How It Feels to Run My Tenth Marathon (and the 44th BMW Berlin Marathon Review)

On September 24, 2017 I ran and surpassed my finish expectations for my tenth full marathon by completing the 44th BMW Berlin Marathon in 4:19:58.

Berlin Marathon Finisher

Berlin Marathon Finisher

My marathon “career”, hobby, passion, self torture began in 2006. Here’s a running list (while mind you there have been dozens of half marathons, 10km, mud runs, and fun runs and thousands of miles from training,  also in between):

• Boston Marathon x3: 4:13:15, 4:24:43, 4:30:45 • Cape Cod Marathon 4:15:54 • Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon 4:21:07 • Walt Disney World Marathon 4:19:12 • Chicago Marathon 4:36:30 • Paris Marathon 4:49:59 • Rome Marathon 4:38:05 • Berlin Marathon 4:19:58

While my times stay somewhat, relatively consistent within 30ish Minutes, I’ve definitely become slower over the course of time. I’m ok with that and had started labeling myself as a 4:30 marathon runner. 

I don’t like sprint work, I don’t like the feeling of my heart pulsating out of my chest, and I don’t like not having a fun time, being able to talk to others and take in the atmosphere and experience of my runcation. These are the main reasons I’ve never felt to push myself to obtain a personal record with each of my races.

Running for me, personally, is something I do for relaxing my constantly running mind (if that even makes sense) and a way to stay healthy. No more, no less. For some running is about being the best they can be every time and for others it’s learning how to complete the impossible. Running is a personal sport that can make some feel self love or self hate. The gigantic community of runners can make you feel big and small at the same time. Everyone is allowed their own reasons of why or how they run and no one has the right to judge or criticize someone’s journey. 

Berlin, particularly for me, was a huge goal to knock off my bucket list. It would be my 3rd Abbot World Major and the lottery or qualifying system to get into one of the 6 majors (Boston, Chicago, Berlin, NYC, London, Tokyo) is a huge long shot. So when I applied last November for this race, I assumed I wouldn’t get into it as I’ve been rejected from NYC and London several times in the past. I even signed up for the Rome marathon at the same time for April because I figured I wouldn’t get into Berlin. Well, luck was on my side and I made it! But I then realized I had to run 2 full marathons in 2017.

I’ve been in training since November 2016 meaning I was running 5-6 times a week, including 2x a week doing speed and hill workouts because in the back of my mind I was thinking maybe I could get a personal best on this acclaimed flat and fast course. But after Rome in April and two half marathons this summer, my body was beat. The training cycle for Berlin, specifically, was brutal. I was tired, sore, mentally drained. I wasn’t hitting all my distance targets nor completing most of the sprint work. Personally for me, more than one marathon a year tends to shut my brain and body down. I honestly was not looking forward to running Berlin about 10 weeks into my training. But then I had a mental shift to remember that having fun is more important to me than a time goal and I learned to forgive myself for having a legitimate reason to feel tired. Then the mental game clicked and I was super excited to get to Berlin.

The atmosphere of a world major marathon is one of the best experiences. The city is swarming with people from all over the world to each take on the same task. The Expo always gets you ramped up when you grab your number and buy a souvenir or two. One disappointment was that finisher shirts were not included in the entry fee. If you wanted any piece of memorabilia besides a medal, you had to spend at least 45€ and the cool jackets were closer to 90€ but that’s a rant for another day. That evening, btw my dad and most loyal spectating supporter had flown in for the marathon as well, we made our way over to Checkpoint Charlie and saw some pieces and read about the history of the Berlin Wall.

Berlin Marathon Expo

Berlin Marathon Expo

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Dad and the Berlin Wall

Dad and the Berlin Wall

 

Any disappointment from the overpriced merchandise at the Expo was quickly wiped away with the free Saturday morning breakfast run. The laid back 6km run started at the Charlottenburg Palace and ended on a lap around the track of the 1936 Olympic Stadium with a breakfast included. One of the best parts of the weekend plus I got to meet up with a fellow Run Janji ambassador and my favorite British couple that I met at the Virgin Sport British 10km in July. 

Lauren and Jonathan from U.K.

Lauren and Jonathan from U.K.

Run Janji Corps Ambassadors

Run Janji Corps Ambassadors

Jennifer and I running around the Olympic Stadium

Jennifer and I running around the Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium Olympic Stadium
Olympian in the Making

Olympian in the Making


Saturday afternoon we did a 3 hour Bike Tour of Berlin. It was leisurely and educational plus we got to spectate a little of the inline skating marathon that was taking place. After our bike tour we made our way to the sombering Holocaust Memorial and Museum.

