Tag Archives: Europe

Maratona di Roma in my Soul

The Rome Marathon weekend is a little ways behind me, here is the recap.

Due to the conclave at Vatican City, and the timing of the marathon coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day, and an Italy-Ireland rugby game, and myriad other events happening that weekend, Rome was a complete madhouse when we were there. It was great! Dave and I stayed in the Trastevere neighborhood, just across the Tiber River (tras = across, and “tevere” is the Tiber) from Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). We had easy access to the start and finish of the race, which are based at the Colosseo (The Colosseum).

We arrived on Friday and dined at one of several cute and well-regarded restaurants in our neighborhood, Taverna Trilussa.
Dave Taverna Trilussa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my all-time favorite Italian pasta dishes is Bucatini all’Amatriciana, and lucky for me, it is a Roman specialty. Bucatini is the name of the pasta, which is a dried pasta along the lines of a thick spaghetti that is hollow like a straw. The Amatriciana sauce is made of tomatoes, guanciale (a fatty bacon made of cured pork cheek) and pecorino cheese; I prefer versions that also include garlic and onion, which I saw in the three versions I have eaten in Rome. The dish does not need much cheese though, so if you try it and you are usually a cheese-heavy person, I recommend taking several bites before asking your server to add more cheese. Adding some spice with red or black pepper spices is also common and is the best way that I have enjoyed bucatini all’Amatriciana.

On the Saturday before race day, Dave and I traced our path from our Trastevere apartment to the race start, and then joined our friends on the trek to marathon village. We registered and got our swag bag, signed the marathon wall, and carbo loaded.
Jill and Dave_Marathon Wall Rome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night, we met up with other members of Dave’s command for another pasta-rich dinner. We had several experienced marathoners in the group, so we all ate pretty lightly, and enjoyed the camaraderie of sharing our race histories, theories for success, and pre-race jitters.

Race day came quickly enough and we set off without a hitch. About 16,000 runners, walkers, and wheelchair/hand-bikers participated in the race, and you can imagine the porta-potty lines! It was a wonderful atmosphere, and as total amateurs, we were deep in the pack of the final group to launch. We crossed the start line about 10-minutes after the gun start, and with the beeeeeeeeeep of our chips engaging, our Maratona di Roma start was official!

Dave hung in with me for the first 5k and then headed out with a bit more speed. My body was dragging, and I settled into making my goal of running the entire first half. I made it to the halfway point with my wits about me, took several walk breaks to accept that my time was going to be pretty far off my personal best, and then re-engaged with vigor. As I got rolling into the second half, I faced many of the demons that plagued me during races when I was more strongly positioned to perform – panic attacks, sudden surges of emotion, and balancing the pain and anger I felt as the race progressed. Dave coined this stage “painger” and you know when you’ve entered the zone because you transition from thinking “Thanks crowd” to “F**K off, and stop smoking in the street!”

I practiced some coping strategies and though my time was a half hour longer than my Lago di Garda marathon, I feel like I learned lessons that will carry forward into my physical, spiritual and professional life.

We re-connected after the race, showered and scavenged our neighborhood for food. Luckily, we were right by a bread shop/pizzeria La Renella, and we quickly had bellies-ful of freshly made pizza. Our apartment was equipped with entertainment features, so we watched Ghostbusters and settled into our post-race stupors.

As I reflect on my third marathon in six months, I find myself asking more questions than anything else. How did I maintain mental focus? What am I running after? How will I know when I really come to my physical capacity edge? What is next? Some of these musings lead to deeper philosophical questions, like how much more do I have to give? And, from what springs my desire to find my edge?

From among bloggers I follow, I found this article to be an interesting entry into seeing how other exercise enthusiasts are trying to answer these questions in more urban settings: Is this a rave or a race? Intriguing fitness trends.

All in all, the marathon is a wonderful event and Rome definitely puts on a great show. We tracked along the Tiber River for much of the race, and passed so many notable piazzas and historic sites that I cannot begin to mention them all here. Noteworthy to my Roman soul were running through Piazza Navona, around the neighborhood where we stayed with my parents in October, and running past the Trevi fountain and throwing my coin from the race route. Finally, at the end, we received lovely medals, which I wore all night.

Rome Medals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ciao a Roma, and Ciao to you!

