Final Five

Well, I’m officially trained and tapered. Last night I took a fantastic five-mile run, and if the first 5 miles of the marathon feel that easy, I’ll be 1/5 of the way there without any pain! It was fun to take my last training run, though by no means my last run, in Florence, along the Arno with all the lights glittering up and down the river. It’s really weird that it gets dark at 5pm, but I like it for running. It’s cool out, and I’ve always run stronger in the dark. Not sure why that is.

On the way home, I stopped at the ATM and then at the supermarket for some supplies for the trip, and if anyone had wanted to mug me, that would have been a great opportunity, because not only was I carrying a lot of cash, I was carrying peanut butter! In Europe, that stuff is a precious commodity.

Also, I got an email from Runner’s World today, encouraging us to “Recover with Oatmeal and Coffee!” Well, I would love nothing more, RW, but oatmeal is nowhere to be found on this continent. I love the combination of oatmeal and coffee. Sometimes I even put coffee in my oatmeal (cook 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats in 3/4 cup vanilla almond milk. stir in 1 tbsp instant espresso powder, 2 tsp-ish cinnamon agave nectar, 1 tsp cinnamon) and every time I see these scrumptious looking pictures of oatmeal (especially with protein powder and pumpkin) on fitness blogs, a little part of me dies. So, RW, why don’t you send me emails that say “Recover with Pasta. Every. Single. Day.” because that would be more realistic right now.

Ok. Done ranting.

Anyway, I wanted to share some pictures I took on my last run, because I think they sum up my past couple months pretty well.

I’ll be writing from Athens as soon as I can get on the internet, but if for some reason I can’t and there’s radio silence for a few days, I probably haven’t been blown up in a riot, I’m probably just having a great time away from the modern luxury of free WiFi. But all the same. I’ll try to check in.

Until then, thank you, thank you, thank you again for all the comments, emails, Facebook messages, postcards, and words of encouragement. I’ve gotten all of the above, and they mean the world to me.

Bye for now, Florence,

Jane

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Overwhelmed

The good kind, don’t worry!!

So many words of kindness and encouragement have been flowing in over the past week or so, and especially the past few days, and though I will be getting back to each of you individually (with an email and then a HUG next time I see you, and maybe some cookies), I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who’s been along for this whole adventure with its ups and downs, or looked at my blog even once, or told me the simplest “good luck” in passing at school; I love you all so much.

All of your words make me feel like this inside:

…If a picture of Parisian macarons accurately expresses an emotion… I’m pretty sure it does. :)

And if you’re wondering, yes, I ate those all in one sitting for lunch one day. Because they were TOO GOOD to stop after one. Or two. Or five.

Some of you have moved me to tears the way you’ve gone out of your way to let me know you’re cheering for me.

Seriously, I’m just overflowing with thankfulness and love. Since I’m skipping Thanksgiving this year in Italy, I’ll celebrate this Sunday while I’m running by thinking of all of you. It will make the hours fly by and keep my legs moving.

I love you all like crazy and am so, so blessed to have friends and family like you in my life.

You’re the best,

Jane

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Pep Talks

26.2 miles is a long distance. It’s exactly 6.2 miles longer than I have ever run, and a 6 mile run is pretty darn long to begin with. So, to avoid completely losing my mind in nerves, this is what I’ve been telling myself:

  • This is just a beautiful four-and-a-half-hour jog through Greece. I should stop at all the water stations and stop to take pictures, too. (I’ll be keeping my camera in the convenient pocket of my running tights the whole time, I decided.)
  • Smile at the cheering spectators– they’re cheering for me!
  • Ignore my adrenaline at the start and take it slow– conserve energy.
  • I don’t have a time goal, I’m doing this for fun, and to get a feel for the marathon distance. If I like it, I’ll make it a habit. If a few days afterwards, when I can walk again, I’m still down on the full marathon, I’ll go back to halves for a while.
  • Look into the crowd for clever signs, and photograph them. Then translate them into Italian to hold at the Firenze Marathon, coming up in just a few weeks! (I’m signed up to volunteer at it.)
  • Take advantage of the expo– talk to the Runner’s World people, admire the Garmins, try some free samples, get new shoes, and maybe some gear.
  • Take my vitamins.
  • Drink lots (and lots) of water.
  • Keep a sense of humor. I’m sure there will be mishaps, and parts of the race will feel uncomfortable. I’ll remember that it’s all about the experience, and that discomfort isn’t a bad thing, just a different kind of experience.

