Boulder 70.3

August 10, 2011

I have had the dream for years and years to compete in a full Ironman, or 70.3, but I never thought it would become a reality. I thought mountain biking was my sport, and my biggest fear is water so the thought of swimming over a mile was just plain ridiculous, and I was never going to be able to do that. I pretty much accepted the fact that this would just remain a dream that would never come true.

Last year I had a rough season mountain biking, and by the end I was completely burnt out. I met Coach Patty while teaching Spin class where she works, and complained to her about my woes. She told me all about CWW and that they were thinking to have a Long Course group this season, and thought it might be a good change for me. So I thought about it for what turned into a few months, and in April I decided to go for it. I joined CWW and signed up for Boulder 70.3. I had no idea what to expect from either joining CWW or training for the race. What I gained and learned from all of it is something that will stick with me for a lifetime. CWW is an amazing group, and I am glad this is where my path led. I met some wonderful women along the way, and learned so much about myself. I was in awe on Sunday to see everyone accomplish their goals, and loved the fact that we were all in it together. I have grown so much as a person by being a part of this group.

It was wonderful to see everyone on the Friday pre-race dinner. My nerves were high and it helped settle me down. I have done quite a few races in my life, but none compared to this. I was so nervous, yet excited at the same time. I have never actually trained for anything before. Months of getting myself in the pool, at first barely able to swim 500 yards without stopping, then moving to the pond where I had to over come my fear of the water, to being able to swim across and back without a panic attack. Learning how to adjust my body to riding a road bike instead of a mountain bike, which was a lot harder than it seems! Running started out well, doing the half marathon in March put me ahead, since I had a good base. Running has never been my strong suit, but I felt I had the miles, now I wanted to work on picking up my pace. And then on May 22nd I suffered my set back with a stress fracture that decided to never completely heal, leaving running almost completely out for the 11 weeks until the race. Only 24 total miles of running in those 11 weeks, 12 of them being in races. I had a few moments where I considered backing out of the race. How could I survive the 13.1 miles with an injured foot, and with not many miles under me? I hated the thought of walking the whole way.

I never backed out, and soon race day was upon me. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I was as ready as I was able to be. I was up at 3:30am, my boyfriend, Chip, up with me. We loaded the car and headed to Boulder Res, munching on my pre- race breakfast on the way. I got there early, and was one of the first in transition, so I got a good spot on the rack. The transition area really gets my nerves going for some reason, so I quickly set up my area, which I had already had down pat, got body marked got the heck out of there. I munched more, drank lots of water, and  stood in line at the porta potties quite a few times. The atmosphere was different than any other race this year. Lots of people around, but it was so quiet. Everyone seemed to be in their own zone, and I am sure were just as nervous as I was. Fortunately I saw Neale and Dawn before they took off, wishing them luck. I briefly saw Sara and we gave each other good luck hugs. Lesley and I were in the same age group, so it was nice to line up in the water with someone I knew.

We were soon down in the water, the next heat to go off. Lesley and I gave each other one last good luck high five, and they sent us off! I got into my groove pretty quickly, and sailed through the swim. I was grateful for the amount of buoys they had set up. I took it one at a time, and before I knew it I was rounding the last red one, headed back to shore. It was the best (not fastest) swim I have had in a race. It felt like I had a bubble around me that no one entered. I am not sure if I was touched at all! I had a comfortable pace, and was out of the water right on my mark at 44:24.

Transition 1 went smoothly (2:18), and soon I was on the bike.  I love being on the bike. It is one of the best places in the world to me, and this year I have really learned to enjoy the road. Things went perfect on the bike. I wrote out my nutrition plan and taped it to my handlebars. I never really feel thirsty or hungry when I ride, so it really helped discipline me to hydrate and fuel. About 80 calories every 20 minutes or so, and I switched between water and Gatorade as I hydrated.  The aid stations were awesome, and I found it was pretty easy to grab a water on the go. The volunteers worked really hard to make it easy. First lap was great, and I was well ready for the second. It was nice to see Terry and Neale out there. They both looked strong and happy! I stared to fatigue on the last section on Diagonal Highway, but knowing I was almost done, and well ahead of my goal time, kept me going and soon I was cruising back into T2 with a time of 2:47, bringing me up 30 spots in my age group.

