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Paris With Kids, Round 2

In my last post I outlined some of the activities my daughters and I most enjoyed while we were in Paris.  Here I’ll outline for you some of the tips and tricks that will just make traveling life with les enfants much more enjoyable for everyone.  This is a bit of a hodgepodge of collected wisdom but I hope it will suffice none the less.

General:

I really cannot emphasize this enough.  When traveling with kids of any age, planning is key.  And by planning, I don’t mean a loosely assembled idea of what you are going to do. I mean a PLAN.  Thought out, researched, written down, reviewed, and rethought out.  A big time, capital letter PLAN.  For those of you who aren’t planners by nature, this may seem intimidating but trust me, it will be worth it.

For my planning purposes I adopted a modified Bullet Journal (or BuJo for short).  I started with a nice, new Moleskine journal (ahhhhh) and a few colored Sharpies.  For coloring coding, or course.  I’ve included some pictures so you can get a sense of my organizational scheme.

First page…..flight info.  Which changed after I originally wrote down the information so I had to redo it.

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An Index is indispensable…..

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A list of sights we wanted to see.  Blue notes indicate cost, whether or not the sight is covered by the Museum Pass (MP) and any other logistical information.  Orange notes indicate random bits of information for consideration.

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List of shopping stops we wanted to make with references to pages that have more information about that stop.

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Basic itinerary…..

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A more detailed entry about a  specific activity or neighborhood, again with color coded comments.

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Transportation: This probably won’t come as a surprise to you but plan your major transportation needs prior to your arrival in Paris.  Upon arrival at CDG Airport we were tired, hungry and spent.  Our host at the flat we rented recommended using a driver he knew well for our airport to flat transportation.  I have to say, this worked exceedingly well.  When you are the only adult and you are towing children behind you, you do not want transportation hassles.  When traveling alone to Paris I used the Metro to get to the city from the airport.  While it served it’s purpose, it is infinitely more difficult and cumbersome and requires you to pay a fair bit of attention.  Not my strong suit after a transatlantic flight.  Uber is another option and works in Paris much as it does in the rest of the world.  A private driver is your most expensive option, followed by Uber, followed by the Metro.

For day to day travel, we loved using the Metro.  There was a stop within a few blocks of our flat which made hopping on and off seamless.  When looking for a flat to rent, one of my specific requirements was that it be within walking distance of a Metro stop.  And by walking distance, I mean a few blocks.  I’m all about minimizing the whining at the end of the day.  Metro tickets are affordable, the system is easy to navigate and the efficiency is pretty great.  If you don’t believe me, try traveling the same distance above ground.  It makes the Metro seem like a dream.

One of the tasks the girls enjoyed immensely was planning our Metro routes.  Each evening we would lay out the strategy for the next day.  The girls would take turns looking at the Metro map we carried with us and strategizing the route for the next day.  They had fun and better yet, learned a lot about distance, time, strategy, etc.

Food and Drink: This one is easy.  Rent.  A.  Flat.  Get on VRBO or Airbnb or parisperfect.com and get a flat with a kitchen.  You can hit up the local bakery for breakfast and bring it back to your flat where you can enjoy your coffee and eat your pastry and take in the view and plan your day.  The kids can do handstands and pick on each other and no one will be offended.  We were often out for lunch, sometimes ate at restaurants or grabbed a bite in a cafeteria or cafe.  We carried snacks with us everywhere, nuts, trail mix, maybe a piece of fruit.  We bought bottled water at the grocery store and carried a bottle with us each day.

When you have a flat, you have maximum flexibility with your eating choices.  Going to the neighborhood grocery store or the bigger Monoprix was always a grand adventure.  It could take hours if we wanted it to and that was just fine.  We also LOVED the fun of stopping off at the end of the day at the fromagerie, the boulangerie, the charcuterie, the produce store and the wine store and picking up the components for a delicious dinner at home.  An assortment of cheeses, a few meats, a baguette, some tomatoes, olive oil, salt, wine.  Dinner.  And everybody loved it.  Some nights we went out but only when we felt like it and when people were in a good mood.  We either made reservations or arrived at the beginning of the dinner hour.  Some restaurants had lovely menus for children, at other places the girls ordered off the regular menu and discovered new foods that they really liked.

