Race Report | Bremen Half Marathon 2016

Bremen Half Marathon 2016

This may end up being one of my shortest race reports ever because basically it went like this: I came, I ran, I had fun! I made it through my training for the Bremen Half Marathon just fine,  but my motivation to do the hard work needed to achieve a personal record pretty much disappeared over the course of my training cycle. So instead I simply made it my goal to enjoy the race.

The morning of, I tried to sleep as long as possible. Do you know how hard it is to time your breakfast and pre-race fueling when your race doesn’t start until 11:40am? Don’t hate me, but I really would have preferred an earlier start time so that my entire day wouldn’t be consumed by the race — but c’est la vie. I guess the organizers have to balance out the fact that there’s a 10K, a half marathon, and a marathon happening on the same day.  Anyway, I had plenty of time for my almond butter toast and coffee for breakfast, and then another banana about an hour before the race.

I walked to the start, which took about 20 minutes, instead of trying to figure out which tram lines were running without disruption. After changing and finding my way to corral, I started the half marathon along with 4,000 of my closest friends!

Pretty much off the bat I fell into what seemed like a reasonable pace and basically just maintained it for the rest of the race. I didn’t want to try any fancy stuff — just put in a good effort and have a good time. It was my third  time running this route, and I have to say it may just be one of my favorite half marathon races — starting in Bremen’s iconic Marktplatz, up along and through the Bürgerpark, through Findorff and the Überseestadt, along the Schlachte and Osterdeich, a round through the Weser Stadium, and then back into the city center.

I crossed the finish line in 2:14:39, which is more or less an average time for me — about 10 minutes slower than my best time. So my 13th half marathon won’t go down in history for me, but I still continue to be amazed that my body can pull through such a distance like it’s no big deal. That is definitely something to be grateful for!

Fotomarathon Bremen 2016

Yesterday was the second ever Bremer Fotomarathon and of course I was there! If you remember from last year, it’s a photo challenge — 1 City, 9 Hours, 9 Photos. The basic idea is to take nine photos pertaining to nine themes which you receive at various check-in points throughout the day. At the end of the day, you submit nine photos which need to be in the correct order and cannot have been edited. (This is already my fourth Fotomarathon — two were in Berlin — check out my previous reports!)

Start – Kulturzentrum Schlachthof, 11:00 am

Although it was a rainy morning, nearly 300 participants showed up at the Schlachthof to take part (see if you can spot me in this group photo). We received a card stating the themes for the first three photos, as well as the time and location for the first check-in point. I immediately found a quiet spot and sat down to organize my bag and my thoughts.

Although nine photos in nine hours is certainly challenging, it’s nothing compared to the 24 photos in 12 hours of the Berlin Fotomarathons, so I guess that bit of perspective makes the Fotomarathon Bremen seem totally manageable. But I still wanted to change my strategy for this year: conserve time and energy by focusing on surrounding locations or locations that are on the way to the next check-in point. (Last year I ended up traveling twice to the Überseestadt, which was a huge time suck.) And invest that extra time and energy into taking better photos!

 1. Fliegender Start / Flying start

Bremen Fotomarathon 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

The first photo is often the most difficult because it requires your start number to be a part of the picture. I wandered over to the main train station to see if I could find some inspiration. But I couldn’t come up with a creative way to incorporate the number 159, nor did I find the number anywhere “in the wild” to photograph. So I took a photo of my number with my iPhone “flying”  in front of a train. I definitely won’t win any bonus points for creativity with this one, but oh well.

2. In die Hufe Kommen / Hurry up, don’t waste time

Bremen Fotomarathon 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

By the way, all of the given themes are idiomatic phrases that you can either interpret literally or figuratively for your photos. I generally found the figurative meanings to be more interesting to photograph, but not always.  With my second photo I wanted to capture the hustle and bustle of the main train station. Although I put up a fight after being scolded by security for taking photos on an overlook without having express permission of each and every person in the photo (never mind that their faces were not recognizable), it kind of killed my mood. So I went outside and starting looking for another way to capture it. Not quite the same as what I envisioned, but you get the idea.

3. Boxenstopp / Pit stop

Fotomarathon Bremen 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

I started off by taking photos of the coffee I was drinking to refuel, but I wasn’t so happy with the results. So I headed up in the direction of the next check-in point to look for a bit of inspiration on the Uni Bremen campus. Although I spent nearly five years working at Uni Bremen, I haven’t been back in at least a year, so I was immediately struck by these red lounge chairs strewn throughout the campus. Perfect!

