Saturday, January 30, 2010

14ner, what?

This morning did not start well for me.  I couldn't sleep last night which made me grumpy.  Josh had plans to go skiing so he had to take me to my car that was parked at the mall from when I carpooled to Boulder last night.  I couldn't find my running capri's which made me all flustered. Josh finally remembered that they were in my TNT bag next to my dresser.  I got all my stuff together and headed to pick up my car. When Josh and Ryan dropped me at my car it was frozen.  Josh was nice enough to help me scrap the ice off the windows.

I thought ok, I'm in the car, just get to the run and you'll feel better. Well I go to pull out of the parking lot and my car starts making this horrible screeching sound.  It did this for about the first 5 minutes of my drive and then stopped. Maybe it was just the cold?  Regardless I think I need to take it in.

Anyway, I arrive to the run late, of course.  But luckily Aaron and Amanda was running late, so I just waited for them. I taped up my aching ankle and when they arrived we were off. They were having one of those mornings too.  Luckily it was an absolutely beautiful day outside so that helped my mood improve slightly. 

The first three miles were the hardest, they usually are for me. By mile six I was feeling good and by mile eight even better.  We headed back up to the parking lot where the rest of our team was waiting so that A&A could grab some water before we finished up. 

For the last part of the run, we had our coach Tina join us.  Once we hit 10 miles it was the longest run Aaron had ever done and he was doing so great.  At mile 12 I was still picking up my pace and feeling great when I turned around to head back to the starting point.  At mile 13.1 Amanda had officially done her longest run ever.  I could not believe how great I felt. I could have totally kept going.

Time: 2 hours 20 minutes    Distance: 14.27 miles    Avg. Pace: 9:48 min/mile

I am so proud of Aaron and Amanda. They have done so awesome! I know it was a great feeling for them run 14 miles.  I'm glad I was there to run it with them.  It's so awesome having people to run with.  We're going out for a celebratory dinner tonight when Josh gets home.

I am happy to report, now, 5 hours later, I am pain free.  My muscles are tired but I can bend and jump and walk up and down stairs.  This is actually the first double digit run I've done since getting injured last season without a patella strap or knee braces.  I was definitely nervous about doing it but I knew I had to otherwise I'd always depend on the strap. 

Approaching training differently has really made a difference in how my body is responding.  I am definitely eating better and enough which is key for my recovery. I'm cross-training and really listening to my body.  I stretch at least every 4-5 miles to make sure my knees don't get mad.  I am really looking forward to Canyonlands in March and Nashville in April.

I'd like to thank some people whose donations I received this week because they are awesome and should be recognized:

Jess Cutler-She just finished the Disney 1/2 Marathon and was totally awesome. 
Kath-Donated for a second time this season.  I really appreciate your generousity
Tossie and Marilyn-Supported me last season and again this season.
Anderson's-Lifelong family friends of the Van Kirk's.  So sweet and generous.
Aunt Jean-I haven't seen Aunt Jean in several years now, but she's been so generous by supporting me and the cause.
Kim Greenlee-My former coworker and friend.  She's the closet person to Super Woman I know.

Thank you so much!  We're getting there!  Thanks to their donations, I have $190 to match in donations.  I know you want me to match more than that.  Make a donation, any size this week. Please!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who Wants Bologna?

No not the meat, but the city.  It is where the meat was invented though.  Delta Airlines was kind enough to cancel our original flight home so we had an extra day to kill before we headed to Venice. We checked out the trains and decided, hey why not check out Bologna, the books said we'd have great food so we were for it. 

We walked for like 15 minutes with our backpacks on through the crowded shopping area when we spotted a hotel.  We were so sick of carrying our huge bags we decided their single room would work for us.  After all the twin bed was a bit wider than usual.  Are you having a flashback to college? Yeah we did too.

See it doesn't look so bad does it?  (It really was bigger than it seemed.)

We really had no idea what the sites to see in the city were. So I made a quick list from our Lonely Planet book and with help from the concierge we were on our way.

