exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

well spotted

by Jen at 1:37 pm on 25.10.2008 | 5 Comments
filed under: londonlife, this sporting life

running along wandsworth common this morning, and what did i spot? the notoriously craggy face of gordon ramsay.

gordon

to be honest, i’m surprised i even noticed – i’m notorious for being oblivious to these kinds of things. he was running with a guy who looked like a personal trainer. didn’t look like he was sweating too much though – c’mon gordo, put some effort into it! )

5 Comments »

the loneliest hour

by Jen at 9:58 pm on 20.10.2008 | 2 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

the red sox season is over. (

after staying up to the wee hours of the morning all this week to watch the alcs playoffs, my beloved sox came back from 3 – 1 games down to force a game 7 last night… and lost at nearly 5am gmt.

the only thing more forlorn than being an expat sports fan, awake in the middle of the night, all alone in your devotion, no one to cheer with, and only the cold comfort of the computer screen glowing in the dark… is being a heartbroken sports fan, awake in the middle of the night, all alone in your desolation, no one to commiserate with, and only the cold comfort of the computer screen glowing in the dark.

i know, probably better than most, that there’s always next year.

but today, next year seems like an awful long way away.

pedroia

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music and endorphins

by Jen at 8:41 pm on 24.09.2008 | 2 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

i came home in a terrible mood. tired, cross, frustrated, not in the slightest mood to go running.

but i laced up my trainers, on autopilot and headed out. leaden legs, huffing and puffing. the skies threatened above, and it was getting dark already.

and then somewhere around 4 miles in, it happened. this song came on the ipod. the streetlights began to glow, the clouds became gently lit from below by the setting sun. a fresh breeze cooled my face, lifted my feet… and it felt like flying. pure energy in motion, electricity cycling through my veins, my lungs and legs speeding ahead completely of their own accord, carrying me along for the ride, faster and faster, as if they couldn’t go fast enough.

there are moments in one’s running when for a brief, blinding moment, you lose your separateness, your consciousness of self, and just become a kind of transcendental physical expression of joy. it lifts you up in a way no religion or drug can, wholly generated within your corporeal being.

bliss.

if only running always felt like that.

how i became the bomb – killing machine

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the only gays in the village

by Jen at 6:25 pm on 18.08.2008Comments Off
filed under: rant and rage, this sporting life

only 10 of the 10,500 atheletes competing in the olympics are openly gay. only one of those ten is a man.

considering that research statistics say that anywhere from 500 – 1000 of them are likely to be gay, that’s a sad indicator of how tolerant we judge our society to *really* be. pretty piss poor if you ask me.

compare that with the even worse statistics to be found in professional sports, where out of thousands there have been only the smallest handful… and certainly no big male names, certainly not while still competing at their peak.

as much as i love sports, i find it disheartening that at all levels, it’s one of the domains where people feel least free to be themselves for fear of discrimination or harassment.

a solemn reminder that for all the gains made so far, there is still so far to go.

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the olympic fever must be catching, because he’s delirious

by Jen at 7:53 pm on 14.08.2008Comments Off
filed under: now *that's* love, this sporting life

we’re watching this (at 8:33) high bar routine from a japanese gymnast.

my mouth drops open, agog at the amazing feats of mid-air acrobatics.

me: wow…..wow…*wow*!!! did you see that?!?

jonno: i can do that.

me: (dripping sarcasm) reeeeeally.

jonno: (earnestly) oh yes! i just decided to let other people have a chance this year.

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the games are back!

by Jen at 6:25 pm on 8.08.2008 | 4 Comments
filed under: blurblets, this sporting life

oh, olympics! how i love thee!!

the spectacle and human drama never fail to entrance me completely. i’m watching the recap of the opening ceremonies (which i missed while at work), and getting goosepimples. it just moves me so deeply.

i said before:

i love it so much, not only because i love sports and drama, but because for me it’s a symbol of everything i still believe in about this world. what i choose to believe, in spite of scandal and war and grave injustice. namely this: that you can strive mightly for something good in the face of all obstacles, and achieve your pinnacle moment of self-realisation, your personal triumph that makes all the sacrifice and blood/sweat/tears worthwhile. and you do it not for riches or fame, but because you want to prove to yourself that you can. to my mind, there is nothing purer than that.

oh, the seven atheletes from iraq just came on! to think of what they’ve had to overcome to participate here… there i go welling up again.

see, it’s that stuff that gets me right behind the leaky eyes. that’s what it’s all about.

bring on the games!

