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Description:Matt Gossett's Stories Matt Gossett's Stories Sunday, October 4, 2015 IM Chattanooga 2015: Race Report This is the first race report I’ve written so I’m not entirely sure of what all to include. But f

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Matt Gossett's Stories Matt Gossett's Stories Sunday, October 4, 2015 IM Chattanooga 2015: Race Report This is the first race report I’ve written so I’m not entirely sure of what all to include. But from what I understand, these are useful for others looking to train for Ironman so hopefully this helps if that’s you: Pre-race: First of all, I’ll say that I was extremely confident during the days leading up the race. After nearly a full year of consistent training and a couple of races early in the season that allowed me to practice transitions, the idea of completing a 144 mile triathlon definitely seemed within my reach. But my main concern with Ironman were with the “4th and 5th sports” that would make or break my race no matter the physical condition I was in: pacing and nutrition. In order to set myself up for my very best race, my coach Eugene O’donnell put together an extremely thorough race plan. Rather than go into great detail, I’ll summarize our plan with a piece of wisdom that he emphasized to me over and over: “there’s no such thing as a great bike followed by a bad run”. Race Morning: After the usual early morning chaos of getting transition set-up, I arrived at the swim start about an hour before the 7:30 am start, which gave me plenty of time to relax. I definitely felt nervous as my body was ready to begin. As the start approached, I continued to sip on water and planned on taking an espresso flavored hammer gel and an endurolyte 5 minutes out (important not to take this too early). Once we began to move toward the start line, I went ahead and peeled off the top of the gel packet with the anticipation of eating it soon. But when I looked down a couple minutes later, I noticed that I had already squeezed about half the gel out all over my hand. I licked up what I could and didn't worry much knowing that these were the least vital calories of the day and that the mess would wash off quickly once I jumped in the water. Swim: The 2.4 mile downriver swim felt great. Truthfully, once I hopped in the water I was little concerned with the distance I was about to travel, and my mind quickly moved on to what would be a much greater obstacle: transitioning out of the water and onto the bike. I experienced some minor cramping in both my abdomen and right foot towards the latter half of the swim but this just reminded me to rest my legs and reduce my kick even more in preparation for the leg-heavy remainder of the day. I had planned to increase my kick 200m out to get them warmed up for the bike, but the distance between where I was and the finish line was fairly difficult to assess in the moment. In hindsight, I wish I had looked at a map of the swim course to gauge the distance from bridge landmarks to finish. T1: Out of the water and onto the bike. I had a volunteer help unzip my swim skin as I ran up to the gear bags. Once in the change tent, I quickly threw on my bike shoes and put my nutrition in the back of my jersey. I decided to run with my bike shoes since I haven't yet practiced the art of a flying start was happy to get on the road. In the future, I would try to putting nutrition in my jersey before the swim and start with shoes on bike for a faster transition. Bike: I felt great at the beginning of the bike with fresh legs. My main concern though was not the 116 mile distance I was about to bike. I knew I was prepared for the distance. But perhaps the only thing on the course I was not prepared for and the only thing that could have possibly kept me from becoming an ironman was bike mechanical issues. Truthfully, I had never ridden with the set of race wheels that were on my bike, which was a huge gamble but one I deemed worth taking since I trusted Atlanta Cycling (who put them on) and more practically because it had rained the couple of days prior to the race, making road condition potentially dangerous. At about mile 10, I noticed that my stomach was feeling a little tight. Looking down to see if anything was wrong, I saw that my swim skin was still on. After a few minutes of freaking out and trying to think of any way I could possible take it off during the ride, I decided that my best option was to leave it alone and remain positive by reminding myself that the extra compression would be beneficial to my legs. Throughout the course of the ride, only 3 (of many) people who passed me mentioned it. 2 were nice about it, admitting they had made the same mistake before and reassured me that I was just fine. The third asked me if I knew I still had my swim skin on as if I was oblivious to it (less respect for that guy). My nutrition remained fairly close to race plan throughout the bike. The goal was 90 calories from two bottles of heed (270 calories each, one of which was in special needs) and hammer gel (90 calories per packet) as well as one endurolyte extreme every 30 minutes and I held that up well thanks to my handy Garmin 910xt until maybe 4 hours in when I must have gotten distracted and lost track of where I was for a few minutes before regaining my cadence. Outside of that, there were two minor hiccups in my nutrition. The first came about 2.5 hours in when I threw up a little in my mouth after a swig of heed. The second was due to the fact that I drank so much water. I was shooting for about one bottle of 25 ounces per hour, but in hindsight that was probably too much for a cloudy day (although I’d much rather drink too much water than too little). This brought about the issue of having to pee while on the bike, something I had never done before. After some initial hesitation, I was finally able to relieve myself but realized that I had to stop pedaling in order to do so. This was perhaps the biggest obstacle I faced for the entirety bike course as there were 5 occasions when I had to stop pedaling for a moment to take care of business. Looking back, I wish I had drank a little less water on the bike. The only other issue I had on the bike was special needs, where I grabbed my second bottle of heed (although I was prepared with extra calories in case it was not there for me). The issue I ran into was trying to throw away an empty bag (weightless bags don’t travel too far). After working up enough strength to toss it far, I gave it a whirl and the bag’s string got caught on my brake handle, nearly causing me to lose my balance and crash. I was eventually able to hand it to the a volunteer, but this near-crash scared me enough to relax and take it easy for a minute. The real win on the bike course for me was in the fact that I finished feeling good, with plenty of nutrition/hydration and no mechanical issues that required me to stop. Coming into transition, I