Monday, April 30, 2012

Soccer match in Girona

Friday was a driving day, getting from the Costa del Sol to Valencia.  We were trying to find a hotel close to the freeway, as we knew we would want to head out early in the morning to make it to Barcelona.  We had spied a second division soccer match about an hour north of Barcelona and thought that we could make the timing work, but first we stopped at Camp Nou - the home of FC Barcelona.  We were planning to take a tour of the stadium, but after seeing the crowds we remembered that it was a Saturday and speculated that the tour might be easier on a weekday.

We headed north to Girona and started looking for a hotel.  The only hotel that we could find happened to be loading up a team of soccer players in uniform.  We decided to pretend we were groupies and followed the bus to the stadium.  After we figured out where the stadium was, we headed back into town to continue our search for a hotel.  We finally found a hotel with 1 room left, but it was 140 euros for the night ($200+).  Time was getting short before the match start, so we decided that we would just go to the game and hope to find a room afterwards.  Since the game started at 6pm and the next down was maybe only 30 minutes away (and hopefully not clogged with soccer fans and high end weddings like this one) we thought we would have better luck.

The soccer match was fun.  We bought seats that were supposed to be behind the south goal, but ended up too close to the 10 foot tall fence separating the home fans from the visiting fans and couldn't see 75% of the field clearly.  We ended up moving seats pretty early on in the match.  Our new seats had a much better view, but were somewhat less appealing in smell due to Mr Cigar 2 rows in front of us.

Because time had been so short getting to the match, we hadn't had any sort of dinner, so I had the challenge of figuring out the concessions stand.  In Girona we paid at one window and were given a colored token based on the amount we paid.  Cold sandwiches were 3 euros and hot sandwiches were 4 euros.  I bought two hot sandwiches and moved over to the food area to try to order them.

In the end, it took 4 concession stand employees to help me order two different kinds of sandwich.  I could easily order the Frankfurt, but had trouble figuring out what other kinds of sandwiches were available. We think we ended up with a pork sandwich, but they might have been charading something else for me.

The game ended in a 0-0 tie, but we enjoyed the soccer despite the lack of goals.  I was intrigued by the yell leader who walked back and forth in our section all game long, trying to get us to cheer more.  I'm still chanting Gee-Rona - hey! in my head at random times.

After the match we headed back to the car and then went in search of the freeway again.  In Spain, many of the freeways have tolls.  We have been trying to take the older highways that parallel the toll roads, but that lends additional challenges as we try to decipher the signs on the side of the road.  In any case, we for a hotel next to the highway on our way out of town for only 52 euros, so we happily booked a room there.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thursday in Spain

Unfortunately, I was slow to get moving on Thursday morning and we had to modify several plans that day.  The first was learning that we couldn't get Alhambra tickets for any of the days that we could make Granada work, so we had to cancel that plan.  The second change came around lunch time.  We had been heading south towards Tarifa, so that we could catch the ferry to Morocco and spend the day there.  At lunchtime, I finally admitted that we weren't going to make it in time to see Morocco that day.  The next day (Friday) is their holy day and we didn't have enough to see in that area to wait around until Saturday.  I'm bummed to have missed out on Morocco, but will have to pick it up on one of my next trips.

Because we made that decision, we were able to stop and enjoy lunch along the Costa del Sol.  The restaurant we chose was suffering from an invasion of ladybugs so we were covered with them almost as soon as we sat down.  I've actually never seen so many ladybugs in one place.  The restaurant was actually losing business because of it.  But our sangria was delicious and the food was outstanding, and the ladybugs were avoidable once we switched to an inside table.  Our waitress was very sweet and we liked her enough to invite her to come visit us in Seattle.

With the change in plans for the day, we bumped Gibraltar up a day.  We took a tour of the Rock and were fascinated by the history of that area, as well as the amazing views.  They have a long and varied history, but are proud British citizens now.  Our favorite part was the view from the top.  I took video of the amazing 360 degree view, but I am certain that it won't be able to do justice to the amazing sights!

After our afternoon in England, we started back up the coast again, headed towards Barcelona.  We made it to Malaga before I demanded food.  We ended up at a cafeteria, trying to use their wi-fi to look up hotels.  The streets were narrow, one way, and difficult to navigate.  We were tired and really wanted to find a place, but weren't having much luck.  Finally we just decided to head a little bit out of town.  There weren't many options on the way out of town, so we finally pulled off the freeway again at Cala del Moral.  Lucky us, we found a fabulous little gem of a hotel with low prices and friendly staff.  The desk clerk told me that I was very beautiful, which I'm sure was a lie since it was 11pm at night and I was exhausted.  But we got checked in and then we happily collapsed in bed and slept.

