Thursday, November 30, 2006

Swim workout...sort of...

This morning I was able to find time to go swimming with Linda. I LOVE swimming with her since it seems to make the whole workout pass by faster...which it doesn't because we yack, yack, yack so much that we spend half the time chatting, which doubles the time in the pool. Sometimes we actually only start swimming again because we get cold talking while not moving...Oh, we're good on the run though!
I'm going to start using some workouts from this site. The workout timings are generated from parameters that you put in. I had already put in my times for 10 x 100mts but nothing else so I decided to time myself for the 3 x 500mts. They came out 11'49" - 11'42" - 11'44" which was actually not terrible for me. I thought I'd do worse. I was swimming slow and without much purpose so I feel pretty confident that I can improve once I have a little more swim direction.

Olivia and I went grocery shopping after school today. It was nice to go around with her and look at all the Christmas stuff they were putting out. She was sure to point out to me all things that I could buy her for Christmas. So many choices, so little money...but I will buy her one nice thing. She really deserves it :-)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The "How to make POLENTA" entry

A few weeks ago I switched from counting points on Weight Watchers to their Core Program. I don't know if it will work (still too early to say), but I have to say that I love it. They give you a list of foods that you can eat until you are satisfied (big key here) plus an extra 35 points during the week to play with. This works well for my triathlon and marathon training since a) I no longer feel like I'm starving myself to lose a few pounds b) the foods on the list is what I normally eat anyway.
So one of the foods on the WW Core list that you may eat when you want is...Polenta! I go on theWW boards every a few times a week and was sad to see that many of my fellow Americans have no idea what polenta is or (gasp) buy it ready made at the supermarket. So, I'm going tshow you how easy and inexpensive it is to make.

The first thing you want to do is go and buy a box or bag of polenta. It usually comes in 16 or 32 oz. When you open the box up you'll see that it is actually ground corn. It will be roughly ground up, not fine like flour. Don't be surprised to see little brown specks in it, especially if you buy an organic type. Please don't buy the "instant" kind. It's not the same. Sort of the same difference in buying instant oatmeal or steel cut oats.

Take a big pot, like a soup pot, and fill it with two litres (or 1 and 3/4 quarts) of luke warm water.

Add one tablespoon of rock salt.

Measure out 500 grams (or 1 lbs, 1 oz.) of dry polenta and slowly drizzle it into the WARM water while stirring. You want to then turn your stove on and cook it (moderate heat) while stirring it with a wood spoon at least every minute. In this first photo it's really watery and milky looking...

...this is five minutes later and it's already starting to firm up...

Geez...I'm such a bad photographer! Anyway, this is about fifteen minutes into cooking and you can see that it's getting clumpy. At this point you can put the flame (or electric coil?) on low and go back and stir it every few minutes so that it doesn't burn, but it still needs to cook another ten or fifteen minutes. You will know when it is done because when you stir, the polenta comes off and away from the bottom or sides of the pot. From start to finish this should be about 30 minutes. Now that it's cooked you want to take the whole pot of it...

...and spread it out on a clean table. You can just use a wood spoon to spread it out, it should be about an inch and a half high. In some rustic restaurants in the northern Italy they'll put the polenta directly on your table and have you eat off of it. At home you can either take a serving right there while it's hot, put it in a bowl and put your favorite topping on it OR you can wait until its cool and firm and...

...Grill it. I don't use any oil when I grill pieces of polenta but sometimes I'll put on a little olive oil once they're done. You can top them with - pieces of melted cheese - tomato sauce - vegetable sauces - cut up pieces and put them in salads.

If you have any leftover (or you want to cook it up to use for grilling later) just slice it into big chunks, put into plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge. It'll keep for up to a week, but I've never actually had it last that long since we eat it up pretty fast! Buon Appetito!!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ugh. It's Monday.

BOTH kids are now sick and I may go crazy doing ten loads of wash a day (one for every time one of them unloads the nothing they have in their stomach...). The only good news to this is that Piero and I seem immune to whatever strain of virus this is so we can give our full attention to the children.
I went and had an MRI on my back this afternoon. After seeing the x-rays I don't think that they'll find anything different here but it was already ordered and it only cost me twenty-five dollars so I had it done. I'll have the results ready on Thursday. It wasn't painful doing the actual process. It was just this big machine taking pictures, but I had to lie on my back in the same position without moving for forty minutes. My back hurt like crazy and then my left leg (the one that hurts more) fell asleep. It'll be cool to have the pictures though, certainly worth all the pain!
I was able to get a quick run in (see sidebar) which will save me from going house crazy...

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I went to Firenze yesterday on occasion of the Firenze Marathon. I didn't actually stay and watch the race, I just went to the expo cause I can get every business contact that I have under one roof and take care of business meetings in one big swoop. I do love Firenze, I spent a good twelve years of my life there...loads of fun, loads of boyfriends, my entire twenties and the first part of my thirties. I still have a lot of friends there so it's always nice to catch up with people. I don't regret moving away because the traffic there is hideous. I mean the whole town is pretty flat, you'd think that there'd be more bicycles use. I know I always used one, even if I lived on the hill above the Ponte Vecchio. Anyway, I had my second encounter with a live Tri Drs member! Lee Crumbaugh! We met for coffee, talked away an hour and then went to the expo together. I saw that he didn't have as good a race as he had hoped for :-( - Oh well.

