Throwback Thursday

Wedding: #tbt

My wedding day was perfect, because I knew it would be. I was going to marry the man of my dreams, my one love, The One. What could go wrong, as long as we were husband and wife at the end of the day?

That said, any wedding can prove tricky. I had been told that there would be glitches, but I didn’t believe them. My wedding would just be perfect. And it was! But we did have glitches. So here comes my very personal list in 6 points (plus 1) on how to survive on that very special day.

  • Break your shoes in (and have a spare pair!)

I am a trainer type of girl. I do wear heels at work but I deeply care about my ankles, toes and nails and was worried about how I was going to run a trail marathon just days after my wedding. I had a pair of trainers to change into and just loved them. I wore my beautiful heels during the ceremony and even during the reception, but those customised trainers saved my life during the photo shoot.

nike

  • Use compeeds

On the same note, you can identify the spots where the shoes are going to cause you blisters and prevent them with Compeeds. I did find them useful, but do not try to peel them away before they come off, or you will regret it (been there, done that).

  • Have someone keep tissues handy

I didn’t want to have to carry a clutch but I did need a few essentials, and I had my sisters and my mum put a survival kit in theirs. That included the above-mentioned tissues, lipstick (which I forgot in my sister’s clutch when we went away to take pictures), stain removal wipes and contact lenses. Of all, I only really needed the tissues, but quite a lot of them.

  • Allow yourself to feel everything

I was dead calm until around 5 pm the day before my wedding, when I started feeling a sense of anticipation in my stomach. I didn’t sleep at all. The next day I went running at 5 am, under a light, quiet rain, which helped me focus. I then went from excited to impatient to incredulous my wedding day had actually come, to feeling waves of love, merriment, and a profound and deep awareness of what I was about to do. I felt the luckiest person in the world and asked myself if I deserved all that joy. And even though I got emotional even before the ceremony and I knew my makeup would suffer, I allowed myself to feel everything, absolutely everything that went through me. I cried my eyes out during the ceremony, and laughed my heart out during the reception, and I felt absolutely blown away by all the love I was surrounded by.

  • Remember it’s your (and your husband’s) day

We were so lucky to have the wedding we wanted. Still, there will be guests who will try to monopolise you because they want a thousand pictures with the bride and groom; or there could be a conversation you seem to be unable to come out of with grace; or your wedding planner could be all over you. Don’t let it get to you. Enjoy your day, the company of your friends, and most of all your newly-wed husband.

  • Have a good breakfast (and lunch, and dinner)!

I always kick off my day with a good breakfast. My mum, my sisters and I allowed for an extra half hour specifically for breakfast. And make sure your hotel has you covered for dinner! My husband was so hungry by the time we got to our hotel after we had said goodbye to all our guests that we went down to dinner still dressed in our wedding suit and dress. Everybody loved it!

azalea_frutta

  • Pick the right guy

Once you’ve nailed that, everything’s cool.

Running encounters

Yesterday I worked, today I wanted to go to the seaside. But it was raining, so we decided to set our sight on a new mission: finding the very elusive Tuscany training camp.

We turned in circles for maybe two hours in the middle of nowhere in the countryside of Tuscany. We stopped to ask for directions two or three times, with local people being very kind to us and pointing us to other people who should have known more, but nobody could point us to the right place. What we were looking for was the track on dirt that hosts the training sessions of a group of strong Ugandan and Burundian runners.

We were going to give up, but we wanted to go down every possible avenue before heading back home, so we went to the tiny village where the runners live. We got to their hotel and saw a fast-looking guy. We approached him and we chatted for a while. He offered to show us the track and kindly accompanied us to see the track. We weren’t particularly impressed with the track itself, but mainly with the extraordinary kindness and peacefulness of this young runner, Jacob Limo, a sixteen-year-old from Uganda. He has already represented Uganda internationally and we wish him all the very best for his running career.

Sometimes the best things come as a surprise. It was refreshing to talk to this Ugandan boy whom we would have probably never met, had it not been for our passion for running.

Let’s find a panoramic spot in Zurich…

After the adventure in Mongolia, we stopped in Switzerland to meet Giulia, one of Chiara’s best friends, and she took us to one of the best panoramic spots in the whole city. Amazing and definitely worth an uphill run!

Check out how to get there:
https://www.strava.com/activities/1122816511/embed/339748cb549ea4d5bffd54bdb9bbcf95f828ea44

The good, the bad… and the fun

After telling you all about our experience, the time has come to give you an overview of what this race (and everything attached) might have in store for you. Virtually every person whom we have told about our project of running a trail marathon in the mountains of Northern Mongolia has reacted with (polite) scepticism: why would we want to choose such a remote place, let alone such a hard challenge, for our first steps as husband and wife? Why not choose to spend a fortnight on the beaches of Bali or in a luxury tourist resort on some African coast?

