Friday, May 24, 2013

Punting, New College Boat Party, & general updates

Hi all! It has been a busy past few weeks! I guess it is always busy during term though--the work just keeps on going and going for 8 weeks. In the past five weeks I've written 7 essays, and in the next three weeks I'll write 5 more. This week I'll be writing about the English Reformation and Henry VIII, and also about culture in the British Empire.

Now for some highlights from the last few weeks. A few weeks ago, I went punting with my friends Sarah, Hyerin, and Emily. Whenever I first told people in America about this (my parents, my friend Liz, my boyfriend Mark) they assumed I was kicking something. But in Oxford (and Cambridge) punting is a boating activity. Several people sit in a wooden boat while one person uses a long metal pole to propel the boat. It was much, much more challenging than it looks because it is so hard to steer the boat straight.

Hyerin and me punting!

Sarah and me.

Some of the boats have rather creative names.

Another really fun thing I've done recently was go to the New College Boat Party. New College hired a big boat in London and a few hundred students sailed down the Thames for several hours. It was a black tie event with a mix of live music and a DJ who played great music. It was such a great way to relax after a long week and spend time with friends.

Sarah, Christina, and me by the Tower of London

The boat is in the background

Christina, Sarah and Brendan on the boat

The boat's dance floor and stage

As far as other general updates go, I'm expecting an influx of visitors in the next few weeks. This weekend my dad will be here, then next week my friend Sarah R. will be here. And the week after that my boyfriend Mark will be here, and also my best friend Liz. I am so excited to see all of these people--I haven't seen my dad, Liz, or Mark in about 5-6 months, and my friend Sarah in a year! I will definitely post about their visits.

Finally, a running update for my teammates/coaches who may be reading. I think that I may have strained a muscle in my right hip during the marathon (consultation with my friends who know about these things indicates it might be my piriformis muscle). The reason why I walked the 24th mile during the marathon was because my hips were so sore, so the fact that I have had some pain afterward isn't too surprising.

I spent my first week of the term moping about my hip, but then started heading to the gym to do some non-weight bearing exercise. For about a month I've been stretching my piriformis and working out on the elliptical, which is so much more boring than running outside. But, a few days ago, I went running outside for the first time in about a month and it felt great! It wasn't for very long (about 2 miles) and I stopped halfway to stretch, but there wasn't any pain. Such a relief!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Back to Oxford for Trinity Term & Holi

I returned to Oxford 2 weeks ago and have been incredibly busy since my arrival! I had an essay due the week I got back and the work hasn't let up since. One of my classes is Western Christianity: 1500-1619 (the Reformation), and the other is on the British Empire. Thus far I've written essays on the medieval Western Church, Martin Luther, and trade in the British Empire. This week I'm working on one about John Calvin.

When I left Oxford in the beginning of March it was still clearly winter. It was overcast and rainy--it actually snowed on the first official day of Spring vacation. Since my return, however, the weather has been glorious. During the dark, cold days of January and February I thought I would never see sunshine in England. Thankfully spring has arrived! The temperatures have gotten up to the mid to upper 60s.

Mansfield's new statue

Mansfield on a lovely sunny day. Construction has somewhat marred the view.

More Mansfield.

A tourist bus on Broad street.

Apparently a wedding took place at Hertford this past week. I caught this picture on my way to class!

Oriel College. I have a tutorial here this term.

Flowers at Oriel.

My friend Hayley at Oriel.

The view from the window outside my tutor's office. Not bad!

I also recently participated in my first Holi! Holi is a Hindu religious festival celebrated mostly in India and Nepal, but it is also celebrated in countries with large Indian diaspora populations. The festival celebrates the beginning of spring, and basically involves people throwing brightly colored powder and water at each other. The Oxford Hindu Society organized the celebration which was held on a large field. At least 200 people showed up, and I was covered in powder by the end!

Nice and clean before Holi.

The ladies before Holi. L to R: Anjali, Hayley, Emily, Sarah, me, and Christina

Mid-celebration/battle: Raul, me, Hayley, Emily.