Bike Tour

Bike Tour

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

 

Sunday I was scheduled for the 3rd wave slot that had a 10am start, with an elite start time of 9:15. Easy subway transportation allowed me to sleep til 7am and head over around 8am. I chose not to bring a drop off bag but the organization at Tiergeten Park was well defined, although you did have to walk about a mile and a half from the closest metro stop to get towards the start. Plenty of porta potties, lots of musical and video entertainment on several big screens helped the 40 thousand of us stay occupied til the gun. 

The race went off without a hitch, The temps were cool (10C/50F) with a little rain to start. The race was crowded, honestly, in its entirety. The crowd support was awesome with live bands every so often along the way. Because Berlin is built on mostly water, there aren’t many skyscrapers and the buildings are all about the same height making everything look the same with little standing out, so it was nice to have the entertainment as a distraction. The course itself is exactly as they say, fast and flat, and my starting times were, for me, quicker than I was planning. But I felt good, so I held onto the 9:15-9:30 pace up until the half way point when I was looking for my dad. I thought to myself, “if you go fast now that means you can slow down later”. Which, btw, is opposite of what pros would tell you to do. After seeing my dad I maybe had a mile at about 11 min pace but felt good enough to go back to my original pace. The volunteers and aide stations were fantastic and I really felt energized by the crowd and cool temps. So I pushed on at this pace comfortably through the second half. Upon hitting the Brandenburg Gate, I was sprinting and smiling towards the finish knowing I would have one of my best times since 2009!

The Start of the Berlin Marathon

The Start of the Berlin Marathon

Some Motivation

Some Motivation

My new Baby

My new Baby

All Smiles

All Smiles

#10 in the books

#10 in the books

 

I’m so elated and proud to have completed my 10th marathon with my 4th best time after having a crappy training cycle. My enthusiasm is renewed and my goal will be to push forward and complete all the world majors! But first a break from racing for the rest of 2017 😉.

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456 Hot Air Balloons

I’m always searching for something interesting to see or do, to broaden my horizons or purely satisfy my curiosity. 

Luckily for me, I’m living about a 30 minute drive away from the annual Mondial Air Balloons held at Aérodrome de Chambley in Hagéville, France. 

It’s an annual week long international Hot Air Balloon Festival held at the end of July. Several countries participate with, weather depending, morning and evening flights.  People can come watch and peruse local vendors with outdoor activities for the kids. And best of all it’s free.

This year was particularly special because they were planning for what’s called “La Grande Ligne”. This was a plan in hopes for the most hot air balloons to take off at once, to set a world record. The days for take off kept shifting due to storms and wind but finally was set for a 6:30am on Friday July 28. I didn’t want to miss it!

I woke up at 4:30am and drove the half hour to claim a front row view. Then I waited. I wasn’t alone with some other brave early risers but the weather was cool and damp, with no indoor waiting area, and nothing to look at. We were staring out to empty runways and I think most of us were hoping we were in the right area. We waited some more as 6:30am came and went with no action. But around 6:45am we started to see cars with trailers, what seemed like thousands, driving out to line up on the runways. This went on for a good 45 minutes. Then the pilots and crew started setting up by laying the ballons on the ground, attaching baskets or single seats to the balloons, checking the ignitions of the fire and then started to blow the balloons up. What seemed to take forever and seemed like thousands of balloons, was actually 456 balloons that anti-climatically lifted off around 8am. With a suttle wind, the balloons were seemingly all in flight and began quickly drifting north all within minutes. 

I grabbed as many photos as I could and ran to catch a great action shot. I watched them raise higher and drift more north as I made it back to the car and started to drive home (which was north). So surprisingly for me, I got a great view of them as I headed back home.

Are we in the right place?

Starting to see some action

And it’s take off


Such a cool experience. I highly suggest catching a festival, maybe next year I’ll make friends with a pilot and be on one!

Sweet Oporto

What an amazing week I’ve had! Not only did I begin training for my 10th marathon for Berlin in September and adapted my nutrition to start following a ketogenic meal plan (high “good” fat and low carb), more to come on these on later posts, but I also spent a long weekend visiting Porto, Portugal. 