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putting (your) money where my mouth is

by Jen at 3:23 pm on 24.07.2008 | 4 Comments
filed under: born free campaign, this sporting life

those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that the hiv/aids epidemic is a cause near and dear to my heart.

and you’ll also know that i’m a long-time runner.

so this coming october, i’ll be combining the two and running the royal parks half marathon, on behalf of unicef’s “born free” campaign working to prevent mother-to-child transmission of hiv in poorer countries.

i’m pretty nervous – not about the running, but about the fundraising! having completed 3 marathons previously, i’ll be challenged to stretch myself in other ways for this cause. this comes from a girl who was kicked out of the local brownies troop at a young age for my inability to sell girl scout cookies, mind you.

so i’m turning to you, dear internets. i’ll be using this blog regularly between now and 12 october to speak out on why this issue is so incredibly important, and i’ll be asking for support in the form of donations/links to my justgiving page/encouragement.

please help any way you can.

4 Comments »

celtic pride

by Jen at 5:15 pm on 18.06.2008Comments Off
filed under: this sporting life

congrats to my fantabulous celtics, who won franchise championship number 17 last night! the first in 22 years.

they won in commanding fashion, blowing out the lakers at home by 131 to 92. unfortunately i missed being able to see any of it…but it’s still pretty sweet to revel in the celebration )

as dan shaughnessy wrote:

They are not your old man’s Celtics. No black canvas high-tops. No cigar smoke wafting toward the Garden rafters from the Boston bench. No behind-the-back passes from Cooz, and no Larry Legend smashing his face on the parquet floor.

But the 2007-08 Boston Celtics are champions of the world, worthy successors to the men your dad always told you about.

celtics

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i’m talented at breathing

by Jen at 4:28 pm on 30.04.2008 | 4 Comments
filed under: mundane mayhem, this sporting life

calming, gentle, steady, contemplative, consistent, quiet – none of these are words that anyone would use to describe me or my personality.

but these are all essential elements to the practice of yoga.

surprisingly enough, this whim seems to be sticking around – i’ve been working on this consistently 4-5 times a week for a month now. no, i don’t do the chanting. no, i don’t do the relaxation poses. no i don’t understand what they mean about “feeling the life force channel through you, grounding your energy.” no, i don’t care for all the bongo and flute music.

but something keeps drawing me back to it, day after day, to these funky poses, with their funny sanskrit and english names. (and it’s not just because i can do it in my pyjamas!) there’s something about the building process that appeals to me – being able to feel my balance and strength improve, flowing more smoothly between one pose and the next. i’m actively learning, and it taps into something that my running regimen lacks.

there’s not much learning to running – it’s all about just doing more of the same. sure, you can do fancy stuff like high intensity interval training, or hill work, or split times, or improve your vo2 max. but really, once you can put one foot in front of the other, you’ve mastered the basics. which is probably why i like it so much – my natural stubbornness is actually a plus, and no grace or co-ordination is needed.

i guess i always thought that grace and co-ordination were things you were either born with, or you weren’t. i’ve always wanted to be someone graceful and co-ordinated, but never thought it was possible. and instead, yoga is teaching me that these are things which can be acquired by anyone, with enough practice – and practice is something i’m very good at.

and while yoga may not make me sweat as hard as a good run does, it’s far from easy. for something as touchy-feely as it might outwardly seem, it’s surprisingly strenuous. all those yogis don’t have ropy, sinewy bodies for nothing! but i find that getting it right feels *so good*. balancing a tree pose with chest open, knee back, hips squared, spine straight, shoulders relaxed, feels good. stretching out fully into a wheel feels good. getting into a headstand for the first time since i was twelve feels good. i feel taller. i find myself walking around with better posture. and in the short space of just a few weeks, i am much more limber. i’m less creaky.