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Filed under Awesomeness, Running, Travel

Siracusa & Ortygia

In early November, my cousin Maddie and her friend Lindsay visited us in Sicily. I took advantage of the opportunity to revisit ruins in Siracusa and to circumnavigate Ortygia. We had a gorgeous and sunny afternoon, tempered by a roaring wind that ushered in evening on Ortygia.

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The view of limestone cliffs from the archaeological site on the northwest side of Siracusa.

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Ruins of a Roman ampitheater are behind us.

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Entering the Orecchio di Dionysius – the “ear” of Dionysius. Named for the Greek tyrant Dionysius who ruled Siracusa for a time. Apparently, he was a nasty ruler.

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Lindsay and Maddie

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The view atop the Greek theater at the same Siracusa archaeological site. Breathtaking! This theater is still used for special events, such as the Greek Theater Festival running from mid-May to the end of June. I hope to get to a performance this year!

The 2013 season, the 49th Cycle of Classical Plays, runs from 11th May – 23th June and will feature the following plays:

– Oedipus by Sophocles

– Antigone by Sophocles

– Assemblywomen by Aristophanes

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A kayak water polo match in the canal between Siracusa and Ortygia

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Ortygia by dusk

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Ortygia, November 2012

The proximity of this Sicilian gem means I will get to revisit these sites time and again. Will you be joining me next time?

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Casa di Jill-o

Just when you thought there wasn’t an affordable B&B in the Catania metro region, you read this review of Casa di Jill-o. The house features a modern guest room complete with USA themed cat cover on the bed, wooden slatted shutters for sensory deprivation leading to the best sleep of this year (if not your life), and errant cat hair that the numerous cleanings prior to your arrival did not completely eliminate.


Authentic Afghanistan souvenir.


Dark or bright – your choice!

If this description alone isn’t enough, just think of the box shower that makes you feel tiny! It is completely different from the U.S. propaganda showers designed to make you feel fat all the time. This shower looks incredibly small, and at less than 1 meter diagonal, it IS small! The narrow door openings (which barely let your shoulders and hips fit through at an angle) add to the barriers that help you enjoy feeling really tiny once you are inside and realize you can take an entire shower without banging into the plastic shower box walls…if you are very careful. For those who do touch up against the walls, do not worry, the signora of Casa di Jill-o regularly washes the walls with a light bleach mixture sure to disinfect any nastiness.


Seriously, this is my shower.

Rise up the slightly creaky spiral staircase to the upper level for stunning views of Mt. Etna and the Ionian Sea.


Mt. Etna
November 2012


Ionian Sea (Mediterranean Sea is to the south)
November 2012

The Ionian touches the lips of the Mediterranean a mere 120 kilometers south of Catania, and it enjoys the same shimmering blue waters and warm currents that Italian and French Riviera visitors rave about. You can even go swimming in early November!

Friends, family, lesser-known-acquaintances, don’t hesitate, start looking for airfares now and reach out to Casa di Jill-o to book your next trip to Sicily!

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Roma in the rain with my parents

No, this isn’t the solution for a game of Clue.

Instead, it is the title for a quick blog post with highlights from our visit to Rome last weekend with my parents. Enjoy the photos!


Skip the Line Vatican Tour
Roma
October 2012


Piazza di San Pietro
Roma


First-ever hop-on/hop-off tour
Results invalid
Roma


Yay! Can’t wait for the premiere!
No celebrities sighted.


New favorite Italian wine.
New great memory with Mom.


Romance and coin throwing at a rainy Fontana di Trevi
Roma


Fontana di Trevi
Details – Sharon & John


Enjoying the Pantheon with Dad
Roma


Never fails to impress.
One of my favorite sights in Roma.


We passed by the Trevi Fountain again the next day. Weather report was 100% chance of rain at this moment in time. Glad we didn’t heed the weather report! What a glorious day.


Two world travelers chatting at a charming doorway in Rome.


Celebrating Mom’s 60th birthday a few days early. Happy Birthday Mama!

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Marathon Report: Lago di Garda, Lake Garda International Marathon

And the beat goes on…

La-da-da-da-da DEE…

Some things are so precious that I just want to sit and linger a moment over the memory. For me, running the marathon in Lago di Garda is one of those precious things. I wrote and re-wrote blogposts about the Lake Garda Marathon in my head, but when I went to commit those words to computer, something else seemed more important.