Transition 2 went well (1:35), but felt a little wobbly putting on my running shoes. It was only then that I could tell how hot it had gotten. I jogged out of transition, grabbed some water and smiled at Chip who was taking pictures. Final leg! I was nervous from the start. It usually takes me about 5 minutes to get my running legs under me. Once they came, I settled into my pace, just in time for the first hill. It was rough, but I made it. And then there was another one. It was harder, but I could see the first aid station ahead, so I trudged along. The aid stations were awesome. The volunteers were so upbeat, dancing and singing to the loud music as they cheered the runners on. They made me smile every time. And the wet sponges were a life saver! I trudged along, thinking only to get to the next aid station. The sun was brutal, and I enjoyed the breeze that came every now and then. Eventually the wind really started picking up, making it more of a challenge than a relief. I made the first lap feeling ok, but passing right by the finish line where they were calling peoples names as they passed by was torture! And knowing what I still had to go through to get there was mentally hard. Chip was there again to cheer me on, looking happy and proud as ever. Right before I headed out of the res to start lap 2 my dad showed up and ran along side me for a short while. It was so nice to see him and boosted my energy. I felt pretty good until the first hill, again. I had to walk part of it. Fortunately my foot was surviving, but the lack of running in the last 11 weeks was taking its toll on my body. I was starting to struggle to keep my legs running

A few days before the race I was talking to my dad, expressing my doubts and concerns about this race, especially the run. He is the best listener and gives the best advice. Friday before the race he sent me an email with well wishes and a note that I took with me on the run:

I want you to wail till mile 6 of your run to remember why Melissa is your best friend, at mile 7 that Hannah is following in your footsteps and has just completed her race, at mile 8 that your goofy brothers are probably still asleep, but are the best brothers you could ever ask for, that Samantha is one of the most independent people you know beyond yourself, at mile 9 that Chip is a good man and why you need him in your life, at mile 10 that Carol loves, cares for and admires you very much, at mile 11 remember that I’M VERY PROUD OF YOU! And finally, at mile 12 Mom will be running the last mile with you!

This kept me going, and I ran mile 6 with my older sister, Melissa, and we chatted about the wonderful memories of being kids, and about her 3 daughters. At mile 7, my sister left and my younger sister, Hannah joined me where she told me about her experience racing in the Tri for the Cure that morning. At mile 8 my two goofy brothers and sister Samantha were waiting for me. They seemed to slow me down a bit, as this was my toughest mile, but they made me laugh and kept my spirit up. My wonderful boyfriend, Chip, was there for mile 9, and we talked about where we were going to go on vacation after this, and how he is the best thing that has ever happened to me. My step-mom, Carol, was there at mile 10, and we chatted about how to decorate the house and how I should get my hair done. It was a chatty mile. My dad was proudly waiting at mile 11, and we talked about life, and he continued to tell me how proud he was. He gladly stepped down at mile 12, where my Mom was waiting. But this time, I knew she was really there, not just in my head. I felt her presence every step of the way, and she showered me with her love and told me how proud she was. We talked about how we did the Tri for the Cure together the first 2 years, back in 2004 and 2005, and how hard that seemed to be back then. She gave me the strength I needed to run that last mile. We ran side by side down the hill, where Dad, Carol, Chip and my goofy brother Tyler ( who was waving a foam finger and ringing a cowbell) were screaming for me. I crossed the finish line, with my mom by my side, both of us with huge smiles. The hugs from my family were the best ever. I was an Ironman! The run took me 2:31, and I crossed the finish in 6:07.

It was so great to see Neale cross the finish line, then Lesley coming down the final stretch, and then Sara cross. All with smiles on. I am so proud of all of them, and loved being a part of it all. It was so nice to see Coach Barb and Coach Karen there, who we couldn’t have done this without.

I felt some fatigue in my legs from the run, but I got a massage on Monday and that helped tremendously! I fortunately have not dealt with post race woes. I think I have found my nitch, and I know this is just the beginning. I am so fortunate to have the amazing people that I do in my life, and I feel so lucky that I was introduced to CWW months ago. I am excited to see what the next season brings!

