavarian dirndl and a cheap American imitation, I decided that it was best to stick with the copy. I was also well aware that lederhosen and dirndl weren’t considered to be completely innocent, as well, making my extremely small dirndl fun and a bit silly rather than totally blasphemous.
But because my dirndl was quite a bit shorter than most, I ended up receiving an extra bit of extra attention while wearing it through Munich. Though even with the tacky American version of a dirndl, it seemed that people still assumed that I was German, and many even translated from other languages to try to speak to me, as they asked for a photo of Michaela and I excitedly.
Although she and I were only one pair out of many groups of people wearing dirndl and lederhosen, we were asked several times to take pictures with various groups, and by the end of the day, we had both become a bit conceited with our newly found fame in Munich. We walked around town proudly in our puffed sleeves and frilly skirts, while Charlotte tagged along laughing at us along the way. Beginning our sightseeing in the city center, we viewed both the lovely and the unexpected in Munich. Our tour included such sights as the glorious cathedral in Marienplatz, as well as a few charming markets (which Michaela loved in particular, due the impressive assortment of cheese that was sold). We ended with the expansive English Gardens, by which time we were all a bit worn out, so we took our quick touristy stride a bit slower and strolled casually through the park.
Making our way into this giant green oasis, in the gentle shade of trees and past the peaceful stream, our eyes fell upon something strange, something that did not belong. There appeared to be a man, lying completely naked, in the middle of the park. At first we thought that this must not be true, and that our eyes deceived us, but as we came closer to where he had planted himself on the grass, we found that he was not only naked, but also lying proudly, in a position that was clearly meant to show himself as a display to unsuspecting tourists like ourselves. As we looked around more closely, we quickly found that he was not the only man lying naked in the grass, but there were several scattered around liberally, like pieces of pink fatty bacon atop a fresh green salad.
We decided to continue through the park, curious of what else we might find hidden in the seemingly endless greenery of the gardens. Though the silliness of the dirndl and the company of my friends lifted my spirits, my leg was still tight and stiff as I walked, and I hoped to find something to help ease the pain. Just as I decided that I was too sore to continue walking, we happened upon an outdoor bar and a restaurant in the middle of the gardens. Michaela Charlotte and I were all a bit hungry, so we decided to go for the most stereotypically German lunch they had available: sausage and sauerkraut with beer.
However, when I went to pick up the beer from the drink counter, I was startled with how massively huge the beer stein was, as it was probably equal to the size of my head, and so heavy that I could barely hold it up.
When I had ordered a beer, I had no idea that they would give me monstrous portions. But since I had already ordered the beer, I figured that I might as well keep it, and consider this enormous stein to be part of training for Oktoberfest later that night, as well as treatment for my injury.
The sausage was delicious, and about a foot and a half long, while the huge pile of sauerkraut I had to accompany it proved to be the perfect side. Michaela and Charlotte helped me drink the beer with a few occasional sips, but mostly I was left to conquer the monster stein on my own. I had found that in Ireland I could never drink much more than a pint at one sitting, but the beer here was lighter and less filling than the Guinness I had in Dublin, and it was much more easy to drink, though twice the portion. I chugged the beer down, careful not to spill on my pink dirndl, and as I felt the pain quickly disappear while the alcohol took effect, Michaela, Charlotte and I found our way out of the gardens, and towards Oktoberfest.
Saying goodbye to the lush green countryside of Ireland and making my way toward the busy streets of London, only just a week after landing in Dublin, I quickly found myself at the brink of a new adventure in England.
London is enormously, unbelievably, vastly huge. With a cart full of suitcases and a unintentionally conspicuous outfit of wedge heel moccasin boots (thankfully comfortable enough to wear with my injury), a gold and white cotton and sequin dress, and a plush white sweater, I made my way cautiously through security, at once stunned and overwhelmed by the bustling commotion of Gatwick airport.