Evan was with me and on the way home he threw up in the car in the first ten minutes of a ninety minute drive. I had a change of clothes so I did that on the side of the road and then had to have him ride with me up front since the back was no longer usable. We got home and then he started going to the bathroom. Continuously. Today he's heaved about twelve times, can't even keep water down. He seems okay now, he ate a banana few hours ago and that seems to be sticking. He'll be home this next week though so I've already lined up a babysitter for a few exercise sessions.

So, let's get to the title of this entry! I started "five in five" as a guerilla blog, to be put up and then taken down as soon as I got to my original goal. But then I kept blogging and this blog turned into something other than my losing five kgs (which I have to RE-do btw...). So. Poll.

a) Do I keep the Five in Five title and just keep blogging (thus keeping also all the archives)
b) Do I change it to a brand new blog with a more appropriate title (already chosen!) but losing those archives?

On one hand I love new changes, on the other I hate cutting with the past.
Cast your vote please!

Thursday, November 23, 2006


So I woke up this morning and the sky was turquiose blue. Hey! Did I make that happen? It's amazing what a change of attitude can do. I brought Olly to school and then brought Evan to school and then rushed off to go get my new Ipod! Last April my best buddy, triathlon pal IronMauro presented me with an Ipod as a gift! I was moved to tears as it was totally unexpected and overgenerous. Now I know I'm a freak (because my daughter tells me this once a day) but I never use my ipod for music. I use it for listening to podcasts and audio books. I can clean the whole house effortlessly listening to a talk show, or go running with Zen and the Art of Triathlon. By the way, with so many triathlon podcasts out there, I had to sort through a lot of them before I settled on this one. My dad was a radio broadcaster (aka as a d.j.!), plus he taught voice for broadcasters for over forty years so whenever someone is "on the air" saying "hmmm, uhhhh, mmmmm, so, so, mmmm...) I just cringe. Brett (zen etc) did that at the begining but he seems to have gotten better at it and eliminated a lot of dead air time.

So the thing I love about this moment of my triathlon training is the dreaming. While I still sit here with ten extra pounds bolting me to the ground and I haven't even really taken a spin on the bike outside in like a month...I dream of myself going really fast and feeling really light and having a great time! Dream on...

Like yesterday, I couldn't find a photo that pertained to this post so I put up Evan's ten month old feet! Piero had to do a presentation for N1ke when they came out with the Free shoe so I told him that the best example of a human using their feet is in babies before their first birthday. They use them like they're hands. I call(ed) him "my little monkey". So cute!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I gotta snap out of it...gotta gotta gotta... snap-out-of-it! Winter is here and it's grey outside. So grey that I have to have the lights on in the house in the morning because it's too dark to see. So grey that I wish I had one of those light lamps to make me peppy again instead of depressed. So grey that all I want to do is bake cookies for the kids instead of going out to run or bike or swim or exercise BUT if I keep this up for one more minute I will turn into a cow. A depressed cow. The only thing to do is to have a plan, so now I present to you the Five in Five "first half of 2007 race calendar"!! I knew you'd be just as excited as I am.

- "Madonnina 12,2 km" - January 14 - This is our neighborhood race which usually hosts about 1500 runners. I'd consider this a "C" race for me but a good indication whether I'm heading in a good direction. Last year I completed it in 1h06'30".

- "San Gemingano" - January 31 - SG is the patron saint of Modena and this is a classic road race of 13,7 km. It's a holiday for the city so it's held at 3.00pm in the afternoon and they close most of the streets off for it. There are usually about 2500 runners, even the President of Italy runs it every year. Last year I didn't run it 'cause I was sick (or that's what it says on the running diary), so I'm looking forward to running this year.

- "Roma-Ostia Half Marathon" - February 25 - Definately an "A" race. This is the largest half marathon in Italy with 8000 runners. I ran it last year in 1h59'15". The girl in the photos on this entry is Piero's athlete R0salba C0nsole. She came in second. I always feel bad that Piero has to wait around an hour for his wife to finish, but that's life. (btw, the pics are of her in San Moritz doing exercises). I have decided that I won't be running any marathons in 2007 unless I can get down to like a 1h51'00" on the half. A lot of cosmic stars would have to line up for that to happen...but you never know. I love half marathons, so that is a plus.

- April - Still undecided. I'm sure I'll be doing a medio fondo bike race (around 100km) and/or another half marathon but I won't be able to plan until the beginning of the year when work plans take shape.

- "Candia Long Distance Triathlon" - May 13 - This year the organization is conforming to ITU standards and changing their formula to 3000mt/80km/20km which in reality is just doubling the Olympic race length. I like this since it's just a change in the swim from what I did in Mergozzo this last summer. I sort of choked at looking at the swim, but the truth is that a) if I actually do some training, I'm a good swimmer. I was just looking at some old race times...36 minutes for 2000mt in 2001! I-need-to-train. b) It gets me close to that Ironman standard length so that if I do attempt the Ironman in the future (2008?) 3,800mt won't be so intimidating.

