Wednesday, September 5, 2012

finding myself in austria :)

Recent Tower Training
I told myself when August rolled around; it was time to really start to crack down on the vertical training.  Sears would be here quicker than expected and I wanted to be ready this time around.  I started cranking out 10 rep workouts at the Z tower.  It felt good to be back in there; I’d been doing workouts in my tower but my steps were small and just seemed inadequate for the steepness of the steps inside the tallest skyscraper that looms over the Chicago skyline.  I knew that 10 climbs would take mental fortitude because even 5 climbs can seem daunting at times.  I’ve been reading Scott Jurek’s book Eat & Run so I’d pull motivational quotes from there and repeat them to myself during the climbs.  Also decided to bust out my ipod, first time I’d be climbing with music.  I could tell the beat determined my climb rate, which was sweet.  It kept my mind occupied and I cranked em out.  I hit 2:45 average for my first workout, seemed solid.  The next weekend, I was back in there doing my thing and chopped off a few seconds coming in at 2:40-2:43, felt good to drop the times.  The next week was even more of a shock when I averaged 2:37 for 10 climbs!!! I used to think that was a great average for 5 climbs so to hit it for 10 was encouraging.  The next week, my mind was a mess, scattered and all over the place, my body didn’t feel that great either.  I knew it was gonna be a long workout, I found myself doubting myself and what I could do.  The negative thoughts poured in and I tried my best to block them out but it didn’t happen, I was broken.  My times were ok but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I saw Brady after my 6th climb, he was done with his workout and I just couldn’t handle it, I felt too fragile and weak so I called mine too.  I was disappointed in myself for giving up and for talking myself down.  It was one of those bad days but after a few minutes I got back in there, hit some sprints instead, discovered one step running (something ill now incorporate into my workouts) and managed to eek out a total of 10 climbs.  It wasn’t the workout that I originally set out to do but I finished.   Afterwards, I was somewhat disappointed; I expected more of myself and my mental attitude.  The days when I fall short of positivity can be a real internal battle. 
The weekend before I was off to Vienna, I planned to see if I could break my 5 climb record.  That morning I entered the stairwell, with positivity but somewhat disheartened.  My legs didn’t feel super, it definitely wasn’t my best feeling workout physically but the times showed otherwise.  I didn’t smash my record but I did break it by 1 second, I’ll take it.  I pushed it so much on the last climb, I used everything I had, and my arms were taking on some of the work when my legs were feeling it.  I felt totally spent when I reached the top of the last one.  I was elated to set a 5 climb PR; it was a good sign of what’s to come. 
Leaving Drama Behind
Recently, I’ve been going through some personal melodrama and was really looking forward to escaping, to finding myself while wandering through the streets of Vienna and running in the mountains.  We moved into a new office for work and were having issues getting access to our files so I saving the few files I had to my desktop instead.  Tuesday afternoon, the IT logged onto my computer to try and solve the problem remotely, he quickly moved the mouse, deleting things and clicking this and that.  The next thing I know my desktop is almost completely bare.  I frantically searched for my files, they were gone, deleted!!  My past 3 days of work were lost and I had to get them to the client before I left the country, I searched my personal files and my training log had also been deleted.  My heart sank; my training for the past 6 months was erased.  That thing is so important to me, I had 2 versions and of course they were both gone.  I tried not to freak and before I left for the night we started a program to recover the deleted files.  When I got to work on Wednesday it was done but the files were corrupt!! I spent several precious hours on the phone with the IT guy, frustrated and annoyed.  All I wanted was an easy morning at work to tie up a few loose ends before heading to the airport but I didn’t get any of that, we found my training log but the files were useless.  (After note - I recalled that I had recently sent the calendar version in an email so all is not lost!!  I found it and am just missing a few random days in August, its not the detailed version with the guts of my every feeling and move but at least I know the quantity/gist of what I had done)
I left work to go for a run, planned on an easy jaunt through the forest by work.  Wanted to burn off some steam and excess energy before being cooped up on a plane for 11+ hours.  As soon as I started off, I realized I locked my keys in the car.  Great… at least my office is close by and luckily enough I work with my dad.  I ventured down the path, picking up the pace and raced into the building, even darted up the stairs.  Found my dad, we drove to my parent’s house to get my spare key and at this point, I was on the verge of a mini meltdown.  Tears streaming down my cheeks, I was so frazzled and knew I needed to find positivity and was worried that my race would suffer because of my poor mental attitude.  I felt better after my 5 mile run and a smile crept across my face, I wanted to put it all behind me and knew that I would find relief once I was on my way.