Denver Triathlon 7/24/11

July 24, 2011

I debated for quite a while if I was even going to do this race. There was so much going on, with moving, getting ready for my Pilates certification program, Chip’s parents were in town, and the 70.3 was only 2 weeks away and I was worried doing this would take away from my concentration for that. Plus, it was a free entry, so I had nothing to lose.
But of course, I decided to do it. Chip and I went to the pre-race briefing at Mile High on Saturday where they discussed the two transitions. It was weird to leave my run stuff there the day before the race. But they seemed to know what they were doing. We spent the rest of the day relaxing with Chip’s parents and I went through the rest of my transition bag a final time.
The alarm went off at 3:45. I am sure Chip was wondering why he had to go through this. Again. But he is a great sport about it. It wasn’t too smooth of a morning, but we finally made our way back down to Mile High where we had to put out bikes on a shuttle that would then take us up to Sloans Lake. It would have made much more sense for us to ride our bikes up because the shuttle seemed to take the long way around, but soon we were at Sloans, where I went to set up transition, which was on grass and a nice change. I was quickly out of there, where I met back up with Chip and headed toward the water. It was warm! No wetsuits were allowed, which made me a little nervous. I had only done one swim the week prior without a wetsuit, and I felt like I was a sinking anchor and it took me quite a bit longer. Not to mention that the swim was in Sloans Lake, which is just nasty! I was looking forward to the added protection.
Since this was just a tune up race, that I didn’t have anything invested in, I had already made the decision to just have fun. That, mixed with the atmosphere really kept the nerves away. It was completely different than the races I had done in Boulder. Everyone seemed so serious in Boulder, but here people seemed a lot more laid back. I was actually excited to race!
I was in the last heat, so I was able to see a lot of the elite athletes finish their swim. There were also about 20 racers that were seeing impaired, which was amazing in itself, but one (the only one that did the Olympic distance) was racing in the elite category, and he came blasting out of the water with only a few people ahead of him. You would have never guessed he was blind watching him sprint into transition. It was so cool to see him take off on the tandem bike. He continued on to WIN the race. Unbelievable. Chip’s parents showed up too, which was so nice!
Soon it was my time to start. As we were in the water waiting for the gun to go off, I dunked my head under, reminding me again how nasty the water was. I was only able to do a stroke or two warm up earlier. The less amount of time in the water the better! It was dark under the water, and I couldn’t see my hand even if I put it against my goggles. Ugh, I hope I don’t get sick!
The gun went off and it began. It took longer than normal to get into my groove. The lack of a wetsuit and having water so dirty got in my head a little bit, but eventually I settled in. I worked a lot on my “point and peep” that I learned from Heather, and added in a few burst here and there. It felt fine, as I was able to settle comfortable back into my pace after each burst. I think I only did two or three, but they must have helped because soon I was out of the water running into transition. I glanced down at my watch and was shocked to see 16:12! My set pace is right at 17:00 for 750 meters with a wetsuit, and this was 800 meters with no wetsuit. I was expecting at least 19:00. I think that gave me a burst of energy because I felt great running to my bike. Which I ended up losing. I am so used to being one of the last out of the water, so it is never an issue for me to find my bike. But almost every bike was still on the rack, so I ran right past mine. I finally found it, with an embarrassing giggle, as many girls saw me look like a fool.
Once I found my bike I was in and out in 1:30. It was nice to see Chip and his parents cheer me on as I rode by. The bike was good. Faster than I thought it would be with all the tight turns and U-turns. The course headed out on Sheridan then turned west of Colfax for a few miles before the first turn around. I had a pretty good pace going, passing people left and right, including 3 girls in my age group right off the bat. The course turned back onto Sheridan and then a quick right onto 17th. A short ways down was the turn around for the Olympic distance. The volunteers were still signaling people to turn around, so I was confused for a moment, wondering if I was going the right way when I flew past them. I continued down towards Mile High and looped around it to 8th. By now there weren’t a whole lot of people around me. I hadn’t seen anyone in my age group since the start, and hadn’t seen many other women at all. I got to the turn around and started to head back to T2. I didn’t pass more than 3 girls headed in the opposite direction. I was starting to get really worried that I missed a turn somewhere. This was not normal.
I got into T3 with a 42:08 bike (fastest time in my age group). I was beyond shocked to see NO bikes on my rack. I quickly got into my run gear (1:20 transition) and headed up and around the stadium. I saw Chip and his parents again, and they all made me smile. It is so nice to have support.
The run went around the stadium and onto the Platte towards REI. I passed a few men as I ran down, quickly getting my legs under me. I couldn’t tell how fast I was running, but I was feeling good. They didn’t have mile markers, at least not that I saw, so I couldn’t judge my pace. I saw 5 girls headed in the opposite direction that were doing the Sprint, but I couldn’t tell their age. I was starting to realize that they might be the only girls ahead of me. A possible top 10 finish?? That has been a dream of mine, but never thought it would be a reality. I was feeling really good. A few spectators cheered me on and told me I was looking fast. I enjoyed the comment, but didn’t believe it. Not until I rounded the bend next to REI and saw the turn around point. It came on really fast! There still were no mile markers so I wasn’t quite sure where I was. But soon there was one that had either a 2 or a 5 on it (couldn’t tell since it was a flag flapping in the wind). I looked at my watch and was beyond shocked. It was around 16 minutes. That couldn’t have been right. I was feeling good, and didn’t feel like I was pushing myself too hard. I had worked on 5K TTs earlier in the season, and the quickest I ever got was just over 25 minutes, and that was only running, and long before my fractured foot. But seeing that gave me a boost of energy and I kept running fast! I came to the Stadium and knew the finish line was so close. I didn’t want to look at my watch, so I just kept running. I crossed the finish line, and glanced down. 24:11. I have never in my life run that fast before! My finish time was 1:25:18. Chip and his parents came to congratulate me, and that’s when I realized how much I actually was pushing! I needed a good moment to get my breath under control.
It was warm, so we wandered to find some shade and get some food. I was really anxious to see the results. I was really thinking I had to be top 10. Maybe even 5th. Finally they posted prelims and I searched for my name. I started towards the bottom and was wondering why I wasn’t finding it, thinking I was giving myself too much confidence when I ended up on the first page of results. But I found my name. I scanned over to the overall and my jaw dropped when I saw 1! I turned around to Chip and his parents, probably with the look of utter shock on my face, and excitedly told them. It was a very exciting moment. I never thought, in my first real year of racing, with a fractured foot, would I ever pull out a first place win. EVER. I will forever be in shock, and I am sure I can never repeat this performance.
We waited around for awards, and I was really shocked when I heard I beat 2nd place by almost 9 minutes. The award was a hand made cast by one of the blind participants of a woman swimming, backed to a man running, holding bike wheels. Sounds quirky as I write it, but it is amazing. Something I will cherish the rest of my life. And worth so much more than a medal.
This day will really go down in the history books. I will never forget it. I can only hope that I can pull out another performance like this.



