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Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Quick Romp through Rome and Africa Calling!

When you have less than 3 days in a city as exhilarating as Rome, there’s only one way to do it right: under the wing of a super friendly Italian (who happens to run and work for the Rome Marathon) and his 3 Spanish/Italian roommates in their insanely well-located apartment.

I was pretty drained when I arrived Sunday night, but Alessio’s hot couscous meal and invite for a nighttime walk around the area perked me right up. I was blown away that sites like the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine were within walking distance, and had to keep reminding myself that I was in a real city and not an amusement part. My favorite part of the night was walking on the same cobblestones that Abebe Bikila, the barefooted Ethiopian, tread when he won the 1960 Olympic Marathon and paved the way for East Africa’s distance running dominance. Totally inspiring and perfectly relevant to the next country on my agenda!
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With some guidance from Pedro and Luis, my 2 Spanish roommates who are studying Architecture here, I also checked out pretty much everything on my must-see list, including… Piazza Navona, Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, Circus Maximus, Campo di Fiori, Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain. My mouth was permanently ajar, except when I gave it a rest to gobble up some gelato.
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Other highlights of Rome included Alessio’s cooking (his focaccia bread, made with olive oil that he and his family harvest, puts every other loaf of bread to shame); runs through a nearby park that’s connected to the Appian Way; and dinner/wine at Pizzeria Il Podista, a running-themed restaurant owned by an avid marathoner that also churns out some of Rome’s best pizza.
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Now, after an awesomely full stay in Rome, hosted by one of the nicest people I’ve encountered yet, I’m getting ready for my next big destination. While y’all are prancing around town tonight, dressed as toothless toddlers, Little Red Riding Hood, Dog the Bounty Hunter’s wife, Winnie the Pooh, or Daisy Duke (I’m talking to you, Matt and Luke)…
20121029-154122.jpg… I’ll be on a red-eye flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, my home for the next two months. I’m not sure what my internet access will be like there, but I’ll post some pictures and updates when I get a chance. Ciao, Europe, and thanks for the abundance of memories and new friends!

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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

My Adopted Italian Family

The past week has been an extension of my dad’s trip through Europe 36 years ago, and I’ve loved every second of it! Meet my adopted Italian family: Bruno, who my dad befriended as a young backpacker, his wife Donnatella, and his daughter Sara.
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I first visited Sara in Mendrisio, Switzerland, and had a riot with her all week long. We went to a workout class led by a disturbingly uncoordinated teacher, wandered around her Architecture school, roasted chestnuts, stayed out uncharacteristically late (for me) at a discotec, and spent a lot of time with her boyfriend Max, Max’s brother Leo, and their friend Daisuke (who served me a delicious Asian lunch on the rooftop of their apartment).
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On Friday night, the 5 of us cozied up in Sara’s car and drove to her parents’ home on a lake near Verona, Italy. An absurd amount of fun and food ensued. Most notably, Bruno came dangerously close to popping us with his homemade pizza, perfected with 30+ years of practice, a beautiful wood-fire oven, and the freshest ingredients Italy has to offer.
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I also tried donkey meat for the first time, downed espresso after espresso, and got a free footlong (haircut, that is, from Sara). And while these last 2 stops weren’t directly related to running, I had some splendid runs by wild vineyards, under archways of ancient churches, through a quaint and bustling village, and along a lovely lake.
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I couldn’t have asked a better group to spend my last week in Europe with. I’m so thankful for the unlikely but precious friendships that traveling fosters, and I look forward to the day when Sara’s and my little offspring keep the Cavicchioli-Wade connection rolling!
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I just made it to Rome, where I’m staying with an awesome Italian who works for the Rome Marathon and his 3 roommates. I only have a couple days to soak up the city before I fly to Africa, so I better get moving!

