Paris Recap Day 4: Paris Marathon!

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Let’s be honest here. I didn’t train for this. My longest run was 13 miles in JANUARY for the Star Wars Half.. and then my 2nd longest run was 12.5 miles the weekend before. That being said, I didn’t just get up off the couch and run it. In prep for Dirty Kanza, we’ve been putting in 5, 6, 7+ hour bike rides each weekend, so the endurance and mental suffering training was in place.

And, oh, the suffering. There was definitely suffering at this race.

So, I didn’t perform my best, but I think all told I performed well-ish. Afterwards I was telling Paul how much fun I had and he commented “So, at which point were you HAVING the fun?”… because truth be told I was kinda miserable from the beginning.

You see, one of my beefs with France is that they don’t believe in bathrooms. The French just don’t go. Every race review I had read prior to the race stated that the port-o-potty situation was ATROCIOUS. Don’t count on using the johns in the corrals, they said. So, I didn’t. Our hotel was only 1k from the starting line, so I went before with the intention of not going again.

And I didn’t! But shortly after we started, I realized I did need to pee. Too bad. Not a single port-o-potty until the 10k mark. 6 miles is pretty far when you have to go. ESPECIALLY when you aren’t even sure if they are going to have them there. I panicked a bit when there weren’t any at the 5k stop and cringed watching every single guy run off to the side to just pee on the trees, street, cars, anything.

So, I spent the first hour slightly panicked that I was going to have to pee my pants, but thankfully the 10k aid station was my savior. Then I spent miles 6 – 10 feeling okay-ish, but it was downhill shortly after that. Mainly my feet were just spent and killing me. Perhaps walking the last 30 of 48 hours in the previous days wasn’t the best idea? (Or was it the champagne and charcuterie dinner that didn’t fuel me well enough?.. Or the lack of training? Take your pick) :) But like a true endurance athlete, as soon as the race was over, all the memory of the pain was gone. Poof. So, I really meant it when I said I had fun. Will I find myself in this same position again? Yes. Will I have just as many races where I’m trained and about to PR? Yes (hopefully on the PR part).

But, I’ll back up a little bit:

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This race was HUGE. 41,000 runners. Thankfully the race started in waves and since I had reported a 4 hour finishing time (ha!) that meant that we started at 9:30 am. The late starting time was wonderful and since we didn’t have much of a walk from our hotel, we didn’t even leave until 8am.

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The starting line was directly on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées which was probably the neatest starting line I’ve ever seen.IMG_2069

In lieu of a bagel and pb, I went with a waffle and nutella. When in Rome Paris, right? (Yes, it was DANG good).

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Similar to the Berlin Marathon, they also had some aerobic instructors walking the crowd through a bizarre jazzercize-like warm-up. This time it was a bunch of guys through, and no cheerleaders :)

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They also provided everyone with a little plastic bag vest to wear which was really nice because it was fairly cold at the start.

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The corrals were all divided by time and they were strict about which corral you could enter. Even though Paul was entered in the 3 hour corral, he was running with me today, so they let him into a lower one with no problem.

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The corrals starting to fill up…

You might also notice that these photos are ALL GUYS. The race was 75% male and 25% female and you could really tell.

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The starting line! One notable difference between this race and any other was that they did not play any national anthem. They just did a countdown in French and we were off!

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^^You just had a moment while looking into that man’s eyes, didn’t you?

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^^I see you eyeing my lovely tube sock arm warmers. Best throwaway arm warmers ever.

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Storming the Bastille!:

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Here you can see my sunburn setting in:

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Running along the Seine (on the left):

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Here you can see Notre Dame in the distance:

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I don’t have any pictures of it, but they do paint a blue line on the course. Following that blue line is the ‘true’ distance of the course, so if you don’t stray from the line, you should run exactly 26.2. But regardless if you were on the line or not, I’ve never had a race with less personal space. The course wasn’t necessarily crowded, but runners do not go around you. Even running maybe just shoulder-length apart, Paul and I constantly had runners jumping between us.

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The first peek at the top of the Eiffel Tower:

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We went through quite a few tunnels, but the entrances/exits of the tunnels were really the only hills on the course. It was very flat!