The answers are manifold, but can be perhaps summed up in one. We took a giant leap of faith, getting married and promising to ourselves that we would forever be together. It was only logical to take another little step in the direction of being brave and making the most of this unique opportunity and this very special time we have now. We feel extremely lucky and privileged. We can always go to Bali and join the scores of British pensioners on the safaris in Kenya, but honestly I had my doubts as to whether in ten years time, hopefully with some kids around, or in forty years time, probably with more than a few aches and pains if I continue to be so reckless, I’d be able to run a trail marathon (although after witnessing the incredible feats of our fellow runners in Mongolia, I am much more optimistic about my future running career for the long haul). The good news for you is that you don’t have to get married to run this race. Francesco wrote a beautiful post about the people we met there, and we were the only honeymoon couple there.

If you are interested, I hope this post will help you make up your mind as to whether this race is worth it. I promise I will not sugarcoat anything at all. Conversely, I hereby declare that it is my intention to point out all the things that I didn’t like, regardless of the fact that you might think I am a pain in the ass for complaining so much.

I am not a camping enthusiast. When I started dating Francesco, one of the first conditions I put was that we would never go on a camping vacation. This honeymoon of ours went dangerously close to it, but does not fall into that category because we did not have to set up our own tent and we technically had a bed. That said, do not expect a luxury accommodation. The tepies and gers all look very cute, but it rains inside – and it rained a lot during our week at the camp… In fact, we only had two dry days and luckily race day was one of them (until late at night, when the last 100k runners had to finish under the pouring rain).

The food – as already mentioned in my previous post – is very much the same all week: nothing to complain about, but if you don’t want to eat sandwiches every day you might want to bring some food from home (also, I think comfort food can go a long way when you find yourself in a new place and when the conditions aren’t always ideal). You will also have to bring warm clothes with you, as the temperatures rarely, if ever, go beyond 20 degrees, and the nights are cold (around 5 degrees). You can ask to have a fire made in your tepie/ger, but communication with the locals is very limited. Everyone will say “yes” and flash a giant smile, but rarely do things get done. For instance, we were told that we could have hot water (in a giant 2-litre thermos) in our tent any time, but whenever we asked we were reassured that they would bring the thermos, and most of the times it never materialised. There were basically three levels of (non)communication: we talked to the organisers, who talked to the people who managed the dining ger, who talked to the boys and girls who served the gers and the tepies of the guests.

The bathrooms and the showers are located in an autonomous building. The lavatories were clean, which I appreciated, but the showers have absolutely no pressure whatsoever and hot water is rarely available, which makes taking a shower very difficult, as it is usually not warm enough outside not to freeze to the bone. Considering that this is a camp for people who are training to run a marathon/100k and are pretty active, much could be improved. I am proud to say I managed to wash my hair three times over the week, mainly thanks to the above mentioned thermos of hot water, which I sneaked into the shower to have enough hot water to rinse the shampoo. On the plus side, there was a sauna available every day for 90 minutes for the ladies and 90 minutes for the men, which was nice, even though it wasn’t quite hot enough.

As for the leisure activities, we didn’t take part in too many, as our body was already struggling to adapt to the changes and we didn’t want to make things even harder before the marathon. Some participants took the opportunity to use the kayaks on the lake and do yoga, and we went on a horse riding 1-hour tour the afternoon after we ran the marathon. There is no wifi available at the camp, so we spent the rest of the time taking naps, walks, pictures, reading and writing. Getting to know the other runners and chatting with them over a cup of tea was perhaps the best part. It is so rare for people from so many walks of life to find themselves in the same place for so long and to be able to share a passion. Every one of us had a very different story to tell, but all were incredibly interesting.

The race really showed how selfless trail running is. Nobody was racing against the others. Instead, everybody was just trying to find out how to overcome the rough patches, when to push harder and when to slow down, when to tap into their mental resources and when to enjoy the scenery and stop to take pictures. At the same time, everybody was cheering for the others and encouraging them. It was truly moving to see how everybody was greeted at the finish line, regardless of their time or ranking.

The race itself went well (of course it did, we won! XD) but for some people it didn’t go as smoothly as they would have hoped. Some got lost or struggled to find the green marks that indicated the trail to follow – I was lucky enough to run with my very own hero, camel, and guide, aka my husband, who showed me the way, but not everybody could count on that. The aid stations were placed every 12 k for the 42 k distance, and then at the 55, 65, 76 and 88 k for the 100k distance. Before the race we were told that there would be drinking water for us to refill our bottles, but when we got to the second aid station we discovered that they only had hot water, so we had to carry on with what we had. There were no gels nor electrolytes or packaged foods that one could carry to have in between aid stations, so we ended up relying entirely on what we had brought. The runners who finished the 100k were very happy about the warm pumpkin soup they were served from the 55 k aid station on though.

I really liked the blue t-shirts that were given to all the finishers, even though the sizes were all wrong, as were the sizes of the technical white t-shirts that were given to the winners. Had I known, I would have bought one of the right size for 15 dollars… We also got very pretty medals: they are shaped in a little ball that recalls a traditional Mongolian badge of honour and are engraved with the shape of the two mountains we climbed and the distance (either 42 or 100). Our photographer’s pictures were also one of the best parts! It is great to run a marathon, but if you can’t prove it on Facebook it never happened 😉