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

September Flashback

I’m a little late but here are some memories from September, my second month abroad:
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And to all the Owls that are racing Conference on Monday: Run hard, be tough, and have a blast! I’ll be thinking of y’all and stalking the results from Rome.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Beautiful Bern and My New Training Partners

This week, for the first time since I graduated from Rice, I had the luxury of doing some consistent training with girls around my age and ability. While I’ve done tons of recovery runs and the occasional workout with new people, I’ve mostly been doing my quality sessions alone. This week, however, was different as I was treated to 2 sweet and speedy new training partners:
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Livia, a 16:08 5k girl whose latest track season was cut short by an injury, has been hosting me at her parents’ home all week and showing me the best of Bern. And Astrid, a 9:50 steeplechaser who just graduated from Florida State, has been meeting up with us for runs, dinner, and lots of reminiscing about the NCAA, Panera, and fro-yo.
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On Saturday morning, I got to join Livia and Astrid for one of the toughest, yet most scenic and satisfying, training sessions I’ve done yet. Along with 3 guys who pace their workouts, we did 2×25-minute hard uphill runs with a 5-minute jog and a quick drive back down to the bottom in between reps.
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The workout was steep, challenging, and doubt-inducing- and the perfect formula for euphoria and fulfillment that just aren’t possible from the flat. Running with a group of similarly driven and serious runners also reminded me of my 5 wonderful years at Rice, and how nice it is to be a part of a team. Running alone definitely has its benefits- space for peace and reflection, among others- but special things happen when passionate and ambitious people work together to chase a common goal. While I loved running with Livia, Astrid, and the guys this week, it went by way too quickly and left me craving many more miles with them. We’ve already talked about teaming up for high-altitude summer training in Switzerland and warm winter running in Texas. Sounds like the perfect trade-off to me!

Livia also showed me all around the new and old downtown areas of Bern, took me on some runs by the river and zoo, and brought me to a coordination and drill session with her coach. I seriously love this city (and my new friend)! It’s gorgeous, peaceful, awesome for running, and seemingly within reach of the mountains on a clear day.
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The fact that the Burri family, who I’ve been staying with all week, are about as friendly as it gets doesn’t hurt either. I’ve loved chatting with Livia and Mr. Burri and have become a pretty good gesturer, thanks to Mrs. Burri and my attempts to communicate without a common language. While I would have really liked to talk freely with her, our dramatic signing and scribbling turned out to be a fun part of my visit. And you know what else was fun? This:
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On a more random note… Google Translation just informed me that the “shampoo” I’ve been lathering in my hair all week is actually body wash. Oops! At least my locks are all sanitized and stuff, right?

Well… it’s about time to pack my bags up again and move onto my next destination. I’m going to Mendrisio in the Italian part of Switzerland for a few days, and will then spend 5 days in Italy as I make my way down to Rome for my flight to Ethiopia. It’s wild to think that in a week from tomorrow, I’ll be heading to the continent I have been dreaming about for as long as I can remember!

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Track Challenge and Some New Drills

In addition to experiencing the magic of St. Moritz, I also learned about some unfamiliar and neat approaches to running during my stay with Ueli last week.

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The night I arrived back in Zurich, I watched one of of the coolest sporting events I’ve ever seen: TV Oerlikon’s Track Challenge 2012. Each year, the club celebrates the end of the track season with a 10-race competition. They run on a 250m track, each race ranges from 1 to 4 laps (4x250m, 3x500m, 2x750m, 1x1000m), and they get a 5-minute break in between races. Sounds a little grueling, but simple, right?

Not so much. The beauty of the competition is that the runners don’t know which distance they’re running until 125m (half a lap) to go. Only the bell-ringer has that knowledge as she draws from a basket containing 10 paper slips before each race. She keeps her hand on the bell each time the runners go by, but only rings it when they’re passing her for the last time of that race. The uncertainty, and the fact that finishing places matter but times don’t, result in some very creative and sneaky tactics. If you’re a distance-oriented runner, you might be rewarded from pressing hard from the beginning… but allow a strength runner to sit on you for too long and you might be out of luck. Points are awarded after each race according to finishing order (the better you do, the more points you receive), and those with the highest point totals at the end win cash prizes.

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Apparently, the Track Challenge originated as a drunken idea and has since become a highly-anticipated annual tradition. I was so glad to have stumbled into the event last week, as it reminded me that track doesn’t have to be an all-day long affair with often predictable outcomes or serious atmospheres. I think a competition like this would be massively appealing to runners and fans back home and elsewhere, and I hope that the next one I attend will find me spiked up and holding onto one of those random, risky surges.