I arrived in Vienna around noon on Thursday, hopped on the train to the city and began to wander looking for my hotel.  I’m sure I Iooked like a major tourist wearing my oversized backpack, dragging luggage through the streets, stopping periodically on street corners to check my map.  I was overheating at this point too, had too many layers on and just kept wandering.  It seemed as though I was headed in the right direction but the streets aren’t exactly labeled as directly as they are in the US, brought back memories of London where we searched for and came within 50 feet of our hotel several times, haha.  The street names were on the sides of the buildings but I couldn’t tell which direction they were referring to, was it the the N/S or E/W street?  I finally found my hotel and tossed myself on the bed.  Laid around for a little bit then decided to go for a run, I feel the best way to explore a new place is by running.  You can get around much quicker and it lets me spot places that I’d like to return to at a later time.  I took off down the street, not really sure where I was gonna go.  I knew I was in the inner circle of the city and the loop around it was 5k so that seemed like a good route but I really had no idea how to get to that loop so I just went in the direction that suited me and if I saw somewhere interesting, I headed towards it.  I also brought my phone with me so I could snap action shots.  I came across this area filled with hustle and bustle, outside cafes in the streets, lots of fancy shops and plenty of people.  I made a mental note to definitely come back here; a smile came across my face.  I was on my way to finding what I was internally searching for, I love exploring on my own and experiencing new things, it lets me peel away another layer and discover more about myself.  I darted through the crowds and weaved around for 40 minutes.  That night I headed to a veggie place nearby called Yamm (reminded me of Tibbits in Basel), have a great veggie buffet and lots of raw options so this was good.  I also spotted some coffee shops to head to in the morning. 
Friday morning rolled around, it wasn’t all that nice out which was disappointing because I really wanted to sit outside enjoying a cappuccino or latte and reading but oh well, found a great indoor café.  So I loitered for a bit, and then wandered a bit more and stumbled into a starbucks to do a little more reading.  That afternoon, Norbert was going to show me some sights around Vienna.  First we went to Millennium Tower so I could get a glimpse of the stairwell.  It’s funky because a floor is 17 steps straight, no middle landing or turn.  And the rail was super high and close to the wall, kinda awkward for me but I’d have to make do with it.  I tried a few floors and actually felt refreshed; my legs felt pretty good going vertical despite feeling somewhat tired wandering around.
After leaving the tower, we headed to a famous cathedral. On the way Norbert decided to stop for some traditional Vienna sausage, yea no thanks!  The spicy mustard was awesome though, haha.  Once we got to the church, I wanted to take a tour of the catacombs; it was somewhat eerie and creepy looking at piles of bones and skulls under a church but interesting at the same time.  Some of the bones had been there since the black plague!  We then went up to the top of the steeple, the view was terrific.  Then it was off to a palace, the garden and park around it was beautiful.  I just wanted to take off running but knew I had to save my legs.  I was started to get tired and my legs knew it was about quitting time, so I headed back to the hotel and I was off to Yamm for dinner again.  Decided to enjoy a chai latte while doing some more reading, not sure if it was the caffeine or the time change but I couldn’t fall asleep until after 3:30!!  I’d check my watch every hour and still was laying there awake, fretting about losing sleep for the race. 
Millennium Tower Extreme Climb
Saturday morning, I woke up after about 3 or 4 hours of sleep and hit the pavement to loosen up my legs.  Wandered to a café for a bit then was off to the tower.  I wouldn’t start my climb until at least 3:30 pm so had practically the whole day to kill.  Got there and came across the friendly faces of other European climbers, its great coming together at an event.  It was only 1:30 so I sat around, got a coffee, I was trying to stick to my normal morning race routine.  Ate a banana about an hour before my race.  It was kinda cool and misty out so I decided to warm up inside, the tower is part of a mall so I weaved through the shoppers, unique warmup. 
3 by 48 floors, this should be interesting.  They started us by bib numbers for the first climb, not really sure of the rhyme or reason for starting numbers, some of the elite guys were behind me, perhaps it’s by registration date, who knows.  I knew I would have to pass people.  We started upstairs and then one by one walked down an escalator, across a hall to the stairwell, I just took my time.  I was in no hurry and the timing mat was right before the stairwell anyways.  But the timing guys were always waving me forward, alright, alright, I’ll pick up the pace to a slow jog to appease you.
