My perfect Italian Journey – part one

Wednesday June 3 – Here I go

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I can’t put into words the number of emotions I was feeling as I finished packing and then took this picture. The main one wasn’t so much an emotion but a reaction. Anxiety and with that anxiety, wanting to puke. Holy shit this is actually happening. I am going to Italy ALONE. The next 10 days would prove to test my ability to deal with the unknown, to go way out of my comfort zone and to be in an area of Italy where not many people spoke English which brought crazy amounts of anxiety especially when I was asking for directions.

2015-06-03 19.45.222015-06-04 02.30.20I figured I start the trip off right by having some Italian wine at the wine bar in the airport and a nice, healthy dinner. This was the first of many times I would be dining alone over the next 1o days. It’s amazing how awkward it felt then compared to at the end of the trip when it felt completely normal to be alone at dinner because it gave me the chance to either talk to others that were traveling or to write about my experiences.

They say what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you. Well this trip challenged me in ways I never even expected. Tears were almost shed but I made it out alive, in fact, better than alive. I am rejuvenated with a whole new prospective on life that I will be blogging about for the next couple days, or weeks depending on how much I choose to divulge about this journey. But I will give you a day by day because I have so many pictures I want to share!

I got SUPER lucky when I got on the plane, getting 3 seats to myself! By the way, if you choose to fly overseas, please please please choose Virgin Atlantic. The attendants are SO nice, they feed you food that is quite delicious by airplane standards, the planes seemed to both be brand new AND the movies are FREE!!! And there are actually legit awesome selections. I didn’t sleep a wink because I was up watching Gone Girl and American Sniper. HIGHLY RECOMMEND! AND they give you a travel bag with socks, a pen, an eye mask, a blanket, a tooth brush and tooth paste.

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 Thursday June 4 – I have arrived

I arrived in the Rome airport and did exactly what I thought I would do. Freak out. What the hell did I get myself into? Where do I go? Who do I trust? Am I going to get kidnapped?? I knew I had to take two trains to get to Orvieto so I head to the train station and of course the woman hardly spoke english and was talking so fast that my head was spinning in circles. All I knew was that I had a 15 minute connection at Roma Termini. Now I am not sure what the hell I was thinking Roma Termini would look like or how I expected to find my next train but for some reason I wasn’t nervous. But then the train I was on was 7 minutes late, which left me about 5 minutes to find my next train after we had finally exited the train once it got to the station. I started to freak out again. I got off the train and it was just a mad house. Termini is the BIGGEST train station I have ever seen in my life.

Holy shit where do I go? I almost started crying until a young man asked me where I was going. Orvieto!!!! I have 5 minutes! As he brought me to my train, practically running, I couldn’t help but think of the movie Taken. If you haven’t seen it, don’t. If you have, you can understand my hesitation and anxiety. He gets me to my train, I check to make sure nothing was stolen, yell “Grazie!” and hop on my train. (I think he wanted money but there was NO way I was missing that train.) I asked the man I sat next to if he spoke english. Of course not. Orvieto? Si. THANK GOD. I plop down in my seat with a tremendous amount of relief.

At this point I had been up for 33 hours. I was hot, hungry, thirsty and tired. There was no AC on the train and with the windows being open, every time another train passed by within inches of us, there was a BOOM that would blow your ear drums beyond belief. I looked at my watch. 5:30. This train was an hour and a half. Shit. Good thing I didn’t have to pee or I would have been screwed.

We arrived at Orvieto station, I walked outside and looked for the bus to take me to the town. Of course the bus driver doesn’t speak English and wasn’t the right driver for where I was going. We talk at each other in our respective languages and I was picking up words here and there but it was useless. He eventually points me to the Funicular. I pay the 1.30 euro toll and head up to the main town. What now? Where the hell am I? DOES ANYONE SPEAK ENGLISH?!?!?!?! Some nice men at the produce stand told me, in Italian, to walk 1 km up the road and I will find my hotel. Ok. How far is that in miles? Well I know it’s less than a mile and I walk 1 mile to work in the morning so this should be no problem. Wrong. Sweating, making noise, getting stared at, feeling uncomfortable, hearing english. ENGLISH?! AMERICANS?!?!?! THANK GOD.

