My 2018 D.C. Holiday Season To Do List

Last year, Tammy Gordon of Florida Girl in DC made this awesome #DCChristmasChallenge Holiday To Do List. I crossed off many items on her list but thought I’d make my own this year!

1. Attend a Christmas Tree Lighting
I didn’t enter the lottery for tickets to the 2018 National Christmas Tree Lighting so it won’t be that one but there are lots of options like City Center (November 24 at 6PM), the Norwegian Christmas Tree at Union Station (November 29 at 6PM) or the Capitol Christmas Tree (December 5 at 5PM) or  to list a few. Have a fave? Let me know!! This year I’m leaning towards attending the Canadian Embassy’s La Soirée – A Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration on December 5th which benefits the United Way of the National Capital Area. 

2. Visit Zoolights at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo

 

3. Try Every Cocktail on the Menu at Drink Company’s Miracle on 7th Street 
Stealing that one straight from Tammy’s list because it’s a good one! I cannot wait to see how Derek Brown and his Drink Company pop-up elves decorate the bars this year… and try all the festive cocktails of course! And speaking of Derek, don’t forget to pre-order his book Spirits Sugar Water Bitters: Cocktail: An American Story on amazon. I know  it only comes out in March, but it’ll still make a great belated Christmas gift! Of course this isn’t the only bar doing something special for the holidays. There’s also “Chai-vy and Cohen-y” that will host menorah lightings at 7:30 p.m. on each night of Hanukkah (December 2-9) with dreidel-spinning and latkes and Archapelago that’s going tiki for the holidays. 

4. Cuddle up and watch a Christmas Movie
What’s your favourite? I’m biased towards Love Actually for English-language movie and Le père Noël est une ordure, of course, for french films (check out this hilarious scene!) but there are lots of great options on Netflix now too. 

5. Buy Someone (or myself!) a gift at one of D.C.’s Christmas Markets
SO. Many. Christmas. Markets. From the more traditional Downtown Holiday Market to the Heurich House Museum Christkindlmarkt, the Swedish Christmas Bazaar or DC Brau’s 5th Annual Holiday Market, there are LOTS of options. 

 

6. Sing Christmas Carols at the Willard 
No hotel does Christmas quite like the historical Willard InterContinental. The Pennsylvania Avenue hotel (which also plays hosts to the White House Thanksgiving turkeys during that holiday!) has the best decorations and every night in December, a different vocal ensemble performs in the lobby between 5:30 and 7:00PM. Bonus: grabbing drinks afterwards at the Round Robin Bar and there’s usually a really fabulous gingerbread house to admire too! You can check out the full schedule here.

7. Go say hello to Old Ebbitt’s Giant Nutcrackers
Maybe have some half priced oysters during happy hour while I’m there 😉 

8. Go on a holiday themed run 
I had a blast last year’s at Pacers’ Holiday themed run. I only did the three miles route, but of course, I’m a more experience runner now so I hope to make it to the 5 miles route that goes to more Christmas trees now! Also, I hope to have a better costume this year 😉

 

9. Check out how Alexandria, VA does Christmas
Last year, I really wanted to check out the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, when dozens of brightly lit boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront in Alexandria. The timing just didn’t work out… and I’ve also never seen the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade 😦 Luckily, Port City Brewing Company is giving me an extra incentive to go this year with a Pop-Up Beer Garden During Parade of Lights on December 1 (4:00-8:00PM). Sounds super fun. The Scottish Christmas Walk Parade is also earlier that day (11:00AM) so hopefully I’ll make it to one or both! But Alexandria’s Boat Parade of Lights has some competition since the District is also having one at The Wharf later that day… (6:00-8:00PM) and let’s be honest, it’s the same boats and that’s a lot more convenient (and there are some fab restaurants I haven’t checked out yet!)

10. Do Something Good for Others
As much as I love soaking up the festive spirits of the holiday season, Christmas can be a stressful or downright sad time for many families and people. Whether it’s volunteering some of my time, donating food or gifts or all of the above, it’s important to do something for the less fortunate this time of year. 

11. Stroll along the streets of Georgetown during Georgetown GLOW
This year, the neighborhood-wide public art exhibition will take place from December 1, 2018, to January 6, 2019, and feature the work of local, regional, and international light artists in public and privately-owned spaces. Glow is one of my favourite public art display in D.C. I can’t wait.

 

12. Get my photo with Santa
Just throwing that one in there because why not? Also, Santa will be at Wundergarten’s Winterfest December 8 from 2-4PM so that might be a good time to catch him… 

13. Get all Dressed up for a Christmas Party
Someone invite me to a fancy Christmas party please!! Bonus: wear an ugly sweater. I bought a pretty neat one last year, would love to find an opportunity to wear it 😉

14. Check out Mr. Holidays and the Barbie Pond on Q Street Holiday Displays
Christmastime is Greg Nelson’s favourite time of year and he goes all out decorating his house on 16th street. And I love it! The Barbies don’t disappoint either usually.