I hadn’t given this race much thought so much else has been cluttering up my mind and I seemed to be more focused or excited about the mountain running I was gonna be doing the next couple of days, haha.  The race was an added bonus and I knew that the outcome didn’t really matter, I would do my best and that’s all I could ask of myself.  Suzy Walsham was there and I knew that she would be my main competition.  I knew the shorter tower would be an advantage for her but thought maybe the triple climb would play to my advantage and possibly equate to a taller tower. 
I wanted to check my watch along the way, 25 seemed like a good spot.  It wasn’t really halfway but was easily memorable.  I was at 2:36, ok that should put me around 5:00.  I had set 5:00 as a goal for myself; I’d like to average that for 3 climbs.  I had to pass several guys and some girls, of course a few came blowing by me at the start of the race, darting around me.  HA! I thought to myself, yea go right ahead I’ll be seeing you in a few floors and just as I predicted, I had to get around them.  After grabbing hands for a bit, I kindly asked people to move aside or let me through, luckily one girl just stepped aside on the landing and the other guys graciously stepped outta the way. 
The last 4 floors are smaller, more turns like a normal stairwell and the rail changed too.  Was white and spindly, I tried to use the vertical poles as leverage and the turns were awkward because it was very square and a large pole was up the middle that would sometimes disrupt my rhythm.   I didn’t really push myself at the end, just kept a relaxed pace.  Didn’t wanna burn my legs on the first climb, checked my watch as I crossed the mat – 5:06.  Umm, alright, I guess that’s ok.  I saw Suzy in the way down, she clocked at 5:07, sweet, I had a second lead and it showed on the leader board.  I knew that both of us had held back but I had a feeling that she held back more than I did but I did think to myself “could I possibly win this”, the thought quickly crept into and out of my mind, I didn’t wanna focus on that and knew that she would probably blaze the next one. 
After the first climb, they put you in starting order of your finishing time so Suzy was starting one spot behind me, excellent (sarcastic response).  We had to wait for everyone to finish and meander down, at this point my legs were feeling alright but as time wore on, I was getting that jittery feeling and just wanted to get it over with.  I was also having some major cotton mouth issues, water didn’t seem to provide any relief.  After about 20 minutes, we lined up to start the 2nd climb.  I was nervous about Suzy starting behind me, not really the position I wanted to be in.  I could hear her hot on my tail as soon as we started, she went running past me within the first 20 floors, I asked her if she wanted to get by but she just blazed by on the outside.  Running like it was no big effort and here I was yanking the rail.  I let her go, I knew there was no sense in me trying to chase her and I just wanted to do my own thing.  It was me against the tower, there was nothing I could do about her phenomenal speed.  I kept climbing, trying to encourage myself.  Looked at floor 25 and was 2:28, sweet about 8 seconds faster the 1st climb.  I was feeling this one a bit more.  I stayed focus on my technique and kept yanking the rail.  I still wasn’t sure how hard I should push because we had that 3rd climb looming over us.  I crossed the mat and dropped my hands to my knees, wow that was a bit rough.  Watch – 4:57, sweet chopped off a decent chunk of time.  Suzy clocked a 4:40 – wow that’s untouchable. So much for my 1 second lead, haha now I was about 15-20 seconds behind.  I knew that I couldn’t make up 15 seconds there was no way, the guys race had the same sort of results. 
My mouth was so dry and thirsty, the feeling just wouldn’t go away.  My legs were really feeling creepy crawly now, I paced and sat around stretching with Suzy waiting for the next climb.  After the 2nd climb, we passed a bunch of guys in the overall standings; guess they couldn’t hold the pace, haha.  The rest before the 3rd climb was closer to 30 minutes and I was getting very antsy.  I just wanted to get it over with and was hoping that I could finish faster than the 2nd climb, but didn’t wanna explode and crawl in with a slower time.  The next woman was about 30 seconds behind me so I figured 2nd place was pretty much a sure thing but I was still a bit nervous, anything can happen in the stairwell. 
