InstaMeet Hamburg

Rambler Rose ??? #wwim13hh
Rambler Rose. Via Instagram.

So you know I love Instagram, right? It is definitely my very favorite form of social media. And that love has quadrupled since I bought my very first iPhone last fall. So I didn’t think twice about signing up for the InstaMeet Hamburg last month, especially since I had so much fun at the last one I attended a couple of years ago. Even though the weather was unseasonably cold for April, I bundled up as best I could and took the train to our neighboring Hansestadt.

Pretty much as soon as everyone arrived at the meeting point in the Harburg area of Hamburg, it full on started to snow, rain and hail and pretty much didn’t stop for about an hour and a half. Let me tell you that carrying around an umbrella while trying to take photos is a bit of a logistical challenge, especially when your fingers are so cold you can barely make them move. Sigh. Despite the miserable cold though, everyone was pretty goodnatured and made plenty of jokes about Hamburg Schietwetter. We walked through the Harburg harbor area, along the water and through old industrial areas. Right up my alley!

The sheer quantity of photos I took was much lower than at the last InstaMeet, but I still have a few favorites to share with you, plus some outtakes that I like, but which probably won’t make it into my Instagram feed. You’ll also notice that while Instagram is famous for it’s square format, they’ve transitioned to allowing for landscape and portrait photos too (although they still appear square in your thumbnail feed).

Can't believe these tulips have survived and thrived in the sidewalk cracks of Harburg! #wwim13hh
Can’t believe these tulips have survived and thrived in the sidewalk cracks of Harburg! Via Instagram.

One final photo from the #wwim13hh before I sign off for the evening... (With more to come tomorrow!)
Via Instagram.

Half and half. ? #wwim13hh
Half and half. Via Instagram

Rain, snow, hail and a tiny bit of sun during today's Instameet in Hamburg. I'm only now starting to get the feeling back in my fingers. Brrr... #wwim13hh
Via Instagram.

Hamburg InstaMeet
An InstaMeet outtake

Hamburg InstaMeet
An InstaMeet outtake

Hamburg InstaMeet
An InstaMeet outtake

I didn’t stay as long as I wanted at the InstaMeet because I reached a point where I couldn’t feel my fingers or my feet anymore — but maybe we’ll have more luck with the weather next time! And speaking of next time, I seriously think that the Bremer Instagrammers should be putting together our own InstaMeets too! Who’s in?

Did you attend one of the InstaMeets happening worldwide in April? Did you discover any new Instagrammers I should definitely follow? (And don’t forget to follow me too!)

Balcony Garden | 2016

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Wow, the weather has been absolutely fantastic around here lately! After weeks in April of snow, sleet, and rain, I feel like we’ve definitely earned it. Breakfasts on the balcony for the win! Who knows how long the weather will last, so I took advantage of the warm temperatures to spruce up my balcony and get it ready for the rest of the spring and summer.

Now that the stones on my balcony have been repaired so that they don’t wobble, I bought an outdoor mat to go under the table. The only thing that’s still missing is a sun umbrella, because, wow is that sun intense midday! I already have my eye on a couple, I just have to bite the bullet and figure out transportation. 

Last year I bought a small corner shelf for plants, which I promptly filled up during a sunny Saturday a couple weeks ago. Take a good look at these plants now, because there’s no guarantee that they’ll last the season. ;) Although, two of my geraniums did actually survive the winter in my apartment, so I must be doing something right. Now that it’s more or less finished, I have to say that my little outdoor space makes me so very happy.

Balcony Spring 2016

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

So, what do you think? I’m pretty happy with the results and am hoping for plenty of sunny days to spend out here. Curious about my previous balconies? Here’s a few posts from both Berlin (2011, 2012, 2013) and Bremen.

InstaFriday | Möbel

Möbel #lovebremen
Via Instagram

I have to admit I’ve been loving the non-marathon training life these past two weeks — getting my balcony ready for summer (more on that in a later post), taking care of a few other household projects (like new chairs for the dining area!), visiting friends, running for fun — in other words, normal life.