Looking around nervously for familiar faces, instantly I saw my very close friend, Richard, waiting eagerly in the crowd- who was nice enough to meet me at the airport, and let me stay with him and his roommates for the next few days, and again, after my travels in Germany. We greeted each other with warm hugs and smiles, happy to be reunited again, after meeting through a travel group in Asia, and traveling together for several weeks earlier in the year.
First taking the train from Gatwick airport to Central London, we then took the London Underground Railway (known by locals as simply, “the tube”) to make it to our final destination in Leyton. After making our way up and down several sets of stairs with luggage, and through various halls and corridors of the Underground Station, we were spontaneously attacked with several gusts of mysterious wind blowing from no clear direction. I found this sudden ambush a bit alarming-and involuntarily jumped in shock, but after looking around for an expected reaction of surprise in the hoards of people around me and finding nothing but blank focused stares, (as well as no reaction on the faces of my friends) I came to the conclusion that this must be quite normal, and continued through the claustrophobic tunnels packed with busy Londoners, only to finally make my way onto the tube, which greeted me challengingly with a burst of fiery heat.
Over the next hour on the tube, I peeled off the now suffocatingly restricting layers of clothing from my body (that had been barely keeping me warm just earlier that morning) as I desperately tried to find a way to cool myself in the scorching hot underground rail car. Just as I began to adjust to the overwhelming heat, we arrived at Leyton station.
Continuing on the way to Richard’s house, we plodded along steadily through Leyton for the next half hour (lugging the three zebra suitcases behind us), passing a variety of oddly named services and collaborative shops such as “Accident Claim and Bollywood Movies” and “International Communication and Fine Leather Goods”. Several streets and strange shops and corner markets later, we finally made it to their place-which would be my new home for the next couple of days-and I collapsed on the couch, amazed by how far we had traveled from the airport, while still remaining to be in London.
That night I fell asleep early, surprisingly exhausted from such a short flight (though I had left painfully early in the morning from Dublin to make it) planning to start up my sightseeing early the next morning. The next day I woke to bright sunshine streaming in through the windows of the apartment, as my visit was immediately met with delightfully unusual sunshine in London, and I was rested and ready to explore the city.
My leg was still sore and aching, and my coach advised me at this point to purchase a foam roller to treat my injury, something that should be commonly found and easily available in such a large city. So Richard I set off on a mission both to see the city and find a foam roller, after I took another few ibuprofen to ease the returning pain, preparing myself for the half-hour long walk to the tube station and the inevitable few miles of walking that would be required to properly see the sights of London.
Taking a tube to Central London, over the next few days, I made my way through both St James’ Park and Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square and lastly, to Harrods, where I intended to buy a foam roller at the sports center on the top floor. Not hearing much about Harrod’s before, I was instantly astonished by the immense size of the building as well as the intricate detail in exterior architecture and lavish adornment, then on the inside-by the grandeur gold patterning covering the walls of each meticulously organized room, and the scale and detail and overly adorned decoration of the elevator taking us up to the top floor to sports and athletics.
The sports and athletics floor was sectioned off into several areas: tennis, football (soccer-once again, if you are a confused American reading this) weight training, cycling, golf, hunting, and finally, running. I was particularly impressed with the lavishness of the golf section, selling both crystal-encrusted golf bags, and a Hummer golf cart-which instantly made me wonder if such items as these were actually ever purchased, or were just displayed on show for the store’s bragging rights over how ridiculously impractical ( but cool!) their products could be. And as dazzled as I was by the treasure trove of high-end sports equipment, I was there only for the sake of practicality-to purchase a foam roller in order to heal my leg-and I thought to myself that if Harrod’s has all the best new fitness equipment (and certainly gaudy and non-gaudy versions of each) they must have a foam roller!
And so, I approached the sales counter in the least flashy corner of the Sports and Fitness floor, the running section. Two guys in their early twenties were chatting idly behind the counter, their arms hunched over the cashier desk in boredom, both pairs of eyes wandering around the room, unfocused. It was slightly strange and seemed a bit silly how dressed up they were, in slick black trousers and crisp white shirts, undoubtedly confirming to the strictest of dress codes-while their casual banter and slouched positions posed a delightful contradiction to their uniforms.