Brendan, Sarah, and Raul (squirting Sarah with a water gun).

The gang afterward: Jordan, me, Anjali, Christina, Sarah, Hayley, Emily, Raul.

So much fun! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Paris marathon: running is fun again

On Sunday April 7 I completed the Marathon de Paris--26.2 miles of running through the city of lights/love/many other adjectives.  It was a tremendous personal accomplishment and one of my happiest moments in recent memory when I crossed the finish line.

To those of you who may not have been consistently following my blog (aka everyone except for my parents...) I signed up for the marathon on a whim this October. One of my dear and very persuasive friends from Wellesley, Dori, came up with the idea. One of our other friends, Amy, followed suit.

I am not a completely inexperienced runner, as I have done some competitive running in college, so the decision to run a marathon didn't come out of nowhere. But, as many runners will understand, my relationship with running is a love-hate one. Sometimes running feels fantastic--you break personal records, feel strong on most of your runs, and generally enjoy running. Other times it feels absolutely terrible (the hate part of the relationship). When I decided to sign up for the marathon, I had been in a protracted "hate" cycle with running. The spring before, I had a miserable track season. I would begin a race and then 5-8 minutes in would feel completely burned out and fatigued. I dropped out of at least one race and ran two minutes slower than my personal record in another. Even on short runs I would feel sluggish. The school doctor diagnosed me with exercise-induced asthma and slightly low iron levels and I began treating the issues. But by then the season was over and I left Wellesley for the year.

Over the summer I worked 40+ hours at an internship. I would wake up between 5:30-6 am in order to make my bus and get home around 6-6:30 pm. I didn't feel like I had the energy to run, and my recent running experiences had been painful. So I did almost no running during the summer.

But then came Dori's idea of the marathon. I figured that it would be a good goal for me to work towards and something that would force me to run. (Admittedly, once I had paid the entrance fee, that was a pretty good reason to run it too.)

I started training in January, and for three and a half months I slowly worked my way from running 3 miles to running 20. It was sometimes fun, but often painful. I threw up after my first official long run of the training program. After I ran 13 miles for the first time, I collapsed on my bed and wondered how I would ever run another 13. When I ran 18 miles, my legs grew so tired that I simply dissociated to make it through the run--I didn't think about where I was going and just put one foot in front of the next (I was running a straight route along the Tiber, so this was actually possible and safe).

When it got closer to marathon time, people began asking me my goals. One of my professors asked me if I was trying to run a specific time, as did several friends. I ultimately decided that I wouldn't have a strict time goal. I just wanted to feel relaxed and comfortable during the marathon (at least to the extent that it is possible), and finish. One of my coaches reinforced this for me, telling me that for a first-time marathoner, simply finishing is an accomplishment. In addition to this, I hadn't run competitively or with a team for a year. I hadn't done a speed workout or worked with a coach. I had run fairly conservatively in terms of mileage because I was afraid of getting injured.

The day of the marathon, I woke up at my aunt and uncle's apartment at 6:30 a.m. I ate a pain au chocolat and a banana. I had picked out and tested every item of my clothing weeks in advance. I felt ready!
At the apartment before the race. My uncle Jean is in the background.

My number!

I arrived at the starting line WAY too early--8 a.m. It was only 32 degrees outside. The excitement and nervousness of all the runners was palpable. In my nervousness, I began talking to other runners. There weren't too many Americans--in the span of about 5 minutes I met a Norwegian woman, an Irish man and woman, a Brit, and several French people. One French woman began giving me advice--don't go out too fast, try to be relaxed, have fun. 

At 8:45 the gun went off. People started cheering and yelling. But we didn't move--with over 40,000 runners, only the elites actually started at the official starting time. It was sometime between 9:15-9:20 until I finally reached the starting line. I felt so joyful when I ran across the starting line! I couldn't believe that I was FINALLY here. I had been training 3.5 months and had registered 6 months before. 