i started out desparing at how old i felt, and now i’m finding myself somewhat amazed with what i can actually do, given enough practice.

i’ll be tying myself in knots in no time )

yogi

dashboard confessional – bend and not break

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you can take the fan out of boston, but you can’t take boston out of the fan

by Jen at 4:37 pm on 19.04.2008 | 1 Comment
filed under: this sporting life

damn, it’s a good time to be a boston sports fan.

the sox look like they’re off to a good start, and we’re ahead in our series with the yanks.

the celtics – oh my beloved celtics! i was a *die hard* basketball fan throughout the 80s. i probably loved basketball as much as i loved baseball, and that’s saying a lot. then the celts began a long downward slide through the 90s, they moved from the historic boston garden, the style of play changed to mostly fast-break dominated by one-superstar teams, and keeping up with my home team became logistically difficult while i was living in n.y. but now the celtics are *back*, in a big way – they finished the season at 66W – 16L, and start the first round of the playoffs tonight against the atlanta hawks.

and my bruins boyz! they’ve struggled a lot in the past few years – trying to find a good mix, trading and trading some more, bringing in new management. showing some sparks of life, then sinking to the back of the pack. but against the odds, they’ve managed to eek their way into the stanley cup playoffs, and are hanging tough against the hated habs in a 3-2 series. game 6 is tonight!

where i really want to be today, is in my brother’s living room, in front of his wall-size high-def screen, with a sam adams in one hand and a remote in the other.

that would be bliss.

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when the hurlyburly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won

by Jen at 8:58 pm on 15.04.2008 | 1 Comment
filed under: this sporting life

this story made my week. for a team which so often laughed at our superstitions and curses, when it comes to their own playground, it seems they’re taking no chances.

A construction worker’s bid to curse the New York Yankees by planting a Boston Red Sox jersey in their new stadium was foiled when the home team removed the offending shirt from its burial spot.

The team said it learned that a Red Sox-rooting construction worker had buried a shirt in the new Bronx stadium, which will open next year across the street from the current ballpark, from a report in the New York Post on Friday.

It took about five hours of drilling Saturday to locate the shirt under 2 feet of concrete, he said.

On Sunday, Levine and Yankees CEO Lonn Trost watched as Gramarossa and foreman Rich Corrado finished the job and pulled the shirt from the rubble.

In shreds from the jackhammers, the shirt still bore the letters “Red Sox” on the front. It was a David Ortiz jersey, No. 34.

Castignoli, 46, said he became a Red Sox fan during his childhood in 1975 when he idolized slugger Jim Rice.

As construction began for the new Yankee Stadium, Castignoli said his union got after him to work on the project. The Red Sox fan was reluctant.

“I would not go near Yankee Stadium, not for all the hot dogs in the world,” he told the Herald.

But he relented, and hatched the plan to plant the jersey. He said he worked just a single day at the stadium project.

“It was worth it,” he said.

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restless future burning bright

by Jen at 9:07 pm on 8.04.2008 | 2 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

it’s opening day at fenway.

fenway

and bill buckner threw out the first pitch.

in order to understand the magnitude of that act, you have to understand just how completely, utterly, and catastrophically devastated every red sox fan was that horrible night in 1986. old men were on the brink of witnessing something they never thought they would live to see. people had popped the corks on bottles kept sacred for years. and then the ball, and by extension, bill buckner… rolled into infamy.

and red sox nation fell to its knees and wept.

old grudges die hard in the bitter hearts of new england sports fans. from that day forward, bill buckner became the symbollic whipping boy for every failed hope, every heartache sustained, ever tear shed. he became the bearer of nearly 70 years of cursed belief, and he would carry that weight until grady little relieved him of it in 2003.

that he was invited to throw out the first pitch in the hallowed grounds of fenway – that he did so to a standing ovation – is more proof than anyone could ever need about the kind of team we are now. the kind of fans we are now.

we can afford to be magnanimous now. we can be gracious and forgiving.

we can collectively bury any residual silliness about curses or jinxes.

with a single pitch, bill buckner gave us the opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief, and let the old grudges evaporate with the ghosts of history. and the realisation that in doing so, we unshackle billy buckner, but more importantly, ourselves from the past.

