I am pretty sure the Spartans of Ancient Greece would not accept me into their fold for my performance the first weekend of June. I might get a few brownie points for trying- although brownies are the last thing I need right now.
I had signed up for the Spartan Sprint in Milan, with the intention of making this my key summer goal. Generally, setting these kinds of goals helps motivate me to do more exercise. I guess this goal did as well, as I actually took up running again. But going from no running to 5 km jogs does not prepare you for a 10 kilometer obstacle course race of which a significant part just heads up and down the same hill with a wide assortment of weights. I found I had little problem climbing over things (surprise!) and absolutely no issue crawling under things. It was the challenges that required me to use basically only my arms (or unpracticed coordination) to climb ropes or cross monkey bars which I did not excel at. As such, although I can say I completed the race, I immediately knew I could do better.
This kept on going around in my head as I walked dehydrated and under-fed through the streets of Milan in search of my hostel. I had planned to visit the city all weekend, which was fine apart from the fact that I had omitted to think about the 31 degree heat, and the fact that post exercise, one should eat.
Getting grouchier and grumpier, a headache pounding, I stumbled sightlessly down streets and past marble buildings, and into the first supermarket I could find. A recovery lunch in a square left me feeling slightly better, and I was able to locate Queen Hostel.
Some bit of me had intended to head into the town and see the Duomo and perhaps the palace in the cooler evening air. However once I caught sight of the wonderful showers and clean sheets, it was pretty sure that that was not happening. I spent a long time getting mud off of me and then out of my running clothes, although the latter was less successful than I would have liked. Instead of sightseeing, I ended up chatting to several other guests, something which filled me with nostalgia.
The other guests included a lad from Northern Ireland who studies Medicine in Edinburgh, an young man from Australia who just finished high school and was trying to make up his mind about his next step in life, and a girl from Brussels who studied in California but decided to spend her summer doing a trip through Europe. They talked about their journeys, naming next destinations like tick lists, past destinations with quick opinions and short anecdotes. I was immediately put into the same bracket- where was I going, how cool that I would do a Spartan Race while traveling, how long did I plan to spend in Italy?
It brought back memories when that was me, half way through Asia, proudly laying out my travel plans, giving random unsolicited advice on what to see where. Somehow, though, this felt more comfortable than my entire stay in Torino had so far. I had a connection, although fleeting, with people who on the face of it were astoundingly similar to me in the short term. The meaningless connection of being outsiders in a country lent security.
As I fell asleep on clean laundered sheets I wondered if there was still mud which I had missed, somewhere…