August 22, 2017. LOOPS… Is this an 8 hour endurance race or another rond point? It’s a 3.25 mile rond point. Rond points, roundabouts and traffic circles oh my.

IMG_3499Speaking of loops, this past weekend I ran an eight hour endurance race, the Backyard Classic. It was a 3.25 mile trail loop that reminded me of a giant rond point (traffic circle or roundabout).

J’ai une ampoule, une grande ampoule.  I have a blister, a big blister.

The goal of the race was to complete as many loops as you could in eight hours.  I’d consider the trail moderate to hard.  Each 3.25 mile loop consisted of two technical sections, two decent hills and two water crossings. The remainder was a mostly uphill meadow like trail with little shade.  Sounds fun huh?

Nineteen.” “There are nineteen rond points from mom’s house to the super marche, two of which are doubles.”  My husband said sarcastically from the back seat.

It doesn’t sound like a huge number, until you consider how close le super marché / the supermarket actually is à la maison / to the house (4 kilometers or about 2.48 miles).

Over the years, across France, I’ve seen the gradual conversion of four way stops into rond points.  When I see a four way stop in France these days, to me, it appears out of place. The four way stop no longer seems to belong or to even fit into the French landscape.  Traffic is halted at these seemingly archaic stops and you can sense the frustration as drivers are slowed on their commutes in their charming, energy efficient voitures / cars and scooters. But come on already nineteen of them over 2.48 miles.

This year as we vacationed, I paid extra attention to the theme of each major rond point. I noticed how each town tried to represent the flavor of their community to the visitor. Often highlighting historical aspects associated with the area. In the center of the larger roundabouts you might find une ancre, un bateau ou un mémorial de guerre / an anchor, a ship, or a war memorial.  Each one carefully crafted to represent the area and the people.  Some are weird, some are cool, some are relevant, and some are confusing.

Home now in the U.S., I miss the way we whipped around the rond point.  I miss the dance of cars between lanes. I miss the way the cars flowed in and out of the rond point. I miss the rhythmic movement. I miss it all so much that last week, I found myself doing a few loops around the lone traffic circle in my town.

Back to the 3.25 mile trail loop and 8 hour endurance race.

How did I do?  I realized my personal goal of 8 loops (in 6 hours and 21 minutes) for a total of 26 trail miles.  After 16 water crossings, my toes were extrêmement / extremely blistered.

I elected to stop with 1.5 hours to go. Of course now I have remorse as I feel I should have made one more pass through the giant rond point.  I had enough time for another loop.

Did I give up or did I make the right decision?  In the grand scheme of today’s world – does it really matter?  Running is not life or death.  This was a gathering of like minded individuals out to challenge their minds and bodies.  But the things that will drive a person crazy…

As this was not my 2017 focus race, I convinced myself during the 8th lap that it was okay to stop.  My knees held up and I did not hit the famous reputed WALL.  I made the smart decision, and although I wish I had done the 9th loop (just cuz), I know I made the right choice in stopping.  My 50 mile race is in November and I have a long way to go to get there – risking injury was not an option.

Mais, c’était une bonne journée.  Le soleil était brillant!  Et maintenant, j’ai une grande ampoule. Fantastique!

What did I learn:  Foot health is très important / very important (blisters will take you down).  I’ll need to get actual trail shoes, and to find better socks.  I also need to do more long runs on the weekends.

My nutrition plan was sufficient but as much fluid as I took in, I didn’t use the bathroom from 8 a.m. till about 6 p.m.  Probably need to consume more fliuids.

As far as practicing my French: HAH – that didn’t go at all as planned.  I had designated a theme for each loop.  However, on the first loop I tried to count my steps in French and I couldn’t remember the difference between treize / thirteen and trente / thirty.  Brain fog.

During the second loop I tried to run through the basic French greetings dans ma tête, but found myself dazed and confused.

Sadly, loops 3 – 8 contained no French.