redemption. it feels good.

thanks, bill.

buckner

bernard fanning – wish you well

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left foot ready: it’s one, two, three, four, five

by Jen at 6:13 pm on 29.03.2008 | 1 Comment
filed under: this sporting life

it’s officially spring – which means after a winter’s worth of hibernation, it’s time to come out from under the squashy layer of padding i seem to have accumulated, dust off the shoes, and go for a run.

i haven’t run a single step since last november. and yet, it was like my body slid right back into the rhythm it’s been carrying on for more than 22 years. at various times i’ve tried running faster, picking up my pace… but i always come back to this, the same beat tattooed into the pavement. over and over again, run after run after run. it’s as soothing and constant as a pulse. my legs and lungs instinctively know exactly what to do, even if they’re not particularly happy about it. it’s automatic, mechanical and steady, freeing up my mind to think or listen or just rest.

i’ve never been good at sitting still, so running is my meditation in motion. something about the ritualistic nature of running loosens my brain, allowing things to bubble to the surface. and on my best runs, a distinctive calm pervades – a state of being i don’t naturally find easy to come by. how ironic that it’s the force of movement which brings about that stillness.

that might just be what i like most about it. the simultaneous combination of generating kinetic energy and internal quietude.

and in spite of the rusty joints and extra jiggling of today’s run, it felt good.

beastie boys – body movin’

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countdown

by Jen at 9:52 pm on 5.03.2008 | 2 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

ah, currently watching the twins trounce the yankees in a spring training game.

opening day for my

2007 WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX

is only 20 days away!

that makes me inordinately happy )

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you think to yourself how good it feels

by Jen at 8:02 pm on 25.01.2008 | 3 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

surprise, surprise – i got into the edinburgh marathon! considering i entered the random ballot, with thousands of others, i really didn’t expect to!

however i’ve not been training… and we’re going on holiday next week. so i’m not entirely sure i’ll have enough time to get ready by 25th may!

we’ll have to see how it goes. but i’d love to run it if i can. edinburgh is probably my favourite place in the u.k. next to london. and can you imagine the scenery??

plus, there’s no uphills -)

van morrison – come running

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18 – 0, one to go!

by Jen at 8:31 pm on 21.01.2008 | 5 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

my pats are headed back to the Super Bowl, baby!! they are now one game away from an unprecedented 19 – 0 record.

patriots

photo via boston.com

the best part? i’ll actually be on the same side of the atlantic to watch it! (okay, in canada, admittedly, which doesn’t really care much about the nfl… but still!!)

it gets sweeter every year.

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i must be psychotic

by Jen at 4:07 pm on 16.12.2007Comments Off
filed under: this sporting life

i just entered the ballot for the edinburgh marathon in may. eeep!

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if you try to stop this, you’re just too late

by Jen at 6:47 pm on 10.12.2007 | 4 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

okay, i haven’t mentioned this thus far this football season, because in boston, to speak of such things is to risk jinxing them…

but the Patriots are 13-0 after pounding the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, and are just three games from the NFL’s first-ever perfect 16-0 regular season.

our next three games are against:

the Jets (currently at 3W – 10L)
the Dolphins (currently 0 – 13 headed for a completely winless season…)
and the Giants (currently 8 – 4 but only one of their wins has come against a team with a record above .500)

could this be? the only undefeated team was the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went 14 – 0, and whose members currently delight in celebrating every time a previously undefeated team finally loses a game.

of course, there are plenty of people who are quick to speak about an asterisk if the pats manage an undefeated regular season. and there’s no doubt, it’s a serious blemish. there’s also no doubt that the patroits didn’t need any illicit help whatsoever to trounce almost every single one of their opponents this year.

it’s hard to deny, the pats look pretty unstoppable… but in boston, we don’t speak of such things )

brady

the go! team – we just won’t be defeated

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twice in a lifetime

by Jen at 5:23 am on 29.10.2007Comments Off
filed under: this sporting life

some people have said it couldn’t be as good the second time around – i beg to differ. nothing will ever be as intensely emotional as that first time – but the incredible joy and relief still bring me to tears.

a girl could get used to this. from 2004:

Seven hours ago, one of my lifelong dreams came true.