One of the girls ended up walking me to my hotel. That 1 km walk felt like 5 miles at that point. I dropped off my stuff and headed out onto the town for dinner. At that point I had been up for 35 hours. All I wanted was a shower, food and bed. Food was first. I went to a restaurant called Montanuccis, sat in the garden in the back, ordered a glass of wine, a salad and strawberry ice cream, which by the way actually tasted like real strawberries. I sat back and just took it all in. I was in Italy. Finally. It was finally happening. I had 9 months of attempting to learn Italian, 9 months of anticipation, and 9 months to plan what I was going to do. I didn’t learn Italian and I didn’t really plan what I was going to do. I was going blind into a country I didn’t speak the language and really didn’t know where the hell I was going.

But I did know that it was going to be the best vacation of my life and it started with soaking up this view. Heaven.

2015-06-04 20.49.36  (By the way, none of my photos have filters or have been touched up. This is real life.)

 I slept for 10 peaceful hours that night and woke up ready to take on Italy!

Until next post…

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The Time Has Come

I know I’ve said this before but I am going to say it again. I am fucking proud of myself. Ten weeks ago I started running consistently for the first time in over a year in order to train for The Run to Remember. I set a goal of 1:45:00 because that’s what my goal was two years ago and I beat it with a time of 1:42:45. I was running a 10 minute mile for 3 miles when I started out and it, to say the least, hurt. A lot.

Over the last 10 weeks I have had a lot going through my mind ranging from:

Can I actually accomplish this goal? Did I set one that is too lofty? Why am I stressing so much over this one race? I can’t do this. My legs are heavy. Fuck this, I quit.

To:

I CAN do this. My legs are light as a feather. I am speedy. I am strong. I am going to crush this race!!!!

There have been moments of doubt and moments of belief. I reached out to others for help with my training and for mental and emotional support and I can’t thank them enough. I have had not so great runs and great runs. The last three weeks I stepped up my running intensity because I didn’t feel as though I had taught my legs how to run FAST well enough. I pushed my body more than I have in a year and a half. I pushed it to it’s limits and I came out on top. I surprised myself by running a 7:08 min mile and even further surprised myself during that run with an average pace of 7:31 (I slowed down a wee bit). Again, 10 weeks ago that average was 10 minutes.

At one point in time I really started to doubt myself so I reached out to someone who helped me with my race two years ago when I coincidently was also doubting myself. His name is Chris Heuisler. He was a trainer at Equinox then and is now the RunWestin Concierge at the Westin Hotel. He is a kick ass guy and a kick ass runner. I told him about my running and asked him what the quote was about demons and overcoming them. It was a quote that I had attempted to get right in a prior post about my demons coming out to play. This is what he said to me about doubt and he included the quote:

Kara! Great to hear from you and good luck with the race. I think doubt is fine, but it’s how you deal with the doubt that separates the competitors. The line was, “Sometimes the demons get you and sometimes you get the demons. When you race, it’s your opportunity to say “F*ck you, demons. Not today.” So go out there and embrace the fact that the demons of doubt cannot own you for 13.1 miles. Good luck and thanks for reaching out.

This was what I needed. I needed to know that quote inside and out because I kept repeating it to myself two years ago as I was running at the fastest pace I had ever run. Three days before that race we sat down and came up with a game plan that helped to calm my anxiety and prepare me for the best run of my life.

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I ran my heart out in that race. And I intend to do it tomorrow because when I finished and beat my goal, I emailed Chris (after I could breathe again) because this is how I felt:

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And this was his response:

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THAT is how you run.

