Friday, October 31, 2008

800metres catches me unawares!

Last night I decided to arrive at track in time for a gentle warm up with Ewen and to run the 3000m. I arrived at the stands at 6.58pm and was greeted with, "what age group are you?" I told the ladies my age sadly and was surprised at the excited response. 'Yes, a W55 woman - we can form a relay team for the 800m' - oh dear me. They really wanted to run and there was no-one else to help them out, what could I do? Thus it was that I ended up running 3rd spot in the 4 x 800m relay in the W55 age group not knowing that they had set their sights on a record! Oh dear again, having never run a track relay in my life, let alone an 800m I had no idea what was in store. When I took the baton I ran my best but it was hard, I had not warmed up of course having been taken by surprise and the result was that we missed out on the record by 30secs probably my 30secs. However, my team was encouraging and lovely - just happy to have had the opportunity to run and I was not made to feel bad at all, in fact they asked me to join them again which is pretty amazing!! By the time I had returned to the stands I had started coughing and coughing and coughing. I am told that this is a very common occurrence with 800m sprints - in fact there was a lot of coughing coming from my end of the stands. It felt like a dead insect was stuck in my throat and tears were pouring down my face. I just could not stop coughing.
However, 20mins later I was back on the track running in the 3000m as was the original intention. I found it hard and hot and my time was probably a PW (16:05 - average pace 5:20)but hey, hopefully it's all up from here! Look out track, I'll be back!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Synchronised Swans

I had RPM and abs this morning before work and after work a run with Ewen to Molonglo River where we ran under the bridge on the new track for a little way. It looks promising for a longer run when we up our distances in the future as from that spot it's marked as 3km to the airport - worth investigating.
On our return we were entranced by the sight of black swans and signets on the lake, in particular by the sight of two black swans swimming in perfect synchronisation. Perhaps we should have Olympics for swans. They were amazing. We also ran past our bunny friends who have all grown up from the babies of last year. However, bunnies being bunnies, there were defnitely a few little ones out there as well.
We still had a few problems with the head wind - it's definitely hayfever weather with lots of white pollen floating about in the air. We did manage to run faster than last week though as the wind was not nearly as strong and although it was cool during the day the sun had come out by the time we ran and it was actually quite hot. We stopped on the way to talk to Roger who was cycling home in the opposite direction.
Total distance: 14.3km
Time taken: 1:28:53
Average pace per km: 6:13
Calories burned: 850

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bad Hair Day!

Last Wednesday (22 October) Ewen and I battled the elements to run from my office to the Lake and past Molonglo Reach and back. The headwind was in full force and required hat holding – forget the hair! It was indeed a powerful force but on the way out we felt reassured by the fact that on the return the wind would be behind us! Ha, ha, no such luck – we turned, so did the wind and all the way back we were fighting the wind again – not fair! I think Ewen jinxed us with his blog comment! We did however run 14km before I rushed home to prepare for a dinner date.
Total distance: 14km
Time taken: 1:30:52
Average pace per km: 6:27

I returned to the gym last Tuesday and have attended an upper body strength session and three RPM classes since then. Sunday was the Masters’ Handicap Run at O’Connor Ridge. Going out the night before for a farewell party was probably a mistake, at least the wine and food consumed was a mistake! I really struggled on the hills (lots of them). I could make several excuses – consuming too much Italian food, carrying extra weight (as a result of this), too many celebrations, a late night, lack of sleep. I could keep making excuses but the real reason is lack of training – let’s face it! I have some serious work to do!!
Total distance: 8km
Time taken: 52:52
Handicap: 22
Place: 82 (out of 100 finishers)

Monday – speedygeoff’s training at Parliament House
This is my first full week of gym (RPM classes, abs class and weights) and my legs felt like lead as I ran the warm-up loop of PH. The main session involved:

10 x 410m undulating loops from the rose gardens up the steps to the road including a 200m sprint on the flat sandy surface beside the road before jogging round the bends through the shady trees and back to the start in 30minutes. It was hard work but after about the 4th loop I felt much better and really pushed for the second half of the session. It felt good – I actually enjoyed it – woo hoo. I will improve!

