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June 30, 2017. It’s only been 33 years…

My name is Suz and I’m addicted to France!

It’s only been 33 years.  I’ve been trying to learn French for 33 years.  Yeah…I got nothing.

Thirty-three years is a long time.  And what do I have to show for it.  I have 15 words.  Yep – just 15 words, give or take a few.

My mission is to finally learn French.  In the days, weeks, and months to come, I will share my journey with you…while I run.

Yep, I’m going to teach myself French while I run.

To further complicate the matter, I am married to a man who is half French.  His Mother, my mother in law (ma belle-mère) lives in France.  It’s been an interesting 33 years.  I’ll share some of these “interesting” stories as well.

Watch for my updates and please share with me your thoughts and any language learning techniques you’ve found to work for you.

Suz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Novembre 13, 2017. J’ai Couru 50 Miles! C’est Fini. I Did It!

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I ran 50 miles in 11 hours and 30 minutes –

C’est fini!  Je suis très heureux.  Mais, je ne peux pas parler français.

Intesting enough, I could not remember much of anything while I was running let alone French.  I actually resorted to singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall, which actually worked quite well.

The first 5 miles I ran with two friends.  Then both of my knees started to hurt.  Thinking that maybe I was not relaxed enough, I decided to run on my own so I could run at a more relaxed naturally gait (not adjusting to their rhythms and cadence).

For the next 32 miles I stuck to a 4 minute run, 1 minute walk routine.  I had a lot of knee pain. On a scale of 1 to 10, it was at a 7.

Luckily, I would see my husband (sweetest, most supportive guy ever) about every 10 miles while filling up my water bottle and grabbing pretzels and oranges from the aide stations.  His gentle kisses and encouraging words helped so much.  Oh and popping a few pain relievers – didn’t hurt either.

At mile 37 I knew I could finish but I was in a lot of pain, but still a level 7.  The pain was bad but it was not getting worse.  Each mile I would say “ok, it’s not worsening – keep moving.”

I walked the last 13 miles!  Oddly enough, at that point, I was able to walk faster than I could run.  I walked the last 13 miles at a 15:30 minute per mile pace singing 99, 98, 97, 96 etc…bottles of beer on the wall.

As the sun set I put on my headlamp to light the now dark trail, and focused all my energy into a driven march forward.  I knew I’d finish the race and I couldn’t wait to do so.

So many emotions to explore and so much time alone to do so.  Yet as I marched, all I thought about were those darn bottles of beer on the wall.  All the while asking God over and over to help me finish the run.  Quite the mental contrast.

I tried to speak French dans ma tête. Mais, c’était trop difficile.  I can never remember how to say the number 14 in French.

Oh – quick side note…remember my period that was due on Saturday, the day of the race, It held off till Sunday morning – is that luck or what!  And drum roll please, NO STOMACH ISSUES.

Today, aside from being unable to bend my knees fully, I am fine.  I have a few blisters on the tips of my toes – but otherwise, I feel great.

I will honestly say that my French studies suffered over the last 3 months.  I’m not sure learning French while running works for me.

I want to thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Thank you for the encouragement and support!  I thought about you while I was running – and how I did not want to let you down.  You kept me accountable and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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50.47 miles in 11 hours 30 minutes and 47 seconds.  Average pace of 13:41 minutes per mile.  5167 calories used.

It was quite the adventure.  It was a beautiful day, about 47 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny.  No rain, no wind.  A perfect day, full of happiness and friendship. The trail was amazing, rock walls and fallen leaves, wooden bridges and old train tunnels.

Now, I need to put some energy into French.  Not sure where I’ll go from here – probably the 100 K.  But for the next few weeks – I’ll be working on the knees and dreaming of returning to France late next year.

Life is beautiful.

Merci Beaucoup Mes Amis.

Suz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Novembre 5, 2017. How Did I Get Here And Where Am I Going? C’est la vie!

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How did I get here and where am I going –

In about 6 days – I’ll be standing at the start line of the 50 mile trail run.

The trail is actually an old converted rail line in Illinois.  They say if you are going to attempt the 50 miler, this is the place to do it.

It’s a flat trail that winds through a beautiful area.  No tree roots, no elevation, really not any terrain at all – just 50 miles of finally crushed gravel.

It’s been a rough year for my knee and lower back.  I had no choice but to pull back and not log the long miles.  Which worries me as I watched my friends do their 25 and 30 mile runs.  I did one 26 mile run back in July.  Since then just middle distance runs between 8 and 13 miles.