I started the race off comfortably. I felt amazing--just so happy to be out and running. The sun was shining but the temperature remained cool. I hadn't run in a large group for a year and it was incredibly exciting to be surrounded by other runners. I felt better than I had in a year. Running finally, finally felt good again.

During the race

I stayed steady through the first half and finished it in 2 hours and 2 minutes. I didn't feel tired but I also didn't have the same spring in my step as I did after the first 5 and 10K. By the time I reached mile 16, I started to think, "I can't believe I have ten more miles!"

My hips started aching around mile 18. It is always my hips that get tired and sore first. Simultaneously, my stomach began to get a little upset after about 4 packets of energy gel I had eaten to restore calories. In addition, I had been drinking water at every stop and my stomach started sloshing. 

I slowed down considerably--I just couldn't make my legs move any faster. Slowly but surely I made my way through the next 6 miles. Once I reached mile 24, I stopped to stretch. My hips were burning. I walked most of that mile with the hope that a little bit of walking would help me relieve my body enough to run the last mile and a half.

At mile 25 I began running again. It was such a relief to know that I only had 1.2 miles left! I began experiencing what I've heard other runners describe as tunnel vision. I just focused on the thought of the finish line and put one foot in front of the other. There were crowds of people near the end shouting "allez, allez!" I started to pick it up because I wanted to finish strong.

Finally, finally I reached the finish line. "Some Nights" by Fun was playing on my iPod. I looked down at my watch to see that I had completed the marathon in 4 hours 21 minutes and 19 seconds (my coach later informed me that the electronic chip actually recorded me 5 seconds faster). I was so happy I started crying a little bit. I couldn't believe I had done it! I was shuffled through a line of runners where I got my finisher t-shirt, a poncho, and a medal. I met up with my aunt who gave me a huge hug despite my sweatiness and we headed back to the apartment.

At the apartment after the marathon.

That night I met up with my friends Dori and Amy, who ran the marathon in the blistering times of 3h42m and 3h55m respectively. We enjoyed chicken, beans, salad, and potato chips--my aunt and uncle's weekly Sunday dinner. We also posed for pictures to send to the Wellesley cross country and track team!

Now I'm back in Rome but heading back to Oxford on Saturday. I'll write a further post about my visit to the Vatican City soon!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My first few days in Rome

Ciao tutti! I've been in Rome the past few days. I finished up the term about a week and a half ago, and spent a week doing some thesis research and preparing for my 5 week stay in Rome.

I'm in Rome primarily for an internship with an organization that does diplomatic work and research on international relations. But I have had plenty of time to do some sight seeing as well! Here I will describe my first few days, and I will update again soon when I can.

My first day here I got to my apartment and met up with my friend Victoria, who stayed with me my first few days. Our first day here we went to the Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano. It is a 12th century basilica, built on top of a 4th century basilica, built on top of the house of a Roman nobleman. We got to see all of the different levels and it was incredible. Sadly, I wasn't allowed to take pictures around the basilica.

Museo Nazionale

Rome's abandoned cat sanctuary

Me near the Roman Forum and the Colosseum

The Rome marathon happened my first weekend here

The arch of Constantine

The Colosseum

The next day Victoria and I visited the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Although I went to the Colosseum when I was 16, it was still breathtaking. It was particularly interesting to see the area that would have been under the floor/stage (perhaps I have just seen the movie "Gladiator" too many times...)

Me inside the Colosseum


Under the floor of the Colosseum.

After the Colosseum we went to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.  The Palatine Hill is one of the most ancient parts of the city, with recent archaeological findings determining that people have lived there since around 1,000 BC. Emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and Domitian had palaces there. Palatine looks over the the Forum, which is essentially ruins of ancient government buildings. The various buildings in the Forum were built from around 497 BC to 312 AD.

A small part of Palatine Hill

What was a sort of garden with fountains at the Palatine Hill.

Arch of Titus at the Roman Forum

A temple at the Forum

Arch of Titus again

The Trevi fountain--not part of the Roman Forum but a very famous landmark in Rome!