Here are a few of the highlights (no I don't remember any of the names and am entirely too lazy to look them up.)

Josh thought it was hilarious that the women in the fountain had water shooting out of their nipples. 

Walking around really made us hungry which meant one thing...gelato.  Our book said that there was a gelateria that won an international award for its delicious cold treat so of course, that was the only place to go.  It seemed like we walked forever and I thought about turning around, but right then we stumbled across it.
You're drooling aren't you? It's ok to admit it.  Just make sure you don't get it on your keyboard.  We don't want a short circuit.

At this point I was tired. We headed to the hotel for a quick nap and then off to dinner.  We really picked a good hotel, because the oldest, so Lonely Planet said, restaurant in Bologna was just around the corner-Trattoria de la Rosso.

I'm sure you're sick of hearing about the great food, but this was seriously the best lasagna I've ever had.  It was really nothing like the American Italian kind. It was so delicious.
I was so sad when it was gone.  But not to worry, I had some delicious tortellini with bolognese sauce. Also mouthwatering and nothing like it's American counterpart.  We really needed to work off some of the food, so of course we went for a beer and then for a stroll around.

As you will see, the Italians have a big problem with leaning towers.

I'm glad we stopped in Bologna. It was a pretty cool city, but I was ready to head to the sinking city of Venice. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cinque Terre

After being in two bustling cities and lots of New Years drinks, we were ready for the beautiful coast.  I first learned about Cinque Terre when Liz suggested it as a honeymoon destination. Of course back then tickets were over $2000 just to fly to Italy, so we knew it just wasn't in the cards for us.  As we were planning our trip this time we knew it was a place not to be missed. In fact it was the place that Josh wanted to go the most.

Grumpy Josh was gone once he saw the beautiful blue ocean water out the train window.  We booked a room in Vernazza, the 4th of the five towns.  I think I just have to let the pictures descibe the town.

Heading to our room (136 steps).

The walk was worth it for our view.  This is probably the cleanest air I will ever breathe. 

Quick rest and we were off hiking. 

Breathtaking isn't it?

All of this travel and hiking made us hungry.  Our hotel was run by the owner of a local restaurant so we decided to just head down there for dinner. 

I'm so glad we did, we had the best pesto ever! I kid you not, it was so good that I mmmmmmmmmmm'd with every bite.  I'm not sure if it was the fresh trophie pasta or the freshly made pesto, but the combination was killer!

The ocean was angry that day and decided to come flood the town a bit.  The locals were just sitting outside drinking and shooting the breeze as the water crept up to their doorways.

The next morning we awoke to an absolutely beautiful day!  In the morning we hiked up to the top of one of the surrounding mountains (not Colorado style mountains more like hills). 

We stopped for lunch and Josh found out that the sign in the restaurant about the toilet being a hole in the ground wasn't a joke.  Now tell me, how is a woman supposed to use that?  Eek.  I avoided public restrooms our entire trip.

After lunch we took the train to Riomaggiore, the first of the five towns.  From there we strolled along Lovers Lane to get to the other towns.

I'm amazed that anyone settled here.  I mean who thought that the side of cliffs looked like a good place to settle and farm?  Crazies I tell you.  That or they are smarter than the rest of us.  It seems such a relaxing lifestyle.

Our last night we headed to one of the only other open restaurants in town.  Our table was right by the side of the cliff where they attached the building. There was even a tiny stream of water running down it. 

Josh got a local dish of sardines.  When in Rome...or Cinque Terre, right?

The sun set on our trip to the coast.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bad Runs

Bad runs happen to the best of us.  By the best of us I mean even elite runners have them. Of course their bad runs are the runs of my dreams.  Yes, I have actually started dreaming about running.

Last night I had a bad run.  Now normally a 40 minute run is a breeze, even a 40 minutes tempo run.  I knew when I headed to the gym with Josh that my run might just not happen. I thought about just cross-training and moving my run to today, but once I put on my shoes I figured, I should just do it.  Ugh.