With my newly found free time, I’ve also gotten sucked into Snapchat. It took me awhile to figure out what it’s all about, but thanks to posts from A Beautiful Mess and The Alison Show, I think I’ve got the gist. I basically ignore the direct Snapchat messaging (I really do not need another messaging app in my life), but am really loving the storytelling aspect of it. Since everything disappears after 24 hours, I find I’m using it more for the small moments throughout my day which aren’t really Twitter or Instagram worthy, but which I still feel like sharing. You can find me there under: noapathyallowed. Let me know if you’re also on Snapchat!

I’m also planning a couple of fun upcoming trips…  Next week I’ll be heading to Berlin for a few days to attend the Democrats Abroad Global Convention — among other things, to choose our delegates to send to the Democratic National Convention in July. Did you know that US Democrats living abroad have the same number of delegates at the DNC as the state of Wyoming? And we have our own set of issues that we try to get incorporated into the party platform. (So I guess I’m officially outing my political affiliation with this post, but it probably doesn’t come as a major surprise to anyone reading this blog anyway!)

Then in a few weeks, I’ll be heading to Istanbul for both work and fun. I delayed booking anything for awhile because of all the unrest, but the organizers of the conference I’m attending are still holding the event. So I’ve decided to go for it, mostly because I really hate the idea of giving into all the fear. Now I’m super excited and really can’t wait! I’ve been browsing for food and other kinds of tours, but I would love to get your suggestions of things I shouldn’t miss in Istanbul!

P.S. You can tell I’m an Instagram addict because I keep typing Instanbul by mistake. :)

Are you on Snapchat? Or are you resisting succumbing to yet another social media app? Who’s been to Istanbul? Did you love it?

Race Report | Hamburg Marathon

The #HaspaMarathon in Hamburg yesterday started and ended at the convention center. Despite being very distracted, I still managed to take a few photos! ?

Hey guys, can you believe it? I ran the Hamburg Marathon last weekend! And not just any marathon, my first marathon ever. I can actually hardly believe it myself — although the training (since Christmas) seemed to last forever, the race itself was over in a flash. And it was so much fun! I have lots of thoughts and feelings to share about the whole experience, so get settled in for a long post…

Before the race

My parents happened to be in town for a special event on Friday night, so we traveled together the next morning to Hamburg and headed straight to the convention center to pick up my start number. It was absolute chaos and I wasn’t thrilled about having to navigate through it, especially since all I wanted to be doing on Saturday was staying off my feet and relaxing, but there wasn’t really any alternative. Afterwards we found our way to our Airbnb apartment in Eppendorf, did a bit a grocery shopping, and then I took a nap for a couple hours. Actually, I was a bit too nervous to fall asleep, but it was nice to doze for awhile. We ate delicious homemade pasta at engelke, making a last minute reservation after discovering that our Airbnb didn’t have a kitchen (oops, how could I have overlooked that?). After dinner I nervously putzed around with my race bag and discussed spectating strategies with my parents before heading to bed around 9:30pm.

During the days leading up to the race, I began to doubt my abilities to run a full marathon. I mean, my last long run was three weeks prior and it was only 20 miles! I definitely worried that I had lost all of my fitness during my taper. But the morning of the race I decided to let go of all of my worry and just have fun and get caught up in all the pre-race excitement.

One major advantage of having the start and end of the marathon at the Hamburg convention center is that we had a warm place to get ready and wait around before the race. I found myself a clear spot, changed into my race outfit, slid my energy gels into my pockets and ate half a banana. I also must have used the port-a-potties at least four times before the race — thanks to plenty of hydrating and lots of nerves! Finally I dropped off my bag at bag check and left the warmth of the convention center to brave the winds and cool temperatures in the starting block.

