13.1!

I ran my first half marathon today!  That’s 13.1 miles (or 21 kilometers) and that’s the longest I’ve ever run in my life, and I survived!  And I would do it again!

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I was feeling pretty nervous this morning, hoping I’d trained enough in the last few months and eaten enough carbs in the last few days to reach my goal of 2 hours and 25 minutes.  Rain had been forecasted for the 24 hours leading up to the start of the race and all through the morning, so I was crossing my fingers that it would stay dry.  Luckily it ended up being a beautiful day for running (cloudy and high 50s) and the rain held off until tonight.

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The race started from the Promenade des Anglais at 9:30, so I gathered all my gear, including my iPod with a 3.5 hour playlist (thanks to everyone who contributed!), and left my apartment around 8.  The London Marathon was also happening this morning and I read an article that runners were wearing black ribbons as a Boston tribute.  I didn’t have any black ribbon so I tied a piece of black yarn around my wrist as I was heading out.  There were over 3000 runners for the half marathon, plus all the runners that did the 5K or 10K, so it was a pretty big event for Nice.

Black ribbon for Boston

Black ribbon for Boston

After everyone was lined up but before the race started, we had a moment of silence for Boston, and then we were off!  I breezed through the first 8K or so, posting a few 6:30-ish kilometers.  I had a lot of energy and even though I didn’t have anyone in the crowd cheering for me, specifically, I pretended everyone was 🙂  I was thinking, hey this isn’t so bad, maybe I can try a full marathon soon!  (HA)  For the most part, the course was flat, with just a few tiny hills.  The view was, of course, gorgeous, with most of the race taking place along the sea, but also around the port and near the art museum.

After 10K, the 10K runners that had started with the half-marathon runners finished their race and we were left to run another 11K (to the airport and back).  I could feel myself slowing down a little, as blisters formed on the bottoms of my feet and my toes (from which I had lost 2 toenails in my training) started to hurt.  But I kept plugging along.  I managed to run the first 10 miles (16K) of the race without stopping at all (I was very proud of that!)  At 16K, I took a minute to shake out my muscles, down some Powerade and a piece of banana, and kept going.

The last 5K was really hard, but I managed to find a group of runners to follow.  One of the guys somehow still had a crazy amount of energy and was dancing with all the different bands that were stationed along the course.  It was awesome and inspiring to watch (and reminded me of something Sam would probably do :)).  By 19K, I couldn’t feel my legs, but I kept telling myself I had to keep going.  The best feeling was seeing that 20K sign and knowing I was almost there, and the worst feeling followed closely when I realized I still had another kilometer to go.  But I finished strong, powering across the finish line at 2:23:33, a solid minute and a half under my goal! 🙂

Go me! :)

Go me! 🙂

Tonight, my feet hurt, I think I’m going to lose another toenail, my legs are sore, I have blisters on blisters on blisters, and I definitely need some new running shoes, but I had a GREAT day today.  I felt so good when I crossed the finish line!  And tonight’s dinner is my reward: French toast, scrambled eggs, (real American/English) bacon, and a pint of Haagen-Dazs caramel cone explosion ice cream 🙂 🙂 🙂

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And as long as we’re talking about ice cream, here’s a little update on the ice cream flavors I’ve tried at Fenocchios recently (with help from Emily, Isabelle, Alexandra, and Gary, of course!)

Chocolate mint
Stracciatella
Rocher
Irish coffee
Peach
Avocado (really really good, actually!)
Milk chocolate bar
Rose
Rhubarb
Chocolate orange
Black currant
Cappuccino
Chocolate and hot pepper (not very hot pepper-y)

Today’s French word:

lèche-vitrine (lesh vi TREEN)– literally lick-window, it’s window-shopping!
La plupart de temps je préfère de faire du lèche-vitrine, mais j’ai reçu une autre bourse, donc je peux m’offrir une nouvelle robe!
Usually I prefer to window-shop, but I just received another grant so I can treat myself to a new dress!

A Day in the Alps (and a few days of recovery)

I’ve never been skiing or snowboarding in my life, but I’m currently living in southern France, right next to the Alps, so I thought “why not?”  I turned it into a (sort of) social event by inviting some people I’d met in Nice who’d expressed interest in skiing or snowboarding, so I wasn’t actually going alone.  After going back and forth in my head between skiing and snowboarding, I finally chose snowboarding.  I’d heard that snowboarding is harder, but I was hoping that my experience with edges on hockey skates would help me feel a little bit more comfortable with the edges on a snowboard.

