Category Archives: Insanity

So You Want To Run With The Bulls In Pamplona

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No, we’re not going again (don’t worry Mom and Dad!), but this weekend I am apparently all about the How I/We Did This.  And Fiesta de San Fermin begins in about two weeks (the first Encierro is on July 7) so time is off the essence.

The thing we struggled with prior to our trip to Pamplona to run with the bulls was finding a source (man or internet) that would give us a solid game plan.  So.  Here is what I would want to know if I was running with the bulls/participating in the Encierro in Pamplona.  Please remember as you read this that these are my observations, based on my experiences in Pamplona and with the Encierro.   I have only been there once, and I am not at all an expert.

If you are looking for the play-by-play of our run, it is here.

Uno. Fiesta De San Fermin.

It runs from 6 July – 14 July.  I want to say that the city is about 200,000 people during the year and is 1,000,000 people during the fiesta.  During the remainder of the year, Pamplona is actually a pilgrimage stop on the road to Santiago.   With that in mind, if you have ever been to Vegas or down Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras, this is still bigger and more insane.
Drink all day and party all night applies.  You will also be astonished by the number of people pushing strollers or wearing Baby Bjorns.  The fiesta is for All People.

Dos.  The Outfit. 

You should probably know this by now, but in case you do not, EVERYONE (runner or reveler) wears the all-white ensemble with the red scarf and sash.  You can bring your own or you can buy the whole thing literally anywhere in the city for between €16 – €26.  A few people may wear red bottoms or a red shirt, but that’s really where the variety ends.  For our run, I pre-made tear away sashes with snaps so that if for some reason we did meet the bulls’ horns, it wouldn’t like, constrict and chop us in half.  Also, newspapers are €1.30.  You can split one and make two batons.

Tres.  The Start. 

Our biggest fear was not so much that we would get hurt, but that we would be in the wrong part of the street at the wrong time when they closed and cleared the course.  They sweep the course at 7:00 AM and all the while these carpentiero dudes in brown vests are setting up those giant wooden fence-style barricades.  The street sweeping squad is busy hosing/sweeping/leaf blowing the course.  Truly I have never seen such a thorough bunch.  When they are done, there is nothing but cobblestones for man and beast to set foot upon.

There are two places that you are able to corral for the run.  The government center and the inicio (start).  We stuck around at the inicio until just after they placed San Fermin and his flowery accessories into the grotto.  At about 7:45 AM, we started to move down the course.  Once the streets are clear, you are able to move around the course and choose a starting point.  We all knew that we wanted to begin past Dead Man’s Curve down Calle de Estafeta.  Two of our group were heartset on making it into Plaza de Toros so they started farther down while Marcus and I stayed up the road.

Quatro.  The Run.

At approximately 8:00 AM you will hear one rocket announcing the release of the first bull and another very shortly thereafter announcing the departure of the last.  People will begin running at this point even though your area of the course may not see bulls for another minute and a half.

Really important stuff to know:

  1. If you fall down (TONS of people trip, tackle one another, etc.), STAY DOWN in the fetal position until the bulls have passed.  This is really the most important thing to know.  The bulls will try to run around you or jump over your body rather than run over you because you are an obstacle.  It’s instinct.  If you try to stand up and the bulls are coming, you will be directly at horn height.  Do not do it.
  2. If you cannot remember Rule #1 or think that you will be the exception to falling down, seriously do not bother running.
  3. The bulls are incredibly fast.  You are not going to keep up with them.
  4. The bulls are more likely to run in the center of the street than the outside edges.  They are more likely to turn wide and slip/fall at those corners and turns than they are to make a tight turn.
  5. Bulls running with the herd are much less dangerous than those that have been separated.
  6. The steers.  They run the course every day.  Some run with the bulls and the pastores chase a few more down the course 30-60 seconds behind the herd to sweep the bulls that have been separated from the group.
  7. If you enter the Plaza de Toros more than 30 seconds in advance of the bulls, do expect to be showered with trash.  The crowd knows that there is no way in hell you ever saw the bulls.
  8. The pastores and the Spanish runners in particular are very concerned with safety and maintaining the tradition and dignity of the Encierro.  We saw people get slapped/whacked by these groups for doing the following: Taking photos and videos on the course during the run (this is incredibly and idiotically dangerous), trying to wrestle and/or ride one of the bulls with capped horns that are released into the arena post-run.
  9. Know that people will essentially carry you down the course with their momentum.  You do not want to start too soon, but you do want to start running early enough that you are up to crowd speed when the bulls pass.  You will know that the bulls are coming because the speed and pattern of the runners becomes outright frantic and you will hear the bells on the steers and the clattering hooves.

Cinco. It is unforgettable.

The Encierro is not something I would describe as “fun,” per se.  What I will say is that the moment the rockets go off and you are on that course, you become a part of what is a very special and sacred tradition to the people of Pamplona.  Enjoy those two minutes, because they will leave a mark.