Ten minute warm up at 9:54 min/milie pace was no problem.  When I bumped it up to the 9:13 min/mile pace for the next ten minutes that's when it started to hurt.  I wasn't in pain, but I was so hot you could have fried an egg on my body.  So I hit the 20 minute mark and had to stop.  I hit pause, slammed some water and squirted it all over my body. It literally bubbled.  Me being stubborn I was determined to do all 40 minutes. 

So I started again.  This time I hit my 9:13 min/mile pace. Held it for a few minutes, bumped it up to an 8:40 min/mile pace for two minutes. Went back down and then up a few minutes later, this time for just a minute.  Finished my second 10 minute interval at the faster pace.  I was so excited to turn the treadmill back down to 6.0 for my cool down I cannot even tell you.  Since I was already boiling I had to stop again when I had only five minutes left.  I seriously felt like I was going to pass out. I could feel my heart beating throughout my entire body.  I had to talk myself into running the last 5 minutes.  I finished finally!

Time: 40 minutes (plus about 1.5 minutes of soaking myself in water)   Distance: 4.2 miles   Avg. Pace: 9:31 min/mile or really 10 min/mile with stops

I hate running when I'm hot. I get hot when it's 20 outside.  I hope it's unseasonably cold in Nashville in April.  If only the gym would turn down the heat.  70 degrees is way too hot for a gym.  Are you listening Fitness 19?  Write that down.

P.S. Totally slacking on the rest of the Italy updates. I'll get on that.  Promise.

P.P.S. Don't forget to donate this week. I'm matching all donations up to $400!  If you all contribute a total of $400, with my match we're 50% of the way to my goal of raising $5000!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Doing Something We Can Control

Yesterday I was not really looking forward to my run. It was a taper week for me so I only needed to run 9 miles but I just was not feeling motivated.  But when I got to the trail, everyone was in high spirits which instantly put a smile on my face.  Before we start running each week we always have what we call a mission moment. Usually we read a story about a patient or survivor that was sent to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society office, but ocassionally someone is brave enough to share a very personal story.  This weekend Amanda, who is just the sweetest, cutest thing ever, opened up to the group.  Now for privacy reasons I'm not going to give any details, but she really made us all choke up.  She told us about her brother who is struggling with illness.  An illness that has struck my own family.  I can't imagine how difficult it was for her to share with the group, but one thing she said really stuck with me.

Amanda said that none of us can control getting sick, who gets cancer, who dies from cancer or any other horrible disease, but we can control what we do to try to make sure that no more families lose a loved one.  No one else loses their best friend, brother, sister, mom, dad or grandparents. 

I haven't been able to get her words out of my head.  Everyone who is doing Team in Training is doing the only thing they can to control cancer.  Each of us is dedicating our time and bodies to raise money to help find a cure.  We could just sit around and wait for someone else to help fund patient programs or research, but instead we are out there, early on Saturday mornings, in the snow, ice, wind and cold for LLS.  We are doing what we can to change the world we live in, where cancer many times is a death sentence. 

We may not be able to control anything else, but we can control this.  Please help myself and my team help others by making a donation.  Any and every donation helps!  For the next week or maybe two, I will match every single donation to my efforts for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society up to $400.  So make your donation really count!

P.S. Aaron and Amanda still have $6000 to raise in order to be able to do the Nashville Country Music if you want to donate to them too click here to visit their site.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

So there is this town, between Florence and Cinque Terre called Pisa. You may have heard of it.  It's known for it's Leaning Tower.  Pisa was never really on our priority list of places to see in Italy, but we figured since we  had to change trains there we may as well cruise on over to the tower.

After changing out tickets to the later train (that's a story in itself), we had about 45 minutes to get to the tower and back in order to make the train.  Now most travel books say it is about a half hour walk both ways.  We're pretty fast walkers so we thought we'd be just fine...

Anyway, we speed walked/ran to the tower. Once we got to the tower it was all business.  Obligatory holding the tower up and pushing it down pictures.

