Race Report | Bremen Half Marathon

Bremen Half Marathon Race Report | No Apathy Allowed

I had meant to get this race report up a little sooner, but I came down with a cold just a couple days after the race and it sucked up all my spare energy.  But better late than never!

Towards the end of this particular training cycle, I had noticed that my training runs were becoming more solid and that I was consistently reaching faster paces than I ever had before.  I knew I was capable of running a personal best during this race.  But given that it’s a very stressful time at the moment with my dissertation, I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself in case it didn’t happen.

However, I did try something new. I normally like to run a conservative first half and then negative split the second half of a race. But this time I wanted to put everything out there at the beginning of the race. To have more faith in my training and my abilities and to leave no room for doubt. Instead of letting myself get freaked out by the paces on my watch, I wanted my legs to simply show me what they could do.

Bremen Half Marathon route | No Apathy Allowed
Bremen Half Marathon route

And that they did. I was actually calmer than I have been at other races. I was happy to be racing on home turf and wanted to enjoy myself as much as possible. The first 5K went by in a flash. Maybe a bit faster than would be wise, but I felt good and my breathing was steady, so I just went with it.

By around the 10K mark, I was really feeling the midday sun. The temperatures were warm for the beginning of October and the race hadn’t started until 11:30am. I developed some really painful side stitches around this point and slowed my pace a bit.  I focused on my breathing and was able to run through them.  I  was at least 2 minutes under my goal time and knew I had some room to slow down if I needed it.

The next few miles weren’t my favorite because it already hurt and I knew I had about another 10K still to go.  But I focused on each kilometer separately.  Usually I’ve always kept my paces calculated in miles, but I may have crossed over to kilometers in this race. Mentally, it was just so much easier to handle maintaining 6:00 per kilometer than 9:40 per mile!

Once I hit 15K, I focused on just staying at my goal pace. It was more of a struggle than at the beginning, but I never doubted that I could.  I knew it was just a matter of gritting my teeth and pushing through it.  The crowds were also fantastic the whole way and gave me a real energy boost!  Plus I had the jaunt through the Werder Bremen football stadium to look forward to, and friends lined up at different points to cheer me on in the last kilometers.

Seeing familiar faces really kept me going strong.  I was so exhausted but knew I couldn’t give up.  Around 19K, I realized that if I pushed it a bit, I could finish under 2:05, which was my secret goal for the race (so secret that I may not have even admitted it to myself). So I gave it all I had. I was ecstatic and exhausted when I crossed the finish line nearly half-a-minute under!

Bremen-Half-Marathon-Splits

I couldn’t be more thrilled with my new personal best for a half marathon: 2:04:32.  It’s nearly 4 minutes faster than my last half marathon this year in Bonn, which was also a personal best — meaning I’ve taken a total of 9 minutes off of my half marathon time this year.  This is HUGE!  I’ve been running half marathons for more than a decade, and never really saw too much improvement in my finish times until now.  I’m SO going after that sub-2:00 half marathon in 2015.   And my 5K and 10K splits from this race were pretty dang close to personal records, so we’ll see if I have time for a few of those too.

But in the meantime, I need some rest.  Actually, thanks to this cold, I’ve had a little more rest than I bargained for this week.  But I guess I needed it.  Once I’m well again, I look forward to getting in more cross-training than usual in the form of swimming and strength  training and yoga.   Sounds like fun!

Have you been enjoying the lovely fall weather lately?  Any races planned for the coming months?

InstaFriday | Fall Colors Week

I wasn’t quite so on top of it as to actually post photos corresponding to Poppy Talk’s schedule for Fall Colors Week.  Rather I just took photos whenever I could and only tagged them in Instagram if they actually matched the schedule — so as not to ruin the effect when scrolling through all the images everyone’s posted.   Na ja, sometimes that’s just  the way life goes, right?  (I’m more than a little preoccupied with preparations for the half marathon on Sunday and a mid-November deadline for submission of my dissertation.)

Golden Fall Colors
Monday: Golden
Fall Colors Red
Tuesday: Red
Brown cobblestones
Wednesday: Brown
Gray feather
Thursday: Gray
Blue street art
Friday: Blue

P.S. Today is a public holiday celebrating the reunification of Germany in 1990.  So to all my German readers, happy Tag der Deutschen Einheit!

