Guest Posts

Running the Madrid Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon 2013

Last Sunday, April 28, was Madrid’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. Mario was a participant, and I thought it would be a great time for him to share his thoughts on the experience.

I like running. I started in high school, before it became so popular. The truth is that, although I love running, I’ve never taken it that seriously. Actually, the first time I ran a “real” race was in December 2005, when I took part in the Ismaninger Winterlauf, since at that time I was working in Munich. It was 12.8 kilometers, and I finished with a time of 52:50. It was snowy and bitterly cold and I think I was wearing two T-shirts (maybe three). It wasn’t until 2009 that I ran my second race. The race was in Salamanca and the distance was 7.650 km. My time was 28:56. I was dating Kaley at that time, which helped motivate me to run fast in order to impress her.

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Kaley: I ran too, but not nearly as fast as Mario

My first big race was in March 2012, when I ran my hometown half marathon. I didn’t have a specific plan to train for the race. For those who follow this blog, you may have read that Zamora is a beautiful sort of medieval town. However, those in charge of organizing the race for some reason didn’t draw up a race course that went through the nice old town. The race is on the outskirts with 90 degrees turns (those who run know how much making an u-turn kills your rhythm) and, worst of all, it was two laps of the same circuit (boooooooooooring). I ended with a time of 1:25:15, which I was happy about.

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Mario Half Marathon

When I moved to Madrid last October, I considered running the Madrid marathon. It sounded scary, but I wanted to try. Sito, my cousin, who is an experienced marathon runner, talked me into it. He knows a lot, and he guided me through it. I had done some calculations in order to estimate the time I would need to run a marathon, based off my half marathon from last year in Zamora. One way to estimate a marathon-finishing time is to double your half-marathon time and add ten minutes, which for me would be exactly three hours. Kaley had downloaded a training plan for a person who goes running three days a week. As I said before, I’d never used a training plan before. I usually go running à la Forrest Gump—it’s what I like, but I’m not what you would call organized when it comes to setting up a training plan.

The problem with preparing for a long race is that you have to start training well in advance and you never know what might come up, such as a lot of work in the office (which would mean not being able to follow my scheduled training sessions) and/or injuries. The former didn’t happen, but the second one kind of did. Three weeks before the race, I started to feel—literally—a pain in my butt. After a couple of hours sitting at my desk at work, I couldn’t sit still; I kept fidgeting. I didn’t know I had a slight case of piriformis syndrome. I should have rested a bit, but the marathon was drawing closer, so I decided instead to run shorter distances, so that I wouldn’t overload the muscle (even more than it already was), and stretch. It did get better.

Kaley was my personal food expert, and she cooked for me foods rich in carbohydrates, so I got plenty of energy. The day before the race she prepared some delicious cannelloni. Finally the day of the race came.

Madrid Marathon 2013[Source]

The race started at 9 a.m. It had threatened to rain, but in the end it didn’t make an appearance. But the weather was brisk. Both Sito and I wore two layers. The race started in the Plaza de Colón. Because there are so many people who participate in either the marathon, half marathon, or 10K, people are separated into corrals, based on previous race times or estimated race times. I was in Corral 1, just behind the professionals. (You don’t see the Kenyans even at the very beginning, they’re so fast.) Before the starting gun went off, we had a moment of silence in honor of the victims of Boston. I had attached a black ribbon to my T-shirt.

Moment of Silence

Then the countdown began, and before I knew it, my legs were moving. We were running up Paseo la Castellana. In the Rock and Roll marathons, they have bands playing live music, which really pumps you up. There are also liebres (literally, hares) or pacesetters, who are experienced athletes recruited by the organization. They have a balloon tied to their back (it must be annoying running with that) with a sign that says how long it will take them to run the marathon. If you follow them, it helps you not to go out too fast or too slow, so I tried to keep close to the three-hour pacesetter.

Liebre[Source]

Around the 14-kilometer mark, my left knee and ankle started to bother me, and I began to lose sight of the three-hour pacesetter. Luckily it passed, and I was able to find a comfortable pace, which I gradually increased until I was again able to see the three-hour balloon. That part of the route went through the center of Madrid, on Calle Fuencarral, through Sol, down Calle Mayor. People lined the streets and applauded, there was rock music, and thus I felt the rush of adrenaline; I was meeting my three-hour target.