Check-in Point 1 – Universum, 2:00 pm

I arrived at the first check-in point with half-an-hour to spare, picked up the next card of themes and sat myself down with a doughnut to mull them over. Since entrance to the Universum was included with our Fotomarathon entry, I did consider flying through the exhibits in search of inspiration, but in the end decided against it in favor of staying outside.

4. In der Luft hängen / Hanging in the air

Fotomarathon Bremen 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Since I’d already walked through the university campus on my way to the check-point, I’d already scouted a few possibilities for photos and knew immediately that I would want to photograph this tower for my fourth photo. But a quick decision did not make for a quick photo! I must have spent at least half an hour trying out various angles and waiting for the clouds to pass and let some blue sky show.

5. Balanceakt / Balancing act

Fotomarathon Bremen 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

And then it was back to Universum to capture the famous building balancing on the water.

6. Großer Wurf / To achieve something out of the ordinary

Fotomarathon Bremen 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

After seeing that our second check-in point would be near the Weser Stadion, I knew I wanted to use the stadium for my photo. Although you could argue that Werder Bremen hasn’t really fit this theme over the last few seasons, the fans’ hope for a Großen Wurf (literally, a big throw) never ceases to amaze me. This shot was taken while standing between the solar panels and the stadium itself.

Check-in Point 2 – Galaxy – Henschenbusch, 5:00 pm

From the stadium, I walked over to the next check-in point. By this time, my bag was feeling extra heavy, my shoulders were aching, and I was overly warm now that the sun had decided to shine. The final set of themes frustrated me the most so I decided not to overthink them and simply set out in the direction of the Osterdeich  (an embankment along the Weser river).

7. Von der Rolle / Exhausted, confused

Fotomarathon Bremen 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

As opposed to the other photos, I decided on the literal interpretation of this theme (from the roll) as soon as I saw this construction site near the stadium.

8. Deichbremse

Fotomarathon Bremen 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

In case you’re wondering, a Deichbremse (or literally, embankment brake) is a special stool that was invented for the express purpose of sitting horizontally on a steep embankment. For my photo, I instead decided on the small garden houses that line the Weser river, providing a small break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

9. Endspurt / Final push

Fotomarathon Bremen 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Once I was already at Osterdeich (along with seemingly every other participant), the small boat which ferries passengers from one side of the river to the other seemed like a natural choice for my final photo.

Finish Line – Kunsthalle, 8:00 pm

Finished! Well, almost. First I had to sort through the nearly 200 photos and narrow down my favorites for the nine to be submitted. Although my motifs were clearly decided upon as a I went along, now I had to figure out which shots were my favorites. It was slow going, but luckily I had time to spare and could relax a bit at Coffee Corner before walking over to the art museum. Handing over my SD-card so that my photos could be copied over, I was admittedly a bit nervous but also ready to call it a day. After a nice glass of wine and equally nice conversation, I made it home exhausted a bit before 9 pm.

In total, I was on the go for about 10 hours and walked nearly 8 miles over the course of the day (not including the tram and bus rides I took to reach the first and second check-in points). My strategy to keep myself focused in terms of location worked out wonderfully and I always had plenty of time and never felt rushed (much unlike my first ever Fotomarathon where we were frantically selecting photos in a cab on the way to the final check-in point).

Intrigued? On October 15th and 16th, there will be a free exhibition in the Hafenmuseum Speicher XI of the pictures taken during the Fotomarathon so you can see for yourself how these themes were interpreted! Click here for more information.

 Would you ever participate in a Fotomarathon? Or does it just seem like way too much stress? 

For more reports on the Fotomarathon, check out:

Musikfest Bremen | An(other) Evening of Piano Music

Danill Trifonov © Dario Acosta, Deutsche Grammophon

* Many thanks to Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen / bremen.online for the complementary tickets!  The opinions shared here are solely my own. *

Wow, last week was something of a doozy at work, with four *very important* deadlines. But somehow everything came together rather successfully, and I was able to celebrate with a piano concert at Die Glocke as part of the 27th annual Musikfest Bremen (remember the concert I saw last year?). But it wasn’t just any Klavierabend — it was a performance given by Daniil Trifonov, the Russian piano genius who is younger than the Musikfest itself. I saw Trifonov when he was in Bremen not too long ago touring with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and I jumped at the chance to see him play a full-length concert as a soloist.