Total distance: 8.5km

Today I went to the gym to work on my upper body strength session and abs. This is my last Tuesday without afternoon running. Next week will be the start of more serious training – the only possible way to improve. Perhaps soon I will return to swimming – perhaps - I know it’s good for me!

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's a Start!

Yay, I returned to speedygeese training at Parliament House tonight. It was so good to be back. I was quite worried about going as I thought I would struggle heaps, but Caroline and Ewen ran with me and we chatted and it was great to catch up. We ran a warm-up loop of PH and then the main set was 6 x 360m fast/340m slow up the grassy bank and round the undulating tracks. At least that's what it was in theory but our pace was definitely not fast, it was talking pace and the three of us always came in last and the whistle blew just after we arrived for the next run. The total distance I recorded was 8km - slow, yes but I feel so much better for having run. I can only improve from here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The spirit is willing but the body is weak - misquote!

This morning I ran 8km slowly, very slowly but at least I ran. I want so much to run at a normal pace but I guess I just have to work up to it again. Tomorrow training at PH will be interesting, it could be just a slow jog for me. Everybody is achieving such fantastic results in events lately and I am struggling just to run. Later this morning Rach and I met PRB at Telopea Park to advertise ACT Masters Athletics at the Parks Day - stunning weather out there.
I have started downloading Italian photos onto a new blog but it will take some time as it's a slow process, like my running!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Back to Reality!

I am finally feeling human again after suffering from intense jet lag feeling wide awake every night and tired every day! Today Mr B has returned safely after spending this week in the UK with relatives. We have caught up with the family and now life will return to normal, at least for a month before we fly off to NZ for 9 days for more celebrations and to catch up with heaps of friends and relatives.

On Saturday (11 Oct) Mr B drove Mandy and I safely to Siena where we caught a bus for a winding, interesting, hilly and bumpy ride to Chiusi to catch the train to Rome. Alighting the train at Siena was interesting with all our very heavy luggage in tow. To start with we had to pull the bags up several flights of steps just to reach the correct platform – no escalators of course! It was a slow difficult process and pulling the bags on to the train was yet another hurdle to overcome. We caught a cab from the station to our hotel which was also interesting as when we reached the number on the street it looked just like a huge door and not a bit like a hotel. Just as we were contemplating how we were going to get inside an American couple emerged, held the door for us and left us with the comment “you won’t like the steps!” Ah me, this is Italy – always steps. And so we clambered up several more flights of steps with our bags very, very slowly, to find at the top of the stairs a rackety old lift, the size of a small cupboard, to take us the rest of the way. When the lift stopped we stepped out into a cute little hotel – really delightful – all blue, white and pretty with a little lounge room and dining area by reception looking out onto the back streets of Rome through high windows. The receptionist helped us with our bags to our room – that part was easy, no steps! It was a tiny little double room with a cute little bathroom and bed – very small but perfect for just one night in Rome. It was unfortunate that without time or transport we were unable to visit the Black Knight in Civitivechia as that is an hour’s drive from Rome. We did throw coins in the Trevi Fountain though so we will return!

After freshening up mother and daughter hit the sights of Rome. We walked for some time to find a spot for lunch and coffee then we decided to try the train lines and re-visit some of the tourist spots. We managed the underground surprisingly well and visited the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the Circus Maximus (where we ran last year). There we were caught at the finish of a political protest. There were crowds and crowds of people dressed in red carrying red flags and representing the Communist Party of Italy. They were shouting and chanting and cheering. It was quite exciting until we tried to catch a train. I can’t believe how many people would squeeze on to trains in Rome. It is indeed an experience in itself. They are packed like sardines, nobody can move and still more people push themselves aboard. No way would that happen in Aussie. We just couldn’t squeeze ourselves in to that extent. Every train was the same and crowds of people were still pouring onto the platform as each train left. We wore our bags on our fronts and held each others hands just to enable us to keep together.