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#BRK2013

Like I said, last week was wild and as a result, I am beyond behind on blogging.

Last weekend, Mom, Dad and I decamped to the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting in Omaha.  I’ve been meaning to go for a few years now because (1) what Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have to say is important to hear and (2) they are old as hell.

We did the whole trip in about 30-ish hours, leaving Plymouth at 3:00 PM on Friday, spending the evening in Des Moines.  We left for Omaha at 4:00 AM on Saturday morning (it’s about a two-hour drive) and then left at about 2:30 PM for an 8:00 PM arrival in Plymouth on Saturday night.

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So it was sort of a whirlwind adventure.

I packed a dress-cardigan-heels, because I knew the only way that I would possibly run into Warren Buffett/Charlie Munger/Bill Gates was if I was dressed impeccably or looked like an urchin.

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If you couldn’t tell, it was cold and rainy and windy and generally miserable outside.  To our surprise (as well as the rest of The Masses) they ended up opening the Century Link Center early.

That was pretty much wonderful because we were able to stake out some seats fairly quickly and get to the business of visiting the expo.

What’s at the expo?  Well, during the meeting you’re able to purchase merchandise from Berkshire-owned companies like Brooks, Dairy Queen, See’s and Justin Boots onsite in the convention hall.

Mom and I left Dad to look over our seats while we headed out of the arena and down to the convention hall.  We didn’t have a massive agenda while we were down there, but we did grab Berky Boxers from Fruit of the Loom, an eclectic assortment of candies from See’s and some Warren and Charlie M&Ms from the Mars booth.

We had only just wrapped up our first shopping stop when I saw the cameras and the bodyguards not 20 feet away and realized that was where Warren was.  So, I am not too proud to admit that I hustled over there as fast as I could and attached myself to the press pool.

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And for my best efforts over the course of five minutes to avoid a fit of hyperventilating and shaking, I was rewarded.

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With a shot of moi on ABC’s This Week the next morning.

So that was pretty much the peak of the day for me.  I’m sure that sounds heinously superficial when you think about where I was and what I all got to hear that day, but seriously kittens it was so WILD.

After Mom and I wrapped up our shopping, we hustled back up to the arena and I headed back down to the convention hall with Dad.

More shenanigans (and a bit of Dilly Bar eating) ensued.

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And all of this before 8:30 AM.

Weirdly enough, we ran into a few people we knew while we were down on the floor.  One couple was from church and then there was a gang composed of one of my father’s former co-workers, his 11-year-old daughter and another friend of theirs.

Go figure.

This was obviously wonderful and incredibly awkward at the same time.  Even though pretty much everyone in attendance walks around looking as if they have won the lottery, We Do Not Talk About Money.  So really, the only available conversation topics are: How long have you been coming?  Where did you stay?  Did you buy anything today?

At which point, I would sort of do a present face.  So great to see you, more Dilly Bars please.

As for my thoughts on the actual meeting, and the Q&A, it was plainly: overwhelming.  One part church, one part rally cry.  The Woodstock of Capitalism.  Full of Really Important Stuff.  If you want a good picture of what all was said and how people seemed to feel about that, I’d direct you to the NYT’s DealBook Live Blog of the event.  Or this set of notes for something a bit more comprehensive.

What I do feel qualified to say is that it was nothing short of astonishing to watch 30,000 adults sit quietly for seven hours and listen to Warren and Charlie speak.  30,000 people.  Seven hours.  Completely silent.  I do not know that I have ever witnessed anything like that in my life.

And just like that, in (truly) a blink of an eye, our day was over and we were headed back to real life at full-speed.

Redemption by Baggie

So terrorism happens.  I’m not even going to touch the 9/11 thing with a 10 foot pole, and we all know there are crazy people in this world who would like to let all holy hell loose.

BUT.

(There’s always a “but” with me, isn’t there?)

When we were at the airport on the 5th and I was given this US Bank Flex Perks Rewards Cards-sponsored baggie to put my lip glosses in (apparently they didn’t care about the travel-sized Coach perfume spray-stick in my purse), I had to ask the question.

Is forcing bank-sponsored baggies pushing credit cards on well-meaning passengers really the best way to fight the war on terror?

Because I don’t know about the rest of you, but the very sight of this is pee-your-pants-laughing-funny to me.

I mean, really.  People say that we’re the greatest nation on the face of the planet (another discussion I won’t be touching with a 10 foot pole) and this is the best idea we have?

It’s offensive, really.

I guess the upside is supposed to be that if you apply today you can receive 17,500 bonus FlexPoints.  Well, then.  In that case, carry on.

What’s the thing you loathe the most about traveling?

Exhaustion Strikes

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Geeslings, 6.12.12.

Can you tell that I’m grasping at straws tonight?

As soon as we were done with dinner (I had The Best Steak Salad Ever at McCoys), exhaustion struck and I found myself with a hellishly sore throat.

Why yes, I probably will get sick over the first weekend where we have found ourselves sans-plans in a month.