I want that same feeling. To know that there was nothing more I could have done in training or in the race. For me, that is the greatest feeling in the world. And that is why I have set this goal. I don’t just want to finish, I want to finish strong, to run my race, to kick ass. So I go into tomorrow feeling the strongest I have felt on this whole journey and more than ready to absolutely fucking crush it.

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When YOU Start To Believe

I finally started to believe I could do this when I ran a “pace” run (I didn’t exactly pace properly) on Thursday after an insanely long day that was fueled by a Starbucks Ice Venti red eye, a large hot coffee, a large iced coffee and a large cold brew. I was still beat. I started my day at 5:30 am, had a 6:30 am client, went to Reebok in Canton for a little fit modeling from 9-12, back to Equinox for clients from 1-6:30 and had a dinner scheduled at 8 pm. I spent the entire day convincing myself I could do this pace run, especially knowing it was the last one before the race.

The Thursday prior I ran 3 miles at an average of 7:45 so I set that as my goal. I didn’t want to run and have it be shit so I contemplated saving it for Friday morning but I forced myself to get it done because it was on my schedule. Now this wasn’t a normal pace run. I didn’t stick to the same pace per mile. Instead I chose to go balls to the wall and practically sprint my first mile. I knew I had to or I wouldn’t do it at all. Clocked in at 7:08. That is the fastest I have ever run. Mile 2 was 7:30 and mile 3 was 7:44 for an average pace of…

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7:31!!!!!! Are you kidding me??!?!?! That is by far the fastest I have EVER paced. EVER. Even when I was training for this race 2 years ago. I was teetering between wanting to vomit and being giddy with excitement. The thing that brought my confidence back was that (granted I slowed down each mile) I could still run when I was dead tired even before putting on my running shoes AND when I had those bad boys on and my legs were tired and I could hardly breathe, I still crushed it.

The entire time I was running I was having a battle with my demons. I told them to shut the fuck up and I won. And I will win on Sunday, IF they show up, which they tried to today. I had my final sprint workout and I can’t tell you how much I didn’t want to do it. It required getting up at 6 am to go in 2.5 hours earlier (half asleep mind you) than I would have had I not had this training scheduled. I almost went back to bed but reminded myself that the race starts at 7 am so I better get my ass out of bed and accomplish this workout.

And I did. I crushed this one too. I did 3×5 minute intervals at a 7:30 pace (8) with 2.5-3 minutes rest, 10x30s on, 30s off at 6:18 (9.5), and 5x60s on, 60s off at 6:40 (9). The shorter intervals were easy. It was the 3×5 minute intervals were tough but considering I did 6 of them last week and the week prior, this week felt like a cake walk. I got off that treadmill and felt so badass. My legs felt amazing, light as a feather even, my breathing was heavy but manageable and what felt like torture two weeks ago, felt pretty damn good today.

I am finally at a point where I can confidently say I believe I can run this 1/2 marathon in 1:45:00. I trained harder and smarter for this year than I did two years ago. There were a few times that I began to doubt myself especially considering I only started training 9 weeks ago after not running consistently for an entire year. Because of this, a lot of people have asked me why I chose 1:45:00 as a goal instead of just having a goal to simply finish it. I tell them all the same thing. If I didn’t have a specific time to work towards, I wouldn’t know how to train, I wouldn’t have worked as hard and every time I wanted to quit a run, I probably would have.

faec015df8cc768ca6f1c834a2273b0fI needed a reason to keep running in those hardest moments when quitting was so tempting and would have been so easy. Whatever the outcome, I busted my ass these last 9 weeks and I am damn proud. I started out running a 10 minute pace for 3 miles. I just ran that at a 7:31 pace. I want to cross that finish line knowing I did everything in my power to accomplish my goal.

I dedicated 17 years of my life to ski racing and there are many things I wish I could go back and change from a run by run standpoint, race by race standpoint and career standpoint. I don’t want any athletic endeavor I do from here on out to be one that I wished I had done something differently, that I had given more or worked harder. I don’t want to regret not busting my ass because I already did that once.