 

15. Find a Small Way to celebrate Hanukkah
While my mother’s heritage is Jewish, I wasn’t brought up in that faith (or any actually) and I never really celebrated Hanukkah. I do like to find little ways to mark the festival of lights, from going to a menorah lighting (public or someone’s home), cooking latkes (Gather DC has a great round-up of recipes), attending Sixth & I Synagogue’s My So Called Jewish Life (great event event if you’re not Jewish! This year it’s on December 5) or donating to a Jewish charity. And if all that fails, I can also head to “Chai-vy and Cohen-y” or  attend Cassarole’s Second Annual People’s Hanukkah Party 😉 

Let’s see how many of these I can cross off during the holiday season (which I will generously start the day after Thanksgiving!) What’s on YOUR holidays to-do-list? 

Marathon Training: I went on my First “Run-Mute”

I’ve always had a fairly active social life but knew I would have to kiss it goodbye as I started training to run my first marathon. These days, I’m in bed by 10PM (at the very latest!) on Saturday nights so that I can lace up my tennis shoes at six the next morning. I turn down anything scheduled for Thursdays because that’s track night. Monday evenings are Pacers group run. Weekday mornings are for Cyclebar and Bodypump classes. With three weeks until the Navy-Air Force half marathon and two months until Marine Corps, I’m basically no fun at this point (unless you find running fun, then I’m a hoot!). So when my friend Bianca suggested we catch up over diner at the new Lupo Marino at the Wharf Tuesday night, I had to make a decision. I knew I couldn’t run Wednesday night since I had a going away party at the French Embassy (I also really wanted to take Haley’s 7AM class at Cyclebar that morning) so I *had* to squeeze in a run Tuesday at some point. Since I still struggle wit weekday morning runs, I decided I would try to run-mute (run+commute) home so I could do it all 😉

My office is around 6 miles away from where I live, a straight shot on the red line that takes me about 30 minutes per way. It’s actually a pretty good distance to run and fairly easy on Wisconsin and Massachusetts avenue so armed with my brand new Women’s Nathan Intensity Hydration Vest (which I absolutely love!) I decided to give this run-mute thing a try! My starting point: the Chevy Chase Pavilion in Friendship Heights:

Of course, in hindsight, I should probably not have picked 4:30PM on one of the hottest days of the year to set out on this mini adventure. The first two miles were pretty awful, as there was barely any shade at all going down Wisconsin towards the National Cathedral. 

Mile two of my runmute: the beautiful National Cathedral.

After the National Cathedral, I took a turn left on Massachusetts Avenue for a more shaded and quite pretty segment of the run. All the embassies provided a welcome visual distraction … and it was kinda fun seeing everyone else stuck in traffic. But still, yeah, it was hot. 

Made it to 5K! What up Churchill?

I continued sweating my way down embassy row until Dupont Circle. I was bummed the fountain was completely dry because I would have really loved to jump in 😉  

Almost at mile 5: would have loved to take a refreshing dip in the fountain!

The final stretch down Mass finally brought me home in 1 hour and 23 minutes for a pace of 8:32/km, definitely one of my slowest runs but it was SO hot.

Mile 6! I’s so sweaty and gross and I kinda want to die, but I made it 😉

Seriously the Dupont Circle temperature clock was showing 101 degrees!

Starbucks is selling PSL already… can we start having some fall temperatures please?

Occasionally, it’s definitely taking me longer to metro to work so I don’t think it was that bad and I definitely will do it again soon. Of course, a run-mute home takes a little less prep than a run-mute to work (and I do have a shower in my office building so I’m not ruling out giving it a try at some point). The 2 main things to prepare for are:

  • Your route: map it out in advance so you know exactly where to go and how many miles you’ll be able to cover. I typically count my runs in kilometer but the easiest route home was 6 miles or 9.7 kilometers down two large avenues with ample sidewalk space so I went with the miles.  I’m already plotting how I can take a slightly different route down Rock Creek Park next time! 
  • Your backpack: after wasting $ on cheap hydration packs from Amazon (they kept leaking after 2 or 3 uses!) I finally splurged on a $100 women specific pack from Nathan’s. I absolutely love it but the zippered rear compartments to organize additional items are on the small size so I had to be smart about packing very light that day. I brought my running clothes in a separate bag and abandoned my work clothes at the office to bring home the next day so I could run as lightly as possible. I didn’t bring a book to work or anything that day… I kept it to a minimum even stripping my wallet down to just what I needed for the day (and packing those in a small ziplock!)

After a quick shower, I ubered down to the Wharf to meet Bianca and definitely felt I had earned my pizza (I had the Calabrese with anchovies… it could have had more anchovies. I love anchovies!)! And it was so nice to have a social evening without feeling guilty that I’d skipped a run. On the downside, I basically went to bed the second I got home and my place is still a mess from Diner en Blanc Saturday. But I was so tired 😉 

Save the Date: Diner en Blanc DC Returns August 25

I’m so excited to be pairing up again with my friend Jean for the 5th edition of Washington DC’s Diner en Blanc. This year, for its 5th anniversary, the event is going to be bigger and better than ever before, with more than 5,000 people gathering in a secret location somewhere in the city for a chic pique-nique under the  stars.

