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 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!

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."


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 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.