March 11, 2011

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life…You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.

Italy Day 14

November 8, 2010

Well today is the last full day of my trip. I woke up to another dreary, wet day in Rome. I got myself ready and met Kate at my hostel at 10. We decided to walk to the Vatican since neither of us had been in St Peters Basilica. The rain started picking up with each step that we took, until our map was soaked through, as well as our shoes and pants. We decided to duck into a coffee shop by the Pantheon to dry off and wait out the storm. We talked over a cappuccino and after about an hour we went out to  brave the weather.

The rain had slowed down slightly, but an umbrella was still necessary. Mine was on its last leg, and it was only a matter of time before even the slightest gust of wind would send it to the trash can. We finally made it to St Peters Square, two and a half hours after we set out. We were excited that we made it, until we saw the line to get in. It went well around the square, umbrella to umbrella and seemed to barely move. The rain had really picked up by now and we were already wet and cold. After debating for a while we decided to not wait in line. I am disappointed that I wasnt able to see St Peters Basilica this trip, but I wouldnt have traded seeing the Pope last week for anything.

We made our way to the Metro this time, we were about done with the rain. We headed down to Santa Maria in Cosmedin,  which was a very unassuming basilica compared to others I have seen here. It does have its own unique beauty, with 11th century carvings and frescos and the skull and bones of St Valentine. The main reason we came down to this basilica is the same reason most people do. To see the Mouth of Truth, famously seen in the movie, Roman Holiday. Fortunately my hand was not bitten off.

It didnt take long to see all there was to see at the church so we then headed for lunch at a restaurant by the Colosseum. There were a couple from Vancouver there that we chatted with, and the gentleman informed me that his favorite football team is the Broncos. I told him I was sorry, and that he should pick another team! At least he has the option!

The rain had nearly stopped by the time we left the restaurant so we chose to walk back towards the Termini. There is a fairly large bookstore in the Termini that we stopped to for a while before we parted ways. I headed back to my hostel to get out of my wet clothes and organize my pack for tomorrow. I was greeted by an unfortunate surprise that my iPod had been stolen from my bag. That did not put me in a very good mood. But the people who work at the hostel were very nice and did what they could, which unfortunately wasnt much! I am just happy it was my iPod and not my wallet with my passport and credit card!

The hostel does free pasta in the evenings, so I went down to the common area with my book to relax for a while until dinner. It was nothing to brag about, but its free food, so I cant complain! Now off to finish packing and get ready for my long day of traveling home tomorrow. See you soon, Denver!

Italy Day 13

November 7, 2010

I figured I was getting pretty lucky with my stays in the hostels. I havent had any creeps, or anyone who has made me feel uncomfortable, and I have yet to have a hard time sleeping. I knew it was only a matter of time, and last night it finally came. And it wasnt even all that bad of an experience to be honest. There was a mother and daughter from Japan that moved into the room, and neither spoke any English. When I got back into the room after reading last night, I went to take a shower. I grabbed my towel and headed into the bathroom, where I nearly broke my neck! There had to have been about 1/4 inch of water on the floor, and everything was soaked. The bath mat was soaked through, the sink area had a layer of water, and there was not an ounce of dry room to put my towel. I have no idea what this girl did in there! Once out of the shower and in bed, the one closest to me starts snoring. And not like a typical girl snore, I mean full fledged deep throat and nose snore. And of course the cleaners decided to throw out my ear plugs last night… While she is having a heyday in her sleep- honestly, I dont know how she didnt wake herself up- the other stayed up until god knows when, doing what sounded like crumpling paper, all while keeping every light in the room on. When finally morning came around 6am, the snorer got up and went to go flood the bathroom again by taking a shower. The other got up and continued to crumple her paper, again turning on every light in the room. I gave up on trying to sleep, so I got up to go have some breakfast. But as soon I swung my feet off the bed I noticed they had pushed their bunk bed almost completely against mine so I couldnt get out! I am about fed up with them by this point, so I loudly shove the bed back to let myself out, where then I proceed to trip over one of the girls humongous suitcases that she had open with every possible item she had spread over every ounce of floor and dresser space, including all over my backpack. I was going to lose it, so I quickly put on my sandals and sweatshirt and left the room. Needless to say, I was a little tired today…