A family emergency kept me from running this weekend.  It’s just been a challenging 6 months.  This is life.  You can plan all you want but life will happen.

It is what it is!  My knee cap hurts all the time.  I had an xray on it and it’s not broke…  Most likely runners knee or a tendon / ligament issue.  If I can keep it tracking I should be good for 26 miles.  This is the farthest I’ve tested it this year.  After that – mile by mile.  One step at a time.

I also have arthritis in the lumbar region of my back.  This makes me very stiff and sore.  It stinks getting older.  But it beats the alternative – right!

I am also praying that I don’t have my period as this will make for the most un pleasant day EVER.  It’s due the week of the 50 miler.  I pray that it stays away or comes early.  And seriously  – I will pray about this to God.

How did I get here –

In a moment of weakness and utter ignorance – I registered for this race.

Why – because I want to be part of the 50 miler group.  I want the bad ass badge.  And I like to feel alive!

Where am I going –

Hopefully not to the doctor’s office

It’s going to take 52 years of experiences to get this done – and 12 hours of good knee form.

I’m prepared for the physical pain – it’s the mental strain that I’ll meditate on this week.

You can do this Suz! You have all the strength to do this – trust that you do.  God is great and He wants to carry YOU through.

C’est la vie!

Suz –

 

 

 

Octobre 21, 2017. Suz Runs For Bourbon But Prefers Pineau! Picking Cherries Avec Madame Et Embracing The Night Run.

Bonjour encore mes amis.  Quoi de neuf?  Pour moi, aujourd’hiu – il fait beau.  Et demain, nous courons 20 miles.  Vingt miles est 32.18 kilometers. 

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My Beloved Pineau –

Living in Kentucky for the last 20 years, I have not developed a taste for Bourbon.  The culture yes, the taste NON.

I love the color of bourbon, it’s the perfect shade of amber.  And I love learning about the history of bourbon, which includes exciting stories of bootlegging during the American era known as prohibition.

However, my drink of choice (other than water) is Pineau des Charentes.  An aperitif made in the French departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime.

Pineau is a beautiful and delicious fortified wine, made when fermented grape must is blended with Cognac eau-de-vie.  Pineau, has a deep and rich history worthy of further reading. There are both white (blanc) and red (rouge) versions.  Je préfère le rouge / I prefer the red.

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This past summer I was gifted with two bottles of Pineau.  Our 94 year old host for the day and friend, Madame, offered us the gift and it was accepted with the most sincere of thanks.

Madame still lives in the same home her grandparents lived in (that’s an old house – do the math).  She loves when we visit and we love to visit her.  She seemed much older this year only in the sense that her hair had finally grayed.

She still tends to her family home, her beautiful rose garden and her beloved Pineau.

She talks of her husband who died suddenly while driving some 20 years ago and she still serves Pineau in the same glasses that she received as a wedding gift over 70 years ago.

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She lives life with the zest and peace I hope to find.

She has no English and I have very little French, but we always manage to communicate.  With us, she talks mostly of her love for the Americans who liberated her region in 1945.  And of course at the same time – she recalls when the Germans arrived in her village during WW II.

We helped her pick cherries from the dozen or so cherry trees on her property.  Her garden is also full of rose bushes that over the years have climbed through the many trees due to the limits of her age.

To look up and see roses blooming high in a tree is très intéressant!

As we walked through her garden, she remarked what a mess it is – now.  I remarked back how beautiful it is – still.  Votre jardin est très jolie / Your garden is very lovely.

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The French have the most charming and delicious small cantaloupe that they often serve drizzled with Pineau.  I tried to recreate the dish here in the U.S. this summer and maybe it was the American melon, but my friends did not seem that impressed.  My husband and I on the other hand enjoyed the melon avec du Pineau while smiling at each other and thinking of our sweet weeks en France.

Running through Bourbon Country –

This was the third time I’d run this particular 200 mile relay race.

Each team consists of twelve people – the twelve take turns running through the back roads of Kentucky’s Bourbon trail.  I ran just under 17 of the 200 miles.

I love the run, which traverses through six major Bourbon distilleries.  I had one day run and two night runs.

My teammate ran over this bridge in the dark.  This is another teammate’s photo of it during the day.

