Friends, I can hardly believe it’s been a whole three months since I’ve been in this space. The year very literally started off with a flu diagnosis, then got swallowed up by jet lag, long work days, intense deadlines, and half-marathon training (Heidelberg in a few weeks!). On those evenings when I didn’t have to hit the gym, I was working late, and then on the weekends I tended to avoid my laptop as much as possible. Quite honestly, that probably won’t be changing much in the immediate future, but this post counts for something, doesn’t it?
So let’s get on with it! A few weeks ago, I was super excited to be invited to do a week-long takeover of the Mein Bremen (My Bremen) Instagram account, tasked with sharing my own perspective of the city. I’ve only done one other Instagram takeover before this (LOVEBREMEN), but I knew it would be a lot of fun to interact with nearly 8 times as many followers as I have on my own account! It was definitely something of a time commitment, since I wanted to make sure to share my best photos with my own unique perspective. Plus my captions and comments were in German, which just took me a bit longer to write and proofread than when I write them in English. Plus I was spreading the love as often as possible in the #MeinBremen community, adding to the InstaStories, and keeping up with my own Instagram account. But I loved every second of it!
Since I’m most in love with the city’s architecture, that’s where I took my inspiration from for the week. I highly encourage you to take a look over at Mein Bremen to see my photos (and everyone else’s!) in all their glory — but here are a few of my favorites from the week.
Many thanks to Mein Bremen for the invitation! It’s actually quite appropriate that my first blog post in months is about Instagram, since it’s basically where I’ve been micro-blogging anyway all this time. :)
Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates, and happy April to all!
The Idiot, by Elif Batuman (****). I really enjoyed this book! It so much reminded me of my first year of university in the mid-1990s…the sometimes pointless documentation of everyday observations and little details that an 18-year-old obsesses over sounded so much like my own journal writing at that age and time. I would have given it 5 stars, but it felt a bit too long at times.
Marina, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (***). I received the German translation of this book for my birthday and saved it for my evening reading at home. The story is based in Barcelona and centers around around two adolescents solving a fantastical mystery.
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, by Sherman Alexie (*****). If you’re a fan of Sherman Alexie, this book will definitely give you some insights into the author and his writing. It focuses on Alexie’s complicated relationship with his mother who recently passed away, and is told in a very circular fashion, always returning to the beginning just when you think it has reached the end. It is a heartbreaking read of a very difficult life, but definitely worth the effort.
The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth Wein (****). If you liked Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, then this (comparatively) lighthearted prequel might also be for you. Set between the World Wars in Scotland, 15-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart and her crew solve a local mystery. I preferred the first two books, but this one was also pretty entertaining.
Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown (***). “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” This Teddy Roosevelt quote is the premise of this book. While there were interesting kernels here and there, I would have liked something a bit more meatier.
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders (*****). This is a book that seemingly you either love or you really don’t — and I fall into the former category. Towards the beginning of the US Civil War, one of Abraham Lincoln’s sons died, and Lincoln reportedly returned to his son’s grave several times to visit his son’s body. Lincoln in the Bardo tells this story through the voices of all of the spirits stuck in between life and death in the graveyard, fighting over the soul of Willie Lincoln. Unusual and captivating, if you are willing to think outside of the box of the traditional novel.
Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (*****). Without even intending to, the last book I finished reading in 2017 also had to do with spirits stuck in the in between, but this time in modern day Mississippi. The story is narrated by an adolescent boy, his meth-addict mother, and a ghost from his grandfather’s past. The long lasting effects of poverty and racial injustice drive the story, as do the enduring ties of family. While told in a very straightforward manner, this one definitely pulled at my heart strings.
It’s the time of year again to take a look back in preparation for looking forward. Even though it’s such a cliche, this year really has flown by. So fast, in fact, that I’ve barely had time to document any of it here. I didn’t travel as much as a did in 2016, but was happy to head back again to Kyrgyzstan and Norway for work, and to the East Coast and NYC for vacation.
