Monthly Archives: January 2012

Taking no sh*t


Today as walking down the street Maria stepped in a pile of dog poo, which obviously M&M RC took as a sign of good luck. They also realized at that moment all the things they wouldn’t be taking with them to do Cruce. This includes:

– Having to avoid dog poo when running in Buenos Aires.

– Beating rush hour traffic.

– Having to overtake smokers on the sidewalks.

– Getting fumed out by Buenos Aires colectivos.

– Running at the weekends while others are doing the walk of shame.

– Leaving our boyfriends to sleep while we hit the pavement.

– Literally, we won’t be hitting the pavement.

– Not needing to avoid the hills as we’ll have no choice.

– Not having to fill our packs with books to weigh them down.

– And lastly, not having to run alone.

Now leaving for the airport and the next post will be in San Martin de los Andes!

Last minute details

I would say last minute thoughts, but we all know that post would just include different synonyms of the word excitement.

As I write, Laura is waking up to catch her taxi to the airport to take the first official step towards Cruce.  We texted today as each packed and hopefully have everything we need.  Although we do have Tuesday to run around and get anything we might have forgotten until now.  I turned my apartment upside down as I couldn’t find my vivisac (a sleeping bag liner) that I knew was somewhere.  Thankfully I found it at the bottom of a bag that I would have never expected it to be in.  Now it’s just fitting everything into a reasonable sized bag.

This evening, I went out for my last training run and it was a hot one.  It made me wonder what weather conditions we’re up against in the mountains.  It snowed on top of the dormant volcano we’ll be crossing on Day 1 so hopefully it won’t melt before Friday.  I’ve never run in snow so that would add nicely to the whole experience.  It looks like we’ll have good weather the rest of the days as well if there aren’t any changes.

Laura mentioned before we are Equipo 90.  Now they have informed us that we have a team page that can be used to follow our progress.  So if anyone would like to see how we’re doing or leave us an inspiring message, check it out here.

Now it’s just figuring out how I’m going to focus at work tomorrow.  Only 4 more days!

Running free

It’s a given: that snowy mountain tips, running packs and those blue Columbia t-shirts are behind our eyes every second of the day. Counting the nights before planes/buses/hostels/tents. Wondering, anticipating.

Today I went on my last official training run. Maria and I might head out before our Tuesday night flight, but then again, there’s a roof-top pool, jacuzzi and sauna to throw into the equation, so we’ll see what wins.

When I woke up this morning, I thought about everything before this very point. Things like running socks, filling the camelbak, blister plasters and planning routes all jumped before me. What I hadn’t thought about in the last couple of weeks was the actual running.

How ridiculous, you may say. But with major events like these and the training and sacrifices, pain and joy involved, sometimes you forget that you’re just a runner who likes to don their trainers and hit the road a few times a week. You forget that, before all this, you wouldn’t be held to ransom by gear, weather, weight, food, drink, time and miles. You’d just get out there and run.

So that’s what I decided to do today. No camelbak, no watch, no new route: just the old hills, me and my trainers. It was refreshingly simple and pure running happiness.

There might be moments of unhappiness during Cruce de los Andes; there might be moments when the weight feels like tons; when we’re wearing the wrong thing; when the blisters are screaming; when the clock is ticking and we feel like we’re getting nowhere.

But above all that, we’ll be who we always are. Two friends, two girls, two runners. Let’s keep it that simple.

I see Cruce everywhere I look


At 7 days until we stand at the starting line, I can hardly contain myself. Nerves, anxiety, excitement, impatience and much much more. Cruce is on the tip of my lips and always hidden somewhere in my mind. I spend hours of the day checking to see if there is news on the website (like the fact that we will be canoeing at some point!) and refreshing the Facebook page to see what others are saying. I’m obsessed.

Yesterday I watched from the bus as two girls ran down the street. One in a Cruce shirt from a previous year and both with their packs. I immediately wanted to hop off and talk to them. Today, I was riding home from work and came up behind a girl cycling with a pack. As I got closer, I realized it was the pack I just bought. I thought to myself, “Ah, so that’s what size it is.” When I went for my run and saw 2 guys running together and one had on a blue shirt. I thought maybe, just maybe they were a Cruce team. So I picked up the pace until I got close enough to see that his shirt. Unfortunately, it said Merrell and not Columbia.

I can picture it anywhere. I see anyone running with a pack and assume they must be training for Cruce. I listen to friends talk about random things and somehow relate it back to our adventure. Focusing at work or on school applications is next to impossible.

I can’t believe it’s almost here. Laura arrives in 4 days and I really wonder how we’re going to sleep. Not only haven’t we seen each other in 9 months, but there’s so much to left to discuss. We’ve obviously covered all the important stuff, but we could talk for days about nothing so just imagine what all we have to say about this!