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18 Weeks Later

For some reason, tonight I find myself practically at the end of many months of marathon training, before my 21st birthday has even hit, and I’m living in Florence, to boot. This is surprising to me because I’ve always been the sort of take-a-jog-along-the-trails or around-the-park kind of girl. 60 minutes tops. Long enough to clear my head, short enough to have a life. Then last spring, I hesitantly signed up for a half-marathon because two of my best friends were doing it, and I fell in love with the 7-10 mile distance, and felt incredibly proud after my first 13.1. I was inching my way up, and finding it a lot easier than I thought it would be. So when Olivia and I joked about running the Athens Marathon while we were abroad, my mind got really stuck on that idea. I got determined. It became a real goal: I got funding, I talked to professors, I blocked out that weekend on my calendar, and eventually, I printed out a training plan (which I must have looked at a hundred times this summer, in agony, imagining the 18- and 20-mile runs) and registered for the race.

Now, it’s a bizarre feeling– I have all those runs behind me, and I’ve actually grown to enjoy them. I finished my first 18-miler still in Omaha and limped up the hill toward my house in tears, not because the run had been awful– it was actually perhaps the best one of the whole experience– but because I was leaving the country the next day and wished I could have spent that last perfect fall afternoon sitting on the back porch with my parents and a glass of iced tea. But I ran as prescribed, and it was fun the next day to tell the incredulous kids on the plane that I’d just run 18 miles (and that no, I wasn’t going to go out into Florence the first night, I was going to go to sleep so I could get up early and run again.)

Turns out it wasn’t just that first night I wasn’t going out. I haven’t been out to a club a single night here. Alcohol doesn’t agree with me well under the best of circumstances, and when putting my body under such physical strain as marathon training, I find that I’m sensitive to the slightest variations in sugar intake, water intake, amount of sleep, etc, so you can imagine that I stayed far away from the club scene.

My social life has suffered as a result, though. My last week in Paris was a glimpse into what humans who are not training for marathons do with their time, and boy, was it fun. I took long walks, I had amazing conversations, I cooked, I went out for dinner, I saw museums, I shopped, I road-tripped, I explored, I caught up on a TV show I’ve been wanting to watch, and I did a fair amount of just sitting/lying around. It was perfection. To give you an idea of the time commitment, I spend 7-8 hours a week just running, feet in motion. When you include getting ready, researching routes, stretching, cooling down, the extra shower, and how much longer it takes me to walk up/down stairs the day after a long run, that probably increases to 10-12 hours a week. At least. And a further hit to my social life: I run alone. I know what a difference having running buddies makes because I have the best ones in the world back at school. But I’m living in a different city from all of them, and (unsurprisingly) couldn’t convince anyone I know here in Florence that running a marathon was a sane thing to do, much less a good idea. So, it’s been a little lonely, but I really valued my social time during the school day and seeing close friends on the weekends. I’m so lucky to have Laura Thrash coming to volunteer at the race and cheer for me during the big event– I really don’t know what I would do without her presence and support. Not be able to find my way around Athens, for sure!

So that brings me to where my life is going after this race. For one thing, my friend Kirsten turns 21 so I’m going to *go out* and celebrate with her next Thursday night. This is really a big thing for me, folks. I hardly even go out at Davidson.

Then there are a few things on my goal list.

-Get back into a normal running routine. This is what my next week is going to look like, as far as easing into running: Monday: walk 20 min. Tuesday: Rest. Wednesday: walk 30 min. Thursday: run 20 min easy. Friday: Rest. Saturday: run 30 min. Sunday: run 40 min. I’ll keep it around that level for the few weeks following, though by the end of the month following the race, I hope to be able to do one long run of 8-10 miles. Then it’s Christmas break time, which has a few goals of its own.

-When I get home, I want to cross-train again. I want to be serious about weight training so I’m stronger for my next half-marathon in the spring and less liable to injury (I’ve rolled three ankles during this training.) I want to do the elliptical and the stationary bike and lots and lots of HOLIDAY YOGA. That was my favorite thing during break last year– I even got up at the crack of dawn and went on Christmas and New Year’s.

-I need to be conscious of what I’m eating again. I don’t have much control over my meals here– breakfast and dinner are served by my host family, and lunch is within the limited selection of the cafe at my school. None of it is what this girl would deem health food. It hasn’t caused much of a problem as far as weight gain because of all the running and walking I’ve been doing. But my energy is really low all the time. I’m probably super vitamin-deficient right now. When I get back home, I want to go vegetarian again (except for fish and the occasional organic chicken or turkey) and eat tons and tons of vegetables and whole grains. That’s the diet I feel best, most energized, and happiest at, and I can’t wait to return to it. In the meantime, I have to brave a whole lot more plates of pasta.

-I just want to re-center in general. Family time, quiet time reading, shoveling the driveway, yoga (seeing Lena and Lora), walking the dog, seeing home friends (Tom! Madeline! Joe!), the gym, Whole Foods trips, I just really need all that. I miss the United States. I miss my routine life.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I don’t think I’ll have time to get into the notorious post-marathon slump because I’ll be filling those extra hours in my week with term papers, trips to Rome and Venice, and trying to figure out how to fit all the stuff I packed and acquired back into my (very small) suitcases.

