Monday, November 30, 2009

Course de la Grapille (7k race)

It’s almost three weeks now, and my leg (hamstring) still hurts. I thought it would be a good idea to invite a few of my colleagues to a 7-k trail race, since it’s a rare distance and therefore a guaranteed personal record. mini_HPIM3844 Well, Cyril met Rebecca, the kids, and I about half an hour before the race, where we got in line to get our race numbers. Unfortunately, Cyril was denied access to the race, because he didn’t have the mandatory French paperwork—a physician’s permission slip. This was never required in any of my races in the US, but here, a waiver isn’t good enough. We need to have an annual checkup to prove we’re not at risk of dropping dead on the course. I’m not so sure about that philosophy—Ryan Shay, an Olympic marathon hopeful, never finished the trials due to sudden death. Then again, maybe if he had run the trials French style, with a physical and all, who knows? It’s ironic that the exercise we do can also be the end of us. The problem is, if I don’t run, it hurts, and if I do run, it hurts. My sedentary desk job is just bad for my body…

Well, like I said, it sounded like fun to have a guaranteed PR, and since I wanted to run with a colleague, I had come to the race without even a goal time. Things don’t always go according to plan—I’d lost my running partner for the day, and I didn’t know what to do. Still, I had missed a lot of workouts recently due to our Irish vacation, and I decided the best plan was to stick with a low-key race—just something that felt good, and negative splits. I couldn’t help to want to break a 7:00/mile pace, but knew it wasn’t likely. I warmed up, and waited for the gun. We started and within 20 seconds I was in a decent pace group… and the sound of the running was an incredible, first-in-a-lifetime experience. Everyone was silent—not yet tired enough to be breathing heavily, and their feet were landing gently, rolling against the clean pavement, almost with the same cadence… swoosh, swoosh, swoosh; it was meditative. The course turned onto a rocky farm road, cut through a field, and it was all absolutely beautiful. The Franche-Comté has so many dome-shaped limestone hills with great panoramic views. We were maybe 20 km away from Besançon, so I didn’t recognize any of the hills, and I just tried to soak it all in, and stick with the people around me, hoping I was running a sustainable pace.

Soon we headed downhill, and I thought I’d be able to ‘roll down’, at least that’s what I say to myself to recover energy from the descent—but the path was too muddy and slippery to roll (unless I didn’t mind literal rolling)—I had to keep my legs tense to stay in balance. At that point Imidrace thought, well, this is why I usually race by the rivers—it’s all flat—and why I only do one trail run a week—I can’t run as fast as I want… but then I decided not to stress about it.

We headed uphill again, and the person I had picked to be my pace-keeper dropped back. I had to pick someone new, a bit ahead, and I only caught up in places where the road was better, then fell back again when it was slippery. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn my racing flats—my special, ultra-light racing shoes—my magic personal-record setters… there just wasn’t enough traction—I think I really needed cleats!

Still, when I got to the 5-k split, I noticed my time was 21:37, which I think is close to my PR for that distance—so I figured I was doing great. We descended again and did a hairpin turn into a cow field—wet, soggy, and muddy. This corner was so slippery, the person just ahead of me had fallen. She scrambled to her feet, and after another two hundred feet I slipped—my left leg stung for a second but I managed to stay on my feet and keep going.bell

Then I found out the last kilometer was all uphill—aargh! I was tired, but figured that it was ok to feel as bad as I do for my track workouts—and I chugged on. I was happy when I heard the cowbell of this dedicated fan, signifying the finish line was near.

Here I am pictured 50 feet before the finish line:final_push

Cyril had waited for me to finish—here’s his congrats, mini_HPIM3854 as well as support from my most dedicated fans:


Well, sometimes runners are stereotyped as fastidious, exacting, demanding—that’s me. When I got home I used a toothbrush to get the extra weight off these puppies:


Despite the terrain and conditions, I think it’s an encouraging benchmark—31:41 (7:14/mile)—maybe I’m not too old to be able to improve! Results are here:

Well, for once I was very happy with my race. Seems like the key is not having a specific goal!

Friday, November 27, 2009


OK – I am really behind on blogging with all the vacation stuff – and the fact that I have a life to live often gets in the way as well.  And I think my muse has departed lately.  So like Zander - here is a blog filled with shots left over from October I just can’t pass up posting – but I’m going to attempt to comment very, very little on them, one line only!!


1. These are cats snuggled up in our backyard – we have a whole pride oResized_HPIM2866f cats in our neighborhood, and they love to hang out at our house.  Simone (our cat) likes to caterwaul at them through the windows and screens

2. Callie and me – playing with camera…. blue eyes!




3–4 – what our kitchen goes through to Resized_HPIM2898get pumpkin curry soup in France  – and then mysteriously it  came out horrible – a first in about 12 years -  and sooooo sad!!!

5. Daddie and Zander playing dominos




Resized_HPIM28796-7. Griffin – master of the training wheels.Resized_HPIM2885

8.  All my kids on their bikes on the place – they go out and ride together now for about an hour or more at a time – absolute bliss for mommie!  Plus it is actually good for them.

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9-10 – Fresh produce we buy from local little farms – a kilo bag  of fresh walnuts 1 Euro.  4 kilos of apples – 2 Euros.  Bliss!

