Paris au printemps

When you think of Paris, in springtime, what comes to mind? Is there accordion music accompanying your reverie? IMG_3525 or IMG_3557or

IMG_3487  ?

Maybe it’s more like this?

IMG_3573                 IMG_3592                    IMG_3593
For me it was like this:IMG_3564

I signed up for the Paris Marathon back in September. It was partially a pipe dream: my husband’s employer was the corporate sponsor and there was a slim chance I could get a paid entry to race as a “family member.” An indirect perk of the job. My husband sent in the request and I was confirmed to run the Paris Marathon. I was going to see the Eiffel Tower! I was going to run 42.2 km! I was going to Paris! I was going to have to do some heavy training in the next few months.

This was the first race I had entered that I was actually excited about doing. Anticipating the race provided great motivation to push on in my training when I didn’t want to go for one more run, when my legs ached, when the weather was crap, when my mind wasn’t sure if I could run faster. I liked the training; the reward was coming. I was ready to run the streets of Paris.

Then it was April and my husband and I were on our way to Paris. With a few hicccups along the way — our trans-Atlantic flight being cancelled after the plane was hit by lighting; getting into Paris a day later and having less time to deal with 9 hours of  jet lag; being separated on the metro on the way to the race when I got out of the doors and my husband didn’t, and then watching a woman get subtly crushed by the closing metro doors — we were on our way! With 50,000 other runners and probably an extra 50,000 spectators I marched down the Champs-Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe and began the process.

 

Here is why you should run the race:

1. It’s the PARIS Marathon!!  There is no better way to see a city so beautiful and historical than this. You get to RUN through the streets; it’s like being in the Tour de France on your feet. The crowds are passionate, the music and entertainment is plentiful, and it’s so authentic you get to run through clouds from spectators smoking.

2. It’s a fairly flat course. If you are looking for something that is easier on the legs (overall) there are no big hills on this course. There are a few inclines in the last 1/3 of the race. I saw many people walking and I’m sure eventually they all finished as well.

This is the 10km mark. See how the road is now only about 4-5 people in width? Imagine 50 000 squeezing through that. Almost as much fun as putting toothpaste back in the tube.

This is the 10km mark. See how the road is now only about 4-5 people in width? Imagine 50 000 squeezing through that space. Almost as much fun as putting toothpaste back in the tube.

3. This is not your backyard race. It is big, it is international, and it is unique. Did I say it is in Paris??!!

4. The entertainment is worth the distance. We ran past the notable Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower but these sights were upstaged by the laser light show and techno music in the tunnel at mile 17.  I especially liked the few seconds of complete darkness when the lasers turned off and someone in the crowd started whooping in excitement. This was followed by a sea of runners cheering back in response. At that point it certainly didn’t feel like I had another 10+ miles to go.

*

Here are some things to keep in mind as a first or repeat marathoner: This is France. Different rules apply.

1. This is a paid entry race for the general masses. You don’t have to prove that you can run a certain pace or distance unless you are in the elite group. That means that if you run slower than 3 hours, you can enter and seed yourself in whatever wave (entry based on projected finishing time) you’d like. The waves were in 15 min increments; nothing is stopping you from thinking you could run the race in 4 hours but seeding yourself with the 3:15 hour finishers in the hopes that they will “pull you along” to a faster time.

IMG_3581

It was a bit squishy, through all 26.2 miles.

2. This is not a PB/PR (personal best/personal record) course. True, it is “globally flat,” but it’s super crowded! Imagine salmon swimming upstream and try a personal record on that course. Unless you are an elite runner, you will not have the space to run as fast as you’d like. I seeded myself to have an optimal race in the 3:15 – 3:30 hour wave. Given that you can only run as fast as the people around you (and I added an extra 1 km to my race trying to weave around people) you hope that these people are going the pace. This was completely not the case. Most of the race felt like I was running with a herd of goats — runners all over the place, different paces, and running in all directions.

A different herd of goats. These ones were English.

A different herd of goats. These ones were English.

