Thursday, December 13, 2007

A working mother

An internet sport channel here in Italy asked me to do a series of interviews on different subject: triathlon, women's running, pacers, etc. My only problem was that the day they asked me to do it Piero wasn't going to be around so I couldn't leave Evan at home. The interviews were done at a marathon expo, so no problem in bringing him with me. I just had to find a way to keep him still while I answered their questions. It was about five o'clock, an hour when he gets a little tired (me too!). Oh, I forgot to tell you...he has this habit. He breasfed for sixteen months and then since I had to do some solo traveling I had to wean him. It only took a week and he was at an age that I could actually tell him things about it. One thing that stayed though was that he still likes to put his hand on my br3ast. (I put the 3 in so I don't attract freaks...) At the time it didn't bother me, plus it would put him to sleep instantly.
Flash to three years later. When he's a little sleepy and we're sitting next to each other he'll still put his hand on me and go to sleep. Which is what he decided to do during this interview! So this is me talking while Evan is trying to shove his hand down my shirt. I'm desperately trying to concentrate on answering the question while I try and seem like nothing is happening. You don't need to speak Italian to get a good laugh!

Monday, December 10, 2007

How much is your time worth?

Last week a gentleman that had taken part in one of my 16 week marathon programs a few years ago emailed me and told me that he wanted to be trained for NYCM '08. I sent him the two standard documents: a questionaire and my price list. He took a while to get back to me, but when he did the first line of his email was "you're outrageously expensive!". Then he went on to say that for the same price he could sign up at a gym near his house for a whole year. I didn't write him back right away, I sort of wanted to sit with that for a day, which I did. I wasn't offended or taken back by his statement, I was actually sort of amused. How much is my time worth?

I've been working freelance for myself since 1997. I remember when I used to undersell myself, asking for a lot less than I thought I was worth. Then I'd do whatever job it was with an edge of begrudgement and feel cheated when I was finally paid. I'm sure that also came out in my work in some sort of shape or form. When I started personal training I naturally looked at what the other trainers were asking. I also looked at what I offered and what kind of customer I wanted to attract. Besides writing the actual schedule out, I spend most of my time either on the phone or answering emails on anything related to their training schedules. It sucks up a lot of time. Some clients never bother me except to understand an exercise. Others will email me from their Blackberry five times a day. I settled on a price that I felt was equivalent to the quality of service that I give. I know that I am more expensive than others. I also know that I give the most personal service, much better than my competitors.

So I wrote the guy back and told him that he should definately sign up for the gym if it really costs so little. I wished him luck in his preparation for the marathon. I felt really good about the interaction because it made me realize how far I've come professionally. Not being afraid of your own worth is a good thing. Last week four new clients signed up with me so I know I'm on the right track.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Milan Marathon

I'm on day two of lounging on the couch after being hit by some sort of intestinal virus. This is the second time I've gotten sick this season and winter hasn't even started! I sort of want to blame it on being outside in Milan all day Sunday, but that seems sort of like a lame excuse. It's a good introduction to saying that I was outside all day in Milan! We were there for the marathon, of course. Piero had one athlete running and I had five. Mine were just there for fun while his was trying to qualify for the Beijing Olympic Games. The day was cold and overcast which was good, but there was a lot of moisture in the air and the streets were wet which is not good. If you're an amateur marathoner it probably doesn't influence you that much. When you're running around three minutes per kilometre the story is different. You really use your feet to push off and the surface you use for that counts a lot. Ottav1o had decided to stay with the second group that was supposed to pass the half marathon mark in 1h05'. Right from the start you could see that they were going a little too slow. He said that he tried to speed them up by saying something to them (2 pacers) and pushing them ahead, but they still were going too slow. At 14 miles he decided to go ahead alone. He ran by himself for 17 kms. That's a lot of time to runby yourself. He was actually able to catch a few from the first group, but inevitably he paid for all that effort on his own and lost a full minute in the last 2 kms. His final time was 2h11'41", not good enough for a qualifying effort, though many comments were made on his courage to go out on his own.
He'll have to run another marathon in the spring. This means a road trip for us, I'm pushing for Paris :-)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Meet my Dad

This is my Dad. He's going to turn 78 years old in few weeks. I remember when I was small I used to be really embarrassed because he was (is) super tall...6ft5". At 5ft10" I turned out small for the family genes...His hobbies: rather I should say "hobby", his Harley Davidson. He totes around the country on that thing, going on cross country trips (like 3000 miles) at least twice a year. He's also secretary of his local Harley club. He works out at Gold's Gym three times a week and he tries to watch his diet and eat correctly. He has been sober for twenty years now and I couldn't be more proud of him for that. He volunteers at a couple of shelters and does sponsoring for other AA members. With that fact that he is in such fantastic shape and looking so young at almost 80 makes ME feel young too. I'm pretty sure I lucked out on the gene pool because I don't seem to have any of the problems my Mom had (epilepsy, thrombophlebitis, et al...). My brother and sister and I sometimes joke about his motorcycle fixation, because he truly talks about it 24/7. But then I listen to other elders talk about all their medical problems and complaints and I think that we're all very lucky to not have to worry about all of that just yet. Or ever. My Dad's solution for old age is just simply not to look in the mirror. That way he doesn't have to look at the wrinkles or not recognise that person, but rather just feel how he feels which is actually quite young.

I don't celebrate Thanksgiving over here in Italy, so I don't have to worry about eating too much! But I'll go out on a run now and think about y'all eating turkey and pumpkin pie! Happy Thanksgiving :-))

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Freelance Life

This morning I had made an appointment with a new running client. I hadn't met him yet and I wanted to see his running form so agreed on a workout date which was this morning at 8.45. This meant that I had to get Evan up a few minutes earlier and bring him to day care on the bike so that I could make it to my appointment on time. He usually has the same two teachers, Rosa and Simona, but for some reason Simona has been at home for about a week and today Rosa was at some sort of workshop. When we got to school we were greeted by a substitute. Alone. twenty-five kids and one lady sub. Evan didn't want to be left there. First he started clinging to me and I was getting impatient and kept looking at my watch because I was going to be late. Then he started really crying and telling me not to leave him there...that he wanted to come with me. The sub was of no help, and she didn't try to get involved in helping me out and I really can't blame her. On the other hand I kept thinking of Evan feeling abandoned into a situation that he didn't feel comfortable in. So I turned around, put his jacket back on him and went back home. Actually, we went together and followed the new clients' workout together on the bike.
When I got back home after an hour I didn't get anything done. The THREE articles that I have deadlines on? Still sitting there. The presentation I have next tuesday? Not even halfway through. The four day trip down south next week that I have to do another presentation for? Umm...I hope to get my act together FAST. Still four more workout schedules to write before tomorrow.
I did get to listen to an old children's Christmas song album and sing along to the songs. I also got to eat pasta with parmesan cheese and make chocolate chip cookies. I read three books, including a Winnie the Pooh super slouth, and while he did his afternoon gymnastics class I was able to slip out and go for a fifty minute run. Now I sit here at midnight ready to start writing.
I hope...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yoga 101

