Catching up!

I am sooooo far behind on a ton of race recaps….it’s pretty sad.  There’s just been so much going on it’s been hard to keep up.

So, I’m going to take advantage of the fact that I’m in Nigeria for work, it’s the weekend, and there are limited options of what I can do and catch up. So get ready for a bunch of short and sweet race/run recaps!

Before I do that….a little bit more of why I’m in Nigeria at the moment:

I’ve been very fortunate to have had 4 really amazing jobs since college, all with amazing companies. They all had two things in common: 1) a great mission and 2) allowed me to travel the world.  For the past (almost) 4 years, I’ve worked for Mercy Corps, an organization working to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.

We work in some really difficult places, but as a result I’ve been able to travel to many places that the majority of people will never go to:  Iraq, Yemen, Liberia, Nigeria, Gaza.  But every now and then there’s the chance for a visit to somewhere amazing: Egypt, Scotland and Jerusalem.  And in the coming year there will likely be a trip to Colombia, Guatemala, Ukraine and/or possibly Georgia (the country, not the state!).  I’m actually looking forward to going back to Latin America for work, it will be interesting to see how much has changed!

But for now, I’m here in Abuja for about two weeks meeting with our finance team and the donors for one of our big programs supporting girls education.  It’s the rainy season here, so it’s been quite warm and there have been some pretty impressive downpours and thunderstorms. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll be able to get out for a run while I’m here…although I did bring my stuff just in case!  I guess marathon training will have to start when I get back.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Nice 10 Miles du Carnaval

So after a year or two of following numerous running blogs and hearing from friends/family that I should start my own blog, here we are. We’ll see how it goes and how long it lasts!

I guess there’s no better place to start (and appropriate given the name I chose for the blog!) to recap my latest race, the Rock n Roll 10 Mile race in Nice, France!

Let’s start with how it all came about….in early January, I found out that I would be in Abuja, Nigeria for 2 weeks for work. As I started looking into flights and dates, I realized that I would be flying back over President’s Day weekend. Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I’m a master at taking advantage of any opportunity to explore the world, so I started  doing some research on options for a stopover….and boy did I find one! Not only a great place to visit, but having a race that same weekend, destiny!

So the Nigeria part of the trip: I managed to find a running group that meets twice a week and does a 4-5 mile run in the city. I joined them on a Friday run, which was not easy.  It was dusty and warm (I’ve been so spoiled running in Portland weather!) and a bit tricky dodging holes in the sidewalks.  It was funny though, we were a group of about 10-15 people, mostly expats from Europe, running through the streets of Abuja. We got some pretty funny looks from locals, seeming to say “what the heck are you crazy people running for? Or from?!?!”  Numerous taxis slowed down and offered us rides, because obviously we were crazy to be running!

On Saturday, I joined the Abuja Hash House Harriers for one of their bi-monthly runs.  Although for this particular run, I use the term “run” loosely. There wasn’t much running involved at all! It was more of a scramble up a rocky hill. At the top, the “view” was a hazy overlook of the outskirts of the city.

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We then scrambled down the hill, or rather walked down it where we were met by the beer truck. After a brief refreshment stop, we started on our way again. This part there was more running – up a slight hill. And then we were done. Much shorter and easier than the first part! After what is apparently the normal hash festivities (calling out people who broke the “rules”, initiating hash virgins – including me! – and singing the song, etc) we ended the day with a fantastic buffet dinner at a local restaurant.

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Now the point of this post…the race in Nice!!!   After 2 weeks in Abuja, I boarded the plane for the overnight flight to Paris and then the short flight to Nice.  I’m not sure if Nice is truly as stunning as it appears from the plane as we were landing, or if it was such a drastic contrast to Abuja, but it was beautiful.  Crisp blue skies, clear water, snowcapped mountains in the distance. Breathtaking. After meeting my friend at the hotel, we spent the entire day walking around exploring. We had lunch (and wine!) at a restaurant right on the beach and then caught the end of one of the parades for Carnival.  We continued walking around, making our way up to one of the parks, with a great view of the city.  While we were up there, we saw a girl wearing a Portland Rock n Roll tshirt, small world!  After a long day, we called it a night.

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On Sunday, I woke up way earlier than I needed to, since the start of the race was literally right around the corner from our hotel! I ended up just walking around trying to keep warm for about a half an hour waiting for the race to start. And funny enough as I was waiting, I saw a guy wearing a race shirt from one of the Crystal City 5k series! He was from Arlington, but stationed in Germany. Again, small world.

Finally the race started! The course ran right along the beach starting from Old Town heading towards the airport and then turned around. There were so many people in great costumes it was a great distraction! At one point I found myself running behind a guy wearing a “I Heart Sweat” shirt (from Ali’s running blog that I follow!) It’s amazing how small the world can seem sometimes.  There were several great bands along the way keeping everyone motivated. I was a little worried how I would do having just flown in from Nigeria the night before and having spent the day before walking around and eating a drinking.  Not to mention I completely forgot to pack a granola bar or something for pre-race energy! But I quickly found my grove and was feeling pretty good. Right about mile 8 (I think) the course went from flat to hilly! I could see a lot of people struggling, but I was still feeling pretty good and feeling like I was owning those hills! (the Hard Core Saturday long runs I’ve been doing clearly have been helping!!!)  It was actually funny running through parts of town that we had walked through (and gotten lost in) the day before! Then the last mile was a nice downhill towards the finish.

Going into the race, I was thinking it would take me at least an hour and 40 minutes to finish, given the circumstances. So boy was I surprised when I looked at my time and realized I had actually PRed!!!! I finished in 1:27:16, cutting about 30 seconds off my previous time back in 2010.

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The medal was in keeping with the Rock n Roll series.   Funny story about the medal too – so on my way home I connected through Amsterdam. Given my previous bad experience with my checked luggage at that airport (a necklace and earrings were stolen out of my bag!) I wasn’t going to risk them taking my medal, so I had the medal in my carryon bag. As it was going through the scanner the woman said that she’d have to go through my bag since there was something they couldn’t identify. So she started going through it and pulled out my medal! She started looking at it, completely clueless as to what it was! She asked if it was a belt buckle or something. I tried to explain to hear that it was a medal from a race I had run. With the language barrier, I think she thought that I had actually WON the race! She proceeded to show it to all of the other security personnel nearby.  I tried to correct her, but it just wasn’t working. So, there are several people at the Amsterdam airport who think I won the race! A fun ending to a fun race.  As much bad press as the Rock n Roll series gets for being so flashy and expensive, I have to say I’ve always been impressed with them. Yes, it’s not cheap, but you do get a lot for what you pay for. And a bonus for the European races, they aren’t nearly as expensive as the US ones. The Nice race was only 30 euros! (about $40)

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