Sérieusement / Seriosuly, I think I made the right choice stopping at 8 loops.  I hope I’ll have the mental fortitude needed to push through the 50 miler.

Ne panique pas – Reste forte! / Don’t panic – Stay strong!

Suz

Hand painted medals – each one was different.  Several different artists painted them.  Very unique.

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August 11, 2017. Dear long run, you can bisous ma miche… And a pulse check from Suz Learns French.

IMG_3446Photo: A banana, some grapes and the miche. Une banane, des raisins, et la miche.

Demain, j’ai une course de dix kilometer.  Et dimanche je vais courir autre dix miles.  Tomorrow, I have a ten kilometer race.  And Sunday I am going to run another ten miles. Exciting plans for the weekend.

This is how I speak French dans ma tête / in my head.  I may read this a year from now and be horrified by the simplicity and mistakes.  Mais, maintenant – dans my tête, c’est fantastique. But, now – in my head, it’s fantastic.

You can see the elementary syntax.  Yet, I’m so excited.  I really enjoy learning French while running.  Vraiment! / Really!  Or should I say, Je cours et j’apprends le français  / I run and I learn French?

Bisous ma miche / Kiss my miche, is a phrase we’ve come to use in our family.  It basically means kiss my butt, in a humorous non offensive way.

Several years ago my French father-in-law (who we all know can’t understand a thing I say in French), and I had a bit of a spat.  A little disagreement.  And I blurted out in frustration “Bisous ma miche!” And braced myself.

Earlier in the day – at une boulangerie / a bakery, I asked  “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” / “what’s that?” “C’est une miche.”  “It’s a miche.”  I heard someone say.  FYI – a miche is a rounded rustic loaf of French bread (see photo).  As we continued to look around, someone mentioned how the miche was shaped like a derrière.  D’accord… / Okay… I thought and continued to look around.

Obviously this image stuck avec moi / with me.  Plus tard / Later, as my father-in-law and I playfully argued, I found myself searching for words in French and then blurting out “bisous ma miche.”

When the words flew out of my mouth – I cringed!  Thankfully, he just laughed.  Actually, we all had a good laugh and un autre verre de vin / another glass of wine.

Hier soir / Last night, I had a bad run!  I was tired, I was hot, and I have a cold.  Feeling defeated, I thought about how to express myself en français  / in French – when the old bisous ma miche story came to mind.  Je vais courir 50 milles! / I’m going to run 50 miles, so you can just bisous ma miche.

Channeling the anger, I ran a little farther before calling it a night one mile short of the planned distance.

Thirteen weeks to go until the 50 miler.  Don’t panic!  What is the French word for panic?  C’est panique.  It’s panique.  Ne panique pas / do not panic.  Oui, je peux! Yes, I can! I can do this.

50 Mile Ultra Marathon Training Pulse Check:  Overall – body and mind feel good.  Knee pain is under control and doesn’t seem to be worsening.  Last weekend it held up for back to back mid distance runs.  But 50 miles is another story.  Pray for me.

Suz Learns French Pulse check:  Vocabulary is building and concepts are starting to make sense.  I’m making simple sentences and attempting simple conversations avec mon mari / with my husband.

Dear long run,

Bisous ma miche!  If you only knew I was using you to learn French.  

Bisous!  À plus tard.

Suz

 

Aug 4, 2017. Positive thoughts to repeat in FRENCH while running my first 50 mile ultra marathon (a.k.a my mental fuel list). Help me build my list.

IMG_3349.JPG 

Belt buckle from my first 60k (37.282 miles) spring of 2016. 

I’m building my mental fuel list (liste) in FRENCH and j’ai besoin de votre aide!

Suz (that’s me) learns French while running 50 miles.  I wish it was that easy.  In reality learning French will take years, but the prize for the 50 miler is a ginormous gold (no not real gold) belt buckle and I want it now!

I love a challenge (who doesn’t) and really try to prepare mentally and physically for all my runs – in order to avoid failure.  I’m not talking about trying your hardest and coming up short.  I’m taking about failing because you’re just not prepared.