Upon noticing my need for assistance, immediately both men straightened quickly, asking with a slightly affected air of charm how they might be able to help me. As I asked them if their store carried a foam roller, I was met with instant looks of puzzlement by both, as they had clearly never heard of what a foam roller could possibly be. I tried to explain to the best of my ability what it was-a cylindrical piece of foam about two feet long with a diameter of at least six inches but no more than ten…and both young men appeared to still have no idea of what I was talking about, but pretended to steadily understand what I might mean.
I tried once again, explaining exactly how it is used, why it is used, and put forth every small bit of loose unorganized information I had about foam rollers to give them the best idea possible-and finally they came to the conclusion that their store did not carry foam rollers at all, but that they would try their best to find a store that would.
I thanked both clerks gratefully, and after a few phone calls and their attempts over the phone to explain exactly what I had of this strange contraption to a couple of nearby sports stores, I was given a number and address of one store by the name of John Bell and Croyden, that promised to carry the elusive foam roller for fifteen pounds-and soon I was off to continue my mission.
The next day I was back on the tube, then back on the street, and Richard strode alongside me, as I hobbled around the streets of London, looking for John Bell and Croyden to find a foam roller-and after about thirty minutes of searching, we reached our destination.
Indeed, John Bell and Croyden did have a foam roller, but the only one they carried was intended for Pilates rather than treating injury, and was thirty-five pounds rather than fifteen. However, I was desperate, and they had (for the most part) what I needed. I purchased the foam roller, and with only the evening left, packed my things for Germany, hoping for a swift recovery.
Dublin is a beautiful city. Georgian-style architecture is abundant, lending an irresistible air of charm to the tree-lined streets, and worldly character to the city’s lovely landscape. These pleasant views, along with the pedestrian friendly atmosphere, (directions are always given by locals in terms of walking distance) makes Dublin a wonderful place to run.
Unfortunately, I was in far too much pain to go running at all during my stay. Though I tried everything I could think of and everything suggested to me in order to try to heal faster, I found that still, I could barely walk more than five miles at a time without a stock load of ibuprofen working its way through my veins, easing the stabbing discomfort of my aching muscles.
My three giant (zebra-print!) suitcases didn’t help much either, as I had severely over-packed when not wanting to leave behind any of my adorable boots or charming trench coats, all of which combined in a series of overweight bags ended up being extremely heavy, and difficult to handle. I cursed myself for being so careless as to over-pack so embarrassingly much, especially after my unfortunate experience of paying an extra $200 (two hundred dollars!) in order to get my bags on the plane. How could I have been so stupid to make my bags so heavy and not check beforehand that they met the weight requirements? My love of fashion was tragically destructive to my overall well-being. My back ached as I dragged one suitcase after another behind me, and I firmly decided to never let such a careless mistake happen again-I would haveto be more practical in the future! After I was able to get my bags to the hotel, my back ached, and my sore muscles felt even more stiff and unyielding.
This difficulty in walking was made even worse by the local practice of largely underestimating walking distances when giving tourists (like myself) directions. A “five minute walk” as described by the concierge was more likely to take at least twenty minutes, and a “thirty minute walk” would likely take at least an hour and a half.
Did Irish people walk so fast that they were invisible to the naked eye? I don’t normally think of myself to be extremely slow while walking, but maybe I am sluggish compared to impossibly swift Irish standards of speed walking-and my injury certainly wasn’t making me go any faster.
Ever since my ten-mile run in Half Moon Bay, my right leg has been tight and sore, causing significant pain all throughout my leg, making it difficult to walk, let alone run. This was originally diagnosed as piraformis syndrome, and later said to be just an over-tightening of the muscles in a concentrated area between my hamstring and gluteal muscles. It feels like a person is following me around with a fireplace poker, and jabbing it consistently into the back of my upper thigh, sending shooting nerve pains down my leg with each movement.
