Barcelona

I’ve always been an ironman

People who do Ironman races are not iron men. They are normal people just like you and me, but with an ironclad determination that can move mountains. Find that determination within you and you will move mountains too.

It was the most difficult part of the race by far. I had already done the 3.8 kilometer swim

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Walking on air in those final steps on the red carpet across the finish line of Ironman Barcelona 2017.

and the 180 kilometer bike ride. Now, “all” I had left was a 42 kilometer run. I was tired. I was sweating in the Spanish humidity like a pig. I really wanted to get out of my tri-suit, which I had been wearing now for more than ten hours, and jump into a shower. My quads were cramping in a way that made me think they might soon snap off of my knee bones. Even so, I found myself thinking, “This really isn’t all that hard!”

I realize how ridiculous that sounds. But what it really meant at the time was that I felt that the training I had done during the months before the race had prepared me well. I didn’t feel anything I didn’t expect to. Most importantly, I was able to keep going.

The real Ironman experience, I believe, is in the months before the actual race. (more…)

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I Hate Running So Much I Ran a Marathon

I hate running. I was made acutely aware of this yesterday, yet again, when I went back to running my

Running the Barcelona Marathon (while I was still feeling strong).

Running the Barcelona Marathon (while I was still feeling strong).

city’s weekly Parkrun, a 5km race held every Saturday in cities all over the UK.

I wanted to get a good time. I knew I wouldn’t be able to beat my “personal best” time for that race. I hadn’t been running for a full month. I needed the rest and recovery after successfully completing the Barcelona Marathon on March 15. The tendonitis I had for weeks building up to the marathon seemed to have mostly withered away. So I started out the week with a slow 5km jog, added a 15 min faster jog in the middle of the week, and hoped I would be able to do a decent 5km run at the end of it.

Running is such a head-fuck for me. (more…)

Marrakech: A Half Marathon to Remember

It was hot. It had been over a year since I ran in the heat. Am I up for this? What if I get heat stroke or

My pre-half-marathon breakfast.

My pre-half-marathon breakfast.

heat exhaustion? “Just get yourself to the next 5km mark, Nadia. Get yourself there, slow down, drink some water at the water station, and re-evaluate then.”

The past few months I had been running in the cold of northern England. In the past few weeks, the cold had reached a below-freezing stage where I could feel my leg muscles clench from the cold. But as long as it wasn’t snowing or raining, running in temperatures above freezing was not so bad, I eventually realized. I would always warm up five minutes into the run and that was that. All I had to do afterwards was focus on getting through the run without needing to make a stop behind the bushes to pee in public. Running on snowy, icy, muddy ground was when it really got difficult for me. It’s almost impossible to fall into a comfortable stride. I’d look for slippery spots and play a complicated game of avoid-the-invisible-mines to make sure to stay injury-free. I need to stay injury free.

I reached the first water station. (more…)

Cycling Europe Days 15 & 16: Ole! Ole! Ole!

I did not organize this trip as a sight-seeing trip. I did some very basic research on each

The exhilarating road to Barcelona.

The exhilarating road to Barcelona.

city I was to pass through, copied some notes into an excel sheet, and barely read any of it. I knew that to save expenses I would need to camp frequently outside of cities and that my priority would always be to rest and eat to be ready for the next day’s cycle rather than to go see the sights.

That’s why I’m usually quite surprised when I do get to stay inside a town and I find it a wonderful place to visit.

Getting into Vilanova i la Geltru on the Mediterranean on day 14 was a big landmark day for me. I cycled from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in two weeks! Vilanova was a lovely little quaint resort town and I stayed in a small hotel on the sea. Nothing could beat that.

The next day, day 15, I cycled on a twisting cliff-side road just over the sea. It was

My camp in El Masnou, just outside Barcelona. Shut up! I framed the picture to show only the good parts!

My camp in El Masnou, just outside Barcelona. Shut up! I framed the picture to show only the good parts!

exhilarating. I was like a child in a candy shop when it came to cycling through Barcelona. I’ve visited the city many times before but it never loses its magic. That is, until the traffic gets to you. It took FOREVER to get from one side to the other. There were too many traffic lights that turned red too many times for too many cars, busses, motorcycles, and taxis. It reminded me of Cairo’s traffic, just a bit more organized. If I were to choose one reason for never wanting to go back to Cairo again, it would be the traffic. I’m serious.

I eventually made it through Barcelona, happy I chose not to stay in it as that would have meant navigating through morning traffic the next day. I eventually arrived at my camp in a town a few kilometers outside Barcelona called El Masnou. (more…)

I’ve Gone and Done It Now: What It’s Like Without the Muslim Headscarf

I have a secret. Not a dirty little secret. I’m not going to tell you those. A normal, short-lived secret as you soon shall see. And I’m going to tell you my secret – this particular one anyway – because I hate feeling like a hypocrite. I hate doing one thing in front of people and another behind their backs. I do enough of that already. So I’m going to tell you about this one to lighten the load a bit.

I experimented last week. I took off my hijab – the headscarf many Muslim women wear to cover their hair.

I have been wearing a headscarf when I leave the privacy of my home for 25 years, since I was 17. That’s a long long time in human years.

I took my hijab off during a recent trip to Europe. I wanted to know what it would feel like. I wanted to know how people’s perceptions of me would change and how my perception of myself would change.

(more…)