Saturday, August 23, 2008

MY LAST POST: thank you for being part of my experience

Hello everyone,

With tomorrow’s closing ceremony just around the corner, I have decided to conclude my blogging from the 2008 Olympic Games. I wanted to thank you all for your generous support and enthusiasm. I've been thinking hard about picking my most special moment during the Games and it is impossible, though the recollection of me getting up off the ground, believing that I was indeed going to finish the marathon shines through the blurred fragments of my Olympic memories. One other moment that has had a profound impact on me was a posting by a woman called Amanda whom I have never met. She said that my story inspired her to start running and living more healthfully. Reading Amanda’s words lifted me from the very bottom of self-pity and disappointment the day after the race. It is my hope that I will continue living my life in a healthy and productive manner and will inspire others to do the same.

After a short visit to Da Lian and Xi An, Aleksandar and I will head back to the good city of Salt Lake on Sunday, August 31st. I’m looking forward to sharing the experiences about the rest of our trip when I see you all in September.

Thank you again!


Friday, August 22, 2008

Helping out my fellow sufferers

Feeling a little guilty about sightseeing during the Olympics, I was eager to help with the aid station for the 50k walk this morning. It ended up being a long day, frying on the sun from 6:00am untill noon, but it was very exciting at the same time. We had three guys in the race: Peter Korcok got top 16 in the World Championships and was hoping to get to top 12 here. He ended up pulling out with a strained a muscle at mile 10. I felt so bad for him, though his whole family, his parents and two siblings, was here to support him. They were all so sad—it was heartbreaking. Another guy, Milos Batovsky, walked well, I thought, only finishing over ten minutes behind his personal best, which, given the conditions, is at least at the level of his best performance. The third guy, Kazo Verkin, got last, also struggling with some health issues.

I certainly gained a lot of respect for this event. They may not get the impact that marathon runners do, but clearly they struggle with overcoming plenty other limitations.

Here are a few pictures and some brief commentary.

Early in the race, we weren’t sure if the sky would clear completely, but, unfortunately, it did. It got very clear and very hot. The temperature climbed to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (about 43 Celsius) and these strong and tough men struggled.... Some pulled out, others DQ-ed, and many others went down with injuries. Yet, the Italian was able to walk the Olympic Record. AMAZING.

I like the story of this guy. He is called Roman and is from the Czech Republic. His dad represented Czechoslovakia in the Olympics in 1968 in 50k walk. At the age of 40, Roman got a chance to walk his own Olympics for the first time. He only had one person behind him and, though he looked awfully uncomfortable at times, he had a huge smile on his last lap.

Kazo Verkin walking into the stadium... He had his moment and enjoyed every second of it, blowing kisses into the camera.

"The small world" saying came true again as the guy at the station next to ours knew my father-in-law (he was there helping/coaching a Serbian guy).

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Explanation: My original posting which included pictures of somewhat uniquely translated signs, accompanied with somewhat humorous pictures of Aleksandar, has been misunderstood. I wanted to set things straight with the upset blogger so here is my response/apology.

Thank you for your posting! I don’t think I have ever been “accused of” being demeaning toward other cultures (nor of being an American.) J After all, my mission, as a teacher of English as a Second Language and as a teacher educator in training, has been to promote appreciation of all languages and cultures. I want to thank you for your posting because it was a good reminder of how humor does not often translate across cultures and how my linguist’s fascination with translations may have led me to an act that could be viewed as inappropriate. What was meant as a joke was, clearly, taken very seriously by you and perhaps by many other people from your culture. It also made me realize that this blog has reached an audience wider than I had ever meant for it to reach and, as such, I need to be more careful about not insulting people from other cultures. I have decided to take the pictures off in order to show my respect for the Chinese culture. My experience here has been very positive and the last thing I wanted to do is to insult a Chinese person.

PS: I would disagree with your evaluation of Americans as being bad tourists. That cultural generalization can also be similarly perceived as inappropriate.

Forbidden City (+before and after)

Here is a quick update and a few pics taken yesterday and today. It was the first day after the marathon that my legs were not really sore so we did some walking around...

Yet another group of athletes left the Olympic Village yesterday morning. It's kind of sad watching people leave...

Alex being Alex on the Tiannamen Square...