I cautiously limped around Dublin, concentrating carefully on stepping in just the right way, in order to reduce the pain as much as possible. My mom walked with me, reducing her pace considerably to match my sloth-like slowness.
After a day of sightseeing on Hop-On Hop-Off tour buses visiting such must-see attractions as the Guinness Brewery and Storehouse (topping off a pint of Guinness with my mom at noon-which actually helped reduce the pain quite well!), as well as the Christ Church and Temple Bar, we decided to book a countryside tour to visit Ireland’s more rural landscape. I asked for a bucket of ice from the conceirge (hoping that he understood at this point why I would need so many buckets of ice, and wondering if I should explain it to him just to be sure he didn’t think I was an ice-hoarding freak) and collapsed in the hotel room upstairs, a bag of ice numbing my sore muscles.
Our “Wild Wicklow” tour was a huge relief in dealing with the pain of my injury, as I was able to view the sights of Ireland’s lovely countryside from the comfort of a nicely cushioned tour bus-though not usually my preferred choice of traveling, my old-woman’s body needed the extra padded seats, and promise of little to no exercise to make my trip the most enjoyable it could be. Through the windows of the tour bus I viewed the lush green countryside of Ireland, with more sheep than people-grazing peacefully everywhere I looked, and endless fields of heather sprinkled over rolling hills shrouded in misty white fog, just as I had imagined it.
A short walk was included in the end of the tour, through a lovely graveyard and through the woods, but sadly, I could not make it past a half mile, and didn’t want to take the chance of worsening my already terrible condition. Soon, we returned to the city, and along with the help of city buses, I continued sightseeing throughout the city with my (extremely patient) mom, walking as slowly and carefully, taking as much of the city in as possible with my pathetically slow snail’s pace.
And so, instead of jogging freely around the picturesque streets of Dublin, I continued to hobble around slowly, like a severely arthritic old woman, grimacing with pain every second step. Desperately I searched for answers-what I needed was a miracle cure, something that would cure me of my pain, and the advice I was given was to ice the area as much as possible to reduce swelling, stretch the area regularly, and visit a sports massage therapist as soon as possible.
Immediately I had the sweet and chipper (and oh so delightfully Irish!) concierge help me make an appointment with the nearest masseuse. He smiled compassionately at me, his thin pink lips turning up gently at the corners in an elf-like grin, his pale freckled skin blushing a slight pink at his cheeks. Though he was mostly a bit shy and spritely, he looked straight at me, his round blue eyes expressing his genuine dedication and devotion, and assured me that he would help me in any way possible to heal my leg. Then, he giggled to himself, quickly turning away, and as he promised, scheduled an appointment for me with a nearby masseuse.
I returned to my room with yet another giant bucket of ice for my leg in hand, and (with a plastic bag full of ice propped under my leg) went to sleep, dreaming of a magical sports massage therapist with healing hands-that would instantly rid me of the pain that I suffered.
The next morning I awoke briskly, my leg still in pain, but with optimism in mind. I made my way over to the massage therapists’ office (after skillfully mastering the Dublin bus system due to my inability to walk) and she called me in for my massage appointment.
My therapist was tall and slender, with lovely pale red hair, and light freckled skin. Like the concierge, she smiled sweetly-not giving everything away at once like the brash American toothy smile I am used to seeing at home. I had been noticing more and more throughout my stay in Dublin that nearly every fifth person has red hair, an Irish stereotype that I was happy to confirm as truth-and here in the massage therapist’s office, further confirmed.
The massage was a combination of pressing and poking around my legs and glutes, and her response to my gasps and muted squeals of pain. I was vulnerable and helpless nearly naked underneath the light towel that covered me, but I breathed deeply and suffered through it, putting my faith in her knowledge of muscles and injuries, hoping she could take away the debilitating pain that plagued me.