Lago di Garda, Italia
October 2012

My route to Lago di Garda consisted of a midnight arrival in Milan, a quick car rental pick-up and hotel breeze-by, then the drive to the lake. As I drove away from Malpensa airport in Milan, I felt a quickening in my stomach at each thought of the marathon. The steady city traffic did little to dull my nerves, but as I neared Brescia, the scenery started to distract me. Foothills were rising out of the mist and fog, and traffic was thinning. As I went headlong into a mountain tunnel, I imagined myself beginning the long journey of the marathon. Minutes later, I emerged from the tunnel to the stunning beauty of Lago di Garda.

Arriving at the southwestern edge of the lake, I followed the road north to Limone sul Garda. Limone is the quaint town where the race started and where I chose to find a hotel – the Villa Elite. This hotel is family owned and operated, with staffers who embody the Northern Italian personality while managing to exude a welcoming graciousness. The breakfast was generous and served in a charmingly cozy dining room at the main hotel. I was in one of the newer buildings, and the view to the lake was more than breath-taking. With the cool October temperatures, I merely daydreamed about spending a hot summer day in the well-kept pool just outside my hotel room door.


View from Villa Elite hotel, Limone sul Garda, Italia
October 2012

Limone sul Garda defines picturesque! Here is the conference center where the marathon registration took place.

The anticipation was strong, but as I was traveling on my own, I had to be strong enough to get myself to the starting line. After checking into the hotel and completing my registration, I ambled down from my hotel to the lake, tested the waters for fun, and then logged my last training run of 2 miles. I trekked back up to the hotel (about ten minute walk), showered and ventured out to eat dinner. After this, my preparations at the hotel consisted of listening to music, writing down any thoughts that were distracting me, and getting to bed early. Pleasantly, I drifted off to sleep around 10pm.

Marathon day dawned brisk and slightly overcast. I consistently checked the weather through the curtains as I prepared my gear bag, got dressed, and mentally braced myself for the day. I left my hotel room around 8am, walked ten minutes or so over to the starting line and chucked my gear bag in the appropriate bin. The excitement was palpable and runners were everywhere. I was taking care of my final fueling, and final bathroom breaks until I joined the queue. After jovial chit-chat from the announcer, and much shuffling among the ranks, many of us ditched our final layer of clothing and settled in for the race. With the crack of the starting pistol, we headed across the start line and away from Limone sul Garda.


Starting point, Lake Garda Marathon
Limone sul Garda, Italia
October 2012

I had a plethora of running advice swirling around my head and I put it to good use. I felt strong and able as I plowed through the first half-dozen miles. The path hugged the lake, but inevitably traversed several mountain tunnels that obscured satellite reception, rendering my Garmin pacing watch slightly more than useless. I was able to guesstimate my pace, though I continued to focus on how I was feeling as the roadway undulated under my feet.

Soon enough, the path curved away from the lake toward the village of Arco. I ran alongside vineyards and farms, through tiny neighborhoods with warm-hearted townsfolk cheering me (and the others). Still feeling strong, I pushed through my first signs of fatigue and made it to the halfway point on pace to hit my target time. This push and pull between longevity and fatigue became a soothing rhythm. Fatigue was never far away, but preparation, training and determination were keeping me on target as the route meandered back toward the lake, in the direction of the final destination, Malcesine.

This upbeat experience continued until my first panic attack around mile 20. The race is marked in kilometers, and I was focusing on each segment so much that I wasn’t tracking the miles distinctly. Yet, I could describe the corner where my emotions began to rise in my throat, where I felt the exuberance that should have waited for race completion, and where my pace began to take a nosedive. Though I had known that marathoning is 90% mental and 10% physical, I had never trained for mitigating extreme joy during my run.

As I bent over to catch my breath, I thought quickly of the six or so miles between me and the finish that was bringing me to my knees prematurely. Almost as quickly, I redirected my focus to taking the next step forward, and then picking my heels up and bringing my pace back to speed. I successfully refocused in a matter of moments, but my pace never fully recovered. “Fuck!” came out of my mouth several times as I struggled to stay focused in the moment. Though I took only two more walking breaks, I still added twenty-three minutes to the second half of the race. At one point, I vowed never to waste my time training for a marathon again.

