“When in Rome”

Gorgeous view along the ride.. photo just doesn't do it justice.
Gorgeous view along the ride.. photo just doesn’t do it justice.

It is generally not that hot in Los Angeles but this particular week we have had a bit of a “heat wave”. Nothing crazy (quite honestly it’s embarrassing because I think the high is something like 84) but unusually warm for a city with no air conditioning…. So, this afternoon on my run I had the “Italian Heat” feeling and it brought me back to my recent trip to Tuscany…..

No, I didn’t go to Rome. But my family and I were in Italy for a week and there were several times the proverb “When in Rome…” seemed too appropriate not to use.

In a general sense, it means: “Don’t set your own rules when you are someone’s guest”.

I wanted to embrace the holiday completely. I didn’t ask for gluten free pasta – I assume it’s all Gluten Free there (ha ha) and I didn’t pass a Gelato stand without at least a sample (perfectly dairy free right?). And I didn’t worry about being away for 2 weeks without my bicycle or swim goggles….Because… “when in Rome” (you don’t have to worry about stuff like that).

I needed to make a conscious decision to not stress about training. Not to worry about my “unplanned” trip to Kona in a few months. It’s only an Ironman — kapish!

I love vacation. I know, who doesn’t right? But you know the feeling when you just feel like you need a rest. A week of “nothing”. That was me. I had a few really tough weeks of training prior, probably to make up for the two weeks ahead of me drinking and eating my way thru Italy.

While I didn’t plan on cycling during my trip (my lack of Italian and knowledge of where I was deterred me a bit), I got lucky thru a friend of mine who had just returned from Tuscany. He was telling me about his experience and passed on the name of the guide. I was super excited to not only get some miles in, but to be able to experience Tuscany on a bike. I rode with the guide and a fellow triathlete (bilingual!) for about five hours thru Tuscany…. It was epic. I mean, quite honestly, it’s the Cyclist’s dream!

My guide!  I think it was his 25th day of straight riding....
My guide! I think it was his 25th day of straight riding….

My new buddies were great. Turns out the woman who was with us is joining me in Vegas at the 70.3 World Championships on Sept 8th! Here I was with an instant training partner. Who – bonus – was sane (and an insanely fast rider!). It was not only amazing views but the conversation proved to be equally as satisfying.

My Vegas 70.3 Buddy!  Total Bad Ass.
My Vegas 70.3 Buddy!

The ride was tough I won’t lie. I hadn’t ridden in a week (we were in England prior to Italy) and it was hot. We didn’t leave until 9 at which point it was 93 degrees already!! … Not to mention HILLS. Everywhere we turned, literally, we were climbing…Good quality training no doubt about it.

My new buddies would show me various sites and we would stop to fill up water bottles but other than that we didn’t stop. I think I saw about 20 cars over the course of five hours. Unheard of in LA!! This I could get used to!! About three hours into the ride, I saw my first stop sign.

Sooo beautiful!
Sooo beautiful!

It was the perfect combo of a relaxed, yet tough, interesting ride. 75+ miles went by faster than ever before. This, I can do! I did hear them speaking Italian occasionally and of course thinking they were talking about me .. “crazy yank” or “why isn’t she going faster” or??? Me, nervous? No! I did hear them keep mentioning 40 and I thought they were joking about my age… (“well, she is old”…) it’s like Seinfeld episode at the nail salon… Then I asked with a bit of sarcasm…. They were talking about the weather! Oh, of course. 40 degrees Celsius. Hot. 110 F. Heat wave in Italy and we were in the middle of it.

That’s when I never wanted ice cream more. “When in Rome” (or in this case, Tuscany).

Conveniently, this was right near one of “the best ice cream shops in Tuscany”, per my cycling buddies. I haven’t had gelato in the middle of a ride since.., well, probably ever! So, per my goal of doing it all differently and “enjoying the moment”, I decided to stop (nice to be in charge!) …stratiello and mint got me thru the next 90 minutes.

Couldn't help but take a picture so I can go again some day....
Couldn’t help but take a picture so I can go again some day….

It was getting hotter and hotter and I was really happy to be almost “home”. Guessing not enough water, salt, something but I was feeling nauseated. Of course our villa was on top of a very steep hill. Of course.

Made it up the final hill and we all just jumped in the pool. My daughter was happy to meet my “new friends” and it was a great refreshing way to end the day.

If you are ever in Tuscany -it is a MUST DO. Seriously.

What has continued to keep me going thru these past few months is “If ____, then I can race Kona”. If I can ride five + hours in 100 degree heat, I will make it in Kona. If I can run 15 miles with a bout of stomach flu, I can run 26.2 in Kona healthy. If I can win my division in the pier-to-pier swim after a 12+ hour journey from England, I can hold my own in the warm waters of Kailua Bay. If I dreamed about this for years and year, then I can fulfill this dream and cross that finish line…..

Pier-To-Pier with my support crew!
Pier-To-Pier with my support crew!

Of course you never know what is going to happen on “game day”. But you can be as mentally prepared as humanly possible.

And, when you are “In Rome”, you can do anything.

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