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Showing posts from May, 2008

Understanding Dali...not in my lifetime

We made the trip to Figueras, about two hours north of Barcelona, to visit the Dali museum there. Salvador was a man that goes beyond the bounds of explanation.

He is brilliant. And elusive. And impossible to understand.
And totally enjoyable.
I am not knowledgeable in art, and don't fully understand what "good" art is. But the works of Dali compel me to think, and to understand that the genius of this man is something beyond the way I can comprehend the world.
We ran short of time, and then took a train in the wrong direction getting back to Barcelona...but I hope to make a return trip someday, and also take the short jaunt from the city to the Dali's former home in Cadaques.

Mindless meanderings in Jardins de Cervantes

Running for time is one of life's finest blessings.
Not being sure of the mileage, no GPS on my wrist, just a stopwatch and running and finding a loop that takes a set amount of time.
Today was to be 60 minutes, but it turned into 90 when I circled back to the hotel, and met Gabi (U of FL student) who was headed out for a jog.
It would have been downright improper if I hadn't ushered her over to Jardins de Cervantes, a small flower park that can be found about one mile northwest of the city soccer stadium on the west side of Barcelona.
The park isn't very large in proportion, but is filled with groomed flower beds. A jog through the north end of the park brings one through a wooden framework that serves as an open air tunnel; flowers and vines abound and a sweet scent is in the air.
Life is good for this PhD student wandering in Spain.
Tomorrow we head home, and reality will rear its ugly head. But so be it. The memories, experiences and mind provoking thoughts of this jou…

Sagrada Familia

There are many things to see and learn from in Barcelona...but few went deep into my heart as seeing the "Sagrada Familia" or Holy Family, a structure conceived by architect Antoni Gaudi, who was behind its construction from 1882 until his untimely death in 1926.

The structure continues to strive towards completion. The ornate work that shows Christ's birth, life and death cannot be captured with words. There is hope that all construction can be complete by 2026 to commemorate 100 years since Gaudi's death, but locals state that is only a goal.

Donations towards this magnificent structure have kept the project pushing forward. But, there is a plan to run a new underground tram line 30 meters below the surface of Sagrada Familia, and efforts are underway to try and assure that the towers don't tumble due to vibrations from the tram. Much controversy surrounds this initiative.

As I stood and gazed at the tribute to Christ's crucifixion, I was filled with awe. …

Barcelona wanderings

It's time to explore another city...
Barcelona has offered the U of FL traveling contingent another opportunity to see the culture offered in this part of Spain.

We took a guided bus tour on Tuesday, and were able to make our way around city parks and several interesting areas that were part of the former Olympic competition sites.

I took a long stroll following the tour, and walked to a large sporting good store called "Decathalon" in one of the shopping districts off Gran via des Carles III. I wasn't too keen on a department store for sports, but this one was special. There were two floors of goods, differentiated by activity. The cycling section was great, and the running goods were interesting...I picked up another running watch...as if I needed that with over a dozen at home.

Tomorrow I want to journey to the small Dali museum to the southeast of town. I have been told it is obscure, but hosts several original works and many other replications.

Walking the Prado and very expensive bicycles

Today was a great time to walk, see more of wonderful Madrid, and invest time in two most important initiatives: The furtherance of my knowledge of art (which is at ground zero) and snooping around some Spanish bicycle shops (something I know way too much about).

The Prado is one of the most famous museums in the world. I spent time in the Goya exhibit...seems that old Goya was asked to observe some elements of battle between the Spanish and the French, and instead of generating propaganda for the Spanish, he created images that depicted the atrocities of war.

Also featured here is a painting that is deemed to be the second most valued piece of artwork of all time...I can't remember the first, but this piece is by Diego Velazquez, and was a depiction of the family of Philip IV. What's interesting is that it is a "snapshot" and not a posed portrait, where the king and queen are seen as reflections in the mirror in the background.