So when people ask if I am just trying to finish, I think back to a quote a teammate said to me when we were in the midst of a particularly hard training camp that I was ready to give up on.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Steve Prefontaine  

I believe because I can. And because I have put in the hard work. I have no choice but to believe.

When Your Demons Come Out To Play

“Everyone has demons. You can let them take over you or you can tell them to fuck off.”

Today was just not my day which is a far cry from where I was on Thursday when I had run the fastest in my training, like ever. I surprised myself when I ran 3 miles in 23:17. My intention was to run an 8:15 minute mile as I had been pacing 8:20 in the treadmill, which I hate to admit was tremendously difficult. I was honestly starting to doubt my ability to hit a sub 8 min mile. I kept thinking to myself if I was was struggling with 8:20 for 3 miles, how on earth did I expect to run a sub 8 for 13.1???? After Thursday’s run I had gained confidence back that I can do this. To say I was ridiculously excited is an understatement, but then today happened.

I woke up after a shit night of sleep, had breakfast, stretched and checked the temp. It was 6:45 am and it was already 65 degrees and muggy. Yikes. Up until now the temperature for my long runs hasn’t gotten above 64 and it has not been muggy in the slightest so today was a shock to the system. I did my warm up jog and decided that I would pace around 8:45-8:55 minutes per mile for 8 miles. According to my Garmin my first mile was 8:19 (I think it was wrong) which didn’t feel hard at all. In fact, I thought I was going much slower than that. The second mile was 8:34, which also felt good and the third mile shit just hit the fan.

I honestly don’t know what happened but at around 2.5 miles my body and my mind just shut down. It felt like it came out of nowhere. My Garmin was bouncing all over the place with my pace and my average pace which was messing with my head. What I felt was a fast pace was slow as shit and when I tried to pick up the pace my legs just wouldn’t work. Everything started to bother me. Then my mind wandered to the race in 2 weeks and that’s when my demons took over.

I tried to repeat my affirmations but nothing worked. I completely fell apart and because of that my body, my mind and my run suffered. I was ready to quit at 4.5 miles. In fact I did, but only for a moment. I told myself to just make 5 miles, then 6 and at 6 I would quit. Just keep moving. You can do this. No you can’t. No I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. Why is this so hard today????? I almost started crying.

As I cruised back into the Seaport from my Castle Island loop, I stopped again and almost completely quit at 7 miles. I told myself that it was enough and it wasn’t worth hurting my body or my mind by continuing. But then the psycho athlete in me refused to do anything less than what was scheduled so I picked up my feet, which felt the heaviest they’ve ever felt, and I finished the 8 miles. I felt defeated. The entire time I was running I told myself that my demons would not win today, that I would fight through but today was just not my day.

Now, there have been times where I have wanted to quit before but I knew that it had all been in my head and that my body could keep going. This time, however, it wasn’t just in my head, it was in my body. My body just shut down. It didn’t want to move. I looked back at my pace per mile (I stopped looking at my Garmin during the run) when I got home and was shocked.

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Somehow I managed to stay on track but it felt like absolute shit, like the worst you could possibly feel during a run. I managed to pace an average 8:58 for the run but it felt like the hardest thing I have ever done. I suddenly lost all confidence that I could actually complete the half marathon in my goal time of 1:45:00. I immediately called my Mom to not only wish her a Happy Mother’s Day (Happy Mother’s Day again mom!) but to talk about the run.

Not every day is going to be perfect. Be easy on yourself. Taper. Take it slow. This half marathon is not the end all be all.

Next I texted my girl Erica who’s been helping me out and this is part of what she said…

Temperature makes a difference for sure. And there’s always shitty runs, some days it’s just not happening. I’ve had plenty of runs where I took a cab home and did cry. Some days your legs just don’t have it.