Visiting the 2nd largest city in Portugal started as a trip to visit a couple of American friends traveling through. However, a friends flight got cancelled twice, due to strikes, cutting 4 days out of her trip so she decided to stay back, meaning I was venturing on my own. I took a 2 and a half hour direct flight late Thursday afternoon from Luxembourg to Porto. From the airport I was able to get a metro ticket for less that 2€ to get me towards Trindade stop in the historic portion of the city, and also where my airbnb was located. After a quick check-in and shower I took to Google trips to get myself acquainted with sights to see nearby. Here’s a recount of what I did daily:

Thursday:

Livraria Lello

Famous Bookshop

Famous Bookshop

Red Staircase

Red Staircase

 

The Historic District

Town Hall

Town Hall

Ingreja da Santíssima Trindade

Ingreja da Santíssima Trindade

Typical tiled buildings

Typical tiled buildings

Praça de Carlos Alberto

Praça de Carlos Alberto

Igreja do Carmo

Igreja do Carmo

French inspired architecture

French inspired architecture



Street Art 

Street art is legal with a permit. It brings bright colors to the already lively city.

17th Restaurant & Bar

Views of Porto

Views of Porto

Rosé on steroids

Rosé on steroids

 

Dinner at O Buraco

Fresh and inexpensive traditional Portuguese restaurant

Fresh and inexpensive traditional Portuguese restaurant


Porto Walkers Pub Crawl
I signed up for a pub crawl for 12€ which started at 11pm going til 5am, if you could make it that long. With 5-6 stops visiting bars mostly on Galeria de Paris, a drink special was included at each stop. I’m glad I went because I met a bunch of English speaking backpackers from US, Canada, and Australia. Albeit, I was the oldest by 10+ years, but was able to dance the night away (or at least until 2:30am, I admit I couldn’t quite hang as long).

Friday:

Early Morning Run

Free Walking Tour
I can’t recommend enough taking this free 4 hour walking tour with a passionate local from Porto Walkers (Do this!) I learned a lot and felt it was necessary to share a few important points…

1. Porto’s tourism is relatively new (think 15-20 years new). Thanks to UNESCO and budget flights like RyanAir, the city has seen an influx in visitors and most of the locals are appreciative for the economic boost but…

2. In the poorer sections of town, where the buildings create narrow, quaint winding, colorful, clothes-lined drying alleyways, some families monthly wage is 500€. There used to be laws to protect them, where monthly rent was grandfathered over to keep prices low to protect them from losing their homes. Due to greed and a change in law, rents have skyrocketed from 50€ per month to 800€ per month, to create Airbnb’s for tourists like myself. This results in families getting kicked out of Porto or ultimately leaving them homeless.

3. Here’s what we can do to help: Don’t rent Airbnb’s within the Riberia district or support the overpriced, tourist restaurants and shops along the river front. Do eat at local Portuguese restaurants and shop off the typical tourist beaten paths. You’ll know the difference immediately because there will probably be a wait to get in because they are small and the prices will be extraordinarily less expensive.

Ponte Luís I

Ponte Luís I

Ribeira District

Ribeira District

Ribeira District

Ribeira District

Ribeira District

Ribeira District

View of Douro

View of Douro

Old Tram

Old Tram

Igreja paroquial de Santo Ildefonso

Igreja paroquial de Santo Ildefonso

Inside São Bento Train Station

Inside São Bento Train Station

 

Port Wine in Vila Nova de Gaia

I did a self tour visiting several wineries of the sweet port wine.

Ramos Pinto

Ramos Pinto

Croft

Croft

Inside Taylor's

Inside Taylor’s

Taylor's Courtyard

Taylor’s Courtyard

Taylor's

Taylor’s Port Wine

 

Saturday:

Praia do Molhe
I got up early and took the old Tram line 1 along the river to where it meets the Atlantic Ocean and spent most of the day at the beach. 

Dinner at Tapabento
Ranked #1 Restaurant in Porto, there are advantages to eating solo. I didn’t need a reservation! Fine dining in a quaint restaurant, you’d never know from the outside. 

Seated Tuna

Seared Tuna

Red Mullet

Red Mullet

Pistachio Sufflé

Pistachio Sufflé

 

Sunday:

Last day in Porto and started it with another early morning run. Expecting to find the streets deserted I was actually weaving in and out of the drunks making their way home at 6:30am.

Breakfast at Zenith
Best Brunch Ever

Detox Smoothie bowl (I also got 2 eggs with avocado not pictured)

Detox Smoothie bowl (I also got 2 eggs with avocado not pictured)

Armazém
Vintage Flea Market and bar. Cute, artsy and unique.