The bike store, Kalmera, had a ton of …

Madrid musings

Bananas tastebetterinGreeceandSpain. Thebreakfastbuffetatour hotel costs 30 Euros - about $45.
Roomsatthis hotel are supposedtocost 400 Euros - about $600.
I didn't get the name of the guy in the photo, but I think he was at Ice Age 50 mile a few years ago when we had hail and rain.
Wefound a greatfast-foodvegetarianrestaurantlastevening.  Candice (in photo) expresses pleasure regarding the options available for her falafel pita sandwich.
Thetownsquareat Calle de Mayor is a greatplacetohangout.
The Prado museumoffersartworkthatdepictsbiblicalinterpretationsoverseveralcenturies.

Parque del Retiro is paradise

I have died and gone to runner´s heaven.
The Parque del Retiro, to the east of the downtown center in Madrid, is splendid. The 12 minute run from the hotel to the park is hectic...solid foot traffic along the Calle del Alcala, until one breaks free from a high traffic circle into the park. Once inside, the park is a huge land mass with historic buildings, manicured parks, and miles of paths and running trails.I forged around the perimeter of the park, then went a bit inland to see the wonderful pond with rowboats. The inner park hosts miles of dirt paths, all surrounded with manicured shrubs.I´ll be making my way through the park each day for the next four days...while most students are away on a traveling weekend.

ibienvenidos a aspana!

Hope you don´t mind my cryptic attempt at a Spanish welcome, but we have transported our entire group to Madrid. We´re in an excellent hotel in the city center, where a walk or metro will take one to many parts of the city.

The cultural epicenter offers both the old and the new. Running has been a mix of frustration due to heavy foot traffic, but also enjoyment in a large city park just east of the hotel. We have just started to explore all the paths and lanes it offers. Today, as many as seven students will accompany me for a jog. It is great to share the running lifestyle and have discussions en route.

Checked out one of the two bicycle shops I have found so far, and it was quite amazing. The passion of the sport is evident in shop design, and the huge inventory of bikes and parts. Also, have located two vegetarian restaurants, which should be enjoyable over the long weekend we have over the next few days.

I am thankful to be part of this wonderful trip. I enjoy the students,…

Putting the finishing touches on Greece

Many things have transpired in Santorini...went to the city of Firo today, and experienced some additional sites and sounds in Greece; the shops were more reasonable, and the bakery was superb. Of course, the diet is just what I need for preparation for the South Carolina 50K on June 8!Yesterday was a full day at sea, with stops at a dormant volcano that some would portend is the site of the lost city of Atlantis. We also jumped off the boat into very cold water, and swam to a hot springs to relax.Now, another major move to the airport at 4:30 tomorrow morning. Getting 90 students on a bus at that hour is a big undertaking. We have a long layover in the Athens airport, then on to Barcelona.Christie has been a good traveling partner. She now returns home before heading out to Brazil for several weeks.This is a life I would not have dreamed of several years ago. What an adventure.

Higher education in Santorini

Academics are alive and well on the island of Santorini, Greece.

Today was the official "Olympics competition" among our U of FL traveling teams. Students sometimes feign disinterest in this sort of activity, but once underway seem to enjoy the interaction.

We hosted games in orange passing, limbo and balloon toss.

Needless to say the Gator Nation has some strong student athletes. The photo above demonstrates the prowess of one participant.

We're off to visit a volcanic crater tomorrow...then another night wandering the streets for dinner and drinks.

Needless to say, my training base has suffered. Need to start thinking about the South Carolina 50K on June 8. There are some hills in that terrain, time to start gearing up for our return to the USA June 1.

Running to the peak at Mykonos

We made it to the top...almost.

This is the high peak, a winding road to a construction site on the top of Mykonos. Though I felt like "the man" after chasing Corwin and Haley (in the photo) up this steep incline, they left us behind and bushwacked up to where the goats won't climb. They moved over many man-made stone walls, and it looked as if yak poop was everywhere (I'm not really sure it was yak poop, but there was plenty of it).

Running on Mykonos is the best. Christie and I have been pushing the hills each day, find it hard to keep a jog going on many of the sections. Traveling light, I brought only one pair of running shoes - Brooks Beast with Powerstep inserts. They are doing the job well...glad I made that choice.

The Greek diet is good for the body, the salads and olives and red wine. Fit for a king on every occasion.

We are now moving through the town, searching for a bite to eat. Running and food - the pillars of life.