Not uncommonly, we would pop into a cafe for a pre-dinner drink, an afternoon espresso or ice cream or a quick crepe and some people watching.  I always carried in my daybag some postcards, a small sketchbook or a little game so the girls could be entertained while the adults enjoyed their drinks.

Shopping and Souvenirs: The best way to ruin a vacation for me is to have my children nickel and dime me on a routine basis for this or that junky trinket.  I hate it.  So for Paris, my kids had to save their own spending money.  And their own money for activities but we will get to that later.  They had about two years notice that we were taking this trip.  We told them that in order to go, they had to save a specific amount of money.  They both opened bank accounts and saved and saved.  Before embarking on our journey I sat down with them and we created a budget.  We delineated what I would pay for (airline, accommodations, three meals plus one snack a day) and what they would pay for (souvenirs, gifts for friends, extra snacks or drinks, Metro tickets, entrance fees).  They made a list of what they hoped to find or buy while on vacation.  Once we hit the ground, they found lots of things they wanted.  And each time they got to decide whether or not they really wanted to spend their money on it.  If it had been my money we were spending, I would have been broke.  With their money, however, they were conscientious.  They deliberated, they walked away, they went back, they decided to wait.    They didn’t bug me once.  It was amazing.

They found great clothes at Zara and H and M.  I know, I know, we have those stores stateside but they are way cooler in Paris.  And much more affordable than Parisian boutiques.  Art stores and art supplies were a major hit and they stocked up on high quality sketch books, colored pencils and paints.  Museum gift shops were a great spot to find posters of art they loved.  Scarves and bracelets bought at neighborhood street markets were also popular.

This whole approach really made my travel experience about a million times better than usual.

Activities: My previous blog post details the various activities and sights we enjoyed.  There are specifics for each of these that are worth paying attention to.  I urge you to get a good guidebook (Rick Steves’ series are my favorites) and study it religiously.  Find out how to skip the lines (hello, Museum Pass) and when to go to avoid the crowds.  You might be able to suffer through a long line in the heat of the day so you can go stand shoulder to shoulder with a  bunch of other tourists in the Louvre.  Your kids, on the other hand, will have a melt down.  And then you will have a melt down.  And then you will wonder why you ever go on family vacations.  And then you will find a nice café, order a glass of rosé and regroup.  And go back to the Louvre on Wednesday night when it’s open later and the crowds are gone.

Also, one, maybe two activities per day is plenty.  Any more than that and you will have a mutiny on your hands.  So go, do your thing, and then spend a little down time at your flat in the afternoon.  Your sanity will thank you.

We did a lot of “pre-work” before we visited the main attractions.  We would read at night or in the morning before we left and talk about the history of the attraction, what we expected to see, etc.

We made our own Bingo card and scavenger hunt and completed them as we made our way through Paris.  Poodle?  Check!  Dog poop on the sidewalk?  Check!  It gave us something fun to do, made us more observant, and led to quite a few laughs as we pointed things out to each other and compared our Bingo cards at the end of the day.

One more tip……go off the beaten path.  Do something just a little unexpected.  We had the best time spending an afternoon at a cooking class.  We learned a lot about French pastry making, the girls practiced their techniques, we met other travelers, we spent some great time together, had some good laughs and now relive our memories when we make eclairs and macarons at home.  We spent nearly an entire day in Montmartre on an exceptionally fabulous food tour that will be talked about for years to come.  So whatever your passion is, or your interest is, find a way while traveling to explore that.  It will be worth it.  I promise.

Journaling: I brought my own journal for the trip and kept lots of notes about what we did, what worked, what didn’t, etc.  The girls each had their own journal as well.  They really enjoyed using it to write out the plan for the day, write about what we had seen or draw.  They both discovered a new passion for drawing the sights and this filled many quiet hours in the flat or at a café table.

