jog.fm

I have a friend called Katie who used to say “inshock.com” to express her horror at some unexpected event, and the phrase always made me laugh. I have discovered this app called jog.fm — one of the few apps I have ever shelled out cold hard cash for (extra cold and hard considering $2.99 is more than I get paid per hour here). It has a few drawbacks — awkward silences between songs, for example — but it’s basically amazing.

The idea is it analyses your iTunes music to work out all the BPM (beats per minute) and what pace they are best fitted to. Then you tell the app how fast you want to run, and it plays music from your iTunes at that pace. If you’re running outdoors, it can also be set to track your pace and match it with songs that fit.

I started my run with jog.fm set to a 6:15min/km pace + a warm-up song. The warm-up song warmed me up a bit too much and soon I was speeding up my pace to 5min/km — and holding it for entire songs. This was too much for an entire 5km but the run really flew by and I finally squeezed my 5kms in under 30 minutes: 29 minutes and 55 seconds, to be precise.

The great thing about my other app, Runkeeper, is that I can look back at runs I did over the last year and make estimates of how long it takes me to get back to a proper speed. This time last year I was also barely scraping 30-minute 5ks, but within a month and a half I was squeezing 6km into 30 minutes. Of course the difference is I was running the China Hash twice a week, not sweating on a treadmill, so I guess the next step is to find the Colombo Hash…

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oh eddie, is it a bee?

It’s been a year since I started using Runkeeper — which with tonight’s crappy 6km on the treadmill comes to 942.8km of cardio (running, hiking, swimming, elliptical, cycling), despite being injured for 6 months of the year. If I could squeeze in 57.2km in the next 2 days it would be 1000km in a year! Actually I have definitely done that much hiking, but it was on James’ Runkeeper and he didn’t tag me, so I will have to have the satisfaction without the records.

I can’t even speak about how awful work is — the last time I had to deal with a situation like this was when I was landed with organising a conference for 40 Swedish hairdressers in Melbourne, with 2 weeks’ notice and a very limited budget. This job I have now is kind of worse in some ways, but at the same time I don’t really care.

And I’m horribly homesick for Australia at the moment. I blame TV playing this advert on every ad break:

ANYWAY. Let’s remember better days, a week ago I was in Unawatuna… To get to Una you take the ONLY actual real piece of road in Sri Lanka — The Freeway. It’s exactly 100km long and if you drive it in less than an hour they apparently fine you for driving over the speed limit of 100km/h. Clever huh. It was a treat to be on a road free from tuk-tuks and crazy drivers. Vijay who was driving has a lovely theory on why the people here drive in the middle of the road with complete disregard for logic, or, you know, other drivers: They like to feel like they are the King of the Road! Sweet, but I was glad to escape for an hour…

Friday night, we hit the beach as soon as we arrive!
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This little guy hung out under my bed at the beach. Yes, he was truly smaller than my flip-flops.
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Happy!
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We stayed here…
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Till sundown…
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The wild dogs dig themselves bed in the warm sand as the sun sets…
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Full moon! Full moon means it’s a holiday in Sri Lanka! yay!
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And holidays mean drinks by the beach with friends.
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When we woke up the next day there were monkeys in the trees outside, but they proved impossible to photograph… Still, I tried:
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We went down to the beach again, to have breakfast at this restaurant.
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Apparently all the staff got destroyed at a party the night before… but the one guy up and about did a good job of serving me pineapple juice and pineapple… my favourites.
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oh god they’re running the Australia ad again… help… must be the 20th time tonight!

Vijay and I went to Galle — post upcoming, yes yes — and then came back and met Emy for lunch. On the beach, of course.

