Where Have I Been?

Well, happy summer! I’m sorry I’ve been MIA but I have several good reasons for my absence. First and foremost, summer in Europe means holidays for many which means my work schedule becomes much lighter. Great for keeping up with my European Adventures but not so great for making money and paying bills. But I have been able to do a lot of more local, short trips on the cheap. Some examples include: Beaune, France, Bruges & Dinant, Belgium, Altfels & Saarburg, Germany, Upper Sur Lake in Northern Luxembourg & a hot air balloon ride in Thionville, France. And while I’m writing this, taking a long drive to Florence, Italy. I’ll be sure to update you on each of these trips in the near future.To help compensate my funds, I’ve also become a paid weekly contributor for RunnerClick. RunnerClick millions of readers with whom I’ve been able to share destination runs, exercise and rehabilitation programs, interviewing other inspiring runners, and reviewing up and coming running brand businesses. Go ahead and check them out, if you haven’t already. In the meantime, I’m honored to have been interviewed by Boston Voyager Magazine. Being able to share my story and hopefully inspire others to follow their dreams, puts a huge smile on my face.As I’m sure most of you are aware, my strong passion besides sport is travel. I’ve recently made a video entry for a contest through Travello to win an Ultimate Australian vacation and adventure trip. The contest ends this week and I would so much appreciate your support and clicking here to vote for my entry to help increase my chances to win this Epic prize! I’ve also been fortunate enough to live in the country of France and watch them win the World Cup this year in Russia. Although I’m not a huge soccer fan, it’s fun to be part of the excitement of a huge world sport. Allez Les Bleus, Champions du Monde! And to top it all off, I’ve started my 11th Marathon training for the NYC Marathon on November 4th. Training in the summer is not my favorite but running NYC is on my bucket list and brings me to 4 out of 6 in making my way to complete The Abbot World Marathon Majors. Doing NY also brings the opportunity to visit home and Boston right before my birthday!So, here’s the brief catch up on my side of the world. I’ll be back soon to dive deeper on my local escapes! See you soon!

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Fitbit Semi de Paris Marathon: Race Review

I bet you’re all anxious to read about my latest travels to South East Asia but that will come in a series over the next couple of weeks. First, I need to review the biggest half marathon I’ve ever participated in yesterday, The Fitbit Semi de Paris Marathon.

I signed up for this half marathon in early January. Immediately after, I booked my trip to Singapore. I didn’t notice the closeness of my return being the same weekend as the race. Oh well, c’est la vie! One thing that did catch my attention upon the race sign up was the 62€ price tag attached to the race. Gulp, I’ve paid much less (at least half of this or more) to enter all the other European Halves I’ve participated in and even the Rome Marathon was only 55€. I swallowed my frugal pride and paid the overpriced entry fee, I mean it is Paris after all. But wait, this price tag does not include the train ticket to the city (~60€) nor the fact that there is no bib pick up the day of the race, now accommodations must be made. So if you’re an outsider to Paris, you’re now spending at least the weekend there.

Getting back from Singapore on Friday morning before the Sunday race, working a half day, then getting up Saturday for 9am to take the hour and twenty minute train to the city to then take 3-4 different metros (because of course it’s the weekend and due to work on some stations, a bunch of stations were closed), I finally made it to the expo at Parc Floral near Chateau Vincennes to grab my bib by 2:30pm. The expo itself was surprisingly well organized as long as you had your 3 pieces of essential paperwork: medical clearance (typical for most European races), the notification letter (emailed to you the week of) and a form of identification. From there you grab you race shirt (included in the price admission, thank goodness). Ladies received yellow, men got teal, both good quality tech shirts that fit true to size. From there you pass through the typical expo retailers, this race particularly was sponsored by Adidas where runners got 20% off apparel. Other booths included belts, medal holders, compression socks, the whole gamut. There were some fun, free photo booths and bicycle smoothie makers, even a little wine and cheese tastings combined with other future nearby race pamphlets. Overall a good showing where I spent about 45 Minutes moseying around grabbing free stuff here and there.



Staying with some friends of friends on the outskirts of the city, I finally made my way after a pasta dinner to bed by 8:15pm, the one good thing about jetlag.

This race, by the way, is huge, like 45,000 signed up – almost 37,000 finished huge! After some tea, toast, and bananas, I made my way back into the city around 7:30am to get back to Bois de Vincennes. The elite started at 9am and then waves every 10 minutes depending on your estimated finish times. I was in the 1:50 group with a 9:40am start. After a bag drop off and corral opening at 9:10, I waited a bit with others as the rain began. The weather wasn’t terrible though as the temps were pleasant enough for the long distance at 42F/6C.