I’ll do a practice run now as it’s almost 3 a.m. and I’m wide awake with the excitement.

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Actually, as Juliet came to realise, there’s quite a lot in a name. And here are two stories why.

Our Origins

In January 2008, Maria came back to Buenos Aires after a festive visit to Texas. I think she might have run an off-the-cuff half marathon with her dad during the visit and as I had continued running in the scorching heat of  the city summer, I had thought that wouldn’t it be a grand idea to start our own running club. So we did. We also added a few other things we like to do to it, namely talk and drink red wine.

And so it started. Every Thursday we would run 4 miles while gossiping about students, colleagues and our boyfriends, shower and change at mine and then head out to our favourite tenedor libre where we would marvel at the eggs with two yolks and the Chinese fish; chat with our Britain-and-royalty-obsessed waiter; and devour some bottles of Malbec.

As running clubs went, we prided ourselves in not being elitist; being runners and also being normal; being runners and also not needing Pavarotti to warm up and cool down to.

The name for our running club was simple. We were the M and M Running Club Buenos Aires (M&MRCBsAs if you need it so) What did the M and M stand for? Well, it stood for many things. Maria. Milsom. Mondonga. Malbec. Miles. Marathon. While I can’t actually remember the original two Ms, I do know that in that lightning strike of genius a whole culture of us was born: falling in love with Malbec, talking incessantly about Mileage, discovering the hilarious word Mondonga… deciding to do a Marathon.

Over a year later: It is an RC night around May time and we are in my kitchen. Maria says something along the lines of, “So, there is the Buenos Aires marathon this October and I am thinking of dong it.” I turn on her. “Bird, let’s do it. I’ve always wanted to do one. Let’s just do it.” By lunch time the next day we had signed up. It was the next M to bring us further together and cement our running club as a running club and not an extension of gossip/therapy/drunken club.

The months rolled on. The Miles increased. The Muscles ached.  The Marathon fever heightened. We ran and we laughed and we cried and we shared. And we finished. And it was Marvellous.

The point about our name is not exactly what it means. It’s what it represents to us and our journey and our friendship.

It is us. It is our Mark.

Equipo 90

The teams have been posted for Cruce de los Andes. You can find Maria Pugliese and Laura Milsom in Equipo 90.

What a brilliant number. It’s a real number. Not like some random number such as 247. Imagine!

90 is a strong number. Live to you’re 90 and you’re doing bloomin’ well.

90 metres is also the average depth of the North Sea. Not really related to anything, but I thought it was interesting.

90 minutes is a game of football. And, as commentators the world over say, a lot can happen in 90 minutes.

Well, that’s true and a lot is going to happen for Equipo 90 over the coming weeks, months, years. And if we live to we’re 90, won’t that be amazing?

But let’s start with one peak at a time, Equipo 90. 9 + 0 = 9.

And there are 9 days to go before we make it happen.

No sacrifice, no victory

Last night while flipping through the channels, we ended up watching the end of the movie Transformers.  As the machines fought to save the humans, there was a quote that stuck out in my mind.

“No sacrifice, no victory.”

Each of us has different limits as to what we are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve what we define as victory.  This also came to mind as I read another one of Laura’s blogs about what people are willing to give up for a job.  Some decide that money is more important than happiness while others are the exact opposite.

In our case for Cruce de los Andes, we are making sacrifices.  We forgo hanging out with friends the night before a long run or focus our energy towards creating new routes and mentally preparing ourselves for the next run.  And those close to us must also make sacrifices to listen to our countless stories about the upcoming adventure and how our training is going.

And there will be more sacrifices to come.  When we get halfway up the mountain and have to put our pain to the side and keep going.  There is no choice, we will keep going.  It’s the sacrifice of thinking about the team and making sure the pace is good for both even if one of us has the energy to pull ahead.

All of these sacrifices (and many more) are going to lead us to our victory.  Not placing first or second, but crossing the Argentine border and winding our way along the edge of Lago Nonthué to the mouth of Lago Lacar.  Our victory is knowing we did it; we crossed the Andes, together, and will have the memories to keep the sacrifices and victory close to our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Different makes a difference

I completely agree with Maria. A change can be a great idea.

Today, I did everything different for the second of the back-to-back 13 milers. I got up a bit earlier. I had a completely different breakfast (dont’ tell Maria there was no peanut butter involved). I wore the other trainers. I put on different running clothes. Different weights went into the camelbak, as well as a different flavoured Lucozade.

The weather was also different today; there was no sun, so I went without shades. I haven’t been using music for a long time, so I got a different annoying song/advert jingle into my head to accompany me.

The new route I had mapped for yesterday was done the other way round. The hills came first, and the last 5 miles were on the mostly flat. This would also make a difference.