couldn't wait to start passing all of the "uber cyclists". I rolled into transition with a smile knowing that I was about to start a relatively fresh marathon. T2: After dismounting the bike, I decided to take my shoes off right away before grabbing my run gear bag. As I headed into the change tent, I joked with a volunteer that I was finally ready to take my swim suit off. Before embarking on the run course, I did take a moment to use the porta jon (definitely did not want to think about having to pee while running). Run: At the start of the run I was smiling from ear to ear, not only because I saw my parents and triathlete friends but also because I knew that nothing would stop me from becoming an ironman that day, Pacing was still a concern in the back of my mind (my last marathon in April 2014 was a walk to the finish because of poor pacing) but with all the fans you see mile one, it's definitely hard to hold back. When I saw Dynamo coach Matthew Rose, he yelled at me to slow down going uphill, which knocked me back into reality for a little while as I did my best to follow his advice. Passing everyone who had passed me on the bike was true highlight of my day. At about mile 2, I finally found someone who was running my pace. It was actually pro triathlete Greg Close who was on his second lap of the course. We paced each other for about 6 miles until I let him go as he picked up his pace to the finish. I knew that it wouldn’t hurt to save up for the hills and the second lap that were still to come. Continuing along, I stuck with my nutrition plan of water at every aid station and gel/endurolyte every 30 minutes (or every 4 miles) until about mile 18 or so when I stopped taking gel and switched to Gatorade/cola at every aid station but continued endurolyte intake. Running by the country club each time was particularly enjoyable for me despite the hilly terrain since I had the great support of the Sharber family who had hosted me for the weekend. It was also the spot where I reunited with my ATC teammate Daniel Thomas on the second lap at mile 22 or so, and we ran together toward the finish. After coming across the bridge the second time with less than a mile to go is when I saw my other fellow ATC members, Tim Myers, and we ran with each other down the final hill to the finish. The support of the crowd helped me maintain energy and confidence the entire day. Ted Morris and Jerome Feuiltault were two guys who I saw most frequently and provided me with a definite boost of energy from their contagious enthusiasm. Finish: Crossing the finish line was an incredible feeling of completion. It was great to reunite and share the moment with teammates, family and friends. I was not entirely hungry but did my best to down some pizza and fruit to replace some of the energy I had exhausted throughout the day. I walked over to the medical tent for a brief analysis of my vitals (memories from my last marathon where I camped out there with a 93 temp were still front of mind). Once they agreed I was good to go, I went for a much-needed foot massage (need wider racing shoes) and reminded myself that I had earned the right relax for a little while. Recap: Hard work and preparation goes into completing triathlons of any distance, but Ironman is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my athletic career. Ironman has been a goal of mine since watching Kona on TV as a kid, but it was a goal that I did not think I was even near ready to achieve until everything fell into place for me last year when the tri-community in and around Atlanta propelled me to exceed my own expectations. There’s no way I could have competed in Ironman without a long list of people who helped me get there. Although I’m sure to have forgotten some folks, I have done my best to compile a list of friends, family, teammates, coaches whose tremendous advice and support helped get me to the finish line: Eugene O’Donnell Mary/Rick Gossett The Sharber Family Bethany/John Rutledge Matthew Rose Gary Lucero Maria Thrash Tim Myers Ted Morris George Darden Tim Newberg Rick Alvarez Jerome Feuiltault Kathryn Taylor Stuart Makinson Rob King Allison Leppke Trey Kitchens Jim Boylan Chandler Creel Charlie Holder Christopher Hunt Susie Kelly Laura Bender Chris Nasser Gordon Powell Adam Heiser Brent Pease Matt Cole Stephanie Ely-Stonich Andrei Lozovik Daniel Thomas Heather/Dave Gill Ron Teed I’m grateful to share this achievement with you all! Matt Gossett Ironman ‘15 Posted by Matt Gossett at 7:50 PM 1 comment: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Tuesday, September 10, 2013 Corsica or Bust… Hopping on the ferry for Corsica, I was almost sure of about two things: that I would be arriving in Corsica in 3 hours and that I would either enjoy a relaxing evening under the roof of a Couchsurfer’s friendly abode or I would make the trek to the nearest campsite which lies a healthy 10km distance from the port of arrival. You see, my trip planning skills aren’t usually so bad that I have no idea where I will stay upon arriving at my destination. But I can be so confident in my ability to find accommodation that I don’t spend the time to create a fully functional backup plan. But budget is one of my primary concerns on this trip, and I refuse to pay for a hotel. My problems began when the Couchsurfer who had agreed to host me for a few nights in Bastia, Corsica’s eastern sea port, had failed to respond when I followed up with her 3 days prior to my arrival with a few very important questions, like what’s your phone number? Or what’s your address? Whatever the case, I was hell-bent on making it to Corsica whether or not I knew what to expect. In a spur of panic, I board the ferry out of Nice and begin frantically messaging every Couchsurfer I can identify who is residing in the city of Bastia with a message of desperation. Beginning to think that my luck of bumming couches had finally run out, I turn off my phone before losing service and begin to wait for what will be a telling moment in my vacation. Three hours later, the ferry arrives, I check my phone and surely enough, no news. I call the campsite and a lady answers, kindly informing me that the only transportation available at this hour is by taxi or by foot. Of course, she recommends a taxi, and I quickly thank her before hanging up. If I’m going to the campsite, it’ll be on foot, end of story. The taxi would completely defeat my intentions of saving money. Despite a perpetually ailing foot since running the Paris Marathon two weeks ago, my anticipation of adventure is imminent. I decide that a 10 km hike to the nearest campsite is my best option. As an endurance athlete, to think I couldn’t make it is simply not an option. I depart from the Port of Bastia, beneath a pitch black night sky; it’s already 9pm. As I make my way through the city, the journey isn’t nearly as bad as I expected. There’s a fair amount of streetlight and given that it’s a Sunday, there are few people out