Boredom Busters: You, and your kids will need some downtime.  I know, Paris is vast and amazing and how could you ever get bored or need to take a break?  Trust me, you will need a break.  It’s no small feat navigating a huge, bustling city where you don’t even speak the language.  We brought along a deck of Uno cards, a travel cribbage board (I love this one from Walnut Studio https://walnutstudiolo.com/products/travel-cribbage-board) and one new game, Iota.  We each brought one book to read and others that were on our electronic devices.  As an aside, I really love a real book but when traveling, I really don’t love lugging them around so…..e-books suffice.  I also made a travel pack for each of the girls before we left home.  It was a basic plastic school type folder filled with fun pages.  Crosswords, word searches, sudoku, coloring pages of French sites, maps of the world, USA, Europe, France, Paris, colored dot stickers for marking, a few fun Parisian and travel theme stickers.  These were great on the airplane but also in the flat or at cafés when they needed some down time.  I allowed screen time, too.  I’m not a purist by any means but screen time only goes so far and there were lots of times they wanted something other than a show to watch.

Money: I know, I know.  No one likes to talk about money.  But you can’t travel without talking about money.  So here goes.  As I alluded to above, we had a pretty well organized strategy about saving and clear delineations about who was paying for what.  The girls bought their own Metro tickets, paid for admission to all the sites, paid for all their own shopping.  I did pay for the food tour and cooking class because they were a bit more pricey and because I was the one who really wanted to do those activities.

So, what does it cost to traipse a family around Paris?  Here’s the breakdown….

Day 1:

Fresh fruit at the local street market: €10

Eiffel Tower tickets: €17 each adult, €12.50 each child

Lunch at the Quai Branly Café €40 for three people

Grocery store for water, snacks: €12.71

Dinner at Café Constant: €60 for three people

Total: €164.71

 

Day 2:

Bakery for pain au chocolate: €6.00

Notre Dame: no cost!!!

Lunch at café: €47.50

Saint Chapelle: covered by previously purchased Museum Pass

Assorted dinner supplies (cheese, meat, baguette, wine, nuts, oils, vegetables): €80

Metro carnet: €5

Groceries: €8

Total: €146.50

Day 3:

Bakery: €6

Picnic lunch supplies: €30 for four people

Glass of wine in Luxembourg Gardens: €6

Louvre: covered by Museum Pass

Dinner at Le Nemours: €66.50 for four people

Total: €102.50

 

Just a few examples but, overall, I think they are representative of our spending habits.  Breakfast was usually a small price at the bakery and accompanied by eggs and fruit we had at the flat.  Lunch was at a café or picnic style in a park.  Dinner was at a less expensive restaurant or assorted supplies we picked up and ate at home.  Restaurant costs always included at least one glass of wine and maybe more.  The kids drank water at restaurants but had more fun drinks at the flat that we purchased while at the grocery store.  Our €80 dinner supply expense easily covered 2 or 3 dinners.  Seemed like we spent €25-40 every few days at the grocery store for water, wine and snacks.  Cost for activities varies depending on what you are doing on any given day.  We were thoughtful about our spending but didn’t try to penny pinch.  By the same token, you could easily spend lots, lots more if you wanted.

Au revoir and happy travels!

 

Reading

I love reading.  I love everything about it.  The smell of the book.  The heft of the novel in my hand.  Curling up on the couch all day with my book, magazine, travel guide, novel, whatever has words printed on it.

Oh wait, I never actually get to do that.  Somehow real life conspires to prevent that particular event from happing.  But I’d like to do that.  I’d really like to.

Trip planning, though, does allow me a bit of a (somewhat) valid excuse to sit around and read.  After all, when we are spending a lot of time and money on a trip, we had better be prepared.

When we made the decision to take the girls to France this summer I immediately put together a reading list of books that we would read together prior to our travels.  The list is an eclectic and diverse collection of story books, short chapter books and novels that has helped to paint the picture of both historical and modern day Paris.

I’ll share it below with commentary in the hopes that you might find it helpful, too.

Storybooks:

The Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans is a classic and a must read, even for older children.  We enjoyed the stories and picking out the Paris monuments depicted in the illustrations.

Eloise in Paris by Kay Thompson is an entertaining, laugh out loud journey through Paris with the inimitable Eloise.  A must read!