Once I had the room to myself I went back, packed up my things and checked out. I headed back to the train station and got back to Naples without a hitch. When I got to Naples I found out that the next train was almost 2 hours away. I found a place to sit and just waited. Within about 5 minutes a younger Italian guy came and sat next to me. He asked me a question in Italian, sounding like he was asking directions somewhere, but I had no idea how to help him. He found out I spoke English, and he has been learning, so he practiced some with me. We ended up talking up until my train left, and I learned probably the most Italian I had all week! It was definitely one of the most fun conversations of the trip.

I got to Rome and went right to my hostel to check in, now at the Alessandro Downtown, which is just on the other side of the termini. It is much bigger than the Alessandro Palace, and immediately I wished it had openings! No free pizza here, and not beer. Bummer! But at least the beds arent on top of each other. I dumped my bag in the room and headed out to meet Kate. She is staying about 5 minutes from me. We went to the Santa Maria Maggiore, and went inside this time. Another amazing church with frescos floor to ceiling. After we wandered around a bit, and it felt weird to be back here. It feels like it was ages ago that I was here on my very first day. We made our way over to the Republica Plaza and sat by the fountain for a while deciding on what to do next. The consensus was to get pizza and wine. We found a good pizza place down the street from her hostel, and she had a free bottle of wine, so we just took the pizza back to her hostel. We decided to try to shake off our laziness and head down to the Colosseum, but as soon as we stepped outside it started to rain, so alternatively we stopped at the super market, grabbed some chocolate and went back to her hostel to have more wine and chocolate as we watched How to Train a Dragon on her laptop. Great movie by the way! We were both exhausted by the time it was over, so I headed back to my place to get some much-needed sleep. I just hope tonight is better!

Italy Day 12

November 6, 2010

I was in desperate need for some coffee this morning, so I decided to have breakfast at the hotel, and then Kate and I made our way to the train station. She took off back for Rome and I got on the bus to head to Posetano.

After a beautiful drive along very winding roads, the bus finally stopped in Posetano. I got off at the first stop, so at the top of the hill, so I could see more of the town. I found some stairs and made my way down towards the beach, taking in my surroundings as I walked. Again, more narrow walkways and stairs, leading to many homes and a few shops. After my legs started to shake from all the stairs, I had finally made it to the bottom. It was a lot further than I thought! I strolled out onto the rocky beach were just a handful of people were sunbathing and wading in the water. I sat down and enjoyed the sun beating down, and the sound of the waves coming in. I really felt like I was on vacation here. I spent about an hour just being lazy, wading in the water and soaking up the sun before I decided to make my way back to the bus stop. I knew there was one further down, but I decided to head all the way back up to the one I got off at. Once I was about half way up I questioned why the heck I did that. I was getting really sick of stairs. But, I have to try to work off at least a little bit of the food I have eaten on this trip!

The bus came about 20 minutes after I got to the stop, and I piled in, anxious for the next leg. This is the part I have heard so many stories about, and a part of my trip I have been looking forward to the most. It did not disappoint! The road is set high atop the hillside, overlooking the coast the whole way. It is also only wide enough for about a car and a half, but it doesnt stop busses, cars and mopeds from whizzing by each other. I will have to say, Italians are pretty good drivers. I would not have the nerve to drive on that road!

Soon the bus headed into Almalfi, with white buildings scattered along the hillside, looking like they could collapse at any time. This town is set right up against the water, so no stairs! Yipee! I strolled down the docks, enjoying the breeze coming off of the water and watching the fishing boats out in the distance. I made my way through the town, again small streets lined with shops. I stopped in to get a slice of pizza from a local shop and headed back down towards the beach. I found a nice bench overlooking the water where I relaxed for a long while. After a bit, about 10 young men on kayaks appeared and started doing sprints back and forth across the water. I watched, interested in what they were doing. After a few of these they headed into a small area that had nets hanging about 10 feet above the water. They continued to do drills, but it looked like a form of hockey, but in kayaks and with paddles. It was very intriguing, and I ended up watching them for about another hour until the bus showed up to head back. I need to look into this sport when I get home!