Nice operates a “100% Neige” bus that goes from the main train station in Nice to one of the ski parks in the mountains for just 8 euros round trip, and it only takes about an hour and a half!  The ride is a straight shot north and is absolutely gorgeous!  The roads wind between mountains and along little streams and rivers, and eventually you can see the snow at the top of the mountains.  Then the bus stops going north and starts going up, winding back and forth until you’re actually driving through the snow.

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View from the bus

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View from the bus

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View from the bus

SNOW!

SNOW!

When we got to the park, we picked up our gear, got suited up, bought our day passes, and signed up for a lesson.  Then we took the téléphérique (an aerial tramway, of sorts) up to the “beginners” hills to meet our instructor.  He was nice, but seemed less than enthused to be teaching two beginning snowboarders.  The lesson was all in French, but that wasn’t the hard part.  It was exhausting because we would take turns sliding about 10 meters down the bank on our board with both feet strapped in, unstrap one foot at the bottom, and then drag our board back up to the top and strap ourselves back in.  Thank goodness there were two of us because a solo lesson would’ve been impossible!

My cool snowboard...

My cool snowboard…

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View from the téléphérique

When the lesson was over, the instructor taught us how to use the J-bar lift, a surface lift that pulls individual skiers/snowboarders up a hill while they hold onto a pole, as opposed to sitting on a chairlift.  When I finally got up to the top of the baby hill (it took a few shaky tries), the only thing left to do was go down, which proved harder than it looks.  You always see these snowboarders just coasting along downhill.  Believe me, it is NOT that easy.  I fell like 6 times (really hard!) on my back and my knees on the first trip down the mountain.  I kept trying to use my board edges like the instructor said, but I could feel myself over-rotating and then I would catch an edge and wipe out.  We went up again and half way down the second run I decided to give up on the edges.  I kept my board straight and went down at what I felt like was a pretty fast pace (it wasn’t…) and managed to stop myself by half turning my board/half falling.  I decided to try a third time and managed to stay standing for most of the run, which I was satisfied with, I guess.

View from the top of the "hill" we were going down

View from the top of the “hill” we were going down

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Learning how to snowboard is a lot like learning how to skate in hockey skates.  First, you have to be going fast to use the edges of your board or skates.  It took me years to be able to go fast on hockey skates, so no doubt it would take me years to feel comfortable on a snowboard.  Second, you have to be going fast to learn how to stop, but no one wants to go fast until they know how to stop.  It’s a vicious cycle, but I think it’s easier on hockey skates, since we have so much more padding.

All in all, it was a great day.  The sun was shining (I even got a little sunburned), the sky was blue, the air wasn’t filled with smoke (like it is in the city).  But next time, I’ll try skiing instead.  The next morning when I woke up, I could feel every muscle in my body and I had some nasty bruises on my tailbone and my knees.  I have a new respect for mountain sports people!  It was freaking hard, but I can’t wait to try again 🙂

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French word for today:
ventouse (ven-TOOZ)– suction cup/sucker
Les tentacules du poulpe sont garnies de ventouses.
Octopus’ tentacles are lined with suction cups.

My First 10K!

I mentioned in a previous post  that I’m starting to train for a half marathon in April, and today I completed my first milestone in training.  I finished my first 10K (6.2 mile) race– the Prom Classic in Nice!  My goal was to finish in under 62 minutes, and I came in at 1:01:28, so I was pretty happy about that 🙂

I’ve been carbo-loading on bread and pasta for the last few nights, and after a short yoga session this morning, I fueled up with some toast and a banana, filled my water bottle, put on my running shoes, and made my way into the city.  It was funny to see all the runners get on the tram into the city, knowing we were all going to the same place.

The course was a loop along the Mediterranean Sea, from the beginning of the Promenade des Anglais to the Nice airport and back.  It was a beautiful morning– about 56F and sunny.  I’d never run more than 5 miles before today, so I was crossing my fingers that I’d get through that extra 1.2 miles.  The race started in 5 waves, depending on your goal time.  When I was about a mile into the race, the first runners were already coming back down the Promenade!  The first place finisher this year finished in 28:50!  I reached the 8K (about 5 miles) mark pretty painlessly, but the last 2K were a little difficult.  I guess I have a lot of work to do before April!