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I can never get enough pictures of doggies.
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Ok… I am going to try really hard to only chose a couple more beach pictures, it’s really not that exciting to see I know, but I didn’t do much else at Una and it was so beautiful… The water is really the perfect temperature, but the waves are very strong and it takes a bit of knack to get in and out of the ocean without getting knocked over and filled with sand and salt! Once you’re out past the immediate shore, the huge waves carry you up and down and it’s so much fun, as long as you don’t panic about the sheer size of the wave rushing towards you…

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Goodbye Unawatuna, I had a good time, so sad to leave you…
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Camino day 1: Roncesvalles to Orisson

As mentioned in my “Pre-Camino” post, I hardly slept and had walked 5km before I even got on the bus from Pamplona to Roncesvalles. When the first bus of the day got there, it was already 11:20 and I had some serious concerns about covering the 27km to St Jean-Pied-de-Port (SJPP) before dark. This was a ridiculous fear, I would come to realise over the next couple of days, because it doesn’t get dark till gone 8pm, but I had been caught in mountains after sunset in Taiwan before and it’s not a happy place to be.

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Anyway, due to this fear of stumbling blindly in the mountains at night, I decided I would set off immediately. The woman at the information office told me there were two paths to SJPP and that I could take either, as I wished. Standing at the point where the two paths diverged, one showed a climb of 500m over the space of about 1.5km, I thought I would take the other path, aware that my knees would be complaining.

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There were a lot of puddles and streams and boggy bits, and after a couple of kilometres I realised I hadn’t seen a single marker. Thanks to my Hash training, I was fairly used to going offtrail and hadn’t been that fussed, but when the path disappeared, I realised I was going to have to backtrack. I’d gone wrong somewhere.

So back I went to Roncesvalles, to the original starting point. 9km already walked, it was 12pm, and I wasn’t even a kilometre closer to my destination. I got a little tearful walking back as I was really anxious about time and fatigue. Thinking about that first day, I realise just how much I learned on the Camino about letting go of such silly anxieties, and about not beating myself up when making mistakes. I started on that journey extremely anxious about planning everything ahead — I came out of it two weeks later able to let go of this anxiety which has plagued me for many years.

Anyway, there I was, Camino Take #2. I was at the bottom of a mountain trail, and now I needed to get to the top. Had I known just how hard it would be I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it, because it was so steep, like CRAZY steep, that the people walking DOWN it were freaking out. For the majority of pilgrims, it would have been their first day too, and they would have come all the way from SJPP and have been very, very tired — the temptation to just lay down and roll down this trail must have been strong. Many of them told me as I went up that it was hard, hard work — ça monte! ça grimpe dûr! they told me, and I gritted my teeth and kept climbing.
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Eventually I reached the peak — the Col de Lepoeder, alt 1410m — and could turn around and see where I had come from. What a view!
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I was pretty pleased with myself:
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I stopped here for a brief lunch, then set off again, ever aware of the minutes ticking away. It felt fantastic to be going downhill, especially as everyone else was going uphill and looked hot, sweaty and exhausted. The views were incredible, and I wished, not for the last time, that I had something better than my dodgy phone camera to take pictures.
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(I only did a couple of self-portraits and some landscape snaps on the first day and then ran out of interest in taking pictures fairly soon thereafter, so I’m putting most of what I have up for this first day)
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I think my feet started to hurt around the time I crossed the Spain-France border. I was still only about halfway to SJPP but I’d already walked those 9 extra kms before getting started so I was starting to realise I was NOT going to make it to my destination — time wasn’t a problem, it was just that my feet were really sore.
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I stopped at the Vierge d’Orisson for a minute, trying not to panic, and in fact barely giving the poor virgin a second glance.