This will be my 5th year as a group leader and I can’t wait to help 300 revelers enjoy this experience. You can read some of my previous Diner en Blanc coverage here: 2016 by the Lincoln Memorial , 2015 in New York City and the Carnegie Library. But if you want to participate this year, here are a few dates you need to keep on your calendar:

  • July 31 @ 1PM – if you attended Diner en Blanc in D.C. last year a) how amazing was the location? b) you’ll be receiving a Phase 1 invite meaning you get first pick of meeting point and table leader. You’ll also be able to sponsor a friend for Phase 2. When you receive your invitation code, you should act on it pretty quickly (definitely before phase 2 opens!) as every single phase will sell out.
  • August 6 –  Diner en Blanc values people who have attended before and trust that their friends are equally as awesome as they are. That’s why previous participants are able to “sponsor” a friend to join the family every year. Those friends of Diner en Blanc members receive a Phase 2 invitation. Hopefully, they’ll still be able to register for the same departure point and table leader but some may have filled already. If that’s the case, definitely register for the same departure point if possible and plan on meeting up with your friends at the dinner or on the dance floor. Again, the spots available will fill up super quickly so you should sign up as soon as your receive the invitation code.
  • August 9Phase 3 allows those on the wait list to try and get a spot for the diner. Unfortunately, the demand is great and many will be disappointed and unable to register. To make the system go a little smoother, phase 3 registration is split alphabetically between morning and afternoon. 

And of course, the most important to remember is August 25, when the diner will take place. If you’ve never attended, I’m happy to answer any questions that you might have in the comments. I also wrote a few little guides to help first time participants in particular make sense of all the rules (let’s call them guidelines shall we?) and tackle the shopping list, which can seem overwhelming if you have to purchase everything (though table/chair/silverware rentals are an option again this year) you need to bring with you. 

Hope to see you dressed all in white on August 25!

 

Brooklyn Half Marathon Training Recap – One Week Out!

It’s perhaps not the best timing, but I needed a break from running. I’ve decided to approach the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon the way I approached the Rock’n’Roll Half. No goals. No expectations. I ‘s just gonna try and run a lot of miles and have fun along the way. Last week, running just didn’t seem to make me happy but a lot of other things did…

MONDAY

I’m normally pretty religious about attending Pacers’ Monday fun runs, but this time around I decided having a few cocktails at the Royal Wedding pop-up bar preview would be more fun. This particular pop-up is a lot smaller than previous ones (it only occupies one room, the former Mockingbird Hill space) but it packs in a lot! I also loved the cocktails. The G-d Save the Queen is basically a martini that comes with a crown and the throne, plush-corgis and cut-outs of the royals made for awesome photo opps.

The pop-up is open until May 20th so you definitely should go if you have a  chance! 

TUESDAY

Now that it’s finally warm(ish) outside, there are tons of opportunities to practice yoga, pilates and other group fitness classes for free. This particular Tuesday was Shack Track & Field (where runners make their ways from one of the Pacers store to the Shake Shack at Logan Circle) and that starts a little bit later than regular runs, at 7PM. So I decided to double up that evening and squeezed in one of the Golden Triangle BID’s TriFit yoga class, offered by Corepower Yoga. Yoga went much better than the run afterwards…

I opted for the 5 miles track this time and right out of the gate, I could hardly keep up with the group who was running closer to an 8 miles pace than the 10-11 I’m comfortable with. I know they always say all pace are welcome in running group, but if you’re on the slower side, you’re mainly welcomed to run by yourself which is what I ended up doing for two thirds of the course. Womp womp. But I least I got a grab a tasty glass of glass at Shake Shack afterwards.

WEDNESDAY

Cyclebar! I normally take Valerie’s evening class but Haley is teaching at 7AM now so I thought I’d take that instead and free up my evening. My friend Calla had just gotten back from Sweden so I had her over for quiche, wine and travel stories!

THURSDAY

The return of Body Pump! I never felt healthier and stronger than when I took body pump classes regularly last year.  I gave up my gym membership when I signed up for the unlimited monthly pass at Cyclebar NoMa, thinking I could do weight training on my own in my building’s fitness room. Of course, I haven’t 😉 I had gone the week before at Vida Navy Yard as a guest of my friend Cecile and realized how much I had missed it so I used some ClassPass credits to sign up for a session at Gold’s Gym on 19th street. It felt much better than it had the week before and I’m definitely going to try to sign up for a class here and there. I also bought a set of 7lbs dumbbells so I can do a few exercises on my own. In the evening, I toyed with the idea of *finally* doing track but opted for one of Tammy’s TW Training & Wellness fun run instead. It started and ended at Ivy & Coney in Shaw, pretty close to me so it was more convenient than going to Pacers’ and Banneker.

I know eventually I *have* to integrate track work into my weekly routine but I’m not sure Pacers will be the group for me to do it with. I might need to find a group more geared towards beginners like myself.

FRIDAY

My usual Friday evening class with Haley. 

