Thursday, May 30, 2013

Six Years Ago: Rome

Rome was our final stop, and we were there for 4 nights.  Our hotel was close to the Vatican, which would've been an easy walk but Roman drivers are crazy!  I thought learning to drive in Boston was rough, but trying to navigate Roman traffic on foot is essentially taking your life in your hands.  We dropped off our luggage and headed to the Vatican Museums.  We did not do the Vatican itself that day, but the museums keep you well occupied.  There is so much to see in the museums, and it all ends in the Sistine Chapel.

There is so much to see in Rome, and yes, most sites draw the tourists, but I highly recommend seeing them anyway.  They draw the crowds for a reason.  Part of the fun was doing our own (check that, my own) tour of the Angels and Demons landmarks.  We didn't do them in one day, but made sure to see them throughout our time in the city.  For those who haven't read the book, the landmarks are:

Santa Maria del Popolo
St. Peter’s Basilica
Santa Maria della Vittoria
Piazza Navona
Castel Sant’Angelo

They also end up at the Pantheon, and we went there too.  Our guidebook had a walking tour of Bernini's Rome, and it let us see some of his work not mentioned in the book.  A tip for touring churches: all churches are still functioning, and will close at various points in the day for services.  Our guidebook did a good job at posting visiting hours and service hours.

We did visit the Vatican but we did not climb the dome since we had already done that in Florence.  I don't know what I was expecting with St. Peter's, but the basilica is basically a shrine to the popes.  It is a church, and there was a ceremony going on in one of the smaller side chapels, but there are also paintings, Michelangelo's Pieta and of course, the alter.  The Swiss guard are prevalent, and yes, the getup is beyond description.  If Michelangelo hadn't been a painter, I would've said he was colorblind.

The day we went to see the Coliseum and ruins was raining, but people were still active and it was a fun day to trek around the city.  If you don't think about what happened in the Coliseum, the engineering accomplishments are extraordinary.  Plus all the aqueducts and fresh water in the city.  People still drink the water out of fountains!  We saw one guy do it on our Bernini walking tour.

When I saw the movie Angels and Demons, I kept thinking how I'd been to all the landmarks, and saw more in the movie that I had seen as well.  And has anyone seen the documentary "Spirit of the Marathon?"  They're releasing another one June 12th, this time focused on the Rome marathon.  I definitely am planning on seeing it that day.  Not only is it motivational, but I can see a city I've been to as well.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Six Years Ago: Florence

I got handed the map of Florence since I had made fun of my dad not being able to navigate Venice.  Florence was much easier because we were back in auto traffic.  Our hotel was close to the train station, so we didn't have to carry our luggage quite as far, and it was close to the Duomo.  We did climb the dome and we could see all of Florence from the top of the dome.  In the Renaissance age, no buildings could be higher the churches, so the dome is the perfect vantage point.

We stayed 3 nights in Florence as well, and spent two days in the city and the third day we rented a car and drove into Tuscany.

The Duomo and the baptistery doors were also covered in my art history class, and I found it really fun on this trip to see so much that I had studied.  Between the Duomo, the doors, the Uffizi museum and the Medici chapel, it was art galore.

The amazing part about the Medici chapel was one of the rooms has pencil drawings done by Michelangelo.  The wallpaper had been peeled back during a project and that's where they found the pencil sketches.  The Medici chapel also has relics.  Now, I'm not Catholic, so I don't understand relics at all.  I have to admit there was one that gave me the heebie jeebies - I was looking at it and couldn't figure out what kind of bone it was until I saw molars!

The Uffizi museum is where art from a lot of the Renaissance masters is displayed.  There is art and sculptures from Michelangelo, Botticelli, da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio.

The city and the surrounding area is just gorgeous.  It was almost fitting that this city contained a ton of artwork.  We also found the Medici gardens in the city, and we walked around there for a bit for something different.

The last day was when my parents decided to rent a car and drive into the hills.  Getting out of the city was interesting, and I made the mistake of looking at the map and saying getting back to the rental place was easy.  I was appointed the trip's GPS when we returned.