You ask me how I feel? The answer right now, is I don’t know. How do you feel when something you never thought you’d live to see, happens before your very eyes? How do you feel, when the deep ache of a lifetime of grief, is suddenly, instantaneously released, evaporating into the universe? How do you feel when such a huge burden is lifted? When expectations of heartache are suddenly replaced with glee?

It’s surreal. In a moment, the whole landscape has changed, and everything is different. You’ve been so often to the depths of despair, it’s unfathomable that you’re suddenly on top of the world. It’s overwhelming, and draining, and blessedly disconcerting. I’m not complaining.

In the final innings, I was suspended in a state of disbelief. I couldn’t comprehend that it was actually happening. If you’d asked me how I would react with the final out, I would’ve told you insane screaming, jumping, uncontainable exuberance.

Instead, I cried. I cried for all the times I’d been reduced to tears before. I cried for all the fans who never got to witness their dream. I cried in sweet release of years of frustration, sadness, and confusion. I cried decades of pent up emotion. I cried for the fulfilment of inconceivable hopes and silent prayers. I cried because it felt good, and I cried because it felt right.

For once, in my years of fandom, I cried because I was happy.

i wish i was home.

eric wilbur says it well.

He had no idea, of course, propped on my lap as he watched; his eyes glazed over as more a result of his parents’ decision to awaken him to witness it than any comprehension of the event unfolding.

The infant-sized Red Sox hat that friends had brought him sat nearby, still too big for his three-week old head to wear for the moment. In Rocky fashion, he thrust his fists into the air. It might have been his first celebratory gesture. Probably, it was just gas.

Less than a month into existence and my son gets to watch the Red Sox win the World Series.

No curse. No heartache or frustration. No close calls or missed opportunities. No Bill Buckner, Aaron Boone, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Laces to speak of. He gets the delight without any of the prerequisite anguish that once defined the Red Sox. Champions again, Boston is an entirely new atmosphere, the Red Sox making history instead of crumbling beneath it.

And yet, I feel it should be he that is jealous of the rest of us.

It is different this time, of course. Three years ago brought on the culmination of many lifetimes of waiting and hoping for a dream that never seemed to pass. Church bells rang and New Englanders poured into the streets of their towns to celebrate the title some never thought they’d see. Families visited gravestones of those who never did just to let them know, it actually did happen.

Today, there is joy after another World Series title has been secured. But there can be no comparison to 2004. There never can be.

It wasn’t just the way they won, in improbable fashion with four straight wins over the Yankees, then four more against the Cardinals. It was watching the most ardent fans in America dive into the story that was the World Series run. A lifetime of passion and fantasizing how one would react when it finally happened came to fruition on that night. “Can you believe it?!” Joe Castiglione bellowed over the airwaves as Keith Foulke lobbed the final out to Doug Mientkiewicz. Many of us still couldn’t. For some it took days for the magnitude to finally settle in.

It was the ultimate payback for the dedication of millions. It was the end of the anguish, and the beginning of something entirely different.

This time, there was no lunar eclipse, no various combinations of numerology. Johnny Damon and Gabe Kapler didn’t stand side-by-side in the outfield with an eerie message for fans in right field (Kapler wore 19, Damon, 18). There was no foreboding 19-8 demolition to point to as signals that this was a happenstance of the divine. This time, the Red Sox were simply the best team in baseball.

For Red Sox fans, this is a moment to be celebrated, although those that were there in 2004, before Boston became THE team to root for, and a fan base increasingly being known more for Johnny come latelys, they will tell you the same: This one counts, but it certainly can’t mean as much.

For all the bandwagon jumping, Grateful Dead-like groupies that Red Sox fans need to endure as their stigma across the country, the true fans can simply sit back with a grin, content in the knowledge that all those who have come on board for the ride can’t possibly imagine the release of true fandom. Mention the days of Ed Romero, Rob Murphy, Eddie Jurak, and Gary Allenson, and they might greet you with a blank reaction. Forgive them if you bring up Stan Papi and they correct you that you must mean Big Papi.