Portobello Rooftop Bar

Finished the trip with a couple cocktails at Base

I hope you all get a chance to visit and take into account the need to respect their culture, heritage, and people. And drink all the port wine 🍷. If you’re waiting for a reason to go, the weekend of June 23rd is a huge street party for Saint John (Sao Joao) with plastic hammers, drinking, dancing, and fireworks. A celebration not to be missed 🎉

A Day Trip to Nancy, France

Since being in France, and more specifically living in the Lorraine section, Nancy has been on my list to visit. Over the past year I’ve driven past Nancy several times with it being about 45 minute drive away, have received Facebook event notifications for concerts and local races there, and have been warned by Metz loyals that “La Lorraine est grenat”! (Metz’s football team colors and Metz and Nancy rival each other in soccer/football). I could get backlash here for being a Metz girl in Nancy but I’m fine with it because, let’s be honest, I’m all Boston anyway.

Photo courtesy of La Lorraine République

Photo courtesy of La Lorraine République


About a week ago I had the chance to make a midweek train visit to Nancy, which by the way is only a 35 minute ride at 14€ RT. Considering how convenient that is, I can’t believe it took me this long to get over there.
Stepping out of the train station, which is about a 400m walk to the center of town, I immediately saw a cathedral mimicking a smaller version of Notre Dame in Paris, called Cure Saint-Leon IX.

Cure Saint-Léon IX

Cure Saint-Léon IX


Using Google travel guide and Trip Advisor, I was able to make a walking plan. Starting at Porte Stanislas, I headed towards Place Stanislas. Here marks a vast and beautiful pedestrian Plaza with open air seating for several restaurants, surrounded in gold plated fences and sculptures with magnificent views of the Musee des Beaux-Arts and L’Hotel de Ville (Mayor’s Office).

Porte Stanislas

Porte Stanislas

Place Stanislas

Place Stanislas

Place Stanislas

Place Stanislas

View of Hôtel de Ville

View of Hôtel de Ville


After a quick rest and a glass of white wine to take in some of the views, I made my way towards Palais du Gouverneur Militaire and Parc de la Pepiniere which was in full bloom with spring flowers. From there I made my way towards Porte de la Craffe which resembles the Porte des Allemands in Metz. I then found Place Carnot that was in the middle of hosting a spring carnival. After having walked a couple hours, I built up an appetite and found a Made in France sandwich shop close to Basilique Saint-Epvre.
Walking towards Governors Palace

Walking towards Governors Palace

Parc de la Pépinière

Parc De la Pépinière

Porte de la Craffe

Porte de la Craffe

Place Carnot Spring Carnival

Place Carnot Spring Carnival

Basilique Saint-Epvre

Basilique Saint-Epvre


After replenishing some carbs, I walked across town to Cathedrale Notre Dame de L’Annonciation. I circled around to find Jardin Dominique Alexandre Gordon with more fragrant flowers and finishing up my tour back through Place Stanislas to several shopping boutiques before catching one of the trains, that come every 30 minutes, to head back to Metz.

Nancy Cathédrale

Nancy Cathédrale

Jardin Dominique Alexandre Gordon

Jardin Dominique Alexandre Gordon

Shopping Center

Shopping Center

Nancy Street Art

Nancy Street Art


A beautiful, walking city, Nancy hosts an array of shops, sites and bites to eat. Having gotten a glimpse on a sunny, spring day helped build my admiration of Nancy. Maybe next time I can even convince Juju to come with me!

Yes, You Should Strength Train

Ever hear of those lucky few who eat what they want (or at least relatively healthy) and just stay the same weight without exercise? Then of course there is the other side that sure they should lose a few pounds but are without disease or painful symptoms, so why change what isn’t broken right?

Well I’m not here to judge life choices and everyone is entitled to enjoy or hate exercise and weight/strength training (believe me there are days I don’t love exercising, like say Football Sunday’s). I am here to motivate, support and educate healthy life practices and I suppose if someone were to take my advice I would have to practice what I preach.

Think about your body like a car. You can get a car wash and have the car look good. Say you want to buy that used car. Are you buying it purely on appearance? I doubt it. You want to know mileage, repairs, cylinders, interior leakage/damage, electrical condition, etc. Aesthetically you may very well appreciate the car from the outside but when you hear it has 150,000 miles, needs a new exhaust/AC, clutch, inside paneling you will probably make a more responsible purchase.

Your body may appear, from the outside, to be healthy. You may feel fine. But if you are not training your muscles or supplying your body with nutrient dense foods to fuel this routine, you my friend will eventually fall into a health problem. Whether it be an orthopedic condition like a muscle strain from that time you have to over exert weak tissues like moving homes or a fracture from a fall because you don’t have dense tissue or bone to absorb impact or perhaps you experience a more painful neurological condition which occurs because of faltering mechanics or alignment from day in and day out sitting at a desk, I see it everyday as a physical therapist, friends.

