I’m Running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Again!

Thursday, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run will hold a reception at the National Building Museum to officially kick off the 2018 edition of DC’s iconic spring race. You might be thinking that December is a little early to kick-off a race that’s in April, but it’s actually the perfect timing. You definitely want to decide now if you want to try running this race since the lottery for entries opens Friday, December 1st (you can sign up to get an alert when the lottery opens here). Runners will have until December 11th to submit their application and the “winners” will be notified a few days later. 

Last year, I entered the lottery on a whim. I needed something positive and healthy to focus on at the time. And I got in… It actually wasn’t my first time running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. I’ve ran it three times already and have a 100% success rate at the lottery so far 😉

The first time I ran the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler was in 2010. My friend Caitlin and I actually thought we were signing up for a 10K. Oopsie. It was my very first race EVER and I ran it in 1:57 (11:43 pace). I ran it again the following year, just a tiny bit faster, in 1:54 (11:28 pace). And then I kinda stopped running. The truth is running is hard. You have to train consistently to see results and I simply wasn’t putting in the work so I struggled through races and felt disappointed and discouraged after crossing the finish line. But I decided that I wouldn’t take the easy way out and that I would get back into running. I entered the lottery. I got in. And ran my worst race ever. I finished the 10 miles in two hours and thirteen minutes,  a mere 7 minutes short of not being considered a finisher. What did I do wrong? There’s no easy way out, I didn’t put in the work again. I did all the cross training, I swam and took body pump classes regularly. But I didn’t run enough. I skipped all the long runs and you can’t expect to a good 10 miles when you can barely make it through 3 miles during training. So 2018 will be my redemption year. I’ve joined some running groups and I’m starting to enjoy the social aspect of running a lot more. I ran the Marine Corp Marathon 10K (race recap here) and a half marathon (race recap here). I’m still slow but my pace has improved. I can do this!

For additional accountability, though, I applied for a different kind of Cherry Blossom “lottery” this year. I sent in my application to be one of the ambassador for the race. I still have a 100% success rate at this lottery because I got in! I’m so excited to be running this race again on April 8, 2018 and I’m so excited that I get to take you along with me on this journey to *actually* set myself up to have a good race I can be proud of. One of the “perks” that comes with being one of the Social Media Ambassadors for the 46th Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is joining the Cherry Blossom Spring Mid-Distance training offered by =PR= Training Programs. The training will start the weekend of January 27-28, 2018 (I’ll be training with the DC/Arlington group, but there are groups in Reston and Vienna too) with weekly group weekend run. Long runs! The kind I struggle with the most 😉 I’ll have a coach to help guide me through the process (and who will design a 10-week schedule for me based on my experience and goals for the races.) I can’t wait! If you think you could use some training as well, or if you want to tackle the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run as one of your first race, I highly recommend checking out =PR= Training Programs. Bonus: if you sign up for the premium program (details here) you are guaranteed a race bib so you don’t need to worry about your odds at the lottery…

I’m excited to kick off this new chapter on Thursday. Unfortunately, the kick off reception is no longer accepting rsvps but you can check out my blog Friday for a full recap, including the reveal of the official t-shirt design and colour (we’ll actually be voting on the colour during the reception!) 

 

 

Motivation Monday Links: Post Turkeyfest Edition

Happy Monday! If you celebrated Thanksgiving over the weekend, I hope it was a good one. I needed a bit of a break so I didn’t really do much, other than running Alexandria’ 5 mile turkey trot. Now  I feel refreshed as we gear up for the holidays! My Christmas tree is already up and I can’t wait for all the festivities and the parties. But until then, here are a couple of links of stories and articles that caught my eyes recently.

One of the thing I did do over the long weekend was see Coco, Disney-Pixar’s latest masterpiece (pro-tip: bring Kleenexes when you go see it!) . The animated film, which takes place during Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration forced Pixar to dive deep into a real-world culture — and add some diversity to its team in order to be cultural authentic. Coco came out earlier in Mexico and has smashed box office records there. So clearly they did something right!

While Disney-Pixar diversified its team, there’s a lot of progress to be done in the still mostly white boy club that is Hollywood… including its movie critics. Very few of the major publications’ reviews have been written by latino writers so this article shares 5 pieces penned by latino film critics. Spoiler alert: they all LOVED it.

My friend Madalene (check out her Tuesday Truths posts, she always links to some great motivational stories!) sent me this article on Virginie Routis, the 38 woman who decides what Emmanuel Macron and his guests drink and looks after the 14,000 wine bottle cellar of the Elysée Palace. I have a girl crush! If you’d prefer to read about her in French, I dug out this profile L’Obs had written last year too.

Earlier, Madalene had also shared this article about how Shalane Flanagan had nurtured and promoted rising talent around her while catapulting herself to the top of her sport. Every single one of her training partners — 11 women in total — has made it to the Olympics while training with her, an extraordinary feat!

Did you catch 60 Minutes’ profile of Jose Andres last night? DC’s most celebrated chef has helped provide more than 3 million warm meal in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria ravaged the island (and 40,000 on Thanksgiving day!) He is truly inspiring! ps: Giving Tuesday is tomorrow and you can donate to his organization, World Kitchen right here.

In fluffier news, the White House revealed its holiday decorations and it looks stunning. I can’t wait to tour them myself in a few weeks! And in other DC news, Politico is partnering with women-lead businesses in the DC-metro area to bring us a full week of exclusive Women Rule perks in the lead up to their Women Rule Summit on December 5th.  Some of the specials include $2 off a glass of wine at my fave La Jambe on Thursday, a special #WomenRule run + yoga at another one of my fave, Summit to Soul Wednesday or a 20% discount on dinner at Chaia Tuesday. 

