Marathon du Medoc Costume Dilemma?!?

How to choose and make a costume to run 42.2 kms in September when temperatures can reach 30 degrees?

Colourful, comfortable, and cool are the requirements.

The theme of the 2016 Marathon du Medoc is Tales and Legends – a large category to wade through, but I’ve narrowed it down to a mythical bird creature. Never having run in a costume, I’ve considered a design that keeps with the lightness of a bird, which implies ease of running. Besides, I’ve yet to see a bird breathing hard.

A phoenix rising from the ashes? Too serious for a fun marathon. But a play on a phoenix is from Hindu mythology, the Garuda – part bird and part man – rejuvenated by the sun’s rays each day.  An uplifting thought while running through picturesque, sun drenched vineyards.


Garuda-esque Runner

The legend reads: Lord Vishnu rode atop the Garuda – while seeking protection from poisonous entities. Garuda saved his mother by retrieving ambrosia from heaven to give to her captors. After returning the ambrosia, he was rewarded with a meal of serpents. His role in Hinduism is protector against poisonous creatures – or evilness.

What do I want to express while running in the vineyards of Medoc? A feeling of invincibility, joy, power…spread my wings and fly – that might help when I’m depleted of all my life force at 37 kms – my usual spot in a marathon where I feel as if I’m plodding through quicksand. Maybe the wind will catch my wings and transport me to the finish line. (I can only hope).

Garuda makes a good contrast to the frivolity of imbibing in fabulous wine and food since I may be feeling evil at the finish line (if I eat the oysters and foie gras) – it should protect me from myself!

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Steps to a (Fun) Marathon

Marathon du Medoc


Runners Snake Through Vineyards in Medoc

The first attempt at registering for a marathon in a foreign country usually fails, which happened to me for Marathon du Medoc. But a year later, I am organized.

Not only is mental preparedness and timing important for training, it helps for registering as well.

First step: prepare mind.

I see myself running 42.2 kms in a foreign country – the Medoc (wine) region of France – where sunshine, chateaux and vineyards surround you as you run wearing a silly costume.

Yes, I am ready to commit myself to hours of training – logging kilometres and litres (of wine).

Second Step: get in-sync with registration timing.

Registration: having missed the previous year’s registration deadline, I checked the site every morning from mid-February to March 1. But before I actually registered I setup an account in anticipation. Patience and perseverance required. February 28… Calculating the time difference – 9 hours ahead – I try late February 29 – nothing – credit card ready… early morning March 1 – Yes – registration opens!

Typing madly with personal info – pick a basic package – without accommodation or pasta dinner.

Select basic entry package only – click OK.

Sold out!

No! It’s only been 10 minutes! Try again, pick package, without accommodation but with pasta dinner. Click OK.

Accepted – yes, I’m in, but…

A medical certificate is required (since drinking wine is part of the race). Download sample form – print. Fill out. Make appointment for doctor. Go to doctor for signing. Done. Upload to site. Wait for response. Wait, wait…

No response a week later. A glitch. Re-send. Still no response. Third try, and an email confirmation received next day – registration is complete.

Whew! Next step is figuring out a costume (mandatory)!



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Grey, rain, run


View of Grey Vancouver


Another View of Grey Vancouver

Greyness surrounds me. Rain pounds me. I jump over pools of water, and if I’m not careful I may end up swimming instead of running.

Taking inspiration from my surroundings usually pushes me forward to complete my nine kilometres, but today my motivation for finishing is a hot shower.

If a stranger offered me a million dollars or a steaming hot shower, what would I do? Hmmm, I’d still take the shower… no, I’d take the million (I’m not that desperate). It’s these running days when I try to visualize the sunshine and warmth – the contrast of miserable vs uplifting. Yes, I’m whining, but my positive attitude washed away with the rain.

If I were running the ‘First Half Marathon’ event, which is about to start, I wouldn’t think twice about the rain. But since it is only my usual Sunday run, my enthusiasm is lacking. I slog my way home.


Colourful View (Yay!)

Fast forward two days…

But today on my Tuesday run, I am feeling my surroundings – it’s sunny, beautiful and exhilarating.

I don’t need a hot shower or a million dollars to keep me running!

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Running out of a Rut


Running in Sand @ Playa del Carmen

After running on sand for the last month, I take my first tarmac run today and float on a return-from-vacation-high. Gone is the white-sand-seaweed-covered-Caribbean-Sea-beach with fishing boats lolling @ Playa del Carmen…

lift knees, keep head up – focus on form not distance.  Feeling reinvigorated plodding in the sand with controlled footfalls and arms swinging gently at my side – as if I am a different person running. Remember to take in the surroundings. I look around to see the glistening water and squint at the sun in my eyes – look at the lifeguard tower and check for dogs.

I blink and now as I run along the seawall with mountains in the distance and freighters on the inlet, I am out of my running rut – running like a robot in an endless cycle of repetition along the same route, which equals no pleasure and no goal. Carrying a fresh perspective and wearing my blue ‘Boston Strong’ socks, with gloves and neck warmer, I think of Boston – on a similar crisp clear day starting the marathon in Hopkinton with excitement and energy.

My running goal for the new year is coming clearer with each step:

Marathon du Medoc is the plan for September (if I get in), and training – of the wine drinking variety – starts now! It’s a marathon through the Medoc wine region of France with wine tasting along the way while wearing a silly costume.