The route began to descend into the center of Malcesine and I knew the end was near. I dug deep and picked up my feet just a little more. About 200m from the finish, I saw two small children dart out into the finisher’s chute to cross the finish line with their father, who was just ahead of me. Tears burned to the corners of my eyes and I puffed over the finish line to a final hyperventilation at the benches on the other side. After catching my breath, the desire to cry remained. I seeped tears of joy, disappointment, relief, and dismay all at once.

The organization of the race was seamless and I easily recovered my gear bag and found the shower facilities. With a freshly washed face and clean clothes, my sense of self was renewed. I wandered through Malcesine’s historic center to the ferry booth and pondered my next marathon. Would I really be crazy enough to train for another? Only time would tell, but as I waited to board the ferry that would take me back to Limone sul Garda, I felt the undeniable buzz from the crowd. This buzz is an uplifting force that taps into my soul and thrills me to no end.

After a stunning ride across Lago di Garda, I trekked up the hill to the Villa Elite amidst mental race review and dinner plans. The throngs of racers returning to their hotels thinned and finally faded to only one. As I turned away from her and into my hotel, I was again alone. I cracked open my hotel room door and was overcome with emotion as I spied celebratory flowers awaiting me.


Dave’s Flowery Congratulations

I looked down at the medal hanging around my neck; lemons, olives, runners, mountains, lakes, and me.

Limone sul Garda had bewitched me; and, even as I bemoaned my time, I was also relishing the strength and fortitude I had displayed along the way. I shook my head as a huge grin spread across my face; no matter the time, I would always be able to say “I Did It!”


Limone sul Garda, Italia
Lake Garda Marathon, F81
October 2012

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My stomach’s all aflutter

Saturday morning dawned bright and gay, and with thoughts of running, I met the day.

Yet, before I would head out for that 4-mile quip, I must discipline myself to make arrangements for my trip.

AGHHHHHH!

To re-cap, Dave and I were going to make the marathon the centerpiece of a long weekend in the Alto-Adige region near Lake Garda. I cheerfully booked my registration one Sunday evening, weeks ago, anticipating making flight, car, and hotel arrangements over the following week. The very next day, some progress in a case came through and the judge scheduled a pending case for the Monday after my marathon. (Insert shocking music signaling doom here)

Facing not only making travel arrangements, but making the entire trip solo, my spirits took a temporary nosedive. I still mustered through my training runs, but when I contemplated making the necessary steps to get my physical self to the start line, my stomach clenched up and I often turned to necessary house chores to avoid dealing with the issue. I have traveled solo in the past and I enjoy solitary time, yet I was looking forward to searching the crowd for “Go Jill Go!” posters that Dave would be holding; I was looking forward to celebrating together after the race, and having someone to hear my mild “oooohs” when I got in and out of the car while sight-seeing the day after the race.

Luckily, we live in the time of technology, so I can call and text Dave, and I can reach out to get virtual support from friends, family, and blog readers. So, the final challenge was to buck up and make the reservations. I toyed with the idea of making it a shorter trip, but ultimately, I had been looking forward to a short break from work and I decided to honor that intention and enjoy some time in Northern Italy.

Immediately after completing my bookings this Saturday, I read the following quote – which succinctly summarizes how I feel about running and the way it relates to life.

“We runners talk about having fun but I don’t think anybody believes us. We talk about discipline and endurance, we take care, we exercise caution, we watch our diets and monitor our pace. We are ascetics who talk, unconvincingly, of the bracing enjoyment of self-abuse.”

Peter Sagal

I’m ready for a great run and recovery!

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Mmmmmm…seafood.

Tonight we had the distinct pleasure of dining with the parents of Jonathan Wakuda Fischer, Ed and Akemi.

Based on a previous experience and the Fischer clan interest in seafood, we ate at mM or Mm, depending on where you look. The awning reads “mM” but the online reviews read “Mm”. No matter the spelling, “mmmmmm” is sure to be moaned while dining.

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We were so enjoying the company and the food that I forgot to take photos until we had nearly demolished the seafood antipasti delight! We had five varieties of raw fish, five of fried fish, a cozze (mussel) stew, filet of fried fish, and boiled polpo (octopus).

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The pesce fritto misti (mixed fried fish) included crustaceans as well as calamari (squid). Buon appetito!

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Filed under 5-100, Food. Cibo.