After an hour of painful rubbing and pressing of the sore muscles of my body, the therapist (in a charming Irish accent) reassured me that I had not pulled a muscle to the point of no recovery, but just had very tight glutes and hamstrings that needed to be relaxed and stretched in order to recover. Along with a few recommendations to take hot yoga and to spend more time stretching, she sent me on my way, telling me that I should be back to running within a couple of days, while also warning me that I might be sore from the massage soon (which I dismissed completely, knowing how healed I felt at the present moment).
I was elated. Her hands seemed as though they had indeed been magical, as instantly the tightness in my muscles was released-and I felt so happy and free that I walked the whole way back to the hotel instead of taking the bus. A true Dubliner I was at this moment, walking through the city streets, taking a “ten minute” walk (that really turned out to be thirty minutes) as though it was nothing. All I needed was a football (“soccer”-for you Americans) jersey, and I would blend right in!
A few hours later, the pain set in. It was no longer just a tweaked muscle in the upper thigh of my right leg, but a throbbing nerve pain that seemed to radiate throughout my entire body. I could barely move without feeling sharp pains all over my legs, and instantly popped a few more ibuprofen before attempting to walk another step.
In efforts to prevent further pain (and overweight baggage charges!) my mom and I made a trip to a local department store in Dublin, bought a cheap suitcase, and packed a bunch of my things in it (unbelievably impractical five-inch heels, an excess in trench coats, more shoes, more coats) to send home with her, while also stopping at the post office to send packages back as well-all in attempts to reduce the weight of my three suitcases enough to keep my injury from getting much worse while making my way over to London.
The trip to Dublin was finished off that night by a touristy visit to an “Irish House Party,” a show compiled of various Irish traditional songs and dances, bagpipes and riverdance included. I went to bed that night exhausted and still in pain, dreaming of recovery in London, as I would be leaving for my next destination early the following morning.
Yesterday I accomplished something that I have never done before in my entire life: I ran ten miles.
Although I have participated in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco before (which was actually longer than this particular run)-of the thirteen miles that were completed in the race, I walked about six. This time, I ran the whole way-only stopping to fuel up quickly with much needed sports drinks and energy bars (if you know me well, then you are well aware that I become psychotic when I do not eat for long periods of time, so a bit of food along the way was necessary to prevent me from attacking other trail runners and their pets, in a ferocious hypoglycemic fury!)
During the two hours it took to complete this training, I went through several phases of both unexplainable joy (most likely fueled by a “runner’s high” of endorphins) and regretful, bitter remorse-for even attempting the run in the first place. I had never experienced so many different levels of complacent comfort and sore discomfort during a single run. My muscles ached, my mind frantically searched for something to focus on other than the pain, I felt the small sips of water I had consumed splashing around in my stomach much too consciously- and then suddenly, my muscles would relax and strengthen, and my stomach would become calm, and my mind would be tranquil. I switched back and forth through these phases several times throughout the run, as though an internal light switch was being maliciously toyed with, by my inner self.
And through these constantly changing phases, the ten miles seemed to go on forever at certain points, (especially halfway through-at which point I scolded myself silently for willingly subjecting myself to such torture!) but despite my qualms, the scenery of my home town lifted my spirits in all of its beautiful foggy splendor, and the support of my family reminded me of why it was so important that I finish the run in its entirety, no matter how painful it felt.
My mom, working at one of the water stops, was sure to yell at me as I ran by, “make sure you eat something! you need to eat, Camille! you really really need to eat!” in urgent, quick screams as I ran past her. I grabbed a power bar off the table and bit off a chunk while still running, not feeling much like eating anything (which is quite unusual for me) but not wanting to pass out either.
The power bar tasted like peanut butter-flavored cardboard taffy, and I choked it down reluctantly-wishing that they gave out mini-cheeseburgers or yogurt smoothies instead. A few minutes later, as the nutrients of the cardboard taffy began to take effect, I felt completely re-energized and eagerly motivated to finish off the remaining four miles. I was struck with an epiphany-it instantly became quite clear why the coaches stress eating and drinking throughout every training, as I quickly morphed into a properly-fueled super-human, capable of running not only ten miles, but even more! Twenty! No problem!