We all have that one time – the one time we wish we were better prepared.  My one time time still haunts me.  I’m older (not sure when that happened) and wiser (background laughter) and finally understand preparation is truly the key.  I may still come up short, but I’ll have prepared.

Donc, in preparation for my first 50 miler, I’m making a liste of things to bring.  I’m also making a liste of things to SAY to myself (in French…bien sûr) while running the 50 miles.

The first liste is simple: shoes, socks, extra clothes, water bottles, fuel, headlamp, toilet paper, etc…

The second liste is simple as well, it’s a liste of things to tell myself in FRENCH while running.  Words (mots) to encourage, words to prepare my mind.

Runners know that you can’t wait until your energy reserves are depleted to begin the fueling process – you have to properly fuel your body throughout the run / race.

Same goes for the mental fuel – you have to properly fuel your brain throughout the run / race.

So what’s my game plan?  How am I preparing?

Before race day:  I’m PRAYING!  And building mileage while following my weekly training plan (of course while listening repeatedly to my weekly French lesson).

On race day:  I’ll be PRAYING!  And repeating from the very first step positive thoughts in French as I run the 50 miles.  Maybe I’ll even meet someone from France or someone who speaks French. Oh la  la…I can dream.

Not only will I be reinforcing my French, I’ll also be brain washing myself right into completing the 50 miler (fingers crossed).

What else am I going to do while running 50 miles?  I can’t afford to simply run for 12 to 15 hours, I’ve got a language to learn.  So by thinking and repeating positive thoughts in French good use of my time will be had.  Which, will make for a productive day.  All crazies, please line up ici.

Positive thoughts in French:

– Think positive / Penser postiif

– You can run fifty miles / Tu peux courir cinquante miles

– You are strong / Tu es fortes

– Mind over matter / l’esprit avant tout

– Tomorrow you can sleep (rest) / Demain tu pourra toujours te reposer

– Trust your training / Fait confiance à ta formation

– You are a winner / Tu es gagnante

Call to action:  Please comment with additional positive thoughts in French.  J‘ai besoin de votre aide!

Merci beaucoup et a bientôt.

Suz

Special thanks to my fantastique FRENCH friend who graciously helped me form these positive thoughts in French. Thank you so much for your time.  I’m so jealous of your ability to speak more than one language.  Bisous.

July 26, 2017. An 8 kilometer trail race or 5 miles of conjugating avoir. And a final thought on metrication.

IMG_2566I vomited at the end of the 8 kilometer trail race.

Aujourd’hui, il fait chaud!  Il fait très chaud.  Today, it’s warm outside!  It’s very warm.

July in my neck of the woods here in the U.S. means high temperatures and extreme humidity.  It also means trail running which means I have time to conjugate French verbs.  C’est amusant – vraiment!  It’s fun – really!

I’ve been working on être (to be) and avoir (to have) for months.  I know these two irregular verbs, until I go to use them and then they just blur together dans ma tête (in my head).

So, today I praticed le verbe avoir while I ran a trail race.  With the extremely hot conditions this was the perfect verb to practice. Porquoi (why)?  Because, it was hot as heck and I needed something to distract me from the HEAT.  Something to take my mind off the HEAT.  Something to take me to my happy place…France.  All I could think about was how very warm I was.

J’ai chaud translates to I’m warm.  In French, you use avoir (to have) not être (to be) when talking about your body temperature.  Here chaud (warm) is used as a noun.  Do not – I repeat – do not use Je suis chaud(e) (I am hot) to say you are warm – it means something entirely different – let’s just say it means you’re ready…

I went out fast, maybe a little too fast.  I knew it was a single track trail for the first mile and I didn’t want to get stuck behind anyone.  Mais (but), please don’t think I’m a rapide / vite (fast) runner.  I usually just run the first mile as fast as I can then fade somewhere in the middle of the race.  Je ne sais pas pourquoi (I don’t know why)…it’s just what I do.  I’m working on it. Negative splits, that’s my goal.