Anatole by Eve Titus tells the story of an entertaining mouse on the loose in Paris.

Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock is a lovely simple storybook that takes readers on a child’s eye view tour of the streets of Paris.

Kiki and Coco in Paris  by Nina Gruener tells the story of a girl and her doll in Paris.

Short Chapter Books:

Les Miserables by Hugo and Monica Kulling is a children’s version of the classic story.  It depicts historical Paris and France but some of the topics (death, illness, orphans) were a bit much for my children, aged 8 and 10.

Hunchback of Notre Dame again depicts historical Paris and is an enjoyable read for mid elementary aged children.

Chapter Books:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is set inside the iconic Gare du Nord train station and includes beautiful drawings that are every bit as compelling as the story that is told.

Travel Books:

Paris City Trails from Lonely Plant Kids describes 19 kid friendly trails through Paris with loads of fun facts about sights along the way.  Because this book has fun tips and pictures, my plan is to read this ahead of time with the girls but not bring it on the trip.  We will incorporate most of the sights into our itinerary in one way or another.

Paris With Kids from Fodor’s describes 68 diverse experiences that will appeal to kids of all ages.  I read it from cover to cover, made notes of and researched the activities that looked appealing and then incorporated them into our plans.  Some of the listings I hadn’t seen anywhere else and am excited to try.  What I anticipate will be a very useful part of the book is the little side bar, Eats for Kids, on each page.  This lists a handful of cafes, brasseries, crepe stands, etc. near each attraction that are kid friendly.  Notes of these have gone in my Bullet Journal (more about that later).

Mission Paris: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure by Catherine Aragon is a thin, lightweight book outlining a city wide scavenger hunt.  My children love scavenger hunts and I’m hoping this book will help them stay engaged during what might otherwise be boring museums and gardens.  Because it is so lightweight, I feel like I can bring it along without creating excessive weight in the luggage.

As usual, there are too many books to be read and too little time.  There are a number of books I intended to read before our travels but….we were thwarted by time.  Included in the to be read list:

Mira’s Diary

Paris in the Spring with Picasso

Last Musketeer

The Lacemaker and the Princess

The Little Prince

Onward….to more good books!

Second Chance

Source: Second Chance

Second Chance

Nearly 11 years ago I fell head over heels in love with a beautiful, snuggly, strong willed baby girl.  As my first born, she was the force of nature that turned me instantaneously into a mother.  As first born children will do, she consumed my life in every way.

Nearly two years later I found myself pregnant with my soon to be second daughter.  I felt conflicted in a way I hadn’t expected.  I worried that our new baby would take me away from my first born, would decrease the love and attention I had to give to her.  I worried that this shift of focus, from her as an only child to her AND her sister, would ruin her forever.  I worried that I wouldn’t love this new baby as much as I had the first. This struggle is not unique and neither was the solution.  We figured it out, day by day, minute by minute.  So far, nobody seems too scarred.

Five years ago I fell head over heels in love again.  This time I traveled 4,800 miles to meet my love, anxiously leaving my two small children in the care of my parents.  The object of my affection was again beautiful and strong willed.  (Strong willed and I….it’s a love/hate thing.)  and very, very French.

I wasn’t prepared to like Paris, much less love it. I wasn’t prepared to fall in sync with the rhythms of the city, to be astounded by the architecture and awed by the beauty. In short, it was little like parenting. Before I had children parenting was an abstract concept that seemed pleasant enough. After children, parenting was real and gritty and transformative. Before traveling to Europe, Paris was a pleasant enough idea. After spending ten days there, Paris changed me. And left me wanting more.

So in three days I’ll embark again to the City of Light, this time with my daughters in tow. We will meet my mother there and immerse ourselves in the city. I wonder, though, how has Paris changed? How have I changed since my last journey there? How will my children experience this gorgeous city? Will I love Paris as much the second time as I did the first?

They Think We’re Just Riding

People who passed by us today, if they noticed us at all, perhaps observed that we were just another family out enjoying the sunny, early spring weather.  They would have been correct.  Mostly.

It was a sunny day with glorious clear blue skies and crisp, fresh air.  The kind of day we just haven’t had enough of recently.  And we were enjoying ourselves.