I got back on the bus, and was again exhausted. I cant tell if my body is just on vacation, lazy mode, or if it is just done with all the walking and sightseeing. Either way though, it is a bit frustrating…

I saw another amazing sunset from the bus. It was slowly setting over the sea, which I had a perfect view of the whole time. Again, the haze was thick in the air, adding to the beauty. The sun shine sparkled off of the water, while the sky started to turn a lighter shade of blue, making it difficult to tell where the sea ended and the sky began. Eventually the sun dipped all the way down, bringing on the darkness.

The town of Sorrento was full of life when I got back. Many people must be in town for the weekend. The streets were crowded and the restaurants were buzzing with people. I decided to walk through the streets for a while before heading back to the hostel. I have started to get to know a few of the locals, and cant seem to make it across town without running into one of them. On the main street is the gentleman from the English Pub. He knows my name, but adds the à at the end, and has no problem trying to catch my attention even if I am across the street. A few times I have stopped to chat with him, but tonight I just smiled and waved as I passed. On the other street is the gentleman from the restaurant we have eaten at a couple of times. He is somewhat of a host there, working in the street to try to bring people in to the restaurant. It was really crowded this time, and I did my best to blend in, but sure enough as I pass I hear °Miss Colorado°! (which is what he has decided to nickname me) and blows me a kiss as I walk by. As weird as it all is, I will miss it here.

I am not hungry for dinner, so instead I check out the happening gelato place and then head down to the overlook. The sea is dark, but I could still see the flashing lights of the fishing boats, and hear the sound of the waves hitting the rocks, letting you know it is still there. I stay a while until I start to get cold, and then I make my way back home. I take the side street, so I get another blown kiss from the host and I say goodbye since I knew it would be the last time I see him.

Due to the strike on Monday on the train lines, I decided to cancel my reservation in Posetano, where I should have stayed two nights, and instead came back to Sorrento tonight and will head to Rome a day early. I am glad that I chose to stay in Sorrento these four nights. I felt like I really got to experience this part of Italy, without being rushed to fit everything in. I dont feel like I am missing out on not staying in Posetano, and I am actually looking forward to spending one last full day in Rome.

Back at the hostel I go down to the lounge to read a while on the couch before heading off to bed. I will very much miss this place.

Italy Day 11

November 5, 2010

After grabbing some more incredible pastries again this morning, I headed off to Capri. It was a short 30 minute boat ride, and I was taken aback as soon as we approached. It is a jagged island with homes and shops built into the side. There is not much to see or do as soon as we docked in Marina Grande, so I bought a ticket for the funicular and headed up the steep slope to Capri town. It is very touristy with lots of high end shops and expensive restaurants. I made my way out of there as soon as I could. There was a nice walkway that led to an overlook, the Belvedere Tragara, which has a breathtaking view of the three limestone rocks known as the Faraglioni. I guess the farthest one is home to bright blue lizards found nowhere else on the planet. I wasnt able to see any, obviously.

After hanging out at the viewpoint for a while, I made my way down the stairs on the opposite side of where I came. They were steep and were never ending it seemed. A random dog wanted to follow me, so I had company on this leg of my journey, which was nice. There were no other people around, so I had no idea who this dog belonged to or where it came from, but I enjoyed its energy and companionship.

Me and my new dog made our way down the couple hundred steps to the bottom, which ended at the sea, just below the start of one of the rocks of Faraglioni. There was not another soul around and made me feel I was the only one on the whole island. I stayed down here for quite a while, watching the waves hit the surrounding rocks and listening to the seagulls overhead. Eventually I made my way back up all of the stairs. Somewhere along the way my new  dog took off, and I never saw him again. I hope he found his owners or made his way back home. When I got to the top of the stairs I turned left and continued on the nature trail. Well, I tried to at least. It wasnt well marked and all the streets looked the same, and I eventually got lost. I had no idea where I was, and all the narrow streets were surrounded by walls so there was no lookout to see if I could figure out my bearings. I kept walking uphill, hoping it would lead to something, but all I found were more streets and no tourists. I finally just turned around, admitting that I was lost. It took over an hour, but I finally found the main piazza again. This island is exhausting! The only way to get from point A to point B is either by steep, narrow walkways or lots and lots of steps.

I grabbed a sandwich at a shop in the piazza and walked a little bit in the other direction. I was starting to feel exhausted and decided that I saw all that I wanted to see, so I headed back to the funicular. It was only about 3pm and my ticket wasnt until the 6:30 boat. I walked along the beach and hung out on some rocks watching crabs eat at the algae. I killed about an hour doing this, but then couldnt take any more. I sucked it up and spent another £14 to get on an earlier boat back to Sorrento. On the ride back I watched a beautiful sunset. The first one I have seen all trip, and it was well worth the wait. They have been doing a lot of burning, so the air was still smokey, which made the sunset even more amazing, letting different shades of orange and red streak across the sky.

