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!
If you’re just checking in for the first time, I’ve got 7 days of what to do in South East Asia that you can check below! Otherwise welcome to the continued journey bringing us to day 8 back in Singapore.
On this day, I ventured out to Marina South Pier in Singapore by metro to catch a 10am morning weekday ferry with Singapore Island Cruise. The cruise ventures to a couple of the smaller islands (St. John’s, Lazarus, and Kusu Island) off the southern part of Singapore, just past Sentosa Island. The ferry first brings you to St. John’s which has a connecting land bridge to Lazarus, from there they give you 2-3 hours until the ferry picks you back up at St. John’s Island for a quick trip to Kusu Island for 45 minutes and then back to the mainland by late afternoon.
St. John’s Island
Known as an old quarantine island for immigrants who suffered from cholera and leprosy, now vacant for campers, tourists and homeless cats and my main reason for this adventure. The ferry dropped us off at a jetty near a lagoon. I made a quick tour of the main lodge and campground sites before feeding the homeless cats that all seem to hang out by the bridge landing before heading to Lazarus Island. After a 15 minute feeding session, I made my way over to Lazarus which took about a 15 minute walk.
Photo 1: Welcome Lodge to St. John’s Island, Photo 2 & 3: homeless cats of St. John’s Island
Here is where the more tranquil and quiet beaches rest. I think mostly because it was a weekday but also being a secluded island, I basically had the place to myself except for a docked boat and two other ferry passengers. Although I’ve read, weekend trips here will be packed.
Photo 1: Bridge Walkway between St. John’s Island & Lazarus Island, Photo 2: Enjoying the quiet beaches of Lazarus Island
After about 3 hours, the ferry picked us up for a brief stop at Kusu Island. This is a legend island known for its Tortoise Temple and fostering turtle sanctuary. The layover to Kusu was only about 45 minutes but have you enough time to visit it’s temple, shrines and sanctuary before heading back to Singapore.
Kusu Island and Turtle Sanctuary
After a relaxing, touring day, I made it back to the main island for ladies night in the financial area. Meeting up with my friend Katie, we started our evening at Level 33 to catch a glimpse of the evening light show of Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. We then headed over to The Fullerton Hotel rooftop bar called Lantern which has free drinks for the ladies. After several cocktails, we knew we needed dinner and headed along the waterfront near Merlion Park and ate outdoors at The Pelican to continue to get great views of the evening light show.
Photo 1: Katie & I at Level 33, Photo 2: The Fullerton Hotel Rooftop bar, Photo 3: The light show view from Waterfront
Join me next week as I conclude my journey with a last long run in on my last full day to visit the bizarre tourist attraction called Haw Par Villa.
When you’re in Singapore, you are given many chances to visit near by countries, quickly and affordably, and that’s exactly what I did.
From Singapore’s Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal near the airport, one can take an hour long ferry to Bandar Bentan Telani in Bintan, Indonesia. This northern island of Indonesia, second most promoted after Bali, is cluttered with resorts along the coast. Picking one over the other can be your hardest decision of the day but you will be completely pleased in any one of your final destinations in Bintan.
I opted for the day pass at Club Med Bintan. For under $100 dollars you get pristine white beaches, 2 pools, 2 all you can eat and drink restaurants, daily sponsored activities like water aerobics or any water sport and even a trapeze lesson. Friendly servers, delicious cocktails and serene beach coastlines filled my day in Indonesia. It was paradise.
After spending the day and afternoon in Bintan, Indonesia, I took the ferry back to Singapore. A taxi ride later and I made my way to meet up with my friend Katie at the famous Newton Hawker Food Center. A huge outdoor fast food court with hundreds of options for Asian cuisine. You can go off the beaten path and try a unique delicacy like sting ray or stick to more traditional tiger prawns, chili crab, beef skewers or bbq chicken. You really can’t go wrong, especially if you enjoy meat, for an incredibly cheap price you can wash it all down with one or two Tiger Beers. A great way to close out the evening!
Making my way back from Cambodia, I had a lot on my plate planned for seeing more of Singapore. An early rise at 8am & after breakfast, I had a long run planned and started by making my way towards Arab Street and the Kampong Glam District.
This area hosts many mosques along with brightly painted buildings full with street art, souvenir & coffee shops. It’s serene, hip, & cool. Perfect for colorful photo opportunities.
After exploring a bit, I made my way over to East Coast Park. A perfect area made up of a long stretch of walking, running & bike paths parallel to the beach and lined with easy going restaurants.
East Coast Beach
After a 13 miles I was ready to hit the beach. After a quick swim, I showered up at one of the free public restrooms equipped with showers and caught a bus back into town to stroll in the Botanical Gardens.
A huge park with several species of flowers, plants and trees, one could spend an entire day in its peace and tranquility.