SATURDAY

I know I should have done one last long run before Brooklyn, either Saturday or Sunday, but honestly, I didn’t want to. It felt so good to do other exercise besides running, like hiking Sugarloaf Mountain. We did the Blue Trail and bits of the White Trail and covered closed to 10K. I loved it. I didn’t loved Sugarloaf Winery afterwards. The space doesn’t have a ton of charm, the  staff was pretty rude and the wine barely drinkable (the Viogner was ok, so I ended up getting a bottle to share. We had earned a treat!)  But it was fun to relax and have some snacks after the hike. 

SUNDAY

I took Valerie’s 10AM class at Cyclebar NoMa and ROCKED it. Some days you’re more into it than others I guess and I made it into the top 3 on the leaderboard for all of the sprints, which never happens to me! I definitely needed that little boost of confidence after feeling so inadequate at Shack Track & Field Tuesday. In the afternoon, I took a leisurely walk around NoMa with my friend Ekaterina to check out the new murals from the 2018 edition of the Pow Wow DC street art festival. I wrapped up the weekend with cocktails at Cotton and Reed near Union Market.

One Last Hello at Cotton and Reed

All in all, I had a very active week, squeezing in a double workout on two occasions. But I know I should have ran more than 12.5K (my goal for the week was 30K). But it’s ok. I think I needed a bit of a break, it’s just unfortunate it had to happen the week before the Brooklyn half marathon… I’m hoping that after this small reset I can get back to enjoying my runs. And eventually too I’ll get better at finding that right balance of running/me time/social life/other workouts. I almost had it this week… minus the running 😉 

So You Wanna Visit the White House…? Part Deux ~ the Arrival Ceremony Edition

Two years ago, I wrote this blog post with some tips for people wanting to visit the White House. Even with Trump in office, the post is mostly still relevant. If you reside in the United States, you can still request a tour from your congressional office (congressman or senator.) Melania Trump has also continued the tradition of opening the grounds of the White House for Garden Tours twice a year (the last one was a few weeks ago on April 14-15, 2018) so that option is still available to at least visit the South lawn. Since writing that post, I have had the opportunity to visit the White House on two new occasions. Last December, I toured the East Wing during one of the holiday tours. That was neat, if only to see the portrait of Hilary in there that you know Trump must just hate. And this just in, on Tuesday April 24th,  I *finally* got the chance to attend an arrival ceremony. Oh, and it was a good one! 

You may recall (though probably not) back in 2014, the White House social media team had invited me to attend Francois Hollande’s arrival ceremony BUT I had a previously scheduled work trip to New York that I simply couldn’t get out of. I’m no Hollande fan but I was super bummed nonetheless. My friend Kaylé, who was in attendance, wrote a lovely guest post recap for me but I had basically been hoping for another opportunity since then. And yesterday, I got it and it was truly an honour and once-in-a-lifetime experience for me to stand among some of my fellow countrymen/women and expats as we timidly sang La Marseillaise steps away from the American president, the first lady and, of course, my own president and his wife Brigitte. A president I had actually voted for this time around too! The cherry on top of the gâteau was also going to French Embassy that afternoon for a more intimate event celebrating our president being here in D.C. Here’s a not-so-quick recap of my amazing super-French day:

In a nutshell, I spent all day standing in line to go through security, then standing around waiting for Macron, then standing around while Macron spoke. It was a lot of standing around and waiting, but it was absolutely worth it! The arrival ceremony was scheduled to start at 9AM, and since the gates opened as early as 6:30AM I decided to get there at 7AM in case the line at security was long. It wasn’t. Actually, it was kind of a breeze. I was assigned to the Blue Gate, which was a smaller entrance and even though I had to give my name to 5 different interns before getting to the metal detectors, it all went very quickly and very smoothly.

After being given both a French and an American flag, as well as a program, I entered from the same spot as I had back in December except this time I was shown the door to the South Lawn.  I had been given a red pin when I checked it and that was meant to notify the staff of which section I was supposed to stand in. With my back to the White House, that section was basically immediately to the right of the podium, which I could see perfectly, if slightly from the back. I also could perfectly see the door from which Donald and Melania would be walking out, and then walking back in with Brigitte and Emmanuel and I was surrounded by Frenchies so I was pretty happy with my situation as I waited an hour for things to start happening.

I should have known this view was too good to be true 😉

Officials like Betsy DeVos or Jared Kushner began to trickle in. Their section was on the other side of the podium from me. And then two black mini-buses dropped off the French delegation. Luck would have it, said French delegation’s “assigned viewing spot” happened to be on the other side of the rope from my section. And while it was kinda cool to have Christine Lagarde basically right in front of me, I no longer could see anything.

First world problems: Christine Lagarde blocks your view of the presidential podium.

As we got closer to 9AM, secret service agents also started popping up all over the place and they all tend to be pretty tall . More officials arrived (hello Mike Pence!) and my previously beautiful view of the door and the podium was also a thing of the past.