The sun was almost completely down by the time we docked. I climbed the many stairs back to the main road, grabbed a bottle of wine and headed back to the hostel. Not too long after I got back, Kate showed up with a couple of friends she met while traveling that she ran into on her outing. The four of us went out to dinner, the same place we went last night. We got pizza this time, and it was tasty! Kates friends are from Tulsa, and they are on about day 54 of their year long travel, and have only been married for a year! They are definitely putting their new marriage to the test! They seemed to be enjoying themselves thus far, and they gave me some good information if I ever wanted to go teach snowboarding in Germany. I might have to at least look into it…

After dinner we parted ways. Kate and I stopped for some gelato on the way back, where we ended up being lazy, just drinking wine and chatting down in the lounge until we were exhausted enough to go to bed.

Italy Day 10

November 4, 2010

I slowly rolled out of bed this morning. It seems to be getting harder and harder to get going in the mornings. I met and chatted with a couple of my roommates and found out one of them was also planning on going to Pompeii today, so we decided to go together. On the way to the train station we stopped at a pastry shop that Kate knew about. It is now both our favorite spots. You can get a huge croissant, muffin and some other chocolate filled pastry for only £2! We were now set for breakfast and lunch.

Pompeii was amazing. It was founded around the 7th century B.C. and was home to about 20,000 people. On the morning of August 24th, A.D. 79, Versuvius, which is a nearby volcano, erupted, causing devastating effects to the city. Pompeii lied directly in its path and was totally consumed by stones and ash. The excavation started around 1748. Now Pompeii is a poignant ghost town, suspended in time. While we wandered the stone streets I noticed the grooves worn in the paving, assuming by heavy carts and such back in the day, and many people enjoyed hopping across and taking pictures of the stepping stones across the paths, designed to keep feet dry when it rained. We wandered through old homes which still had frescos on the wall that were full of such detail. I think my favorite was Casa del Fauno. It was a 2nd century B.C. house, which has the best statue I have seen yet on this trip. It is of a faun, frozen in a stance that reminded me of the music video of Staying Alive. We also saw many casts of humans and dogs, frozen in the position that they died. It was heartbreaking. One was crouched in a ball, praying, another had their hands up, trying to protect themself from the inevitable, and one even, looked like they were asleep and didnt notice a thing. The dog definitely got us the most. It was curled up on its back, and reminded me of Seranno while she is sleeping in her awkward position. Kate and I just kept saying that we couldnt believe everything we saw was over 2000 years old. It was all amazing and I would definitely recommend it.

After we had seen about as much as we could, we found our way back to the train and headed back to Sorrento. We relaxed over a bottle of wine in the hotels lounge, catching up on people back home and talking about our lives. She is well from Tasmania, and is well-traveled. She has been on the road for almost a year, traveling by herself. It was admirable and I definitely got some good tips from her!

Finally it was late enough for us to go have dinner and she took me to an amazing pizza place she had found the night before. We both ended up getting pasta, but it was still amazing! Best pasta I have had yet. After finishing with some Tiramisu, we headed back to the hostel. Kate was tired, so she went off to relax in bed.

I ended up going back out on the town with another girl from my dorm, which I never got her name, but we just call her the Girl from England. She was nice, but a little odd. We wandered the streets, again. I am definitely getting to know this town well. We stopped in an Irish bar for a drink, and then went to find something for her to eat. I eventually wore down with her company, and was exhausted from the day, so I politely said goodnight and went back to the hostel. I went down to the lounge for a little while to read my book, but it wasnt long before my eyelids started getting heavy and I had to make my way to bed.



Italy Day 9

November 3, 2010

Laundry day! Oh how fun. As I was walking to the Splashnet Laudromat I was thinking how nice it has been to not have to do any chores. I get up, pack my bag, and I am off for the day. No cleaning, no making the bed, no dishes… It has been nice. But alas, I must do laundry before I start to smell bad. I found the perfect place, though! All I had to do was take my clothes out of my bag, and the guy there did my laundry for me as I got caught up on the internet. Cant beat that! I want to find a place like that back home.

After getting my laundry done I walked down to the train station to head to Naples. I was getting a hang of the train station, and soon I was relaxing with my ipod on the train to Naples. I decided to only spend £10 instead of £40 and take an extra hour, which ended up working out just fine. Once in Naples I immediately found the local train and headed right to Sorrento. It took over an hour, but the views were amazing. Jagged rocks with homes build on them, over looking the coast. It was nice to see water for a change.

I was in Sorrento by 3pm and as soon as I steped off the train, I knew I was going to love it here. I wandered my way though town and finally found the Ulisse Deluxe Hostel. Wow, it is nice! It has a huge lounge area with a bar and breakfast place. It also has a swimming pool, spa and fitness center. And this is the cheapest hostel yet! I couldnt believe it. I really feel like I am staying in luxury. They do charge £5 for just one hour for internet though, so maybe thats how they make thier money.