So, as I mentioned, I put up my Christmas tree over the weekend and I also went to City Center for their Christmas tree lighting. I love when the city is all decorated for the holiday. When do you typically put up your Christmas tree (assuming you put one up of course)? 

 

5 Local Boutiques I Love for #SmallBusinessSaturday

Even though Small Business Saturday is a totally made-up holiday invented by American Express in 2009, the sentiment behind it is really nice: support local small businesses! In that spirit, here are some of my fave independent shops in DC:

SUMMIT TO SOUL

As you may have noticed if you’re reading this blog regularly lately, I recently started running. One of my running resolutions for the year was to join a running group and the first one I tried was Summit to Soul‘s Wednesday night runs around the US Capitol. I just fell in love with this adorable shop and its supportive community of awesome runneuses. Summit to Soul is an adorable woman-owned local shop on Barrack Row that specializes on women’s athletic apparel. It carries the cheeky tanks and sweatshirt from Sarah Marie Design Studio which I simply cannot get enough of. 

 

GRAND CATA

Let’s face it, I’m a bit of a wine snob but that’s mostly because I grew up drinking French wines and they’re just what I know best (having a grandmother who lived in rosé  mecca Bandol certainly helped!)  I’m trying to branch out though and be more open minded so I LOVE dropping by Grand Cata in Shaw and let its co-founders, Julio and Pedro, talk me into trying a bottle I would have never picked up on my own. To this date, I have never been disappointed. More than a Latin American wine shop, Grand Cata is in the business of promoting Latin American culture. Its mercadito sells gourmet products from all over the continent (including anchovies stuffed olives which I adore) and frequently showcases the work of Latin American artists. Of course, most wine shops in the city fall in the small business category and there are many others that I love including Wardman Wines in Brookland, DCanter on Capitol Hill, Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park or Cork and Fork on 14th street. I also love Via Umbria in Georgetown, though wine isn’t its main focus. It sells stunning Italian ceramics, linens and food in addition to running an amazing café. 

 

 

KRAMERBOOKS & AFTERWORDS CAFE

We’re big readers here in DC and are very lucky to have some great independent bookstores in town, including some like Politics & Prose in Chevy Chase and the newly expended Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Dupont Circle that organize great literary-focused events too. Bookstores were the preferred shopping destination of President Obama who always made a point of visiting an independent shop on small business Saturday (he had a sweet tooth as well and visited The Dairy Godmother in Del Ray one year!). I doubt President Trump will be stopping by any of our local businesses since he’s spending the long weekend golfing at Mar-a-Lago… I mean, the winter White House 😉 Other local bookstores you could visit Saturday (or any day of the year really!) include Upshur Street Books in Petworth, Capitol Hill Books near Eastern Market, Idle Time Books in Adams Morgan or Bridge Street Books in Georgetown.  

 

HILL’S KITCHEN

The Washington Post just profiled this gem of a shop on Capitol Hill, wondering how it has managed to survive in the age of Amazon. The answer, and what always brings me back, is by carrying some cheeky DC focused products (think DC shaped cutting board, cookie cutters shaped like the US Capitol and even for all 50 states etc.) that you wouldn’t find at Williams & Sonoma or Sur La Table. That’s in addition to everything you could even need for your kitchen. Other shops I love in this category are Home Rule on 14th street and The Cookery near the National Cathedral.

 

LE VILLAGE MARCHE

I could buy everything in this home goods and decor store, especially around the holidays! Perhaps that’s because Le Village Marche, which has two boutiques in Cathedral Heights and Shirlington, specializes in Parisian-inspired home decor and gifts, including  French soaps, candles, letterpress stationery, kitchen accessories and artwork. Also specializing in home goods and gifts: vintage home furnishings boutique Miss Pixie and Amanda McClement’s impeccably curated Salt & Sundry (with locations on 14th street and Union Market, as well as two sister shops specializing in paper goods and plants, Little Leaf, also at Union Market and just off of 14th street.) 

 

 

Washington, D.C. To-Do List for Thanksgiving Weekend

Guess who’s stuck in Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving? 

Not Taylor Swift, me 😉 If you’re raising your hand too, I’ve got a few ideas of things you can do to still have a fabulous weekend in the city.

VOLUNTEER

So you have no family here or you’re stuck having to work on Friday… guess what, there are people who have it worse than you. So why not give back and help those less fortunate. The D.C. Jewish Community Center hosts a number of “everything but the turkey” volunteer events between Sunday November 19th and Tuesday November 21st (including one that is family friendly.) All of the shifts to assist with thanksgiving food preparation the week of Thanksgiving are already full at Food & Friends but you can still buy one of the Thanksgiving Pies they are selling to benefit their Slice of Life initiative (that one’s a win-win for everyone involved!). The Holiday Helpings opportunities at Bread for the City are also mostly all filled up (we’re obviously a city that loves to volunteer!) but you can still find some openings by looking through their volunteer opportunity calendar here. You can also participate in one of the region’s many Turkey Trots like the one benefiting SOME at Freedom Plaza on Thursday, November 23, 2017.