We got to the town of Greve in Chianti, which is where I tried Chianti wine for the first time.  I liked it :)  We decided not to go to Pisa because we felt we'd be caught up in the tourist trap of the tower.  It would've been fun, but I don't regret not seeing it.  We were able to see more of Tuscany than just Pisa.  It reminded me of the French countryside.

Now it was time to get back to Florence.  Since I was named the GPS, I was in the front seat with the map.  Everything was fine until we got close to the river because the rotary on the map was further up the road than it actually was.  I screamed at my mom to get me a street name because I could navigate us through the rotary if I had a point of reference.  We got through the rotary, but then on the other side of the bridge, the main road to the rental place was blocked off due to construction.  I was not "re-calculating" calmly.  I threw the map in the air and uttered a few choice words, but I got us back.

Travel tip: The Uffizi and Accademia have websites, and I recommend buying tickets online instead of getting in line.  The Venice Accademia sent me the tickets by mail, and I chose to pick up the Uffizi tickets the morning of.  With the tickets already reserved, we were able to go from the will call office right into the museum instead of spending hours trying to get in.  I don't believe the Vatican museum tickets can be bought online though.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Six Years Ago: Venice

The second day of the trip found us taking the train from Milan to Venice.  I was still a little tired, but I didn't want to miss anything, and I got a window seat.  Not that I could see much, the train was moving very quickly.  When we got to the train station in Venice, we walked to the hotel.  I won't ever do that again.  Why?  Venice is unlike any city I've been to before - it operates on the water, so there are no vehicles whatsoever once you leave the mainland.  You either walk or take a water taxi.

Outside our hotel
Our luggage consisted of carry-ons and checked bags, which we had to carry and roll up over (only?!) 4 bridges, through the tourist area, through the Jewish quarter, and finally through the neighborhood where our hotel was.  Worth it?  You betcha!  We stayed in a hotel that had been converted from a monastery, and it was far away from the St. Mark's (read touristy) area, which meant it was quiet.  Not that we stayed at the hotel much.

St. Mark's
If any of y'all go to Venice, I definitely recommend a mix of tourist stuff and getting off the beaten path.  I feel like we saw a good chunk of the city but doing it that way.  We went to St. Marks (yes, Italian churches are strict on dress code.  Shoulders and knees must be covered), the Doges Palace, the Rialto bridge, where we found a great restaurant tucked away from the main walkways, got to Murano where the glass is made and yes, we even went on a gondola ride.

View from St. Mark's
We also got to the  Accademia.  One of the reasons I chose Italy was because my sophomore year in college I took an art history class, focused on the early and mid-Renaissance.  Some of the early paintings I studied in class are in the Accademia, and the mid-Renaissance paintings are in Florence..  Of course there are others, my favorite back story being "Feast in the House of Levi".  Initially it was going to be a "Last Supper", but the painting offended the Inquisition and they charged the artist to fix the painting at his own expense.  So he changed the title to reflect a different passage from the Gospels.

Marco Polo's house
Thoughts on Venice: it's a spectacular city in that it's still functioning the way it did when it was founded.  It's on the water, transportation is on the water, and the cuisine reflects that as well.  I had some great seafood in Venice (even if one meal was my mom's, she said I had to try it), but if seafood isn't your favorite, there is still plenty of food to eat.  I tried Gnocchi for the first time our last dinner there and I loved it!  The gondola ride was very fun too, and our gondolier was great!

View from Murano
The city is also sinking.  The sidewalks, especially near the water, have drains where water comes up through during high tide, but then the water recedes at low tide.  Since the city is a hodgepodge of neighborhoods, it isn't easy to navigate, and this was proven when my dad, who can navigate any city, could not navigate Venice.  We almost ended up in the water when he tried to take a short cut.  And the alleyways between the buildings are super narrow.  So narrow that I could not straighten my arms to my full wingspan.  It was very interesting to be in a city who's prime was well before Chris Columbus "discovered" my country.  We stayed there three nights before we took the train to Florence.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Six Years Ago: Milan

The next few posts won't be about running, they'll be about my graduation trip I took with my parents 6 years ago.  We went to Italy and trekked around Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome.  Exactly 6 years ago today we landed in Milan, and rather dashed through the airport and got our luggage because we were booked on a bus tour of the city.  We were a little behind schedule, but the taxi driver, despite some chaotic driving, got us to the hotel in plenty of time to get to the tour office.  We only had one day/night in Milan, and this was absolutely the way to go.  We also got in to see the Last Supper on this tour, but sadly no pictures.  The mural is under strict environmental controls.