11.  What Griffin looked like after a recent birthday party.  None of the other kids would hold still enough….

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12-13 – Recent fountain sculpture created by ZandeResized_HPIM2897r in honor of Grammie’s birthday.  

14.  This is how you spell Rebecca in Algerian and Cambodian (I think).  Courtesy of my international classmates in my learning French class – I think I have a hard time – at least the alphabet is the same!

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15-18-Kids in giant tree – plus fall is here!





18-22 Series of pathetic attempts to make ultracool “Paix de Terre” (i.e. French for Peace on Earth) photo for our Holiday greeting this year.  Definitely needs more work….

Closing with 3 new you tube uploads – Griffin and Zander on bikes, plus a bit of domino action… Enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mixed up blog by Zander


1.  This is my Grandpa’s chair but me and Callie and Griffin love to sit in it to watch TV.


2. This is my Grammie and my little brother – that’s how they watch TV.




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3. This is the dock that my Grandpa made.  The sea bike that my Grandpa owns, which it’s like that I own it since it is the boat that I always go on.

4. This is Hearn’s Pond – that I always go on, on the sea bike.





5. This is the canoe that my Grammie and my Grandpa own.  We are eating in the canoe.  Do you wonder how we are stopping?  Well, there is this big weight – it’s a big metal weight and it’s attached to a rope and you let it carefully down – since if you just let go of it it can get stuck at the bottom.  The first time it didn’t, but the second time I let it down in the middle of the lake very, very, slowly but then it got stuck.  We were rocking the boat back and forth – try, try, try, rock rock, rock - then POP!  Luckily, the boat didn’t flip upside down.  But before we went back home we washed the weight in the water.

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6. On the very same trip we saw a heron.

7. This is the place. It’s strange out there.  They are not at all like the Americans.  They are like, OK, its time to find my friend.  And then they say, “Hmmm…. I guess that he’s not here. I guess I’ll go inside.”


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8.  This is the place where there a little ramp that Callie and Griffin always go up and down, up and down.  I used to like to do it too but now I like to go around the whole entire area.

9.  This is my bike, with me zooming by.





10.  This is Griffin Emil Dhondt in his bed. He is almost in his bed, but I think in a couple of hours he will be out of the room, sleeping on the floor.  Because he always moves in his sleep.

11. This Callie’s charm that Grandpa gave her – she kept it up there on her bed – but it wasn’t very safe up there – because whenever I would roll it would fall.



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12. This is Lilou which Callie made a necklace with her but her head is a little too big to put it on.

13. This is the Alps which there is barely any glaciers because they are all melting. We climbed up 890 steps to see the melted glacier. They are melting because the globe is changing. I betcha it was a lot more beautiful when everything was all ice.  But it’s still pretty beautiful.



14. This is a steep tram. It was not that scary to go up. It was alot scarier to go down – because when you look it looks like you are going straight down – but I couldn’t really get thResized_DSCF0030 (2)at picture. I bet you if I jumped off the tram I would go bang.  I wonder they would stop the tram if anybody fell out – they would stop they would call an ambulance and they wouldn’t go down after us – because how would they get down???  They would have to jump.  Why don’t they have a parachute? Because it wouldn’t have time to open and they would just go oooooohhh – squash!

15.  This is a fountain in Strasbourg. Sa c’est une fountaine du Strasbourg. 


16. Sa aussi.Resized_DSCF0035

17. Sa c’est un catedral que on alles quand on néte on Strasbourg. On allez presque le plus haut de la catedral avec Olivier et Nadine.






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Resized_DSCF0043 18-19- This is a big grate in the floor of the church and people throw money down inside it. Like, um even 100 dollars! It’s crazy.  I think those people must love the church a lot.  I wish they would lift up the cover of the giant grate over the giant pot of money so I could take a big picture of the entire thing.  There were only teensy spaces to put the camera in.  I had to take like 20 pictures to get 2 good ones.  Maybe sometimes there is a big tour and it gets filled up to the top.  I betcha that must have happened.  Why don’t they, every time a piece of money falls in, why don’t they take it out?  If I was a bad guy I would probably get a fishing rod and I would take all the billets out – I would take a stick and stir it around to make sure there were no more billets left. Then I would get a big strong magnet clang, clang, clang, and put it all in my money sack, until it was all gone.  Then they would come back the next day and say – whoa!  Where is all the money?  He could hide, like in one of their sculptures and maybe dress up all in white to look like a statue. 


20. This is an army museum – not a ship anymore.  A floating museum about armies.  I think it’s cool that it’s actually an army boat that it is a  A museum about a plane should actually be in a plane. But you can’t fit planes in planes.  But we didn’t get to go inResized_DSCF0069 it.  I wanted to but we didn’t get to go in.


21. This is a man that I had no idea how it works, but it’s like if you were actually there – you would be a lot more impressed because his glasses are not hanging by a string – they are floating in the air.  and when you look at his shoes – there is a blank spot and then his shoes – not like there is a rope there.  You can put your hand there and there is nothing.  It is hard to hold his hand.  Good thing he has gloves.



22-30- These are pictures of London.  We went on the river and walking in the city.  We also went on a double decker bus.

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I think you are all made of potato chips and I think I could crunch you up!  Love, Zander.


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