on the streets to harass me. I even pass by a guy who kindly offers me a room at his nearby hotel. Curious, but more so ready for a break, I entertain his offer and ask him how much. 40 Euro! Sorry bud, I’m on a budget and the idea of adventure has me excited about the challenge of making it to the campsite on my own. As I begin to reach the half-way point, I realize that I'm started to walk along a highway, and I start to feel a bit uneasy as cars whiz by, forcing me onto the grass as the sidewalk hardly protrudes the poorly paved road. Then, my biggest fear comes true; my injured foot begins to ache, and I try not to think about it, focusing my mind on the music that's playing out of my iphone. As time passes, the road begins to veer left towards the water and eventually I find myself completely off the highway and walking along the interior of an Inter-coastal waterway, which separates the mainland from the beaches. Knowing that the campsite I’m headed to sits along the beach, I’m now confident that I’m getting close. I haven’t gone much more than a mile down this road before I cross a street on the other side of which lies a shack. No reason to be concerned until the next car that drives by slams its brakes and comes to a complete stop about 50m in front of me. “Okay, that’s interesting” I tell myself, unsure of what’s caused them to brake so suddenly. Then I hear somebody yelling and begin to realize that this is no private dispute. The guy sitting in the front seat of the car is screaming profanity and cursing at me to leave the island and go back to where I came from. I don’t know what to think. This guy can’t be serious. Then again, I can’t really afford to find out if he is serious, seeing how my best escape route is on the weight of a hurt foot with a 50 pound backpack carrying nearly half of all my possessions in to. So I stop and wait for the car to drive along, keeping as calm and confident as possible under the circumstances. Nothing happens. The car sits still and the guy in the front seat keeps yelling at me until even he must be feeling uncomfortable. Then I hear him whisper something to the driver, and suddenly the car begins to move again only not as one might expect. They've actually make a complete u-turn and appear to head back in the direction from which came from, only they're on the wrong side of the road, and the car is now speeding directly towards me. Naturally, I’m in shock, but there’s no time to waste by standing still. Before I take a single breath, I begin sprinting towards the shack in front of me where I find a post to hide behind so the car can’t run me over without crashing. With so much adrenaline running through me by this point, I don’t even feel my hurt foot anymore, and frankly it’s the least of my worries. Now both guys in the car are screaming and laughing at me from about 10 yards away, and I’m doing my best to stand still and pretend like they can't see me, hoping that they realize they’ve won, that I want no part of their fight and would actually love nothing more than to turn around and head home at this point. Fortunately, they appear to concede and turn the car around to drive back in the direction they were originally headed. With a sigh of relief, I come out from behind the post and continue on my journey to the campsite. But the car that drove off hasn’t gone more than 50 meters until it stops again. The guy picks back up his obnoxious yelling, which is almost humorous to me at this point, until he actually jumps out of the front seat and begins chasing after me. There’s no time for me to hesitate. I immediately start sprinting in the opposite direction with the weight of my 50-pound backpack no longer inhibiting my stride as I begin to gain speed down the deserted stretch of road . I might be a runner but there are few races in my life in which I’ve been more determined to outrun the competition than this one. My mind has now completely gravitated towards worst-case scenario, and I’m thinking if this guy catches me, I’m toast. He will steal everything I have or worse, leave me seriously injured to fend for myself on a foreign island in the middle of the Mediterranean. At least I speak French. The thoughts of terror begin to crystallize, I turn around and the guy appears to have stopped. He’s getting back into his car after realizing I could outrun him and that there was no use in chasing. I won the race! The car drives off and I wait about 5 minutes before moving another muscle. Peering over at the shack that I stood next to, I now see a car sitting in the side-parking lot with its lights turned, and I begin to wonder if someone saw what had happened and would be willing to help by giving me a ride to my campsite, which still waits a solid 3 km from my current location. I approach the car as timidly as one might imagine but confident in believing that I had already conquered the worst-case scenario. Surely enough, a woman is standing outside the car who appears to texting on her phone. I politely ask if she would be willing to help me out, and she immediately shoots me a look of despair, like I don’t belong in this place and should go away immediately. So I gather my emotions, check my belongings, and continue on my journey. It’s only 3 km further, what else could possibly go wrong? Over the next 500m, the adrenaline has all but left my body and having not eaten since leaving Nice before boarding the ferry, my energy begins to fade. Worse yet, my foot starts to ache much worse than before, and I begin to limp with every other step I take. The campsite might be close but there’s no clear end in sight. I can see woods that shelter the beaches' frontier to my left and am tempted to settle for this area as a possible place to stay for the night. After all, the reason I bought a hammock was so that I could hitch it between any two trees within 6 to 15 feet of each other. But if the streets in Corsica are this dangerous, there’s no telling what awaits on those beaches for someone sleeping alone, with a backpack full of valuable items lying unprotected in the sand. It clearly wasn’t my best option, or so I thought and decided to continue until I reached camp. After making it another 500m, I come to a long beach parking lot that must stretch a solid 300m in front of me. It appears to be empty, until I realize there’s actually a small car sitting at the opposite end with its lights turned off. Somebody must be out on the beach, or maybe somebody left their car here overnight. I only hope that if anyone’s in that car, they don’t intend to even acknowledge my presence as I peacefully sneak my way past them. But frankly it’s too dark for me to confirm that in the car doesn't wait the exact same guys who terrorized me only 20 minutes ago. As I draw closer, the car turns its headlights on. This cannot be good. Whoever’s in that car must have seen me or maybe it’s just a coincidence that they’ve turned on their lights the second I come into view: