Monday, November 23, 2015

Zagreb and Opatija

Beautiful government building in zagreb

More on Barcelona in another post.  After 3 days at a hectic trade show in Barcelona I met up with my "educational" tour group to head to Croatia.

We are an eclectic group all in the hotel/DMC /travel  business of some kind.  As the only American I was sure to mind my p's and q's and not leave the ugly American impression.  

Our group
2 Parisians, 1 who is German but lives  in Paris and is "very" Parisian
2 Danes- 1 in Copenhagen and 1 in Prague
2 Brazilians: 1 in Brazil and 1 in Johannesburg - female 
2 Germans : 1 living in Munich and 1 I'm not sure ( the straight laced quite serious one) 
1 Guatemalan - female
1 Malaysian - female 
1 vibrant Hungarian who finishes everyone's sentences 
1 American (me)

As with any group people "pair" off or gravitate towards each other.  Soon it was a 4some.. 2 Frenchies, 1 Dane and me the American. 2 of us married with kids and 2 with domestic partners. 

The trip being educational was busy... Meet 8am breakfasts and out and about on foot until 5 touring  the city, hotels, museums, congress venues and the occasional bar and restaurant. We meet at 8 for dinner ( my previous bedtime) and were generally eating dessert around 11:30pm.

The days are long and we get quite punchy so having some new friends who share similar sarcasm was quite fun. We laughed, joked and make fun of each others respective cultures. Of course much fun poked at Americans. At one point I showed them The "people of Walmart" quite horrifying to all. 
fun in the evenings for sure 
best museum in zagreb 

We did engage in some serious conversations about the recent bombing in Paris and how the fear factor is high.  911 was carried out by foreigners whereas the Paris attacks by French.  We  had great fun chatting about Donald  Trump and the upcoming us presidential  elections. We talked about healthcare, taxes and the educational systems comparatively. It's these conversations that make this trip so enjoyable.  Mind you they all speak English as well as their native tongue and most speaking a 3rd language. 

At the various meals we dined with hotels, locals in the tourism traded etc. and it was fascinating talking about Croatia joining the EU, it's new borders, new government etc. Many who were born in former Yugoslavia but now Croatia, parents who have lived in same town since birth but have been Austrian, Italian, Yugoslav and now Croatian. There  is a lot of talk about local currency and how switching to tell Euro will affect Croatia.  I keep reflecting how different  the US is this manner and how we are very US Centric. 

I took great pride in being toasted by my new friend as "least likely to be American" 
opatija seaside town

Zagreb us the Capitol  city and is quaint and enjoyable but not a top 10 destination.  Lower and upper city with historic beautiful old structures  and some niceparks. Small museums and 5 hotels is significance.  Great pride in everyone we met- proud of Zagreb and their 5 star hotels that are 3.5-4 at best. 

wonderful shops with wine and snacks 
Onto Opatija which is 180K to the south and on the Adriatic Sea. A stunning seaside village that climbs up the hillside. In some ways similar to a very old La Jolla. While we did not luck out with the weather we still enjoyed a long walking tour in the rain. Quaint hotels and wonderful restaurants along the sea. In warm weather beautiful beaches, boating and biking. There is a passion in the Opatijans which is endearing - they are so proud of their village and establishments. 

One hotel had a chocolate museum, while I did not rely understand how it was a museum it was really a chocolatier. We walked through the wine and cheese shop with the cusory 3 hanging pig legs and walked downstairs into a heavenly smell.  Chocolate everywhere... Chocolate cups, saucers and spoons laid out with brandy. Over 100 pieces and flavors to sample.  Fortunately for me it was all milk chocolate so I easily refrained  (from most of it) 
all cocolate

The food in Croatia is nothing extraordinary. While I was not impressed my Frenchie friends were even less impressed, however polite.  At Frenchie last night, remarks "we are very far from Paris" 

brandy in a chocolate cup and with choc spoon
1 Parisian, 1 Parisian who is German, 1 Dane and the American
heavenly bread- squid ink
The Croatians are also take great pride in their wine... which is well not French nor Californian. Being a vegetarian here is not easy. There's 1 kind of milk - whole milk.  Don't worry I was not asking for almond milk but I did switch to double espresso. Coffee is strong and bitter so some raw sugar is necessary.  As for the rest, fortunately there is a lot of fish so I was satiated. I worked around the pate, carpaccio and wild boar. The breads are heavenly.  Most bake daily in their establishments and the are hearty and doughy and some black made with squid ink. I cannot resist the warm bread at every meal. Due to a foot injury I am sidelined from running so I fear I will return to the US with a winter layer of fat. 