If you have any advice on any of the above topics, please share!

See ya later,

Jane

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So. Many. Things.

Hi, it’s been such a long time!

I took a little time off from Florenceland last week and jetted off to see three of my favorite people in France. Now I’m back home, dreaming of Chartres, Giverny, Fontainebleau, and Paris, but after wandering around Florence yesterday with Paul Van Peursem, a Davidson friend visiting from Geneva, my town is beginning to win my heart back.

This is Paul, starring in The Sound of Music. No but seriously. This is his life in Switzerland.

Thx, Facebook, for letting my steal your picture.

I took exactly eight pictures in Paris and only a few more in Giverny (and none at all in Chartres or Fontainebleau), because mostly during the trip I was focused on having a good time with my friends, and taking in all the beauty with my eyes instead of my camera. But because my mama loves Monet and his pink house, here ya go:

The fall colors were amazing and it was magical to be there, on the green bridges, and then a couple days later, to see the bridges painted in the Orsay.

In other news, today is my very special friend Emily Reich’s BIRTHDAY! She’s such a beautiful girl, one of my favorite people, a friend I grew up with at summer camp.

This is my favorite photo of us, freezing our butts off and so, so, happy and healthy in the Atlantic Ocean one summer when we were fifteen. Happy birthday, Em!

So now, I’m six days away from my first marathon, ever. Is this real life? I get to be one of those people with a big, boastful 26.2 sticker on her vehicle, on her water bottle, on anything it’s acceptable to brag about your marathon on. I won’t go so far as tattooing my bicep or anything, but I’m genuinely proud of this (almost) accomplishment and getting really excited for race day. Secretly, though, what I’m just as excited for is the EXPO! I’ve never been to one! And now I get to go, as a participant, with my very own number (I got an email from the staff and my number is 6772! It has a ring to it, don’t you think?) At the expo, I can’t wait to collect all sorts of free runner-food samples (energy bars, gels, the kind of stuff that looks like alien food to normal people) and keep my eyes out for a new pair of shoes as a treat. I’ll get a discount as a participant, and the ones I’m running the race in need to be thrown away immediately after. Unless you think I should bring a nasty pair of sneakers home to commemorate my first marathon, frame them in a glass box, and place them on the coffee table of my mom’s living room. Do you think I should do that? Or should I throw them away? ;) I’ve started reading the marathon website top to bottom, looking up the weather every day (Sunday is supposed to be 53, PERFECT running weather, except for the wind), and generally being obsessively excited.

More on that as it gets closer, and I think I’ll post my playlist when I make it too. It’s going to be epic. It’s going to be cheesy. And much of it will probably have been on the CD that played in my dorm bathroom freshman year, slaaaash down at the court. You know what I’m talking about, Beth, Laura, Corinne, Hannah… There will be Bruno Mars. There will be Akon, and Taio Cruz, and, yes, Cee Lo Green. And there will be plenty of hipster stuff too, just so you can still recognize me under all the hip-hop with good beats and throwaway lyrics. Get excited.

For now, I’m headed home to do a bit of schoolwork so I’m free to leave on Friday. I feel exhausted, and my room is in a shambles– I know after I unpack, hang up clothes, organize miscellaneous items, and throw out junk, I’ll feel like a new person. And what a relief to only run twice more this week!

Life is gooooood.

Love to all, thanks so much especially if you’ve continued reading this far in my long post…!

Jane

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Guardate!

Trans: Look! (second person plural ;) Pronunciation: Guahr-dah-tay

Yes, behold these Italian goodies. My leather purchase was a gorgeous notebook cover (whose pages are refillable) that they personalized for me with my initials. I’m completely in love with it and spend inordinate amounts of time gazing at it, smelling it, flipping through the pages, feeling the leather… you get the idea. Isn’t it beautiful, though? I’m not digging for compliments– just stating a fact. :) I’m also sporting my pair of fingerless gloves in the photo– my dad says they should have been half price because they’re only half a mitten. And my mom calls them “texting gloves” because you have use of your fingers! Aren’t they oh-so-clever.