Yep, still leaning.  Not as much as it used to I've heard though because they've done something about the shifting soils.  We basically ran back to the train station...we missed our train by 1 minute.  Just 60 seconds and we would have been on our way to Cinque Terre.

Nope, it was train station pizza (yuck!) and another hour to wait until the next train.  As you can tell Josh was not very happy.  Pisa was nice enough, but I would not recommend more than an afternoon trip there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Florence-The City of Museums and Shopping

We took the train to Florence. I have to say that the Europeans have public transportation down! I wish that we had such an easy system here. Anyway, I was very happy when we arrive at our bed and breakfast, Il Salotto de Firenze. Not only was it beautiful but the location couldn't be beat. We were right on Via Roma above Gucci and literally around the corner from the Duomo and about two blocks from the Uffizi. Nice room isn't? Probably the only time we'll have the room that was recommend in the travel books.

Since we didn't have to be anywhere we just strolled around for a bit to get the lay of the land. We hit the Duomo first. We immediately got in line to climb to the top of the dome. Climb we did, 467 very narrow steps. It wasn't quite as bad as some of the steps to the top of St. Peter's but when we got to the top it felt a lot less secure. I wish it had been a little less foggy so that we could have gotten better pictures. After we climb back down, we checked out the impressive inside of the basilica. That evening we went to a restaurant recommended by the owner of our B&B. Trattoria Marione.

As you may be able to tell we were stuffed in like sardines but it was one of the best meals we had our entire trip. We shared a bottle of wine, spaghetti and roast beef. As you can tell we really enjoyed it. Tiramisu and gelato later we called it a night.

Day Two started early! After delicious Nutella on brochette and a cafe, we headed to the Uffizi. We got to see a little bit of everything. From Michelangelo to Botticelli. It was kind of unreal to see all of these painting that you've seen reproduced all over the world. We spent about 4.5 hours walking through and admiring the paintings and sculptures. Those Medici's were very smart to start collecting the fantastic artwork. Later that afternoon we headed out for our first run of the trip. Of course it was gorgeous so we had to repeat it the next day so that I could take pictures.

Day Three-Ringing in the New Year right! Another early museum appointment. This time it was at the Academia. We spent the morning checking out David up close and personal. Did you know back in ancient times it was thought of as crass to have the penis be proportional to the size of the statue? Who would have thunk it. Explains a lot really. We didn't spend nearly as much time at this museum. Honestly we were getting kind of tired of looking religious paintings.

It was time to run again so that I could get awesome pictures this time. Uphill all the way. We ran from the Duomo across the Ponte Vecchio up the Michelangelo’s Gardens. Ha stairs...bow before us. Just look at our view.

We ran back down the hill, straight to our room to look up a gelateria. Then we literally ran right out the door and to the best gelato I've ever had. Vivoli aka heaven. Not kidding, it took all of the self control in my body not to get a second serving. Especially after Josh took the last of my vanilla. We almost had to get into a fight about it, that's how good it was.

We had a 3:30pm reservation at a little tiny family owned restaurant, Coquinarius for our New Year's Eve dunch (as Ted would say) so we had to head back to get ready. This was another awesome recommendation we got from the hotel. We found out that most restaurants closed after lunch on NYE because Italians generally spend it with their families at home. We lucked out once again. The food was amazing.

We had the evening all planned out. We went back to our room, changed and took a walk around to work off some of the deliciousness we had just eaten. By 8 pm we were ready to have a snack and break into our wine. Bottle of wine down we headed to the main square for the concert.

By this time it was pouring rain and our umbrella had sprung a leak. Did we care? Absolutely not. We were wet and muddy but having such a great time. We had no idea what they were signing about but loved every sloppy second of it. When the clock stuck 0:00 the fireworks began. It was such a great way to ring in 2010. The start of another great year! Once the festivities were over we headed home to people watch from our balcony. There were definitely some characters, including this guy who was throwing firebombs.

The next morning we totally overslept and had to hurry off to the train station. Not to worry, we had time to eat some Nutella before we left. I know you were worried. The adventure continues...