Then I set off again, keeping my mind focused on walking and walking alone — worrying would not get me to my destination any faster, and there was nowhere else to go but straight on. Then just as I was becoming so focused on the pain in my feet that I thought I might have to lay down in the road and pray for deliverance, I rounded a corner and was met with a sight for sore eyes (and feet): L’Auberge d’Orisson.
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The Auberge is quite pricy — 32 euros a night — but the nice lady informed me that they had a cheaper hostel (15E) down the road, just one more kilometre to go.
I had stopped my RunKeeper but I restarted it for this one last stage before the much-needed repose that was so close and yet so far… I’m surprised looking at the result that it was only 13 minutes — it felt like at least half an hour!
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(I know these RK screencaps aren’t very exciting for most people, but this is also written for me, in this blog about things that I did for me… so please bear with them. Plus they are the only visual record I have after my phone’s camera went batty).

And at this shell of a hostel I stopped, showered, changed, ate, watched the sunset and then rolled into bed at 9pm (a record for me) and slept 12 solid hours till 9am. One of the best sleeps of my entire, sleep-poor life.

Total distance covered: 5km in Pamplona + 21.75km on the trail = 26.75km

run like a diva

Done! 73.5km of running in June. Completed after I went out for a short morning jog (4.5km — my shins are painful so I’m taking it easy). It was pleasant enough and I came home to find that the appartment I wanted on AirBNB was available! I’m so happy, as it was the one I wanted the most, with the best price, best location, and nicest pictures and reviews. I spotted it earlier in the week but had to wait till James was sure to come, then the lady said she was waiting on another booking to be confirmed… eep! But I got it. Let’s hope it’s as perfect as it seems on the website.

Diva in the title is in reference to the Diva Cup that I am getting used to (yah yah girly talk, those who are squeamish re:ladies can stop reading now)… I’m still getting the hang of it, and whilst sometimes it seems to work just great, it sometimes is also really frustrating when it keeps leaking no matter how I tweak it. I rarely if ever had problems with tampons, but even though the cup claims it’s less prone to leaking than any other form I have had some dodgy moments with it, and this I find very stressful. There’s sometime about not being in control of my period that sends me into a panic only experienced as a 13-year-old when I was still getting the hang of it, and I never had that problem with tampons in the last 15 years, so I’m not sure if I’m a convert yet… but I’m willing to keep trying for now. Just don’t invite me to sit on your white couch.

dia luna

This evening the heat faded as soon as the sun began to set (thanks, pollution, for diminishing the sun’s impact!) so I quickly laced up my shoes and set out at nearly 10pm. Such a delight to run free of the “desert” Madrid summer effect… Unfortunately there is a downside to running after sunset — the peculiar absence of light. I don’t recommend going off the trails round here after dark; there are a lot of scratchy bushes, as well as startled bunnies and terrifying dead sticks that look a lot like snakes.

I ran a brisk-ish 5.5km, with a couple of sub-6min/kms (EVERYBODY CARES ABOUT MY SPLITS, YAH? MY FASTEST KM WAS 5:19 WOOOOO). Then at 5.6km, just a kilometre from home, my right shin sent a lightening bolt of pain up my leg. I felt like I could have pushed myself and run anyway, but running through the pain is how I ended up not running for 5 months, so I walked the last stretch home, in the moonlight. Now I’m icing my shins, after slathering them in Voltaren gel and taking my daily dose of Voltaren LP.

I’m 1.5km away from having run 70km in June. I ran 404km in 5 of the last 10 months, and I plan to never ever stop running again, even if this means I’m more of a jogger than a runner.

Last remark: I want an eyebrow tint. I caught sight of myself in the mirror of the elevator and took a step back, gaping with terror. Bright red face is one thing, but because I wasn’t sweating like I have on nearly all my other runs in the past year, my eyebrows weren’t dark enough to stand out from the rest of my face and I might as well not have any. It’s a scary sight. Check “celebrities without eyebrows” if you don’t understand.

ni oh, ni oh

I didn’t update at the time, but on Saturday morning I went for a run (only 12 hours after Friday’s run). It was dreadful. I had thought Friday sucked, but Saturday sucked even more! I walked at least a third of the not-quite-five kilometres. The coolness of the shade had fooled me into thinking that it wouldn’t be too hot at 10:30 am. WRONG. Comme dirait Norman, FAUX.