Mykonos and dodging cars

We made the 3-hour ferry ride from Athens to Mykonos, a beautiful island of many sights and sounds. Roads are narrow, and we are told runners have no problem using the roadways for daily jogs...so we will make the attempt!

Food and drink are expensive. We will take supplies back to the room at the San Marcos, our wonderful resort about a mile out of town. The students were a bit feisty last night...I had to do hall walks at 4 am and 5:17 am to stop the insanity...and one point I knocked on a door and when it open I stated "it's time."

That brought silence.

Most of the students are at the pool, cooking their skin to a golden brown. We are thinking of renting a car tomorrow, but Christie has confessed I must drive...a small car, stick shift, narrow roads...the boy in me will come out once again!

Hope to go to Paradise beach tomorrow...super paradise is the nude beach, so photos to come...I am only joking.

Time now for a view of the beach, a bottle of water, and some fruit.…

To the top of Filopappos Hill

Well, Athens has been a real experience. Arrived two days ago, have been taking care of 90 U of FL students...but of course #1 priority was to ID a running loop!


Started from the hotel, jogged a few blocks north, then up a VERY steep city street to trails onto Filopappos Hill, which offers meandering trails to a high elevation. One can view the dense city of Athens (4 million population) and also the majestic Acropolis. Wish I could post some of my own images, but I can't find a USB port on this computer in the lobby of the hotel!

Last night was a wonderful group meal, with musical entertainment. I must admit that after a bit too much table wine, I was convinced to go on stage (with the other men in our group) and gyrate with a belly dancer. I must still have some great moves, as a large contingent of students where chanting my name. Guess I can still shake my booty on rare occasions.

Today we will visit the U.S. embassy, then wander the city and see more sites. It's a real clash…

The Aussie outback...one year later

I'm packing, getting ready to leave once again...this year's it's Greece and Spain with 90 students from the University of Florida. Another dream adventure with the college of mass communications. But, just one year ago, another adventure emerged.

It was my journey into the great Australian outback.

There were last minute changes in last year's program, and I was asked to accompany the group as a student supervisor. So, with little time to spare, we were off to Sydney. I had just enough time to email a couple of the local running groups, to see if I could pick up a few runs along the way.

What happened next was truly outstanding. I was adopted by the local Aussie ultra contingent, and taken on two epic outback runs, the Great North Road and the Six Foot Track.

Epic stuff. If you'd like more detail check out the links posted in my sidebar. But it was a wonderful group, who did so much for me I don't know how I would repay them. Just great people - wonderful,…

I don't believe in "junk miles"

I was listening to a podcast during my morning 6-miler a few days ago, and the ultra coach was professing that there was a purpose for most every minute of training; anything not targeted for the ultimate goal was a waste and non-productive.

I'm not buying it.

This is the perspective of a 51-year-old man who has been knocking out morning training runs for 25 years. During some periods, I had not missed a daily run in almost five years. I run for the enjoyment of running, and then incorporate racing to put frosting on the cake.

I quit using training logs many years ago. It's good to have a loose idea of what one wants to accomplish, but too much definition can cause burnout and eventual failure.

There have been many endurance athletes who have built stringent plans and stuck to them. But they burn bright and flame out fast. Few who train in that mode last for long. I have known dozens of competitive triathletes and ultra runners who pushed for age group and even overall wins,…

Can I live without the tunes?

Many publications are in support of the "no headphones" stance that race directors are now adhering to...and for good reason. Insurance underwriters view headphone use as a risky behavior, one that can lead to potential injuries on the race course.

Tunes have been part of my ultra scene for the past 25 years. There's something about quality 80's hair band mixes during the tough and lonely parts of a race that just makes sense.

One of my favorite transitions was making it to horse camp the second
time around red loop at the Mohican 100. That was as far as my pace would take me prior to full dark, and I would strap on a headlight, plug in the earphones and head into the night.

In the early years - prior to MP3 - I could pick up one weak FM signal, where the night DJ would put five songs into rotation, interspersed with one office supply store ad. It was great listening: Just me, Britney Spears and the Mohican wilderness.

Now, there are options. If you haven't done…