ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: March 2010



March 2010



One essay left. Term is over!

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This week has been crazy. I’ve finished up two 2,000-word essays, organized my study and thesis-writing schedule, and managed to find time to attend two end-of-term parties AND see Kathleen when she surprisingly came through town on her way to a conference. Such an awesome treat!

But now I am sick. And that’s actually okay – yeah, I still have a 1,500-word essay to work on, and there is a big party tomorrow night I hope to attend, but I am not in the middle of training for a race, I do not have a pile of readings to get through, and I’m not about to board a plane or train to travel somewhere. I can sit, watch movies on my computer, drink a lot of juice and just get better without stressing out. I am lucky.

I also got my exam schedule, and it’s not horrible – two in one week, one the next – and is neither right at the beginning none right at the end of the exam period.

Also, the Huskies won last night with less than two seconds left. GO DAWGS!



March 2010



Une Américaine à Paris

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In the past 11 months I’ve run five half marathons. My times have ranged from painful (2:26 in the heat and humidity of NYC in August) to not so bad (2:05 on an overcast fall day in London), but each time there have been some real highs and some annoying lows. In the first race, it was the combination of my iPod shuffle freezing up at the moment my hips were trying to convince me to just lay down under a tree for a minute that brought me down, but the sight of that first finish line that brought my spirits through the roof. In my second race, the annoyance of the NYC Road Runners volunteers disappearing after mile nine (leaving me with no hydration for the final four miles) itself disappeared as I ran along the Coney Island boardwalk.

The race this weekend was similarly both incredible and disappointing. 

Friday Becky and I arrived in Paris in the evening. Our hotel was centrally located, and perfect for what we needed. We wandered over to a restaurant she loved (she had lived and studied in Paris before) and ate some excellent French food. Escargot really is super yummy.

Saturday we made our way to the park to pick up our race numbers and chips, and then wandered around, eventually settling into the park across from the Louvre with baguette sandwiches, soaking up the sun (it was FREEZING but still bright and sunny). Paris feels like a dream whenever I’m there. I love it.

Saturday night we met up with one of Becky’s friends, who was also going to run the next day, near the Eiffel Tower, for some Italian food. We were going to go up, but the wait was too long.

Sunday was actually freezing. Not just “oooh, it’s chilly out” cold, but COLD. My hands were numb for awhile once the race started. The organization for 27,000 people was not great at the beginning. Near the bag drop they had five toilets. At the Royal Parks Half marathon, they had about 25. We were able to use the restrooms and make it to the start with about 10 minutes to spare, but I know loads of people either gave up or started late.

The course was amazing. Running down towards the monument to the Bastille, with people cheering us on in French, was phenomenal. It was sunny, the Seine was sparkling, and I felt really good. The refreshments every 5 km were great – fresh orange slices (although the peels make for one hell of a race hazard), sugar cubes, bottles of water – and the backups at them were minimal. I was on pace to finish around 2:03 as I hit the 15km mark, but as my training this round wasn’t my best, I did lose some steam near the end.

However, after I passed the 20km mark, I sped up. I was excited – while I couldn’t still break 2:10 again, (which was my personally revised goal, after losing three weeks of training in January), I could get close. Everyone was speeding up, as we could see the finish line. So close!

And then we all stopped.

About 50m from the finish, with the clock ticking away, laughing at us, we stopped. You see, they did not organize the finish chute properly. Timing these days is all done by chips that people wear tied to their shoes (or with disposable chips that one need not return). After the race, volunteers cut them off and keep them, as they are just on loan to the racers. That takes some time, so these folks are, in a well-planned race, well out of the way of the finish line. Either off to the side in a completely different area, or far down the chute. Unfortunately, the fact that there were not enough volunteers coupled with them being WAY TOO CLOSE to the finish line, meant there was a huge back up. I felt really bad for the people, like Becky, who literally jumped over fences to run around the crowd, then jumped back in at the finish line to cross it but who didn’t get that feeling of running, full sprint, over the mat and knowing that you did it! I also felt for people who were set to PR and then just had to stop. My final official time was 2:19, but if I’d finished flat-out it would have been around 2:11. That’s so not cool.