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Having always dreaded the SOLO night runs, I knew I needed to be totally upbeat and positive throughout the day.  I tried to prepare my mind (brainwash it) by repeating over and over “this is going to be so much fun!”

The first of the two night runs was a 6.6 mile run on a dark and isolated pitch black highway.

Thank the good Lord there wasn’t a tunnel as I’m sure I’d have lost it.

I was comforted by the flashing head-lamp of another runner about 1/4 mile behind me.  I silently prayed they wouldn’t pass me and leave me alone on the road.

It’s amazing how much faster the miles tick off in the dark – mostly because you’re running as fast as you can to get to the next exchange point and back to your group.

I conquered the night run and no one knew I was afraid.  I’m not sure I’ll do another solo night run anytime soon – but for now I feel accomplished.

Cows do moo at night – and they will make you jump.  Babbling brooks will startle you and rustling leaves make you look back – quickly!  Old cemeteries that are quite quaint in the light, quickly fill with spooky fog in the late, cool October night.

À  la semaine prochaine!

Suz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Octobre 6, 2017. Un Autre Faux Pas. Ah…We Don’t, A Cultural Disconnect. And An Ultra Training Update – D.C. Heat and Humidity In Octobre.

Bonjour mes amis.  Comment ça va?  Moi? Ça va très bien.  J’aime octobre!  Mais – je n’aime pas les jours courts!  Toutefois, les feuilles sont belles à l’automne.

La Porte –

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Faux-pas –

There was the time in France when being introduced to a man that I kissed him on each cheek.  Because, isn’t that what you do in France when you meet people?

Apparently,  I should have just shaken his hand as he was just an acquaintance.  I guess there are actual rules around the whole cheek kissing thing.

And then there was the time I misspronouced le boeuf (the beef) in the fancy restaurant by saying la bouffe (a causal term for food – like how we would use grub or chow).

Ah the looks of horror and French BOFs I received from those at the table.  Made me laugh out loud.  I still think it’s pretty funny.  And I’m sure I still mispronounce le boeuf as la bouffe. 

Ah…We Don’t –

But my all time favorite cultural disconnect is when I sneezed in France and no-one blessed me.

Emotionally scarred I proceeded to ask ma belle mère how to say “bless you” in French and she replied, “we don’t.”

EYES wide “huh?”  I said at first as the English words, “we don’t” didnt register and as my brain tried to translate “we don’t” into English.  Then I realized she said “we don’t.” in English, and I gasped!  “Ok, that’s wierd,” I thought.

What she actually meant was – the French don’t say it everytime someone sneezes, comme les américains.

The French do have words for this situation, apparently they just don’t use them as often as we do here in the states. That’s her story and she’s sticking with it.  Love her!

So for the record when someone sneezes in France you can respond with:

À tes souhaits / Informal for bless you.

À vos souhaits / Formal for bless you.

However, in our family we simply respond with the ever loving words “we don’t.”

We are a simple people.

For the record, the  next time I met the casual French acquaintance I offered my hand as he swooped in for the cheek-to-cheek.  You can’t fool me twice – monsieur.

But actually now, that I know him isn’t the cheek kiss acceptable?  Je ne sais pas? Et je ne comprends pas le culture françaises. Mais j’adore le français.

Ultra Training Update –

So far so good!  I’m not going to set any land speed records, but I’m holding my own in my quest to conquer the 50 miler in Novemeber.

Lots of fall races!  This past weekend I traveled to Washington D.C. to run the Army Ten-Miler and it was…WHOA…HUMID.  I felt like I was flying but was actually a minute per mile slower than my normal ten mile pace.

The race was actually downgraded to a recreational run due to the heat and humidity.  So odd for October.  This downgrade helped to relieve some of my personal disappointment – but I still felt I could have pushed a little harder or maybe have trained a little harder.

The knee tried to fall apart about mile 8 but I must have forgotten about it because at mile 10 it was fine.  The knee strap to stabilize the knee cap must be working.

This race puts it all into perspective  – when you see the wounded warrior marching on…on prosthetic legs.  

So many emotions…

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Next weekend I run with 12 other people, a 200 mile relay race through Kentucky’s beautiful Bourbon Country.  I’ll cover about 17 of the 200 miles over a 24 hour period.  Hoping to streghthen my body and prepare it well as I continue my quest to conquer the 50 miler.

À Plus Tard

Suz

 

 

 

 

 

Septembre 29, 2017. Dealing with the During. Getting to the start line et un BONUS 50 mile ultra-marathon packing list en français.