My first meal was, sadly, McDonald's.  I have chronic low blood sugar and I needed to eat, FAST, before we got on the bus.  That was the last fast food I had on this trip.  I ended up eating my way through the country and it was glorious!  We toured La Scala, the Galleria, the Duomo (which was under scaffolding), the Last Supper, and the Sforza Castle.  By the end of the tour, it was time for dinner, and then we headed back to the Piazza because the city was getting ready for the Champions League final between Liverpool FC and AC Milan.  I bought a flag which is hanging in my office, but we didn't stay for the game.  We were exhausted from traveling and we all basically passed out once we got back to the hotel.  AC won the CL 2-1, but we didn't hear anything.  I didn't find out the score until we got to Venice the next day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

By Popular Vote

Here's your chance for some input!  I have a 10k in three weeks and it doesn't look like I'll be able to run much.  I did a little bit of running yesterday, mostly walking on the treadmill and my knee did not pass the test.  I knew when I signed up for the 10k that this was a distinct possibility since my ITBS had flared up before I registered, so I am putting ego aside and just looking to go out there and have fun.  I'll be wearing my Minnie Mouse skirt, and I've narrowed it down to two playlists I want to use.  I'm looking for a popular vote for the one that's win.  It's either my '80s playlist or my Patriotic playlist.  What do y'all think?  I know what Sam the Eagle would say.

Source: the Muppets, Jim Henson Productions
"Upon entering the theater, please move as far to the end of the row as possible. Stopping in the middle is distinctly unpatriotic."

Once a playlist has been chosen, I will post the songs.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Random Sunday Musings 5/19

One of my goals this month and to continue this year is to get regular massages as I put my muscles through the ringer with training.  My last massage was 9 years ago, so I sprung for one on Saturday at a local massage clinic.  It was the introductory session so I got a one-hour full body massage, and not surprisingly, she found some issues that need to be worked out.

Muscle tension, trigger points and inflammation.  That sounds about right.  3 years of collegiate lacrosse, 3 seasons of adult co-ed soccer when I moved here, not to mention 3 5k's, 1 10k and 3 half marathons have taken their toll.  She suggested at least a 1.5-hour massage session, and I was already planning to make an appointment for a sports massage for when my 10k is done.  I made the appointment before I left so I can keep up with this goal and be held accountable for it.

Speaking of lacrosse, I spent most of the afternoon watching women's lacrosse games online since ESPN only shows the NCAA final for the women's tournament, and I did watch a D3 game, between Trinity College and SUNY Cortland.  Even though I didn't play my senior year in college, I still absolutely love the game.  Today is the final between Trinity and Salisbury, and I'll be watching that too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It's Me vs. ITBS

I'm going to battle against my ITBS.  I'm determined to win this.  I am quite stubborn, and I will not be sidelined by this.  That being said, strengthening my muscles will obviously take time.  I'm starting now since I have a 10k in 26 days, but I have to be smart about it too because I don't want an additional injury on top of this one.  After that 10k, my next half isn't until January.

For those who suffer ITBS, I feel the pain (literally!)  For those who don't know what it is, y'all are lucky!  This is a good article that summarizes the problem.  The biggest point is to rest, but remember I said I'm stubborn.  That includes being stubborn where injuries are concerned, and I may not listen to my body when I should.

Stretching and icing is a good way to treat it once it appears, but I want to stay ahead of the injury.  One of the causes can be muscle imbalance because when the leg has to adjust, the IT band gets tight.  So what am I doing to try to win the battle?  I'm trying to strengthen everything I can think of.  As a runner, my quads have excellent strength, but I've had issues with my hip flexor (see Eugene since that was a problem area), and my piriformis needs work too (that was a shooting pain from Eugene).  My friend Becky, who's a certified trainer - hi Becky!! - has also told me to strengthen my glutes as well.  I've got my work cut out for me.