I was running along pretty well, a little faster than I should have been and right about half way through the race I tanked.  I wish I had an audio file of the sounds I was making – freight train comes to mind.  My mile pace then slowed by 30 seconds, not by choice but, because I was fatigué (tired).

Trail runs are very different from road runs, you have a variety of terrain features to deal with (fields, tree roots, water crossings, old creaky bridges, dirt trails and holes).  I love to run and I love the trails.  Juste un jour parfait (just a perfect day).

I finished the 8 kilometer race and beat my personal projected time by 24 seconds.  I won my age group and was the 10th female overall (goals).  It was a small local race.  I also feel better about using avoir maintenant (now).

Here’s what I repeated over and over and over for 8 kilometers or about 5 miles:

J’ai chaud, very warm as in extrêmement warm.  It’s hot as HECK out here.

Tu as chaud, but I’m way warmer.

Il / Elle a chaud, but there’s no way he / she is as warm as me.

Nous avons chaud, but one of us is warmer than the other – and that would be me.

Vous avez chaud, but you can’t be as warm as me – there’s no way.

Ils / Elles ont chaud, but I’m sure I’m the warmest person out here on this darn trail.

As I ran through the finish line – I knew I’d throw up.  I always do – not sure if it’s the adrenaline rush or the exertion level.  Luckily, I made it through the crowd and over to the grass before I tossed my cookies.

I was happy with my effort in the heat.  And most importantly I think I have finally mastered le verbe avoir. 

Final thought – failed or incomplete metrication in the U.S.  Why do we use miles and not kilometers in the states?  It’s a very complicated and controversial issue.  Back in the 70’s, I got stuck in the whole “let’s try to switch to the metric system” thing.  I didn’t get it then – and I still struggle with it today.  I recall one year of learning it in school then it just seemed to fade away.

For me, learning the metric system and learning to speak French, make running a marathon seem like a breeze.  Running a U.S customary unit marathon…way easier!  It’s just 26.2 miles.  Running a metric marathon is 42.16 kilometers!  It just seems so much farther.

Suz

July 19, 2017. What’s a French word for Stubborn? Tête de mule. A secret running tale.

IMG_2938

There’s a whole list of French words that translate to stubborn.  By far my favorite is tête de mule.  It’s the easiest one for me to remember.  I also like têtu et têtue.

I know this girl, she est très têtue.  Mon ami têtu (my stubborn friend) and I have a secret.

This femme (woman) is très, très têtue.  Once her mind is made up, it’s made up.  Final answer.  End of story.  Don’t waste your breath.

Pause tale…quick thought

What does it take to run (courir)?  I don’t mean – what does it take to run a marathon.  I mean – what does it take to run period?  To pick yourself up and juste run.

To Run / Courir:

  • Roaming / Promener
  • Utterly / Complètement
  • Nonstop / Sans arrêt

Thought fades…return to tale

She ran far and fast and hard.

She ran, until she decided she was going to walk…  Parce que elle est têtue – (because she is stubborn) and her mind was made up.  Elle marché vite (she walks fast).

“Should we be worried?”  the running relay team asked me.  “I don’t know,” I LIED!  Knowing all the while – we were in for a long wait.

Elle est fatiguée (she is tired).  I knew she was spent.  I knew when she started her last leg of the relay  she was done.  And I also knew IF she made the decision to walk, she was walking the whole long eight miles, in the dark, by herself.  And I knew there was no talking her out of it.  Been there, done that, ain’t going back.

I knew she’d finish.  Être têtu est une bonne chose (to be stubborn is a good thing).  She never gives up!  But, how long would it take pour (for) la femme obstinée (stubborn)?  Je ne savais pas (I didn’t know)…

Ninety minutes went by – I knew she was walking.