Turns out Christine was the least of my problems 😉  Can you spy Stephen Miller and John Bolton’s mustache on this picture? The white hair next to Stephen Miller is the Veep too!

Slightly behind schedule, the programming finally begun with music and lots of flags — it was beautiful seeing French flags everywhere!

Donald and Melania Trump stepped out of the White House, a black car dropped off Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron, everyone was trying to take pictures and videos with their phones and since I’m barely 1m55 I didn’t catch any of that. Well, occasionally I could spot Melania’s hat. I guess it was pretty useful that way.

Big secret service head, small Donald and Melania Trump

Can you spy Emmanuel Macron in there? Also, Stephen Miller’s balding head.                     I told you I couldn’t escape it 😉

They reviewed the troops together, which I also couldn’t see, and before I knew it, they were playing the French national anthem and firing the traditional 21 gun salute. The French are never shy about singing La Marseillaise. Unlike the Star Spangled Banner, it is very easy to belt out even if you are the worse singer in the world but my entire section of Frenchies was pretty timid this time around, whispering the lyrics as if unsure whether it was an appropriate thing to do at the White House. And maybe it isn’t… because I didn’t hear the Americans sign along their anthems either. After the anthems, there were speeches from each of the leaders, starting with Trump in English then Macron in French. Before heading inside the house for their tête-à-tête, the two leaders and their wives spent some time on the balcony waving at us. At least I definitely got to see that!!

Getting out of the White House was a breeze as well. It was pretty early and we wanted to sit down for a bit, grab a bite to eat (and some warm coffee! It was a bit damp and cold, though luckily it didn’t rain!) and charge our phones before heading to the Embassy. I had spotted Eric Kayser, who was part of the official delegation, fan-girling over the event a few people away from me in the Frenchie section and figured his Metro Center restaurant would be our best bet since it was only 10:00AM. Turns out everyone had the same idea and everyone was there, including Eric himself. We still had a lovely lunch and then it was time to get into another line, this time for the embassy event. I don’t know how well you know the French but we are *incapable* of queue-ing up like polite, respectful people. The line was a hot mess and it didn’t help that we had to wait longer because Macron was running behind schedule (the French are also bad about being on time!) Even after we gotten in we still had to wait and wait and wait.

Just a bunch of Frenchies waiting for Emmanuel Macron at the French Embassy

Around 5PM, Brigitte came by to say hi to us, which I thought was pretty amazing since she had a big dinner to get ready for. I got to shake her hand and thank her for coming before she hopped on stage and joked about having to leave to attend to her chignon but ensuring us that her husband was worth the wait.

Brigitte Macron: “Il faut que j’aille m’occuper de mon chignon.”

And he was. There wasn’t much of an announcement that he was coming but all of the sudden we heard his voice on the speakers, awarding the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest order of merit for military and civil merits, to three World War Two veterans: Robert Ewald who participated in D-Day at Omaha Beach, Stanley Rzucidlo who landed on Gold Beach on June 7, 2044 and William Barr who was in Air Force and dropped some bombs on German forces in Normandy and North of France. Once Macron jumped on stage, they wheeled Mr. Barr over to a corner of the stage so that he could watch the intervention as well. I’m not sure whether he understood everything but I could see him from where I was standing and I had the honor of being able to talk to him afterwards.  That was probably one of the most special moment of the whole for me. But back to Macron.

William Barr soaks in Macron’s speech, proudly wearing his brand new Legion d’Honneur (and yes, that IS Eric Kayser right behind him…)

Since he was so behind schedule, he spoke only for only maybe 15 minutes, praising the many French teachers in the room and the representatives of the many Alliances Francaises in the United States who do so much to promote our language here. Of course, we’ve all heard it before from other presidents but the truth is it’s really hard to afford a French education for your children. Bottom line: Rochambeau is not cheap!

Channeling his inner John F. Kennedy, he prompted us to ask ourselves what we can do for our country, because our country needs us before leading us in a much more enthusiastic Marseillaise than the one we had sang that morning. He shook a few hands on his way out and then everyone basically threw themselves on the wine and cheese waiting for us in the next room. And I mean “threw” rather literally 😉

The wine was from Jean-Luc Colombo, who  was part of the French delegation that came with Macron on the trip, and most of the catering was done by Kayser with some assistance from the Embassy kitchen. There were trays of mimolette and pâté en croûte and cheese and financiers and macarons and French people who seemed to starving the way they behave at the buffet tables (just like we can’t behave in a queue, we’re also not disciplined enough for buffets….) I always love going to these special events at the embassy because you get to catch up with people you don’t see very often since *everyone* is there. And make new French acquaintances of course. I love our little community here. But just like that, the day was over. I’ve been on such a Macron high since Monday, following all his appearances and speeches either on the news, via his facebook lives or, on Tuesday in particular, in real life… France was first and foremost in the news, and not in a bad or sad way like after a terror attack. There were French flags all over downtown D.C. And now it’s all over like it was just a dream… 

 

Training Pays Off: 2018 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run Recap

