Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Five in Five Epilogue entry

Last november after I had finished NYCM I was thrilled to be running marathons again. After the two year layoff with my back and rehabilitation I wasn't always really sure that I would be able to ever run for long distances again. But here I had finished a marathon and was already planning the next. The first thing I thought of was of course how to improve. The next thing that came to mind was my weight. The "five" in fiveinfive. When I started this blog over four years ago it was only supposed to last the amount of time that it would take me to take off five kgs...and it's been four years. I knew that if I wanted to run smoother I had to take five kilos off and get back to my old weight. I didn't know if I could do it. During my FiveinFive battle I had taken the weight off once, but it didn't last for more than a month. Now I was (am) in menopause my metabolism had changed and it seemed impossible for me to lose any weight. But I made a deal with myself: I would go back to the dietician and have her follow me for awhile. If by going on a diet regime that she put me on she concluded that THIS was my new weight and that my metabolism had slowed down and that this was a good weight for me, I would make peace with it and I would not worry about my weight for one more minute.

Plus, I had this wacky theory. I don't know if it can be scientifically proved, but here it goes: my back problems originate from a 30% slip in my L5. I also have a pretty pronounced lordosi. This, I think , comes from the fact that when I gain weight it is mostly in my hips and in order to counterbalance that weight, I shift my posture. Less weight, no posture shift, less back pain and better running.

NOVEMBER 10, 2008
The dietician is the same doctor that has seen me for the last eight years. The first time I went to her was in 2001 when I was preparing a 2km/66km/14km triathlon. Oddly enough I had just turned forty and had gone through my first metabolic shift. I'd gained weight and couldn't drop it no matter how much I tried. I followed the eating plan that she gave me and lost every ounce I needed to. But I didn't keep it up and after the season was over I gained the weight back. The next time I saw her was a few year later when I had miscarried and then still had some weight hanging on from the interuppted pregnancy. Again, I took some weight off but then didn't follow through. This time it had to be different. I told her that I was frustrated in not being able to lose weight on my own no matter how much I tried but that I was willing to accept this to be my weight if she came to the same conclusion. One thing that was really important to me was not so much the losing of the weight as much as the maintenance. Whatever weight I lost, I wanted to work on maintainence so that I wasn't constantly going up and down. I wanted that part of the whole weight experience to be done and over with for me. I know how to lose weight, I have become an expert at it over the years. What I don't always know how to do is maintain the weight I do lose.

The other important incentive for me behind losing weight was also in my athletic endeavors. I spend so much of my time running or biking or swimming and now doing yoga. It seemed silly for me to not feel in my best shape in order to get an even more positive experience during my races.

She wrote me out a regular diet and when I looked at it at first I said "I'm going to gain weight with this, it's too much." She assured me that it was approximately 1500 calories and that it was the least amount she could give me. She added in more calories on days that I worked out more. I decided then and there that SHE was in charge. I totally put the responsability onto the doctor rather than myself. Whether I gained or lost was not MY problem, it was hers. My responsability was to follow the diet and see how my body reacted.

A week later I came back for my first visit and was surprised when I saw that I had lost 1,4 kg. Part of the whole "the responsability is hers, not mine" was in not weighing myself at home. All I had to do in our "experiment" was to follow the exact instructions of the diet. Weighing in was not my problem, it was hers. I know I've said this twice but it is a really important point for me. I had become too emotionally involved with whether the scale went up or down rather than looking at it as a physiological consequence. I would think it was my "fault" or my "merit". Not weighing in helped me concentrate on just eating well rather than worrying if my weight was up or down.

As the weight came off my running started to feel smoother and I felt SO light, like I was flying...which I wasn't, but just the fact that I didn't feel like I was nailed to the ground made me want to run even more. By Christmas I had taken off all 4 kgs Byt the end of January I was down 6, 5 kgs total = 14 lbs. Now came the hard part: maintenance.


I distinctly remember the first time I started using food for comfort. It was my first year in high school. I had a totally sucky family life (in one sentence: my mom had died in a car accident two years before, my father (an alcoholic) had remarried to a younger women who split after a year, then quickly gotten together with a new woman who had two children that moved in, my sister had just moved out and I was going through puberty...good enough?) . I had made friends with a girl named Stephanie. After school we would walk downtown (really small town), hang out and eat. Mostly cookies and ice cream and tiger-milk bars and baklava. I remember getting really sick on the Baklava...too sweet. I found solice in the food and I remember that everything started to get tight and I didn't care. I would bake cakes and eat them all by myself. I would ride my bike (my only transportatin) twenty miles just to go to a certain pastry shop and gorge on sweets. I was also physically active. Lots of biking and running and surfing and hiking. That kept me from getting too big and sort of kept me in check. But the overeating and getting totally sick from all the sugar was something I did for many years. Years and years. I've never gotten too big for two reasons. The first of course was the physical activity. I've always LOVED to move and walk and hike and if my eating got too out of hand I would calm it down and lose the pounds. The other is that I did have a little vanity in me somewhere. I liked to feel and look pretty and that also helped in not letting it spin too far out of control. But it has always been there , present and waiting in the background. In the past few years it's almost come to a halt, but it was still a habit that definately kept me from achieving my best weight for me. No fiveinfive for me unless I could get a handle on it.