The race course starts and ends at Bois de Vincennes, well equipped to hold the masses of people along with several portapotties, bag check, and lively music to keep us entertained until the gun start. The course heads out to the River Seine and makes it way behind Notre Dame, around Bastille, past Hôtel de Ville and back along the other side of the Seine to head back to the park. With the rain, we lost a bunch of spectators but diehard supporters were still out with clever signs like, “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear”. Lots of bands along the route braved the weather and pumped up some tired runners. Water and food stops were minimal to 3, each about 5km apart. No electrolytes, unfortunately, and with 5 miles left I could feel them missing as my overtired, swollen, jetlagged legs began to cramp. With such a huge race, I never had the chance to have enough space to find my own rhythm. I was constantly battling elbows, couples, walkers, you name it. I was weaving a lot just to find ample room. Once at a water stop my arm got tangled up in a woman’s head phones, yanking them right out of her ears. I heard the, “Owww”, and yelled back, “Sorry”, but really it was almost unavoidable as this race is really just too big. Finally the finish was near sight, but even if my tired legs wanted to sprint into the finish, the crowd of runners really limited a strong finish. Despite the rain, packed roads, lack of the electrolytes and spectators, jetlagged body and legs, I was still able to complete a sub-2 hour run in 1:58:00 even!



After the finish line, they corral you another 400m until you grab your medal, which by the way is one of the coolest as it doubles as a bottle opener also! Then another 200m to a bag with some goodies, water, bananas, and chips. Then you could finally exit the herd. The bag check, however, was an utter mess. After 5 minutes of the girl searching for mine, I was invited to hop over (haha hopping, get real!) the fence the search for the bag myself. After 15 minutes, myself, looking I finally found my bag two tables away from where it initially should have been. Poor organization to follow up the race unfortunately. Luckily, upon finding my bag I could quickly change into dry, warm clothes in a disgusting portapotty (this being harder than running the half, in my personal opinion). I then made my way back by metro (which bonus, was free for runners following the race) to head back to Gare de l’Est to make my way back to Metz.



After successfully determining the medal bottle opener worked a few times that evening I was back to bed by 8:30pm again. After a full night’s rest, I’ve rated this half a 7.5/10.

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.



Work Hard, Play Hard

Hello All! I’m back!

Last you heard from me I ran the Berlin Marathon at the end of September. It’s now November. I took October off from the blog, and for good reason, as I was resting, recovering, and then partying along the east coast of the USA.  

After Berlin my father, who came to watch me run, stayed with us in France for a couple weeks. So a few trips were made around Europe until we all flew back to the US the second week of October.

In this period of time (5 weeks), I’ve visited 11 specific cities/towns, 10 states, 5 countries, and 1 district. Amazing! I can’t imagine covering all of it with you, nor do I want to bore you, but I’ll do my best to make a brief recap for ya. 

This week will be Part 1: pre-USA.

Colmar, France 

Quaint town on the eastern side of France, close to Strasbourg. Known for alsascien architecture, cuisine, and the seasonal Christmas Markets.

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg

La Petite Venise

La Petite Venise

Alsacien Food

Alsacien Food

Colmar, France

Colmar, France

 

Nancy, France 

I’ve visited Nancy, which is 45 Minutes south of Metz, before on my own (click here to read about it). However, I liked it enough to bring my dad down to see it for a day.

My dad and Porte de la Craffe

My dad and Porte de la Craffe

Porte Stanislas

Porte Stanislas

Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation

Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation

 

Verdun, France 

Known for it’s WWI battle, the small village holds several memorials for the French Military.

Fleury-Devant-Duoaumont

Fleury-Devant-Duoaumont

Duoaumont Ossuary

Duoaumont Ossuary

Le Fort de Duoaumont

Le Fort de Duoaumont


Luxembourg 

A small country that boasts beautiful countryside and plenty of historical value throughout.

The Luxembourg American Military Cemetery and Memorial

The Luxembourg American Military Cemetery and Memorial

Château de Vianden

Château de Vianden

Beaufort Castle

Beaufort Castle

Beaufort Castle

Beaufort Castle

Dad and I at the Beaufort Castles

Dad and I at the Beaufort Castles

Inside Beaufort Castle

Inside Beaufort Castle

 

London, England 

A place I’ve been to several times, but my dad has not. We decided to cross the channel for a weekend.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

The Mall

The Mall

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

 

I’ll continue Part 2: USA next week where we trekked along the east coast for 3 weeks!