SOME is also accepting Thanksgiving donation baskets at 71 O Street on Friday, November 17 (8AM-4PM), Saturday November 18 (10AM-1PM) and Monday November 20 (8AM-4PM). You can learn more about this opportunity and what they need <here>

SEE A SHOW/PLAY/CONCERT/GAME

There’s always something happening at the newly re-branded Capitol One Arena in Chinatown. During Thanksgiving week, we’re looking at Lady gaga on Sunday, November 19th, hockey games on Saturday (Capitals vs Minnesota), Monday (vs. Calgary), Wednesday (vs. Ottawa) and Friday (vs. Tampa Bay) or basketball (Wizards vs. Portland on Saturday November 25. Other concerts include St. Vincent, performing at D.C.’s newest venue The Anthem on November 27 or Diplo at Echostage November 25th. On the more classical side, the National Symphony Orchestra will perform the score from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets while audiences relive the magic of the film on giant screens (November 24-25 and 26.)

Picture courtesy of the Kennedy Center

And of course, the Nutcracker starts at the Kennedy Center too… because Christmas. That means yep, A Christmas Carol is back at Ford’s Theater too. Less Christmas-y, you can catch performances of Twelfth Night by the Shakespeare Theater Company at Sidney Harman Hall (November 14-December 20th, tickets here), Nina Simone: Four Women at Arena Stage (November 10-December 24, tickets here) or The Second City Presents ‘Nothing to Lose (But Our Chains)’ (November 11 – December 31) at Woolly Mammoth Theater.  

CHECK OUT AN EXHIBIT OR A NEW MUSEUM

The University of Iowa Museum of Art was kind enough to loan us Jackson Pollock’s ‘Mural’, the artist’s largest work which will be on display at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building starting November 19th. While you’re there, you can still catch the Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting exhibit which opened on the West Building a few weeks ago.  And since the Freer Gallery of Art just reopened after nearly two years of renovations, why not check out its Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt exhibit (Miaou! open through January 15, 2018 at the Sackler Galleries), Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia (open through November 2020) or instagram your way through Subodh Gupta: ‘Terminal a new large-scale installation made from towers of brass containers that are connected by thread.

Image courtesy of the Hauser & Wirth Gallery

You can also catch the last few days of Kingdom of Colors at Artechouse. The  immersive visual experience, designed by French filmmaker Thomas Blanchard and artist Oilhack (with a soundtrack by Lyon-based composer Leonardo Villiger), closes November 26th. And there will be 5 augmented reality cocktails at this one! Finally, if that’s your thing, you can also visit D.C.’s newest museum, the Museum of the Bible, which will open November 17 (tickets are free.)

START CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAY SEASON

It might be Thanksgiving weekend, but as soon I’ve you’ve digested that Turkey the city is all about the holidays. Thanksgiving weekend is really Christmas season’s first weekend and you can get into the holiday spirits at one of those events:

  • Season’s Greenings, the United States Botanical Garden annual holiday show, opens Friday, November 23 (and runs through January 1, 2018.) Tickets are free but you might want to wait until a little later in December when the crowds die down a little. There will be a number of special evenings as well throughout the month with live music… and less children! You can read my recap of the 2015 edition right here.

  • Get a head start on buying those Christmas presents at the Downtown Holiday Market, whose tents will start appearing by the National Portrait Gallery as early as Saturday November 24.  
  • If the weather is nice, you can head to the National Zoo for ZooLights, a fun display of LED Christmas lights. (Free admission; 5-9 PM daily; November 24 – January 1, 2018)
  • CityCenterDC will light its impressive 75 feet tall holiday tree on Saturday, November 25 (6 PM) Also making an appearance, the 25-foot reindeer (I love those!)  
  • Donald Trump and his family will also be lighting the National Christmas Tree that Saturday. You had to enter a lottery to go to the actual ceremony but you can also just go check it out on Sunday instead. In addition to the National Christmas Tree, each state and US Territory has a smaller tree on display in President’s Park. 

 

Motivation Monday Links: Post-NYC Marathon Edition

Happy Monday! This is a short week for me. I *just* got back from a super quick trip to New York City and on Thursday, I’m headed off to Seattle. This will be my first time there and I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and exploring a new city — as well as crossing off state # 44! Only 6 more do go… For Motivation Monday today, I thought I’d  share a couple of fun and occasionally motivational links that caught my attention recently. Have a great week!

I spent most of yesterday cheering on the runners participating in the New York Marathon, including my bestie who crushed it in 3:56! Everyone, of course, is talking about Shalane Flanagan  becoming the first American woman to win the race in 40 years. But I love this story about Allie Kieffer, who was the second American woman finisher and fifth overall.

Speaking of Shalane Flanagan, after winning the marathon, she and other top finishers headed back to the finish line to cheer on and award their medals to the last finishers. If that’s not sportsmanship… I don’t know what is. While you’re at it, check out this video from the New York Times about the last people to cross that finish line… and the people who make it a point to be there and cheer them on! Seriously, there are some inspiring stories about those runners who just wouldn’t give up… even after the official clock stopped. Also, I’m not crying, you are 😉

Just for fun, here’s what it’s like to run a marathon as told in emojis:

That sounds about right!

And a list of 17 bad-ass female athletes everyone should know.

It’s not just women in sport… “They’re Women, They’re Black and They Don’t Make Art About That. I can’t wait to check out “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today,” a new exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts that focuses on black female artists who work beyond or outside those dictates. 

