Monday, August 3, 2015

Marathon training: Getting it done 4,000 miles away

Training so far has been pretty darn great.  The weather in Chicago has been a bit bipolar and indecisive which has made it harder to acclimate to the heat and humidity.  Add to that traveling across the ocean to an isolated mountain town where it is 95 degrees without a cloud in the sky, then going to a bustling city where it is 55 degrees and raining.

But even when things aren't perfect, you gotta get out there and get it done.  So here I am, having just returned from my summer vacation in Cinque Terre, Italy and Paris, France with running stories galore.

9.0 mile/14.5 kilometer 6.0 mile/10 kilometer run in Castiglione della Pescaia

View from the top of the castle

This run was ridiculously hard.  Even though I woke up at 6:30am to start the run, the temperature was already 78 degrees and quickly climbing.  I made it through the first 4 miles like a champ but started to have muscles spasms in my legs.  Once I finally stopped to stretch, I knew I had to reconsider my plan.  I gave the last two miles a good ol' college try but at mile 6, called off the run.

The town is so small that I left the city limits shortly after mile 1...!

7.5 mile/12.0 kilometer 4.5 mile/7.2 kilometer hike in Cinque Terre

It was just as hot in Cinque Terre but that was not the reason that we cut our hike short.  Many of the trails were still closed due to major flooding and landslides that happened three years ago.  After endlessly trying to utilize alternate routes and it not working, we just had to throw in the towel.

Riomaggiore to Manarola (aka failed hike #1)
Home of the famous "Via dell'amore", the original path is an easy, Chicago pancake flat 1 mile walk.

Except it has been closed for about three years.  So we decided to use the original path between the cities, trail 531, which would take us up over the mountains and down to Manarola.

...except this path was ALSO closed because a portion of the supporting wall collapsed onto the trail a few days before.  So after trekking straight up, we had to go right back down.
Riomaggiore from the 531 trail
Who needs a stair master when you have a mountain?

Monterosso to Vernazza
Because we couldn't continue north, we decided to start from the northernmost city and head south so we hopped on the train to Monterosso.  This leg of the hike is also the most difficult so we thought we'd go ahead and get it out of the way while it was still morning.

Monterosso from the old castle

About halfway through our hike!

Monterosso was absolutely beautiful and the path offered stunning views of the neighboring mountains and the sea.  But seriously, this was THE HARDEST hike of my life.  We were gifted some patches with gentle slopes but the hike was mostly made of steep climbs and descents that made it really tough on your joints.

But an hour and fifteen minutes later, we saw Vernazza in the distance and knew we were coming in for the final stretch!

Vernazza to Corniglia
Yea, it didn't happen.  Once arriving in Vernazza, we stopped for some coffee and realized that we were just completely wiped.  The next section of the trail - according to other hikers - was a repeat of Monterosso-Vernazza and we weren't quite ready for the strenuous hike.  We decided to explore Verbazza, take the train to Corniglia, have lunch, and figure out what to do next.

Corniglia to Manarola (aka failed hike #2)
Corniglia is the middle city and is different from the others in Cinque Terre because it sits on a cliff rather than being at sea level.  When you arrive in Corniglia, you have to walk from the train station (which was affectionately called 'deathrow' because of the lack of shade) to the ascent into the city, which is approximately 400 steps straight up.  

The view from the top of the stairs at Corniglia

Corniglia from a distance 
(aka - an idea of how many steps we had to take to get all the way up there)

After grabbing a bite to eat, John and I had a second wind and decided to push forward with the hike from Corniglia to Manarola.  So we went back down those 400 steps, slapped on more sunscreen before venturing out onto 'deathrow', and followed the signs for Manarola.

And then this happened.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen.  That is a big hole in the path.  

In the hole are waves from the Mediterranean we took it as a sign.  We turned around, got on the train to Riomaggiore, and called it a day.

7.0 mile/11.2 kilometer 10 mile/16 kilometer run in Paris
The morning of our run in Paris, it was 60 degrees and overcast.  What perfect running weather!  I was a bit chilly at first but knew that things would warm up once I started going.  Though this run covered the distance needed for my marathon training, we set off knowing that there would be a lot of stopping because of the traffic lights and our desire to sight see.

Mile 0.5 - Pont Neuf

 Mile 1.0 - The Pyramid at the Louvre

Mile 1.5 - Jardin des Tuileries

Mile 2.0 - Obelisque de Louxor

 Mile 3.0 - Arc de Triomphe

Mile 4.0 - Trocadero

Mile 4.0 - Trocadero

Mile 4.5 - Eiffel Tower

Mile 5.5 - Invalides

Mile 6.0 - Pont Alexandre

Mile 9.5 - Notre Dame

So there!  It happened and there is all the evidence that proves it.  This month, my marathon group will embark on some wild long distance runs (climbing from 10 to 16 miles) and I will be heading into uncharted territory...!  Thank you everyone for your words of support!

Fundraising update:  I'm just about to break $2,000 of my $2,620 fundraising goal!  If you haven't had a chance to donate on my behalf for this year's Chicago Marathon, check out my story here and make a donation today!

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