However, my sudden feelings of invincibility faded just as quickly as they were brought upon me, and after another mile, I once again I found myself plowing steadily toward the finish, concentrating hard on controlling my breathing, while also focusing my mind on things other than the remaining distance.Throughout the ten miles, my running partner, Spencer, kept my pace steady and even by running quickly beside me, and I tried to go a bit faster, thinking that I was probably slowing him down, but pushing myself harder to finish with a faster pace.
I wondered where my friends Heather and Teresa were, as they had told me that they would try to meet me along the course to cheer for me as I ran by, but as five miles, then six, and seven elapsed, they were still nowhere to be seen. I became suddenly bitter and then at once forgiving, and then finally convinced myself that I would still see them before I finished the run, and that they must have decided to wait at the end of the course, in the harbor.
Instead I saw my dad, who had come out to meet me with my puppy Mei-Mei, and Mei-Mei ran alongside Spencer and I excitedly for a few minutes, galloping with her large gangly limbs, and her tongue hanging out of her mouth with eager excitement.
And finally, after about two hours had elapsed, I saw the finishing point-only a short distance ahead of me, and with salt water dripping in my hair and sweat clinging to my skin, I ran faster and faster, pushing myself beyond a normal state of consciousness, into a intensely focused mind-set where all that existed was my breathing, my power to run and the distance in front of me-at which point, I fell. Clumsily, I slipped on the fog-misted pavement, jumping up again quickly-embarrassed but with no scratches or bruises, and raced to the finishing point.
Though I am usually the type of runner that prefers to jog steadily throughout my workouts, I enjoyed the adrenaline-filled moment of victory in finishing the run at a sprinting speed. Pushing myself faster and faster, I felt like I was not only completing an everyday training, but was completing a race-and as I stopped suddenly and victoriously at the finish, I heard victory bells ringing in my ears, and voices applauding my strength and agility (which I actually did hear, from the supportive and enthusiastic coaches of my Team in Training coaches). My mind became numb with fatigue and overexertion, and I felt as though the proper functioning of my brain would not be accessible for several minutes, as simple jokes confused me, and my ability to speak clearly was temporarily abandoned by my recovering body.
Dizzy and confused, I walked back to my car unsteadily, checking my phone to see if Heather or Teresa had called to tell me that they wouldn’t make it after all, and had decided instead to sleep in (for which I wouldn’t blame them, considering how early in the morning, and cold and foggy it was along the trail). Instead I found confused text messages, saying, “where are you?” and “aren’t you running to Poplar Beach? we are here, waiting” only to find that they had, in fact, come out to meet me, but must have arrived at my half-way point at Poplar Beach just after I had already made the turn back towards Pillar Point Harbor. I was touched that they had made the effort to come all the way out to meet me, and had waiting in the freezing cold for an hour, just for a chance to cheer me on while I passed by. Although our miscommunication (mainly on my part) had prevented them from actually cheering me on as I ran, I was so happy that they had tried to meet me that it no longer mattered whether they had been there or not, because their support and encouragement was all that I had really wanted in the end, and this was something that they gave me, quite clearly.
After checking my phone, I followed a group of fellow runners to participate in a ritual and beneficial practice that would seem to be even more masochistic than running ten miles straight-plunging my tired legs into the ice-cold water of the Half Moon Bay ocean. But, after about two minutes of sharp and spastic pain, the numbness set in, and the cool water felt gently therapeutic on my aching legs, and I was assured by coaches and fellow participants that this practice would prevent my muscles from being very sore the next day.
And now, it is a day later, and my muscles ache so much that I can barely walk without screaming silent obscenities to myself (and occasionally out loud)…and I wonder if this means that it would be much worse if I hadn’t gone into the freezing water after the run. I will admit though that I kind-of enjoy the thrilling pain of ice-cold water (as strange as that may be), and will probably continue with this ritual whenever possible, in hopes that it actually does help reduce the inflammation enough to prevent soreness, while secretly reveling in participating in yet another mentally and physically challenging practice alongside my training.