With the diet the dietician gave me I had a few food outlets. Once a week I could eat pizza and once a week I could eat a dessert. Holidays I had free reign for the day. These were the occasions where I learned my most important lesson. That I could blow it once, or overeat, or eat the wrong thing or whatever...but that the next hour, the next day, I was back to my eating plan. The eating plan gives me a lot of stability and comfort. Five meals a day - three main meals plus two snacks. It's very balanced and healthy and I've been able to loosely stick to it in any social situation. I've never had to say "no thanks, I'm on a diet". I eat a little bit of whatever is put in my plate, match it mentally to what I should be eating and go from there.
Staying on an eating plan also helped me realize the times that I am searching for something to eat when I'm not hungry or when I've already finished my meal. It's usually a sign that something is wrong (I'm nervous, I'm worried) and so far I've been able to stop and ask myself "what is it that you're really looking for?" It's also a regime that I've been able to use to my advantage in training. I've had no problems in adapting it to whatever training volume I had in any given week, marathons included.

I track my weight once a week and I've stayed within a two pound range now for four months. This is huge for me. I don't think I have ever in my life been at the same LOW weight for more than a month or so. I feel 1000% confident that not only will I be able to maintain, but that I'll be able to continue to change the body fat/muscle percentage with time.

Thus ends the Five in Five story. I hope you've enjoyed it (whoever you are out there!).
I still want to blog but with a emphasis on my new positive outlook. Or may it's my "old" positive outlook...yep, it's always been there :-)

Here, above (look up!) is new blog!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Paris III

Until I get the photo thing understood I'll just have to post a few, I was saying...the first 2 kms were great because, besides having to dash around the tourists that had invaded the course, I was pretty much by myself. Then around 3km I met up with the tail of the race. For the next 10km it was a question of trying to get around every walker or slow slow runner in the group. There were a lot. At 5km we had our first refreshments and then a HUGE traffic jam because there was a ...turn in the rode. Like a 90° turn had us waiting in line for about 5 minutes to get past it. On the rest of the route I found:

- Some cancer organization that decided to have 10 runners carry a banner that crossed the course. You couldn't get passed them and they jammed up a huge part of the race. I was finally able to weave my way around them but...who gave these idiots permission to do that? I assume no one.

- The Beaujolais marathon carried a wooden wine keg on wheels for the entire race. They also insisted that they had the right of way and would yell at anybody blocking their path. Then they'd stop, rest, switch places and continue. I was able to ditch them at 30km.

- All the water and refreshment stations carried half liter bottles of water that would get sipped from and then THROWN on the ground. I was aimed at twice and struck. They also serverd sliced oranges and bananas WITH peels with no place to throw them so everyone threw them on the ground. I was able to keep my balance but I saw a few nasty spills.

I finished in 4h41'16". What makes me upset the most was my attitude in the last k's. Usually I'm happy happy happy, but I was just ready to get back to the hotel. l learned a lot from the experience however so go me...Piero miraculously was able to spot me in the crowd in the last 100 metres. I don't know how he does that.

We had a beautiful group dinner in a gorgeous restaurant that evening. Then the next day Piero and Evan and I took a long, long walk around Paris. It truly is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Paris II

The morning of he marathon I woke up at 5.30, dressed and went down to breakfast. After I was finished I went back up to our room to gather up Evan and Piero who were coming with me and the group to the start. Piero was going to be taking care of my friend Patrizia's son while she ran the race. Meeting spot was l'Arc de Triumph.

I waited around for Patrizia for as long as I could, but the clock was ticking so I decided to go deliver my sack and then come back to the meeting spot. Piero and Evan were staying put to make sure they got Gabriele. I ran this race in 1998 and then again in 1999 back when there were 20.000 entrants. This year they had 32.000 entrants and it was mayhem. Totally un and disorganized. They had this fence up blocking to where we were supposed to deliver our bags with one little tiny opening for thousands of runners to get in AND get out. Our group was able to get in, deliver our bags but then we decided to exit another way and take a side street to the start. Good move on our part since we then heard that the crowds tore down the fence when they start to have a deadlock...very dangerous.

I found Piero and Evan again. Gabriele was with them but Patrizia was now back where we had just left our sacks. I waited around until two minutes to start and then left without her. By this time there was no way to get into my assigned "cage" so I thought "heck, I've got a chip, I'll just line up in the back!" Oh my God, what a mistake...I also had to pee really bad so I waited in line for that too. When I came out everybody was gone...gone! I had the whole Champs D'Elysee to myself to run down. I spotted Piero and Evan as I ran the the Avenue running the first km...