5 reasons to strength train:

1. Builds Bone Density

Vast majority of research supports resistance training as a very effective means to increase bone density.

2. Protects Joints

Increased muscle mass helps distribute forces between bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments from extraneous forces like gravity, body weight and ground reactions to protect joints from early breakdown.

3. Burns Calories

By increasing muscle density, some research has shown to improve resting metabolism rate (RMR), one of three primary components of total daily energy expenditure. The others include thermic effect of physical activity and thermic effect of feeding.

4. Makes you move more efficiently

Increased strength improves power output which correlates with improved efficiency as measured by the ratio of mechanical work to total metabolic cost (calculated by oxygen consumption). In layman’s terms, muscle mass improves efficiency for the work being done and the greater the oxygen utilization.

5. You Look Great!

If I do say so myself…

As always feel free to question or comment below or reach me at Email or follow me on Instagram @thefitwanderluster or Twitter @fitwanderluster

A West Virginian Wedding

The Bride

The mother of the bride and my sister

Bridal Party

Working the dance floor

So I’ve been traveling for the past 2.5 weeks. My trip started domestically in Beckley, West Virginia for my niece’s wedding on August 8th. The yellow and blue themed wedding (Go Mountaineers!) was a blast and I got to hang out with my family for a few days before heading to the South of France for vacation and then onto Luxembourg for some tourism, food, and interviews. More on the international travel in the next blog post!

Flying to Beckley from Boston is not an easy task. You must take a commercial flight to Charlotte, NC then a small company called VIA Air will transport you to the one runway airport in the small town that has about 5 employees (TSA agent, ticket agent, flight attendant, pilot, and baggage carrier). Honestly.

My dad had driven down so he was able to pick up me and my sister’s longtime friend, who had also flown in from Boston with me. We stayed at a reasonable Courtyard a few miles down the road and started the evening out with a few beers at my niece’s favorite town bar called Sir Walter’s Tavern. A cute, lounge below a theater with good craft beers and cheap liquor drinks. Affordable and fun and her friendship with the bartender allowed us to have control of the music.

The next day was the rehearsal and dinner with family and bridal party. Don’t worry, I got a quick workout in at the hotel with Beachbody on Demand (Get your free 30 Day trial here). Luckily, my groomsman was taller than me (good for pics) but kind enough to slow down his steps so I could keep up down the aisle. Now, there were 7 bridesmaids and 7 groomsmen in a small church that had stairs at the podium. We actually had to practice 2 placements during the rehearsal, which meant my fear of high heels and these stairs were soon to meet. I being the stronger and more able bodied human, defeated the stairs without falling. Twice. This improved my confidence to master heels on stairs for the real thing to come the next day. Dinner was at a lovely small Italian restaurant that I can’t remember the name but had good enough red wine to help me fall asleep easily for a 5am wake up call to get hair done the next day.

Morning of the wedding required 8 women to get up-do’s, mimosas and delicious pastries to hold us over until the reception. The photographer came to do some getting ready shots and the bride, maid of honor and mother of the bride were off to the church. The rest of us were on our own. Never to fear, dad was near!

The wedding ceremony was short and sweet with the beautiful Ellie Goulding song “How Long Will I Love You” to bring the bride and father of the bride down the aisle to bring a happy, tearful moment to watch. The groom was dapper and had only eyes on his princess bride. It was a proud moment to be a part of. Then…the unity candle not lighting brought about some comedic relief to break the happy tears. My niece being on TV as a meteorologist, quick to react to improv, took one of the combining candles and blew it out, leaving a single candle to continue to burn to symbolize their love. And then there was the ring “the circle”, it’s a circle because it is not a triangle. A kiss, more pictures, a hungry and thirsty bridal party, and we were off to the Tamarack to party.

A buffet Italian styled dinner, a keg, some nips in purses and free soft drinks from the bar, a 90’s themed DJ and rocking afterparty back at Sir Walter’s until midnight concluded the happy day.

The new married couple were off to a Caribbean Cruise the next morning at 6am and the rest of us had a day to relax and recover. A college friend of the bride brought my dad and I on a hiking tour of the New River Gorge Bridge with a majestic view of the Gorge. A good 4 mile hike to sweat out some of the partying that had occurred the past few days. Then Pies and Pints for Traveler Grapefruit Shandy and Siracha Pizza concluded my domestic vacay. I’m truly feeling the effects of 2.5 weeks of diet and nutrition change from not having daily ShakeO, eating not-so-well and disruption of my regular fitness routine, which was still muddled on my next trip internationally but with less restrictions of having to do something every single day, I was able to modify back to a healthier routine. Next Blog!

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