3. There are a lot of people at this race which means a lot of people need somewhere to pee! The race had 50,000 entries and just over 39,000 finished. Although there were less people in each corral the port-o-potties were wholly inadequate: there were only a few potties total in each corral. I stood in the shortest line and estimated that there were over 200 people lined up for one unit. You could also not gain entry into any other corral. I waited 40 min before my start time and never made it to the front of the line.

4. Common advice is that the way you train for a race is the way you should run a race. This means what you are eating, when you are eating/drinking, and being consistent.  But you are no longer in Kansas! I stayed away from the aid stations as bananas, oranges, raisins, and sugar cubes (yes, literally the white cubes) are not what I’m used to ingesting while running. This spread also provides additional hazards: think of running along wet cobblestones littered with banana peels. I saw a few people wipe out.

Approaching 30 km. Some boats on the Seine and the Eiffel Tower.

Approaching 30 km. Some boats on the Seine and one Eiffel Tower.

Although the purpose of our trip was this race, it was also a vacation. We rented a tiny bachelor flat about 10 min away from the Louvre which reminded me of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom. If we opened our suitcases on the floor, there was no floor space to walk on. We lived like the French — eating out, walking all day, always wearing a scarf, and remembering to say Bonjour wherever we went.

Le fin.

Le fin.

The second pancake

Dear Friends,

I have been conserving energy; I have been conserving my blogging output energy because I am using it in other ways.

Ifell

The last two months I have been training for my second marathon. Unlike the reliable second pancake on the pan when the first is always the tester, having run this distance once before guarantees nothing. It simply means you have been there before. The only similarity between my first and pending second marathon will be the 42.2 km span.

I have put blogging aside and put my mental and creative energy into running. I am running out of choice rather than out of obligation or expectation or peer pressure. I do the same workouts, I run the same distances, but it’s much more fun going with the first intention.

On my longer runs, when I had two to three hours on my feet, I had plenty of blog topics to think about.  I thought about the feeling of running when you don’t want to and overcoming mental blocks. I thought about the pride, elation, and possible pressure you can put on yourself when you finish a run and it’s exactly where you wanted to be. I thought about all the typical pitfalls runners experience as they train (and then taper or “actively rest”) before a race. I thought about how I got up on every Saturday morning, got my kids to their soccer games, and then ran for the rest of the morning. Then I ran on Sunday. I thought about different answers I could tell my co-workers when they asked me how my weekend went. What part did they want to know about? They all know I am running a marathon this weekend; none of them know the training I’ve done to get there.

I am proud of myself for getting here. I have crossed so many personal finish lines. I have done the training I wanted to do and I exceeded my own expectations. I have done better than I thought I could. My health has been better, my mental attitude and focus have gone through a massive transformation, and I like myself. And, heck, the week before a marathon you are in your peak fitness. So when I get in the shower I do check the mirror for a few extra seconds. And the word that comes to mind is, “Damn!”

I have two main mantras for the next few days: “Be open to success” and “Choose to dwell on the positive.” My mind is still a sticky place. I like to mire myself in negativity because it’s where my comfort level lies.  So when my coach assures me that I have trained to run a good strong race my reaction is contradiction. “What if I go out too fast and then am beyond recovery?”

Sure, I have goals. And if I don’t achieve them in this race, there will be another race I can train for and try again.

Each race is an experience and this one will have many. I need to remember to savour it as I go. I will be running the Paris Marathon. I am going to enjoy every bite of my second pancake.

 

 

 

 

 

February: Attitude of Gratitude

Continuing with the theme of sickness. More marathon training. Feeling good apart from feeling sick. Cold days. Wind.  Letting go of what I don’t need to do. Feeling more stable health-wise. Enjoying what I am doing out of choice rather than doubt or obligation. Good practice comes from acceptance. Soccer games. Runs in the rain/sleet/snow/wind. A birthday to turn 8. Yoga at the end of every week. Fresh laundry. Warm cookies. Settling in. Getting out.

snowday

That’s me on the left of the picture looking like a broken popsicle. It wasn’t actually that cold when you kept moving. We ran through knee-deep snow!

Most days I write down five things I am grateful for, big or small, subtle or apparent. I archive and post the list monthly. This is February 2014.