But back to running, the failing New York Times argues that “The Running Bubble Has Popped…” but you couldn’t hear it in NYC. While the New York City Marathon has far fewer spots available than runners who want to participate, many other road races throughout the country are seeing a decline in participation. Interesting… 

And last but not least, celebrity chef and former Top Chef contestant Richard Blais ran the new York marathon for the 5th time this weekend… and lost 60 pounds since making running and fitness a part of his everyday routine. If he can do it while being constantly surrounded by amazing food, so can we!  

 

A First Look at the Shop Made in DC

I’ve been writing a lot about running lately, so I thought it was time for a non-jogging related post. Meet the Shop Made in D.C., a newly opened shop-café combo at 1333 19th street NW. As you may have guessed by the name, the 2,500-square-foot space only stocks products that are made in the District, from the coffee (which comes from Small Plane, Ryan Jensen’s new roasting company) to a rotating selection of goods by local small business owners. All of them belong to the Department of Small and Local Business Development’s Made in D.C. program, which provided $100,000 in funding for the project, through a grant to the Golden Triangle BID. Other financial backers include Boston Properties, People Make Place and the Neighborhood Restaurant Group

Two things caught my eyes right away when I came in last Saturday. First, big black letters at the back of the store with the words EAT and DRINK. I guess I was hungry 😉

It was a little too early for tacos (from Tortilladora) or momos (from Dorjee momo), so I just grabbed an everything bagel from Bullfrog Bagels and a coffee. The shop carries oat-milk which is my new favourite so I was excited about that!

I’ll have to come back to try more of the food offerings, including the beers which Greg Engert, director of the beverage program, selected from 6 local breweries. 

Next, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a long brick wall on the side of the store, with bold and  bright posters from 18 of DC’s landmark neighbourhoods, created by Anthony Dihle of Victory Dance Creative.

Alongside all the products featured in the shop, you can find little cards detailing the name of the artisan that made it (24 currently), alongside their makerhood, how many years they have been a maker, how many years they have been in DC and of course, their social media handles so you can look them up.

 

Food products and prints are most prominent in the shop, but you can also find beautiful leather goods from Stitch and Rivet , shirts by District of Clothing or pottery from Hollow Work Ceramics. For now, all of the local entrepreneurs featured have to be DC based businesses registered with the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development though that might change soon since that partnership is only slated to last 6 months as it stands right now.

I foresee the Shop Made in DC being a great event space too, and they are already organizing a Meet the Makers evenings as well as participating in Dupont’s First Friday art walks. I’m sure there’ll be a lot more different events planned soon, especially with the holidays coming up, and I can’t wait! 

Shop Made in DC. 1330 19th Street, Northwest. Open Monday though Friday, 7 AM to 8 PM; Saturday and Sunday, 11 AM to 6 PM. 

My Mini-Fitness Goals for November

One of my running goals for 2017 was joining a running group and turning running into more of a social activity. I was very self-conscious about actually acting on this goal. I’m an introvert, so group settings aren’t always my favourite and I was also worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with everyone which would be embarrassing, as well as discouraging. I was afraid to shatter whatever little self-confidence I have as a runner.  After the Disneyland Paris half marathon in late September (you can read my recap here), it was obvious that I needed to do something different to make sure commit to training. So I resolved to get over my fears, lace up my running shoes and join some strangers on group runs.

There are SO many running groups in Washington, D.C.! I narrowed my options to two: Pacers (the 14th street store) on Mondays and Summit to Soul on Wednesdays and I’ve been a regular for most of October. I struggle to keep up with the group at times. I’m definitely typically found at the back of the pack! But while I find myself wishing the lights would turn red so I could catch a quick break more often than I would like, I’ve also mostly kept up with the group and even occasionally been able to carry short conversations. I’ve enjoyed meeting new people so it was mostly a good experience until last night. Last night was Pacers’ Halloween themed run and there were a lot of runners (in awesome costumes too!) Usually, we split into 3 different groups, running 3, 5 or 7 miles. Yesterday, we ran as one whole group and while the pace was pretty slow because we hit so many intersections, I definitely struggled to stay with the group and it really got me down. I guess I felt that by now, I wouldn’t be struggling through a simple 5K. Instead of feeling good after this run (“be in a better mood after running” is another one of my running goals for this year) I felt discouraged and ready to give up. I never thought becoming a runner would be easy but I did hope that at some point it would get easier. And I had hoped that point would be coming sooner. It’s really hard for me to look at the big picture when you’re not seeing any progress but I know I can’t focus on the small setbacks like the one I had last night. To help me moe forward, and because we are November 1st today, I decided to jot down some new set of goals for the month!

1. RUN 50K IN NOVEMBER

I’m not sure I tracked all my runs last month, I *just* started using Strava a few weeks ago (on strava too? Friend me!?). But according to Strava and Map My Run (which I was using before switching over to Strava) I only ran 42.42K in November. I thought about having a goal of 100K in November, but I that would be probably be setting myself up for failure since I only average about 10K a week. So I’m going to set my goal for 50K, hope that I crush it, feel good about it and set a higher goal for December. Do you have a monthly kilometers or miles goal? How do you decide what to set it at?

2. RIDE 100 MILES @ CYCLEBAR

I’ve been running Mondays and Wednesdays and taking a spin class at Cyclebar Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Last month, Cyclebar NoMa had a 100 miles challenge. Of course, I only found out about it with less than  10 days left… and since I average around 9 miles per class, there was no way I could achieve it. I did get close to 50 miles, so I think I could definitely ride over 100 miles over the whole month of November. 

3. RUN 3X A WEEK

Right now, I’m only running twice a week so I need to add a “long” run on weekends. This may not actually be a very long run but it should be my longest run of the week. 