Last month I saw that they had opened up a new Yoga center on the other side of town offering a free introductory lesson. I'd tried Yoga about five years ago at another gym but it left me totally uninspired. I'm not sure why. Part of it was the teacher's fault. She was sort of overweight, though flexible. Not that I need someone like the guy on the left, but it does (at least for me) have to be someone I want to aspire to be like - yogawise. The new Yoga center is really spacious and has morning classes. The introductory lesson was the (male) teacher and just two students, me and another lady. It was really hard! We did really simple poses, but then he made us hold them for a minute and I had to really concentrate on what I was doing. The best part for me was that I held my concentration the whole time on exactly what I was doing - as opposed to making up the shopping list in my head while I did some sort of casual stretch. So I've commited to ten lessons and I'm hoping this will keep me a little more flexible than I've been in the last few years.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Asking for help

Even though I train other people, I don't like to train myself. I don't give myself "time" and if push comes to shove with all of my work and family commitments I tend to let all my training go. But when I signed up for the Roma-Ostia half marathon last month (which will be in february) and convinced six of my runner girlfriends to come too, we all turned it into the "get over the holiday without gaining weight and becoming super fit" Challenge. So I decided to hire a coach. And it just so happens that I live with one of THE best running coaches around - lucky me! I've had Piero train me in other occasions, but we haven't done it for a few years now so I thought it was time! The first thing he had me do was a VO2Max test. Yikes! It came out...well, it came out just the way it was supposed to since this is me now: my anaerobic theshold is (only) 5'30"/km and my MAS is 5'10"/km - Um, really really slow but I guess I'll be happy to see those numbers improve in the following months.
While I was warming up to do the test on the track I noticed that an Adidas truck had pulled up and was setting up a tent. I don't know if they do this in the States, but in Italy all the shoe companies (because they copy one another and no one has an original idea...) come out to the running tracks periodically and let you test the shoes out by doing a workout with them. I was their first customer of the day. I decided to try these ones...Adistar something. Anyway, I didn't like them. They felt duckish, too big in the forefoot. Plus I could hear one of my feet slapping (remember the gimp leg) and that wasn't good. On the positive side they were lightweight and I still felt good control.

Asking fo help

Even though I train other people, I don't like to train myself. I don't give myself "time" and if push comes to shove with all of my work and family commitments I tend to let all my training go. But when I signed up for the Roma-Ostia half marathon last month (which will be in february) and convinced six of my runner girlfriends to come too, we all turned it into the "get over the holiday without gaining weight and becoming super fit" Challenge. So I decided to hire a coach. And it just so happens that I live with one of THE best running coaches around - lucky me! I've had Piero train me in other occasions, but we haven't done it for a few years now so I thought it was time! The first thing he had me do was a VO2Max test. Yikes! It came out...well, it came out just the way it was supposed to since this is me now: my anaerobic theshold is (only) 5'30"/km and my MAS is 5'10"/km - Um, really really slow but I guess I'll be happy to see those numbers improve in the following months.
While I was warming up to do the test on the track I noticed that an Adidas truck had pulled up and was setting up a tent. I don't know if they do this in the states, but in Italy all the shoe companies (because they copy one another and no one has an original idea...) come out to the running tracks periodically and let you test the shoes out by doing a workout with them. I was their first customer of the day. I decided to try these ones...Adistar something. Anyway, I didn't like them. They felt duckish, too big in the forefoot. Plus I could hear one of my feet slapping (remember the gimp leg) and that wasn't good. One the good side they were lightweight and felt still in good control. Anyway, I'll stick to my Nikes.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The good and the bad on the Menopause

The good news: My hot flashes have subsided. I went from having about twenty of really intense sweat sessions per day to nothing about two weeks ago.

The bad news: My metabolism has come to a screeching halt. Totaly stopped. I can't afford to eat anything over 1500 cals a day without it sitting on my thighs. I'm going to assume this is due to my hormones working themselves out and everything will readjust in time. How much time is to be seen...

The good news: I'm running at a good pace again without having to stop or feel weak. Yesterday I ran 20' + 10 x (30" fast/1'30" slow) + 20' and never had to stop or feel tired. Again I think this is the hormonal situation working in the right direction.

I wanted to go running again today but I caught a 24hr bug that put me in the bathroom all night...don't ask. I rest today and see how I feel tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Marathon in Venice

I've been working with the Venicemarathon
for eight years now. They called me in as a consultant back in 1999 because they'd had a drop in participants and needed help in getting the numbers up again. Their then director decided that I was the ideal amateur running expert and that's how I got the gig. The first year I had them go visit all the regions in Italy so they could hear the complaints from the running clubs about what they wanted changed. It also gave the clubs a chance to vent and feel like they were being heard. The second year I brought in the pacing groups, something very new to Italy. So new in fact that nobody knew what they were and everybody told me it wouldn't work. Whenever the Italians tell me something won't work is usually the moment that I know that it will! Anyway, I called Amby Burfoot and asked him if he would come over and "baptize" the group, which he did by being one of the four hour pacers.
Since then pacing groups have spread to almost all the Italian marathons. I am proud to say that my groups are the best. I do that by making sure that they have a lot of marathon experience, that they're reliable runners, but most of all that each group has a chance to bond before so that when they go into the race they work as a team.
The other cool thing about being the boss of the pace teams is that I've made a lot of great friends. In the first pic above you see on the right in red my friend Serena and her sister being hugged by Stefano. Serena ran her marathon number 100 at Venice on Sunday. She says she'll quit after this but I don't really believe her! Next in my line of friends is Stefano.
Just last week he ran his PR, 2h51'32", and this Sunday he paced the 3h40' group. Plus the day before he toted Evan around the expo on his shoulders entertaining him for a few hours while I worked. All around great guy! I had a really hard time putting the groups together this year. About a month ago ten pacers (of 33) called me to tell me that they were a- injured b-sick c-had an emergency family situation. I was panicked and calling around for replacements, having to rely on people I didn't really know and trusting that they would be able to perform. I'm happy to report that it all worked out and all the pacers, from 2h50' to 5h00', came in on time.
For the first time marathoners it was not an easy day. The temps were hot and humid and I saw a lot of experienced people fall apart at 35km. In any case, the best time out of my "new" group was a guy from GB: "Julia, I completed the marathon in 3 hours 13 minutes on Sunday and love it.
Thanks for all your support."

How great is that for a FIRST marathon?


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My favorite fall recipe

No time for a lot of blog entries 'cause I'm really busy with work. This Sunday I have 86 first time marathoners that will be debutting at the Venicemarathon in the "My First Marathon" programme. I'm so excited for them! It should be a great day weather wise. I also have 26 runners flying over the Atlantic and running the New York City Marathon. This is probably the most gratifying part of coaching people, I can't wait for Sunday!

In lieu of a real entry I wanted to post my pictorial recipe for baked apples. I love these apples. They're sweet, low calorie and super easy to make. What more could you ask for?


I use Fuji apples because they remain sweet after cooking. You can bake as many as you want at once. I usually choose about ten apples (here I'm baking five...). Give them a good wash before starting.


Cut out the stem and upper part of the core leaving a little pocket hole.


Place them in a pan. Insert a dried prune into the holes where you cut out the core.


Add an inch of water to the bottom of the pan. If you put the correct amount in (not too much, not too little) you should end up with a nice syrup in the bottom of the pan (yum!). Sprinkle cinnamon on top of each apple before placing in an oven preheated to 300°F. Bake for one hour.