Started off the 3rd climb, the rail was just so awkward, with it being so close to the wall; I could tell that my left arm had to swing in an unusual movement to reach up.  It was also quite high for a person my size, haha.  Most of the other climbers were running up the steps but I stuck to my technique, sometimes I’m amazed that  most of the other international climbers run the steps and I just stick to the inside, using the rail and I can keep up with them!  Seems encouraging to me, not sure how I’d do if I tried their style, would I perhaps be faster in shorter climbs?  I’ve been doing some 1 step running the past few workouts; my legs really feel it around 10 floors so it’s something I would need to get used to.  I think in the shorter towers the strategy is just fine but not sure how well they’d do in a beast like sears!! 
Anyways, I could feel the fatigue on the 3rd climb.  Couldn’t really tell my pace when I started off but when I checked at 25, I was 2:31 oh geesh that’s 3 seconds slower than the 2nd climb, that is no good!  I instantly picked up the pace and started bounding.  I had designed 35 as the go floor but I had to pick it up before then.  I eased back into a quicker step cadence and periodically picked it up a bit.  When 35 came around, I put in the surge and then again every few floors.  My arms were finally starting to pick up the slack when my legs were starting to give out, glad all my hard work to get rid of the chicken wings seemed to be beneficial!!  When 40 hit, I thought ok 4 floors then it’s the 4 mini floors.  I hit those mini floors and wanted to really kick it up, I could see a guy right in front of me, I stumbled and fumbled with that rail trying to keep the quicker pace.  I dropped the rail and ran the last flight to the top and onto the mat.  I didn’t collapse, nor did I want to because it was cool and rainy and seemed unpleasant and I hadn’t pushed to that limit.  Watch – 4:55!  Yes, I dropped 2 seconds and really picked it up in the 2nd half which is fantastic. 
Suzy creamed me again hitting 4:38 for her 3rd climb so each of us chopped of 2 seconds.  I was elated with finishing second and my increasingly faster times.  I really did all that I could, I probably could’ve pushed harder but I think mentally I was torn because I knew there was nothing I could do to catch her and just pushed myself to that comfortably hard spot.  I didn’t go over the edge; I was teetering somewhat close to it though.  Now that the race was over, it was on to the real fun – chocolate cake and mountain running!!!
Mountains :)
For the next 2 days, I headed out to the countryside about an hour outside of Vienna.  Norbert was going to show me where he lives and take me to a few of his favorite training spots.  When I woke up Sunday, I went for a short run by my hotel.  There was a little trail that leads to a great view so I explored that.  That morning, we were meeting his dad so he could take some pictures of us for the local newspaper then wandered the streets of the town.  We went to lunch at his house and his mom made a few traditional Austrian things including a dumpling filled with an apricot and served with fresh plum and apple jams.  Also served Kaiserschmarrn – its basically a pancake but it was crumbled up and had raisins in it.  Both were quite tasty. 
Then it was off to the mountains!!  We started with the Durnstein castle track first, this one is mostly steps and takes about 5 minutes to run up.  I’m not a huge fan of running outdoor steps, my legs are too small and I just kinda seem to struggle but I did my best to keep up.  The view was amazing!  The only problem with the mountain training is having to go back down so you can do it all over again, I can feel it in my joints and muscles.  We got to the bottom and decided to head over to another track down the street, Norbert hadn’t ran this one yet so it was totally new to both of us.  It was a narrow trail; one step in the wrong spot could send you toppling over the edge.  I loved the trail, this was more my style and seemed much easier than the steps!!  We cruised to the top, I was carrying my phone so I could snap a picture at any moment and at one point, it buzzed in my hand I looked to see a text asking if I was busy.  Haha, I thought well I’m running up a mountain so yea, I’m a bit busy!  At the top Norbert was shocked that I could run and read at the same time, seemed like it was too easy for me.  That run was great, the trail took about 10 minutes so a good chunk of verticalness. 
That night we met his parents at a wine house / cellar.  I had some fresh grape juice mixed with seltzer water instead of wine, good choice!  Also had some bread and veggies, everyone else was eating meat platters so obviously not my type of thing, haha.  We were able to go into the cellar; it sure is chilly down there!!  But neat to see. 
Sunday, I took off on another morning run.  This time I hit the streets for some vertical running, kept it at 20 minutes because I knew the mountain that was waiting for me in the afternoon would be brutal.  My legs were actually feeling really good, I was feeling fresh and wasn’t sore at all from the day before.  I think all the easy/rest days leading up to the race gave me some time to recover so I was ready to go despite the triple race and 2 mountain climbs plus an easy run that took place during the past 2 days.  I went to breakfast and was extremely tempted by all the fresh breads and jams, I think I over loaded on tiny slices of whole grain bread packed with sunflower seeds, the fresh jams were just too good to resist – strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, apricot, etc.  plus there was tons of fruit.  I’ll get to talking about being vegan and raw while traveling at the end of this. 
