Saturday, August 23, 2008

Back to basics

Since finishing my first marathon I've been less inspired by the idea of running. Work has been unusually busy for August. I traveled to Europe and the Caspian region last week - stopping in Europe twice and in Baku. I was mostly flying and sleeping little. I did my last Sunday run in Slovenia.

I arrived in Vienna Sunday morning at 6AM from Baku, and connected to Ljubljana at 10. Once in Ljubljana I made a quick stop at the ISS office, picked up the weekend Financial Times and off I went to Cacao -- a new gelateria/cafe in the center of Ljubljana, on the left bank of Ljubljanica. This is the best place in town to have your ice cream and the waiters are responsive, all except one -- Speedy. He's a confused dude.

The sun was hot. I ordered two scoops of ice cream, which at Cacao is a serious serving, and began reading the FT interview with the Ukrainian PM, Yulia Tymoshenko. It was disappointing in that little politics was discussed. This is the Prime Minister of Ukraine, I thought, speaking to the FT in the midst of the Georgian crisis, and the interviewer can't stop talking about her looks and her role as a woman in the Ukrainian political space. Boring.

Having loaded up on ice cream and no longer enjoying reading the paper, I decided to go for my Sunday run. Another marathon I thought. I set off from the Ljubljana rugby club field, which is just outside of the Ljubljana city proper, running in the direction of Skofja Loka. I took the back road and ran through the rolling corn fields. It was a beautiful run, clean air, and a peaceful Sunday afternoon. Once in Skofja Loka, I turned in the direction of Cerkno Jezero. By now, I was on mile 12. I was getting tiered. My legs hurt, and I realized that running another marathon was going to be a stretch. I didn't give myself enough time to recover from the last one I ran in New York. With each additional step my legs felt heavier. By mile 14 I was battling with my mind convincing myself to keep going despite moving at snails pace. But then my left ankle started to hurt as well as my hips. I couldn't run anymore and started to walk everytime there was a small uphill. At mile 16.5 my mind gave way to the pain. I collapsed on the grass near the road and for a second I felt I might faint. I closed my eyes. When I next opened them two strangers were standing above me, a man and a woman, asking me if they should call an ambulance. I was surprised -- why an ambulance? I needed a cab. I asked them to call me a taxi. They did.

The taxi eventually found me sitting in the grass field on this remote road, and he drove me back to my car. The driver's only comment to me was: "Why are you calling for a ride on such a beautiful day, you should exercise." I smiled and nodded, too tired to explain.

That evening I met up with my parents in Sezana at the Grgic Restaurant. They were returning from a short vacation in Switzerland. We ate like noblemen that evening -- squid salad, prosciutto and goat cheese from Kras- a region in Slovenia known for its bare landscape and fresh winds- ravioli with truffles, and finished off with grilled fish. It was good to see and catch up with mom and dad after so many months. The next day I left for New York.

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