They're delicious hot or cold. I like to eat them with a dollop of yogurt. Please do not do not do not use sugar or any sweetner. They don't need it and neither do you!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Happy Birthday to me :-)

Actually it happened a few weeks ago (St.Francis's patron saint day). I turned 47. I feel fine about that, which is good because it'd be sad if I really cared about it! Piero gave me a new Polar, model 800sdGPS. It's super cool and I'm into downloading my workouts again on my computer. We'd been using the Accurex Plus for years, even going as far as buying used models off of ebay when they stopped manufacturing that model. I told him we had to take the plunge and go with the new models sooner or later. I'm not really crazy about the GPS system it has, it seems inaccurate and besides, I'm not really into checking out how fast I run since I prefer just to "feel" it out. Anyway, I can't wait to start using it on the bike too. Maybe in the spring when the temps go up again...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Smart little boy

At the end of Evan's first year of nursery school in June, his teacher sat down with me and told me that she thought we were being too "cerebral" with him and that he should be doing more creative activities. She pointed out that he still wouldn't write his name out. Her guess was that since he liked to play on our computers at home (and write words out that he copies from books) maybe he felt that he couldn't do it as perfect as a machine. I didn't totally agree with her but I thought that maybe she had more experience than I did or I was just not seeing something that she was because she was able be more objective.
All summer long I threw "creative" things his way: playdough, crayons, clay, paints, scrapbooking. It was all good because he did learn to finally draw and we were fully amused when the first drawing he did was one of himself with the main object being...that. It was a proud moment for his mediterranian father!

Towards august I started thinking that I should get him to be able to write his name. Four letters, very simple. Up until then there had been a little resistance but now he was interested. He enjoyed it so much that he started writing out the whole alphabet. He never got tired of writing and rewriting for like two hours, which is huge amount of time for a three year old. The sequence from there went that he sounded out the letters as he wrote them and then he started "seeing" letters everywhere and sounding them out. All of the sudden he was reading whole words and then full sentences. I swear it all happened within a month. Last night when we went to bed he wanted to read me the book instead me reading to him. Of course it's still at that level where he sounds everything out like this - "fan-tas-ti-co" - but then he says the word over and he comprehends what he's reading.
I mentioned this to his two teachers in passing but they just said "Well, we hope you're not pushing him..."

AHHHHHHHH!!!

So here we are, he just turned four and he's reading perfectly. He'll take one of his Power Ranger Books or Geronimo Stilton and sit on the couch and read to himself for an hour at a time. He also "got" addition and sits for long amounts of time using his blocks to do 1 block + 3 blocks = 4 blocks.

I know you're asking why am I'm even worrying about this. It's because he still has two more years of preschool. By the time he actually gets to first grade he's going to be totally bored. The Italian school system tries to compensate for children that are slower or have learning handicaps but they have NOTHING for children that are faster or gifted. Everybody is supposed to be the same and the smarter ones just have to sit there while the others catch up. I'll wait and see how things evolve but I'm going to look into skipping him a grade when it's time to sign him up for school. I'm going to start taking him to the library once a week so that we can have more books to look at and read. If anybody has any other ideas, let me know.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What lies ahead

I voted for Al Gore when he was running against George W. Bush. I remember the speech he gave after they had spent days recounting the votes. Then he sort of went into hiding and gained some weight and was the butt of a lot of peoples jokes for many years. I don't know he if deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, but I smiled to myself when he won it. How many times does something so terrible happen to us, something that we really fought for that doesn't come our way, like losing the United States presidential elections...and then have it all turn around a mere seven years later. This guy won an Oscar, an Emmy and the friggin' Nobel Peace Prize all in ONE year.

Next time you're disappointed in the outcome of something, just look around the corner. Something better might be coming your way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Elbaman IV

While we were waiting for Dino to pull in Giorgio kept going back and forth on his marathon times. Four hours. No, four hours ten minutes. No, four hours fifteen minutes. Definately not under four. We were just there to have fun and I kept telling him to just forget about the time but he kept pulling it out of the hat so I told him to shoot for under four hours. He hadn't run a lot this summer and his only long run had been a mere eighteen miles but he had done a lot of mountain climbing during the summer so I knew that he had muscles. Now listen up all of you marathon runners out there: YOU DON'T NEED TO DO THE LONG SLOW RUNS. Stop it! Work on strength, get a solid foundation, then start doing tempo runs. That's what you need to do a successful marathon. The marathon was fun to watch. It was an approximate 8km circuit so if you stood in one spot you could watch your athlete go past ten times. I was standing next to some crazy people that were just yelling and screaming at people as they went by. The runners names were printed on their bib and since I'm quite far sighted I could read the name off the bib and yell "Hey everybody, here comes..." and this group of ten would pick up on it and start screaming his or her name. It sounds so silly but I had so much fun doing that! Just trying to give the triathletes a boost and see their faces light up (or not) as we yelled at them. Giorgio said that there weren't any mileage markers for the entire course, but we could tell that he was going to make good time. I saw Dino on the course as Giorgio was going on his last loop and we waited by the final shoot so that we could run in with him. His time: 3:58:17. Our final time: 12h37' (don't remember the seconds. Fourth place out of six mixed teams.

I have to say that this is the most fun I've had in a really long time and probably one of the races that I'm most proud of. We decided to go back next year, changing roles. I have a year to become a cyclist. Giorgio has a year to become a swimmer. We've signed up another hopefully reliable friend to be the runner. I'm really looking forward to training this year!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Elbaman III

Dino was a find and in the end I think we were just meant to come together with him. This spring he had won the Italian Duathlon Championship in his 55 - 59 age group just three weeks after his wife's death. They had brought their children to Elba often and coming to this Ironman meant a lot to him. But when he saw the water, the bay, the waves, he got scared and decided to bail on the race. That's when he heard that we were looking for a cyclist...and what a cyclist we got! Our hotel was right in the middle of the race venue and right smack on the bike course. We calculated that he'd come around the 60km loop (three times) about every two hours and ten minutes, so we organized ourselves accordingly. The first two hours I went and had a shower, changed, ate something and then went on the course to watch. Dino came by the first loop in two hours and ten minutes. We watched some more and then we went and had an early lunch so Giorgio could digest in time for the marathon. He wanted to order some seafood dish but I talked him out of that (!) and insisted on just plain rice with some oil. I ate a big salad and some really yummy homemade foccaccia. We went back to the hotel, had a nap, and met down in the lobby again. We went towards the bike exchange to hang out and wait for Dino. It was really fun to see everybody coming off their bikes and getting ready for the run. It was fairly hot out also, probably in the low 80's. Dino came in after 7 hours and 15 minutes of brutally steep hills. Giorgio started his marathon...(continued...)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Elbaman II

Giorgio and I went on the beach to check out the bay and the swim course. I always have to stare at a course for awhile to understand exactly where I'm supposed to swim. In my head I had the image of a perfect rectangle (to be looped and swum twice), when in fact it was sort of a rectangle...but not quite. In any case it took me one afternoon explanation, a thirty minute stare, and then another morning explanation to really understand where I was to go. The good thing was that the athletes doing the full race started thirty minutes before the relay teams so I could see exactly where they were going.
The next morning I woke up at 4.45 so that I could have a nice breakfast and be able to digest in time. Giorgio came in while I was having my tea to let me know that he had been on the beach. The only wind that could possible come into the bay and disturb the water was a Scirocco, and that's what we had this morning. Great!
I gathered up all my equipment and headed towards the beach. It was very surreal to be there. All the athletes were getting ready in silence. No agitation, no loud voices, just very very quiet. The sun started to rise and I got really excited about swimming. The thing that was different for me this time was that I had actually prepared for this swim. In other Olympic tri's or the half Ironman I'd done last year, I'd always trained to survive the swim so that I could get on with the rest of the race. This time my main focus was on swimming only and even though I still wasn't able to get to the pool more than twice a week, I made a good effort to work on my form and get in at least four 3,000 metres workouts. No, I never went the whole distance in the pool because you don't need to do that...

