I grew up a short train ride north of New York City. Few cities I have visited have lived up to the culture and flair of the big apple. Enter Barcelona!
My arrival at BCN airport was turbulent. The landing was rough. I was sweating like I was at mile 99 or a hot humid hundred. A big rain storm was drenching the city.
I was impressed with the black polished granite floors of the terminal as I made my way to the Aerobus. BCN was a nice airport and as I would later find out one that is quite cozy to spend the night at also.
I had an address near Plaza Cataluyna just down a narrow little street from Palacia Musica. I watched the rain pour from the sky as it grew dark. I was missing La Palma, the palm trees, and the beach. The modern bus had it’s final stop at the Plaza. I ran through puddles in my loafers to a hotel lobby, got a tourist map, and message my host that I was on the way. As I passed Plaza Musical I was soaked but excited to be in the city that hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics! I was a big fan of the Dream Team that year, but never in my wildest dreams as a teenager did I even imagine I would be here to run. I hated running. We had to do it for baseball, basketball, and soccer. It wasn’t fun. My classmates on the track and cross country teams were strange if they thought that running was a fun sport.
Dinner that evening was amazing. Monkfish in a red sauce in a renovated market by day called: insert photo & name. Before the week was over we would dine here a few more times and at the group’s sister restaurant on the beach in the new W hotel.
I slept great that night dreaming of exploring Barcelona but hoping the weather would improve. The next morning the rain had subsided but the city was damp and overcast as I laced up my sneakers and headed for the playa. I ran for miles and miles slowly loosening up my sciatic pain in my back. As I was finishing my almost three hour run the waiter from the night before waved at me. I told him I loved his city! I stretched & showered and after a cappuccino headed out to tour. The cathedral was impressive as was the old wall and archways, but what I loved most about my walk was all the energy in town!
After a late breakfast of delicious eggs prepared by my host I tucked in for a nap. I slept for nearly an hour. My body was slowly starting to respond to the increased load of stress I was giving it. I can tell I am in a good training cycle when I crave sleep and naps come easy.
Barcelona is a modern day port town on the Mediterranean Sea. With the holiday weekend 19 cruise ships were due in town. My guess is only a few of those were here for the x games. The next morning I ran down by five of them and up some hills with an old fortress overlooking the city on a three hour running tour. I was getting stronger.
I was starting from scratch here in Barcelona a little more than a month out from my big Spring goal race at Sky Running’s Ronda dels Cims in Andorra. La Palma had not gone well for me athletically. Before I headed north to train in the mountains I needed to get my sciatic issue under control and get some quality flat fast miles in my legs and drop some kilos. Potatoes and Guinness in Ireland coupled with Red Wine and Pasta in Tuscany and I was a fat boy again.
Saturday morning came early and Friday night ended late but the 9K uphill run we had found ourselves signed up for after lunch with Olivier and Nil was less than an hour of pain. It hurt so good bringing me back to my days of college cross country at Bridgeport! I was the first of our tiny American contingent followed by JB who was in town to debut his film Unbreakable to the Barcelona runners on Sunday. Jennifer ran great and finished 5th. We had a great time. The people of Barcelona were so welcoming. The views of the city from Tibado were prizes in and of themselves.
Saturday’s siesta was amazing. I knew Ronda would be an evening start and I had made the mistake at Run Rabbit Run in not going into race day rested enough. I had decided sleep was going to become as important as hills in my training regimen so I toe the line rested and fresh. After another run and an amazing dinner at a restaurant opened by a chef from a michelin 5 star hotel with a Parsian model I curled into bed happy with my progress back to health.
Sunday morning I woke early again and walked the empty streets up to meet my new amigo Oscar from Intemperie Outdoor http://www.intemperie.es for a trip out to run the Garafs outside town. We had a great time as we danced (bailar!) down a kilometer descent in less than two kilometers. The course was beautiful with views of Montserrat, the Pyrenees, and the Mediterranean Sea. Garaffa even had red rocks! It was 2:15 of fun and beauty! I even met the RD from a Barcelona based ultra that I might return to Catalina for in the Spring of 2014!
As I sipped a cup of green tea later Sunday morning in Barcelona it started to hail but minutes later the sun was back out. I took another long nap waking naturally only a few minutes before the debut of JB’s film. I decided to skip my second easy run and instead watch Unbreakable again.
To see the film for a second time in Killian’s home land having had dinner with him only a week ago was ironic. It was the story of the year before his win. It looked as if he was playing with the guys at the start of the race his stride was so effortless! Knowing Geoff, Dave, Hal, Jen, Tony, Gordy, and Joe I spent most of the film reconnecting with them through messages. The section on Killian and the Pyrenees gave me goosebumps as I knew that in a month I would be running around a tiny mountain nation in that very range!
Monday morning was wet and chilly as I slept in late taking an easy flat ninety minute tour of Barcelona with a loop including the beach and historic Rampas (check spelling). Early that afternoon I joined my new friend from France who is studying in Barcelona, Maximile, for a nice run in the park near Tibado.
Tuesday I headed for Montserrat! When I got there I found a hostel with an incredible view of the peaks. I laced up my sneakers and climbed. When I hit the summit I took a few minutes to chat to a couple on top before I continued back down through the thick vegetation and slick soft singletrack. It was an incredible run that left me drained in a very good and necessary way. That night the moon’s rays kissed the cliffs as the frogs and birds serenaded me to sleep.
The next morning as the sun was rising shining against the rocky cliffs I laced up for another climb. It was chilly at the start so I had tights on but by the point I turned around I had shed my long sleeve shirt. I must have startled the few morning hikers I saw running shirtless in tights.
After some breakfast and a mid morning nap I took to the trails climbing again. This time on some of the stone stairs I had run before I practiced hiking. It was an odd feeling but I knew I needed to practice this foreign concept because even Killian power hikes in Sky Running races.
As I sat soaking in the sun sipping a cold beer wishing I could spend another day or week exploring the trails on Montserrat I found I was at peace. I worked on my blog from March in Mexico on the train back to Barcelona but hit the delete button by mistake when we arrived.
I took Olivier and Cova out to dinner that evening to thank them for their hospitality. They are incredibly kind people who I met in Costa Rica in February. My Spanish is limited as is Cova’s English but she is a good soul who lost her husband so we connect in that way that two people that appreciate every moment of life for how precious it is do. Olivier has a giant personality and is one of the most fun, inspiring, positive people I have been around!
Thursday morning I took the metro up to run near Tibidabo again. Two more solid hours of hills worked up my appetite for sushi. Compressport’s Jodi and I talked running over lunch before I spent the afternoon getting organized for my trip to Zegama.