My third race of the year is in the books! The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is the first race I ever ran. I was under prepared and it wasn’t pretty. Last year, I struggled to cross the finish line in 2:14 minutes, 6 minutes short of not being considered an official finisher. I left the race feeling defeated and knew I had two options moving forward. I could feel sorry for myself and give up. That was the easiest thing to do. Or I could accept the fact that I hadn’t trained enough and decide to work harder so I could do better next time. If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you know I chose the latter option and I’m glad I did. This year, I walked out of the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler with a sparkly medal AND a feeling I had rarely experienced post race. I was kinda proud of myself… 

My main problem with running was always more of a mental hurdle than a physical one. Ideally, I’d love to  turn off netflix, jump off the couch and run a marathon. Wouldn’t we all? But that’s not how it works. You’ve gotta couch to 5K to a turkey trot, train up to a 10K, actually run (that’s a big one), consistently (also big) and then run some more. You have to decide that running is important to you and prioritize it in your life accordingly. And that’s what I did. I started tagging along with some running groups, which was very difficult at first since I’m both a slow runner AND an introvert. I struggled to keep up for a while, to make small talk but then both got easier. I ran/walked the Disneyland Paris half marathon (recap here) and mostly ran the Marine Corps Marathon 10K in the fall (recap here). I applied to be a social media ambassador for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. And I was selected! 

Being a social media ambassador came with some cool perks like skipping the lottery process altogether, new tennis shoes and most importantly for me the opportunity to participate in one of the Potomac River Running’s training programs and blog about the process (added accountability is not negligible!) I’ll dedicate a whole post soon to discuss the advantages of joining training groups or social running clubs, but for now I’ll just mention a few points quickly. First of all, it was great to be surrounded with people who were struggling a bit like me. Sure running with more experienced, faster runner forces you to push yourself a little bit more, but it can also be very discouraging to always feel like the slowest one. Sometime it’s just nice to be with people more at your level (or pace I guess). Second, this winter SUCKED. Let’s be honest, there were plenty of cold rainy Sunday morning when I would have stayed in bed instead of going out for a run if it hadn’t been for my training group. I know I wouldn’t have stuck with the long runs the way I did if it hadn’t been for the extra incentive and motivation the group provided. 

Rain or shine, though mostly rain, my Potomac River Running distance spring training group met every Sunday at 8AM in Georgetown

I stuck with the sunday long-runs, progressively increasing the mileage, Monday fun-runs with Pacers and cross training at Cyclebar NoMa. I ran the 17.75K “access granted” race (recap here) a few weeks before the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile run and felt pretty good coming out of it. That race is a tiny bit longer than the 10 Miler and way more hill-y so it definitely gave me a nice confidence boost, especially since I still had three weeks to train. But then I strained a muscle in my upper thigh and had to stop training and exercising altogether. Whatever confidence I had was completely shattered. I even debated downgrading to the 5K. Ultimately, I decided to stick with the run after participating in a shake-out run organized by Garmin and The DC Run Crew at the Potomac River Running store in Chinatown. It didn’t feel great but I thought I could at least limp my way across the finish line a little under the 2:20 cut-off time. 

With that in mind, I decided I needed a plan to make it through the race, and that plan involved sticking with one of Gold Gym’s pace group for as long as I could, at an “easy” 11:30 that would still get me to finish the race in around 2 hours but wouldn’t be too strenuous. I still have a hard time pacing myself so I figured I’d let someone else do the work for me this time. On race day, my friend Caitlin and I walked over the starting area (the race starts and ends around the Washington Monument). We had brought old Icelandair airplane blankets to keep us warm while we waited in our respective corrals. Caitlin was red, of course, she’s a fast one. And I went over to the green corral to find the 11:30 pace group. 

I don’t know who the runner on the picture above is, but I stuck with him for 7.5 solid miles and that was a smart move for me. At mile one I wanted to die (I’ve always been a little over dramatic). At mile two my knee started to hurt and I considered stopping at the first medical tent and quitting the race. But then I realized I actually didn’t feel *that* bad and that I just needed to shut down my brain for a bit, which is actually quite hard when you’re not running with music, and focus on that neon yellow shirt in front of me, making sure I always kept it in my sights. I got into a pretty good grove. I was able to see my own pace and time thanks to my brand new Garmin (another perks of being a social media ambassador for the race) and started to realize that I could potentially finish the race in less than 1:54 (my fastest time on a ten mile course ever) and maybe even close to 1:50 if I picked up my pace a little bit, which I actually felt good enough to do. There were just two things standing in my way: 2.5 miles and the fact that I had to pee 😉

I had stopped at most water stop along the route. While it was freezing that morning, once we got moving it was actually a beautiful, sunny day and we got warmed up pretty fast. I knew I wanted to make a quick bathroom break but all the porter potties had super long lines. And then I spotted it behind the Batalá drummers: an actual real restroom operated by Parks Services. I figured there’d be at least 5-6 stalls and the line wasn’t coming out the door so I made a break for it. I lost a few minutes, of course, but I also lost the pace group at that point so I was on my own for the rest of the run. Looking at my splits (which is super easy with my Garmin!) I can see that I ran the last two miles at my fastest pace (10:35/mi and 10:12/mi) chasing for that elusive PR I keep hearing other runners talk about. Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it. I crossed the finish line at 1:55:35, a minute shy of a PR and 5 minutes past my initial race goal of 1:50. But it still felt great. I shaved off 19 minutes from my time last year despite dealing with quite a few setbacks. Of course I couldn’t help myself: what if I hadn’t stopped to go to the restroom? To say hi to Rachel when she was handing out water? To snap a photo of this awesome oh-so-DC sign?