Here's a list of exercises I have put together, not to mention I'm using my Denise Austin DVD for the hips routine.  I did hips on Sunday and I combined that with weight machines for my glutes, hamstrings, abductors and adductors.

* Glute bridges
* Fire hydrants
* Clam shell
* Step-ups
* Glute crunches
* Dead lifts
* Squats
* Hip flexor lifts with ankle weights

At the same time, I swear I'm trying to rest.  I haven't run a single mile since Eugene, but I will test that this weekend simply to see what I'll be able to do during the 10k.  I did walk a mile yesterday, so next up is a little bit of running.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Race Pictures

Who here actually likes their race pictures?  I certainly don't.  I haven't done one race in which I couldn't wait to order a picture of me on the course.  I go for either pre-race pictures, post-race pictures where even a sweaty mess looks better than an action shot, or if at Disney, character pictures with my medal.

For some reason, I have this image of being such a smooth runner on the course and I've got Chariots of Fire in my head.  Yeah... it's not even close.  At this point, I most likely won't be looking at the professional pictures anymore.  I have the bibs and the medals, and those mean more to me anyway.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Random Sunday Musings 5/12

Happy Mother's Day, especially to my mom! :)  This is the day where I can start some easy cardio after resting for 2 weeks.  I plan to use the elliptical and lift some weights to start battling this IT band.

Now that I have 3 half marathons under my belt, I find the differences between the big and small races interesting.  I really enjoyed the small field in Eugene because I didn't have to weave my way around runners once we spread out after the start.  It wasn't the most fun I've had, that's reserved for Disney, but it was easy for me to find my pace and keep it.  I don't know how big the field will be for my 10k, but I'm starting to focus on the smaller races when I'm aiming for things to do outside of Disney.  Small races don't necessarily mean lack of organization, and Eugene was very well organized.  It is Tracktown USA after all.

What are your opinion about large vs. small races?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chicken Sausage with Peaches and Green Beans

Now that we're moving into peach season and summer, I thought I'd share this quick recipe I picked up from my mom, who was inspired by a Giada De Laurentiis recipe.  It's a quick prep and just so good.  I get chicken sausage from the grocery store - I find the ones here have apple chunks in the sausage too, yum! - and cook it in the skillet by the package instructions, and when those are cooked through, I remove the sausage and add peach slices in the same skillet until they're tender.  I put the sausage under a tin foil tent to rest and it also keeps them warm.  At the same time that the skillet cooking is going on, I'm also cooking the green beans.  When everything is ready, serve on a plate :-)

I find I can also use thawed peach slices and it works just as well, and two sausage links are enough for me.  I freeze the other two since the packets usually have 4, and save it for the next time I want to make this recipe.  I do add a good piece of bread to this, but that's completely optional.


Just a quick post about the Disneyland Half marathon weekend.  Even though I'm not doing any races there this year, the medals were revealed and I got goosebumps.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Eugene Recovery

There's something great about a hot tub after a race.  I know some people support an ice bath and some support the hot tub.  I support the hot tub.  While I could barely walk around the hotel room, I could move my legs around in the water as my muscles loosened up.  The cramp in my glute was gone but I could still feel the strain in the hip flexor and my knee was still protesting.  But it felt good for my muscles, and after the hot tub, we walked to Denny's to enjoy some ice cream.  Katie got a strawberry milkshake and fries

and I got a brownie sundae.  They were out of vanilla ice cream so I got chocolate.  A chocolate brownie with chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup.  I love chocolate.

A lot of the recovery was just hanging out in the hotel room and napping.  I did keep trying to move my legs so the muscles wouldn't get stiff again, and after some relaxing we headed to dinner across the street at Hop Valley Brewing.  We also ate there the night before the race.  Before the race, I had a cup of their bacon beer cheese soup (so good!) and a Margherita pizzetta.  There was enough pizzetta to take back to the hotel room and store in the fridge for a post-race snack/lunch.  For dinner after the race, I got the cheese soup again and their grilled chicken Caesar salad.