At 7.00 am we watched all the athletes take off. Now I could see that they went straight out to the first buoy and then turned left. Here's a map of the course...The first athlete out of the water and onto the second loop took a mere 25 minutes. Then they all started coming out of the water and it was time for us relay teams to line up and get in the water. All of the sudden I was running in the water and trying not to hyperventilate in the first 200 yards. I just tried to focus on my breath and not get too excited. I was okay after about five minutes and started to make out in what direction I wanted to go in.

The first loop was fantastic. Once I got my breathing in sync I started to enjoy my surroundings. The water was clear and I could see the sand below. There wasn't any vegetation. Every once in awhile I would see a jellyfish. In total I saw about five clear whites and two purplish coloured jellyfish. As I got further out I could see schools of little fish and a few bigger ones. I was swimming pretty effortlessly though I had to keep spotting until I figured out that I could just watch the feet of someone in front of me and follow them without looking up. That was fun! I was through with the first loop! I got back on the beach , took a swig of fresh water to rinse my mouth out and then headed back in. Now it was easier because I knew where I was going and what lie ahead. I took a quick glance at my watch...38 minutes!! That jazzed me and I dove back in the water.

Even though the second loop was exactly the same course, it was a different race. Most of the relay teams were there to win so they all had picked fast swimmers. On my first loop all of the athletes doing the full race were on their second loop...in other words, I was alone. There were a few guys behind me, but they were too far back to wait for. Also, the wind had picked up a bit and now there were waves. They were those long waves that go u-p u-p u-p and then d-o-w-n d-o-w-n d-o-w-n. I started to feel a little seasick so I turned on my back to see if that would help. I burped all the extra air I had in my stomach and that felt a little better. I was actually more efficient and comfortable doing a freestyle stroke although every once in awhile I tried a breast stroke and the back stroke. The race crew came up to me on a scooter and gave me the thumbs up as a question. I stuck my thumb back up to let them know I was okay. I pulled out my meditation card and just tried to put my concentration on my stroke and the fact that I was doing this and how thrilled I was about that. Then I started seeing the jellyfish again and I looked to where I could touch the sand again and all of the sudden I had finished. 1:21:31 is where I stopped my watch. I had to run another 400 metres through the streets of Campo Marino and down to where the transition was and give the chip to Dino to put on his ankle. My friend Alessia ran with me so that I could see where to go. I rounded the corner, found Dino waiting for me, gave him the chip and he took off.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Elbaman

All through last week I'd had this weird, funky feeling that I couldn't put my finger on. I was fine, in good health, but it was like whatever positive feeling I was trying to go towards wasn't panning out. I felt down for no reason. Even my daughter asked me if something was wrong.
Friday night Giorgio, the runner for our Elbaman
team, walked in the house and I had to give him the bad news. Our cyclist had bailed at the last second. Thirty-six hours before the event we had to try and find someone who could hop on a bike and ride 180 kms (a.k.a. 112 miles). I could have handled about half the distance but I hadn't been on a bike since the beginning of september and I've never covered more than 100 km. We started calling everybody we knew. We called my triathlon club, we called cyclists. But no one was willing or trained to bike the distance. I called the organization and explained our predicament. We told them that we were coming anyway, even if it meant just participating in the swim and run legs of the race for no medal.
As you all know I had trained for this. A lot. There were times that I really did not want to go down to the pool but I felt responsable for my two other teammates - so I worked out anyway!
We decided to visualize a triathlete that had trained for the race but had suddenly gotten scared of the swim, that would be our man.

The three hour drive to get to the Island of Elba from my house takes you south through Bologna and Florence, then West towards Pisa and then south again to Piombino where the ferry docks are. While we were in line waiting to get on the ferry boats we met another group of triathletes. We were so excited to be meeting other people that would be participating in the race! When we announced that we were doing the relay we got blank stares back and a couple of yawns. Oh. We were only swimming 2,4 miles and only running a marathon. B-o-r-i-n-g.
Made me laugh!

While we were on the Ferry we got a call from the race director, they'd found a cyclist for us! When we arrived at the expo we met Dino. Sixty years old, in absolutely fantastic shape, a master swimmer...in the pool. He just couldn't get over the waves and the salt water. No problem, Dino! We had a team again.

(to continue tomorrow)...

Friday, September 21, 2007

8 Minute Meditation

I've been wanting to learn meditation for a few years now. I'd heard it was really good for you and a few speakers and authors that I read suggested it. The problem was that I didn't "get" it. I bought a few self guided tapes that really turned me off. They all had zen music in the background and two of them even had the "Ommmm" taped into them. Ick. Then somehow I saw this book "8 Minute Meditation" by Victor Davich. Eight minutes sounded good to me, something I could do. I looked it up on Amazon and all the real people reviews raved about it, so I ordered it.

I love it.

Not only do I love it, but I've finally found the answer to my swimming dilemma.

The swimming practive for my relay in Elba has been going well, but I still had to solve my boredom/wandering mind problem. I get bored swimming. Whatever workout I have I can talk myself into doing less or if I'm swimming with someone, I can become one of those people that talk for half an hour while waiting to push off again. This summer I thought I'd be able to find a solution while I was at the beach but it was actually worse . There were more distractions in the sea, and not having the certainty of the black line and the 50mt push off, I'd still stop every few minutes to look up.

8 minute meditation is an 8 week program and has you sample eight different meditation techniques. The first week was centered around breathing. You set a timer for eight minutes and the book gives you detailed instructions on how to go about the meditation, how to deal with the wandering mind, etc.

The wandering mind...my biggest problem. I sometimes have a really difficult time in concentrating on one thing at a time. I multi task like there's no tomorrow and will often get up in the middle of a project that I'm working on to go "fix" something else that's flashed before my brain agenda.

That's when I hit upon that my problem with swimming was my wandering mind and that I could maybe try the meditation while I was swimming.

Bingo!

It worked like a charm. Not that I get all zen while I swim, but I put my concentration on my stroke and where my body is. More importantly when all those thoughts about where I should be and what else I could be doing come up, I just take them and let them go. Then I latch back onto the stroke that I'm performing and the breathing. Yesterday I took ten minutes off my 3000mt workout so I know it's working.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

No Blame

I received several private emails about my previous entry, centered around that last phrase I wrote. I just wanted to make a clarification on it so that you don't get the wrong idea about what went on then or after.