Alex being Alex in the Forbidden City...

Zuzka in the Forbidden City: a stark contrast to her less than less elegant husband....

OK, I did get one decent picture out of him.

The end of the Forbidden City visit. It was interesting and cool to see despite the rain, but the guards made us walk a lot more than we wanted to... I guess you are not supposed to be in charge of your sightseeing experience in China.

The lunch in the Slovak House was nowhere ready so we went to do a bit more shopping. This is Alex's look that roughly translates to "Much as I love you, if you make me give you an opinion on one more tea box or silk scarf I will divorce you!".

I feel super important in the Slovak Representative House. The food is INCREADIBLE- I had three portions of halusky and all kinds of meants and of course, a really, really good traditional Slovak drink with foam on top :)))

I wish I could cook like this. OK, let me rephrase - I wish Aleksandar could cook like this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Moving on....

Hello everyone!
Thank you for all your emails and posts over the last few days—they provided a well-needed balance to a few considerably less positive evaluations of my race. Don't get me wrong, there is little negativity surrounding my race, but you all know how the human brain tends to focus on the negative rather than the positive regardless of a favorable distribution. For a while, I was racking my brain over what could possibly have gone that wrong. Alex and I will, eventually, think about this again. However, I got to a point yesterday when I just felt too physically exhausted and emotionally drained to continue worrying about it. One of the possible conclusions is, for now, anyway, that it may have been a mistake to have taken Ibuprofen when the muscles started pulling initially at about 20 miles, as this may have masked the pain that could have been manageable with a few brief stretches, resulting in pain that almost wasn’t. I tried this in Houston and it worked as it has worked for many other runners in other marathons. Perhaps, given the different conditions here, it backfired…

In any case, having bought a ticket for Aleksandar to watch some track and field yesterday, I found myself enjoying things again and letting go. Here are a few pictures and a brief commentary.

Aleksandar and his big track and field meet in a while. He was quite excited though both of us kept wishing we could share the experience (yes Albert, Malaika and co.- we should totally make it to London if not as athletes at least as spectators!)

At first we were not sure about how Aleksandar’ seat will be, which was at about 150m before the finish line, right next to the pole vault competition. Little did we know it was to be the hottest seat in town that night. It was unbelievable to watch Elena Isinbaeva compete against herself and overcome not only the Olympic record, but also the World Record! The pictures show her getting one last piece of advice from her coach and then the celebrations following the event. The movie clip does little to capture the atmosphere on the stadium.

The moment was quite magical. There were no other events—it was just her and her pole. The stadium just erupted at the end in comparison to the rest of the competition. It’s like everyone was just holding back the whole night—both Alex and I were quite disappointed with the atmosphere in general, which, compared to your classic European meets, had a lot less clapping and overall excitement. Perhaps cameras should be banned… Then we, as spectators, would let ourselves to enjoy the moment and engrave it in memory rather than trying to capture it and keep it as evidence of our being there… I am guilty as charged though I at least have this blog as an excuse. J

It was increadible to see just how much better Isinbaeva is compared to everyone else.

That must have been one good piece of advice from her coach as it led to the Olympic Record.

Does one ever get tired of seeing the excitement of a fresh Olympic champion? It's like getting an instant happiness shot. Seriously, next time I'm down, I am going to watch some reruns of the finish of some Olympic finals....

Sadly, we missed the actual event, but it was still fun to see the medal ceremony for 10000meters. I was curious to see Haile all happy in the dinning room (I knew he did not get top three). Once I realized two of his countryment took first and second, I knew what the reason for his infamous big smile was.

Jelimo was DOMINANT in 800m.

We also saw the 400m hurdles final where the three Americans took 1, 2, 3 and the long jump final (though only from a distance). The only really magical and special moment was during the 3000m Steeple Chase final. The race was exciting with a Frenchman getting second in a fabulous finish and an injured runner running his own race, almost getting lapped. He was blowing kisses and waving to the crowd- I thought it was quite refreshing to see someone do something like that. He got huge applaud on every lap.

PS: Those of you who worry about Aleksandar-he did get his visa today and will be able to come back to the US with me. Though he is becoming quite a Beijinger as far as moving around town goes, he said he'd rather avoid living in China :))).