But that’s not entirely surprising.  I’m not fretting about the marathon any more and we found out on Monday afternoon that Marcus will NOT be taking a job placement in Australia. 

Yes, you read that right.

THAT is what has been so vaguely stressful for the last six weeks or so.

While fixating on whether or not we would be living in America at the end of the summer took a lot of the marathon-edge off, it was exhausting.  And consuming.

Really exhausting and confusing.

So now that both are said and done?  I feel about a thousand pounds lighter and just completely wiped out.

It’s probably time to address that.

Have you worked overseas?

When are you the most likely to get ill?

Taming the Crazy

Kittens, there is a whole lot of crazy brewing here at Casa M and it slays me that I can’t blog about it.  Yet.

And no, it’s not babies.

But considering the fact that I very nearly passed out on Monday night after giving myself the equivalent of a paper cut while slicing croutons (not squeamish, either) and that Spot therapy-catted me post-work and pre-ride, it’s safe to say that right now I am not managing stress.  Period.

I gave it the good old college try, but right now it’s just easier to feel my feelings and the like.

So, thank you for bearing with me in this state of non-coping.

On that note, I did source a yellow frock for one of the weddings I’m attending this weekend.  I was hoping for a color-blocked arrangement, but those were nowhere to be found.  So I abandoned that ship and went with what worked.

Do I know what shoes I will wear with it?  No.  Does it matter?  Probably not.  I really only need them to (1) facilitate height and (2) enable twirling.  Because that’s what dancing shoes are for.

Did anyone else know that Sephora moved into JC Penney?  Because that was pretty confusing for me too.

Especially because there is an actual Sephora in the main body of the mall.  Which I stopped at so that I could spritz myself with a bit of Chanel Bleu.  Yes, I know it’s a men’s fragrance.  Yes, I also know that it smells delicious.

In the interim, don’t forget to enter The Giveaway!

What do you do to relieve stress?

What’s your favorite fragrance?

Looking At Things

This weekend, we were in Grand Forks for Adam’s graduation.

I swear, we actually did watch him walk the stage.  And even though the announcer called him “Albert” and totally mangled our four letter last name (to be expected), it was wonderful.

Since men aren’t given to carrying European Carry-Alls purses, he asked me to hold his sunglasses during the ceremony.

At some point I must have dug them out and started fiddling with them, because otherwise I don’t know how I would have otherwise connected all the dots on this one.

When inspiration strikes, it’s usually best to just go with it.

Post-ceremony, in the spirit of Kim Jong-il Looking at Things, this happened.

We can save the discussion of why he owns a pair of sunglasses that look so very similar to the late dictator’s for later.

And yes, I realized that by wearing the skirt twice in one week, I am a total outfit-repeater.  Don’t hate.

What memes crack you up?

p.s. At Post Time, I had packed five pairs of shoes, but by the time we walked out the door on Friday, I was wearing a sixth.  So, there’s that.

A Study in Bad Decisions: The Tough Mudder

Something that I’ve never really talked about on The Blog is the fact that ever since I read This Article from The New York Times about the Tough Mudder in 2010, I’ve wanted to do one.

So when Marcus and I were at a fish fry with friends in the middle of March and a few of them started talking about the team that they were organizing, I asked if I could join-up before I fully realized that the words had left my mouth.

If you know me, then you know that putting a great deal of thought into signing up for races isn’t my forte.  Whereas the rest of my life is order, race registration is a totally impulsive act.

The next day, I signed up.

What I’ve come to realize: Based on the course we are going to get (not shockingly) absolutely filthy.  Half of the obstacles involve water outright – either you knowingly entering it, or you fall into it when you drop off of a monkey bar/net/balance beam.

That being said, while the parts of the course that involve my upper body scare me To Death, I’m actually really excited to put these legs of mine to work.

In the spirit of it all, tonight our team captain, Matt, organized a mudder-style circuit workout to get our heads in the game.  This was the first one that I was able to make it to and with only 2.5 weeks until The Big Competition, I’m glad I could!

Since I’m taking it easy on my foot for the time being, I asked if he happened to be in possession of an exercise bike, because I wanted to be able to get some cardio in while Matt and Mouse were running.

My set-up looked something like this.

Perfect, right?

The obstacles of the evening…

The Run Up The Hill With A Giant Stump Climb.

The Pull-Up/Inverted Push-Up/Abs Station.

The Rope.

The Hold A Log And Wave It Around While Doing Abs Station.

Over-Unders.

I spent a lot of time squatting (and using a giant piece of Spruce as a weight) since I wasn’t up to anything that would put a large amount of impact on my foot.

What I learned: I’m actually really good at abs and squatting.  While the rest of my upper body is a total tragedy (despite the push-ups that I’ve been logging before AND after yoga), I’m not too shabby at inverted push-ups, either.

By the time we wrapped-it up, I was sweating, my hands were covered in sap, and I had dirt down my shirt.  I think this means that we were Doing It Right.

When you were a pup, were you an obstacle course lover or hater?