I wrote an email to my father the other day with this being the central part of the message:

"The other day I was on my bike and I started thinking about my childhood.
I just had these flashes of things that had happened. It must have lasted about
five seconds but I had images of going to Muir Beach when I was about eight,
playing on the fire station lawn on a summer night, barbecueing at Stinson
Beach with you and Mom, all those fairs you used to take us to, La Ginestra,
that Triumph you used to cram all five of us in, hiking on Mt. Tam, all the great friends
I used to have. And I thought "what a great childhood I had".
And then I laughed to myself.
I thought it was funny because if anybody knew what we all had gone through
together, maybe they wouldn't see it that way. And I did go through a phase
where I resented it, but then I realised that whatever had happened had made me
the person that I was today and so it was all for a purpose - and maybe perfect in
its' own way."

I had what a lot of people might define as a difficult childhood. I don't want to list all the events or elaborate on who did what because I don't think it really matters anymore. You can drown yourself in blame and resentment and feeling like you got the raw end of the deal. You can actually do that for your entire lifetime and then drag it onto other areas of your life that had nothing to do with the initial trigger event because you go back and use that event as the reason why things aren't working out now. When that happens it's really difficult to let go, move on and start living life in the here and now.

I was able to let go, though it took me a while to do it. Like twenty years. And in the meantime there were more family deaths and divorces and remarriages to add to the heap.

Everybody has had some terrible thing that happened in the past, be it five, ten, or thirty five years ago. Ask. You won't find anybody that has had a perfect life. But the one's that are presently the happiest are the ones that don't put any blame on the situations.

After I let go and stopped blaming, I could start remembering all the wonderful things that had happened and it was truly liberating.

I never had a trauma because I wasn't able to say goodbye to my Mom before she was killed by a drunk driver while crossing the street. I was sad, but not traumatized. Besides, I absolutely believe that I will see her again, in one form or another. That still makes me happy to think about.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My First Decade

My First Decade


Age 1: I only weigh five and a half pounds at birth. Considering that I would reach the height of 5 ft 10 inches by my 13th birthday, that's a lot of growing to do.

Age 2: My first memory: being in my crib, white bars, trying to crawl over and out. Never made it.

Age 3: The ice cream truck comes down the road every day at 2 pm. There's music in the air as it slowly drives down the street. I have a nickel in my little hand and make a run to the truck with my brothers. I always choose vanilla with orange sherbert on a stick. I continue to buy the same ice cream for the next ten years.

Age 4: I have a solo in a ballet recital. I'm supposed to be a girl in a painting that comes alive. Just as I'm rounding the corner on some sort of twirl my biggest fear comes true; I fall down. I'm able to gracefully pick myself up and I get a mini standing ovation.

Age 5: Kindergarten. We're sitting around in a circle and the teacher has put cream and sugar in jar. We pass it around and each have to shake it so that we can make sweet butter. I can still taste it on my tongue to this day.

Age 6: My mother does volunteer work at the school thrift store. Today the car is broken so she decides that the two of us can walk there. It's a sunny day and we walk from our house to downtown Tiburon, a three mile hike.

Age 7: We're talking about geography in class. Normally I never say a word but today I pipe up and tell this elaborate story about how in India the cows are sacred and nobody eats them like we do. Sister Cecilia knows what I'm talking about and is enthusiastic about my having this knowledge. All my other classmates give me blank stares.

Age 8: I go with my older brother David and my younger brother Billy along with two other friends from the neighborhood in Mill Valley, into San Francisco. The bus costs ten cents. We go to the Emporium to see Santa Claus. David has the most money, fourteen dollars. We all buy each other Christmas presents and pretend the other isn't really looking.

Age 9: I'm in bed with my mother, I go there almost every morning to snuggle. I tell my Mom I'm going to give her a "Hollywood Kiss". It's quite long and with our lips smooshed together. After I'm done she tells me very sweetly that maybe I'm too big to give her the HK. I'm absolutely crushed...

Age 10: The babysitter arrives at our house as my Mom is leaving to go away for the weekend up to Lake Tahoe. I'm so excited at having the babysitter there and I want to show her my secret trick! I can stop the apartment elevator between floors...but then we really did get stuck and it takes us a minute to get it moving again. We go back into the house and my Mom has already left for her trip. I think she knew I would cry and so she thought she'd take a quick exit. I never saw her again. I never did get to say goodbye.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Giovedì Gratitude Post

Piero came home tonight after ten days on the road. I hate when he drives so much and am really thankful that when he leaves again in three days he'll be taking a train. September is not my favorite month since it's is the one moment out the year when it's guaranteed that he'll be gone (for work). But I'm grateful for the three days we have together now. Tomorrow we'll probably go downtown to give a farewell to Pavarotti, may he rest in peace. Modena is now without it's number one citizen.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Just like flying

I woke up with the sound of wind banging on the windows. During the summer I sleep with the shutters closed and the windows open so that I can feel the fresh air in the house. I raced around from window to window, closing each one. I had to run out into the yard in my pajamas to save a book that had been left overnight outside on a table. I secured the lawnmower which had already been pushed up against the fence. Then the rain started to come down. It only lasted thirty minutes, if that. But I knew it was enough to scare away any prospective swimmers from going to the outdoor pool. As soon as the worst of the storm was over I headed to the pool.

When I arrived the lifeguard was busy tweezing out ingrown hairs on his legs from a bad wax job. There were a few other swimmers, but the pool is big enough that I had my own swimming lane. My very own fifty metre swimming lane! Heaven. I warmed up with 1000 metres and then did 500 metres of technique. At the end of that I decided before swimming another 1000 metres I would stretch my back out. I took a board, flipped onto my back and stretched my arms up over my head using the board to keep my arms balanced but then just did soft kicks with my legs under the water. My ears were under the water so everything was silent. I had taken my goggles off so what I saw looking up was this:

I immediately started to uncontrollably giggle. I just couldn't help myself. The sensation was one of the most exhilirating that I've ever had. I lifted my head to look around...the other swimmer was still swimming and the lifeguard had moved onto a conversation on his cell phone while massaging his pecs. I set myself up in the same position: on my back, ears under water, looking at the clouds... again came the uncontrollable giggling. And then it came to me why. It felt like flying. No gravity, clouds swirling around, silence... It's the easiest high I've had in a really long time. It only lasted about a minute because then the sun came out and I couldn't see without squinting and I couldn't get that same situation in play again...but out of all the swimming I've done this summer that will be the one moment I'll always remember.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Really really bad joke

The other night, like 1.00 am night, I watched the World Championships women's marathon. After it was over the Italian Television did an interview with the winner Catherine Ndereba. I had to translate for P:

Me: She said that it wasn't her actually running the marathon but rather Jesus Christ running in her place...

Him: Can't she be disqualified for that?

Yep, you're supposed to laugh.