Musikfest Bremen
Die Glocke. Photo courtesy of Musikfest Bremen.

He started by playing Bach’s Chaconne aus der Parita d-Moll für Violine solo BMV 1004reworked by Brahms to be played on the piano with the left hand. Wow. Sounds silly to say, but it really can’t be easy to play such a piece with only one hand and still have the music sound full and round. He went on to play Schubert’s Klaviersonate Nr. 18 G-Dur op. 78 D 894, which garnered much applause and loud Bravos from the audience. His Variationen über ein Thema von Paganini op. 35 (Heft 1) by Brahms was equally impressive.

But it wasn’t until after the intermission with Rachmaninow’s Sonate Nr. 1 d-Moll op. 28 that Trifonov really came alive. Quite suddenly he was living and breathing the piece, throwing his whole body and soul into the music. It was really a sight to see (and hear!), leaving my head spinning. Quite honestly, it was one of the best piano performances I’ve ever seen! The rest of the sold-out audience was just as enamored as I was, encouraging Trifonov on to three encores.

I loved every minute! And although Trifonov must have been exhausted, by the time we made our way down to the lobby, he was already seated and graciously signing cd’s and taking photos with a long line of fans.

Daniil Trifonov © Dario Acosta, Deutsche Grammophon
Musikfest Bremen | An(other) Evening of Piano Music
Steinway & Sons
Musikfest Bremen | An(other) Evening of Piano Music
An empty Glocke after the concert
Musikfest Bremen | An(other) Evening of Piano Music
Musikfest Bremen | An(other) Evening of Piano Music
The terrace overlooking the Bibelgarten

The Musikfest Bremen continues on until September 10th, and features all sorts of music — jazz, classical, experimental — so make sure you don’t miss out!

Are you a fan of classical concerts? Which concert would you choose if you were going to the Musikfest Bremen?

Training | Bremen Half: Week 7

Bremen Half Marathon Training: Week 7

Not too long ago I was complaining about what a lousy rainy summer we’d been having in Bremen, so of course this past week we got slammed with a late August heat wave. Certainly makes my training more interesting having to factor in whether it will be too hot to do my usual evening runs. But I’m not complaining — I love finally putting all of my summer dresses to good use (which until now have only seen the light of day when I was traveling in Istanbul, New York and DC). Anyway, on to my training…

Monday: Unplanned rest day. I ended up skipping out on my cross-training completely so I could spend the evening preparing for something important taking place on Tuesday.

Tuesday: 4.5-mile easy run. I was full of adrenalin by the time I made it home from work, but unfortunately it didn’t carry over into speediness so I just kept things relaxed.

Wednesday: Planned rest day.

Thursday: Unplanned rest day. Wow, the temperatures were still near 90 by the time evening rolled around, so I postponed my run until the next morning.

Friday: 3-mile easy run. Morning is really not my best time for running, but sometimes you’ve got no other choice!

Saturday: 4-mile pace run + 15 minutes strength training. Ideally I would be running these at the pace I want to run my half marathon. That isn’t happening yet, but I pushed the pace as much as I could given the temperature and was happy with the results.

Sunday: 9-mile long run. Oh man, this was rough. My legs were sore from the strength training and I overslept so it was already 80 degrees Fahrenheit by the time I made it out the door (and 88 degrees by the time I made it home). I kept it as easy as possible, drinking nearly a liter of water along the way, and taking the shadiest paths I know of. It was still pretty miserable, but I kept reminding myself that these miles will earn me a lot of interest in my running bank!

That’s it for this week! The good: I got in all of my miles and even did some strength training. The bad: Missed my cross-training and didn’t do my speed training. But now that things are getting calmer at work, I’m looking forward to really dedicated my energy to these last few weeks of training before the Bremen Half Marathon on October 2nd!

How was your week?

InstaFriday | Bremen’s First Instawalk

InstaWalk Bremen | No Apathy Allowed
The Marktplatz

Seems like every time I blogged about how much fun I’d had at the Hamburg InstaMeets and InstaWalks, I always wished that Bremen would host one too. Well, wishes do come true sometimes! Hosted by Bremen Tourism, 25 Instagrammers had the chance to take a walk through the city, photographing Bremen’s treasures and tagging our photos with #InstaWalkBremen. Although we visited the Hansestadt‘s most well known corners, our guide made sure to tell us plenty of little known facts (nearly all of which I’ve promptly forgotten).