(Hi, I'm going crazy here posting more than one photo at a time. Every time I insert a photo it puts it at the top and not in the part of the story where I want it. If anybody knows what I'm doing wrong please let me know and I can continue with tons of photos...Part III when I get it solved!)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Paris I

I thought Paris was going to be this wonderful, relaxing vacation weekend. It was...sort of...and if any part of it wasn't it was totally my fault. I accepted a speaking engagement for my book on the evening before we were to fly from Bologna to CDG airport. On paper it always looks easy, but the reality meant me being in Milan at 8.00 p.m. - finishing at 11.00 p.m. and getting home at 2.00 a.m. ----- I then set my alarm for 4.00 a.m. and plane take off was at 7.15 a.m.

I can get by on little sleep, but this was too much. The first thing we did was take Evan to Eurodisney and we got there at about 12.30 p..m. after dropping off our luggage at the hotel and taking a few metros left and right to get across the city. Here's a lovely picture of me in line getting crepes to eat. When I'm sleep deprived I just take any any minute I can to relax and catch up. It helps and allows me not to completely fall apart.

Evan's favourite ride was the cars. He couldn't believe that they let him actually drive! The accelerator was a little difficult for him to work so he asked me to do that for him...By the way, when I was a small girl this too was my favorite ride at Disneyland in L.A.

Monday, March 30, 2009

On thinking positive

Last week after I was on the national radio show to talk about my book, I stopped by the offices of the running magazine I work for to pick up a stock of my books. I went into the editing room to say hello to my collegues. They were every excited about the book, my main editor even talked about it becoming an editorial "case". He asked me how many books I hoped to sell. I really have no idea, it's nothing I ever thought about while I was writing it. I thought it was already such a miracle that I even finished it. One thing is for sure: I would have never started or finished without the insistence of the magazine owner. He pushed, pushed and pushed...for years. Selling them is just the icing on the cake. But as we got into the final stages I could see that the book had shaped into something special and that maybe I WOULD be able to sell a few of them. For all you "foreign" readers, please remember that Italy is not a large country. A total population of 60 million, not many runners. Selling 5000 copies would already be a big triumph for them. But I believe in positive affirmations and I certainly don't believe in "fitting" in to any statistics.

I told him I hoped to sell 100,000 copies.

He laughed. Then he asked, no, really, how many copies do you want to sell.

I replied 100,000.

Later in the week we exchanged emails where I tried to explain my point of view.
If I aim low, I will settle for low numbers. If I aim high I might not get to the top, but at least I have a better chance of getting there.
He quite enphatically told me that I had to come back to earth and stop dreaming. He told me that I had to adjust my expectations, that not even (very-well-known-trainer-in-Italy-who-wrote-a-book-a-few-years-ago) sells a fraction of that number of copies. Plus, the book doesn't go into mainstream bookstores, only specialized ones or by request.

Well, I'm not him. I am me. I am different. I have no idea the number of copies I am going to sell but I sure as hell am not going to conform to someone elses selling numbers. Besides, I have a different audience than the marathon group. This is a book for women, and when we want to, we show up in droves. You just wait and see!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A question for the girls

This weekend I presented my book at the Rome Marathon. We sold out all the copies brought to the expo by the afternoon! Unexpectedly, it's being bought by a lot of men who want to convince their wives and companions to run with them.
The big question that everybody is asking me is if I plan on publishing it in english. Apart from the fact that I'd have to find a publisher in the States or U.K., I don't know if it's translatable or if there's a market for yet ANOTHER women's running book. On my behalf I can say that my training technique is different, even for beginners. I just don't know if my articles would translate well in english. So I thought I'd ask y'all! Can you give me an opinion? Should I translate a central chapter (chapter four?) and then have you look at it and let me know? Any, all suggestions are welcome.

I'm running the Paris Marathon in 2 weeks so yesterday I needed to do a longer run. I got two free entries and invited my friend Patrizia to run with me (she's coming to Paris too!). We decided on 30km constructed like this: 6 x (1km walk/3km @ marathon pace/1km @ half marathon pace). That worked out really well; fun, relaxing, easy. The only problem was the wind and cold. It looks sunny in the photos but it's really in the low 50's. Here we are at the 20km mark with the Vatican in the background. The pope was giving mass and we could see the maxi screen as we ran by!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The calm before...

The book should be arriving in my hands tomorrow. In the meantime I'm getting ready for the first big presentation in Rome next Saturday. Everybody in the running world knows this book is coming out and I've started to get reservations for other book presentations. The first one, without the book, was in Trieste. I love Trieste. From my house it takes about 3 and a half hours to drive there - which is where I had to go on Saturday. I had the family stay home since I knew that it was going to be a long drive up, a quick presentation (one hour) and then the long drive back. I really like driving by myself. I listen to audiobooks and music that I can keep putting the same CD on over and over again. From Venice up to Trieste you don't really see the water until you actually get to the city...and then you get this beautiful shot of water. I stopped the car and took a picture (above). It just took my breath away. I want warm weather SO much...