My Calendar plan has to stop here and then be revised for the summer since we never know how our work schedules are for the summer. I already feel less depressed (plus I just looked out the window and it's stopped raining and I see a patch of blue sky!!!)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Me and my back - Part 2

For as far back as I can remember, I have always turned to alternative medicine when I was having too many aches and pains. Granted, if there is an emergency I do take antibiotics. Both my children are vaccinated. But the thing that draws me to alternative medicine is that they always look at the cause of the problem rather than trying to fix what has already happened.
This is really important in athletics because if you have say a tendinitis and you try and heal the tendine without looking at how or why you developed it in the first place, it will most likely come back or never heal properly. I'm also very lucky in my amateur athletic endeavors because with my husband dealing with elite athletes and their injuries, he knows who the best and most effective doctors, therapists and treatments are for running injuries. We chose who we consider the best Osteopath in Italy, whose name is Gianni. First he had me do some x-rays which revealed: Scoliosis on upper back along with Spondylosis At the D6 - D8 where the two conditions coincide. In the lombar-sacral area there's a bunch of stuff that's difficult for me to translate but...I can say that my L5 has slipped down (you can see it protruding out with the naked eye) and loss of space around surrounding L3 and L4.
On my first visit with Gianni he took about 30 minutes whatever he does...worked on my hips and then neck and head area. About two weeks later I was able to magically get out of bed. Like a normal person. After three years of pain. On the second visit he did his treatment and again, two weeks later I am feeling fine. I asked him if I'd ever be "cured". He asked me what I meant by that. I guess what I mean is without pain. The scoliosis I've always had since as far back as I can remember I've always had one shoulder lower than the other. The slipped disk has happened over time. There are things that I can do to help them not get worse, but I do have to live with them. In any case he said that yes, I would be without pain. That in itself would be fantastic.
So, now that I can stand up straight without taking ten minutes to stretch out, there are a few things that I'll be changing in my sports life in order to not go back to crawling out of bed.
a) Exercises. I've started going once a week to an exercise class which mainly works on squats, lunges, shoulders, arms and back. The first time I did it I was hobbling around for the following five days. After the second lesson it was only two days of hobbling. Now I'm actually starting to enjoy it and can see that it's really good for my rear-end.
b) More swimming. Well, more than I usually do which is nil.
c) Less weight. Gotta get the famous five kg OFF again if...
d) ...I want to run. Right now I'm running three days a week for only 40 or 50 minutes. I'll be upping that to an hour in december but I've pretty much decided that I will only allow myself to do another marathon if I can break 1h55' on the half. Last year I ran 1h59' into headwinds so there might be a chance to actually so that . I mean, it's not a totally unattainable goal. But with my back situation it's useless to run a marathon if I'm not going to be going toward my ultimate goal, a Boston Qualification. Besides I love half marathons, not too short, not too long.

But I am running again. Without back pain. Straight and upright. It feels so good!

Me and my back - Part 1

The first time I started having problems with my back was in 1992. I remember one day I bent over and couldn't get back up again. I found a chiropractor who could see me that day, he put me on a special table that had these punching things that shot out and cracked the various vertebrae in place. I was good for two years, then it happened again. This time I couldn't get out of bed. I found another doctor who lived only ten minutes away. He didn't have the fancy punching table, he just jumped on top of my back for what seemed like forever. The results were good and I never had the problem again. Move ahead to 2003. While pregnant with Evan my left leg started hurting me at night. The only thing that would give me relief was to sleep in a really contorting position, not easy to do when you have a ten pound fetus in your stomach. The real trouble started after I gave birth. I had a really difficult time getting out of bed in the morning. It improved a little as my fitness came back, but I always had a few moments in the morning where I felt like I was about 80 years old. I started running marathons again, having a little trouble with pain in my shoulders and hips. This last spring while I was out running a race, someone came up to me and said that I was really leaning to the right. I've always had one shoulder lower than the other so I didn't give it a lot of thought. Then in May I was running another race in town where my elite coach husband was on his bike following the lead pack. Afterwards he swung around to find me. When he did he asked (while I was running) "is this as fast as you can go?" After i practically spit on him he told me that I was "twisted". I told him it's been that way for a long time, he just hasn't been paying attention to me. The next day he came with me on a run to watch me and stopped me after three minutes. He said that I was running so contorted that he couldn't bare to watch. Then he had me run with my hands clasped and stretched out on top of my head. It was really difficult to do but after one minute when I would let go I could fly down the road (well, let's say I could run 30 seconds per km faster...). After that it was hard for me to go back to just regular running because now I could really feel the difference between what if felt like to run normal and what if felt like to run contorted. Plus, my back pain was starting to get worse. In the mornings it went all the way from my hips, through my glutes and down the back side of my legs. I had to back up off the bed and get near a wall to be able to stand up. After ten or fifteen minutes I was good to go, but it was obvious that I really needed to get some help.