She looks like an absolute Queen while she runs. For anyone who didn't watch the race, she kept cool a hundred feet back from the lead group while they duked it out for the first 35km and then she made her move. Her pace coming into the stadium was just incredible...Sigh...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Giovedì Gratitude Post

Your little face is usually the first thing I see when I wake up. This morning I was watching you sleep. While your father kind of snores on his back with his mouth open and your sister tends to drool, you're still in that youthful stage where you look perfectly angelic. Which you are. I'm really sorry if I seem impatient with you these days. I can see that little brain of yours whirling away all day, asking me questions every three seconds. Why? is the key word these days. I loved the Why? question for today: "Why does fruit have peels to protect them?" That one came just before "What is in water?" and "Why aren't the stars planets?". Why indeed. Sometimes I try and answer you with real answers but other times I just don't know what to say. I mean, I don't know the answers to some of your questions and you are listening to the answers. I know because I've tested you out a few times and you know when I'm giving you a bogus answer.
Anyway, while I was watching you sleep this morning I just thought how grateful I was to have you in my life. I couldn't imagine it without you. Tomorrow I'll try and give you some really good answers to those Why? questions. Maybe I'll study some science facts tonight...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dearest...

Dearest Fifty Metre Outdoor Pool,
Yesterday when I came to visit you and saw the leaflet near the cashier I was stunned for a few minutes. Yes, I knew that you'd be closing eventually, I just didn't think that it would be in just ten short days. Now I'm really sad. Sad that I didn't come and visit you more often. There is nothing like coming to see you first thing in the morning on a summer day. It gives me a feeling of being careless and free and having nothing to do (even though work awaits). It also means that summer is starting to come to a close and that saddens me even more, though not for any particular reason. Maybe just the passing of time...

So while I was swimming in the sun I tried to think of all the positives thing that would come about with your departure. They'll change your water. By the end of the summer I can barely stand the amount of chemicals you have in the water. I know, I know, it's all regulated and everything but I can still smell them. Yesterday I nearly gagged after only 1000 metres. Probably the fact that it was 100° degrees out didn't help. They'll start lessons again. I've been thinking about taking a swim class again and that can't happen until the fall since they don't offer them during the summer. The pool will be filled with dedicated swimmers again. The one thing I can't stand during the summer is that they rope off only four lanes of you for lap swimming and leave the rest for "swimming". But those teenage kids are drawn like magnets to the roped off lanes...Remember that time in July when those guys (they were definately over 20 years old) decided to play wrestling under the lap lanes? After having to stop for them about ten times because I was afraid I was going to get hurt I kept swimming and just dug my nails into one of their backs...Yes, I know...I'm still a little embarrassed by that passive aggressive move. On the other hand they stopped playing their little game and we could all swim again.
So, I'll come and visit you a little more often in these last days before they put that ridiculous bubble over you for the winter. I know, it keeps you warm, but it still looks silly.
Anyway, I'll be here for you again next year - take care!
Love,
Julia

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thousands of miles (or kilometres, if you prefer)

At the beginning of the month I sent P and Evan down to the beach house without us. The plan was that Olivia would not be coming this year and I would be coming mid month for ten days. I have to admit that I spent the first week sort of delirious from the freedom to do whatever I wanted (almost). More relaxed meal timing, no scrambling to get a babysitter for workouts, no having to think of something for the kids to do all day. I went biking and running and swimming every single day just because I could. I bought a new book to read, I left the house alone for a week and then I cleaned it really well. I cleaned my closet out. I went to the movies with Olivia. Don't laugh, I haven't been to a movie theatre in almost two years. On day five I really really started missing "the boys". I found a way to go see them for the weekend, not an easy feat since they're 800 kms away. It involved driving with my brother in law and his friend by night (we left at 10.00 pm and arrived at 6.00 am) and then taking an eight hour train back to Modena four days later. This was all made possible by the fantastic Linda, who I adore. She spent the nights with Olivia over the weekend and tried to entertain her in some way. Tomorrow I go back on the train to the beach, this time for ten days. This all sounds involved and complicated but I can assure you that everybody is happier this summer. Me included.

This morning Linda and I went running. We started out at 8.00 am but it was already too too hot. Today got almost up to 95° so it must have been about 85° when we were halfway through the workout...which was:

3 x (20 min run + 1km fast)

The first km I just ran at what I felt was a "moderate" speed without exhausting myself too much. I came in at about 5'40". On the second km I started it out in the same way but this time I tried to concentrate on both my stride rate and length, trying to keep it relaxed. 5'25".
I get into that habit of being "comfortable" and not changing gears. Not that I have to push myself, I just have to remember what I'm doing and pay more attention to it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I was fooling around...

...with my blog and POOF! It went away. Oops! The easiest thing (less time consuming) for me to do is just to put it in automatic mode and continue, which is what I did, hence the "new" look. I'll get around to putting in all the old links and stuff later...Gotta go on a bike ride now!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

On becoming a swimmer

Did I tell you I'm signed up to swim 3,8km (2,4 miles) on september 30th as part of an Ironman relay team? Well, I am. Oops, not supposed to say Ironman if it doesn't have the trademark! Me and IronMauro and another friend will be doing Elbaman. I do have a secret desire to one day race an Ironman and since one of the components that intimidates me the most is the swim, I thought that completing the distance in a relay might help me get over that "I'll never make it" feeling. I've been swimming three times a week in the last month, that in itself constitutes serious training for me since I just hate the chlorine and have never, ever gone to the pool more than twice a week. But while I swim I know that I could improve because sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. Is my arm entry okay? Am I pulling as much as I could? Questions that only a swimming coach could answer for me, but in the middle of august in Italy that's impossible. Then I remembered that I had an old VHS videotape by Steve Tarpinian and that maybe I could look at that to get some ideas.

I think the tape was made in the '80's or something. Steve has on a pair of Dolphin shorts and white socks that come halfway up his shins. Plus he has a few really really corny "skits" in the tape and talks r-e-a-l-l-y slow, just to make sure you get in every word. So as soon as I stopped laughing over the age warp I was able to focus on a few of my mistakes right away:

  • I put my head down to far. Steve says the water should hit between my goggles and my hairline. See, I was putting my head further down since I remember some random person telling me that I should be looking at the bottom of the pool. Lesson learned: stop listening to random people that give out advice.
  • I rarely bend my elbow enough underwater to get a good pull. Tried this and found some new arm muscles.
  • Steve said the water with your kick should look like water boiling in a pot. No foam, no feet. Even though I have a good kick, the visual of this helped me a lot.
  • Steve said that if you work out in a pool you should give yourself the advantage of doing flip turns so you get a good rhythm. I had stopped doing them a long time ago because they made me dizzy. In the tape he says that when you flip you should land on your back and then as you push off the wall start turning over. This really really helped me. Again, some random person told me that I should already be turned over when I push off the wall.
  • Incorporate drills into every-single-workout you do. I'm totally guilty of just going to the pool and swimming laps.

So, equipped with this newfound knowledge I went back to the pool for a Steve T workout.