Today I said good bye to my new friends and am off to Berlin to see my sister and family.  Lots of wonderful euro kidding each cheeks and hugs around. I think I'll stay in touch with 2 of my new friends for sure.

What I am missing most about the US
- John., Roo, Mako
- avocados
- almond milk
- almond butter
- salad
- not pausing to figure out how to make a call or worry about the language


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

From Tempe to Barcelona

not sure why they "made us " wear top hats and flapper
feathers - but we are team players 
Leaving the simplicity of Tempe, AZ where I was coaching athletes racing Ironman Arizona to the Mediterranean city of Barcelona is a big transition.  Sunday I was up at 3am with Leslie and on the road by 5 for a day of spectating at IMAZ.  The day was not as forecasted and in turn was cold and wet.  I managed to sneak in a 30 min run with Coach Mike while the racers were swimming.  Then it got cold...wet and cold.  We sought refuge and fuel in the Corner Bakery and then hit the streets for spectating. Watching my athletes persevere in the cold and rain was inspirational.  There were a few smiles, a few grimaces and lot of focus.  With 4 "kids" out there I was worried.  But they all finished!  2 became "ironman" for the first time, 1 PR'd and one sucked it up - hypothermic and gutted it out.  I was beaming with pride for their efforts.

I had to take off around 6:30pm to get to the hotel, quick shower and change and off to the airport for a 1 hour delay and a 9 hour flight to London.   I made the "call" to upgrade to priority+ for $300 and it was worth it.  Enough space to stretch out.   I took a night aid and closed my eyes for 7 hours. Whoa- ok so I don't sleep on planes but I did this time.  Woke up thirsty, hungry and wondered where
of course this is the light panel 
I was and why I was so stiff!  From there usual travel, flight delays and finally made it to my hotel at 10pm Barcelona time.  I don't even care to see what time it is in CA.  I ordered food and wine and fell into bed and actually slept.

 OK well before I fell into bed I had to call the front desk to ask where the light switches were (yes I was sober)  Oh on the tiny touch screen on the wall, thank you.  Many languages offered but only Spanish worked - eventually got the lights off.
all purpose
Alarm  goes off 5 hours later and I am pretending I don't know what time it is in CA- went for a run on the TM as I did not (yet)  know I was steps from miles of paved/gravel path along the Mediterranean.  And running in KM is like paying in Euro's - really not clue, just go with it and assume 7:00 miles and that every costs $1.  Rushed back to room- shower- ugh have to step in the stream to turn on, ice cold water and than scalding.  Ok so either freezing or burning.  Was super excited to have left MY shampoo and conditioner in Tempe but was thrilled to see the all purpose shampoo and body wash.  Out of the shower and no towels- seriously?  really do I have to use the floor mat or the hand towel.  So I do and get to the phone and call and ask "madam they are on the shelf in the bathroom"  Uh no they are not.  Seems housekeeping forgot all my towels that day.  But today I have 12.

Ok really I do travel - quite a bit and I have traveled internationally a lot, but maybe the jet lag- who knows.  But I am a pro now with google translate, currency converter and KM to MPH. All set.

more jamon
now that is a lot of paella
6 hours on the trade show floor  actually went really fast.  Yes it was a lot of work but it was all good.

 Coffee/espressi everywhere- almond milk not so much. Ok, when in Barcelona drink cows milk.  I can make that compromise but what is the Spanish obsession with jamon (ham)  it is in nearly everything and at the reception(s) last night there was plenty of it - full legs being carved, flattened and stuffed pigs.