Except when we weren’t.

I had 17 miles worth of training runs to complete this weekend.  One 5 mile tempo run and a 12 mile long run.  My husband was out of town and I felt a bit guilty leaving the girls alone while I ran so I suggested they join me on their bikes for the five miler.  They enthusiastically agreed.  We set off on an out and back course over rolling hills adjacent to the river.  A beautiful run/ride although by the end my youngest had to be cajoled along.  To her credit, her bike seat was much too short as she seems to have gained four inches over the winter.  This caused her legs to work less efficiently than is optimal and she let me know about it when she was tackling those hills.  We all agreed at the end that it had been a success, though, and the girls were eager to ride again.

I felt pretty confident, however, that neither of the girls would want to join me for 12 miles today.  After all, it’s more than double what they rode yesterday and four miles longer than any ride they have completed thus far.  I underestimated their sweet optimism and sense of adventure, though.  When asked if they wanted to stay home and play or come with me and ride 12 miles, they didn’t even hesitate.  So I loaded the bikes, the helmets and assorted paraphenalia.  Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t travel light and that includes trips across town to go for a run.  Since my girls are related to me, we probably looked like we were headed out of town for a long weekend, the truck loaded down with biking gear, running gear, a change of clothes, snacks and six water bottles.  Just in case.

We parked downtown and hit the trail, crossing bridges, cruising over dirt paths and through cool tunnels.  The girls pedaled along, not even looking like they were working hard.  They would speed ahead and I would find them around the corner, lounging on a park bench and waiting for me.  After five miles we stopped for a bathroom break and to refill our water bottles.  We started up again but by eight miles in, it became clear that my youngest wasn’t too happy with the state of affairs.  I had raised her bike seat after the debacle of the previous day but hadn’t raised her handlebars.  That required a tool I couldn’t find.  It all looked okay to me in the driveway but after 8 miles of pedaling her back was aching from bending forward too far in order to reach those handlebars.  So we stopped.  We drank some water.  We readjusted the seat.  She toughed it out for another quarter of a mile before the subject of her sore back came up again.  She complained a bit, maybe even whined.  Asked how much longer we had to go and rolled her eyes and stomped her feet when I told her the answer.  It was beginning to feel like the final four miles might get ugly.  She persevered, though, and by 11 miles we were back to where we had started.  I know, I know.  I planned to go 12.  But I compromised  in the face of my child’s abject misery.

It’s hard to know how to feel about that.  We set out to go 12 miles.  Was anything less a failure?  Was I letting her off the hook by “only” going 11?  Was I pushing too hard at 8 miles in when I made her keep riding even though she didn’t want to?  I wrestled with these thoughts over the last few miles of the run and well into the rest of the day.  Then I started to think about what the purpose of the ride/run was.  Obviously to get outside, enjoy the sun, be active, do something together.  Even more so, though, the purpose was to appreciate the crisp spring air and the long-absent sun warming our skin.  The purpose was to do something difficult, something challenging, something neither of the girls had ever done before.  The purpose was to feel the warm glow of pride after accomplishing something that was really hard to do.  The purpose was to learn how to persevere even when you wanted to quit.  When I frame it that way, I think we struck the perfect balance.

We finished feeling tired yet energetic.  A slow smile spread across my youngest’s face as she realized what she had accomplished.  As we sat at brunch a few minutes later, I realized how grateful I was to be able to share that gorgeous morning with my daughters.  I know they think we were just riding but believe me, we were doing so much more.

Napa Valley

Recent travels to Napa Valley for a marathon allowed me to experience and enjoy this charming area for the first time.  I have traveled previously in Sonoma County but hadn’t visited Sonoma’s ritzier cousin to the east.  The town of Napa is nestled in a beautiful valley, adjacent to the river.  Downtown is small but filled with restaurants, coffee shops, wine tasting rooms and small boutique shops.  It is a quiet bedroom community that caters to the tourists and oenophiles passing through.

I had the good fortune to be traveling with my good friend and running partner as well as my sister who resides in San Francisco.  We stayed at a small cottage rented on VRBO.  It was less than a mile from our cottage to downtown which is so convenient when you want to enjoy wine with your dinner.  As an aside, Uber and Lyft do exist in Napa and we availed ourselves of this on a few occasions.