I put my bag down in my room and headed out. It was so nice to finally be outside and not have to wear a jacket! I could feel the moist air coming off of the water, and it smelled of the sea. I wanted to see the water so that was my first stop. I wound my way down the steep, winding narrow street, and eventually it opened up to the coast. Fish boats were coming in and heading out, there were men tiding up their netting and cats running wild, chasing each other. There werent many people out and the ones that were seemed to be lost in their own worlds so they didnt seem to notice me. The days are really getting shorter and the sun was already behind the hills. I took a lot of pictures and then found a foot path that seemed to head back up towards town. It was again steep, and I was the only one on it otherthan a few cats. I had to keep stoping to take pictures of everything, it was too amazing to just walk by.

I eventually turned onto a narrow street lined with shops that were full of home-made trinkets, scarves and other souvenirs. The street was crowded, but not nearly as bad as being in Rome or Florence. It finally ended as it ran into the main street, so I slowly made my way back to the hostel. On the way I found an English Bar, so I decided to stop in and get some dinner. An Italian waiter immediately came to my side and started chatting with me. He said he saw me today on the train, although he didnt look familiar. After taking my order he came back over and sat down to chat some more. He was a nice guy, and was fun to talk to. He asked me where I was from and was shocked when I told him America. He said °no, you cant be from America! You do not have an American body. Americans are fat! You must be from somewhere else, no? Maybe France, or Canada?° It was rather amusing that he didnt believe me, but I will take that compliment. Once my pizza was ready he let me enjoy it in peace. He came back after and asked if I would go out with him and some friends later tonight. I told him  would think about it, and would be back there at 10pm if I was up for it. I am not sure if  will take him up on that or not…

After dinner I continued to walk down the street. It was completely dark by now and people were starting to close down their shops. So I made my way back to the hostel and decided to go for a swim. It was nice, although more crowded than I had hoped. Maybe later would be better for that. But I cant pass up a pool at a hostel in Italy! I am now going to head down to the lounge for a while, for a glass of wine and decide what I want to do for the evening.

I have come to realize this last week that I really dont mind, and actually have really enjoyed, traveling by myself. On quite a few occassions I have overheard couples getting into arguments over the most rediculous things, travel buddies fighting over where they are going to go next, and parents screaming at their kids to behave. I feel so grateful that I have the freedom that I do. I can get lost, sleep in or get up early, stay as long or as short as I want to at the different places, and meet and talk to whoever I want until as late as I want, all without consequence. It is such a good feeling, and it has made for such an amazing experience. I think that after this trip it is going to be hard to find someone I am compatable with for traveling! I am sure that is not true actually. I already know this trip has been so good for me, and just what I need at this moment in my life.

Italy Day 8

November 3, 2010

I was ready to get back to the city by the time I woke up this morning, so I packed my bag, said bye to the owners and headed down the dirt road. I had no idea how I was going to get to the train station, but I was grateful it wasnt raining out. There was a bus stop close to their drive, but from what I could read, it didnt look like one was coming for at least an hour. I decided to start walking and figure it out from there.

I made it to the next town, but realized that walking probably wasnt the best idea. There was no shoulder and the roads were starting to get more narrow and windy. I found another bus stop, and even though the bus wasnt scheduled for another 45 minutes, decided to wait. I was praying one would come, because I had yet to see a bus, going in either direction, yesterday or today. But one did come, right on time, and eventually I was at the Termini.

I decided to head back to Rome. It didnt make sense to go north again, since I am planning to be in Sorrento on Wednesday. I had to wait almost an hour for the train, and the train took over an hour and a half, but soon I was off the train, back in Rome. It actually felt good to be back around lots of people, and a place I kind of knew my way around. I made my way right to the Alessandro Hostel, where they greeted me with happy surprise to see me. They had room, and as he was doing the paperwork he asked me where I had been, what I had done etc. I realized I really missed people interaction!

After putting my bag down in the same room I stayed in last week, I made my way down to the computers to get caught up. A guy, Taylor, came in and we started chatting. He is traveling alone from Toronto, and he just got into town today. He is majorly jet lagged and was asking me for all sorts of advice. It feels like forever ago that I was in his shoes! We both finished up and headed to the bar to share the open bottle of wine I had. It was more good conversation. People started piling in the closer it got to 8:30 and the free pizza. Taylor and I invited a couple of guys from Germany to come sit with us, and I am glad we did. They were a riot. I could barely understand them through their thick accents, but their animation was more than enough to understand what they were trying to say. We all spent the rest of the evening enjoying pizza and beer, laughing until our cheeks hurt. I realized I did miss this the last few days. But I am off again, leaving tomorrow to head south. I am excited for this last leg of my adventure though. Skàl!