Would have done better if I had been able to complete my training the way I wanted to in the final weeks? The answer is probably yes, but the truth is I’ll never know so I’m really trying to push those thoughts out of my head once and for all. I did well! I put in the work and it showed. For once, I feel good after a race! Well, mentally at least. My body is a whole different story 😉

Cherry Blossom Training Recap~Week 1

Last week, I officially kicked off my training for the Cherry Blossom 10 mile race, which is now a mere 10 weeks away (*insert panic emoji*). Aside from the cheer trickiness of trying to design a training plan for a 10 mile run when my brain still refuses to function in anything other than kilometers (Everyone else might be running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler but I’m running Les Seize Kilomètres des Cerisiers en Fleurs!), the first week went pretty well, culminating in my first “long run” with Potomac River Running Training Programs yesterday. 

Since I’ve been sick on-and-off since mid-December, I  decided to give my body the rest it seemed to need and took a 16 days break from running. The frigid temperatures didn’t help making want to get back out there any sooner! So last week I set a simple, realistic goal for myself: to slowly get myself back into running by doing three easy runs. Concretely, here is what my first week of training looked like:

  • Monday: ran 5.2 km with my Pacers‘ fun run group. My goal is still to move up to the 5 mile group in February (so next Monday).
  • Tuesday: ran 5.3 km with Pacers’ special Shake Shack Run. We all got to try the new Griddled Chick’n Club, which is probably not the best food to have after a run, but oh well 😉

  • Wednesday: I took Valerie’s class at Cyclebar NoMa. It’s one my favourite there, though Wednesdays get busy so I hadn’t been to her class since my birthday. 
  • Thursday/Friday: break! I normally would have taken Haley’s Happiest of Hour class at Cyclebar NoMa but I went to see Star Wars instead. I can’t believe I still hadn’t seen it!
  • Saturday: instead I took Haley’s Sounds from Y2K class at 11:30AM class on Saturday. The playlist was *awesome.*
  • Sunday: I met with Potomac River Running’s D.C. Credit Union Cherry Blossom/Spring Mid-Distance training group. I have *always* struggled with long runs (why run when you can walk?? Walking is SO fun!) so I’m really looking forward to this weekly group run even though I’m not that excited to have to wake up at 7AM every Sunday for the next 9 weeks… Goodbye social Saturday nights… it’s been nice knowing you. Yesterday, I had set myself a goal of running 8 km and made it to 7.5 km with some walking. I can make excuses (it was raining which sucked… I didn’t eat anything before running) but truth is I know I need to push myself harder next week.  

So, I ran a total of 18 km and went to Cyclebar twice last week. For week 2 of training for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, my “mini-goal” is up my number of outings to 4/week. I’ll be running 5 km with Pacers on Monday and Summit to Soul (part of the No Buts Night Run in Partnership with REI and Ragnar) on Wednesday. I’ll attempt to do 6-8 km on my own either Thursday or Friday (probably Friday morning though) before clocking in my last run, ideally an 8-10 km with my training group on Sunday. And I’m planning on going to Cyclebar NoMa Tuesday and Thursday mornings (or Friday evening instead of Thursday morning depending on when I end up doing that run.) Right now, it seems daunting, I’m not going to lie. I’m also trying to watch the State of the Union Tuesday, eat all the crêpes Friday (I’m french, I would NEVER miss celebrating la chandeleur!) AND see a ballet at the Kennedy Center Thursday. As I contemplate this schedule, I can’t help but think of #11 and #12 from this list of 12 hacks to become a better runner. I’ve got number one down (“Start slow”) but I’m having a harder time getting to “Don’t Overexert Yourself” and “Maintain an Overall Healthy Lifestyle.” Good thing I have NO intention of watching the Super Bowl (not even the half time show, not even the commercials!) because I might need all of Sunday afternoon to rest and recover! 

Nonetheless, this is my plan and I’m going to try and stick to it! Wish me luck and stay tuned for an update next week… if I survive 😉

ps: I’m participating in Potomac River Running’s Credit Union Cherry Blossom/Spring Mid-Distance training group as part of my commitment as one of the race’s social media ambassador and if you are planning on running the race on April 8 and think that you might need that extra little help to be ready for it, you can still sign up to participate too (more information here). They have groups meeting in Georgetown, Reston and Vienna. And if you didn’t get a bib for the race, you can still get one by signing up for one of the premium programs that comes with an entry to the 10 miler. 