I’m not sure if it was my legs or my mind that didn’t have it today. If we look at my splits and my average pace, it would seem that it was my mind that just didn’t have it. The minute I started to feel like shit was the minute my mind shut down and started to doubt everything. My mind and my body are tired, but more so my mind. All I think about is this race. I am putting an extreme amount of pressure on myself to accomplish this goal of 1:45:00. Maybe that quote below is true but what if the mind is the tired one?

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I guess now I can think about today one of two ways:

1) Demons took over: I felt like shit and completely fell apart emotionally, in my mind, in my confidence, in my body and it was the worst run of my life and I am not going to reach my goal

OR;

2) Fuck you demons: I was within seconds of hitting my goal average pace for today even with the increase in temperature and humidity and even with the influx of negativity in my head, the pressure on myself and the subsequent sluggishness in my step. Not to mention the number of times I wanted to quit but didn’t. I am accomplishing my goal

Earlier today I would have taken option 1 but now after writing, I’ll take option 2. I crushed that run today. I finished the 8 miles. I did it. It was ugly, but I did it. And for today, that’s all I can really ask for. Tomorrow is a new day.

My Italian Journey

Four weeks. That is how long until I leave for Italy. When I booked this trip back in September it was kind of on an impulse. I had just finished reading a book by Jen Sincero entitled You Are A Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Live An Awesome Life.

9780762447695_p0_v1_s260x420Up until this point I had been constantly thinking about all these things I want to do, a bucket list of sorts and number one on the list was going to Italy. I fell in love with Italy when I was traveling the world for ski racing 10 years ago but that traveling ended when I went to college. I intended to spend a summer abroad in Tuscania, Tuscany after my junior year but life had other plans for me. With a heavy heart I postponed my trip but made a vow to go someday.

As life carried on, my trip to Italy seemed to get further and further away from me. I simply didn’t know how I would ever swing it. Who would I go with? Could I afford it? Can I get time off work? It became more of a fantasy, something I would think about forever as being magical, desiring it with an intensity I can’t explain but never actually happening. Four years ago shit hit the fan in Vermont and I basically quit my life up there and moved to Boston on an impulse. This left me with little money and little time to take a vacation anywhere, let alone to Europe. I hit the ground running and felt like I was in a tornado for a year. Right when I finally felt like I had my feet on the ground, I suddenly lost my footing again 2 years ago.

The ups and downs of work, friends, an on again off again boyfriend, starting and stopping a blog, a hip surgery, getting back on the dating scene, trying to nurse my hip back to health, trying to figure out who I am, what I stand for and where I see myself going. I simply felt lost and as if I was spinning out of control. When I saw Jen’s book in my mothers book case, I knew I had to read it. I was in desperate need of a self-help book but I was sick of the classic and boring, you can do it, rah rah shit that’s out there that I hate to admit I’ve read most of them all. Jen, however, created a satirical, get your shit together and stop complaining self-help book. You want to do something badly enough, you just fucking do it because quite frankly, you’re fucking bad ass. So, I did.

I finished the book, went onto Airbnb and started looking in Tuscania where I had originally wanted to go for that summer abroad but ultimately ended up booking a bed and breakfast in Orvieto which is located in Umbria, conveniently located near Tuscany.

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Be jealous. Be very jealous. 🙂

Shortly after that I went onto Rosetta Stone and ordered my Italian learning curriculum for half price! This was all totally meant to be!!! I started studying immediately and was stoked to relearn Italian as I had taken it in college. That lasted about a month until life got busy again. After 9 months, I can confidently say that I haven’t learned a thing. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t actually have/make time for something. It’s on my bucket list, I just won’t accomplish it before I actually GO to Italy, which is conveniently the only time I will really need it.

All that was left was the plane ticket. Purchasing that ticket meant it was really happening.