Yesterday I tried my Spanish asking for jabon (soap) at the front desk and my pronunciation was so good the front desk agent escorted me to the breakfast buffet an showed me all the jamon.  So no ham or soap for me in Espana.  Even the marcisos" "seafood" paella, giant paella,  - great seafood but after a few bites I realize of course there is jamon in it.

 At some point along perfect sense to give up on the food and start drinking martini's.  I don't drink hard alcohol yet somehow it seemed like a good idea on an empty stomach, jet lagged and after running 10 miles and working all day.
the way (last night) it made

On the way home "we" detoured to Burger King and even than I could not succom to "animal" carnage, so I stole a BK crown, drank water and went home to my Zing Bars (and maybe a can of gummy bears from the mini bar"

Can I tell you how awesome I felt today!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Running trails.....I fall down but get up and do it again

It's funny I was reading swimbikemom blog about trail running and was LMAO and than I paused as I had to reposition my hand which is destroyed from my trail run Sunday.

I'd love to share an epic tale of a treacherous descent and I was leaping past another runner and I bit it, but the truth is it was not even a trail really but more of a path on the way to the trail.  John and I were running along - 30 min warm up and John was running faster than I wanted to be running.  I was pissed at him and ticking off all the reasons I was feeling slower- I rode the day before, did a hard run blah blah blah, and I was admiring his speed and ease of running when I .....don't really know but was skidding face down in the dirt.  I froze.  Roo and Mako immediately came back  to investigate, waggy tails and tongues and I was not happy.   Took me a few minutes to realize I was okay.  I managed a pretty even fall as in, noting that not one limb took the brunt which would have resulted in a broken xx.  I landed on both hands, both knees and my left thigh.   My left had had a few rocks imbeded and is a mess and my left thigh is road rashed but all in all it was pretty even.  We resumed the run and I felt like a stud running with blood running down my legs.

my honey and our Roo and Mako
The funny thing is last weekend John (roo/mako), Courtney and I did a trail race.  Lake Hodges 15K.  If you read this blog you run always sucks !  Blah!  And I am always working on my run.  My goal is to run through the off season consistently - which has not happened in 3 years.... 2012  year I fell down the stairs and broke my leg/ankle - 12 weeks in a boot, next year I tore my mensisus (CrossFit), next year I "jacked"my shin - still not sure what happened... So you take a "non" runner and take her out of running for 10-12 weeks and well my run tanks. So the goal is - 1: stay on your feet.  Ok so I failed that Sunday but it was not damaging.  I digress.....back to the trail race.  It was for run "no expectations"

Start easy and build coach says.   So I did and was building into the run. At the turn around I was in 5th. 1,2,3rd were well ahead 5+ minutes but 4th was in reach, so I picked up the pace.  I would come on her and we would hit the downhills and she was a fricking gazelle flying over the rocks and I was a lead weight braking and almost crawling downhill.  Finally I passed her and there was enough runnable terrain to stay head. Final hill I see 3rd place, OMG she was dying big time.  So I go hard, see running down girls NEVER happens to me, so this was pure fun,  I was methodical as it was a long hill and as we crested I cruised past her with a HR of 189 and nearly passing out.  OMG....she looked at me and f'ng took off, as in 2 min/mile faster took off and the last .5 miles were downhill and rocky and twisty.... I wimped out....

Stayed in 4th and was pissed I did go for it happy I stayed upright!  until the following week when I feel on a flat road.
Courtney and I post race 

So I keep Johnson and Johnson in business.... 7 band aids each AM- 3  on left palm (with many replacements as they fall off from hand washing), 1 on each knee, 1 on shoulder.

Push ups are hard.

So Saturday is another trail race- She Runs  1/2 Marathon- same run as 2 weeks ago but we go further.

1 - I know the terrain
2- I bought trail shoes
3- I am still afraid of falling

I want to be that gazelle flying through the trails....then I see my race photos' and think wow "really"