Hamburg Marathon

During the race

Since I really had no idea of what to expect of my body for those 26.2 miles, I told myself to think of the marathon as three different races — the first 13 miles, the next 7 miles, and then the final 6.2 miles — and this really helped keep me from getting too overwhelmed by all the miles in front of me.

My plan was to take it easy for the first half, enjoy the sights and sounds, and then reevaluate. And honestly, the first half was fantastic! I was relaxed and feeling good.  I carried a small water bottle with me for the first few miles until the water stations appeared along the course, and after that I made sure to drink at most of the water stations. I walked through them in order to make sure I could hydrate properly (drinking out of a cup while running is not so efficient) and I took my energy gels at miles 4, 8, and 12.  Really, the first 13 miles couldn’t have been smoother and I was hanging on to my goal paces pretty solidly and without too much effort. While my mile paces varied between 10:28 and 11:16, my 5K splits were pretty steady (33:43, 33:37, 33:18, 33:26).

I also saw my parents around the halfway mark, which was a nice boost of energy and really helped me mentally break up the race. Up until that point I had been debating back and forth about whether I should give my folks the light jacket that I had been running in. When the sun was shining and the air was still, it was a bit too warm. But then there would be these stretches where the sun would disappear and the wind would howl and I would need to zip my jacket up all the way. So I ended up keeping it, and spent the whole race zipping it up and down thanks to the crazy Hamburg spring weather.

While the first half was physically and mentally a breeze, I told myself to make sure to keep focused during the miles leading up to the 20-mile mark. I wanted to run strong, but I also wanted to avoid “hitting the wall”, which is common at around 20 miles if you don’t pace yourself properly. I kept my pace steady without too much effort, switched over to a sports drink at the water stations, and had two more energy gels at miles 16 and 20. I also used a port-a-potty for the first time during a race. It wasn’t urgent, but when I saw an empty one with no line at mile 16, I dashed in and out as fast as I could. My mile paces stayed in the same range as during the first half (10:23 to 10:46), and my 5K splits stayed as steady as ever (33:16, 33:34).

Once I finally hit 20 miles, I did a little happy dance to celebrate the fact that every mile after this point would be a new distance record for me and totally uncharted territory!  I continued with the sports drinks at the water stations and at around mile 22 I grabbed a bit of banana that they were offering on the course because I was getting hungry. At about mile 23 I saw my parents again, not too far from our our Airbnb apartment, which gave me another great boost of energy!

For these last 6.2 miles, I never let myself think about all six miles at once — I forced myself to stay completely in the mile I was in and give that mile everything I had. Since I was still feeling good and strong, I dropped my guard a bit and finally let my paces get a little faster in order to burn off all my nervous energy. I completely surprised myself with paces ranging from 9:39 to 10:07, and 5K splits of 32:05 and 31:27. Although I was certainly tired, I never felt like I was running on empty. Instead, I enjoyed passing just about every other runner around me for those last six miles and I crossed the finish line in 4:38:12 — elated to have completed my first marathon and totally satisfied with my time.

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After the race

Wow, I was so happy to cross that finish line! I could hardly believe that I had done it — and that I had actually enjoyed it! I spent the rest of the day eating just about everything I could get my hands on, walking at the same pace as my 72-year-old father, wincing while I was going down stairs (if you haven’t seen it already, check out this hilarious video), and traveling back to Bremen with my folks. All in all, a perfect day!

That was exactly one week ago. It took just a few days for the soreness to subside, but I gave myself the whole week off from running for both my mental and physical recovery. I’m already contemplating my next marathon — although it won’t be before next year — and thinking about what I would do differently. Now that I have gotten over the mental hurdle of knowing I can conquer the distance, I know I could definitely improve my time. I think my race day strategy worked perfectly, but I could kick my training paces up a notch. But there’s plenty of time to figure that out. For now, I’m just enjoying the fact that I can finally call myself a marathoner!

What do you guys think — marathons are awesome, or marathons are for crazy people? Would you run one (again)? What was your first marathon like?

