Tag Archives: marathon

Creating a Deeper Self-Trust

Warning_Taormina_2013

My friend Jacqueline took this photo while she and her husband Reese were treating us to lunch at one of their regular spots in Taormina. Le sigh – I have friends with a “regular spot” in Taormina – who knows where life will take us next!

Regarding my progress with the blog, I’m gonna call mulligans or shennanigans or whatever golfers call when they want a do-over (I’m not actually going to do anything over, though). While the blog has been incredibly rewarding, led to virtual and local friendships and developed my running and travel memories, I am overwhelmed by the opportunities to engage in the living of life here.  My deeper self-trust comes from knowing to take this hiatus.

During my 7.5 mile run, which was my long, slow run this week, I realized I have built a foundation of self-trust that guides me.  That run ended earlier than scheduled in order to accommodate the heat and humidity that crept back into our weird Sicilian summer weather.

I am allowing myself more “easy outs” in the first 4-6 weeks of my training for this marathon. My previous training patterns show full motivation at the beginning, when I force myself to overcome circumstances in order to “get tough” – but I never allow for practicalities or realities to interfere with the training as prescribe on the paper. In other words, I previously gave all power to the training plan established by someone who doesn’t know me and who isn’t here, but who wrote down a course of training that they *predict* would lead to the results I desire. To achieve different results, I must take a different approach – thus, I am allowing myself to pay attention to how I am feeling and how I am responding to the training schedule in the first 4-6 weeks – and to make modifications accordingly. If I need to skip a run, or cut out early, then I will do so. I’m upping my mental game in this way and creating a deeper self-trust that I am hoping will carry me through the panic attacks I felt around mile 20 in my October 2013 race.

I am also re-instituting my rule of thumb to complete any run prior to 10am. It is just too hot under the strong Sicilian sun after 10am in the summer months. We have been having cool evenings (mid 60s F), and even some strong thunderstorms, so the weather this year is quite different than the blazing heat that lasted through the nights last summer. Our most recent thunderstorm left a significant amount of snow on Etna’s southwestern face – it was really strange to see a snow-covered peak on the drive home in July. We’ve been enjoying the mild temperatures in the evenings and happy to still get outside on the weekends. But, there’s always August and September to accommodate the typical Sicilian heat. We’ll see what comes next.

While I will not be posting regular updates, know that I am thinking of you and available by email.

Ciao!

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Running on a Dream

Ciao a tutti!

I’m still hanging tough in good old Sicily, and have recently been out and about in mainland Italy (pictures at the end of this post). Equally as exciting, I began personal and marathon training!

Recap of last week’s travel training:
3 miles easy: Canal-side in Venice – saw different parts of the city and several cruise ships

4.5 hours of hiking from Vernazza to Riomaggiore – one of the most beautiful hikes of my life (and that’s sayin’ something after several memorable beautiful hikes in Ecuador, Glacier National Park, western Washington state and Alaska)

Ran 2 miles HARD of an attempted run in Vernazza – steep inclines seemed to defeat the “easy” nature of this run

7.6 miles easy: Intended to tack on the last mile from the previous run, and instead, got a little carried away in Rome. Started out easy and relaxed as I was leading our travel crew on a run from our airbnb to the Villa Borghese and over to the Tevere. I kept stretching the run another half mile here and there, to accommodate the Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps, and we ended up at 7.6 miles.

Duomo+PLUS run in Acireale.

Something that’s been on my mind is my footwear at work. A recent Runner’s World article addresses the extra foot stress that comes from wearing high heeled shoes:

“One study found that women who regularly wear high heels had calf muscles that were about 12 percent shorter and Achilles tendons that were about 10 percent more rigid than women who regularly wear flat shoes. A different study showed that basic walking mechanics were different (in a bad way) in women who wore heels at least 40 hours a week compared to women who wore heels less than 10 hours a week. Note to men: The heels in this study were only 5 millimeters high, so this might apply to you as well.

