13.6km Race Recap, wait what?!

Last week, my FitBit Semi de Paris half marathon training program required a 10km race. I could not find a local one, but did find a 13.6km race this past Sunday only 15 minutes away. The price was right (9€) along with the location, so I said close enough and signed up. It took me about a day or two to realize the odd distance but they advertised a ‘royal buffet’ at the end and thought, “yes, this is the race for me”!



La Ronde du Val Saint Pierre, I realized is a race in a series of races put on throughout the year with a high attendance of local running clubs. This meant fast runners, a lot faster than myself. With only 574 participants, my main goals were to try to test my speed for as long as I could and to not come in last. I’m proud to admit, I achieved both!

The 10am start began in a small village called Mécleuves, 15 minutes south of Metz, France. Parking was tight and you could see several of the neighbors looking out the windows trying to figure out where the mass of people were coming from. A small community center that even had coffee to start and bathrooms with no lines, made the bib pick up, which included a paper time tracker to attach to your shoe, quick and flawless. To my surprise, we even received a simple, black, cotton long sleeve shirt which I graciously offered to Julien for Valentine’s Day. Love ya babe 😂😍.

The morning was cold (32F/0C) with a light, wintry mix to start. Not terrible conditions but the winds were somewhat unwelcome with gusts up to 15mph/24kph. The race began on time as we started with a gradual uphill into headwinds, the first of many. Attempting to stay in the middle of the pack, I quickly realized I’d need to put my best foot forward as I was up against experienced racers.



The course moved along in and out of quiet neighborhoods and picturesque countryside of surrounding villages (Chesny, Peltre, Jury, Frontigny). However, the winds and rolling hills questioned my abilities to keep up. I tried not to think too much about that and focused on my breathing and rhythm. With little markers at almost every Km (there may have been a few I personally missed), the time was passing rather quickly when all of a sudden we hit our first of two water stops at 5km in (2nd at 10km). The station consisted of a couple of table with several volunteers handing out water cups plus additional options for juice and cola, and plenty of snacks including granola bars, oranges, bananas, crackers, cakes, and sugar cubes. I thought, “Sweet. If this is just the water stop, I can’t wait for the buffet”!

At the 11km point, you pass through a tiny, one person at a time, have to duck your head tunnel, which luckily at this point the crowd was spreading thin. The final push of the last 2 km seemed to be all uphill. This was tough. I had a girl riding my left shoulder with a neon pink hat that, unknowingly to her, pushed me to keep going because I easily wanted to slow my pace on this uphill but I did not want her to beat me, so I chose to push. At the top of the hill was the race photographer where he caught photos of you either completely exhausted or thrilled to have reached the top. My photo was a small combination of both.



Finally finishing the loop course back at the small community center, I was thrilled with my time of 1:13 as it was my first ever race finish with a sub-9 minute per mile pace (8:44mpm/5:24mpk). No medals but all the women received a rose at the end. Besides I was anticipating the ‘royal buffet’. My hangry side got the best of me as the buffet was exactly our water stops. No pizza, pasta or champagne or bagels as I had been envisioning. With a PR in my 5k and 10k times I tried not to think about my hunger pains and irrational buffet beliefs and grabbed a piece of cake and tea and made my way back home.



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It’s All Becoming Real

I’m pushing forward into my 3rd week from leaving my little, independent life in Boston to Europe. I say Europe vaguely because we have been splitting time in Metz (weekends) and Luxembourg (weekdays). This will come to a halt next week when we lose free reign to the apartment we have been offered because the tenant will return from his vacation on the 22nd. So even though I left with 3 bags and a backpack, currently, I still live out of a bag and a backpack.

Plans to establish a bank account and a foreign phone number have been stalled because there just isn’t enough time in the day. We get back in the afternoon on Saturdays to Metz from Lux and half the day is lost after re-grouping, doing laundry, cleaning out old food and trash that has been neglected from being away in Lux, then already having organized plans to meet up with several friends, you are pushed for time. Although I’m very happy to have the moments and laughs and drinks with friends, nothing is open on Sundays to do errands. Honestly, you can’t get to a grocery store. It’s mind boggling, plus difficult to food prep between bouncing back and forth. So these necessities, not crucial, but essential will be placed on back burner for next weekend.