456 Hot Air Balloons

I’m always searching for something interesting to see or do, to broaden my horizons or purely satisfy my curiosity. 

Luckily for me, I’m living about a 30 minute drive away from the annual Mondial Air Balloons held at Aérodrome de Chambley in Hagéville, France. 

It’s an annual week long international Hot Air Balloon Festival held at the end of July. Several countries participate with, weather depending, morning and evening flights.  People can come watch and peruse local vendors with outdoor activities for the kids. And best of all it’s free.

This year was particularly special because they were planning for what’s called “La Grande Ligne”. This was a plan in hopes for the most hot air balloons to take off at once, to set a world record. The days for take off kept shifting due to storms and wind but finally was set for a 6:30am on Friday July 28. I didn’t want to miss it!

I woke up at 4:30am and drove the half hour to claim a front row view. Then I waited. I wasn’t alone with some other brave early risers but the weather was cool and damp, with no indoor waiting area, and nothing to look at. We were staring out to empty runways and I think most of us were hoping we were in the right area. We waited some more as 6:30am came and went with no action. But around 6:45am we started to see cars with trailers, what seemed like thousands, driving out to line up on the runways. This went on for a good 45 minutes. Then the pilots and crew started setting up by laying the ballons on the ground, attaching baskets or single seats to the balloons, checking the ignitions of the fire and then started to blow the balloons up. What seemed to take forever and seemed like thousands of balloons, was actually 456 balloons that anti-climatically lifted off around 8am. With a suttle wind, the balloons were seemingly all in flight and began quickly drifting north all within minutes. 

I grabbed as many photos as I could and ran to catch a great action shot. I watched them raise higher and drift more north as I made it back to the car and started to drive home (which was north). So surprisingly for me, I got a great view of them as I headed back home.

Are we in the right place?

Starting to see some action

And it’s take off


Such a cool experience. I highly suggest catching a festival, maybe next year I’ll make friends with a pilot and be on one!

A Day Trip to Nancy, France

Since being in France, and more specifically living in the Lorraine section, Nancy has been on my list to visit. Over the past year I’ve driven past Nancy several times with it being about 45 minute drive away, have received Facebook event notifications for concerts and local races there, and have been warned by Metz loyals that “La Lorraine est grenat”! (Metz’s football team colors and Metz and Nancy rival each other in soccer/football). I could get backlash here for being a Metz girl in Nancy but I’m fine with it because, let’s be honest, I’m all Boston anyway.

Photo courtesy of La Lorraine République

Photo courtesy of La Lorraine République


About a week ago I had the chance to make a midweek train visit to Nancy, which by the way is only a 35 minute ride at 14€ RT. Considering how convenient that is, I can’t believe it took me this long to get over there.
Stepping out of the train station, which is about a 400m walk to the center of town, I immediately saw a cathedral mimicking a smaller version of Notre Dame in Paris, called Cure Saint-Leon IX.

Cure Saint-Léon IX

Cure Saint-Léon IX


Using Google travel guide and Trip Advisor, I was able to make a walking plan. Starting at Porte Stanislas, I headed towards Place Stanislas. Here marks a vast and beautiful pedestrian Plaza with open air seating for several restaurants, surrounded in gold plated fences and sculptures with magnificent views of the Musee des Beaux-Arts and L’Hotel de Ville (Mayor’s Office).

Porte Stanislas

Porte Stanislas

Place Stanislas

Place Stanislas

Place Stanislas

Place Stanislas

View of Hôtel de Ville

View of Hôtel de Ville


After a quick rest and a glass of white wine to take in some of the views, I made my way towards Palais du Gouverneur Militaire and Parc de la Pepiniere which was in full bloom with spring flowers. From there I made my way towards Porte de la Craffe which resembles the Porte des Allemands in Metz. I then found Place Carnot that was in the middle of hosting a spring carnival. After having walked a couple hours, I built up an appetite and found a Made in France sandwich shop close to Basilique Saint-Epvre.
Walking towards Governors Palace

Walking towards Governors Palace

Parc de la Pépinière

Parc De la Pépinière

Porte de la Craffe

Porte de la Craffe

Place Carnot Spring Carnival

Place Carnot Spring Carnival

Basilique Saint-Epvre

Basilique Saint-Epvre


After replenishing some carbs, I walked across town to Cathedrale Notre Dame de L’Annonciation. I circled around to find Jardin Dominique Alexandre Gordon with more fragrant flowers and finishing up my tour back through Place Stanislas to several shopping boutiques before catching one of the trains, that come every 30 minutes, to head back to Metz.