And the other photo? You’re thinking… uh, there’s nothing Italian about a picture of you, Jane… but it’s the hair! I walked into a hair salon sans appointment bright and early Friday morning and basically said, the bangs stay, I want a significant trim to clean up my ends, but otherwise, do what you want! And I think it might be my best haircut, ever. I’ve heard it said that the best way to get to know a culture is to get your hair cut there, and that’s kind of true. Hair salons are more than just places that provide beauty services. The clients typically all know each other, as well as the staff, there’s gossip, there’s exchange of news, it has its whole own culture. Though I couldn’t pick up on a lot of what was being said at the place I went (Jean Louis David, right on the Arno), I certainly know that my hair salon in Omaha is a little world of its own (I’ve never had my hair cut in Davidson or Charlotte, isn’t that weird?) so I’m assuming there’s a similar phenomenon in Italy. Though both my parents and I have picked up on some unfriendliness from Italians, I’ve found that by going into their world with humility, trying my best to speak Italian, and letting them teach me, is how to meet some really sweet people. The idea of being open to another culture is such a cliché, and everyone thinks they are, but you have to give up some of your control and trust in strangers in order to make friends with them. Anyway, Mama, thanks for encouraging me to take the plunge and have my hair cut here! If only I was going to Paris in 6 weeks instead of one; I could have my hair cut there, too. :) P.S. Sorry for the quality of the second photo, it was on the iphone. Which I miss, wah, wah, first-world problems.

So this week, I had one tough 10-mile run after four days off, and one lovely 7-mile run two days later. I was kind of in a funny mood for the 7-mile run… I laced up my shoes with the attitude that I was just going out to move my body, shake out the tightness, and see the world. That’s the attitude I used to take to all my runs before I started following a schedule of distances, and I’m really looking forward to getting back to that after the race. This run, I actually stopped on Ponte alle Grazie (Bridge of Charms/Graces) to watch the light on the water for about 5 minutes. The gulls were circling and diving for their dinner, and they reminded me of when I saw Air Force One planes practicing touch-and-gos at some airport (Charlottesville?) a while back.

Now today, it’s 20 miles, and then I’m done with the really hard stuff. Amazing that it’s gone by this quickly and that I’ve actually stuck with it. I never thought I would be spending my semester abroad running double digit mileage every weekend, and significant runs on school nights, too, but I wouldn’t know Florence like I know it if I hadn’t done this. The need for long distance caused me to explore farther into the city than I ever would have on foot, and I feel more like a resident and less like a tourist because of it.

Off to get a pre-run yogurt and a couple bananas, and munch on them while I study for midterms a little more and wait for it to warm up enough to go run. Last time, I went in my half-marathon shirt and I think it brought me luck, so that’s what I’m gonna do again today. My Lululemon gear is gorgeous, but sometimes I need the shirt with sentimental value to give me strength.

Love to all. I’ll be sure to check back in after this run.

Jane

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Rainy Day Thoughts

It’s cloudy, cold, and drizzling rain in Florence. I think I’m going to skip my run today, because it’s only 3 miles, and I think 37 is enough for this week, don’t you? Of course, if it rains again on Sunday, I’ll suck it up and do my 20 miles in the rain, but today all I really want to do is make hot tea, have an early dinner, and curl up under the covers with a book.

On rainy days, I think about three things: tea, reading, and writing. I can’t focus in class at all. I feel cold and unsatisfied unless I’m cozy at home. I crave soup. I really act like I’m sick with a cold when it’s raining out, even if I’m not. I want to take care of myself, and be taken care of. But it’s also a craving for solitude. Rainy days seem like the excuse I need to take an “introvert day,” not talk to anyone, and do exactly what I want.

(Source)

I also think about painting. I really want to have a room somewhere that I can go to, that is just my painting room. I haven’t painted in years, and I doubt I’m any good at it, but I read this interview with Richard Siken yesterday, and he talked about how he would write until his poetry would leave off, but he would still have more to communicate, so he would pick up his paintbrush and go on like that. I can really see how that would be helpful to the creative process, and also an extremely enjoyable outlet.

Until I get home, a couple of writing quotes, for thought:

“Carried by light,
images remain

while sensation
is so evanescent

as to be always beyond
belief.”

-Rae Armantrout

“The work of the poet
is to name what is holy”

-Diane Ackerman

Nice, no? Anyone else become totally reclusive and poetic when it rains?

If you’re sitting at home, too (or wishing you were sitting at home but required to attend another class, like me), here’s some reading material:

Stock up on your Monster Supplies.

Learn how to make apple cider doughnuts.

I love Anne Emond’s illustrations (ubiquitous in the blog world right now). Her website and blog.

Only the best thing I’ve ever seen: dedicated to women reading.

Speaking of reading, what are you reading right now? I read so many “classics,” and I’d like to dive into something more contemporary soon. Any recommendations? I always adore Ian McEwan, and Corinne gave me The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; the book now feels like almost as good of a friend as she is. Also I’ve heard this is great, from several sources.

A really great phrase, one of my mom’s favorites.

This might be my favorite living room photo I’ve ever seen. As a design blog obsessor, that’s saying a lot. Big windows, French press coffee, lots of comfy pillows, simple palate, a globe… swoon. And this might be my favorite blog.

Enjoy!

Jane

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