While the sun was still shining we decided to find a spot to enjoy a glass of wine in the sun. It was fun people watching and then we walked on to find somewhere for a meal and another glass of wine. The advantage of having a young beautiful daughter is that Italian men give her lots of attention and service is very prompt. We certainly experienced it that evening in Rome. We enjoyed a lovely meal, great wine, two amazing cocktails and excellent service from a very attentive waiter. It was a great night and lots of fun!

All good things must come to an end and thus it was that next morning, Sunday, after a relaxing breakfast we caught a cab to the airport and flew the long, long flight home with a two hour stop-over at Hong Kong airport on the way. Fortunately there were no hassles with our bags which were a few kilos overweight nor with our hand luggage which was opened and searched at HK airport. I watched several movies during the 24 hour flight but I did not sleep one wink! We were met in Sydney by a friend who drove us back to Canberra to arrive in the early hours of Tuesday morning absolutely exhausted.

On Thursday I attempted a run but lasted only 5km before having to return home utterly defeated. Yesterday I returned to work to plough through several hundred emails. Life is slowly returning to normal and another exciting adventure has ended. Photos will be posted soon!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Our time is running out!

This will be my last opportunity to blog from Italy so I will grab the moment. As seems to be the way today, being our last day in Chianti, has been superb - hot and sunny, just gorgeous. First thing this morning Dave went for a 36km bike ride, Mandy went for a 6km walk and I went for a 10km run, discovering some lovely little country detours and I didn't even become lost - woo hoo! It was quite magical. I must admit I did a quick detour when I spotted a dog on one of the farm roads - no, we won't risk that one after last year's little episode!
Back to Wed after lunch when we went for a lovely drive exploring some of the Chianti towns. Lecchi and Gaioli were both closed. Some towns are closed on Wednesdays which may have explained it. Instead we drove on to Castellina and walked through the township remembering how pretty it was from last year's trip. It is the most medieval of the Chianti towns and we walked through a tunnel-like road with little windows overlooking the countryside. This was a soldiers' walk when it was Florence's last outpost before Siena.
In the evening we returned to Radda where we found a delightful little tucked-away restaurant. The service was slow but the ambience was lovely and the food and wine delicious.

Thursday 9 October
In the morning we drove to Siena to organise tickets to Chiusi then Rome for Mandy and me on Saturday morning and we drove on to some factory outlets for a browse and to enjoy hot chocolate from the Lindt chocolate outlet and a light lunch before returning to Siena for an explore. We sat in the sunshine in the Piazza del Campo enjoying campari and soda and loving the fact that the sun was actually warm. We roamed the lovely little alleys and streets and had a great day before returning to Radda for a giant (and I mean GIANT) pizza between the three of us at a local pizza restaurant with local wine and some locals generally chatting away to us with little bits of English and our little bit of Italian - great fun.
And so back to today, Friday, we have finally booked our hotel on the internet after some difficulty. Now we will have a last glass of local wine in the sunshine and enjoy our passeggiata before the horrendous task of packing our bags commences - oh dear!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

La Vita e Bella!

Apologies for such a long delay between posts. I am now writing on a very dodgy computer which may log me out any minute but at least I have an opportunity to blog at last. We are now in Radda in Chianti and I have been breathing fresh beautiful country air. Rimini was great fun and the opening ceremony on Friday 26 Sept fantastic. All the represented countries marched behind their relevant flags and appropriate music played. For Aussie we heard "I come from a land down under" ! When the kiwis marched they stopped, turned to face the South Africans and performed a Maori haka - it was so cool. That evening Mr B, Caroline, Mark, Connie and Peter (another Aussi ex-kiwi couple) had dinner in an English pub - great fun.