Ultimately, I have little reason to complain. I feel strong, healthy, motivated, and accomplished-having run so far already, and having raised almost $1000 to date. Next week I will begin my training in Dublin, Ireland, and I am excited about the beautiful change of scenery that I have ahead of me on my next long run as well as the inevitable quirky interactions I am sure to experience as a lone American running through the streets of the city.
I hope that you will continue to read about my training and my travels, and feel free to comment and ask questions on anything that interests you! I realize that this post was a bit long (I always write too much!), but if you have made it all the way to the end (as it seems you have!), let me know which parts of my training and travels you would like to hear more about, and I will be sure to include that in my future (probably much shorter) posts!
If you would like to make a donation (or another donation, if you are feeling especially generous!) please visit my fundraising website at http://pages.teamintraining.org/sj/honolulu09/ckelley8qm.
Thanks again for your support, and I hope to hear from you soon!
Dear Friends, Family, and Followers,
After much encouragement from my parents, and through the desire to do something meaningful with my early adulthood, I have decided to train for and participate in the Honolulu Marathon with Team in Training! This means that I must raise at least a total of $5,000 by December 1st for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Team in Training is a nonprofit endurance program that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The $5,000 that I have pledged to raise will be used to help find a cure for the blood cancers: leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and Hodgkin’s disease.
As daunting as the prospect of running 26 miles and raising thousands of dollars in a few months may be, I have always found that the most frightening and challenging experiences I choose to participate in are often the most rewarding. However, this particular experience carries an especially meaningful significance to me.
Many of you know that my brother, Ryan, died of leukemia almost six years ago, though many of the memories of his presence and the pain of watching him undergo intensive treatment remain vivid in my mind.
Ryan was diagnosed halfway through his senior year and my sophomore year in high school, when he was seventeen, and I was fifteen. He was immediately forced to spend six months undergoing intensive chemotherapy and hospitalization, away from his friends and the outside world, while I continued through high school, plagued with worry over my brother’s health, and desperate to help him in any way possible.
However, after Ryan had already been in treatment for several months, I was finally given the chance to help him, through donating my bone marrow. After months of at home isolation and hospital recovery, Ryan was finally able to be a teenager again. He and I joked that sharing the same bone marrow gave us a special connection, as though we were chemically bonded in a science fiction-like operation to become mutant super-siblings that could sense each other’s thoughts and feelings (which in a way, was actually quite true).
As exciting as Ryan’s recovery was for me, and the rest of my family, our happiness was short-lived. Only a few months after he was able to live outside the restrictions of the hospital and at-home isolation, he relapsed. Once again, Ryan was faced with intensive chemotherapy, and after weeks of treatment, his condition steadily became worse, and he died the day after Thanksgiving. He was nineteen, and I was seventeen.
Since Ryan’s death, my family has become very involved with fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, from my sister’s involvement with the Light the Night Walk, to my mother’s participation as a team member and a coach for many Team in Training events.
At this exciting and unsure moment in my life-between school and a steady career, I want to dedicate my time and energy towards doing things that are truly meaningful to me. I know that supporting such an important cause as The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as well as challenging myself to accomplish something so wonderfully (and perhaps insanely) ambitious, will make my life more fulfilling, but more importantly, will help the lives of many others who are desperately in need of a cure.
Please visit my website at http://pages.teamintraining.org/sj/honolulu09/ckelley8qm to make donations and check on my progress. I will send out e-mail updates on how I am doing up until the marathon, on December 13th.
I will be holding a fundraising event in early November (the date has not been confirmed yet), during which I will be showing photos from my travels throughout Southeast Asia, and also my more recent travels in Dublin, Ireland, London, England, and Munich and Mannheim, Germany that I will be starting next week!
If you would rather mail me a check, please make it out to LLS and send it to:
P.O. Box 131
El Granada, CA 94018
Thank you for your help!