Tuesday, March 27, 2012

42.2 kilometers (26.2miles)

Well. The day I have been training for since the end of October 2011 came. and went. Barcelona Marathon 2012 was a huge success! I can't believe it's over. This is, I can't believe it until I stand up or walk somewhere and my legs remind me. Georgia and I completed the marathon together in 4 hours and 4 minutes. Not to bad for a first marathon. Something like a steady 9:20 mile pace which is faster than I expected. I couldn't be happier with my time but more importantly, that I got to the starting line AND finished. The whole experience was so incredible.

Georgia and I had 4 friends come with us to Barcelona for moral support and to do some sight seeing. We left Granada early Friday morning and arrived in Barcelona by early afternoon. We arrived at the hostel and were greeted by some of the nicest staff I have ever met in a hostel since being herein Europe. John and Valerio were super accommodating, cooked dinner for the entire hostel every night and gave the 7 or so marathon runners free breakfast and lunch the day of the marathon. I literally paid for no food the entire weekend and was very well fed. We were about a 15 minute walk from the start line and the night before the race we met 3 German guys, two of which were running the next day. They were super fun and we ended up walking to the start with them and then later that night I went out and celebrated with them (as much as you can celebrate when you are as tired as we were). It was fun to share the experience with other runners.

Barcelona is an incredible city that I will have to revisit. So much distinct architecture and a mix of cultures. The marathon course took us through the entire city, by the beach and around most of the major land marks. It was an absolutely gorgeous day with perfect weather. I didn't get many good pictures but my friend Katelin took some great ones.

The day of the race we woke up at 6am Barcelona time to eat breakfast (12am EST/ 11pm CST) with the Germans. The hilarious part was that the night before the race was daylight savings time here in Spain and everyone was freaked out about missing their alarms..but we made it.

Then we got suited up and headed for the start line around 8am in Barcelona time. I actually wasn't nervous until breakfast the morning of. When we reached the starting line we then had to find our 'box' to start the race from. They divide the start line into colors according to the time you think you will finish in so they can stagger start the race. We were looking for the blue box. Well, somehow we ended up in the very front of the blue box. As in security guards pushing you backwards front of the race. I still have no idea how that happened. It was the craziest feeling to be standing in front with the open road before me. When they finally let us go I had to keep myself from sprinting out because I was so excited. The next four hours were filled with lots and lots of running, hydrating, gel packs and encouraging words. Georgia and I lost each other at the end for a little while. The last 2k were up hill and it was the most mentally challenging thing I've done in a while. People were stopping and walking like crazy which was so tough because at that point you are so close to the finish line. But I made it, without walking or stopping. After crossing the finish line I thought I was going to pass out. Couldn't breath b/c I was crying/laughing so much. Then they had us wait in line to cut our timing chips off our shoes and then another line to get our medals. It was a terrible waiting process but I survived. Totally worth every bit of pain. Training was so fun. I hope that this won't be my last marathon. Here are, as always, a few pics from the weekend!!

The signs that John and Valerio put up for us


my 'i'm-about-to-run-a-marathon face'

still waiting...

the start...on Saturday before the race

me, Georgia, Roland and Jean-Marie

BEST. PIC. EVER. thanks Katelin (beginning of the marathon)

last 100 meters. I think. 

fist pumping. finish line

after it was all said and done.

this is what i wanted to do right after..

Valerio! he had a surprise lunch ready for us at the hostel after the race.

magic fountain (that's the name). light show accompanied with disney movie soundtrack

Park G├╝ell in Barcelona. Entrance looked like Candy Land.

Guadi's house

Sam! I didn't have a group pic

 a very magical looking place

This weekend was one that I will indeed never forget as long as I live. What an experience it was to train for the marathon and then to finally get to run it. And to run it in Barcelona. What a gift. So thankful for everyone who high fived me today, wrote on my facebook wall, sent me emails, and supported me the whole way. Even though my legs feel like they have a thousand tiny knives in them i'm walking (ok waddling) around Granada grinning ear to ear. What a incredible feeling. 

Also..in 3 days I'm off to Germany/Prague for 10 days.. What an incredible time in life!

Monday, March 12, 2012

One of Those Days

Yesterday I read a short story by a man who is studying abroad in Granada. His name is Mark and his life story is pretty crazy. I am unsure of his exact age but he went back to school to get a degree and decided that he should study abroad. His semester has turned into a year and he plans to stay for the summer. He gets a lot of strange looks from students at my school because he sticks out among a couple hundred 20 yr olds. But he is a pretty cool guy. He is a writer and up until yesterday I had not read anything by him. He wrote a story called "The Bridge" about losing his second wife to cancer and by the time I was done reading it, tears were streaming down my face uncontrollably. The premise of the story was he was with his granddaughter walking over a bridge and he looked down at the water and remembered his wife and then proceeded to tell their story. It 's a pretty crazy story with a lot of crazy things but the essence of it for me was this line about remembering people who were so dear to us and now they are gone:

"Moments happen in our lives that defy the laws of nature, when whole pieces of our past can slip into a backward moving stream and crash vividly into our awareness. In this entanglement of time, we are back to where it all began."  -mark stanley

This happens to me in regards to my brother John more than I care to admit. Almost everyday I see something and think "John would have loved that." or laugh about some story from the past with John in it. And the funny thing is, I used to do that when he was alive. The only difference is now, I can't tell him about it.