doubtful. The driver ignites the engine and begins to drive, not onto the road but across the lanes of the parking lot, directly towards me! I still cannot see if this is the same car as earlier. My only reassurance comes from noticing that no one is yelling at me this time. If this car has come to harass me, they’re being awfully quiet about it. Whatever the case, I stop and remain completely still. There’s nowhere for me to go, and I don’t want to give off the impression of being scared by running away. The car pulls up next to me, and the driver rolls down the window. There are two girls inside. They ask me if I need any help, and I immediately experience the greatest sense of relief. “Yes, I do need help. Could y'all please give me a ride to my campsite. It’s literally just down the road”. Without asking any further questions, they immediately step out of the car and open the back door for me to hop in. Once we’re headed off in the right direction, I’m completely at ease, almost too much given the fact that I’m riding in a car with two strangers on an island of xenophobes that’s literally thousands of miles from home. But this is different; these two girls couldn’t possibly harm me. I have no reason to doubt that they’re anything less than the nice French people I have encountered throughout my travels. At least that’s what I tell myself as I begin to explain my earlier dilemma and how my first impressions of Corsica have been scarred by a terrifying hike to this remote campsite. They appear to understand and assure me that we will be there in a minute. A minute turns in to two minutes and two minutes into three, three into four, and four into five. Finally, we pull into a parking lot and I see a sign on which is written the name of the camp. I’ve made it! “Thank you Corsican girls, you all are too kind!” I exclaim. As I hop out of the car and head to camp, I've never in my life been so overjoyed to pitch a hammock between two trees. As I set up tent and begin to fall asleep, I look at my phone and see that it's almost midnight. A three-hour adventure, over the same period it took me to run a marathon only two weeks ago has led to a comparable test of endurance accompanied by the same feeling of physical and mental exhaustion. As it begins to rain, I couldn’t care less. Bring on the rain! I’m alive, (almost) uninjured, and resting with my backpack sitting dry safely beneath my hammock. I wake up in the morning to the fresh, Corsican air and make my way to the front desk where I meet the friendly receptionist who I had spoken to the previous night. She assures me that my dilemma was nothing but a tease. Bastia is completely safe. I laugh as I shrug off her optimism. I can't help but hope that maybe she’s right, and it was an every blue moon occurrence. When I ask her what’s the best way to get back to the city, she advices that I hike 2 km to the nearest bus stop. At this point, my foot is killing me, and I tell her that won’t be happening. “Of course” she says, “You could always hitchhike.” But I’ve already told myself no more hitchhiking for the foreseeable future after my uncomfortable adventures in the south of France. Perhaps there’s a better idea. She asks a German couple who’s staying at the campsite to drive me into town. They kindly agree, and I safely arrive in the big city where I head immediately to the nearest restaurant for breakfast and coffee. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long day of sitting, eating, drinking, and reading. I check my voicemail, and to my surprise, there’s a voicemail from a Couchsurfer who's willing to host me at her apartment which is actually in the city of Bastia, 200m from the port. Great news! Only, she doesn’t get home from work until 6pm. Like I said, long day ahead. Posted by Matt Gossett at 1:18 PM 1 comment: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Spring Break MMXIII In America, the words Spring Break carry several connotations. For most college age students it means a week at the beach, possibly in South Florida or if you really want to go wild, across the border to Mexico. In France, spring break is more of a time to relax, hang out with friends, eat out at restaurants, or maybe go for a hike in the mountains. But one key difference exists in the fact that spring break in France lasts for two weeks. As a man sitting on a short budget and a long list of things to do, trying to come up with affordable activities that interested me was a challenge, but in the end I feel like I made do. Taking to my Internet resources, I started doing some research on how to escape the miserable weather that had plagued central France all winter and was determined to make my way south before I went too crazy. Couchsurfing and Covoiturage, the two websites that would make my dream vacation possible while keeping to a budget. With a lot of last minute planning (literally three days before) and a little bit of luck, I had about 8 days of a 2-week trip planned and was ready to hit the road. With my 65-liter bag packed to the brim, I headed to the train station to meet catch my first ride south. However little I knew of what would come next, one thing was for sure: I wouldn’t be coming back to Thouars until I had to. South of France: Debarking from my carpool at the train station of Toulouse, I made my way to meet my first host of many: a 21-year-old French girl with a Spanish boyfriend who seemed very excited to meet an American. After arriving, we took to the first place on the mind of nearly every French person I’ve met: the supermarket. As it turned out, the Spanish dude was a chef, and as he was out of work with nothing to do, he practiced his trade by preparing some of the best home-cooked meals I’ve ever had (no offense mom). So we proceeded to gather around the table to enjoy our restaurant-quality meal in the comfort of our little apartment atop the 8th floor of the largest housing project in Toulouse. The rest of my time in Toulouse was exactly what I had hoped. Riding bikes beneath the sun that had escaped me for so long and continuing to experience the impossible wide variety of local food and drink. As it turns out, like most French cities, Toulouse is a student city (or “the student city” if you ask someone who lives there) and as a result, there are a lot of young French people with few ambitions other than to eat, drink, talk, and sleep. We made our way down to the Garonne River on Sunday evening, where we were joined a crowd of hundreds who were lounging on the bank and enjoying the evening sun. Among the most interesting people I’ve met in my adventures, I met a British lad about the same age who ran away from home a few years ago to live in Grenada, in the south of Spain, where he had built his own home into a cave and was living off nothing other than the proceeds from his own marijuana plants. While I can’t say I would ever trade places with him, there was an interesting perspective to be shared about how you can get