Sat 27 September
Today was the women's duathlon race and after watching the elites race early in the day we cheered on the women, especially Caroline and Connie, in the afternoon. Later our daughter arrived with her friends. It was lots of fun and Caroline did so well, winning a bronze medal in her age group - woo hoo! That evening we found a great fish restaurant which also served pasta and gently celebrated Caroline's great result.

Today the men over 50 (about 250 competitors) raced at 7.45am which meant an early brekkie at 6am - phew! It was a bleak day weather-wise and Mr B had to run the entire first leg 10km run in pouring rain. However by the start of the 40km cycle the rain had cleared and the sun eventually appeared. It was such an exciting day and Mr B managed a PB so was pretty happy. We cheered on Lachie and Rad from Canberra and felt quite emotional as Rad finished to loud loud cheers from everyone as he had to run through the next age group of competitors who had started and were also encouraging him on. That evening we all enjoyed the after party celebrations at the Convention Centre where Caroline was presented with her bronze medal and we had a lovely evening with everyone together.
Milan Monday 29 Sept to Thursday 2 October
And so we left Rimini bidding our friends farewell as we went our various ways. The sun was now out in full and we enjoyed a sunny day and pleasant lunch before heading off to Milan. Our hotel in Milan was set on a busy main shopping street surrounded by shops. It was very hot inside and the street noises were loud although we were two levels up. The mosquitos loved me and sleeping was difficult but it was an exciting place to be. On our first day Mandy and I explored the shops (of course) but although Mandy's shopping was very successful I was overwhelmed and just browsed in awe! Mr B drove a long drive to the ferrari museum but it was closed for refurbishment until next year - grrr!
Tuesday evening we went to the Coldplay concert. It was really awesome. No words could possibly describe it - the atmosphere, the enormous crowds and the fact that the Italians knew all the words of every song in English! What a night, what an experience!
Wed we bought an all-day tram and train ticket and explored the main part of the city. The shops were mind boggling and mainly very expensive. We walked through an Emporium of exclusive shops such as Gucci, Armani etc and visited the Duomo where the frescoes were out of this world - tall spires outside, quite stunning. We enjoyed aperitifs at one cafe and yummy pizza that evening followed by the best tiramisu I've ever tasted and superb wine.
Thursday (our last full day in Milan) we explored again using another all-day ticket - the best way to travel and see heaps. I found Milan to be a concrete jungle full of amazing designer shops but all far too overwhelming for me. Mandy, on the other hand, revelled in the shopping. However, we all found it to be crowded and a bit polluted and longed for open spaces again. On our last evening Mr B took us out for a big surprise. First we walked to the Diana Majestic Bar at the Sheraton Hotel where we enjoyed amazing aperitifs which included a fabulous spread of up-market nibbles, salads etc. Next we went by taxi to the theatre to see Bryan Adams perform. He was just amazing and it was a wonderful night. We drank champagne while waiting to enter the theatre and it was a completely awesome experience. Again the Italians sang loudly in English to all the songs and were a great audience knowing all the words by heart.
Friday 3 October
'For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo!'
Today as we we drove away from Milan the sun came out and with no real idea of where to stay tonight we decided, on impulse, to head for Verona and try to stay there. We managed to find a hotel about 9km from the city and it was lovely. Verona is a beautiful place and I would love to return there to explore it further one day. It's a very romantic city and we visited the house of Juliet out of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Certainly the Capulets lived there and it was easy to believe that Juliet truly lived there and the story was true. We explored the house and stood on the balcony where Juliet had called to Romeo. It was sooooo romantic and beautiful. We then walked a while to visit her mythical tomb - all so real and eerie. It was a beautiful city and I'm so glad we decided to stop there for a short time.
Saturday 4 October
