Friday, May 18, 2007

Carramba che Sorpresa!

A few years ago the Italian State televison offered a bizarre variety show called "Carramba, che sorpresa". It was hosted by the queen of italian telly hosting, Raffaella Carrà, who through the years was able to recycle herself from showgirl to dancer and singer, on through quiz shows, and finally into variety show hostess. The word "Carramba" is a leftover from her spending some of her career in Spain and South America, definately not an Italian exclamation. The whole point of the show was to surprise someone by having them see people they hadn't seen in a long time. Ninety-nine percent of the guests were people from South America (mostly Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela) who had immigrated to Italy in the fifties and had never been back. Every week, for four endless months they would drag some lady or man onto the stage, sit them down next to Raffaella while she told their life story and how they hadn't seen their sister, cousin, brother, for the last twenty-five years. And guess what? Carramba, che sorpresa...they're here tonight!!! The format was exactly the same every week and of course I couldn't help but cry every episode. Each week I would ask myself how can they not see they're family for 25 friggin' years! Buy an airplane ticket, go for Christmas! Did they have a fight? Maybe they didn't want to see each other! Not in a million years would I ever think to find myself in a similar predicament. No, I'm not going on a variety show...

In the eighties I used to go to California at least twice a year: sometime during the summer and then for Christmas. I did a work stint at the end of the eighties for a travel agency and I'd travel four times a year to the east or west coast. After Olivia was born in the 90's I tried really hard to see at least one member of my family once a year. That would be three people. My Mom passed away when I was a child, my little brother passed away in the mid eighties so that leaves my Father who still lives in Northern California, my sister in Kauai (three children) and my older brother who now lives in Tennessee (three children).

The last time I saw my brother was in 1997. I went there for Christmas with Olivia and don't remember it as being a particularly nice visit since I was just divorced and really struggling with a lot of stuff. In 2000 I earned a good chunk of money and was able to travel to Kauai with Olivia in tow to see my sister. I still remember crying at the airport and wondering why we had scattered to opposite sides of the planet. My father came to Italy in the spring of 2001 to see me. After 9/11 he hasn't ever wanted to travel back to Europe. Me? 2001 was the year I bought my house so all my money went into that. 2002 I was pregnant for four months then miscarried, 2003 pregnant again and giving birth. Traveling to the States doesn't mean just me anymore, it means taking the family. Four airplane tickets cost 6.000,00 and it's just money I don't have to spend on travel these days. I have been back to New York for work four times, and even if it's great to be back on home turf it's still not the same as going "home".

My brother has three sons. The first, Jonathan, is graduating from high school next saturday. He's won a full scholarship (in baseball) to the University of Memphis and we are all excited for him. When I found out my father was going to the graduation I thought that I'd just have to find the money to go, even if it meant just me traveling. When my sister found out that I was coming she decided to come too and bring one of her three children. I just could not go without bringing Evan with me. I'll be eating beans for months, but my family will finally meet my son.

The last time my father, my sister, my brother and I occupied the same space was 1985. Twenty-one years. Carramba, che sorpresa!

I can't wait to see everybody (especially my sister, shhhh...). I'm getting tears in my eyes even writing about it. I won't be updating my blog until after the first of June. I'll be busy checking out Elvis's mansion and drinking American coffee. My sister-in-law has already booked me into some spinning classes and gotten me pool passes. She knows me well!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


One thing I forgot to mention about the Tri in Viareggio: I was sick. On Saturday I was feeling achy and nauseous but I had a huge day ahead of me that went like this:

5.00am wake up

6.30am throw Evan while still in pajamas into the car and leave for Milan.

9.00am arrive in Milan, find park, meet babysitter, dress, feed and bring son to restroom. Thank the stars that Olly is self sufficient and can get to school on her own.

9.45 - 12.00 - Teach group of 20 runners.

12.00 - 13.00 - Coaching (business) session live.

13.00 - 15.00 - Find huge sports store to get last minute stuff for the race and try and control Evan who wants to buy every ball he sees in the store. Eat before leaving.

15.00 - 17.00 - Drive back home

17.00 - When I got home, waiting for me was my ex-stepmother (don't ask!) and step sister (double don't ask!!) who were visiting from Wyoming for only one evening, on their way to Switzerland. I hadn't seen Nancy (Mom) since I was pregnant with Evan and Susan since 1982! I took them to the center of town where we had a really nice walk while we talked. I was still upright but a little dizzy.

20.00 - Made dinner for everyone. Somewhere around this time Piero came home from Rome.
I ate a little but wasn't hungry, cleaned the dishes and straightened up.