4. RUN A 10K RACE

Two weekends ago, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon 10K. You can read my race recap here, but basically I finished disappointed in my time and barely meeting the goal I had set for myself. So I would love to find another race of the same distance so I can better my time. If you have any suggestions of 10K in the area, I’m all ears! Since I’m out of town the first two weekends of November, I’m thinking either the Annapolis Running Classic on November 18th or Carpenter’s Shelter’s Run for Shelter  also on November 18th. The time to beat for this 10K will be one hour and nine minutes. I can do this! Maybe… 

5. RUN A 5K WITHOUT WALKING

I’m staying in Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving, so I’ll definitely be running a Turkey Trot that morning. And by then, I would like to be able to run it without walking, even if I run slowly… 

My last Turkey Trot was back in 2015 with these awesome (and faster) ladies

I hope that setting mini-goals for myself will help me keep at it and that I’ll start feeling like I’m making progress… and when I do I will actually celebrate it, even the small victories which is something I have always had a hard time doing 😦

 

Where should I run my first marathon?

I loved running the Marine Corp Marathon 10K but if I’m honest, the whole experience was a bit of a downer. My previous race, the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon was SO fun and exhilarating,  from flying to Paris with friends to seeing everyone in costumes and of course running 26.1 kilometers in and around the parks where I used to work (you can read my race recap here). The Marine Corp Marathon and 10K are right here in D.C. and only ran the 10K, which is in the shadow of the bigger and more impressive  marathon. I consistently found myself downplaying the race. I wasn’t running the MCM 10K… I was “only” running the MCM 10K or “just the 10K.”. And that lessened my excitement for the race and my feeling of accomplishment afterwards. I had “only” ran 10 kilometers when everyone else crushed it and ran an impressive 46.2! Also, I didn’t really know anyone else that was running unlike Disney where I had Caitlin. This race definitely got me thinking again about wanting to push myself further and run an actual marathon. 

I haven’t been in a hurry to sign up for my first marathon because I always knew when and where I wanted to run it: in my hometown, the year I turned forty. And then I would run my second and last one the following year, the famous Marathon du Médoc, and drink all the wine and not really care about my performance! Well, it turns out I think I  don’t want to wait that long! And maybe I don’t want to run in Paris 😉 There are thousands of marathons organized around the U.S. and the world every year so I actually have a lot of options to chose from and I kinda love the idea of a destination marathon, especially in a place that’s either special to me… or completely new, maybe a bucket list place or somewhere truly amazing. If it’s not going to be the year of my 40th birthday, I still want to make a big deal of my first marathon! So I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and here are the marathons I have narrowed down my list to:

1. PARIS (APRIL 8, 2018) 
Of course, Paris is still my top choice! Leading up to the Disneyland Paris half marathon last September I joined the facebook group Runners France  and I’ve been having major running FOMO ever since. I really want to run a race in Paris, whether it’s the marathon, Paris-Versailles (September 30th 2018) a 16 kilometer run from the castle to the Eiffel Tower, the 10 kilometres l’equipe (June 10 2018) a race whose finish line is a few blocs from where I grew up and where my parents still live, or another. There are a few reasons holding me back from signing up: the timing of the Paris marathon isn’t ideal for me as I’d not only have to train in the winter but I also have a big work conference a few weeks before that would derail my training just as I’d be needing to do some 16-20 miles run. I’m also not sure I can be ready so soon. I still struggle through a 10K! But how amazing and special would it be? I mean, the start line is on the freaking Champs Elysees!!! So if it’s not Paris, maybe it could be another race in France? The Marathon du Mont Saint Michel (May 26 2018) has a better timing. And while I’m more of an urban runner,  the setting would be pretty incredible too! Along those same rural running lines, Run in Reims (October 21 2018) sounds super fun and is a quick trip from Paris. Also, champagne!!  That one also has a 10K and a half-marathon so I may do it anyway, but perhaps not as as my first marathon…

2. THE MARINE CORP MARATHON  (OCTOBER 28 2018)
The People’s Marathon is D.C.’s most prestigious local race and it would definitely be the easiest for me to participate in.  The timing in late October is pretty perfect. Other than those summer runs I’d be doing my longest runs in early fall when the temperatures are still nice but getting cooler. The crowd is always awesome and supportive and not only would I probably spot a few familiar faces on the sides cheering, I’d probably know a few runners too. I know quite a few people who have run it, so I’d have a pretty supportive network around as well. It’s definitely a top contender but it’s a lottery registration so I may not be able to sign up even if I want to.

Picture courtesy of Rock’n’Roll Oasis Montreal marathon

3. MONTREAL (SEPTEMBER 23 2018)
Obviously, Montreal holds a special place in my heart so I absolutely love the idea of running 46.2 kilometers in my old college stomping grounds. The timing is pretty good for me, though I’d have to do my longer runs in August which is really hot and humid here in D.C. The location is the main appeal though: it’s a short international flight, there’s no time difference and it’s in a big city (that i love love love) … Montreal basically has everything I want in a marathon AND French speaking runners as a bonus. I can already taste the celebratory Molson and poutine afterwards! Actually, the course ends at Parc LaFontaine where La Banquise is… convenient 😉 Being a Rock’n’Roll race, there’s not too many hurdles to signing up so if I don’t get a bib for MCM, I might fall back on this one!