500mt warmup
6 x 50mt one arm pulls
3 x 100mt side kicks
6 x 50mt , rec. 30" freestyle
3 x 100mt , rec. 1', freestyle
500mt whatever

The results were that on my first three 6 x 50mts I came in on 45 seconds! That's a 10 second improvement for me! Now I'm all excited to workout in the pool again (as opposed to dreading it) though I'm pretty sure that I'll be almost last in the swim relay in Elbaman. The important thing is to complete the distance, right?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Baiso rivisited

I really wanted to go on a long bike ride. This week my boys are at the beach so I've been pretty free to do what I wanted and in my head "ride bike" was one of the activities I wanted to schedule. I really wanted to go back to Baiso because I love the climb up there. Round trip it's about 66km which I knew would be stretching it a bit since 55km was the furthest I'd gone this summer, but I knew that if I wasn't in a hurry I'd be okay. I invited my friend Alessia to come with me. The plan was to meet at her house at 4 p.m. so that we'd be home by 8 p.m., before it got dark. As sort of an afterthought I decided to extend the invitation to ride with us to this guy I know named Paolo. He's the ex-husband of a friend of mine and he lives about three blocks from my house. Whenever I see him he always mentions to me that he's available for bike rides. I don't call him often, in fact we've only been riding together three or four times, mostly because I decide at the last minute to go and just take off. I texted him a message to let him know that we were going to Baiso and if he wanted to come along he was welcome. He said yes and told us to meet him in front of a coffee place which was just around the corner from Alessia's house.

We picked Paolo up and the first thing I noticed was that he didn't have a helmet on. I'm a pretty free spirit but I hate riding with people that don't wear helmets! He said that he couldn't find it and then took off. He started going toward Sassuolo where all the traffic was instead of through Rubiera where there were a lot of country roads.

"Oh, I've never been to Baiso before so I'll just follow you."

Right.

We were almost at the road that you have to cut onto, the Via Emilia, where you have to share the road with huge trucks for just 500mts. He said we could take another road.

"Just as long as there are NO TRUCKS, because I hate the trucks". I wanted to trust him. He was local and even though he'd never biked to Baiso he had to know the roads, right?

One country road, two country roads, then on the third one he takes a left instead of a right. He's a guy and has a strong pedal and I can't keep up with him, I just figure he knows where he's going and follow along. Within ten minutes we're in the center of Sassuolo which is totally NOT where we're supposed to be going. At a certain point he and Alessia are so far ahead that at an intersection I have no idea if they've gone straight or turned right. I stop and wait for about three minutes and they come back. He just starts pedalling to the right and we follow. Now since we've hit Sassuolo we are totally surrounded by trucks since Sassuolo is known for their ceramics and tiles and these trucks are hauling them left and right. We just keep following this guy when all of the sudden we realize that he is leading us onto a friggin' FREEWAY. It was surreal. I started laughing like a maniac because I totally couldn't believe what he was doing. Alessia was right in front of me with a hand on top of her helmet repeating "Oh my God, oh my God...". I saw that there was an exit just 180mts ahead and told her to get off there. In the meantime we watch as Paolo tries to jump a couple lanes and go straight!

Once we're back on a normal road we stop and decide where to go from there. I stopped a car and he told us we were only 3 minutes away from a country road that would lead us to Baiso. Just as we're taking off Paolo comes up the same road exit that we had gotten off on...which means that he had to have backtracked on the freeway. Alessia has the excuse that she doesn't know him so decides that she won't say anything. Me? I told him that I really loved my life and that I have two young children that still need me and that I didn't have any thoughts of suicide lately but mostly, WHATTHEFUCKWEREYOUTHINKINGYOUCOMPLETEANDTOTALMORON??!?! The thing is, he didn't know what was wrong or why I was upset. It seemed totally normal to him. That's what he said, but I really can't believe that he really thought that. In any case I told him he was welcome to follow me but that we would no longer be following him.

We made it to the bottom of the hill, now we had 20km of climbing up 500mts. I told him to go ahead, there was no way he could make a wrong turn now, so off he went. We climbed and climbed and it was really nice and peaceful . Very little traffic and lots of cyclists going up or already coming down. We were almost at the top when guess who comes racing down...as he passes us he shouts "see you in Modena!". I couldn't believe it...or maybe I could. At the top we stopped to fill our water bottles and bought an ice cream and then headed down. I look down at the mileage and calculate that by the time we get home we'd have ridden almost 100km. Hello! I've never gone past 80km in my life! The downhill is a thrill but now we have to try and hurry to get back home before dark. My muscles are sore and I had a moment where I just wanted to stop, but I talked myself into everything being okay. For the last 10km we decided to get on the main road so we could get home faster. About 5km from home I felt my back wheel wobble. Flat tire. Good thing I have a sense of humour here 'cause I started laughing again. We tried to change it but it was dark and I didn't have my glasses so I couldn't really see what I was doing. In the end Alessia went ahead and got my car and came back to get me. Total for me: 95km, total for her:100km.

A few good things came out of this experience:

nr.1 - I will never have to feel guilty again about not calling Paolo for a ride. Whew! Thank you!

nr.2- Today we road 67km and it seems like a stroll compared to the 95km. I think I'm on my way to being a biker.

nr.3 - I can still laugh about the incident and probably will for a long time to come.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Good 'ole calesthetics

A couple months ago me and my partner in running crimes (a.k.a. Linda) decided that we wanted to start putting regular strength exercise sessions in our workouts. Both of our problem areas are in the rear. Not only do I have a big bum, but it's really difficult for me to even work on it since I have a sway back and naturally concentrate all exercises on my thighs rather than my glutes. That ends up to be rather a Catch-22 - where my thighs get stronger and my glutes get weaker. We started dedicating mondays to these sessions. The first monday we did:

  • 15' warmup run
4 x
  • 100mt uphill running
  • 20 steps on park bench
  • 100mt run downhill
  • 5 lunges per leg
  • back leg lifts - 10 x leg
  • 15' cool down run

The first time I did this session I could barely walk two days later. I think the thing that did me in were the lunges. I was really careful to not come up using my thigh muscles but rather the glutes.
We were on our third week and I was all excited because it started to feel right. I told P about it and he burst our little bubble. "To be really effective you should be doing them twice a week".
Oh. Okay, twice a week. I like that when I tell Linda these kind of things she doesn't even flinch.

Every week we upped the series by one so that we would start the month out at four and end with eight. On the second month I came up with this one:

  • 15' warmup run
4 x
  • 50mt uphill sprint
  • 20 half squat
  • 15 leg circles (on knees)
  • 25 leg lifts (on knees)
  • 1' posture stretch
  • 15' warm down run

In the second series we briefly had two other women that were coming with us but after a couple of weeks they started showing up late (no apologies) and altogether missing sessions. We hadn't even let them know that we were doing it twice a week!

This week Linda is in Prague so I was on my own for the new session this month. I wanted to put the lunges in since I think those really help and I added a jump rope for coordinating my "running" feet. So this month is:

  • 30' run
4 x
  • 20 walking lunges
  • 20 elbow to knee
  • 1' jumprope
  • 15 arms behind head
  • 100mt stride
  • 100mt skipping, rec.1'

This was great because the next day I was sore in all the right places! So the big news is that I can really FEEL the difference. I'm building muscles and, when I run, I can really feel them working for me. I'm hoping that by having some glute muscles it'll help me have better posture and run with them rather than reverting to my quads to take the brunt of the run. My cycling seems to have benefited from it also. Yippee!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Pause a.k.a. The Women's Only Entry

By now I'm pretty used to it. Instead of talking about my time of the month we can discuss my time of the year. I was okay with that, having it come three times a year. Then last month all the symptoms came down on me at once: hot flashes, irritabilility and bloating bloating bloating. I've always been a water retainer, but recently it's been getting worse. Cellulite on my lower thighs down to the knees, a huge belly that won't go away. The one hundred degree heat wave weather that we've been having was making it worse. One day I had a mini-breakdown in the car with P. I started blubbering about my body being hijacked and not recognizing myself. For someone who really tries to take care of her body through sport and good nutrition, it's totally frustrating that no matter what I did, my body had another direction it wanted to go in.
I've already been to doctors and gynocologists who confirm, yes, you are in perimenopause and total menopause - even if a little early (this whole thing started at 44 for me) should come any time now. No, not a lot you can do about it.