This past week has been full of mulled wine, dinner with friends and family, Christmas shopping and running. We also had a family dinner with Julien’s family and got to meet his brand new 4.5 month old niece. Trop mignon.


One problem I encountered with my American made electronics is the need for an adapter. I have one but left it in Metz. So phones, computers, curling irons etc just won’t work without one. Luckily most things are convertible through USB but my curling iron definitely is not. And let me just tell you, the weather is almost always humid, even if it’s cold. Not good for hair that tends to have frizz. I thought the solution would be Luxembourg’s huge shopping mall/Target/Wal-Mart-ish store called Auchan. It’s magical, efficient, with name brands and others I’m not familiar with and I’m finding that I’m becoming obsessed with European fashion (mostly black, white, with a splash of color). Unfortunately, they did not have a US/Euro adapter but with the right tools, my handyman boyfriend made my hair products work like a charm.


  
The grocery store within Auchan is an adventure. Everything is in French and it takes me an hour and half to get 15 ingredients, but I am able to budget healthy meals for two now. I’m learning my way around and starting to be able to differentiate between sour cream and yogurt.


  

Running has been allowing me to learn each city. The roads are like Boston, cowpaths, no perpendicular or parallel concepts to help a tourist find their way around. There are buses in both cities but I find the rivers or forests or main streets help me get a visual and perception of my direction in space. And buildings and landmarks and names of roads help too. But from a previous blog, I’ve mentioned, one wrong direction and you could end up basically in Germany so…I take advantage of another fun fact about Luxembourg City, that there is free wifi provided everywhere. It’s a pretty remarkable concept. So I try to google map my directions on runs while on wifi and if I lose the wifi, I at least still have GPS to follow my path of direction. Hence this is brings me back to why I need to get my new phone service, say heaven forbid, I also ever got myself into a real emergency.


  
  

This weekend I have to get errands done. I’m starting to feel this is not just vacation mode. I’m really living in Metz and will have to commute starting next week – eek. However, France has come to their senses and stopped controlling borders into and out of Luxembourg, so traffic should be less intense (instead of 4 hours it will probably be 1-2).

And no, I still can’t speak French but I did learn this expression: if someone asks you a question and the answer is obviously yes, you may respond with this catch phrase – Ne demande jamais un aveugle si il veut voir. (Never ask a blind man if he wants to see)

Au Revoir!

Getting Acclimated

I’ve survived my first week in France and I didn’t take my return flight back that was scheduled on December 7th (it was cheaper to get round trip than one way, and if I had thought about it I would have pushed the return further out but oh well). So that’s a good sign.

Things have been busy but not overwhelming. The food and wine are amazing and I even figured out how to stream the Patriots game (despite the loss, in Portugese and it being 1:30am). Julien and I have been going to the Christmas Market in Metz, organizing the closets in the flat to fit my stuff, going out to dinner and traveling to Luxembourg. Luckily, his co-worker is on Holiday for the next 3 weeks allowing us to stay in Lux during the weekdays and avoid traffic because of France controlling the borders.


  
 I’ve looked up what my options are to take French classes but most don’t start until January. I’m debating what to do but in the meantime I’m having Julien start speaking a bit more French with me daily. I apparently can’t say my “R”‘s, what do you expect from a Boston girl?!


I also started my marathon training for the Paris Marathon on April 3rd, 2016. I decided to do it since I have the month of December off which would give me time to start my training and also learn my surroundings in both Metz and Luxembourg. This will be my 8th marathon since 2006. I decided to make a hybrid schedule of intermediate level between Hal Higdon and Nike, allowing for interval, hill, and cross training. I’ll be running between 4-5 times a week building my mileage over the next 18 weeks.

The following are some views from my runs:


  
  
  

Follow my training schedule with @thefitwanderluster on Instagram Facebook or Twitter

So life is good in Europe. But I can’t understand or speak French. That will be my big push the next few months. Wish me luck!