La vie est belle –

Bonjour mes amis!

Aujourd’hui c’est mon anniversaire!  J’ai 52! Cinquante-deux!  Sérieusement, c’est ok.  Maintenant, je suis jeune…demain, je ne sais pas.

J’aime l’automne, c’est joli.  Et vous, aimez-vous l’automne?  

L’hiver est horrible pour moi. C’est joli aussi et j’aime la neige! Mais, en hiver il fait froid.  Alors, je besoin de prépare et acheter un nouveau manteau.

 Toutefois, je vais courir.  

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During – 

Preparing for the Fall and I don’t mean l’automne.

When I fall, it normally takes months for me to snap out of it.

The snap really isn’t a snap; it’s a slow, gradual recover.  But during – I spin.

Each September the fall finds me and as the days shorten and darken, I tumble down deeper and deeper only to emerge when the birds return to sing.

I’m thankful for the sun that warms the glass of the window where I sit and stare and spin.

The fall always comes as does the snap – it’s the during I fear.

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Dealing with the during, I remind myself:

  • La vie est belle / Life is beautiful
  • Rassure-toi / Everything will be okay
  • Ne t’en fais pas / Don’t let it get to you
  • T’inquiète pas / Don’t worry

 

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Getting to the start line –

Comment vont les genoux? / How are the knees holding up?  Pas mal / not bad, they’re holding up.

But, is it because I’m holding back?

To get myself to the start line of the 50 miler, I’ve decided to forgo the longer runs on the training schedule, which calls for me to do two 25 mile runs before race day.

Fearing the high mileage will do more harm than good, I’ve chosen to skip the longer runs and work on overall body strength and the middle distance runs (10 – 15 milers).

My hope is that I’ll have saved my knees (mostly the right knee) for race day and that the knees will hold up on race day or at least through mile 40 – I’ll crawl the last 10 miles if I have to.

“If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.”  Benjamin Franklin.

And

“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”  Winston Churchill.

Bonus – a look into my race day running bag – 

Les biscuits / Cookies

La valise / Suitcase

L’eau / Water

Les chaussures / Shoes

Les chaussettes / Socks

Plus de cookies / More Cookies

La casquette (unsure on the article la or le) / Cap

La veste / Coat

Les serviettes  / Towels

Crème solaire  / Sunscreen

Beaucoup de Cookies / A lot of cookies

Au revoir et bonne journée!

Suz

P.S.  Joyeux anniversaire à moi!

Septembre 22, 2017. Pausing from oneself. Prayers, thoughts, and giving. I hope they love, and care, and give.

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Pausing From Oneself –

Bonjour mes amis.  Ça va?  Moi, ça va.  Aujourd’hui il fait beau.

Cette anne il y beaucoup d’ouragans dans l’Atlantique océan.  Je suis triste pour les gens. C’est très horrible!  Je suis désolé et je vous souhaite bien.

Prayers, thoughts, and giving…

What can I do to help?

Oui Oui Pee Pee –

“Hey, do ya wanna play Go Fish?”  I yelled from across the room.  “Yes, yes, yes.” My 6 year old grandson replied.  “Ok cool,” I said “but…let’s play in French.”  “Ugg,” he whined, “I don’t want to talk in French anymore!”

Annoying as it may be, simple things like counting in french and playing loto (French Bingo) with mes petites enfants / my grandchildren (Jacques et Allison) help to keep me connected to my French dream.  A dream I hope to share with them one day.

Often they will say (and ever so cutely), “What’s that mean GG?” And I’m forever chiming back “oui means yes.”  “Oh yeah, oui oui pee pee,” they giggle.

These two sont mon cœur / are my heart.  I hope they’ll remember their crazy GG, who tried to speak French, talked about God, lectured them to be nice to everyone, and gave them too many cookies.

I hope they love, and care, and give.

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Pausing –

The rapidly approaching 50 mile run doesn’t seem so important right now.  People are suffering and have lost so much.

Prayers, thoughts, and giving…

What can I do to help?

Teach them to help.  Show them how to help.  Let them help.

Je vous souhaite bien!  

Suz

Septembre 16, 2017. Le fromage – I like it best when I can taste it in my nose. Et cette semaine…nous allons faire des baguettes…because I can’t run.

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Resting the legs, making baguettes and then a return to running.