What To Do About It: Walk around the house barefoot. As much as possible, wear flat shoes with a toe box that allows your toes to spread. If heels are unavoidable in your profession, do the best you can to minimize the time you spend in time, such as wearing other shoes when commuting. Also be diligent about calf and Achilles flexibility exercises if you have to wear heels for work.”

Although I prefer to wear flats for my foot health, it is fun to wear heels sometimes; and, some days I just want the extra burst of self-confidence that comes along with the additional burst of height. Reading the whole article renews my yearning for a job that balances physical activity with desk work – the article points to long commutes (mine is 35-40 minutes each way) and long hours at the desk with poor posture (guilty) as two other major contributors to running injuries.

I would love to incorporate more motion into my work routine. Already, I am lucky to have two projects for which I collaborate with a colleague down the hall from me. I take advantage of the proximity to trek down the hall for the majority of our work – rather than use the phone or email. This gives me the opportunity to stretch my legs and spend 10-15 minutes standing while we hash out the next detail of our project. I also try to incorporate a stretch session into each work day, a habit I nurtured more religiously during my winter marathon training. I plan to return to this habit. Do any of you have suggestions for ways to incorporate movement into a desk job? Let me know in the comments section!

See you soon…

p.s. A few favorite pics from my recent trip to Venice, Vernazza (in the Cinque Terre),Rome and within Sicily! I traveled with my husband Dave, and his sister MariBeth and her husband Dan. We also had great trips this spring with Michael and Dan – pics below, too!

View from the hiking trail leading away from Vernazza toward Corniglia – you can see the balcony to our apartment rental.
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Venice from the vaporetto (public transportation barge on the canal)
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Venice from the Rialto Bridge
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The Mediterranean Sea from atop the Turkish Steps in Realmonte (near Agrigento)
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Dave, me and Michael – awaiting performance of Antigone
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Scene from Antigone – performed in Italian at open-air Greek amphitheater in Siracusa
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Another view of the amphitheater in Siracusa
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Windmill at the salt flats in Trapani with Dan – we had a whirlwind trip filled with dynamic foods and sights
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We also had world-class arancini (say it “are-on-chee-nee” – this is the plural) at Bar Giageri in Piano Tavola. Here’s a photo of the arancino di pistacchio (arancino is singular). Dan declared this arancino his favorite Sicilian food of the trip – risotto wrapped around a pistacchio, cheese and ham filling, lightly battered and fried.
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Ciao!

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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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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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Two walls, a sparkling mountain lake, and a finish line

Several weeks ago, I began the long journey toward a slightly sadistic destination: the marathon. At first, I started adding longer mileage runs to my weekly routine in support of a great food, fitness, and lifestyle blogger, Sara. Then, as my schedule-philic self got into the groove of my Hal Higdon training program, I was hooked.

Here are three great Runner’s World articles I liked today:

Pre-race warm-ups

A theory on why you get sick on long flights

Using hard workouts to prepare for the race

Although early on I aimed for the Budapest Marathon, the timing was not right with the demands of my current contract position, which runs on the U.S. Government fiscal year (Oct 1 – Sept 30 each year). Thus, I sought out other European marathons and decided to dazzle myself by running alongside Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) in northern Italy. What a treat!

Registering for the race was another unique twist on living abroad. The organization of the entry form online bodes well for the organization of the race. The option for a foreigner living abroad was available, and I had no problems with making my payment. I must provide two requirements previously unheard of to me: a one-time 7 Euro fee for using the roads during the race (charged by one layer of Italian bureaucracy called FIDAL), and a health certificate. The health certificate must state that I am fit enough to participate – what a great requirement!

The International Lake Garda Marathon combines the sparkle of Italy’s largest lake with the dramatic backdrop of the Alps. When I come up against either of the two walls in the marathon, I hope the landscape will provide inspiration to keep climbing.

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