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The Eiffel Tower was right around 18 miles/the wall, so you can see a lot more walkers now!

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Approaching the finish line! The inflatable tube men were 42k, so just .195k to go!

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Finished! The chute was looong. We walked all the way towards the Arc, picked up shirts first, then medals, then water, and then bananas and oranges.

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Picture overload? We finished! Our time was about 5:18.

What I LOVED about Paris:

– Mile markers in km AND miles.. which was a super nice touch!

– Signage in French and very poorly translated English (a good laugh is always needed during long runs). There were signs EVERYWHERE. They even had “Aid Station in 200 m” signs which I really, really liked. I could get my gel out, eat it, and then be ready for water :) :)

– Great views of the Arc, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Bastille, the Seine, and more. This course actually takes you by (or in sight of) it all… AND they had signage up telling you when you were passing something! 90% of the things I would have just ran past without realizing it!

– Aid stations handed out full (8oz) water bottles at each aid station! I like running with a waterbottle, so this was super nice for me. There was also far less plastic litter on the ground than at Berlin where it was a hazard. They had tons of recycling bins and they said all the trash was going to be sorted.

– Finisher shirts were given out AT the finish line.

– Tons and tons of entertainment! They claimed 100+ entertainment stops on the course. Lots of drums, but also bands and orchestras and singers.

– Great finisher’s shirt and even better medal. Love the medal!

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What I did not like about Paris:

– No port-o-potties until the 10k aid station (however, I will say once I saw the port-o-potties there were never lines!).

– Only one ‘Gatorade’ stop around mile 18. Only water at all the rest stops.

 

After we walked back to the hotel, it was time to celebrate! We headed just across the street from our hotel and ate at Leon de Bruxelles.

We started off with some fried smelt. And no, you can’t feel/taste the bones.

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And shared the Mussels with cream and mushrooms. So good.

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After dinner, we had the BEST tiramisu right around the corner…

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And spent the rest of the night at a corner cafe with a couple bottles of wine :) Perfect post-marathon celebration!

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The view from the cafe

Are you content running races for fun or do you prefer the competition (even with yourself) each time?

Runners: What is your perfect post-race celebration? I’m usually all about good beer and something like a burger or nachos!

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Paris Recap Day 3: Versailles Bike Tour

I’m just realizing this now, but I kind of have an obsession with castles….

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(DisneyNeuschwanstein, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle doll house at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.)

So no, Versailles isn’t exactly a castle, but a palace is close enough. And it has always been at the top of my bucket list. The insane extravagance and beauty of the estate has always been something I wanted to see in person.

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ESPECIALLY after watching Marie Antoinette, the Kirsten Dunst movie… which was actually filmed at Versailles! (and yes, I’m aware it isn’t the most historical accurate film)

Once we had the dates of our trip booked around the marathon, however, I wasn’t sure we would be able to fit it in. You absolutely need a full day to visit Versailles and between our original travel plans, the expo, and the marathon, the only full days we had were Saturday and Monday… and the palace is closed on Mondays.

A general rule of thumb is also that you aren’t supposed to walk a quarter of a billion miles the day before you run a marathon.

#YOLO <– A feeling I think Marie Antoinette would agree with

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We ended up booking a bike tour anyway. The more and more I thought about it, I decided I would be pretty crushed if I didn’t get to see Versailles.. I mean, there are always more trips, but the bike tour I found sounded perfect for us and I knew we would find some other way to avoid taking it easy anyway… so I might as well spend it doing something I really want to do.

And it ended up being THE. BEST.

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We booked through Bike About Tours and our guide was named Rick. There are a handful of other bike companies in the area that offer basically the exact tour, but I was so happy with our guide that I can’t recommend them enough!

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Rick was a hilarious tour guide and very down-to-earth. He knew his facts inside and out, but also was great about being very laid back and telling us about his life as an expat from New York.

We met the tour group in front of Notre Dame Cathedral at 8:45 am and then rode as a group on the RER train that took us on a 40-ish minute ride into Versailles.

Once there we picked up our bikes and rode over to a little market to buy the food we needed for a picnic.

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We got about 45 minutes to shop in the market, get some breakfast, and then meet back at the bikes. Rick pointed out places that they recommend for baguettes, wine, etc, but let us go off on our own. I was very thankful that there was no hounding for us to buy from certain vendors like we had experienced on tours in the past.

