Sunday, June 22, 2008

Counting down, ramping up

This week is not only the first week of summer, but also the start of my 18-week countdown and intensive training program for the Eurasia Marathon. I took up running again back in February, but the training I will begin this week will require 6-day-a-week workouts. My long runs are scheduled for Sundays and speedwork on Saturdays.

The Eurasia will have a new course this year. According to runner/writer John Crofoot:

The new course increases the scenic and historical appeal of the marathon, crossing, as usual, the Bosporus, then passing through Beşiktaş and Karaköy and following the Golden Horn to Eyüp. Eventually running along the sea coast to Gülhane Park, the 42.2-kilometer marathon will end in Sultanahmet, at the Hippodrome, one of the oldest race tracks in the world. (Today's Zaman, June 10, 2008)

Training in Istanbul presents some special problems and the biggest one for me is the poor air quality. I have allergies and asthma, which means I'll be doing a lot of my running indoors as the air grows increasingly worse, with the compounding factor of photochemical smog this summer. Of course, I would much rather be outdoors, so I'll also be trying to shift some runs to the early morning, when the air is slightly better. My neighborhood does at least offer wide sidewalks that are mostly free of the undulations and holes just waiting to wank your ankle in much of Istanbul. As well it's a pretty safe area.

Did I mention that I tend toward laziness and I've never been naturally attracted to running, which to me are both reasons driving my marathon goal. I do like to be fit, but I also need something to work toward so it's not just exercising for the sake of it. I love that fully relaxed but energized feeling after a run, and pounding the pavement or the treadmill has been a good way to sweat off the stressors of the day.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The vampires are breeding

The bane of my existence made its first seasonal appearance in my home last night. I woke up around 3 am feeling somewhat disoriented. My arms were itching uncontrollably, and then I heard it -- the all too familiar buzz of the mosquito. I thought, no, it can't be, it's too early yet. But then I recalled the rains of the last few days and daytime temperatures in the 70s (F). Perfect breeding conditions. Regardless of the fact that we live in a ninth-storey flat, they had found their way up and through my slightly cracked windows.

Though in my lifetime I've come into contact with all manner of insects that would strike fear into many -- flying cockroaches and white scorpions in The Gambia, to name just a few -- the mosquito is the only one that has burrowed into my psyche, driven me to extreme measures, and brought out my irrational side.

And perhaps this is all because the mosquito factors into my very earliest memories at the age of 3 on my first trip to my mother's homeland, the Philippines. Though we all slept under nets, somehow they still managed to invade the inner sanctum and suck our blood. And I always seemed to get the brunt of their attacks. I have an allergy to these bites and get large welts. So as a 3-year-old I had these all over my limbs and they eventually turned into dark spots. I returned to the States, to the horror of my father who had not joined us on the trip, with my own personal leopard skin.

I don't understand why the majority of flats here lack any sort of screening on the windows or even the track structure so one can install them on their own. Seems like a pretty basic consideration in constructing any sort of building in a metropolis with an out of control bug problem. So this weekend I will be sure to be found at Koçtaş -- Turkey's equivalent to Home Depot -- purchasing screening material. One of my co-workers tells me this comes in the form of rolls that you must cut down to size and an insufficient amount of velcro to attach them to the window frame -- which he has supplemented with double-sided tape.

Meanwhile, I'll be sleeping in the mosquito-free environs of my living room.