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!
And just like that, it’s September. The students are back on campus, and the new academic year will be in full swing next week. Since I am skipping the Fotomarathon this year in favor of resting my legs up for tomorrow’s 20-mile run, I’m particularly keen on sharing photos with you today. So here are some Instagram shots from August Break 2017 — something I participate in each summer (like here and here and here) to help inspire my creativity a bit — focusing on a few goodies that I haven’t already shared in my previous post on my summer vacation.
And that wraps up August! Are you ready for Fall to begin?
Now, you could argue that summer never really got underway here in Bremen — and I would definitely have to agree. But summer in the sense of life slowing down a bit, longer days, and the anticipation of traveling and see friends was alive and real in these parts. After spending all of July trying to catch up from the spring and prepare for fall at work, I was very happy to take off for two weeks at the beginning of August for a little tour of the East Coast, seeing some of my favorite people and places.
My first stop was Northampton, Massachusetts to visit a good friend, see her new hometown, her new home, and meet her lovely daughter. It was a crazy long travel day, involving flying to Frankfurt, then to JFK, then getting into the city, then taking an Amtrak (somehow I managed to forget over the past 9 years since I left NYC what a hell hole Penn Station is) up to Connecticut, then another to Springfield, MA, and finally a cab to Northampton. I arrived there about 24 hours after my alarm went off in Bremen that morning. But I’m not complaining — especially since I got super lucky on the Frankfurt-JFK leg of my journey and was bumped up to Business Class by Lufthansa — heavenly! I savored every single second of it because, seriously, how often does that happen?? And on a transatlantic flight, to boot?
In any case, I really loved wandering around Northampton and enjoying some of my favorite spots from previous visits up to Western Mass. Highlights included enjoying fresh, locally grown produce with every meal, early morning jet lagged induced runs, eating pie for breakfast, and an evening walk to the Smith College gardens.
After arriving late Wednesday night, my friend and I were off on Friday morning to drive down to Dutchess County, NY for a reunion of some grad school friends (just like last year!), stopping along the way to pick up another friend in the Berkshires. I must say that once again, our AirBnB selection was a smash hit! The house and the surrounding gardens were breathtaking! There were four bedrooms and four bathrooms, which was more than enough space for the eight of us. There was a huge dining table and kitchen, two different outdoor lounging spaces, plus a hot tub (which we made use of the second night), and fire pit for roasting marshmallows (which we made use of the first night). We went for a run on Saturday morning, lounged through the afternoon with lots of rosé and some homemade margaritas, and just like last year, we hired a personal chef to come cook us dinner on Saturday night (so decadent and so wonderful!).
That weekend was so good for my soul. It’s rare to find kindred spirits and I am so grateful that we all met almost exactly 15 years ago, and for every minute we can spend together. Life can be difficult in so many ways — and that’s not something that any of us can change — but it makes my heart swell to know that there’s this group of women who will celebrate and support each other through all of life’s up and downs.
Early Sunday afternoon, after a round of ice cream sandwiches and not a few tears, we all parted ways again. This time, I headed down to NYC with two friends in a classic, red Ford convertible — with the top down, of course. After spending the afternoon having a late lunch together in Bryant Park before my friend’s flight back across the ocean, I made my way up to Morningside Heights — which is nearly always my home base whenever I make it back to the city, thanks to a good friend’s generosity and guest bedroom!
Unfortunately, I had already started coming down with a cold on Sunday, so I stocked up on some heavy duty cold medicine (yay, USA!) and went to bed early. I felt pretty terrible all day on Monday, so I just slept and rested all day. But I started feeling a bit better over the next couple of days, and luckily was able to meet friends (from Bremen — wow, worlds colliding!) for Ethiopian food, saw the Calder exhibit at the Whitney, found my favorite strawberry and basil popsicles on the Highline, visited the Oculus for the first time, met a friend for Mexican food in Chinatown and ice cream on the LES, and saw Dunkirk at an IMAX cinema. I always feel at home in the city, and this visit was no different — thanks NYC for always holding your arms wide open for me!
While there was no upgrade to business class on my flights home, I couldn’t have been happier after my wonderful trip, and I’m pretty sure I was glowing the whole way home.
What have you been up to over your summer vacation?