by and live a so-called pleasant life without the luxury that most of us first-world folks consider necessity. As it was time to leave, I thanked my friends for the wonderful food and company before heading to my next destination: Montpellier. Another student city (or “the student city” according to its inhabitants), Montpellier lived up to the hype it had attained of being one of the up-and-coming cities in the south of France. My first of two hosts in the city was a 21 year old student named Francois, who had actually spent the day I arrived shooting a movie, something a guy like myself can relate to. As film guys often do, we got along swimmingly and enjoyed the food and drink of our two days spent together while discussing our latest projects and ambitions for our futures in entertainment. One encounter I had at the apartment worth mentioning was with an elderly woman, actually it was Francois’ roommates mother. She seemed genuinely excited to meet an America and eager to hear about my travel plans. When I told her I was headed to Corsica in a couple of days, she smile turned to a serious gaze, and she looked at me with conviction as she warned, “Be careful in Corsica. It’s quite dangerous. I’d bring it knife if I were you. They don’t like foreigners there.” Interesting premonition, I thought, but she must have been kidding. The next day I made my way to the beach, to a small coastal island city called Sete where a Couchsurfing contact would remind me of what French life is really all about. A 25-year old dude who had spent his adult life working various odd jobs before settling to the beach for his last stint of employment, Benji was living the sweet life of a French social case. With more than enough money to live off of from his unemployment insurance for the foreseeable future, Benji was in the process of “searching for jobs” when he was actually turning down offers with the justification that he would rather collect money from the government for doing nothing than spend the better part of his youth behind a desk. Benji and I had a great time, enjoying a nice seafood meal along the water before taking a long stroll around the island. Otherwise, there was literally nothing to do other than eat, drink and relax. Interesting lifestyle choice, but I was ready to get back to the city. Coming back to Montepellier, it was time for me to switch to my next couch. Unfortunate that I didn’t have more time to spend at Francois’ place; his sense of humor was a refreshing change from the mundanity that I had come to expect from his peers. My next host, a fellow by the name of Thibaut was everything I would expect from a Couchsurfer. Or maybe that’s just me saying that a Frenchman who has traveled to Alaska for several months before the age of 25 has a knack for backpacking that’s hard to find these days. After introducing me to his roommates and friends, who might I mention came from about 5 different countries, we enjoyed some more killer French cuisine before calling it a day. When I asked Thibaut if there was anything to do in the area, he recommended me to a little mountain city up north called St Guillaume Le Desert. Apparently listed as one of France’s most beautiful places, the desert won out on my other options for the next day and I headed there with no agenda other than to take in the beauty of small town southern France. To my pleasant surprise, I met a couple of New Yorkers who had a similar idea on how they planned to spend their day, so I had a chance to reconnect with the American roots that I was slowly coming loose of. On my final day in Montpellier, I was debating what to do next. With no place to go and no plans for the near future, I decided there was no better time to take an espresso at the local Mcdonald’s. So I popped a squat out on the terrace for some classic people watching. Then I get a text: “When are you coming to Aix?” This girl I had been messaging on Couchsurfing had finally gotten back to me. That’s where I would go tonight! Only one problem remained; how to get there. So I log on to Covoiturage on my iPhone, schedule the next ride which leaves in an hour and a half, receive a confirmation from the driver 2 minutes later, and literally run back to Thibaut’s place to throw my stuff in my backpack and head out to meet this guy who would drive me to Aix. Posted by Matt Gossett at 1:17 PM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Marathon de Paris 2013: Slow and Steady It was back in September when my good friend Rob George first suggested to me the prospect of running the Paris marathon in April. I told him it sounded like a great idea, all the while in the back of my mind wondering what I was getting myself into. It would be my first marathon, and, despite the 10 complete consecutive seasons of cross country and track on my resume, I doubted my ability to train properly for what would amount to be my longest single run by about 10 km, knowing that the distractions this year would far outweigh the desire to train seriously by myself for a stroll around the world’s most beautiful city. But the fact that Rob was willing to make the trip across the Atlantic for this thing was all the assurance I needed: I was in, however physically fit or not, I was going to conquer the 42 km on that seemingly distant April morning. When the time finally came to head to Paris, I think I was far more excited to see my friend than I was to actually run the race. After a brief nap and food break, we headed to the expo to confirm our registration and see what this thing was all about. The first nice looking French girl we see when we walk in offers us free apple cider in exchange for signing our name on a sheet of paper. Harmless enough. We go ahead and sign up and next to our names we are asked to estimate our marathon time to the second. As it turns out, the runner who finishes closest to his or her estimated time will be granted a $100 gift card to the local running shop. Of course, I reminded her that I was very much capable of running the time I intended and that even if I needed to walk, I would do whatever it took to cross the finish line at the exact time I predicted: 3h15m00s It was an ambitious goal but that was the time I had been shooting for since the start of my training and I was pretty confident it was within my reach. The next station we headed to at the expo was selling GU energy gel. Rob reminded me, as he so often does, that it was rip off, we didn’t need to any supplements in order to have a good race, and we should avoid whatever kind of artificial energy they were trying to sell. However, I reminded Rob that we were not risking anything by at least buying it. It was a sort of insurance policy that we could carry in our back pocket until we needed a boost of energy. Otherwise, we wouldn’t take it at all and no harm would be done. So we each purchased a package of GU, double-caffeinated espresso flavor. That night we had dinner with W&L alumni, Billy Webster, who