No, I won't take hormone replacements.

So, to get rid of the bloating I'm trying every trick in the book: I drink 2 lts of water a day, I supplement with green tea, exercise is good, I've started cutting out any excess carbohydrates and I've added more protein. At the end of my showers I turn the water on COLD only for one or two minutes. I found a masseuse that doesn't charge a fortune to go to once a week (love that!). I take dandelion drops three times a day. All this combination seems to have helped out and calmed some of the symptoms. It's the not feeling in charge that bothered me the most. Now I'm back in the driver's seat. I'm sure I'll have to keep tweaking myself to figure out what to change, but that's better than just sitting back and feeling hopeless that there is nothing I can do about it. There is and I will.

Monday, July 16, 2007

On the way home

Friday night we went to the Golden Gala in Rome, it's always exciting to see live athletics. Piero had to go work for the first half of the meet, more specifically his job was to film Oscar Pitorius while he ran the 400mt race. The IAAF was studying him and his request to run the world championship in Osaka next month. He was looking at his gait and number of steps per 100mts. Very interesting stuff.
Evan filled himself with and ice cream at about 8.00pm, and by 8.30pm he was fast asleep in my arms! Music, starting guns, screaming crowds did not disturb him! At one point I heard him snoring. We witnessed the freak accident with the Javelin. Just next to us another guy fainted watching what happened and hit his head on a rail. It was total chaos for about ten minutes.

We left Rome at about 10.00 pm and headed up to Roccaraso where Piero was following the marathoners workout the next day. Nobody is going to the World Championships this year since they don't want to get cooked, so they're all going to be doing a fall marathon, probably NYCM.
The workout was a 5km on the track.

Before they started warming up I asked them if they would take a picture with Evan. I'm supposed to do an album for his school, "What I did this summer". So on week three of summer vacation he spent time with athletic champions. Left to right: Giacomo Leone (1996 NYCM winner), Stefano Baldini (Olympic Gold Medal Athens Marathon), Piero holding Evan, Mimmo Caliandro (3km 2007 European indoor champion), Ottavio Andriani (1st place, 2007 Trieste marathon).


Before we left for the workout I went running on my own. I climbed up this hill that looked over the valley. Beautiful and silent, I had one of those beautiful moments where I am totally grateful for the life I have and to be in this world. I've noticed those moments have been coming more and more often...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Vacation

Well, the title is a bit allusive because I didn't really go on vacation. Summer is one of my busier working periods since everybody starts to gear up for fall marathons. We went to the beach house for one week but I had my computer with my so that I could work every day. One week is the perfect amount of time for me to be at the beach house. I went swimming every day and rode my bike once and went running several times. I ate my weight in watermelon. I had some health issues which I'll write about later (no time now!). Today we're in Rome because Piero had to come back to work (I'm in his office using the internet) and tonight we're going to the Golden Gala athletic meeting. Yesterday we accompanied Piero to the stadium. So cool to be inside that huge Olympic stadium with nobody inside! Here's a few pics:

Running up and down the beach. Perfect stategy to get him to faint into bed in the evening.

In the Olympic stadium in Rome, trying to get a picture taken together.
Running in the Olympic stadium. Can't wait to see it filled with people tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My favorite photos

I told Olly I wanted to print my favorite photos that she shot this last month and hang them somewhere at home. These are my pics from May... May be Mamma's pride, but I say she has a special eye for details.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My other half

I know that I don't talk about my daughter that much in this space. I know she wouldn't like it. We have a rather volatile relationship which goes from deep love to violent hate, sometimes in a matter of minutes. Part of that is her personality, part is a fourteen year old's hormones, another part is her being angry at life in general. These last two years have been particularly difficult for her at school. In grades 1 - 5 I sent her to a private catholic school. No nuns or priests, it was close to home, and they were in school until 4.00 pm and no school on saturday. This as opposed to 12.30 pm at the public school with saturdays included. When it came time to select a middle school for grades 6 - 8 I gave her the choice of the public school next to our house (walking distance) or to continue on at the catholic school where I would drive her in the morning but she had to take the public bus back home. It was only a ten minute ride, but a much bigger decision. It was also a different set of teachers and administration. Most of the friends she had made in school were continuing on at the private catholic school, she doesn't like change in general, so she decided to stay there.

The problem was that she changed. My sweet little first born started becoming a strong willed, opinionated, creative soul. This probably all happened at too young of an age for her and everyone around her, which threw her teachers off completely. So it's been a rough three years.

In Italy high schools are divided into specialties. You're expected to know what you want to do at fourteen and then choose that direction in your five years of studies. They have a "classic" high school where you study greek and latin, or a "scientific" high school where you study math and science. Olivia chose an art institute, with emphasis on photography and graphics. We're very happy with this choice because not only is it where she definately has talent, but she chose this particular school THREE YEARS AGO. She already knew what she wanted.

I hope the storms that she feels around and inside of her start to cease and she can find some peace in her creativity. I love her more than anything in the world.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Gift idea!

After three trillion orders with Amazon, the other day they sent me a coupon for a free photo album book through Shutterfly.com
If you don't know what to get Dad, Husband, Boyfriend, Signficant Other or ANY father you know, go put together a photo album. It was so much fun and so so easy. I took all the pictures that I had from my trip to Memphis, picked the best and then made a book out of them with captions and some writing. Then I sent it off to my Dad. Very very cool. I'll probably use it again at Christmas or for some important occasion.

Friday, June 08, 2007

When you get something different than what you went for...

I had a great time. The first few moments were a little ackward, if only for the time factor. Seeing people you know so well that have different faces and bodies is...surprising. But then ten minutes later you're already used to them again and all is well. My sister had her usual freak out moment, which I knew would come but I didn't realise that she creates them all on her own. Mmm, gave me lots to think about. In any case, I went there for me toteing Evan along with me without realising that we were actually going for him. When we arrived there my Dad was waiting for us, having already been at my brother's for a couple of days. Evan rushed up to my Dad and yelled "Grandpa!". Unfortunately my father is a little on the non responding, unemotional side so he didn't get it. We called Piero to let him know that we'd had a safe trip and Ev announced that Grandpa had a moustache and spoke in english. He didn't have trouble understanding anybody but he kept talking in italian on the first, second and third day. The fourth day he broke out of it and started speaking complete sentences in english with everybody. A non stop talker in both languages now! I mean he just never stops talking, plus he's in the "why?" stage. He played, he shopped, he loved running around at water parks and playing with his cousins. He went in the pool every day and learned not to be afraid of the water. He was happy to go home to his "Pappy".
Yesterday he was telling me that he likes speaking in english. I told him I was very happy for him and that I was happy that he met my family. His reply: "They're my family too!"