Madrid Marathon[Source]

With regards to hydration, every five kilometers there were hydration points with water bottles and cups of Powerade. I drank something at every point so as not to get dehydrated. As I passed the half-marathon point, I saw that I had completed the half in one hour and twenty-eight minutes. I felt confident that, if I kept it up, I would be able to meet my goal. However, it was too late to realize that I was overconfident … because it was then that I hit the metaphorical wall.

I had not heard of the “wall” concept until the previous day, when I went to the fair organized by the marathon. I had to go to pick up my bib. There were professional athletes giving a talk, and one (I don’t know his name) was speaking about his experience the previous year, when he too hit the wall. Someone asked him if the feeling passed, but he said no, that it had lasted until the very end. I hit the wall around kilometer 23, and it lasted until the end, so I basically ran the entire second half with this horrible feeling in my head and legs. Moreover, added to my suffering was the fact that I now had to run through the Casa de Campo, which became unbearable.

Recorrido Maraton

At kilometer 27, they were giving out Powerbar energy gels, which taste disgusting, but they help. Still, I had to stop twice to stretch my hamstrings and pyramidal muscles, which were killing me. Along the route, there are people on skates who carry Vaseline and topical painkillers in spray form. The good thing about them being on skates is that they can spray you while you’re running; you don’t have to stop. I had to resort to them twice.

Here comes the figure of my guardian angel: Sito. We had both planned to run the marathon in three hours, and he sacrificed this in order to wait for me and cheer me on. As the race went on and I was suffering, I watched as people passed me by and I barely passed anyone. I tried to think about songs that motivated me; I needed to break through this wall that was preventing me from moving forward with the ease that I desired. It makes you want to stop and quit. I think that, sometimes, the wall is real—your muscles don’t function at full capacity because you haven’t trained enough. With determination and Sito’s help, I was able to keep going. Most of the time when I run, the kilometers seem to fly by, but at the time the distance between one kilometer and the next seemed endless. The good thing is that when you leave Casa de Campo, you return to the city, and there were again people cheering. We arrived at Atocha and there were only three kilometers to go. The bad thing is that the remaining kilometers were ascending, but I was able to draw strength from somewhere. I couldn’t quit then, we were almost to Parque del Retiro, I only had to push a little bit more.

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Finally, I saw the 41-kilometer marker, and I knew there were only 1,195 meters left! There were people along the path clapping, so you have to stop looking pitiful, keep your head up, and enjoy the last minutes. I crossed the finish line as it marked 3 hours, 21 minutes. Mission accomplished.

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Throughout the race, there is a sense of camaraderie because other runners encourage you and you, them if you see them stop. Or, in my case, Sito, who patiently waited for me, so that we would finish together, thus sacrificing his personal finish time. “Si empezamos juntos, acambos juntos,” (“If we started together, we finish together”), he kept repeating every time I told him not to wait for me.

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These days after the race, Kaley has been taking care of me and massaging my legs with specific creams to help them recover from the effort.

I may not have finished in three hours like I wanted, and naturally I feel a bit disappointed, but in life you must learn from everything, and—above all—from the negatives. I learned three valuable lessons: Don’t leave anyone behind, don’t get overconfident, and have the ability to analyze situations in the long term.

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Guest Post: Mario

Please welcome my second-ever guest poster, the one and only Mario. You all know about him, so there’s no need to say that much about him. I’ll let him speak for himself for once!

Kaley asked me many weeks ago to write a guest post for her blog. I don’t usually procrastinate, but somehow many weeks passed and I still hadn’t been able to find a topic that would be interesting enough for those who read her blog. I knew for sure that my topic choice would be about the USA. But what could I say about it? I know that NYC or LA are a big thing for Spaniards (Europeans in general, I would say) who want to visit the States, and I’m pretty sure there are a bazillion blogs praising the magnificent skyscrapers in Chicago or how cool San Francisco can be or how intercultural NYC is.

Suddenly, as I was watching Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair, I had a light-bulb moment. In the movie, Colonel Rufus J. Plummer (Millard Mitchell) mentions he comes from Indiana. That reminded me that in North by Northwest the famous plane attack against Cary Grant is on a road between Chicago and Indianapolis (although it seems to be a movie mistake), and I started to remember all the movies and TV series in which Indiana is mentioned: one of the soldiers in Band of Brothers comes from Kokomo (Floyd Talbert); the Notre Dame football team is mentioned in The Simpsons. In another category would be films about Indiana, where Hoosiers ranks number one. The name Lew Wallace probably says little to you. Maybe the film Ben-Hur sounds more familiar. Before the film, there was a book Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, whose author, Lew Wallace, wrote part of his famous work in Crawfordsville, which happens to be in … Indiana!