The other day when I was in Ronda, Kelli and I walked past a store that was selling giant highly decorated knives. I immediately thought of John and how he would have begged to go in the store and check out the weaponry. He had a little knife collection. One of the like 7 things he did have..
 And I smiled a bit and then realized that it had been a long time since I had really thought about him. And by a long time, I mean a few months. Here, there is hardly anything to remind me of him. No pictures, people, or places to be reminded of. There are only my thoughts and memories.
And it was in that moment that it really hit me how much I missed him and miss talking about him. I think people think i'm crazy here b/c i've been telling crazy stories about my brother all week. I just can't seem to help myself.

Like stories of all of the practical jokes John used to love. He was never very good at the surprise element of the jokes but non the less it was hilarious. He owned a hand buzzer, electric gum and a pen that shocked you when you tried to use it. I was remembering the other day how I was with him when he bought the pen. It actually looked and seemed like a normal pen. And we spent 3 days trying to get anyone and everyone to use it. That was in 2007 before I graduated high school. When I moved away I forgot about the pen and those moments we had together. And then that terribly rotten day when we were cleaning out his room after he died I opened his desk drawer and took out the 3 pencils and 2 pens he had (once again, the boy owned nothing). I really like writing utensils and so I decided to test the pens to see if they still wrote. And wouldn't you know it, I picked up the shock pen, clicked it, and thought my arm was going to fall off. I cursed so loudly and terribly. And then started laughing and crying at the same time b/c I couldn't believe John finally got me with that dumb 'ol pen.

I can still hear his laugh, see his smile, and listen to him arguing with my parents over the ways of the world. I sometimes here his off key singing of all my favorite songs (which i once hated..) and whistling which he used to do incessantly.
I'll never forget how he used to greet me at the door when I came home from college and carry my bags to my room. Whose 16yr old brother does that? mine did.
And how he always wanted to hang out with me and practice baseball and basketball with me.
He was such a life force in our family growing up that when we are all together, the silence is almost deafening sometimes.

The family I live with here in Spain lost a member of the house in June 2011. They lost a son and brother. And one time the whole family got back together in January 2012 and my host mom couldn't stop crying. My heart hurt so bad for them b/c I know what it is like to have an echoing missing presence, one you don't really feel until the pieces are all back together. except one.

And so I miss my brother. And I always will. And there will always be things that remind me of him. everyday. And somedays will will be sadder than others. And unfortunately, I will never quite understand why he is gone. But, above all,I am very thankful for is how many good, wonderful, and cherished memories my family and I shared with him. It is just a shame there won't be anymore...

You are still missed John Noll. and you always will be. 

Friday, March 2, 2012


This past weekend I had a 5 day weekend followed by only 2 days of class. The reason being that there was a holiday (fiesta) on Tuesday for all of Andalusia, the autonomous community in which Granada is located. So of course we were given monday AND tuesday off. This is a very common practice among spaniards. One, that as a student, I fully support. So I had five days to relax and do whatever I wanted. Friday I spent almost the entire day in bed, sleeping, reading, eating, watching TV. Let me tell you, I'm soaking up every one of those days I can get. Saturday I spent running and then my new friend Kelli asked me if I wanted to go to Ronda, Spain with her. I said sure not really knowing exactly what Ronda was or where it was or what we could do there. So i Googled it and found out that it was a pretty famous Spanish place. It is home to the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain, there are some pretty cool bridges there, and the town has heavy moorish influence. Which is great if you are in a Islamic Culture in Spain class like I am. Really makes class not so boring when you can have some hands on experience. So we went. by train. which is spain is not too common. The trains are usually expensive and it is far better to take a bus. But the train ended up being the best, most direct option.

Kelli and I spent the better part of almost 3 days touring the town, sitting on top of ancient city walls, exploring, talking, sleeping, and staring at mountains. Just what I had needed. The place was gorgeous and i wish I could have spent more time there just wondering around. Anyways, here are a few pics from the weekend.

not bad..

i took 35 pictures of this bridge


Kelli and I

bullfighting ring 

my best matador impression. Kelli happened to catch it on camera.

this is a little wall that the guys who help the matador run and hide behind when the bull starts chasing them. kind of like a rodeo clown..

Kelli trying to be a bull

we took a hike to the bottom of the gorge. so beautiful

so many abandoned buildings

amazing views

there was also a Vespa convention. 

train ride home

super blurry but it if I didn't know any better i would have thought i was in south Texas for about 5 minutes of the train ride

train station in Granada. 

So great to get away outside of the city. It is March now. This means I have 3 months left here. I absolutely can not believe how quickly the time has passed. so crazy! hoping to make the most out of my time left here.