The body is an amazing thing, and I might devote a book/poem/anthology to my legs, I am in awe of them so much. It’s not that they are the strongest/fastest/most beautiful legs in the world (they are not), but they always come through for me when I need it most. Through fractures and wonky spine sitting on nerves, dodgy knees and pulled Achilles, they are there for me, on my side, just at the right moment. I love my legs.

And so they got me through the second loaf of my half marathon sandwich. Doing the hills in the first 8 miles was a good idea, as the legs were fresher. But it also knackered them a bit more for later on. I totally agree with Maria’s comments about being excited. Just knowing with each step that I was closer to completing the pinnacle of our training sparked something in my body, which certainly did not come from my breakfast. Getting closer to that finishing line and the energy rose, I know not where from. But we’ll be counting on it in 10 days’ time.

So, mixing it up, changing routes, colours, packs, music, breakfast, drink and pants really helps. Changing west London for the Andes. That will help. Changing our flat for the great outdoors. That will help. Changing running solo and only chatting about it with Maria to having her there each step of the way. That will help. Changing lives with the money we raise. That will help.

Doing this, being different, will help. We will make a difference.

Too much excitement

Not that I had doubted it, but after last week’s long run I wasn’t overly confident on how my back-to-back 13-milers were going to go this weekend.  I decided to go for evening runs as the heat was unbearable at 8:30 a.m. when I was riding to work this week and I knew there was no way I was going to get up early enough to miss it.  It turned out to be a great idea.

I taped up my toes, smashed cotton between a couple and headed out on Saturday night with my old running shoes.  I ran my normal route and it’s amazing what a difference of a few less miles can make.  The humidity was high as a storm was blowing in, but the wind that accompanied it was much appreciated.  Thankfully I’d filled up the Camelbak to the brim so I didn’t run out of water as I was trying to replenish what I sweat out.  I made it home and was glad to have the first one of the weekend under my belt.

I woke up this morning mentally preparing myself for the next 13 miles I needed to cover.  I knew some changes were in line as yesterday’s run was good, but the thought of doing the same route wasn’t exciting.  So I mapped out a new path and loaded up my pack with water and an old computer battery.  The streets were more crowded than where I normally go, but a change of scenery made a world of a difference.  I hit the halfway mark feeling really good.  I finished up with a long straight away as I marked off the streets to home.  Then, I saw the bridge which meant that I only had a few more blocks to go.  My heart started racing and I struggled to breathe.  It wasn’t that I was tired, but I was so excited that the finish was so close.  During those last blocks, I imagined how it’s going to feel to finish each of the 3 days and how it’s going to be to arrive back in San Martin de los Andes and know that we did it.

I can only imagine what it will feel like when it happens, but right now it’s great to know that the hardest part of training is over and there’s only 10 days until we’re standing at the starting line!

The Half Marathon Sandwich

This moment, these hours, this blog post and all I do and eat and dream before putting my trainers on tomorrow is the filling of my half marathon sandwich.

It’s a sandwich with not that much filling, if I’m honest. Stretching, a shower, some typing and Skyping, roast pork and a wonderful (I hope) sleep. The real draw of the half marathon sandwich is the bread: two doorstop loaves of thirteen slices. There are slices which are sometimes tough and crispy, others which are soft and crumble to the touch. There are slices which taste so good, they are gone before you know it, and there are others which stick in your throat and take forever to swallow down.

Today’s slices went down a dream. It’s been a semi-sunny winter day, with a westerly wind. This meant there were head wind climbs, but also tail wind climbs, and the combination when it comes is one to relish. I had mapped a new route, incorporating some of the usual circuit and hills with a new park I usually take my bike to. I had banished nerves with my peanut butter on toast, added books to the camelbak, and put on the shades which turn people’s heads.

It worked. The last couple of miles had hills I wasn’t aware of when mapping the new roads and were tough. But I felt strong.

  Which is good. Because it’s the second loaf tomorrow.



Help find a cure

This morning I opened Reuters to find an article saying the US government has set an ambitious goal of finding a cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Although this isn’t going to mean more funds allotted to research, it’s a good sign that more importance is being put on a disease that is believed to effect 37 million people throughout the world.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that hits close to home as my grandma is currently battling it. She has her good days and bad days, but sadly she isn’t the woman she used to be. Having watched her and those around her suffer for the past several years, I am determined to help find a cure. It is with this purpose that I decided to raise funds for the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.

They are a non-profit organization that designates 100% of the money raised to research. They are constantly discovering new genes that are involved in the progression of the disease. The hope is that with more research they will be able to pinpoint the cause of the disease in order to prevent millions at risk and treat those that are already diagnosed.

So with the goals of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, my grandmother on my mind and Cruce de los Andes as an excuse, I set up a fundraising page so everyone can help find a cure. Click on the logo below to learn more about my personal story and donate to this great cause.