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Saturday, October 4, 2008

23 miles… check!

I did it! This morning I accomplished the previously unthinkable —I completed a 23 mile run and feel totally prepared to tackle the marathon next month. I’m so happy!

This time the run felt much easier and smoother than a few weeks ago when I did 20 mi; no terrible stomach cramps, no extreme exhaustion, no “ runner’s wall” (where one thinks they are running when in fact they are barely moving forward). I think because I didn’t let myself get as nervous and worked up-- just jumped into it-- and also I took 2 Ibuprofen before I set off, which probably prevented the cramps. I also ate and drank less, so I didn’t have all the liquid and solid weight sloshing around my stomach like it did last time, too.

Today’s weather was pretty funky, providing a whole new set of challenges than I’ve experienced. Early on the sky was partly cloudy with some intense bouts of sun (reminding me of Arizona), then, all of the sudden a dark cloud rolled over the mountain ridge, bringing with it a heavy downpour and a blanket of fog. Luckily, I was wearing a baseball cap (donated by Cam and Donna—thank you, thank you!) which happens to be waterproof, so I stuffed my Ipod shuffle into the top and was able to keep it (and my head and face) dry throughout. Of course, the rest of my body and clothes got completely soaked, causing passersby to freak out and demand that I go inside, my presence utterly dumbfounding to them. The rain lasted between miles 14- 16, dying down and then Whoosh! the sky cleared and the bright and shiny sun came back!

I was surprised to feel as energized as I was. At mile 14 I nursed a blueberry-pomegranate gel pack, and wasn’t hungry until mile 19, when I ate half of a Cliff bar. Otherwise, I chewed gum the whole way and drank only .5 liters of electrolyte water throughout.

Right around mile 19 the wind picked up; I somewhat bitterly contemplated its unpleasant timing, but consciously decided to toughen up and throw all my strength into the final stretch. As for body pains, when I run my legs are only sore from the knees down, especially around the ankles, and my feet go completely numb as they slam against the asphalt. When I got home I stretched and promptly applied ice while elevating my legs. Now I can look forward to an easy week, then one final push of 25 miles before “tapering down”.
In other news: Albania’s Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, came to Gjiro today, so the streets were absolutely flooded with police officers, blowing whistles and waving little stop signs in effort to direct traffic and display their authority.

I’ve recently noticed a surge in city projects around Gjirokastёr: the infamously disgusting public restrooms near the castle have been renovated (though still not open so I can’t verify), the New Town’s main road was re-asphalted, and this morning there were workers out along that road, filling in the meridian with soil and planting young saplings. What is this? I wondered. Lo and behold my Albanian sources tell me that elections are coming up soon, and it is tradition that the ruthless and corrupt mayor will carry out one string of visible projects near the end of his term, winning over popular votes and securing his seat in office. I’m disgusted because Gjiro’s mayor is particularly corrupt and already I’ve learned of several occasions when he has not only stolen money outright from international organizations that was meant to develop and improve the city, but also situations when he bribed (or tried to bribe) local organizations for the benefit and profit of his friends. Ugh I’ve been so wound up in political talk and debate in America from NPR and Democracy Now! podcasts that the absolute inescapability of corruption and evildoing just seems overwhelming, even from this tiny corner of the world. Are people everywhere evil, ignorant, and greedy? I feel so despaired.

Well, I don’t really want to leave you on that note, so I’ll just mention one interesting little side quip. Did you know that over 36,000 people around the world are aged over 100 years old? (According to BBC GlobalNews, see I told you I’m addicted to podcasts!) Well, Albania has an expression that is always said to wish someone a happy birthday: U Bёfsh Njё Qind Vjeç! [ May you live to be 100 years!] I’m thinking that pretty soon they will have to modify their language to wish people a much longer lifespan..!

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