April Love | Dear Books

April Love: Dear Books |No Apathy Allowed

As a child, one of my favorite places in the world was the local library. I loved selecting a stack of books and taking them up to the librarian to be checked out with my own library card — watching her stamp the due date in each and every one and then sliding them back to me to take home. I even dreamed of working at the library, re-shelving books (my little brother actually snagged that job for awhile in high school). I read every single book I could find by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume and Lois Lowry, then worked my way through the Baby-Sitters Club and all of Christopher Pike’s books, and sometimes started it all from the beginning again. Back in the days before Goodreads and Amazon and everyone on the internet telling you what you should read, all you had was the card catalog and your favorite, trusted authors to read over and over again.

These days, books are still my happy place, my escape, and where I go to discover new ideas and realize just how small and just how large the world really is. Whether novels or non-fiction, the common stories and narratives that everyone carries around within them inspire me to search for connections I didn’t even know existed.

My heart skips a bit every time I think about the whole universe of books out there I haven’t read yet, and I hope this love affair never changes.

What do books mean to you? Is it a love story or a bit of a struggle?

This post is part of Susannah Conway’s April Love, a series of love letters spanning the month of April.

April Love | Dear Home

I’ve been lucky enough in my life to have been able to live in many places. Whether it be Seattle, New York, Kampala, Hamburg, Berlin, or Bremen — all hold a special place in my heart. No matter where I am, I settle in and create a home — it is simply part of what I do. But if I’m honest, it’s been a long time coming for Bremen. Although I’ve lived here at least part-time since 2010 and full-time starting in 2013, it wasn’t until last summer that I really gave myself over to the thoughts of settling in. Probably not forever and maybe not even for long, but for *now*.

For each and every day I can enjoy here, I am extremely grateful.

From Instagram @noapathyallowed
From Instagram @noapathyallowed
A little green from my kitchen on a gray Saturday morning. #urbanjunglebloggers #plantshelfie
Recovering on the couch from a 19 mile run and enjoying the shadows cast by such a sunny afternoon!

This post is part of Susannah Conway’s April Love, a series of love letters written over the month of April.

Where is home for you? How do you go about creating a sense of home?

Training | Taper Time

File 12-03-16 19 45 31.jpeg

[Title of this post should sound like this.]

And just like that, the longest run of my marathon training is now behind me: 20 miles on a sunny Saturday before Easter. I combined two of my favorite Bremen routes into one long run — first a long 10-mile loop around the Bürgerpark, Stadtwald, and Unisee, then a quick stop at home to pick up a new water bottle and more fuel, and finally another 10-mile loop along the Weser river, Werdersee, and Osterdeich before making my way home. Anytime I felt overwhelmed by the distance ahead of me, I forced myself only to think of the miles until my next intake of fuel, so that I never had more than four miles on my mind at a time. For some strange reason, my body always falls for that trick and before I knew it, I was done with three-and-a-half hours of running!

I can actually hardly believe that I’ve made it this far in my training. If you remember, I had some serious doubts — which is why I avoided the marathon distance for so long even though I have more than a dozen half marathons to my name. And I kind of don’t want to jinx it by talking about how smoothly everything has gone so far. (I’m still reminded of a friend who got appendicitis the week before the NYC Marathon — really, anything can happen!)

The next three weeks before the marathon are all about the taper — meaning that I keep on training, but my mileage gets gradually reduced in order to give my body some time to recover before the big race. This time is known to induce the “taper crazies” among some runners — What do I do with all my time now? What if I lose all my fitness before the race? Did I train enough? — but I *live* for the taper. It’s finally a chance to feel good about all the miles I stored up in my training bank, get some rest, and get my body ready to push itself to the limits. I hope that’s the case this time around too!

Of course I’m a bit anxious about discovering just how much harder 26.2 miles is than 20, but I’m glad I’ve finally reached a point where I *know* I’m capable of pulling myself over that finish line on April 17th.

Until then, wish me luck with staying calm and if you have any tips or tricks for a successful marathon, please send them my way!