we actually discovered in the news under a featured article about his 100th marathon. Billy informed us of his race strategy, a consistent pace would get him through to the end, and he took a GU energy supplement every 5k to ensure his energy level remained high throughout the race. Rob and I looked at each other, knowing GU would likely play a role in our race the next day. Race day came and we made our way to the course about an hour and a half before the start, seemingly plenty of time to gather ourselves and stretch out before the start. But as we took time to gather our bearings in Europe’s largest intersection, take a few pictures, and drop off our extra clothing, we stood in line to wait for the toilet when we realized that we only had 5 minutes before the start of our section. Casually strolling up to the line, in what turned into a legitimate warm-up. When we approach the starting line, we realize that there is a barrier between the sidewalk we’re jogging on and the street where the runners are. We either had to climb over this 8-foot high chain-linked fence or we’d miss the start of our section completely. We scaled the fence no problem for us although a little unsettling to those who watched us and made it to the start line just in time to catch the 3h15 flag, which we were targeting. The first half of the race went textbook perfect. We ran relaxed at about 7m20 to 7m30 second mile pace which was at or slightly better than where we were supposed to be. We were stopping at all water stations and had a good system going of sharing a water bottle and grabbing a banana or orange to replenish every 5k. As we started to approach half-way, I was starting to fatigue a bit but still feeling good enough to keep the pace. Rob, on the other hand, was feeling great and told me we should start working the pace down, building into a much faster second half of the race. Fairly confident that I could hold whatever pace Rob intended on reaching, I decided to go with him and we started passing people as we increased our pace over the next few miles. At the halfway point of the race, it was time to shot some GU and let artificial energy take over. Rob informed me that he was going to try and bit and either spit it out or finish the rest while I held the water bottle and waited for my chance at some caffeine. “That’s perfect” Rob exclaimed and proceeded to inform me of his immediately energy surge. It was time to stride out, he was going to work his way down below seven minutes per mile and finish with a 6 minute last mile, getting as close to the 3 hour barrier as possible given our slow start. I was slightly shocked by his sudden shift in confidence, but told him I would stick with him as long as I could. Over the next 6 or 7 miles, we destroyed the competition. Literally passing people the whole way, we kept a pace slightly under 7 minutes per mile and were well under the original goal pace. I told Rob I was beginning to fatigue and would stick with the other runners for a while before I felt good again. As determined as ever, Rob stuck to his energy-high and refused to acknowledge any weakness he might have felt. “Gossett, get your ass up here!” he exclaimed. But there was nothing I could do. I knew that I either had to slow my pace or I was in for a tough ending. So I ran about the next 4 or 5 miles by myself, enjoying the peace and quiet while part of me was wishing I still had someone to talk to. Then, up ahead I see someone slow their pace to a walk, put their hands on their hips and look like they were about to stop. It was Rob! He had hit a wall and now it was me who was yelling at him to keep the pace. But it was no use. I knew as well as he that we were going to finish the race on separate terms and so it was. I felt more fatigued than ever with 5k to go and reminded myself of the high school races I had run where all we did was a 5k: this was a whole other beast we were tackling. I happily made it to the finish without walking but was internally so spent that I convinced myself I would never again run a marathon. And now I understood why the lady at the expo had laughed when I told her I would purposefully walk across that line. As I finished in 3h15m53s, not only had my opportunity passed to earn the gift card but I was nowhere near pompous enough to slow down for a matter of seconds. Nonetheless, it was over and I was happy to make my way to the nearest curb and sit for what seemed like an eternity before Rob arrived. He crossed the finish line about 7 minutes after me, informed me that an orange or two was all it took to get him going again. And we both forgot about the struggles and relished in our accomplishment: first ever marathon in the books. From then on, it was time for a quick nap before party mode set in and we were reminded of why Paris is one of the greatest cities in the world. Posted by Matt Gossett at 1:14 PM 1 comment: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Thursday, March 14, 2013 Vacances d'hiver: Un peu partout After completing my first six weeks of work after the christmas holidays, it was time for a break. And by break I don't mean coffee break. Don't worry, we already have five of those a day. Break in this context means two weeks. That's right. Two weeks with no work, no obligations, no stress. But vacation isn't all about rainbows and lollipops. There's some serious hard work that goes into planning a 15-day trip. For to spend one day of my freedom dawdling around the tiny town of Thouars would seem to be a waste. Naturally, I planned this trip the easy way: decide where you're going to go, how you're going to get there, and let everything else fall into place. Little did I consider the prospect that I may embark my first day on a 13 hour voyage to Chambery, a friendly student town in the Swiss Alps, for a weekend of skiing with no place to sleep. Given my luck, the only hostel was full, and my next option was a 50€ a night hotel room which would attempt to ruin my every sense of budgetary control I was determined to maintain. Luckily, it pays to know people, and an American acquaintance I had met three months back came through in the last minute and offered me a couch for the duration of my stay. Bumming made easy, or so it seemed. The skiing itself was phenomenal. With above average snowfalls this ear, fresh powder was in abundance and the fear of avalanche became a viable excuse for sticking to the trails while other more experienced skiers of our group managed to conquer more advanced territory. Strasbourg (February 18-20) Things were a little bit more smooth traveling to my second destination: Strasbourg. Aside from the $18 Big Mac Combo that I unknowingly purchased in Switzerland, and the Parisian lady next to me who couldn't stop telling me how much she hated Nancy (the third destination of my trip), the travel was smooth and I was feeling refreshed upon arriving in the part of France for the first time. As it turns out, France's northeast