More wandering in the morning, I was searching for trinkets which mostly means chocolate souvenirs, ha.  Found some special apricot chocolate and bought a few different varieties to share at home.  We met Norbert’s mom for lunch at a café on the Danube, I had a fancy cup of fruit.  I really wasn’t that hungry after my bread explosion at breakfast and didn’t wanna overload before the mountain run. 
This mountain track leads up to a church and is 1.5 km in length and 250 m high.  We started off with a warm-up run, Norbert said I was running too fast.  He’s not a fladlander runner so my easy running pace was a bit much for him, I knew he’d cream me when we started up the mountain.  On average it takes him about 10-11 minutes to reach the top but his fastest is in the 9 minute range.  This was a paved path mixed with steps; I cringed at the steps, ha.  That’s when I’d lose my ground but I could make up some speed on the vertical pavement.  I told him to do what he wanted, he didn’t have to stick with me, I just wanted to enjoy the experience without totally killing myself.  Within seconds, my heart rate was through the roof and my breathing was outta control, wow this thing is killer!  I checked my watch at one point, 4:00, only 4:00 oh dang!  It just kept going up, it was unrelenting.  Every now and again, I could feel a bit of relief and could pick up the pace, we’d hit he steps and I’d fall a bit behind and I tried to use the time for a bit of recovery (ha!).  It kept snaking up and up, checked my watch again around 8:00 alright; I can hang for another 2-3 minutes.  Norbert told me when there were about 50 meters left and I was disappointed by a false finish, kept pushing through and reached the top in 10:39.  That was incredible!!  This would be perfect training for sears or hancock, the timing is just right.  I was feeling obliterated, there’s nowhere to ease up during that climb.  Norbert was very impressed, said he was really feeling it and that I was very strong.  Not too shabby for one of my first mountain runs :) 
We went to the halfway mark to run back up to the top, this time we planned to dart off on another route.  This path seemed much steeper!!  I could tell I was really pushing it during that time.  My calves were getting worked.  Of course there were several steps before the finish but also a long flat run, I sprinted and my legs felt surprisingly great.  I thought they’d be wobbly and worthless but I really gained some speed – finished the half climb in 4:39. 
Norbert then wanted to head to the bottom for some 60 second sprints; I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  As we were wandering down, I saw a good spot without any steps so decided to do some sprints there.  I could do my own thing on the mountain which seemed like a good idea.  I didn’t know how long this section would take me but I was gonna give it my best shot.  The first time I finished in 1:30, I turned around and ran back down then turned around and right back up again.  Pushed it a bit harder time and hit 1:24, cool cut off 6 seconds.  Turned around and back down and back up, really wanted to get faster again.  I turned the corner and wanted to give my final push, felt like I was creeping along, I could see my finish spot and just really turned on the burners, my legs were giving it their all.  My calves screaming – 1:22, super!!  I was pleased with that so I started the trek back down.  I got there and saw Norbert sprawled on the ground, he was totally spent.  I was feeling upbeat, perky and happy, kinda wanting to do some more, haha.  He told me I could do a cool down or run some more but I declined because the Danube Tower stairwell was waiting for us.  A stair workout after this, we must be nuts!
I never realized what kinda tower this was until we came upon it, reminded me of the stratosphere in Vegas or space needle in seattle.  A tall and skinny tower, you run inside the core of it.  The new tower director was pleased to show us around and to meet me.  He took us into the stairwell, showed us the different levels at the top.  Norbert was familiar with the tower but this was new to me.  It was awesome being welcomed with open arms considering most buildings shut their doors and refuse to let you in the stairwell.  The director was off to Seattle to visit the space needle for some tall tower conference, I told him they should get a race in the needle.  So he gave me his business card, told me to give him my contact info.  He was going to bring it up and wanted to share any additional information with me.  Sweet!