Let’s face it: a European is very unlikely to cross the pond to visit Indiana, unless you are a talent scout from a basketball team and you want to find some exceptionally good players in Indiana University (Florentino, Cody Zellermust be signed by Real as soon as he graduates). You would also visit Indiana if you were my father who has always wanted to see the vast fields of crops he has seen in documentaries.

You know what? It’s a pity a European would never visit Indiana. These are my five reasons why foreigners should visit Indiana:

1. People are very nice.Okay, my view might be a bit biased, since Kaley’s family is super nice to me. Helpful people will open their hearts to you. Whenever I’ve been there, Kaley’s parents have always scheduled all kind of activities so that I could have the best taste of Indiana: Spring Mill State Park, Indianapolis Zoo, a good rib-eye steak, tailgating …. Her dad, a great sports fan, has taken me to a Cubs’ game and Indiana University basketball and football games. I had never owned the Spanish national soccer team jersey, but when Spain won their first World Cup in 2010, they gave it to me, and I will proudly wear it this year to support Spain in the Euro Cup. He also got me a Miami Dolphins’ jersey!

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2. Nature. Not the scientific journal, but the green stuff. You can find it in two forms: wild and farmed. I love hiking and nature, and I think it’s a pity we don’t have more places where you can go hiking. In Indiana, in a two-hour drive you can be in a park. I have been to Brown County and Spring Mill State Parks (I was so excited to see a raccoon), but there are twenty-six more state parks remaining to be visited; there are fifteen state forests, one national forest, etc. Visit Indiana and you can enjoy them! (I sound like Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation). Indiana, with its large extensions of crops (mainly corn and soybeans), is located within the US Corn and Grain Belts. An interesting visit would be to drive in the countryside and stop to enjoy the traditional red-painted wooden barns. Last summer I visited the farm owned by the Kaley’s brother’s fiancée’s father. Man, it was huge!

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3. Good food.My brother and some friends recently returned from a trip to NYC. They all are on cloud nine but agree that the food could have been much better. American food tends to be tagged as “unhealthy” or simply “not good.” I disagree. My point is that it takes all sorts and that you have to find the right place and know what to order. When I was there and had lunch or dinner out, I only at fast food twice: once at Pizza Hut and once at Buffalo Wild Wings. I’ve been to many other restaurants, and the food has been good. I have to admit I like meat, and whenever I had the chance I ordered a burger. I was never disappointed, whereas in Spain if you order a burger, the outcome is unexpected. I can’t remember the name of that restaurant we stopped on our way back home on Black Friday, but I clearly remember telling the waiter that the burger was supreme. I still salivate thinking about the rib-eye steak at the Steak House in Covington. I have had good Mexican and Italian food. We went to a restaurant in the Amish area, and it was delicious. I have never had heartburn because of the food, and I didn’t gain weight (and—believe me—I eat a lot). Plus, in Kaley’s family there are great cooks, so when we had lunch or dinner at home, I could enjoy great meals. I was there for Thanksgiving, and I was happy because everything was delicious: the turkey, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce made from scratch. And, of course, the desserts—especially cookies. It’s true that you don’t usually find lentils or chickpeas in restaurants, but it’s not that they just have meat on the menu; they do have veggies, and they usually serve a salad as a side order.

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4. WYSIWYWIF: What You See Is What You Watch In Films.This particular reason applies to all states. People in films usually live in houses with a front and/or backyard; you find that here. Yellow school buses? Check. High schools with these amazing gyms that you can’t imagine in a Spanish high school? Check. Enormous SUVs and trucks? Check. Huge Wal-Mart with long aisles with thousands of different types of cereal? Cheeeeeeeeck. A farmer wearing dungarees and a John Deere hat? Check. Amish people riding in their buggies? Check. A huge green campus? Check. A bake sale? Check. Tailgating? Check.