Katie had packed a bottle of red wine to have that night as a celebration thing, and Oregon is certainly known for its red wines.  This bottle was from the TeSóAria Vineyard & Winery and it was their Bull's Blood wine.  It was a very nice red that was full-bodied but it wasn't heavy either.  I liked it a lot, and I know the next time I manage to get to Oregon, I want to explore some of the wineries.  The next morning, before I flew back home, we had pedicures, and I got the Louvre Me, Louvre Me Not OPI color.

And if anybody is a fan of Frontier Airlines, I flew with Hank the bobcat, Colorado the ram, Cloe the fawn and Wally the Wolf.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Random Sunday Musings 5/5

So I've had 7 days to decompress and recover a little bit from Eugene.  I also don't think the race shirt is black.  I was wearing it with black sweats on Thursday and it seemed to be dark green.  What do y'all think?  It looked black until I compared it to my sweats, but I love this shirt.  The color's great, the design's great, the fit is great (sense the pattern?)

The race really was fun, despite my leg.  The whole town seemed to be out supporting the runners, and I think I saw U of Oregon's cheer squad.  Thanks y'all!  I did find the post-race survey and filled it out.  The only complaint I had was I didn't really see that many aid stations.  I saw one at mile 4, then around mile 11-ish.  I'd give this race a 9 out of 10.  I liked the small field, of course finishing on Hayward is just amazing.  The small field definitely made it possible to push for a PR and most of the elements were in my favor too.  Eugene is a qualifier for Boston since both the half and full are USATF certified.


Also, I have been doing some research and asking around about the best way to tackle my ITBS problem.  I've got a good list of exercises to start with, and I'll pick those up after next weekend when my R&R is over.  I went to Luke's Locker too to see if they had any advice, and they took me out of my stability shoes and said I needed a neutral shoe.  I overpronate when I'm standing yet I corrected it when I'm running.  So I'm trying out the GEL Nimbus line instead of the GT 2000s.  If they work, I'll do my 10k in them and then save them for Disney training.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Eugene 2013: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I signed up for Eugene back in November after my best friend from high school, Katie, suggested doing the race.  What sold me is the race finishes on the track at Hayward Field.  The same place where track and field Olympians qualify.  Traveling to Oregon was uneventful.  The day started early but wasn't too hectic.  Saturday was the expo, which was small, but easy to navigate.

I love the fact that the shirt is not white.  Both shirts for Princess and Dallas are white and kind of bland.  I love that this one is black with the green, and of course, it's sponsored by Nike.

The good thing about being in central time is that 4:45am alarm didn't feel too bad.  We ate breakfast in the room, got ready, and got on the hotel shuttle that would take us to a shuttle that would take us to the start line.  I tried to take a couple pictures but it wasn't light enough for the camera to focus.

We got in our corrals, Katie was in D and I was in E, and we waited.  I knew the race was going to have a minute silence for Boston and the national anthem, but the speakers didn't go back to us and I didn't hear either, and after a bit it was obvious the race had started.  Corral D moved up ahead of us, and E was the last to go.  The course is gorgeous.  We went through neighborhoods, the U of O campus, and along the river.  Not to mention, we could not have had better weather.  It was high 40s and overcast at the start and even when the sun came out, it wasn't hot.

Eugene was fun yet painful.  I PR'd by 11 minutes (the good).  However the pain (the bad and the ugly) came from my right leg.  Y'all have read about my IT band issues, and it popped up around mile 5, but it was still manageable.  The problem came between mile 8 and 9 when my hip flexor started to feel strained, and it all unraveled at mile 10 when my calf and glute joined in the party.  By mile 12, I was speed walking because I couldn't run anymore.  By the time I got to Hayward, I was trying so hard to run because it's HAYWARD!  I came in at 2:40:14, and I had been shooting for a 2:45-ish time.  On one hand, I'm so happy with that time, but on the other, I'm so frustrated thinking about what could have been if my leg had held together.  I managed to somewhat run on the track, and that track is nice and cushy.  The cameraman at the finish probably got a picture of me in complete pain.

I forgot about the hands over heart tribute to Boston because I so desperately needed ice.  My knee almost buckled as I limped to the medical tent.  I got the ice and made my way to the finish festival where I got water, chocolate milk and Kruteaze pancakes.  I can't eat a lot after a big race, so I got two and found Katie.  We rested a bit before finding the shuttles, and we grabbed some extra food on our way out.