“Should we go look for her?” the girls asked me, knowing if I was worried then they should be too.  “Give her a bit more time,” I said – silently rolling my eyes while thinking – believe me you, this is the last woman you want to go “pick-up,” if she’s having a bad run.

The team’s worry went on.  I just wanted to sleep, but the concerned women kept asking my opinion, “Do you think she’s okay?” “Yep, no worries,” I smiled.  Again in my mind, thinking “têtue, très têtue!”

I felt like I was in cahoots with some grand walking secret. I also had to calculate in my head – her walk time for the eight miles, because at some point I might actually have to send in the troops.  I figured she was walking the full eight miles but you never know, so safety first.

While trying to seem concerned, I quickly processsd the math in my head, I added several minutes for the terrain and a possible potty break.  I figured she should round the corner in no more than two hours and fifteen minutes.  This would be my pulse point.  I had my finger on the button – ready to push it – when…

“She’s here!” (“Elle est ici”) Someone said, “She’s here.”

We quickly switched out runners and she climbed in the van. Everyone talked about how hilly the course must have been (to have taken so long). “Did you have to walk?”  “Did you get sick?”  The questions…oh the questions.

She ran far and fast and hard.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Vite! Vite!

Suz

July 14, 2017. Can I learn French AND simultaneously Train for a 50 mile ultra marathon? Oui! Bien sûr, Pourquoi pas?

IMG_2569.JPGJack of all trades – master of none.

Yep, that’s me.  I’m pretty good at most things – I’m not the best at anything.

I dabble…in many things but really never progress in most – beyond the novice level.

I can speak a little French – believe me nothing fantastic – just some words.

I can run a little – believe me nothing fantastic – I just run.

But this year – I have huge plans / dreams / expectations of myself.

I’m thinking others in their early 50’s are probably busy doing the same thing – trying to fit in as much life as possible.

Presently, I’m in the middle of a life long quest to finally master French.  However, I’m also registered to run a 50 mile ultra marathon.  Holy cow what did I just type! And what will prove to be harder? And how will I find the time for both?

When I run, I practice my French.  Listening to French language podcasts for miles on end. Currently by myself as my French friend and running partner moved – bisous Latiffa.

When I practice my French, I run.  As the miles pass, I often find myself counting in French, saying the French alphabet, and singing French children’s songs.

I obsessively listen to everything French while running.

Interview with myself:

Do I think this learning method (running while listening to French) is effective?  It hasn’t been thus far.  I still only have about 15 words I feel comfortable using.  It is what it is…

Do I think these two goals (learn French and run 50 miles) are conflicting or compatible? Hands down – conflicting!  But, what else am I going to do on a long run? And what else am I going to do while learning French. I couldn’t possibly devote all my time to just one activity.  I’m a dabbler, a Jack.

Why all of this at once? Have you heard the term…hyper focus?  For me, when I have just one thing to focus on – I hyper focus on it and often just spin my wheels. By putting these two challenges together (dans ma tête), I’ll be better able to balance out my time and avoid burning out mentally AND physically.  Dans ma tête, I’ll be forced to split my time between the two – there will be no time to hyper focus.  And like most of us, this will be in addition to balancing the other normal plates of life: job, home, family etc…

I’m so excited!

Do I think I’ll be successful?  YEP.  I’m never going to be a French teacher and I’m never going to win the Olympics.  But I will speak French (not sure how much) and I will run 50 miles (not sure if I’ll be able to walk afterwards).

It’s going to take awhile for me to really learn to speak French.  I’m on a five year plan.  But what else are you going to do while you train to run 50 miles (event is in November, I’ll let you know how it goes).  And what else are you going to do while learning French (next trip to France is May 2018).

It’s my pattern – It’s what I do best – dabble vs. master.

Suz

 

 

 

July 12, 2017. I simply said “il mange beaucoup de nourriture…and he replied QUOI (What)? Apparently my French still stinks.