4. BERLIN (SEPTEMBER 16, 2018)
I ran a half marathon around that time this year, one that also required some international travel, so I know I can work with the date and tag it along a trip to Paris. Believe it or not, I’ve never been to Germany, despite growing up one country over, so this would be a fun reason to finally visit! The course is mostly flat and passes along some of the city’s most important landmarks (it starts at the Bradenburg Gates!) so I’d get to see the whole city while running! Alternatively, still in Germany, I am also considering the Sparkasse Marathon  (October 7, 2018) which would bring me to Germany as well as Austria, and Switzerland. 3 countries in 46.2 kilometers… now that would be true international race! Bonus, it’s during Oktoberfest so I’d be guaranteed some pretty great post-race beer!

Picture courtesy of Honolulu marathon

5. MAUI (OCTOBER 14 2018) OR HONOLULU (DECEMBER 2018) 
Having visited 43 states already, I’m on a bit of a quest right now to cross off the last 7. I’m headed to Seattle in a few weeks, so Washington is getting off the list soon. I’ll visit Oklahoma early next year as well and my parents are planning a family trip to Alaska next summer. So as long as I can make it to Nebraska/South Dakota/North Dakota before October, I *love* the idea of running my first marathon in my 50th state! Alternatively, to give me a little more time to visit all these states, I’m also considering the Honolulu marathon which is in December. It’s a really big event with over 30,000 runners and a crazy 5AM start time (yikes!) but it’s a pretty flat course and there’s no qualifying time to enter, unlike some more competitive races. There’s also no cut-off time to finish which is really nice! And, you know, it’s in Hawaii so recovery will be spent lounging on a beach eating spam musubi and poké. On the other hand, I don’t know if I can get anyone to come to Hawaii with me (especially in december right between Thanksgiving and the holidays) and being by myself on these gorgeous islands might get me down, which isn’t how I want to feel during my race.

So these are my top 5 contenders for my first marathon. If you’ve already run a marathon, where was it? How did you decide which one to do for your first race? 

Running (Slowly) with the Marines: MCM 10K Recap

The Marine Corps Marathon is a huge running event, with thousands of runners from all over the country coming to DC to run with the Marines. Since I’m a long way from being ready to run my first marathon, I decided to sign up for its little sister event: the Marine Corps Marathon 10K. I figured after the Disneyland Paris half marathon a few weeks before, 10 kilometers would be a breeze. I had a simple goal going into the race: to run a faster 10K than my previous one, the Capitol Hill Classic. Since it took me an hour and sixteen minutes to complete that course back in May, I also added a stretch goal of finishing closer to the 1 hour mark this time.

How did I do? Well, by the first kilometer I knew that stretch goal would be impossible to achieve and I even questioned whether I’d even make my goal… or complete the whole run! My legs were so heavy and so tight from the beginning on and, more worrisome, I had a nagging pain in the back of my left knee. I considered that I might have to walk the whole course… except walking hurt just as much as running 😦 The pain in the back of my knee actually went away so I decided to keep running, slowly, with a few walk breaks every mile. That got me to the finish line in 1:09. Technically, I made my goal though I was really hoping to do better and it’s hard to feel satisfied with the run. I guess I have a hard time celebrating little victories 😉

Despite that, I loved running this 10K and I had an absolute fantastic day. First of all, the weather was gorgeous! I know it sucked for those running the full marathon… but it was a perfect for a 10K! I had initially planned to meet a few people from the Marine Corps Marathon and 10K Club facebook group for a photo opp by the Capitol reflecting pool but the location was changed at the last minute so I ended up just snapping one sola.

The picture turned out great, though I was looking forward to meeting some of the people from the group IRL. I don’t have a ton of runner friends yet, well at least not ones that are just starting to run like I am…  My friend David who was staying with me for the weekend walked me to the security point (gotta love a race with a start line 10 blocks from your apartment!) and then I joined the other runners for the pre-race celebrations. We started 10 minutes later than we were supposed to and by 8:10am I was off running on the National Mall. I was doing a great job keeping up with everyone around me… but as I mentioned, I was in pain. Unlike the Marine Corps Marathon which draws so many spectators, there are not a ton of people lining the course for the 10K. I could have used a little bit of cheering early on! I did love seeing the Batala ladies right before the 14th street bridge. They rock for being there for us so early! 

The 14th street bridge is notorious for being one of the hardest part of the course for those running the full marathon. It’s slightly uphill, long and there are no spectators to cheer the runners on. It’s also typically around mile 18-20 when  they’re really starting to feel tired. But for the 10K it comes at just the 2 miles mark so it’s not so bad. I did slow down a bit though, especially since my legs really hurt. After that, the race takes us to Crystal City and the course’s only water station. I definitely could have used one more somewhere in there because it was quite warm. I could tell early on from my time (4.3 kilometers at the 30 minute miles and a 6:58/km average pace) that I wouldn’t hit my goal and that I would probably get a worse time than I had back in May. I was so discouraged I felt like walking the rest of the course but then I received a very well timed text message from my friend Emily who had just ran the Navy 10 miler the weekend before. 

So rather than give up, I picked up my pace. I went down to 6:30/km (6:26/km at K6, 6:38/km at K7 and 6:27/km at K8) from 7:03/km at K4 and 7:09/km at K5. I walked a little bit when we got near the Pentagon which brought my pace back to 7:17/km for K9 but finished strong (for me!) at 6:36/km at K10. The finish line of the MCM 10k is the same as the full marathon  and while it was still early, there were already a lot of people cheering, which was definitely something that was missing from the rest of the course.  That was great! Of course, the finish line by Iwo Jima is notorious for being super steep and that was rough! But I kept running because at this point there are a lot of spectators (and Marines!) cheering so walking isn’t an option, especially so close to the end and with so many people watching. I spotted my friend David (good thing he’s SO tall) though he clearly completely missed me 😉 I cannot imagine doing that finish after having run 26 miles… I’m really in awe of everyone that runs the full course!