corner, popularly known as the Alsace-Lorraine territory once occupied by Germany, has more to offer than pretty women and beautiful architecture. The flammkuchen, a pizzaesque, tomotasauceless, creme fraiche based tarte covered with the most delicious ingredients you can imagine, was every bit as good as advertised and frankly I may have to open up a Flams next door to dominoes back in the US. We would do quite well. Nancy (February 20-22) Nancy was bound to be a special trip. Not only because I was visiting the city where the only other w&l alum who, to my knowledge, has completed the same program as me resided but also because I would be hosted by a group of three girls, which always produces an interesting story. Quiche, beer, and gold. Three things you should not miss if in Nancy. First, this should go without saying, but Quiche Lorraine is 1000 times better in Lorraine. Assuming you dine in a local specialty restaurant like i did, prepare to be amazed. Second, the beer here, as in many parts of France, may not get exported but that does not mean anything with regards to the quality: a must experience for any excuse of a brew lover. Finally, the gold-painted city center makes for one of the most genuinely beautiful displays of color and architecture in all of France. Paris (February 22-25) They say that even while on an extended vacation it's good to have a home base: not necessarily where you live but where someone you know well lives, where you can relax for at least a couple of days and enjoy life without having to worry about travel, tourism, and other nonsense. Actually, I don't know who said that, but I say that and thus I am thankful that my friend Freddie Akers was free to host me and celebrate our shared birthday during the weekend in Paris. For the "big" dinner, we stumbled a true commodity around these parts: hibachi. But granted, it was Paris hibachi and its simply not the french way to dress up the birthday boy with s sumo hat and have the entire staff sing him happy birthday in hardly coherent Japanese while the other restaurateurs look on in half amused, half annoyed. In Paris, the chef merely cooked us our food, trying desperately not to mess up as he attempted chapters 2&3 in the hibachi trick book, and the server gave us our drinks until she thought we were too drunk to realize she had overcharged us (little did she know!). But the atmosphere did succeed, as always, at bringing us closer to total strangers as we bond over the silliness that is Japanese fine dining. The old, retired ladies next to us invited us to their regular spot, a Cuban bar across the street, where, in ordinary Paris fashion, we could pay 2 euro each to hang our coats, 12 more for drinks (although Havana rum could be a nice import to the states someday) and only then were we free to salsa dance the night away in their caves. Comme d'habitude, we did as usually, staying out until 4, waking up at noon and wondering what to do with the next day. As such, Paris came and went, but I must admit, no matter how old we get, the city of lights never ages a day. Reims/Epernay (February 25-26) I entered Champagne with two purposes in mind: 1. Find out something about my family's origins in the region 2. Pop bottles on my birthday. The first fruition seemed bleak after calling the Maison Gosset who kindly informed me that they only offered tours upon reservation to large groups of professionals and that I best not bother them mid week with my tourist nonsense. Well as it turns out, a little name dropping and a speck of persuasion go a long way in getting the feet of the head-exporter on the path toward a full private tour and tasting. In other words, I totally lucked out and am grateful for the opportunity to tour and taste the oldest wine producer in all of Champagne. What better way to follow up a superb tasting than with a visit to the local bar?only, they do things differently here. Literally imagine a bar that sells nothing but, yup, you guessed it, champagne. It almost doesn't seem fair to term it a bar. Perhaps rather champagneraunt or champagnerie would be more indicative of the class that dwells within. Just imagine, a menu includes tastings of 6 different specially chosen champagnes for 18€. Not bad considering this is top class liquid they're serving. As one might expect at 4 pm on a Monday afternoon, I was the only one ready to pop bottles that afternoon. But, the intriguing server and I sparked the afternoon into one of the nicest bar experiences of the trip. Add this to the list of things to do if you ever find yourself bored on a weekday afternoon in champagne. Oxford (February 26-March 2) W&L how I've missed you('re people). Driven by part curiosity, part yearning for a mini-alumni reunion, I headed to Oxford to see what all the fuss was about. And it turns out, the fuss is well-warranted. Little did I realize how much our the beautiful architecture and intricate design of American college campuses originally attempted to match the standard set by our English predecessors. I always remember back when I was in the 8th grade, I went to a football game at Auburn University in Alabama, and as I was sitting around a tailgate with men three times my age drinking beer and throwing the pig-skin, one of them looked around, turned to me and said, "kid, if this place doesn't inspire you to study hard in school, I don't know what will." At the time, it seemed like a lot to shoot for, attending a grand university in the American south. But now I'd love to come across that same man again and show him pictures of my trip Oxford. Because truly, without the slightest hint of a doubt, anyone should want to study their ass off to attend such a fine institution. London (February 28 "London's great, but the food, aw, the food is awful." My perceptions of Big Ben's resting place were not pepped up to gold and glory from an early age as some Americans might be (mis)led to believe. Actually, the food might have been my second favorite part about my day long visit to London. The moment I exited the bus, I wasn't thinking about where I was or what museum I would visit first. I was eyeing the Chipotle on. The street corner, where I would chow down on my first American burrito in far too long. After embarking my way through the city on foot, I passed countless reasonably-priced organic restaurants, the quality of which I'm sure we have only begun to much back in the states. But my friends, the one thing Britain does better than anyone else is their museums. Imagine some of the finest collections in the world at your fingertips and you can spend as much or as little time as you like counting the brush strokes on Claude Monet's fourth painting of the same garden you conveniently overlooked the 5£ requested donation box and didn't pay a penny for entry. Home It's been an excellent two weeks but now it's time to get back to work, for three days of class lie between me and my next break. Don't worry, this time break means 4-day