IMG_2921After a long time, 30 plus years and numerous visits to France, I am still only able to use about 15 French words.  I can’t believe how difficult learning this language is for me.  I adore France. I love the county, the culture, the food, the coffee, the wine, the cheese, the people, and the language – however, I can’t understand a thing these people say.

I had big hopes for our most recent trip to France; I truly thought that all my hard work this last year would have made a difference. It didn’t. At least not to the one person I really wanted to impress, my French father-in-law.  He and I have known each other for over 30 years…yet we’ve never had a conversation (as my French stinks and his English is worse). So, during a recent visit to France, I really tried to speak slowly and deliberately to him. Using phrases and words I felt comfortable with. But apparently even after months and months (truth be told – years) of classes and practice, he still can’t understand a flipping thing I say.

It was one hilarious happening after another. The latest incident and there were several memorable moments on this trip, occurred one night at dinner as I tried to make small talk with my father-in-law.  I gathered all my courage and said, “il mange beaucoup de nourriture.”  I was speaking about my husband or should I say I was trying to speak about my husband. I was trying to say he eats a lot. I just wanted to say something simple. It wasn’t even a true statement; I only wanted to engage in conversation.  I planned the whole thing dans ma tète (in my head). I thought about how to say the sentence dans ma tète. I said it dans ma tète. Then I said it fearlessly out loud “il mange beaucoup nourriture.” Quoi,” he quickly responded back to me. I said it again, this time a little louder, “il mange beaucoup nourriture!” And he repeated with a smirk “Quoi.” I said it yet again, this time a little slower “il mange beaucoup nourriture…” He then mumbled something in French.  My husband sat there wide eyed. I sat there thinking what the heck did this man not understand about what I just said – I said it slow and clear and it was a very simple sentence.

Then…I heard ma belle-mère (my mother-in-law) yell sternly to him in French from the kitchen.  She was obviously scolding him. I cringed and thought oh goodness this is not good. I tried to change the subject by saying in French “regard le ciel,” (look at the sky) as we were on the balcony and it was a beautiful evening. My husband looked at me oddly and said “what?” I replied with a coy look, “changer de sujet…” Half laughing my husband corrected my pronunciation of the word sujet; half crying I took a GINORMOUS drink of my wine.

IMG_2922When ma belle-mère walked back into the room, she continued to reprimand my father-in-law. At this point, I felt really bad and just kept awkwardly saying “regard le ciel.” he responded to her lecture with the typical French “bof.” We all laughed it off and went back to our typical pattern which looks like this – 4 people are in a room, but only 3 can talk at any one time…my husband, his mom and me or my husband, his mom and my father-in-law.

Although strange, this is our norm and it works. Truthfully, we have a great relationship and get along for long periods of time very well. We’ve traveled all over the United States and France together – it’s just that – you know…he and I have never spoken to each other.

Long story short – my father-in-law and I still haven’t had that conversation. We probably never will. As we said our good-byes at the airport he smiled and hugged me tightly and said something in French – but seriously, I have absolutely no idea what he said. But I’m sure it was said with love…then again for all I know he was saying “thank goodness you are leaving and I can have my house back to myself.”

On the other hand, I ordered successfully in the restaurants and I communicated really well at the market and in the stores. In addition, while visiting my husband’s cousins they seemed truly impressed and mentioned my improvements several times. Moreover I picked up several new practical phrases to add to my growing list of words. Most importantly, my sweet half French husband remarked numerous times how proud he was of me for trying so hard.

I’m hoping for real language growth over the next 6 to 12 months. However currently, I’ve plateaued. My mind is just exhausted.

If anyone has any ideas on how I can improve my French, toss them my way.

Ok come on – truth be told, it’s been 30 plus years – who am I fooling. I’m probably never going to get any better; regardless, I’m addicted to France – It’s a beautiful country! Where I am able to rest my mind and simply be me – quiet, still, unrushed and free.

Originally written as a guest blog for one of my favorite travel sites. Edited here to shorten.

Suz