22.00 - Alessia came over to pack the bikes in her car. I think I fainted on the couch (my bed occupied by guests) somewhere around 11.00 pm

The next day we got up at 5.30 am, left the house somewhere around 6.00 am. I slept for about an hour and a half in the car. At this point I just felt like I had a big cold. Why didn't I just bag the race you ask? Because I had talked my friend Alessia into doing a triathlon! In Italy this is an impossible feat since most women a) don't swim well b) don't own a racing bike c) don't have time to train for all three disciplines. When I mentioned that she too could participate in a triathlon she immediatley said yes and started training with me. She bought a new (used) bike and borrowed a wetsuit and went through all the nervous rituals that many of us go through when doubting our abilities. I could not say that I wasn't feeling well and was skipping out!

I felt fine during the race and okay for the rest of the day. Then monday morning hit and it was like I paid back all those dues...Hacking cough, flu like symptoms. Today I brought the kids to school in the morning, came back home to write but before that happened I thought I'd lie down for a minute. THREE HOURS LATER (!!!) I woke up. The positive to that is the annoying hacking cough just disappeared so maybe I needed the rest.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sprint tri 2007 nr.1

On Sunday I raced my first tri of the season, a sprint in Viareggio. My last sprint race had been 7 years ago so I was a little nervous to do this. How bad could I have gotten in seven years?

The race started at 10.30 so I knew I'd be running under the 85°F sun at noon. 39 women at the start, more than 300 men.
I was happy to see that there were six women in my age group! (45-49)

Swim: 15'56" 750 mts
One of my "strong" points is my ability to swim a straight line. Not so much for other women!
I was going straight for the buoy and I'd get drifted by a bunch that started swimming into me
on the left. Then they'd realize that they were going off course so they start swimming to the right.
I really wanted to hit them but thought that I wouldn't make a lot of friends that way...

T1: 4'27"

Long stretch of beach to run up and then onto the far side of the transition.

Bike: 39'31" 20.22km
In sprints and Olympics drafting is legal and encouraged. What can I say? I caught a train...Pancake flat course with four hairpin curves. This is also the area where I need to work on. I used to be really fast!

T2: 1'40"

Run: 30'37" 5km
I didn't care about my time here, the only thing I really wanted to do was keep moving. It was two loops on the boardwalk and as I was coming out of t2 I watched the winners come in. I only walked once for about twenty seconds and thought to myself "why am I walking?" I passed one woman - yippee!

So I'm coming into the main stretch and I see a woman holding a rose for someone. As I passed by I asked "is that for me?" and immediately thought "It's Mother's Day...the kids didn't say or remember or..." as I'm mulling this in my mind and coming into the home stretch my little Evan, three and a half years old, squeezed in through the tapes and ran after me on the course. He took my hand and started running to the finish with me. I had to slow down to a walk 'cause his little legs go just so fast. He had this HUGE smile on his face and as we crossed the finish yelled "ABBIAMO VINTO!" (We won).
Now THAT is a Mother's Day present
Total time: 1h32'04

I had sort of predicted a 1h40' (based on NOTHING, just my cosmic psychic powers) so I'm really happy with the time and feel totally inspired to work harder on everything.

I used to live only a half hour from here so an old friend of mine Patrizia and her husband had come to watch the race. Afterwards we all went and had lunch on the boardwalk. The two hours we sat in the outdoor restaurant eating pasta with mushrooms and a chocolate gelato, with the sea breeze, friends, my family, my first tri in the love life!

As American as...Tiramisù!

Today my little boy became an American citizen. I'm so proud! Now I just have to teach him the National Anthem. (Sorry about the blurry photo but he wouldn't stop wiggling).

Thursday, May 10, 2007


In the past few years Piero's work responsabilities have changed a lot. He used to do more coaching and following the teams, but for the past two years they've put him into testing and research. He likes it a lot, especially going around and testing the athletes, helping out their coaches in understanding where, how they can improve. From a ten second taping or a glance at someone running he can tell you exactly where their defect is and what they need to do to improve. Anyway, he spends a lot of his working time in the Rome office of the Italian Athletics Association but he still has a few runners that he trains personally. Two of them are guys that he has trained since they were adolescents, Ottavio and Giacomo. They had both chosen to run the Trieste Marathon which in Italy is pretty much the last chance to run the distance for the spring season. There are two or three more races but it's just too hot to get a decent time in. As it was the tempature in Trieste was in the 80's, so it's a wonder they did well at all. Giacomo had tripped and fallen during a training session ten days before and missed out on two important workouts. Piero said he was running funny from the start of the race and eventually pulled out at 25km. Ottavio was doing okay but of course all the Africans were ahead of him with a group of eight that had surged ahead and started battling it out up front.