I thought I was going to die out there. In my haste I neglected to put on sunscreen before leaving the house (and have probably aged another 3 years as a result). I took my t-shirt off within 2 minutes, first wrapping it around my head, then wearing it like a cape, tucked into my bra, so as to protect my back from the wicked sun. Only instead of looking like a superhero, I was LoserGirl, red of face and wheezy of breath. It would have been embarassing if I had crossed paths with anyone, but here in Madrid only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun…

ANYWAY. Wisdom comes with age; today (Monday) I waited till it was almost sundown — leaving the house at 9:45pm. The hot air was still burning my lungs and the insides of my nostrils, but at least I wasn’t prey to the fierce sunshine that has been my downfall thus far, keeping me from leaving the house with its 37 degrees under ultramarine skies.

Of course, my phone decided it wasn’t going to cooperate. I might as well have run with a musical birthday card: RunKeeper didn’t find a GPS signal for 2 miles, the Maps app persisted in telling me I was sitting at home, and instead of letting me access my Steve Aoki playlist, the MP3 player insisted we listen to 你喔 by Soda Green on repeat for 40 minutes.

N o t the most upbeat of running chunes… However, it worked, I ran happily for 6km and kept a good pace (for me, under these conditions) of about 6min/km. I did walk one particularly vicious hill but considering how my lungs, throat and sinuses were absolutely parched… I’m happy! My legs feel really good, so light and loose…

Other, non-running accomplishments, to detailed in an upcoming post: I completed a cute embroidery of a duck* and began a second one; I have had several very basic, painful conversations in Spanish and one reassuring, thank-Christ-I-can-still-speak-this-language-at-least conversation in Mandarin; I iced and decorated the delicious birthday cake Ally bravely baked in this ridiculous heat.

*unless it’s a goose?

spanish things

I woke up with a disgusting cold and sore throat the morning I flew off to Madrid. I was mostly worried about passing it on to baby Nalia, but Juan stuffed me full of garlic and I was fully cured within 48 hours. So… much… garlic… luckily in Spain it’s ok to stink of garlic.
Anyway, quick recap of the last few days:

Spain is HOT. The days are long and HOT. Now I understand why they have siestas in the afternoon and don’t eat till late at night… afternoons are just too caliente to hacer very much. Plus it still feels like the afternoon till late in the evening.
The sky above us as we ate dinner on the balcony at 9pm
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My beloved sister’s little family is as beautiful as ever, and Nalia is show-stoppingly adorable and fun:
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Ally and Juan are living in a beautiful flat on the absolute outskirts of Madrid. Their street is literally the last street between “Madrid” and the mountains. This means beautiful views…
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The local train station is very pretty and quaint…
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…and faces nothing but brush and mountains shimmering in the heat! Can’t imagine this from a Paris RER or London train station…
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This evening I finally felt ready to brave the heat and go for a run along the trails (photo taken the day before on a recon mission).
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It was pretty bad. I can list a number of excuses (heat, swimming in the morning, tiredness, the dry air, lingering traces of my cold and of course my period) but the reality is, it’s been 5 days since I ran and it was going to suck no matter what. I dragged 4 pathetic kilometres out, following the trails as they appeared in front of me. Nothing very exciting but I’m determined to go back out there and do better very soon.
As you can see from the map below, there is plenty more out there to be explored — I kept reaching dead ends!
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Lastly: Sociology Course update. I am almost done with all the reading for Week 2 (up to 45 pages, from 7 pages last week, wheeeeeeee!). Even though it’s a lot longer, it’s really, really interesting, and not at all a chore to read. I am really glad I signed up for this. I needed some (dare I say it?) gratuitous intellectual stimulation. It also helps a lot to have a “project” right now, as my days could easily slip away into farniente, other than brushing up on my 15-years-old Spanish skills… there are a few other projects on the back burner but I will broach them when the time is right!