*

that I could go and watch the kid play soccer — that his enthusiasm was infectious — the confidence from a good run — an even better nap after my run — spontaneously going out for dinner.

that I could meet up with a friend for a morning run — that the fog lifted and the views were amazing on our run — yoga class — that I had space and warmth at home — that I stretched out the weekend a little longer than usual.

that the boy turned 8 years old — that the boy happily ate the cake even after my two attempts at gluten-free cake mixes —  the reminder that birthdays are important — the reminder to slow down — that I figured out why my phone battery was draining so quickly.

that I had a parka to wear as the weather got cold — walking to work with my parka and gloves on — having someone else show up for an evening run workout — that we shortened the workout — getting home earlier than expected.

that my counselor always offers support and good perspectives — that I can *feel* that things have changed — caring less — caring more — realizing I need to work on my patience.

that the wind stayed away and I could run outside — the extra hot soup I had at lunch — texts from a friend — that tomorrow is finally Friday — taking the time to slow down.

snow tires — short drives — warming temps — wool sweaters — extra hot beverages.

watching the boy play soccer with his big grin — getting out for my run — running into my coach at the start of my run — feeling confident — the start of a long weekend.

meeting my coach for a snowy run — the burnt out and exhausted feeling after a run — a good restorative yoga class — coming home feeling pleasantly tired — a hot bath.

an extra day off — meeting my coach for coffee — finally getting the family out together — the wildlife photographer exhibit — a cozy bed.

choosing to eat less sugar — by-passing my favorite cookie — having leftovers for lunch — being efficient with my time — making it out for a workout in the cold and the wind.

still no cookie —  recognizing that even a bad run is worth something — finally finding my favorite work pants — that I could do a load of wash before I went to work — getting to work late and no one cared.

finally eating the cookie and realizing it wasn’t the emotional satisfaction I had hoped for — reading the many reasons not to “should” – knowing that what I do now will pay back in the future —  sunshine — watching the moon as I ran home.

a day to acknowledge loving ourselves — that my husband got V-day stuff for the kids — flowers — warmth in my heart — that I didn’t have to DO things for things to be okay.

the feeling that my running has suddenly turned into real training — having a purpose and a focus — watching kids play soccer — the positive energy after being outside — hot water, hot tea.

that we put new snow tires on the car — warm gloves — warm coat — the defroster in the car — a short walk to work — the ability to walk fast.

that I was finally able to get in to see a chiropractor — that his office was so close to work — getting home with a bit of breathing room — the kids being ready to go to soccer — managing.

that we can celebrate good in the world — having an office job when the weather is so miserable — having someone else show up for our outdoor run workout — feeling persistent and persevering — cereal for dinner.

choosing to take an easy run when I didn’t feel 100% — going slow in my run — stopping to stretch when I needed it — the feeling of accomplishment when you get back home — wool socks.

choosing to take an extra day off — stretching — epsom salt bath — pizza for dinner — going to bed early.

a shorter day at work — picking the kids up from soccer camp — spending time with the kids — going home and knowing it’s the weekend — feeling content.

that soccer tournaments got cancelled — the motivation to go out and run in snow and sleet and rain — the other people out on the trails who smiled in encouragement — feeling confident in my running — going out for lunch with just the boy.

snow day! — running in knee deep snow — the quiet in the trees — a yoga class that regrounded me — coming home and doing nothing.

that I was able to find something I thought I’d lost — taking the boy for a haircut — re-organizing my schedule — doing less — the kids’ patience and good moods.

that I am able to recover at home — that I can throw up and not be too phased by it — that a stomach flu is a kind of sickness that you don’t wonder whether you are sick or not or how bad it is — that my daughter brought me tea in bed — that it’s finally sunny again!

that I have a day off — that I can sleep whenever I want — that I’m not panicked about not exercising (yet!) — ginger ale — pajamas.

taking another day off to get better — dry toast — feeling slightly better — going for a very very slow jog — fresh air.

feeling more stable — eating a meal — getting through the whole day at work — packing for a ski trip in record time — a light jog that made me appreciate how much more enjoyable it is when I feel better.