I was oblivious to all of this though. Evan and I had been dropped off by the organization in the Piazza Grande at 7.00 am. We went and got a coffee for me and a juice for Evan at a beautiful bar then I searched for a newstand where I bought the paper and Evan picked out a Chip & Dale magazine with a free harmonica included. When the race started we had the maxi screen to watch it on but it was so hot just standing there, I saw that Evan after only fifteen minutes into the race was already starting to fade. I took him down to the peers where there was a breeze from the water and we watched some row teams practicing. They had a mini ferris wheel that we went on, he loved that (me too!). Then we watched the marathoners as they passed by the Piazza and the half marathon finish. Evan tooted his harmonica for everybody. There were so many drop outs at this point which confirms why I hate two loop marathons. You have to be really mentally strong to keep going if you're feeling even a little bad at the half point

We positioned ourselves in front of the maxi screen again at 1h55' into the race which is exactly where Ottavio decided to make his move. He was in six place at the 38th kilometre. Apparently Piero yelled to him that the Kenyan in front of him was starting to look bad. First he passed one, then two...until he got to the last (first) and passed him at the 41st km. The whole Piazza roared as he positioned himself into first place. Winning time with heat and all: 2h10'56".

I'm always amazed at how impatient amateur runners are. Right now I'm argueing it out with this guy I train that wants to call it quits because he's not improving as fast as he would like to. I mean he is improving, he just wants more now. Ottavio is 34 years old. This is the second marathon he's won in his career. The first one he won was ten years ago. Ten years ago! And we're not counting the previous ten years. That takes a lot of persistence and patience and hard work and really believing in what you're doing. I don't know what he's going to do with his career now, but he really did have the race of a lifetime.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ten days that changed my life

I'll do a one a day post for a week to try and catch up and then I have to take another ten day break.

Yep, it's hard to believe but my life changed in ten days. I just have a few minutes to write about it and then I have to get back to work so I'll try to condense this as much as I can. A few weeks ago I talked about feeling flat. Part of the problem was that I'd get up in the morning, cut my head off, run around for fourteen hours and then collapse at the end of the day. Usually in front of the television with some cop or lawyer show. I really felt like I had no time to do anything and that nothing was concluded. Not always of course, but on the few occasions that I was able to finish a project or work I was never satisfied. I worried about money a lot, didn't feel I could make plans because Hubby was always gone...the list just goes on and on.

I also mentioned here that I'm training a group to run NYCM. They're thirty entrepreneurs that own their own companies. The common link they have is that all of them use the service of a Coaching Service. a Business Coaching service. Everybody of course paid for me to train them for the year but the head of the coaching business asked if we could barter our services. They have a lot different course to take so I said yes but that I'd have to think about what I wanted to do. Last month I came up with what the exchange for me would be. I wanted him to help me get organized. I thought it would be something simple where he would show me that I needed to keep a schedule or something...which I do, but it went a little deeper than that.

First he had me draw a chart that I divided into eight areas of my life and draw lines where I wrote in what I wanted out of each area by the end of the year. Then he had me do a affirmation test on four areas on my life which had a points total. My strong area turned out to be in personal relations, my weak was finance. I'm shocked... Then he had me do another chart where I drew in my levels of satisfaction in the eight areas comparing 2002 to 2007. For those that don't know 2002 is also known as "The year that totally sucked" in every aspect of my life. The chart was easy to do but I was surprised that my satisfaction level since then in a lot of areas hasn't raised much.

I circled three areas out of the eight that I wanted to concentrate on: finance, work, body (mine). The first two are obvious but I need to underline that by "body" I mean sports, workouts, races, spirit.

Now that I had narrowed the three areas of concentration he had me break them down and tell him exactly what I wanted to accomplish, how I was going to go about doing that and a time frame them. All of this took hours of work until we finally got down to a one half hour phone call and we were able to condense the conversation and get to work. The first ten days I did this it really helped that Piero took Evan down to his Grandmother's for a visit. I had most of the day open (except when I did stuff with Olivia) to work on my itemized list and get myself organized.

It's just amazing how much energy I had by taking care of business that I had put on the backburner for months. Just for a reference, I am self employed. I have several companies I work for plus a regular writing gig for a magazine where I do have deadlines. The rest is all up to me. It's great because I can be available for the kids whenever, it's difficult because I need to give myself direction all the time and sometimes that is not easy. Just having a 30 minute appointment once a week with someone who asks me why I didn't get something done and when am I planning on getting it done has totally changed my life.

This is the first time in a long time that I really look forward to sitting down and working. The wheels are turning, that blah feeling is gone. Hurray!

Like I said, in the next few days I'll try and do a post a day before another break.
  • my first tri of the season!
  • Olly's going to Art School!
  • New women to train with!
  • My husband's athlete won a marathon!
  • Evan becomes a US citizen!
  • I'm seeing my family for the first time in 7 years!!!!!