Nancy Cathédrale

Nancy Cathédrale

Jardin Dominique Alexandre Gordon

Jardin Dominique Alexandre Gordon

Shopping Center

Shopping Center

Nancy Street Art

Nancy Street Art


A beautiful, walking city, Nancy hosts an array of shops, sites and bites to eat. Having gotten a glimpse on a sunny, spring day helped build my admiration of Nancy. Maybe next time I can even convince Juju to come with me!

Thionville Half Marathon

2017 is shaping up to be the year of me participating in more races than I have done in any year previous.

So far I knocked out the Rome Marathon early last month and to close out April, I snuck in un petit semi-marathon in Thionville, France.

Thionville Half Marathon

Thionville Half Marathon

Here’s a review:

The 22nd edition of the Thionville Half Marathon information could be found on their website (all in French but with the help of google translate, I was able to navigate). It’s a bit outdated, design wise, but was sufficient enough with the capabilities to register online, see previous years results, get parking and bib pickup info, as well as looking at course maps. Besides the Half there was also a 10km race and kids fun run.

The race field was limited to, I believe, 1500 people so in fact it was quite small. They did allow for early bib pick up, with time tracking on the bibs surprisingly,  the day before or day of race. Price was completely reasonable at 18€ which included a dri-wick, albeit hideous, performance tee in a drab green. Even going the day before, they ran out of some sizes.

Race shirt

Race shirt

 

Race day turned out to be beautiful, sunny and reaching to high 60s. The 10km race began at 9am with the half following after at 10:30am. The race started and ended on the same street in the center of town by a theater and temporary circus tent. Besides a few shops and restaurants, the city is mostly made up of apartments, for it’s a big commuter town with its close proximity to the border of Luxembourg. Other than the Moselle River passing through the city, I must admit in comparison to Metz, Thionville lacks tourist attraction.

The race brought us through the center to along the river for the first 10km. The scenery turned from town to country in minutes while following the bike path bordering the river. Even though the race was small, the narrow bike path crowded runners early on making it difficult to adjust speed, to be either faster or slower which ultimately helped me early on with a quicker pace than normal.

Bike Path

Bike Path

On the right was the river which had a few kayakers along the way, to the left was mostly rape seed aka canola oil plants. They produce beautiful fields of yellow flowers, however the pollen was strong sometimes making it difficult to breathe when passing them. A couple times we passed a herd of cows who came close to the fence to cheer us on. Other than that the bike path left us little to no spectators.

Canola Oil Fields

Canola Oil Fields

 

At the 10km mark we turned left onto a beautiful tree lined road that brought us to the village of Cattenom. Passing a few onlookers from the village, we made our way through with a few turns and the houses brought some much appreciated shade. Water and sponge stops with cut oranges were at every 5km and was never out of supply.

Race Photo

Race Photo

 

Making our way back to Thionville center we found ourselves back on another bike path but at this point we were spread out enough without any cramping. Speaking of cramps, I luckily did not have too many but was feeling my quads tighten with the closeness in proximity from my Rome Marathon and the heat was starting to get to me and a few of the other runners due to the lack of shade. With 5km left and having kept my pace to about 9 minutes per mile, I realized I stopped sweating and was starting to feel a little light headed. I decided to play it safe and slowed my pace but still keeping it under 10 minutes per mile. The finish brought us back through the center of town and the crowd was great creating a tunnel to the finish line. With an overall time at 2:04ish (from my Garmin) I shaved 7 minutes off my since my last half in Remich, Luxembourg from September.

My biggest disappointment in regards to the race was that there was no medals for the finishers, besides that, overall, it was a good day.

Finishers

Finishers

Thionville Half Marathon Finish

Thionville Half Marathon Finish

P.S. I’m excited to announce I’ve been chosen to be an Ambassdor for Legend Compression Wear (try them out with this $15 off link). Their graduated compression legwear has been widely proven to improve symptoms of discomfort, swelling, fatigue and aching of the feet and legs, at the same time improving athletic performance and recovery.

Legend Compression Wear

Legend Compression Wear