 

My 2017 Instagram Best Nine… and What I Wish They Had Been

The year isn’t quite over yet and while I could still post another like-racking picture to my instagram account, like many people on your feed, I decided to check out what my top 9 posts of 2017 were. And I have to say, I’m a little bit surprised. I mean… they’re SO DC! Seriously… only two of them do not involve a Washington landmark. 5 of them were taken along the Tidal Basin, 3 feature cherry blossoms, 2 focus on the US Capitol, 2 on the Washington Monument and 3 on the Jefferson Memorial. It’s like I never left the city 😉 

Now I love these pictures, don’t get me wrong (you can see my whole instagram feed here). I do feel they’re probably the prettiest I posted (or, you know, reflect how much people love Game of Thrones!) but I don’t know that they tell the story of what my year was like. So I picked 9 other photos from moments that meant a lot to me in 2017. 

One of the most difficult but important thing I did last year was sell the condo where my ex-husband and I had lived since 2008 and buy a place of my own. It was an awful experience, but  finally in August, after months of crashing in friends’ guest rooms or basements, I was able to move into my new condo, a whole two blocks away from my old one, in the neighbourhood I  love and have now called home for 11 years. I love this first picture because it reflects just how happy I am now to be able to enjoy la vie en rosé from my rooftop, which has beautiful views of both the US Capitol and the Washington Monument. Another important thing I did in 2017 was run the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon with my bestie Caitlin (you can read my race recap here.) We met in Paris 20+ years ago, when our high schools participated in an exchange program but hadn’t been back there together in ages. I started running this year, it’s become a huge part of my life, even though I’m still pretty bad at it and I’m still learning to enjoy it. It was amazing to run with her at Disney (where I used to work right after college too!) then spend the rest of the week playing and eating in the city. AND I got to wear fun mermaid leggings too!!

The third picture was taken during the French elections. We voted a lot last year. Like every 2 weeks it seemed like I was back at the embassy but I love that my vote as an expat has as much weight as that of any other French citizen anywhere in the world. Voting for Macron, a rather unknown entity in French politics, was a tough decision but not one I am regretting so far. With everything that’s been happening here in the US, I’m proud of the course France has chosen. Speaking of France, I traveled to a part of France I had never been to before, French Guiana, to see a rocket launch. In the distance behind me on that fourth picture in an Ariane 5 fusée hours before I saw it blast into the sky. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience, though since I work for the company that launched the rocket, there might actually be others in my future 😉 The fifth picture is of course diner en blanc which took over all of Pennsylvania Avenue in early September. I had lobbied for that location for 2 years so I was stoked, and I was stoked also that my high school friend Alexandra came down from Montreal to attend the event with me. Hopefully, next year, it will be the other way around and I will head up to Montreal to see her and attend Diner en Blanc there! Next up is a picture of the adorable window at Ladurée in Georgetown. The iconic brand opened two locations in Washington DC and it made my year. I should note though that the fraisier in my original Best Nine picture is from Ladurée. It was a cute creation for July 14, with the bleu blanc rouge markings of the French flag on top of the delicious layers of cream and strawberries. 

The last three pictures reflect a little bit of the travels I got to do last year. With everything that was going on in my personal life, traveling took a bit of a back seat. That being said, I still got around 😉 Of course, I went to Kourou which involved a lot of work but was still amazing. I stopped in Miami on the way back for a long weekend on my own. It was my third time in the city but the only time where I actually got to decide on what I wanted to do (I was seven the first time, so yeah, didn’t get a lot of say… though we went to Disney so I think I was pretty happy!) I also went to Logan, Utah for a work conference. That trip was very last minute so I didn’t have a lot of time to plan add-ons, though I will next year for sure! I also did a few fun weekends here and there, to Rehoboth during the inauguration, New York of course, Connecticut to visit my college roommate, to Savannah to see one of my faves marry an awesome French dude and to Richmond for the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit and Baltimore for their inaugural Diner en Blanc. But my favourite trip of the year was my road trip to Canada with my parents. We stopped in Albany where I had a drink with Lauren of Healthy Delicious (we went to grad school together!) and Medina where I checked up on Alex and Scott of a DC Minute. I caught up with my friends Lindsay (another exchange buddy from way back in the days!) and Rochelle in Toronto then drank all the wines at Niagara-on-the-lake, went on a great hike in Hamilton and of course saw those big famous falls. We then drove back to DC through Detroit and Pittsburgh but I love the time we spent in Canada while the whole country was celebrating its 150th anniversary. I also loved my long and rainy weekend in Seattle visiting my friend Katia. I hadn’t crossed off a new state in a while so it was good to visit Washington, aka number 44. Now I just have to make my way to Hawaii, Alaska, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. 

Last but not least, yeah, cherry blossoms. I had many moments of doubts, of course, over the past year. I always said I lived in Washington because it was where my husband lived and worked. After we separated last year, I really wondered if I should stay here or if I should perhaps look into opportunities in Montreal or even back in Europe. In the end, I genuinely love living in this city and I fall in love with it all over again every spring when it turns all pink! I guess my original Best Nine were pretty spot on then 😉

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!) 

 

 

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.