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5. Basketball. Do you like basketball? If you are a fan of hoops, Indiana is a must—the basketball state par excellence. But forget the NBA. In the States there exists something better: college basketball. Some college kids do the required “one-and-done” to jump into the pro league. Indiana University’s philosophy is quite different: basketball players graduate, so along with their basketball experience they have a diploma, which comes handy in case you get injured and can’t keep playing basketball. Thanks to Tom Crean, the current coach, who is forging a very competitive Cream and Crimson team, Indiana basketball is back. This year they made it to The Sweet Sixteen. Next year? My bet is that they will be in the Final Four.

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Visit Indiana and remember: it’s Indiana!

Say Hello to my Mother: Guest Post

Before I let my mother take the reins, I’d just like to say that I hounded her to do this, and she finally obliged. She wants to be crazy rich and famous, so naturally that means she’ll get her start on Y Mucho Más. You may not realize this, but I’m, like, totally famous. (NOT.)

Here’s Donna. (You may also wish to read this entry, because she’s great.)

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Funny how it seems like just yesterday we drove to Chicago to take Kaley to O’Hare airport for her first international flight. She was studying abroad in Toledo, Spain, for the spring semester of her junior year in college. She was so excited. I was jealous but happy for her. I loved the thought of going to Europe and living and studying in another culture. My friends and fellow parents often comment on how it seems that just one generation made the difference in the popular trend of traveling abroad. When I was growing up, it was rare for anyone unmarried or below the age of thirty (old enough to pay for an expensive trip on their own) to study abroad or even travel to another country.

As we said our goodbyes, Kaley never looked back. Her dad and I (especially her dad) had a few tears. I knew I was going to miss my daughter and she too would miss us. She was ready to go and experience the world. I was ready too, because I hoped she would learn to appreciate home.

Kaley made friends quickly, but in some of her early phone calls, she expressed her feelings of loneliness. Once we made definite plans for her father and I to travel to Spain during her “spring break,” she had something to look forward to and quickly acclimated herself to Spanish living. Our Skype discussions were filled with tales of travel and late night escapades. She told us that Spaniards ate dinner late and stayed out late. We found out it was definitely true on our first visit to Spain.

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We flew to Spain during Holy Week (the week before Easter). We had the best tour guide, one named Kaley. I bragged that she was so good at Spanish and I insisted she was fluent. She adamantly argued with me that she was not, but two years when later we went back to Spain … she agreed with me that she was indeed fluent in Spanish.

In the late spring of her senior year of college, Kaley accepted an internship with a mission-based group in Salamanca, Spain. She was ready to return to Spain and live for the entire year. In early September we again drove her to Chicago with a one-way flight to Spain. She had insisted she wasn’t coming home for Christmas, as it was too expensive. By the time December rolled around, she had changed her mind and booked a ticket to be with her family during the holidays. We didn’t object too much.

In late September during one of our Skype visits, Kaley informed me that she “accidentally” flirted with a guy. She stated, “I don’t know what to do about it.” She wasn’t supposed to be dating anyone during the internship, per the rules of her workplace. I thought she sounded genuinely concerned that she broke the rules. However, she later was rather pleased that she had broken the rule. In a few short weeks she called to say she was dating this awesome, cute Spanish guy. She was swooning over the phone. As I am a mom, I quickly warned her that dating someone from another country could become very complicated. I think she reverted back to being a teenager at that moment. She exclaimed, ”Oh Mom, that is silly, it is just the same as dating someone in the US.” My response was to quietly say a prayer, as I had always done as I watched her grow up. I asked God to bless whatever was in His will and please don’t break my little girl’s heart. God must have had Mario in His plan because two years later he’s stuck around.

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Still here, two years later.

Kaley has spent about two years off and on in Spain. There have been ups and downs. She has been homesick, she has spent more time in the Madrid airport than anyone should have to, and she’s learned to live without the things she loves here in the States. She has been taken into and loved by a wonderful Spanish man and his family. She has learned to cook delicious Spanish food. She has traveled to many places in Europe and learned to appreciate the wonderful history and culture of Spain and the rest of Europe.

As I contemplate the future, I know that Kaley is in good hands. She loves her Spanish family and cannot say enough good things about them. I feel good when I know Kaley has “parents” in Spain. Jesús and Pepita worry about her when I’m not there to do it [Kaley: and cook for me too!]. When she is not in Spain, she misses them like she would miss her family if she were away from them. I want to thank Kaley for bringing Mario into our family. It wouldn’t be the same without him. We feel like we have gained a son as well as a new country.

Kaley Mom Dad Plaza Mayor