I also took advantage of Ueli’s expertise in drills, plyos, and other supplementary running exercises during my stay with him. I filmed a bunch of them so that I’d be able to share and replicate them later on, so here are a few I liked the most:


Finally… it probably seems like I screen my hosts for culinary expertise, but I promise I have just been extraordinarily lucky! Ueli was no exception to my string of hosts that are also talented cooks. Here were some of his specialties:
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After soaking up as much of Zurich as I possibly could, I’m now staying with Livia, a sweet and fast 25-year-old, in Bern. So far, I’m loving everything about this week- especially getting to know Livi and her training partner Astrid, who just graduated from Florida State. More on them next!

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

St. Moritz: A Runner’s Paradise

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I think I know how Luke feels in a candy store. (And I mean currently, not when he was a toddler). In the past 5 days, Ueli has shown me so many places that literally stunned me with their beauty and set a new benchmark for scenic runs. One of those days was so memorable, however, that it’s worthy of its own post.

Early Sunday morning, we hopped on a train to St. Moritz, a town in southeast Switzerland that houses the high altitude training center for Swiss Olympic athletes. He warned me that the trip would take almost 4 hours each way, but that the journey alone would be worth it. He wasn’t messing around. First, we got to watch the sun rise over Zurich.
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For the next few hours, we wound our way through and around the majestic Alps. At one point the train stopped on a bridge and it seemed like a forceful jump on one side would send us toppling over the edge into the river below. I was worried when a serious-looking man made an announcement in Swiss-German, but Ueli assured me that there was nothing to worry about- the parachutes we would use to jump out would be delivered shortly.
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I was totally captivated by the enormity and raw beauty of our surroundings… but not so much that Ueli and I didn’t exchange some language lessons along the way. Here’s a vid of Ueli saying a Swiss-German phrase that foreigners love because it’s full of those throaty sounds. I’m not sure how useful it is, but I really hope I find myself in an urgent situation that requires me to tell someone that “a small crab is creeping over a small kitchen cabinet.”

And then, we arrived in heaven. I’m not kidding. I took an obscene number of pictures, and the fact that Ueli never complained says a lot about him, but here are a few of my favorites:
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I also got to see the reasons that St. Moritz buzzes with distance runners (and other athletes) every summer, especially in preparation for the Olympics this year. The trails are nicely-surfaced, well-marked, and endless; the elevation is perfect for training; and the mountains hover over the track as if they could collapse on it at any second. I would bet that that track takes a beating from some pretty spectacular, faster-than-written workouts.
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After a few solid hours of running, picnicing, and wandering, we finally made it back to Zurich around 9 p.m. That meant that we still had a few hours left to use our travel passes, so we walked to the top of a massive hill and got a clear view of Zurich by night. It was a nice, symmetrical end to a truly great day. If the opportunity ever arises to spend a summer training in St. Moritz, I’ll jump!
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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

My Swiss Doppleganger

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Okay, so maybe we don’t look identical.. or resemble each other in the slightest. But I really think I found my personality doppleganger in Lisa, a red-headed runner, chef and student from Uster, Switzerland.

I arrived at Lisa’s house last week hoping to learn a thing or two about running and not be too much of an imposition. Five days later, I left with great friend, a running and core partner, loads of new recipes, a stockpile of Swiss chocolate, some art supplies, a face I will forever associate with apples and cheese, and a lot less giggles in my reserve. When you find yourself dressing up in outlandish costumes and singing Happy Birthday in different languages with someone you’ve only known for a few days, it’s hard to argue that the friendship wasn’t meant to be.
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Snapshots of last week’s shenanigans

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A few of Lisa’s excellent dishes

Like my week with Lisa, many of my most memorable travel moments haven’t been thoroughly planned or expected. I’ve been fortunate to have fallen into the open embrace of some key individuals who have enhanced my trip more than they know. They’ve reminded me that this year isn’t as much about running as it is about connecting with people from different circumstances and finding ways to blend your ideas, passions, and habits. For Lisa and the rest of my hosts in the past 3 months, I am incredibly thankful. I can’t wait to show my new doppleganger around Rice, Dallas, White Rock Lake and most importantly, the legendary Wade costume closet someday!

After a few big hugs and one too many awkward picture requests, I made my way back to Zurich, where I’ll stay for another 5 days. My new host is Ueli, a pro triathlete, marathoner, running coach, and biomechanics researcher. While arts and crafts and dress-up somehow slipped through our agenda, I’m having a great time getting to know him and seeing his favorite parts of Switzerland by foot and by train.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Uncategorized