They might be along for the ride, but you know where the journey started.

They come to sing “Sweet Caroline,” have picked up multiple copies of “Tessie,” and revel in wearing “alternative” hats that allow them to better match with their evening apparel. They have hopped on board because the Red Sox are a championship team, and everybody loves to attach themselves to a winner. They crowd the amusement park that is now Fenway, the benefactors of instant gratification. Many of them have waited three years to celebrate another World Series title.

They’ll be out in force this week, celebrating the team that they’ve followed for a third of a decade, and letting the rest of the world know about it in what the rest of baseball will term a certain arrogance. Let them. They have no idea, and never will.

Someone asked me the other day if it was worth it. If we knew then what we know now about the Boston fan base, would we have wanted that World Series title? If we knew it would spawn a new generation of hang-ons, make the rest of the country hate us, and have our team classified as the new Yankees of the game, would we still revel in it? We were warned that very night that things would change. Most of us said, good riddance. Some knew that this meant passions would shift. Winning it all is nice, but it can’t ever be the monumental moment that it was just three years ago.

It is a fan base of instant gratification. The Boston Red Sox and immediate reward, two terms never thought to go together in any of our lifetimes.

I was 12 when Marty Barrett went down swinging in 1986, as the New York Mets stole the World Series from Boston in seven. I cried, not fully understanding why. How did this game suck me in to the point of this emotion, to the point of feeling it in my aching chest? My mother sat on the end of my bed and apologized. Not for what had happened, but for introducing me to it. This was officially how I gained my membership into “Red Sox Nation.”

Today it costs $19.99.

I’ll be able to tell my son someday how he watched his first World Series unfold. By that time there could be three, four more in the bank, making titles no more special to him than Christmas morning, a once a year occurrence that we’re lucky to enjoy. He may have a passion for baseball in the coming years, and if that’s the case, I will never be able to express to him what it was like back then. It is now a foreign concept, replaced by a whole new attitude.

I waited 30 years. He waited three weeks. He’ll never have to endure what the rest of us did, spared the pain and anguish that once defined us. But nor will he ever understand.

Most think it’s better that way. Maybe. There will be no doom and gloom for him, but nor will there be a lifetime of emotion in the waiting.

I feel sorry for him.

sox

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glutton for punishment

by Jen at 8:36 pm on 27.10.2007 | 5 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

well i finished! 5:49:04 – not as good as i’d hoped, i was aiming for 5:30.

in the end, i hated every single minute of it. i mean, i knew it was going to be hilly, and my strategy was to walk up the hills and run everything else i could. but it was so hilly that huge swathes of it were more like an extremely steep, strenuous hike. the rest of it was very difficult terrain – i’m still not sure how i managed to avoid falling for the whole thing – loose rocky bits, slick grassy downhills, rooted forest floor, all threatening to twist an ankle with every step. much of the running was on a cant, making my knees complain.

the scenery was spectacular, but since i almost tripped every time i lifted my eyes from the path, i didn’t spend much time gazing at it.

and it was lonely – no spectators to speak of, no one to encourage you when you were struggling. crowd support is so important.

so when they said 3500 ft of ascent, i wasn’t really thinking about it like this (profile of the route)

beachy head profile

still, i finished. it was the hardest marathon i’ve run, and i didn’t have much fun.

so is it really sick that i’m thinking about the next one?

(oh, and of all the things i could have forgotten? i forgot the camera. but of all the things i could have forgotten, i forgot the camera. so no pics, i’m afraid.)

the beatles – i’m so tired

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reluctantly crouched at the starting line

by Jen at 4:21 pm on 26.10.2007 | 5 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

by this time tomorrow, i will be one very tired (and hopefully very happy) girl.

i’ve got my checklist:

bin liner (in case of rain at the start)
ibuprofen
gloves
race number (and pins)
gels and powerbars
dextrose tablets
bandanna
sunglasses (depending on weather)
vaseline (for lips and chafing)
sweats and scarf (for staying warm at the start, then tossing)
fully loaded ipod
camelback water belt
extra socks (for changing into after)
warm clothes (as above)
comfortable shoes (as above)

wish me luck!!

cake – the distance

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