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We bought a bottle of wine (duh), 2 baguettes, a couple pastries, 2 cheeses, and 2 types of meat. And a crepe, of course :-D

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After we bought our items, we loaded up our baskets and we were off to Versailles. EEEEE!!!

We entered through the gardens first, rode through some cobblestones, and then parked our bikes.

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We had to pay to enter the Versailles gardens (not included in the Museum Pass we had) and from here we saw the infamous Bassin d’Apollon fountain, La Colonnade with the “Abduction of Persephone”, a dancing fountain and a few other remote gardens.

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The same gardens ticket also gets you into the gardens directly behind the palace, AND Marie Antoinette’s estate. So, definitely worthy of the $10.

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Now, even though you have to pay to enter the gardens and buy a 2nd ticket to enter the actual estate, the rest of the area (which is HUGE) including the Grand Canal is open to the public.

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Need a place to get in 20 miles? No problem.

I really could NOT get over is how many people were out running/walking/cycling around in the public area of Versailles. SERIOUSLY. ‘Oh, yeah, that big ol’ palace? I blow snot rockets there every Saturday. NBD.’

Once we were finished in the gardens (we saw a lot, but it was still only a small portion!), we grabbed our bikes, and headed over to the Grand Canal.

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There was no rain, but the day was pretty dreary. I can only imagine how beautiful it would be on a sunny day once everything has bloomed. It was also kind of awkward sitting on the ground to eat, but I absolutely loved it. I had a freaking picnic at Versailles. With wine. And cheese.

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Afterwards Rick took us through Marie Antoinette’s estate which was her home away from home to escape palace life.

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The area was just beautiful. It is exactly like a little storybook land.

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Once we finishing touring the estate, the Temple of Love, and Petit Trianon (small palace where Marie Antoinette often lived), we road back to the bike storage and dropped off our bikes. Rick walked us back to Versailles and here we were on our own.

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Temple of Love

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Touch the statue and find your true love.

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The caves were for her to hide in from visitors. I need this at my house.

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It was now about 4:30 pm and it was just time to enter the estate… And absolutely no line!

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My only semi-complaint about the tour is that after a full day, we were kind of exhausted touring the actual estate. However, I know the crowds are far better in the late afternoon and we already had exploring the gardens out of the way. Plus, hitting the gardens first meant we were the only people in certain areas. It made the estate seem even that much more expansive.

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There were so many rooms to see that we ended just passing through so many of them (lots and lots of art), but lingering in the main attractions –

Hall of Mirrors-

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Marie Antoinette’s room-

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Once you walk through the palace, you exit into the gardens:

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We then headed back to the train.. after all we did have a marathon to run in about 14 hours.

I would have preferred to linger a little more (and man, I wish it had been a beautiful sunny day!), but it was still bucket-list-check-off-worthy! You really need 2 days to fully explore (1 day for the estate, 1 day just for the gardens!).

Now: Neuschwanstein versus Versailles?

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I loved both. And it is like comparing apples to oranges. Versailles was stunning and its sheer grandeur is incredible: the gardens, the art, the history! However, I will say that Neuschwanstein had more items/rooms of just draw-dropping intricate beauty… more gold, more jewels.. plus not to mention the magnificent views of the castle and surrounding it.

Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors: IMG_2061

Neuschwanstein’s ballroom:

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Marie Antoinette’s bedroom:IMAG5018

King Ludwig’s bedroom:

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It took 14 carvers 4 years to just complete the bed!

Dinner was simple. We planned on going out, but we were exhausted. We ended up just eating the happy hour food in the hotel’s lounge. Cheese, small finger sandwiches, assorted charcuterie, and champagne <– the meal of champions.

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Is there anything epic in your city that you get to see everyday? I get a pretty nice view of the KC skyline from the office I work at on Tuesdays.. and another stellar view of the skyline at the downtown airport which is one of my favorite loops to run or ride my bike, but I don’t think the KC skyline even remotely compares to Versailles.

What are the biggest items on your travel bucket-list? My other top items are to visit the crown of the Statue of Liberty, the pyramids in Egypt, and the Great Wall of China.

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