We arrived our first night around the dinner hour.  We hadn’t made reservations because we didn’t want to be tied down.  It quickly became apparent that many of the small, cozy, recommended restaurants were full and couldn’t accommodate us.  We ended up at Basalt, mostly because it was large and had some available tables.  Generally a good experience and they have wine on tap which is always fun.  The lobster risotto was simply amazing and would cause me to return if I were in the area again.  The service was so-so, however, and our waiter wasn’t as knowledgeable with the menu or the wines as I would have hoped.

The next day we indulged in a wine tasting at Domaine Carneros, just north of Napa.  Known for it’s sparkling wines, it did not disappoint.  It is perched high on a hilltop overlooking the valley.  The building and grounds are reminiscent of a European chateau.  The wide veranda would be gorgeous on a warm, sunny day.  Our weather, however, was rainy and cool and caused us to take refuge by the fireplace inside.  The service was impeccable, the wines delicious and crisp and the cheese plate a perfect accompaniment.  We left with several bottles of wine to take back home. Reservations strongly recommended.

Earlier that day we visited the Oxbow Public Market in Napa.  An eclectic collection of food, coffee, spices, kitchenware, bitters and shrubs, this is a fun stop for explorers, shoppers and families alike.  A must visit in the Napa area.

The next day was marathon day and we indulged afterwards with an amazing dinner at Angele.  Words fail to describe this perfect fine dining experience.  The restaurant is cozy, the staff is knowledgeable and friendly.  The food is truly exceptional and will be remembered as one of the best dinners I have ever eaten.  We started with the fried deviled eggs—trust me, it’s amazing.  Dinner was mussels with saffron broth.  I won’t ever eat mussels again unless it’s at Angele because it would only diminish my memory of the mussels at Angele.  They were perfection.  The cheese plate for dessert was generously portioned and a true pleasure.  If you love food and wine, this is a must visit. Reservations recommended.

Our final day in the Napa area saw us traveling north to sample wines at Robert Sinskey and Saddleback Cellars.  Two truly exceptional wineries, although vastly different.  Robert Sinskey offered a lovely tasting along with nibbles and we left again with several bottles of wine.  My favorite is the POV made with grapes from the Carneros district.  The Pinot Gris is also quite lovely and I expect that a case of these well balanced wines will make its way to my doorstep soon.  If you have time, make a reservation for the wine and food experience.  The food here is cooked on site and is an experience in and of itself.  If you want to remain more flexible, tastings at the bar are on a first come, first served basis.

Saddleback Cellars is a rustic, Western themed winery with gorgeous Chardonnay and Cabs as well as red blends.  Go on a sunny day when you can sit outside at the picnic tables adjacent to the growing vines.  Bring your own food and make an afternoon of it.  You won’t regret it.  Reservations required.

Napa is a relaxing escape in many ways.  It is pricier than Sonoma, however, mostly because, well, it’s Napa.  Exceptional foods and wines can be found in both valleys, though, so choose the style that feels best for you.  Or visit both and immerse yourself in amazing food and wine.

Marathon

It’s over now. Finished.  Done.  Fini ou fait.  Finito.  Twenty weeks of training, nearly 100 training runs, 30 strength workouts, countless early mornings, hundreds and hundreds of miles, one frostbitten ear.  All for one 26.2 mile race.

This race was a big deal for me.  Last year, while training for my second marathon, my goal was to finish in under four hours.  After all, I can run a half marathon in under two hours so it only makes sense that I could complete a full marathon in under four hours.  Right?  Except that the marathon laughs at simple math like that.  The marathon is more than the sum of its parts.  Regardless, I trained for it.  I did my tempo runs and marathon pace workouts.  I toed the line feeling confident.  I crushed the first half of the course.  And then the course crushed me.  It chewed me up and spit me out 26.2 miles down the road from where I started, battered, exhausted, pissed off. Because I finished in 4 hours and 12 minutes.  Twelve minutes!  Seriously.