Once you’re done, there are tons of Marines congratulating, high five-ing you and fist bumping you and you get your medal from a Marine too. The atmosphere at the finish line was great, though it was a bit of a bummer to see the Iwo Jima memorial covered in scaffolding. I snapped a few souvenir pics then had the nice surprise of seeing my friends Nicole and Calla who had come to cheer me on, though clearly thought I’m a much much slower runner than I actually am because they completely missed me at Crystal City. That’s too bad, because it’s such a nice boost to see a familiar face when you’re running but I was still SO happy to see them at the end. 

David, Calla and I actually headed back to Crystal City to cheer on the runners in the marathon. We got there by the time the 3:15/miles pacers were arriving and stayed through to the 5/miles pacers. I was trying to spot two of my friends who were running but failed miserably. I did spot Elyse from the 14th street Pacers store looking strong on the course! After that, it was time for a little celebrating! I love that it was still rosé on the roof weather at the end of October! 

While I had a great day, I can’t help but not feel satisfied with the race. Running is part mental part physical, and I clearly still need to work on both, train more and push myself to accomplish the goals I set for myself. Of course, I don’t want to end this year on a sour running note, so I did the only thing one can do in this situation: I signed up for another race! I’ll be running Pacers’ Jingle All the Way 15K on December 10th, which will force me to keep running, even as the weather gets colder. I can’t wait to prove to myself that I can do better! Also, how much fun is planning a cute Christmas running outfit going to be? And the snowman medal is adorable. Can’t wait to add it to my (small) collection! 

Anyone else race this weekend? How did it go?

Ariel & the Sweeper Girls: A Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Race Recap

Two weeks ago, I ran my longest race of 2017: the Disneyland Paris-Val d’Europe half marathon, part of Run Disney France’s Magic Run Weekend. My previous races this year were the Cherry Blossom 10 miler and the Capitol Hill Classic 10K. I’ll cap off my running season with the Marine Corp Marathon’s 10K. I’m not quite ready to commit to training for a full marathon yet though it’s definitely a distance I’m looking to doing next year 😉

If you read my goals for the Disneyland Paris half, you saw that they didn’t include a specific time. I just wanted to complete the course, make some new memories with my bestie Caitlin and snap some fun pics with Disney characters as I ran through my old workplace. I spent six months after college working in the communication department at Disneyland Paris, right after the Studios had opened, so the parks have a special place in my heart. 

Technically, I achieved all of my goals yet it was hard for me to feel entirely satisfied with myself at the end of the 21 kilometers. Here is a quick race recap. Ok, not so quick…

First let’s talk about the race itself. The half marathon is fairly small in comparison to some of the other races I’ve done … 7,000 runners altogether (compared with 17,000 + at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler!) and is part of a full weekend of running with a 5K on Friday night, a 10K Saturday morning, a kid’s run Saturday afternoon and the 21K Sunday morning. Some runners actually do all three and get a special Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo challenge medal, in addition to medals for each of the races. I must say I was a little envious of all their bling! But Caitlin and I flew into Charles de Gaulle Saturday morning so those extra races weren’t an option for us. We went straight to our hotel, the Kyriad, via the Magical Shuttle — actual name! — do drop our bags and from there to the Expo in the Disney Village to get our bibs. There wasn’t much happening at the expo so that didn’t take too long. We killed some time at the shops (I behaved!) and grabbed lunch — food options are not great at Disney! — before checking into our room and taking a much needed 3 hours nap. Diner was the all-you-can-eat buffet at the hotel next door, the Vienna House Magic Circus Hotel. For those of you who know a little bit of fromage geography, you may know that Disney Paris is basically in Brie-land so my carb loading involved a lot of delicious runny Brie (and a glass of red wine of course, can’t have one without the other !) We managed to stay up until 9:30 then got some much needed zzzs! 

Ariel and Sebastien ready to run!

Ariel and Sebastian (not so) patiently waiting to start running

We didn’t have to wake up too early on race day since this particular Disney race wasn’t set to start until a luxurious 7AM. I say luxurious because apparently other Disney races kick off at an ungodly 5AM. Yikes! The start line was split into 3 waves (we were in wave C) and each subsequently divided into smaller groups so that only 250 runners would head inside the Studios at once. It was very exciting at first cheering for all the previous groups as they headed off. However it got a lot less fun an hour later when we still hadn’t left and realized would be in group 25 of 25 to cross that starting line. Womp womp. At this point both me and Caitlin started to worry about this for different reasons. Her because she’s a fast runner, currently training for the New York marathon, and knew she’d had to weave through a bunch of slow runners to catch up with those more at her pace. And me because I knew I had to complete the race before 11:30AM (the official cut-off for the race) and starting at 8AM meant I didn’t have much of a buffer anymore … but there was nothing we could do so off we went, Ariel and Sebastian, running through Disney in Paris! 

The Staff at Eureka Mining Supplis Cheering us on

As a former Cast Member, I know Disneyland Paris employees are the best! Here are a few cheering us on in Adventureland.