Becky and I found each other afterwards and spent the evening moaning about the soreness (I think the cold did not help), raving about how cool the course was, and eating great food.

It was overall a really good experience, and one I’m glad I had, but definitely not something I will do again in Paris, as the organizers really let us down.

The next one is in Birmingham in July. Only 800 people, so I could definitely come in last. Should be fun!

And as a Post Script: This apology made its way to the website today (this is their English translation; I’m sure it flows much better in French):

We kindly ask you to accept our excuses for the inconvenience on the finish area

Dear runners,

On the 18th edition of the Paris Half-Marathon, due to important modifications of course owing to Tramway programs, we liked to change the start and finish areas.

On the start, we organized the zone by allowing more entrances on the left and the right, for more convenience.

On the finish area, we organized a complete change and unfortunately underestimated fluxes, considering the breath of the way.
The timing chip collection and the medal distribution could not be correctly made for many runners whose time of arrival is spread between 1h50 and 2h20. 
We are aware that this is of our whole responsibility and kindly ask you to accept our excuses for this inconvenience.

From today, we analysed this anomaly in term of organisation and we shall make fats decisions which are obvious to avoid that such situation reproduces in future.

Except this problem which certainly is not negligible, we hope that this 18th edition took place in good conditions and that you enjoy the event.

Yours faithfully.

The organisation committee.



March 2010



8 Things I learned at the England vs Egypt Friendly match

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1. The Egypt National Anthem sounds kind of like what I thought the British National Anthem sounds like.

2. However, “God Save the Queen,” the actual British National Anthem? That’s a modified version of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” (well, actually vice versa). Wow, Americans were kind of snotty on that one, eh?

3. When John Terry takes the field, or touches the ball in the first few minutes, the fans give him hell. But they forget his transgressions as the match continues, and even start to cheer when he does well.

4. The jackasses sitting behind me are not only bigots, but idiots as well, as they shouted “(fill in Egyptian-sounding name here) is a shoe bomber” to attempt to taunt the visiting team. I really really REALLY wanted to turn around and point out the Richard Reid was BORN AND RAISED IN ENGLAND, but I know that when I’m hanging out with a male friend I need to keep my mouth shut, because jackasses like that won’t get into with me, they’ll get into with the my guy friend. 

5. Wembley holds over 80,000 people, and probably half of them take the underground to get home. Which means that after the match, you wait on Wembley Way. It took us 50 minutes from leaving the stadium to getting on the train, but man, it was orderly. Those Brits really do queue well.

6. He may look like a praying mantis, but Crouch gets it DONE.

7. Football is, in my opinion, the most exciting of the team sports. I knew that before I went to the match, but it needs to be said again. It is WAY more exciting than baseball, much more fun than basketball, moves faster than American football, and is about on par with Hockey in terms of the amazing skill and endurance the athletes have. The tide can turn in a second, and they aren’t constantly stopping for TV time outs, or time outs, or even substitutions (they only get three per side in a non-friendly match).

8. Even though he didn’t play, I did see him on the screen warming up and yes, David Beckham is still super pretty.



March 2010



What … What?

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Okay, I am often on here complaining about some business transaction that did not go as planned – you got to read about the camera and the warranty, as well as the telephone and warranty. And of course, I’ve written epic posts on GHI, the “Health Insurance” company that told me I would be charged $333/month and then charged me $397/month, replying to my dozen requests for explanation with some version of “too bad our staff screwed up. But you are the one who will pay for the errors.” I hopefully will be eligible to purchase private insurance in May, although that’s definitely not a given. 

Anyway, since I am often complaining, I thought I’d mention this:

My health insurance premium when down.

I know.


It only went down by about $10, which is really only about 2.5% of my rate. But still. I am shocked.