As we drove away from Verona towards Chianti we glimpsed the stunning snowcapped Dolamites in the distance. Gradually the countryside changed showing us lots of vineyards and green fields. We drove first to Florence where Mandy met up with her friend from the UK and spent the day there with her before they both came back for the weekend. We left the girls there to explore and drove on to Radda in Chianti along lots of long, windy, hilly roads typical of Italian countryside. Our farmouse is called Santorello and is set on a hill with magnificent country views. It has two levels with a dining-lounge area, two bedrooms and bathroom on the lower level and bathroom, laundry, bedroom, kitchen, lounge-dining area on the upper level. Opposite in the distance on a high hill we can see a fairytale castle which is actually a winery and restaurant. The setting is just awesome. We booked a spot for the following evening there. Later we collected the girls from Florence and enjoyed a good meal in a popular restaurant where the CJs had a meal with us last year. Later we drove the long windy road back to Radda where we slept like logs.
Sunday 5 October
This morning Mr B and I went for our first run in over a week. It was wonderful running across the valley, past the winery and round some of the winding road. It was short but gee it felt good to finally run in the beautiful country air. Today we explored Radda and then drove on to San Gimignano for another trip down memory lane - for lunch and a gelato of course! In the evening we enjoyed a superb meal at our fairytale restaurant on the hill which definitely lived up to our expectations - great wine, fantastic service!
Monday 6 October
This morning, to please the girls, we drove them to fancy brand-name factory outlets on the way to Florence. It was a bit of a detour as we became lost but eventually we continued on to Florence where the girls were meeting some travelling friends from Canberra and Mandy's friends from Perugia drove through for a reunion too. Mandy decided to stay the night there to celebrate her friend's engagement and to return by train to us next day so Mr B and I explored separately. We browsed round the markets and enjoyed another great meal in a welcoming restaurant and walked and walked to find the good gelati place which we discovered last year before returning to Radda to sleep, perchance to dream!
Tuesday 7 October
This was going to be a quiet relaxing catch-up day but it didn't quite turn out that way. After catching up with washing etc we had a call from Mandy to ask us to meet her train in Montevarchi so off we went in that direction stopping on the way at Vertine - a delightful little village consisting of one church, one restaurant and lots of gorgeous houses. We saw two cats but every door was closed and the only person we saw was a man tending his veges. It was only 11.30am so was quite bizarre. We next stopped at Giaole which deserves a longer visit as it looks quite enticing. Just before reaching Montevarchi we received another text message to say Mandy's train doors didn't open at her stop and she was still on the train! We decided the next stop would be Arezzo so we drove another very windy 25km to meet her there. Fortunately the doors opened and she was waiting there for us looking relieved! We decided to spend some time in Arezzo where the shops were closed for siesta but the bars and cafes were open for us to enjoy a delicious prostini before viewing a relatively small church as the duomo was closed. It still had fantastic frescoes. Arezzo is the setting for many of the scenes in "Life is Beautiful" (La Vita e Bella) - an Oscar winning movie which I loved.
That evening we lit the fire in the house and drank San Gimignano wine while enjoying an Italian meal which Mandy and I prepared, finishing with local chocolate and Baileys. I am turning into a well-rounded Italian mama with all this Italian food and great coffee. The cappuccinos are lovely although I notice it is difficult to find a hot coffee. The best cappuccino we have had was at the Gucci cafe in Milan. At $10 a pop it would need to be!!
Wednesday 8 October - Today!!
Yay - this morning I went for a 7km run to Vertine and back including a few little farm roads on the way back. It was definitely undulating, reminiscent of some of our runs last year. It was also very slow but I loved every minute of it. The views were awesome and the air was fresh and clean. Mr B went for a 20km cycle to Giaole and back and Mandy went for a 4km walk towards Radda so we all felt much better after some exercise all in different directions!
Later we drove to Radda township (about 4km from our country house up and down hills) where I am right now and explored it some more. There's heaps of cute little nooks and crannies and hidden delights here. I love it. The sun is out and life is beautiful!!