No PB in mind just fun, run and a Rothschild red!

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Tulum – A View to History


View of the Temple of Wind

If Chichen Itza has the impressive pyramid and carvings then Tulum has the spectacular view and setting. With a population of about 1,000 in its prime, the inhabitants must have had a comfortable existence: the sea for food (and transportation of goods), the stone walls for security and the early-warning view against incoming marauders.


Street View of Tulum

Dating back to the 13th century, the remains of the stone buildings (limestone and sand blocks) were for the ‘important people’ (rulers, priests) and the square stone foundations that held wooden structures for the ‘common citizens’ (farmers, teachers, weavers, stone carvers).

To understand a people is to see how well they created their living space and when walking along the flowing paths and simple structures, I sense that the Mayans of Tulum were in sync with their surroundings.

tulum_ruinsNot many of the carvings of deities, warriors or leaders survive, or the people of Tulum weren’t as prolific stone carvers as the Mayans of Chichen Itza.


Temple of the Frescoes

The one well-preserved carving on the Temple of the Frescoes proves their carving ability. Staring at the mean-looking guy, I conclude that he wasn’t someone to admire – maybe he was the god of intimidation. Did he want to scare people or just provoke them into working harder? Why such a severe looking image? Seeing that scowl everyday would dampen the peoples’ mood in this idyllic environment. Not sure of the psychology of such imagery.

When travelling, I take a personal survey of the type of natural and cultural environment that I would want to live in. I could see myself living in ancient Tulum rather than modern Tulum (set along the highway), which has been pushed away from the sea and towards the 7-Elevens, gas stations and hustle of the current era.

It’s probably not fair to compare the two Tulums, but is it possible to learn from the past and create more serene surroundings? Maybe…


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Holding My Breath Under the Sea @ Playa Corona (Cozumel)


Fan and Finger Coral at Playa Corona

See the fan and finger coral, with purple veins – rows swaying in unison with spots of sunlight glinting off the sand bottom – peaceful, serene sea on the southwest side of Cozumel
(island across from Playa Del Carmen).

Cozumel dive

Diving Down to Take A Closer Look at Life in the Caribbean Sea

Practising my snorkel diving – a technique that takes you closer to the bottom of the sea – I hope to gain better breath control.

Take a deep breath, hold, dive down and release 25% of air as you descend (but not too much or it feels as if you will run out of air) and calmly float around (too much excitement wastes air) and get up close and personal with a yellow striped fish (sergeant major). Hurry and take the picture – “oh, no he’s moving too fast and I’m running out of breath!”


Sergeant Major Swims Away from Camera

Click of camera – good enough picture before breath diminishes. Hard kick with fins up to the surface where I expel water from the snorkel tube and hopefully continue breathing without coughing.

Reach surface with aplomb and thrill of achieving goal of diving with ease. Distraction of taking photo helped with technique. Even though it was only a six foot dive, it felt like a big step toward future deeper diving adventures.


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Chichen Itza – Beyond the Ruins


Pyramid Kukulcan

My first reaction at Chichen Itza: “wow, that’s an impressive pyramid!”

An open expanse of grass flows out from the central Kulkulcan pyramid (91 steps on each four sides) – where during the spring equinox – the sun hits the north side hand rail and illuminates seven indentations that reflect light onto the stairs creating the illusion of a slithering snake making its way down to the carved stone head at the base of the stairs.

But after walking through a large rectangular stadium with stone ring goals attached to the side walls dedicated to a soccer-like ball game with high stakes – losers (sometimes) were sacrificed to thank the gods for the Mayans continued prosperity (a superstitious/religious ritual in the guise of a game), I wondered when science and math came to prominence.

I look up at the sky and imagine the first priest/astronomer observe and record the cycles of the earth, the moon and Venus around the sun. All visible by the naked eye, these tiny balls of light in the sky guided and added meaning to the lives of the citizens.


Haab Calendar

By studying the sky and calculating a way of keeping track of their lives, the Mayans designed the solar Haab calendar, which calculated a period of 5,126 years (August 4, 3114 BC – December 21, 2012 AD) and made me realize how scientifically advanced they were. Was the calendar a cycle of existence, growth or wealth? No one can say for sure what the end date meant (and since it has come and gone, it didn’t mean the end of earth).

How ingenious to calculate a period of time using only observation – what would they have used to do the calculations? (Obviously there were no computers, which makes it even more impressive.)

After wandering around the structures for a couple of hours, I came to think that order and structure were an essential part of life for the Mayans. We all need structure and a sense of time passing and the length of a day, which leads to the unpredictable calculation: the length of a life.


Wall of Skulls

Being in the presence of crumbled ruins transports me to the time when people lived and worked among the pillars and skulls – a wall adorned with hundreds of skull carvings. Supposedly, they were to frighten the citizens into following the demands of the chief or else! The archaeological evidence isn’t conclusive. Maybe it was to honour the dead and help people deal with the fear of death.


Eagle Represents Contemplative Thoughts

My thoughts were interrupted by tour guides with clear voices telling visitors the stories of Chichen Itza (a former city of 90,000 people in its prime) and vendors selling not-so-homemade crafts (artisans created original pieces while others sold manufactured goods). A mini modern economy had sprung up from the ruins.

The people of the Yucatan region are Mayan descendants who aren’t just resting on the glory of the past, but seem inspired to build on their legacy and begin the next 5,000 year cycle.


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