The stairwell was very dark and dirty!!  You could see dirt piling on the steps and the rail.  It was creepy in there; steps were metal and see through.  There wasn’t much space to grab the rail since there was a fence connected to it as well; there were a few long landings to run and other spots where you’d hear a loud crash/thud as your foot pounded the ground on a turn.  The floor numbers started at 60 and were decreasing, that was kinda nice.  Never seen that before, meant that I could instantly tell how much until the finish and didn’t have to do the math.  I started off at a comfortable pace and just kinda did my own thing.  5:22. My hands were covered in dirt by the time I finished and I was constantly wiping them during the climb, even came across a few spider webs that I had to avoid.  Went for a second climb and finished in about the same time.  I probably coulda cranked out a few more climbs but really didn’t wanna spend much more time in there, the darkness and dirt was getting to me, haha.  I don’t think I couldn’t train in there, would leave me feeling depressed and discouraged, haha.  But if it was all I had then I supposed I’d make do with it.  But what a unique place.  Always interesting to try out different stairwells.  There’s a race there in the middle of November and I might get invited, if that’s the case guess I’d have to suck it up, ha.  But it’s a bit short for me, not really my best height. 
Veganism While Traveling
I try to stick to my vegan ways while traveling but at times it gets hard, I knew before leaving for Vienna (and Italy in 10 days) that I may not be able to be completely raw while in Europe and that some vegan things would be set aside but there was no way I’d eat meat – vegetarianism is not something I’m flexible with!!  But vegan and raw, can be toyed with at a moment’s notice depending on my mood.  I would never flat-out drink a glass of milk, have a bowl of yogurt or ice cream, nor would I eat a plate of eggs but if it’s intermingled in the ingredients then I may let it slide.  I have to be flexible; otherwise I’ll go nuts and just stress myself out.   I know in Italy my parents will go nuts too if I refuse to eat anything.
At Yamm, I was lucky enough that they have some raw salad options; I also tried some of the pre-made salads with beans and some roasted pumpkin which was well worth it.  For breakfast in Vienna, I would just take down a banana and have a cappuccino or latte.  At the cafes, I’d ask for soy and if they told me it was unavailable, then cow’s milk it was. 
Of course, everything was thrown out the window for the sachertorte (chocolate cake) that was my reward after the race, it was so tasty!  Once we were out of the city, I wanted to try some traditional Vienna food and didn’t want to offend Norbert’s mom nor did I want to be a hassle, considered the rude vegan American who wouldn’t eat anything.  The items she made were delicious; I know they had milk and eggs in them.  The breakfast spread in my hotel, was incredible.  The bread selection was phenomenal, I haven’t had bread since I went raw about 4 months ago and I was really craving some.  Im a sucker for the kind with nuts and seeds in it.  I sliced a few tiny slices of some sunflower seed bread and topped it with fresh jam which was also too tempting to resist.  There were plenty of choices and other fresh coffee cake type breads, plenty of fruit and granola, nuts and dried fruits.  Granola – another thing I’ve been avoiding, I loaded up a bowl to snack on later.  Figured I had 2 days to take this in before going back on the rawness when I returned home.  There were also fresh veggies and meat slices – no thanks.  I gobbled down a bowl of fruit, little bread slices and sipped my latte.  Good breakfast. 
That night at the wine house, I ordered a sandwich, gave the meat to others and transferred the tomatoes, cucumbers to a grainy baguette and smothered it with spicy mustard! That sweet spicy mustard is another thing I really tend to like. 
The next morning, I went a bit crazy with the bread again.  It’s like I was making up for lost time, haha.  I now remember how much I used to enjoy it and why I had to give it up, hard to control myself when I’m around it. 
I’ll be home for 10 days then it’s off to Italy with my parents.  I think I’ll keep the same strategy of trying to stay vegan but being flexible.  I think I’ll probably try some Italian pizza, sans cheese and perhaps fresh pasta.  I can’t remember the last time I had pasta, I don’t miss it the way I miss bread so we’ll see about that. 
Whenever I travel, I pack plenty of snacks in case I can’t find things to eat.  I’m stocked up with fruit, bars and trail mix, which can all be good alternatives and snacks.  I know there will be fresh markets in Italy and I’d love to buy some veggies but might be hard to just whip up a salad while sitting at dinner with my parents in an Italian restaurant, haha. 
I wanna go back…
Of all the places I’ve been, I think Vienna has now become my new favorite with Taipei in a close second.  The city and atmosphere was something I thoroughly enjoyed, I would love that in the US.  And the mountains are just amazingly breathtaking; Chicago is so dull and boring.  I wish I lived somewhere with scenery and somewhere cool I could train, I’m stuck with the flat land and maybe some hills here and there but they’re no rival for mountain trails.  I really hope I get the opportunity to return to Austria because I would go back in a heartbeat :)