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Overall the race was great!  The course, the time, the weather.  My only complaint was post-race organization.  The finish-line area was too small to hold all the runners, so it took forever to get to the water table.  Plus, there were no bagels or fruit left by the time I’d finished!  Oh, well.  My post-race indulgence was waiting for me in my freezer at home: Ben and Jerry’s Caramel Chew Chew ice cream 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Obligatory sweaty post-race picture 🙂

 

Our French word for today:
courir (coo-REER)- to run (because why not?!)
J’ai couru 10 kilometres aujourd’hui et mes jambes me font mal!
I ran 10 kilometers today and my legs hurt!

A Few Months of Firsts

I’ve been here almost 2 and a half months and am pretty much settling into everyday life in Nice—“la vie quotidienne.”  I’m trying to take advantage of my time away from work and trying to keep myself busy, so I’ve tried a whole bunch of new things.

Knitting
I taught myself how to knit!  Mostly through online tutorials and YouTube videos.  Here’s picture of the first scarf I knitted for myself (and the link to the pattern).  I’m currently knitting a hat and scarf for Em for Christmas and I’ve added slippers for myself to my list.  I usually knit while making my way through 10 seasons of Friends and 8 seasons of Will and Grace 🙂

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Yoga
I’ve never done yoga before, not even the “sunrise yoga” during New Student Week at Northwestern or whatever.  I’m not very flexible and I don’t have spectacular balance, but I wanted to try it anyways, so I signed up for a month of Bikram Yoga.  For those of you who don’t know, Bikram Yoga is 90 minutes of yoga in 105 degree heat, and you burn 1000 calories!  I’ve seriously never sweated so much in my life.  It was intense and hard and took me a few times to get used to it, but it was one of those activities that made me feel healthy and relaxed afterwards.  It was definitely worth the 40 euros and now that I know some of the asanas (positions), I can do it at home.  I won’t be burning 1000 calories, but it will help me relax.

Running
Ok, it’s not actually my first time running, but it’s my first time training for a race other than a triathlon.  Since I went from playing ice hockey 3 times a week this summer to not playing at all since I’ve been in France, I decided I needed something to keep me active.  Running is the easiest, cheapest way to stay in shape here.  Plus, Nice is blessed with BEAUTIFUL weather (today is December 23 and it’s 60 degrees and sunny) and a gorgeous path along the Mediterranean Sea, so I can run outside most of the time.  I decided I needed a goal to actually be motivated to run everyday, so I found a half marathon in Nice this spring.  Now I’ve never run more than 4 miles at a time, so this is going to be quite a challenge.  In my training I’m up to 4.5 miles and I’ve got a few races in mind as “milestones” before the half marathon:

10K: January 6
10 mile race: February 17
HALF MARATHON: April 21

Now that that’s out there for everyone to see/read, I have to actually stick with it, right?  Wish me luck!

Raclette
One new experience that probably cancelled out several days of running was introduced to me by Melodie, a friend from hockey.  Her parents live in Nice (about 10 minutes away from me by car) and she and Andreea were in town to visit for the holidays and they invited me over for lunch.  It was so nice to see a few familiar faces 🙂

If you like cheese, you would LOVE raclette.  Traditional raclette involves heating a giant wheel of cheese and scraping off the melted part.

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

Our lunch was a more modern version of raclette.  Basically, raclette involves an electric table-top grill with small pans in which you heat slices of cheese.  The cheese is accompanied by platters of boiled potatoes, charcuterie (sliced prepared meats), cornichons (tiny pickles), and salad.  Once the cheese is nice and melty in the little pan, you pour it over your potatoes and meats, then pop in another slice.  At our raclette lunch, we had a peppery cheese, a plain cheese, a bleu-ish cheese, and a smoked cheese (my favorite).

Boiled potatoes in the white bowl on top of the grill, cheesy goodness under the grill :)

Boiled potatoes in the white bowl on top of the grill, cheesy goodness under the grill 🙂

Our lunch was accompanied by some very nice conversation.  Melodie and her family have lived in several different countries and her dad gave some great advice.  He said every country they’ve lived in has been different from the last (obviously), but the key is to not focus on what’s missing from the place you are now, but instead to focus on what this place has that all the others don’t.  Saudi Arabia is different from Italy is different from France is different from the US and each place has their own culture and different things to offer.  That really made me think, because I think I’ve been living the last few months with a “make the best of it” kind of attitude, which isn’t really the same thing.  My goal for the next 6 months is to discover all the things France has that the US doesn’t, instead of trying manipulate everything in France to being like the US.

French word of the day:
racler (ra-KLAY)- to scrape
Quand le fromage fond, tu dois le racler et le mettre sur les pommes de terre.
When the cheese melts, you have to scrape it off and put it on the potatoes.