The first 5 kms of the race are THE BEST!! Right away, you’re in the Studios with cast members from various hotels, restaurants or attractions cheering you on. That was awesome. But I got super nostalgic as we passed Chez Rémy… that wasn’t there in my days! How the Studios had grown in the last 10 years! I stopped to snap a photo of the staff in their uniforms outside the restaurant … and lost Caitlin. So much for fun memories of the race together — I had at least thought I’d stick close to her through the parks. Oh well. I was on my own at the back of the pack. Where I pretty much stayed … see what happened is once we got into Disneyland there is a station set up for a photo opp with Mickey and Minnie, with the castle in the backdrop. I wanted. I wanted bad. But the line was soooooo long and I knew I was already one of the last runners since I left in the last group. Oh well, this was the one picture I wanted so I nervously joined the line.

Waiting in line for my picture with Mickey and Minnie

The line to get your picture taken with Minnie and Mickey — ps: Maleficient snapping a pic in front of me became my back-of-the-pack buddy! Her outfit was awesome!

After 15 minutes I saw them: the sweeper girls with their Minnie ears and Mickey balloons. Yikes! I was officially at the back of the back of the pack (though not alone … the line for pictures was still long.) I waited a little longer until a race volunteer basically told me that I would be out of the race if I stayed in the line any longer. I was nowhere near Mickey so I had no choice. I started running again. I basically wasted 25 minutes and didn’t get my picture with Mickey and Minnie. And now I had to catch up to the sweeper girls, which sorta became my obsession for the rest of the race. 

Running through an empty Main Street towards Cinderella’s Castle was a dream. And running through the empty park — there weren’t many runners left at this point — was a memory I’ll cherish forever. So was running through the castle!  I did stop for all the picture opportunities I could … I mean, if I didn’t get my pic with Mickey I was going to get all the other pictures I could ! So altogether, it must have taken me over an hour just to complete the first 5 kilometers. Definitely a reverse PR 😉 And of course, i still technically at this point was behind the sweeper girls meaning I really had to speed up. 

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

The next 15 kilometers weave through the lovely roads and villages around Disney. There wasn’t really anyone cheering along the course though organizers had set up some distraction points like a group of local pint-sized cheerleaders, bands or a DJ. At this point I was so focused on catching up with the sweeper girls that I didn’t notice when I actually passed them. Instead, I was freaking out, going as fast as my lack of proper training would allow me and hoping Moana’s How Far I’ll Go would keep me going a while longer! I was feeling pretty down — where were those sweeper girls!? Would I seriously not complete this course !? And then at kilometer 15 i saw them. Going in the opposite direction from me meaning they were probably just at the halfway point of the race. Way behind me.

Disneyland paris Half Marathon Sweeper Girls

The Disneyland Paris Val d’Europe Half Marathon Sweeper Girls

I started breathing again and allowed a break. Which turned into a longer break than I meant for it. I had a hard time motivating myself to run again until we basically got to the hotels. Running through the official Disney Hotels, especially the Santa Fe — which is huge — and the Cheyenne with its Wild West theme, was super fun because after a cheering desert there were people again! Kids! Parents! Runners who had already finished their half marathon and were sporting their medal(s)! I got the second wind I needed to start really going again. Running through the Disney Village was a bit tricky though since by that point the parks were open and the area was full of people trying to get into Disneyland or the Studios, as well as runners who had already finished the course and were eager to get back to their hotels. The path carved out for the runners was pretty narrow and you had to navigate multiple crossing points too… but I spotted my dad, Caitlin and my friend Calla right before going back inside the Studios for that final kilometer. And then I got all nostalgic again. We ran through the set of Moteurs … Action! an attraction I had seen hundreds of time while I worked at Disney since one of my biggest project then was a live taping of the German TV show Wetten, dass…? which took place in that theater. (You can check out a recording of the show on YouTube!)

Actions... moteurs!

Awww, Disney. I miss you!! (And my twenties too lol). Finally, I crossed the finish line (which is actually inside the Studios!! How cool is that!?) a little teary eyed and very exhausted. I got my medal and managed to find Caitlin for our finisher photo. We didn’t get a single picture together with Disney characters so this one will have to do! 

Finisher photo at Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Completed the course? Check. Made memories with my bestie? Check. Fun pics with Disney characters? Check, even if they weren’t Mickey. So my first international race was a success by the goals I had set but my lack of training really showed. I hadn’t done enough long runs leading up to the half, so by the time I realized I had passed the sweeper girls at kilometer 15 I was wiped and all but too happy to walk for a few kms. Does anyone else really struggle with longer runs too? My final time was 2h57 which isn’t great by any means though if you subtract the half hour give or take I spent in line for pictures with Mickey or other characters after that it’s slightly better, probably closer to 2h30… not great, but not that bad for me either). As always, I only have myself to blame. In running you get back what you put in and I didn’t put in enough ahead of time. I have 2 weeks now until the Marine Corp Marathon’s 10K and I’m determined to have a better race this time ! Anyone else running it or the full marathon? 

ps: can’t we talk recovery meals for a minute? As you might expect, the French know how to do it well! My mom made her signature couscous…

Couscous.jpg…. and my dad picked up some amazing eclairs at Fauchon (it was eclairs week afterall!).Eclairs from Fauchon

Since the weather was SO beautiful, we walked along the Canal St. Martin and had a few glasses of rosé on the rooftop terrace of Point Ephémère

Rose at Le Bar Ephemere in Paris

…before wrapping up a long day with some natural wine at Clown Bar.

Post half marathon dranks at Clown Bar.jpg

Sunday Funday with a bunch of Ks! I’d run a half marathon every weekend if they could always be like this one 😉