weekend because my parents have come to visit. I'll have to go another few weeks before the two-week span begins. Posted by Matt Gossett at 7:11 PM 1 comment: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Sunday, February 17, 2013 Overdue Rather than apologize for failing to update my blog since returning to France, let’s just say that I’ve been busy. Between loaves of baguettes, layers of quiche, bottles of wine, abundance of foie gras, and hours of work, I haven’t seemed to find a proper occasion for this blog. In all truth, I have been hard at work for the past month and a half. With aspirations of entering business school in the fall, I had been studying for the entrance exam, which I took last Friday. Now I’m onto more important obstacles: like cleaning my toes, and planning my next vacation. With two more weeks of “winter” break starting this weekend, it appears I’ll have a substantial amount of time to plan literally whatever I please within my budget. At the moment it looks like a trip to Chambéry in the Alps for skiing will commence the trip, which could possibly turn into a tour of France and whatever splendid cities I’ve yet to experience. Now for story time: With America Club just around the corner, I scurry to get my material together before heading to the chateau for some hopefully productive culture discussion. I’ve quickly put together a powerpoint presentation of pictures and videos representing American high school sports. The only problem is that without a usb drive I will have to email them to myself, by first dividing the singular presentation into 5 parts to abide by the maximum file size of 25MB. I leave for school around 11:45 AM for the 1 PM class, plenty of time to stop at the local boulangerie for a sandwich before heading to work, unlocking the door, heading up to my room downloading all presentations and preparing to discuss American culture with 14 attention deprived, hyperactive 11 and 12 year old students who have trouble putting together a sentence of English, let alone understanding my long-winded babble. Arriving in the teacher’s lounge, I’m greeted by a grand spread of meat, cheese, bread, wine, juice, dessert, all for the apparent celebration of a teacher’s birthday. Unfortunately, having already eaten, I inform my colleagues that I will not be participating in the feast. Moreover, I have a meeting with the America Club in twenty minutes, which I must get ready for. But, apparently this excuse should not deter me from embracing the moment. As I’ve come to learn, there’s always time for celebration. The birthday boy, Philippe Cartier, greets me with his feebly handshake and insists that I join him for a glass of wine: it’s his birthday after all. Naturally, I question taking a drink before class, as I can’t remember the last time that was okay. But, as I was quickly reminded, in France we play by a different set of guidelines. There’s never a poor occasion for enjoying some vino. We spend the remainder of my time discussing everyone’s favorite topic, the genealogy of the food on the table, before I head off to class. As usual, the hour flies by; my students are happy to learn about how life in America without making too much of a ruckus. Observations: Just because it’s your off day doesn’t mean you won’t show up to the office for your daily dose of gossip. Eating horse meat is perfectly normal. Posted by Matt Gossett at 5:54 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Tuesday, January 8, 2013 Lessons Learned in 2012 I actually wrote this article before leaving France for the Christmas holidays, but now that I'm back in action over here, I see all the more reason to go forward with posting it. It merely states in the nicest way possible a few of my perceptions of the French since arriving back in September. Enjoy! 1. If a French person responds “no" to whatever question you may ask, it is by no means definitive. It’s merely the easiest way of them telling you that they're indifferent, and a mellow joke or clever excuse will almost always cheer them into a “yes” mood. *this applies to 95% of situations 2. If you don’t know what’s being served for lunch at the canteen, or you're having trouble reading the menu at any traditional French restaurant, it’s a safe bet to look around, find someone with food who looks reasonably intelligent, point at them and just ask for the “meme chose” or the same thing. This doesn't always work but at least you'll have someone to blame 3. Working 35 hours a week doesn’t mean you’re lazy, it means that you work more efficiently than those who work more to finish the same amount of work in less time and have thus well earned your right to 40 days of paid vacation per year. 4. If while dining at a restaurant, your waiter asks you what you’d like to eat and you fail to respond with some sort of affirmation, you just likely cornered yourself into a three-hour dining affair. At least now you have all of the time you like to make up your mind. The waiter will return only once you seek him out or make eye contact. 5. If everyone around you is running to catch the next metro while you’re being introduced to a French female, you should still always give them the bisous (kiss them) before running off with the crowd. 6. It is our god-given right to strike, no matter the reason. It’s best to make sure that there is actually slightest hint of a conceivable reason and that your employer knows ahead of time. Either way, your job is secure. 7. As with most any job contract in France, the weatherman’s contract is indefinite. He will not lose his job for failing to predict the weather correctly, day after day after day. “You can’t predict the future, simply look outside, that’s the weather” – the friendly words of your local meteorologist 8. Food culture in France is as big if not bigger than sports culture in the US. Eating by yourself is like playing catch by yourself: impractical. Eating a 30-minute meal is like playing a 1-set tennis match: illogical. Finally, not eating every part of a pristine animal is like crushing an opponent without letting your benchwarmers in the game: immoral. 9. When a French person tells you they don't have Christmas lights, it's not because they don't celebrate the holidays. It just doesn't make any sense to pay for Christmas lights when you can save the money to spend on Christmas food. 10. Waiting your turn in line is a choice, not an obligation. Whoever gets to the front of the line first has merely assumed the right a way. Posted by Matt Gossett at 3:32 PM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest Older Posts Home Subscribe to: Posts (Atom) Pages Home About Me Twitter Pictures Translate About Me Matt Gossett View my complete profile Blog Archive ▼ 2015 (1) ▼ October (1) IM Chattanooga 2015: Race Report ? 2013 (6) ? September (3) ? March (1) ? February (1) ? January (1) ? 2012 (24) ? December (2) ? November (6) ? October (12) ? 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