My Nikon rarely saw the light of day this year; most of my photography has been with my iPhone — and I’ve really enjoyed the simplicity of it. But I hope to get back to the challenge and technical precision of shooting with my DSLR again in the coming year. I’ve just downloaded Lightroom to get me back into the groove, and am looking into the A Color Story presets — does anyone have experience with these? Which are your favorites?
In any case, to round up 2017, here are a few of my favorite photos from the past year. Some you have certainly seen in other blog posts, and a few you definitely have not. Hope you enjoy a brief look back!
Are you ready for the end of the year? Or are you holding on for dear life?
And just like that, my second ever marathon is in the books! Two weeks ago I completed the Berlin Marathon, and while it didn’t go exactly as planned, I am still really happy and proud of the accomplishment. That being said, it was a very different experience than my first marathon in Hamburg…
Before the race
I started my training toward the end of May — this time around, I had added some speed work into the mix and was feeling pretty strong. I was more or less hitting my training runs and had a really solid 20-miler about three weeks before the marathon. But for the two weeks immediately preceding the race — a time when you should be running a bit less, relaxing, sleeping a lot, and taking care of yourself — I was completely slammed at work and was spending very long and stressful days working, having a hard time sleeping because of the stress and adrenalin, and not running at all during the work week. It wasn’t a complete surprise, but I had been hoping that I would be able to manage it better than I did. In any case, as race day approached, I was basically just holding on for dear life and hoping I would stay healthy.
So, not ideal. I was training with the goal of running a 4:30 marathon or under, but I also would have been happy with anything under my previous time (4:38). Approaching marathon weekend, I had become a bit more realistic about the situation given the exhausted state my body was in, and decided just to give it my best and not stress too much about time.
I had a relaxed trip to Berlin on Friday evening, picked up my start number without too much ado on Saturday morning, and had a relaxed day and a nice pasta dinner at a neighborhood restaurant near my friend’s place.
During the race
Getting to the race and to the start was relatively uneventful. It had been raining heavily the entire night before and it continued to drizzle for most of the first half of the race. I wore my friend’s old jacket and a plastic bag right up until the start to stay warm and dry, and I continued with the jacket for a kilometer or two until I got warm. I could feel already within the first five kilometers that it wasn’t going to be as smooth of a race as I was hoping for.
Although I was hitting the same 5K-splits that I had during the Hamburg Marathon — in fact up until about 35K (22 miles), they were nearly identical — it took way more effort to maintain them than I wanted. When it already feels hard during the first 13 miles, you know you’ve got a long race ahead of you!
By the time I hit about the 22-mile mark, I was just holding on and giving It all I had. Luckily, I had a cheerleader on the sidelines and he kindly joined me for miles 22-24 to keep my spirits up — even though I really wasn’t very good company (which makes me think of this running t-shirt). And for the first time ever, I also experienced the onset of cramping in my quads around this point. They never fully cramped, but I did have to stop a couple of times to stretch them out before I could keep going.
So in essence, for the last four miles, I was just gritting my teething and pushing myself on to the finish. I really didn’t let myself think of anything else besides finishing each mile I was in. I crossed the finish line with a time of 4:48:16 — almost exactly 10- minutes slower than in Hamburg, but still somehow proud of my determination to finish.
After the race
While I am of course disappointed not to have met my goal time, overall I am happy with the mere fact that I finished! I still think it’s rather amazing what your body can accomplish when you will it to — even under less than ideal circumstances. That’s what all those other weeks of training allowed me to do…they built the base which helped me cross the finish line, even if it wasn’t with a personal record.
My muscles were stiff for a few days afterwards, but by Thursday they were feeling fine again. The exhaustion stuck around for a little while longer though, but by now I’ve managed a couple of recovery runs and I am looking forward to a Fall and Winter of relaxed running. I definitely want to take on the challenge of another marathon, but not anytime soon!
Do you have any marathon wisdom to share with me? I’d love to hear it!