In the morning, I headed out for my first post-marathon run.  It was quite muggy out, but I enjoyed the opportunity to run along the paseo and on a great path up and around a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Ocean.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Toledo Exploration

We have a rental car for the rest of our trip, so we have complete freedom to wander wherever we want to go.  On the trip between Segovia and Toledo, I caught up on emails, read, and enjoyed the scenery.  Mom (the driver) did her best to point out a church in every city and to figure out the logic between which roads have tolls and which do not.  Having the directions that we could walk through on the iPad made it much easier to get out of one town and head to another.  With luck, TMobile will figure out what is wrong with my phone soon so that we can get directions on the fly if we change our minds.

Toledo is a medieval city with much to see, but we were primarily interested in their cathedral.  It was well worth the stop.  We parked outside the walls of the old city and took the escalators to the city itself.  Nothing says medieval city like an escalator, right?  At the top, we had a short discussion about whether or not we should stop in the tourist information center to get a map.  I thought we could just follow the signs to the cathedral. It turns out mom was right.  Even with a map we got lost several times.

We had another audio tour of the cathedral and it was positively amazing inside.  My favorite part was the transparente.  Because it was such a big and dark church, they decided to cut out a skylight.  But then they had to figure out how to blend that in with the rest of the church.  The result is a combination of fresco, sculpture, and God's own sunlight that takes your breath away.  The best photo I have been able to find was at but it still doesn't really do the church justice.

Mom really liked the choir area.  Each of the seat backs had beautiful carvings, depicting battles that Spain had won defending various towns.  I was impressed that the clergy that made up the choir had to stand for long masses, singing from giant hymnals in front of them.  They carved "mercy seats" into the designs of the choir seats, allowing the clergy to perch on them slightly even though they weren't allowed to sit down.

On our way out of Toledo, we ran into Barb from the LLS office.  Unfortunately it was her last day in Spain, but it was very fun to run into her randomly!

After chatting with Barb for a few minutes, we headed south to Granada to spend the night there.  Well, actually...  I think we probably headed north, then west, then east and then south.  ;)  Having Internet access makes quite a difference with finding the right roads to get on.  Spain seems to share highways quite often, so we find ourselves sorting through 5 highways listed on the sign to see if the one we want is there.  Then we have to figure out which direction it is headed.  Spanish highways don't say anything about north/south or east/west.   They just list a couple of cities that direction.  Since we don't know where anything is, we have to search on the map to see if those cities are in the direction we want.

We stopped for gas on our way south and were able to grab some Internet, so I looked up directions to a hotel in Granada.

We arrived in Granada after dark on Wednesday evening and I lost the directions to the hotel just after we pulled off of the freeway.  Because people are not allowed to drive through the center of Granada, we were a little stressed out about just wandering our way to the hotel.

In the end, we decided to pull into 4 star hotel we had driven by and ask how much the room would be for the night.  In Spain, there is a national rating system for hotels and this one looked like it might be closer to my Madrid hotel which had charged us a couple hundred dollars/night for a double room.  Anyways, much to our surprise, the hotel said only 60 euros for a room and had parking underneath for 10 euros more so we decided to stay there.

We were tired and hungry so we went to the hotel bar for dinner and ended up seeing the Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich game on TV.  There were only about 15 minutes left in the game when we sat down, but the teams were kind enough to take the game to OT for us.  Mom gave me grief for ordering a hamburger for dinner, but it was well worth it.  It did say that it was an Andalucian hamburger, but the only difference I noticed was the addition of an egg.  I had heard from friends that the egg on a burger thing was good, but had never tried it.  Mom has really been embracing ensalata mixta, which is a green salad with tuna on top of it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Travels in Spain

Travels in Spain Now that I have run my race, the fun can finally begin!  After a day of rest, Mom and I headed to Segovia to admire one of the last standing Roman Aqueducts.  It was amazing to see such an imposing structure up close and then be able to walk in and around it.

This particular aqueduct has been standing for over 2000 years without any sort of mortar to hold it together.  Engineering is completely amazing for the tools they had available at that time.

After wandering around the city admiring old buildings and learning about them with our audio guide, we finally sat down to enjoy some tapas and sangria at El Gato.  I picked the first round of tapas, so we enjoyed patatas y salchichas (potatoes and sausages) and tortillas (a potato and egg cake similar to a quiche without a crust).  Both were served on slices of crunchy French bread.

Mom chose the second round of tapas, so we had a different potato and sausage combo and then she also chose cold, slimy clams.  I ate one, but a significant amount of sangria was used to wash it down.  She happily enjoyed both of her clams and my second clam.