Urban Jungle | Plants at Work

For this month’s Urban Jungle Bloggers post, I’m showing off just a few of the (perhaps hundreds of) plants at work that I enjoy nearly every day.    Our building is absolutely brimming with greenery, which helps soften some of its architectural edges and really enlivens the space.

You’ll notice in the photos that we have a spiral staircase, and many of the plants hang down to the next story,  which makes for a pretty dramatic effect.  Some of the gorgeous succulents in one of the foyers are tempting me to grow my own.  And quite a number of small trees and palms fit quite nicely in with the high ceilings.  Gorgeous, don’t you think?

Plants in the workplace

Plants in the workplace

Plants in the workplace

Plants in the workplace

Plants in the workplace

Plants in the workplace

 

Plants-at-work

I’m not exactly sure who is responsible for our office jungle, but I’m really happy it’s there!

Do you have plants  where you work?  Or if you work from home, do you keep plants in your working space?

Urban-Jungle-Bloggers

Urban Jungle Bloggers is a monthly series hosted by 2 bloggers: Igor (Happy Interior Blog) and Judith (JOELIX.com). Every month they share ideas to create an urban jungle through styling ideas, DIYs and green tips & tricks. You can find additional inspiration on the Urban Jungle Bloggers Pinterest board and keep up-to-date via their Facebook page. Want to join? Subscribe to their monthly topic newsletter or use #urbanjunglebloggers on twitter and instagram.

Fitness | Learning the Crawl Stroke

Fitness: Learning the crawl stroke | No Apathy Allowed

If you’ve been following my blog this year, you know that I’ve taken on the challenge of relearning how to swim. I had developed a fear of water over the course of my adult life, and knew it was time to overcome it. Although I still wouldn’t consider myself a strong swimmer, and still experience a bit of anxiety in deep water, I proved to myself last winter that I could swim by passing the German Bronze swim test.

Now I’m incorporating swimming into my cross training for the half marathon. But I knew there was still a lot left to be desired in my form, and I still hadn’t really mastered breathing with my face in the water. So when I saw a seminar on the crawl stroke offered at one of the public pools in Bremen, I immediately signed up.

I think I mentioned before that when Germans first learn to swim as children, they learn the breaststroke. So it’s what they know best. When I began lessons here in Germany, my swim teacher told me to forget about the crawl stroke — which is what I learned in the US as a child (although not well) — and started me off immediately with the breaststroke, which requires a completely different form, and is perhaps less technical and easier to master. Anyway, my point is: many Germans don’t swim the crawl stroke, which is why a group of 15 of us had signed up for a 4-hour seminar on a Saturday afternoon.

The group was quite varied in age, fitness, and ability levels, so although I was one of the weakest swimmers there, I didn’t feel too out of place. The seminar was set up to focus on breathing and body positioning (Wasserlage), with additional seminars in the coming months to focus on arm stroke and kicking.

So unsurprisingly, we began simply with putting our face in the water and breathing out. This was one of the things that I the greatest anxiety about (in fact, I entertained thoughts about not showing up at all). We practiced and practiced, using a variety of different forms and different exercises. I didn’t have too much luck with the exercises where we hung onto the wall, but started making improvements as soon as we began swimming forward with a kick board. Wow, I thought, I’m doing it!

Then the instructor had us switch gears and swim a few laps of breast stroke so that we could establish the rhythm of our breath. And wouldn’t you know it, suddenly I was able to swim the breaststroke with the proper breathing technique (instead of like a granny holding her head above the water). This was a huge breakthrough for me, because despite all my swim lessons, I still hadn’t managed to overcome my anxiety about that. But BAM! There it was.

After that point, everything seemed to click. I still need to work on breathing from my left side as well as my right, but that will come with practice. Plus I rocked at the kicking exercises — having learned the proper kicking form as a kid, I was sprinting past some of the German participants who were more used to the frog-style kick of the breaststroke.

I have a ways to go before I am able to properly swim the crawl stroke, but I conquered my biggest fear — breathing with my face in the water — so I consider that a huge success!  I’m looking forward to some solo practice time where I can repeat the exercises we did and gain more confidence with my form. I also can’t wait to refine my breaststroke, since the proper breathing technique will improve things a ton.

I still haven’t decided whether I will sign up for the follow-up seminar next month, since despite my personal progress, I was still lagging behind most of the other participants.  But I may just repeat this seminar again in January and see how things go. In any case, I foresee a lot of swimming in my future!

Which swim style do you prefer? Do you like putting your face in the water?

Traveling. Running. Living.