This busy day had me tired early so I just grabbed some take out and planned my day 7 which included a day trip to Indonesia. Check in next blog for a day in Bintan, Indonesia!
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.
I’ve read hundreds of articles and blogs on ways to become a faster runner. While most include practical information on performing flexibility exercises, hill repeats, intervals and strides, I’ve come to realize these tips help no one if you’re doing things to negate the process.
I have to be the first to admit, I never wanted to be a faster runner. I claimed to run such long distances to eat and drink what I wanted. I had zero motivation to put further pain on myself in order to have a faster time. Being average was, and still is, perfectly pleasing for me at times, because I’m not in competition with anyone but me.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind at any point either. For 2018, some of my ambassador programs asked for my goals. First, to pick a race and second, for the time. Over the past 12 years of having participated in distance running, I’ve seen my marathon times get a little slower by 30 minutes, as well as my half marathon times getting slower by 15-20 minutes. The half is my favorite distance and I decided this year will be the year that just because I’m getting older, doesn’t mean I have to be getting slower.
I wanted to share some tips on what to avoid when wanting to improve your times, whether it’s 1 mile or 26.
1. Lack of desire
As I mentioned before, I never claimed to be fast. When asked about running, I’d say I could run slow for a really long time. Completing 10 marathons and dozens of half marathons, are an accomplishment, regardless of time, and something to be proud of. However, I always knew where my comfort zone was and I stuck to it. I had no desire to push to be faster and I was ok with that thought process. But all of a sudden, my desire to step out of my comfort zone changed this year. And I thought, that’s ok too! No one is trapped into saying and doing one thing for the rest of her life. Getting faster isn’t a must, but choosing to self-develop isn’t a bad thing either.
Paris Marathon 2016: 4:49:59 compared to Boston Marathon 2006: 4:13:15
2. Not setting a goal
Marathon training comes with lots of questions from others. Usually the first question is why, then the next is usually what time do you want to finish. (Although, one of my favorites is if I plan to win). Each marathon is different and unique just like the individual running it. You can plan and prepare to your hearts content and still the race day can go as expected or not. Regardless of the unknown for a particular race, a goal needs to be set. Whether it’s your first or not, having no expectation can defeat the purpose and deflate your drive. For example, at a yearly review your boss asks for your objectives and you wrote down, “I come to work to get a pay check”. Hell, I know some of us do do that, but you’re decreasing your chances to advance or promote yourself. It’s a similar thought process with running. If you say you JUST want to finish the race, while it may be true, you let fear start to take control. Bringing me to my next point…
3. Fear of pain or the unknown
As a long distance runner, I know pain is inevitable. Whether it’s pain in my legs, lungs, gut, or mind, after a certain point in the game you may feel discomfort in one, if not all, of these areas. This is why only a small percentage of the world participates in a marathon. If it was easy, then everyone would do it. I think one of the greatest building blocks in life is doing something that scares you once in a while. Fear holds us back from doing a lot of things and then worrying makes us reflect poorly on ourselves and actions. What ifs, statistically, usually never happen and a mindset of I can will take us a much longer way then not trying at all.
4. Negative self talk & comparing yourself to others
Ahh, social media…I am truly passionate about and enjoy Instagram (IG), one may call it a slight addiction to be more specific. My boyfriend can confirm this. However, I use this platform as a way to motivate others to get moving along with finding my own inspiration to be a better athlete through others. Whether it’s an inspiring quote (@xpatrunner, @2xpa_, and @themarathonmaracus are really good at this), a scenic running view (@runjanji, @rundezvousralph, @livehardxlovehard are a couple of my favorites), or seeing hard-working moms hit a Boston Qualifying time in their first marathon attempt or doing it time and time again (check out @daniellehartruns, @clairerunsthere, @jennammchugh, @bettinarunswi to be simply inspired), there are literally thousands and thousands of amazing runners out there to find motivation. But the little square world can suck you in, if you aren’t careful. While I positively use IG to better myself in fitness, the ugly side of the coin is you could begin to compare yourself to these athletes and wonder why you aren’t as good, fast, lean, or strong-minded as them. We have to self-love and respect our own abilities first, then we can strive to become better, if that’s something we choose to do. But if we’re constantly putting ourselves down for where we are currently not, the cycle of pity and despair can override our thought processes. The lovely thing I admire most about running is that it can be an individual confidence builder, but in order for this to be achieved, the only person we should be competing against is ourself.
5. Doing it alone
Here is where 2018 has differed from any training cycle I’ve done in the past. I’ve joined a free weekly running group concentrating on interval training. The group is huge, I’m talking 200 people and the levels range from beginner to advanced. The intimidation factor is none (despite a foreign language barrier). The group is encouraging, kind, and helps you to push outside your comfort zone. My goals feel more attainable than when I’m pushing by myself, as my own thoughts and fears overtake me. Running with the group has been a real confidence booster in setting out to become a faster runner.
