Showing posts from June, 2009

Dispatch from Paraguay #4: What We Did Last Week, with a digression on bilingualism and Guarani

This week started off with a cold south wind and rain, our first days without bright sunny skies since we arrived in Paraguay. Asunción is not well suited for rain. Without storm water drains the streets fill with water, and the endless rush of buses tears through the puddles, soaking the sidewalk—and whatever unlucky soul happens to be making his way down the street. On Monday we ventured out anyways for a San Juan celebration in Shopping Mariscal Lopez, one of the big malls in Paraguay. Since the evening was rainy and cold, the celebration was moved inside to the parking garage, which filled the air of the garage and eventually the entire mall with thick smoke from the cooking food. The garage was packed with people, and I was reminded once again of the different ways in which we experience space. The Paraguayans were pressed together in a dense, smoky, noisy garage—as happy as they could be. For my sensibilities, it was a bit too much humanity. So we didn’t linger too long and ende

Dispatch from Paraguay #3: A Run in the Park

There are two places I run in Paraguay. One is a small loop, maybe 1500 meters, that winds through the Sajonia sports club. The route is okay, but it has so many twists, turns, and tight spaces that you can never really get rolling. It's good enough for easy days, but it's not really running. The other place I run, my favorite place in Paraguay, is a park, Parque Carlos Antonio Lopez, that lies about a 5 minute jog from Lulu's house in Paraguay. There are two loops there. The long one is a fairly technical trail loop of about 1000m that skirts the very perimeter of the park. The short loop is a shaded paved asphalt path, a narrow road really, that makes a loop of exactly 662 meters. The loop is rolling up and down, except for one short (maybe 80 meters in length) but steep (probably 8-10% grade) hill. It's on this short loop that I do my moderate and harder workouts and tempo runs. (Click on "Map" and change to "Satelite" for a better view.) Yesterda

Dispatch from Paraguay #2: The Lido, Tobati, and the Fiesta de San Juan

Since the last update focused on generalities, I’ll try to be more concrete this time, stick to the facts. Our normal daily routine is more or less as follows. We wake about 8 or so. In the morning with Lulu’s mother Mirella we eat a typical Paraguayan breakfast, café con leche with either alfajores, which are a kind of unleavened pastry made with dulce de leche, or ham and cheese sandwiches with fresh bread from the local bakery. Twice a week we have Guarani classes that last for two hours. After class, or after breakfast if we don’t have class, we pack our swim gear and I put on my running clothes and we walk the mile and a half or so down to the local sports club, Sajonia, where Lulu and I are members. Lulu swims and I run for an hour or so, and then I usually jump in the pool afterwards. So far the weather has been great—the bright and clear blue skies that are Paraguay’s signature—and the last few days the chill has left the air and we’ve had temperatures in the high 70’s. After

Dispatch from Paraguay: La Calle, La Casa

It’s Monday evening, almost 8pm here in Asuncion. From the room here I can hear the yells of the futbolistas playing soccer in the nearby Star Club. This is one of the first qualities of Paraguay: you are always within ear-shot of someone, of something: a diesel motor, kids running on the street, music. You can hear la gente . Yesterday morning, Sunday, we walked the 10 blocks to the supermarket. On the way, we probably glimpsed, dodged, heard, watched, or otherwise encountered more than one hundred people. That’s not counting the cars, buses, and dogs that swarm and scatter as well. Once in the supermarket, it was even more crowded. Everything and everyone is pressed in close. Space is smaller, almost non-existent. Instead of space, in Asuncion, there is la gente, the people. That quality that we Norteamericanos savor and hold sacred: our difference, our space, our individuality is wiped away in an instant. You find yourself not as one of many, but just among the many: like a drop of

Brad Hudson and William James: a pragmatic approach to running

I thought I'd switch gears and give a little book review. I just picked up Brad Hudson's: Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach which had been recommended to me by a bunch of folks. It's the hot read for sure for the competitive running scene. The book is full of information, insights, training suggestions, etc. There's little point in giving a review of the whole book. I will say, though, that it is worth buying because it offers what's most important to the self-coached runner: a set of useful concepts. Runners, especially at the beginning of their running careers want a plan. We want to be told what to do. We want an authority to follow. This makes sense because just starting out, the runner lacks experience on which to base their decisions and so is incapable of thinking intelligently about training. But at a certain stage in training, a runner should begin to take control of her training. And this is where concepts become im