Fast forward a few months and I was taking on the marathon again.  This time with a coach and a renewed sense of commitment.  We laid out a plan that included tempo runs, marathon pace runs, speed workouts, long runs, core work, strength work.  We analyzed nutrition and hydration.  We debated the merits of a 20 mile long run vs a 22 mile long run.  We discussed mental strategies.  I listened to podcasts and audiobooks about getting mentally tougher and developing useful mental strategies for attacking the marathon.  I was immersed.

I approached the start line feeling cautiously optimistic (one should never feel totally optimistic about a marathon).  As we started running I noticed that my legs felt a little more tired than they should.  Hmmmm.  A few miles later I noticed that my intestines felt a little more crampy than they should.  Double hmmmm.  But I had mental strategies I could use and I had a pace to keep.  So we soldiered on.  Soon enough, though, the intestines were unable to be ignored any longer.  They received the attention the needed, at a cost of a few minutes.  Then my favorite running partner and dear friend noticed that her intestines weren’t feeling so great.  Another stop along the way.  I even encouraged it because really, I was tired.  A break sounded good.  A break?!?!?!?  Come on, brain, we are running a race here, not waiting for lunch delivery.  Back to trying to keep my brain on track.  That’s a lot of hard work by the way.

There were some really great things about this marathon, though.  It was a beautiful, rolling course through the Napa Valley vineyards.  The countryside was peaceful.  There weren’t any big hills.  The spectators were fun.  I played a drum along the way.  The weather wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  My nutrition and hydration strategy worked out better than ever.  I kind of had fun.

I finished stronger than I ever have before.  My legs were burning and cramping, my abs were tense, my neck and back ached.  I crossed that finish line.  Exactly 4 hours and 5 minutes after I started.  Initially, I was really happy.  This was my best run marathon ever. My best time ever.  I managed the mental game better than usual.  My sister was waiting at the finish line for me.  I was satisfied.

Then, a few days later, it hit me.  I really wanted that under 4:00 finish.  And I was fit enough to do it.  Any runner knows what this means…….I haven’t finished marathoning yet.

It’s Run Time!

I’ve recently been on a running journey.  A marathon running journey.  To be fair, this is the third time I’ve embarked upon such a journey yet perhaps the first time I’ve really understood what this journey entails.  And what it entails isn’t all that pretty some days.  5:00 AM runs, 14 miles on the treadmill, 18 snowy miles in sub-zero weather, a single frost bitten ear.  It also entails actually running a 26.2 mile race.  Which is no small undertaking.  But certainly an undertaking worth conquering.

On my first two marathons I didn’t feel that I “conquered” anything.  This time, though, I vow to do it differently.  This time I am committed to running this race well, to not giving up along the course, to breaking that 4 hour marathon mark.  Let’s do this thing!

Solo Travels

Ironically, my first travel of the year was a solo trip to Seattle for the weekend.  I went to attend a conference but arrived a day early to take advantage of shopping and city life.  I stayed in a marvelously decadent room at the Hyatt downtown with gorgeous city views.  It was lovely to have a room to myself, a bed to myself, a bathroom to myself.  I slept well and relaxed well.  It was oddly unsettling, however, to have all that space and time to myself.  What does one do when suddenly thrust from a chaotic family life into a peaceful zone with no demands or responsibilities?  Turns out that I shopped and explored, slept in, drank wine in bed while binge watching a series on Netflix and generally enjoyed myself.  But I missed my children and the structure of my daily life more than I anticipated.  I also found myself unfortunately ill with a  GI bug.  There is nothing quite like feeling ill away from home to make one miss home even more.

One of the highlights of my trip was a therapeutic leg massage I scheduled before my arrival.  My legs had been sore and tired from weeks of marathon training.  After an hour in the hands of a trained therapist they were rejuvenated and pain free.  Therapeutic massage will have a place in my running life going forward.

I also enjoyed a relaxed, adult dinner at Staple and Fancy with a good friend from residency.  Such a luxury to catch up and enjoy adult conversation without any interruptions or distractions.

I want to continue to travel solo from time to time and make my peace with taking time for myself and occasionally exploring my life away from my career and family.  But only occasionally.

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