Photo credit: Sebastien Lauer
My goal for 2018 is to run a half marathon under 1:50 as a high aspiration, under 2 more realistically and to run a 4 hour marathon. What are some of the things you do to get faster? What are your 2018 goals?
As the holidays approach, media and marketing will sell you on thinking it’s the most wonderful time of the year (and hoping you spend that pretty penny too). While I hope nothing but good cheer for all, sometimes this time of year brings forth heartbreaking reminders of those we’ve lost, failed resolutions, being stuck in careers, relationships, or unsatisfied life choices, or just simply feeling lonely. I’m here to remind you that even though these times may play havoc on your emotions, you’re still amazing and now, not just January 1, is the perfect time to practice some self-love.
I’ve come up with some practical ways for you to bring back that lovin’ feelin’, woah that lovin’ feelin’:
There’s an account on Instagram I follow called @destressmonday and they also have a webpage here. Stereotypically, Monday’s are the “worst” but the account gives you little reminders to breathe, smile and think positively, not just on Mondays but for everyday of the week.
Start Saving Weekly to Give Yourself a Present/Trip
It may seem ironic to put away money when you know you probably should spend it towards the gifts for others this holiday, but how can you be your best for them if you don’t take care of yourself once in a while? Practicing some budgeting and rewarding yourself for making the means to grab something you really love or a getaway you’ve been craving for is not selfish, it’s making a goal, being diligent, and taking pride in your work. That’s an achievement!
Pay it Forward
If you are feeling slightly guilty for thinking about yourself, which you SHOULDN’T, you can always give back to those in need or just do random acts of kindness. Smile and hold a door open for someone, buy the person’s coffee behind you, volunteer at the local food pantry, give to charity. There are literally millions of ways to help and be kind and in the long run, you’ll feel better because you brightened someone’s day!
Listen to Inspiring and Interesting Podcasts
I might get a little heavy here. Personally, losing 3 family members over the past 5 years actually makes the holidays suck, to be brutally honest. My mom was the champion of Christmas with the decorations, several little ceramic villages, lights, dinners, pies, and presents. She made the holidays feel lively, animated, and she made everyone around feel loved. This will be my 4th Christmas without her. It doesn’t get easier, but I know that by holding everything in could be disastrous. When I’m out on long runs, I like to listen to podcasts to pass the time, like This American Life with one episode in particular talking about a way to speak to loved ones who have passed and reconciling with others who are still here. The first act is discusses a documentary in Japan about the Wind Phone. It’s a non-working, old, rotary phone in a white phone booth box on a man’s garden that over 10,000 people have visited or used. It’s popularity began following the 2011 Tsunami and became a way for friends and family members, of those lost or taken from the disaster, to find a way to speak to their loved ones and grieve peacefully. I did end up watching the documentary here at this link, but be forewarned if you’re human, you’ll probably cry. The second act is about two elderly brothers, in their 80’s, who held a somewhat unknowingly grudge and hadn’t really spoken in about 20 years. The son of one helped to reconcile them, knowing time was not on their side and helped guide them to have an adult conversation about their grievances which helped to take some ‘weight’ off their shoulders. Both stories are healthy reminders to allow for time to think about your loved ones who are no longer here and to not wait to reach out to those who still matter to you while they are still here.
On a lighter note, because there are only 12 days left until Christmas there’s a hashtag going around called #12days12ways. It’s a reminder to reflect back and document, however you wish, 12 ways your life has changed positively over the past year.
Here are mine:
January: Got to celebrate the new year with my friend Liz, who visited us in France from NYC
February: Watching the Patriots win the SuperBowl
March: Spending a week in the Swiss Alps snowboarding
April: Completing my 9th Marathon in Rome, Italy and during that same week watch Julien crush his PR in the Paris Marathon
May: Completing the Luxembourg night half marathon, the hottest race I’ve ever done in my life
June: Growing my influence in the running, fitness and wellness community on Instagram and having my hard work, “little hobby”, get recognized with sponsorships and ambassadorships from companies like Under Armour and Nordstrom
July: Getting a new kitten and fur baby, Brady
August: Visiting my one of my oldest friends Dorothy, in Rotterdam, Netherlands while at the same time being lucky enough to have her on this side of the pond with me
September: Twofer, sneaking home on a super discount flight for Labor Day weekend to go on, one of my best friend’s, Katie’s sailboat and completing my 10th marathon and 3rd World Major in Berlin
October: Having my Dad visit for a couple weeks and then all of us flying back to the US for 3 weeks, 2 weddings and an east coast adventure
November: My birthday in Budapest, Hungary with my American bestie here in Metz, Carmen
December: Having Julien’s family embrace and welcome me into their home for Christmas this year
Here’s to ending the year on a positive note and feeling optimistic for what is to come!