Bonjour mes amis.  Comment ça va?  Moi?  Je suis très fatiguée.  Alors, je me repose.  Cette semaine je vais faire des baguettes.  Je ne peut pas courir parce que je suis fatiguée.

As you read through this – I have but one comment – Running is easier than baking.

Our family is truly blessed to have a close connection with France and my children love all things French, especially la nourriture et les repas longs / the food and lingering meals.

I’m proud to say they’ll pick a good cheese over a piece of cake any day.  Shopping for, eating, and enjoying cheese is a bond and connection our family enjoys and a bond many of our friends don’t quite get.

I love that as a teenager, my youngest daughter would say “I like the cheese best when I can taste it in my nose.”  And still today, she’ll call to tell me about the cool cheese she found at the supermarket.

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But we can’t find a good baguette to go with the cheese, so we’re making our own.

Ma belle mère recently sent us a French baguette pan.  Reading the recette / recipe on the back of the new baguette pan box AND ah hello…what the heck is a cube of yeast?

Turns out 1 cube equals 42 grams.  And 42 grams equals 2 packets of dry yeast.

Continuing, I reviewed the recipe (in French and English), organized the ingredients and set to work.  I had so much fun with my apron.

Day one making baguettes:  J’ai fait trois baguettes / I made three baguettes.  Les baguettes tasted like biscuits and they didn’t have the wonderful crispy, crunchy crust of a baguette. 

Results:  Not a baguette

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Day two making baguettes: J’ai fait trois plus baguettes / I made three more baguettes.  Kneading more and resting the dough longer, and still the taste of a biscuit.  And, although I increased the cooking time the crust still wasn’t crispy or crunchy.

Results:  Still not a baguette.

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For the first two attempts, I used the recipe on the back of the new baguette pan box, which called for milk; I’m thinking that maybe this is why the baguettes tasted like biscuits.

Day three making baguettes, a different recipe and finally a run:  J’ai fait une baguette avec une nouvelle recette / I made one baguette with a new recipe.

I also managed to get in a four mile run after five days of rest.

I worked through the recipe then set off on the run as the dough was rising.

The dough had an awesome rise, a spray of water and into the 400 degree fahrenheit oven. 

Thirty minutes later, I opened the oven to find a HUGE baguette with a crispy, crunchy crust.

The interior texture was somewhat improved as was the flavor, but the giant baguette still lacked the tell tale air pockets of a real French baguette.

Results:  Almost a baguette!  and HUGE.

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Carbs anyone?  Free bread, j’ai beaucoup!

Again, running…way easier than baking.

So – 

How’s the 50 mile ultra marathon training going?  Well, I wasn’t able to run the full training schedule this week as I needed so much rest after the hardest trail half marathon of my life (you’ll be happy to know – I did get 3rd place in the 50-55 female division).

It was an incredibly steep and technical trail.  I ran every section I could, but there was no running up the hills (there’s a difference between a hill and an incline).

I ran all the inclines, but the hills…these hills were made for walking…

Let’s just say that this was a once and done race.  Not going to do that one again.  No, not even if you give me a coupon.

The 50 mile race in November is really going to be a mental challenge for me.  I’m sure it will totally tax me physically (as long as the knee holds up), but it will exhaust me more so mentally.  I’m going to want to quit.  I know how I am.  I’m not as tough as I claim to be.

How are the knees?  After experiencing a lot of knee pain last week, I was actually able to do the hardest half marathon of my life with no knee pain.  My knees did not hurt at all during the 13.1 mile run from hell.  Afterwords, they ached.  I’m hoping the knee issue will soon pass.

It’s the weirdest thing.

Je ne sais pas pourqoui.

What’s up with your toe nails?  I lost a toe nail as a result of the full marathon last month.  Not pretty, but no new damage.  The toe socks are awesome.  But I’m going to need a good pedicure come November.

How’s the French coming?  WOW on the words I learned this week by simply following a recipe.  And our weekly sit down lesson went well.  Adding the videos to the audio is really paying off.  I’m thinking immersion trip in 2018.

Nouveaux mots / New words.

  • recette / recipe
  • farine /  flour
  • sel / salt
  • beurre / butter
  • lait / milk
  • levure de boulanger / yeast
  • sucre / sugar
  • emiettez / crumble
  • ajoutez / stir
  • incorporez / mix
  • recouvrez / cover
  • pâte  / dough
  • pétrissez / knead
  • faites cuire / cook or bake
  • moule / baking tin

Belle journée à vous tous!

Suz