The cost for the sangria and tapas was only 8 euros! After two glasses each of delightful sangria, we headed out to wander around Segovia a little bit longer.  I really enjoyed the sights of the city while the sun was setting. On Wednesday morning, we were trying to find directions to a cafe with free Internet by asking the delivery men and bartender at El Gato.  We accidentally found out (thanks to a nice couple from Colorado) that all we had to do was ask the bartender for a password to their wireless and we could get online to grab directions to our next stop.  So we hung out in the bar for breakfast and ate more sausage and potatoes and tortillas.  Breakfast only cost us 2 euros, which was most likely mom's tea. We headed to Toledo then. More on that in my next post...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why I Do What I Do

This article shows one of the major reasons I am so committed to fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The drugs we have aren't as smart as the disease yet.
I think the researchers are making some great progress and I am excited to play a part in that. I remember Dr Oehler telling us that Tyler's leukemia had found a way to recognize his Dad's stem cells by dropping that part of their cell structure. I didn't ask if that meant that Tyler was now a woman (since his cells dropped the male half of their XY structure), but it definitely meant that his disease was way too smart for the treatment option of a bone marrow transplant.
Thank you so much for helping me fund a cure to blood cancers. The Team in Training group at the Madrid Marathon raised $1.5 million dollars with 266 athletes entered in the race. That is making a statement, isn't it? My friend Ruth put the best line on her race shirt... The shirts have a place for us to put why we are running on the back and Ruth wrote that her reason for running was "finding a cure, duh!". Same here, Ruth!

I am a Marathoner!

Yesterday, I finally accomplished my goal of running a marathon in memory of Tyler. The whole Team in Training experience was amazing - meeting and getting to know so many wonderful people for the last 6 months as we trained together, as well as knowing that we are making a difference in the fight against blood cancers. I have, however, decided to retire from marathons and stick to half marathons or less for the forseable future. That is still a Long distance than I expected to be willing to run and I admit that I want to continue my training runs. But I can be proud that I finished the race, which was a worry of mine primarily because of the 6 hour time limit. If at any point during the race I fell behind that pace, I would be forced to quit. And I am SLOW at running! But I was running ahead of my own projected pace until about the 25km, at which point I started walking a lot more of te time -- mostly because there were some serious hills there. I finished strong and was proud of at. My photos aren't being uploaded, so I will have to share those later. But I am a Marathoner!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Verse for Race Day

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.     Isaiah 40:31

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Marathon Eve

It is time to go to bed on the night before the marathon. Thank you all for providing encouragement along the way. I can't believe I am finally here, but hope to make everyone proud by finishing the race tomorrow. I'm pretty nervous that the heat will make me run even slower than normal (tomorrow is forecast for 68 degrees) and I'll miss the cutoff, but I'm going to give it my best shot. One blessing from today's meetings - I found out that I am the top fundraiser for the Seattle to Madrid group and was only about $3000 from 10th in all of US and Canada! Thank you all for your financial support along this journey. I couldn't make any sort of difference without you and your willingness to help me honor Tyler and the many other patients that have touched my life. As my dear work friends said, Corre con el Viento! From Madrid with love!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Madrid Day 1

Made it to Madrid safely, so we are just trying to recover from the long, long day of flying.  Off to have lunch with my teammates, but looking forward to the race in just a few days.  I´ll post more if I can find access again.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

One Week to Race Day!

I completed my final long training run on Saturday morning, and just have two more US runs and two more Spanish runs before race day!  I'm still in shock that, after 6 months of training, I am final approaching the big day.  I've had several requests to post updates and will certainly try to accommodate, although I can't make any promises.

My goal for the day is simply to finish the race within the time limit.  The weather is forecasted for a high of 67 degrees, so I'll likely get completely sunburnt while running from 9am until 3pm!  I wish I could move a little bit faster, but 42 km (26 miles) is a really long way to go and I have to save a little bit of energy to stagger across the finish line.  :)

One week to RACE DAY!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sneak Peek

Do you want a sneak peek of my race?  Check out a video of the course I will be running at

I'm surprisingly moved just seeing the course in high speed...  Wow!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Final Countdown

It is the final countdown to marathon day!  Two weeks from now, I should have finished my race and be enjoying a flamenco show with my Team in Training friends.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has encouraged me along this journey!  I am so very appreciative of the friends and family that surround me and help me believe that I CAN accomplish big goals like running a marathon while raising over $6000 to fund critical research that will someday cure cancer.

I don't think I have shared this before, but I will be dedicating portions of my race to the many patients and survivors that inspire me to keep working towards a cure.  I am running in thanks for the health of Hans, Yanni, Melissa, Janell, Shane, Darren, and Steven. These names just barely scratch the surface of the survivors that I have met, but it inspires me to see each of them thriving despite a blood cancer diagnosis. 

I also want to honor the sacrifices made by those lost to cancer, including Cathy, Nick, and Tyler.  Each of them was lost far too young, which greatly increases the pain of their loss.

Finally, I am dedicating some of my energy to the caregivers for the patients above.  Spouses and siblings and parents that make sacrifices during treatment and learn to live with the big C fight a very different battle, but it is a valiant battle all of the same.  To each of my fellow caregivers, I salute you and the many ways that you demonstrate your love and support!

I'll try to post some photos from the race (assuming my mother can actually find me in the midst of all the other runners) so that you can see how much "fun" I am having over there.

Thanks again for the gift of encouragement and the generous financial support that you have provided along the way for the last 6 months!

Madrid -- Here I come!!