Wednesday, February 16, 2011

First marathon





DH and I took the day off and drove down to Jacksonville for 26.2 with Donna:  The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.


On Saturday, we went to the race expo and checked in. The expo was very good. Check in was quick, the race shirt is really nice and the volunteers were cheerful and helpful. DH and I also did a little bit of reconnaissance -- confirmed where the bus from the hotel area to the race start was, confirmed that the beach was hard packed as advertised and so on. My parents and my in-laws were both coming into Jacksonville for the race so we gathered some course info for them as well.

On Saturday evening, we went Mellow Mushroom for a pre race meal.  Pizza, as usual!

Race Day

On Sunday morning, I got up at 5:00, lubed up liberally in an effort to avoid chafing and then ate a bagel with peanut butter and a banana and drank a bottle of Camelbak Elixir to get some electrolytes into my system. I had a little bit of coffee from the hotel lobby and I walked across the street to get a shuttle bus to the race start. I got into line at about 5:30 and we arrived at the Mayo Clinic for the race start at about 6:00.

At about 6:30 or a little before, they herding us to the corrals. They had four corrals. The half and full marathon runners went in together according to color codes they had on our bibs. In other words, 4 hour marathoners and 2 hour half marathoners were mixed together.

The race started a few minutes late. They were obviously checking with police to make sure that the roads were clear and we started as soon as the organizers got the all clear. It 40 degrees when the race started (60 degrees when I finished).

It was also neat that the start of the race was broadcast on TV. My peeps watched the TV coverage and then went outside and saw me.  (This is where it helps that the event is 26.2 with Donna and Donna is a news anchor on a local station and Mr. Donna is a weatherman at a local station.  As a result, the races has excellent media coverage.)

The course started at Mayo Clinic and crossed the intracoastal waterway in the first two miles.  The first (and last) three miles were on a (closed) expressway.  By mile five we were on the beach.
The run out to the beach was fun and included highlighted by helicopter flyovers for TV and plenty of cars honking in support of the thousands of runners.  The spectator support was amazing!  The 2.5 miles run on the beach were beautiful.

On the beach just after mile 7

The hotel that we stayed at was on the course near mile 7 and mile 19. I saw my family on the beach just after mile 7. They cheered and I waved. That was neat. Throughout the race I kept on counting down when to have Gu or when I would see my family during the race.

Just after mile 19

The run went really really well until mile 16. Then my legs started to complain a little bit. About this time I started to dislike the marathon relay teams. I mean really dislike them. The relay people looked so fresh and perky, having run about one mile since the exchange at Mile 15, and my legs were feeling somewhat less than fresh and perky. I kept on telling myself, less than 30 minutes until I see my peeps again (at mile 19). Then it was less than a mile to the next Gu. 10k to go. Back onto the expressway to the finish. With about 2 miles to go I could see the finish. There's Mayo Clinic. Right there. The finish. Up the bridge. It's all downhill from here. The finish should be just around the corner. I hope the finish is just around the corner. There it is!

I checked the race results and over 1600 marathon runners finished, along with over 4000 half marathoners plus 214 marathon relay teams (5 people per team).

I thought that the organization and crowd support were superb. The expo was great as was the runner support on the course. Water stations were well stocked, port-a-pots plentiful, Gu available, etc.

I would definitely do this event again. I would definitely recommend it to a friend.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Septembers of Shiraz: A Novel (P.S.)The Septembers of Shiraz: A Novel by Dalia Sofer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was excellent.  I had a hard time putting it down.  It is beautifully written.  In some ways, this book reminds me of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri -- language and style, caught between  cultures.

The story takes place in post-Revolutionary Iran and tells the story of a Jewish family -- Isaac, Farnaz, Shirin and Paviz -- living in Tehran.  Told in the voice of each of these family members, this suspenseful story begins when Isaac, a gemologist with associations to the Shah, is arrested by the Revolutionary Guard.  Early in the book, "Back in his cell, Isaac thinks of Rez and the thousands of revolutionaries like him -- men and women who thought they were part of something big, much bigger than their daily lives -- who thought they were changing the course of history.  And here they are, having replace crowns with turbans." (101)

Isaac is an educated man with knowledge of both Persian and Western literature.  When he was in prison, he thought of poems, including The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats and the Teachings of Hafiz (239) -- interestingly, Hafiz (also known as Hafez) was born in Shiraz.

(from The Lake Isle of Innisfree)

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made...

(from Teachings of Hafiz)

Can drunkenness be linked to piety
And good repute?
Where is the preacher's holy monody,
Where is the lute?

Later in the book (294), Isaac recites another section from the Teachings of Hafiz.  This time he recites to his father

Be not too sure of your crown, you who thought
That virtue was easy and recompense yours;
From the monastery to the wine-tavern doors
The way is nought

from The Divan of Hafiz (337)

Not all the sum of earthly happiness
Is worth the bowed head of a moment's pain

The book also has other art and religious themes throughout.  For example, the theme of the ghazal, a form of poetry.  "Five couplets, at the minimum, but no more than twelve usually.  The first couplet establishes a rhyme followed by a refrain, a scheme repeated by the second line of each succeeding couplet.  Each couplet should stand on its own, but must also be part of the whole.  At the end, the poet often invokes himself...'So what happens at the end, Baba?' and he had said, 'There is no end, Shirin-jan.  That's the first thing you should learn about ghazals.  There is no resolution.  Imagine the speaker simply throwing his hands in the air.'" (178-179)" 

Farnaz borrows a sixteenth-century miniature painting from an antique dealer.  She asks the dealer about the history of the piece.   "'That's the sad part of the story.  In 1962 an American collector bought it, and he had the audacity to rip pages out of the book and sell them individually.  He sold some to a museum in New York, others to private collectors.'

"She looks at the orphaned leaf, its counterparts spread around the globe, each adopted by one museum or another, or locked in a cabinet of a European or American collector who picks it up once in a while or looks at in his dime study..." (217)

Do the "orphaned leaf" represent Iranians spread around the world like pages of the book?  Does it represent American disrespect/misunderstanding of Persian culture?

This is only the tip of the iceberg.  There is a lot going on in this book (alcohol: banned after the Revolution, Isaac's father was an alcoholic -- apathy, fermented and distilled (106), Isaac's brother Javad was a bootlegger; Why didn't Farnaz send Parviz the money Isaac promised him?  She gave $10,000 to Javad and nothing to her son.; fundamentalist Jews and fundamentalist Islamics; 'worship' of Western culture)

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