FullSizeRenderAnd yes I had a mini panic attack. But then it hit me. I am going to Italy. I AM GOING TO ITALY!! Something that seemed to only be a fantasy suddenly became a reality. Holy shit. Now I sit here 4 weeks away from embarking on the Italian journey I’ve been dreaming about and talking about for 10 years and I still can’t believe it. I don’t think I will believe it until I arrive in Rome…alone. Holy shit I am going to Italy alone.

I look back on where I was exactly a year ago today and I am brought back to the emotional mess of a human being that I had become because my boyfriend and I were about to break up for the second time. In fact, today was the day that I lost all sense of who I was and it sent us into a downward spiral. In a week we were broken up for good. The day after it happened I left for Florida for some serious rest and recovery. When I returned from that trip I made a vow to myself to focus on me, get my life together and start living in a way that was congruent with who I am, what I want and what I can’t stop thinking about. So, I did.

One year later and I am stronger, smarter, more confident, more independent and more determined than ever to live my life like the badass that I am. And you should too. There’s gotta be something you’ve been dreaming of doing your whole life and if there’s not, what the hell have you been dreaming about? (Money and success does not count). Go out there and be your badass self. Realize how fucking awesome you are. Do the shit you want to do. Life is too short not to. It took me reading a book to see the awesome life that I WASN’T living but needed and wanted to. And here I am sitting 4 short weeks away from living out a 10 year dream.

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You go girl.

When someone else encourages you

I remember a few years ago I went for my first outdoor run of the season and I felt kind of insecure. I felt so awkward until all of a sudden some random guy I ran by on State Street gave me a thumbs up and a nod of encouragement that made me feel right at home, like I was doing exactly what I should be doing and suddenly all my insecurities about being outside again just disappeared. There was something about someone else encouraging me, a stranger even, that not only made me feel better about what I was doing but made me run harder. I was suddenly motivated in a way that I was unable to do for myself.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced it but I find that I can talk to myself for hours and recite my affirmations like I do during all my athletic endeavors and don’t get me wrong, they work, but the second someone else gives me a thumbs up, a high five, a “YOU CAN DO THIS!” or any sort of positive encouragement, I suddenly feel this bolt of energy and think like “FUCK YA I CAN DO THIS!”

It happened last week during my pace run on the treadmill when a coworker came up to me and held out his fist for a fist pump. Now I had just spend the last 3.15 miles (I was going for 3.5) telling myself I can do this, I can do this and I could barely pick up my hand to fist pump back but just the act of him coming up to me and offering me that nod of encouragement made all the difference in the world. I suddenly changed my mode of thinking from “I can” to “Come on KARA, YOU got this” almost as if someone ELSE was continuing to encourage me. And it was then that my game face went on and I felt more energized than I had my entire run.

f6ab9040ef2f4852f2805322e77eb1bb(This might help a little too)

I began to ponder this idea that maybe if I pretend someone else is encouraging me in ADDITION to myself, it would have a doubly strong effect. So, during my 11 miler yesterday I decided to pretend my mom was there cheering me on. I’ve consulted with a coworker who has trained his clients for marathons but there was and is something about getting advice and encouragement from my mom that made all the difference in the world.

Truth time: I have been doubting my goal time. So after talking to my mom about a lot of things, she told me to slow down my long runs (my coworker told me to as well), use it as a time for my body to get used to running for a long time, not necessarily running goal pace (super fast 🙂 ) for a long time. She said it takes as much if not more discipline to train easier than it does to train harder, but I did it. IMG_4649

Between telling myself that I was light as a feather and imagining her cheering me on, COME ON KARA. YOU GOT THIS!!!, the run felt pretty damn good. I was even able to finish my run with a few 20s kickers with 40s jog during the last .75 of a mile to see what my legs were made of after an hour and a half of running and let me tell you, WATCH OUT WORLD.

Sometimes all you need is an outside voice to encourage you, to build you up and give you exactly what you need to succeed. So on your next run or workout, pretend someone else in cheering you on. Use your name. It separates you from your own mind and brings a spark of energy you didn’t know you had and you might just surprise yourself with what you accomplish.