We started at the statue of Roland in Bremen’s main square before walking over to the Bremen Cathedral. From there we made our way to the Schnoor, the city’s oldest neighborhood dating back to the 10th century when it was a fishermen’s district. Today you can wander the narrow lanes, lined on either side by crooked, charming houses from the 15th to the 18th centuries.  We then walked to the Schlachte waterfront promenade — which used to serve as the city’s harbor — and up along to Böttcherstraße — which is a street only 100 meters long showcasing beautiful architecture from the 1920s and 1930s.

We ended our InstaWalk in Haus Atlantis’s Himmelsaal, climbing an Art Deco staircase made of concrete and glass up to the sky room with a fantastic display of blue and white lights. This was hands down my favorite part of the walk — I didn’t even know it existed!

InstaWalk Bremen | No Apathy Allowed
Schnoor Viertel
InstaWalk Bremen | No Apathy Allowed
The Schnoor Viertel
InstaWalk Bremen | No Apathy Allowed
The Schnoor Viertel
InstaWalk Bremen | No Apathy Allowed
The Schnoor Viertel
InstaWalk Bremen | No Apathy Allowed
InstaWalk Bremen | No Apathy Allowed
The Himmelsaal (sky room) in the Haus Atlantis

What a great afternoon! I met a lot of great Bremen Instagrammers and still have more than a handful of photos that I haven’t posted on Instagram yet, but they’ll definitely make their way into my feed. The walk was also covered in the local press — see if you can spot me in a few pictures here and here.

Think it sounds like fun? They are already planning a number of other InstaWalks in other parts of the city, so keep an eye on the City of Bremen’s social media channels for more info!

Have you ever taken part in an InstaWalk or InstaMeet? What did you like most about it?

InstaFriday | August Break 2016

Photos | August Break | No Apathy Allowed
Day One: Morning light

I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of time for words right now, which actually makes it a perfect time to chime in about August Break 2016, organized by Susannah Conway. It’s about taking a bit of a break from writing and instead focusing on the visual, specifically in the form of daily photo prompts. I don’t follow the prompts every day, but they do serve as a relaxed sort of inspiration for my Instagram feed  — I also participated in 2013, 2014, and 2015 — which is the perfect sort of inspiration, in my book.  So here are few snapshots of August so far…

Photos | August Break | No Apathy Allowed
Day Two: Leaf
Photos | August Break | No Apathy Allowed
Day Four: Sweetness
Photos | August Break | No Apathy Allowed
Day Five: Midday
Photos | August Break | No Apathy Allowed
Day Nine: Red
Photos | August Break | No Apathy Allowed
Day Ten: Yellow
Photographs: August Break 2016 | No Apathy Allowed
Day 15: Love is…

There are still a few more days left in August (thank goodness!), so I’ll be back towards the end of the month with more photos. Or if you can’t wait, follow me directly on Instagram!

Training | Bremen Half: Week 5

Via DailyMile

Yesterday afternoon I was glued to the screen for the entire women’s Olympic marathon from start to finish via livestream. Need some extra motivation for your own training? I highly recommend watching elite runners compete, especially under difficult conditions like the high temperatures and humidity in Rio. The US team was a power house, with Shalane Flanagan, Des Linden, and Amy Cragg coming in 6th, 7th, and 9th — I think it’s best US performance ever as a team. And I was totally floored that Germany’s top finisher Anja Scherl (44th place with 2:37:23) — who qualified for the Olympics with a third place finish in the same Hamburg Marathon that I ran — has a full-time desk job and trains for marathons on evenings and weekends. Amazing! (There are no excuses, I guess.)

So, what did my week of training for the Bremen Half Marathon look like? The distances and cross-training workouts are slowly on the increase…

Monday: 40-minutes on the stationary bike. This is definitely not my favorite form of a workout, but my legs did feel like jelly afterwards, so I suppose it’s having the intended effect.

Tuesday: 4-mile easy run + 15-minutes strength training.

Wednesday: Planned rest day. Time for my monthly massage, yay!

Thursday: Unplanned rest day. Another long work day trying to meet a deadline.

Friday: Speed training. 10 minutes warm-up, 7 x 400m, 10-minutes cool down. I’m getting closer and closer to my target pace here, so it seems like I’m doing something right. Maybe by my next speed session in two weeks, I’ll make it (although the number of repeats increases every time, making it more difficult).

SaturdayEasy 30-minute run. How can you tell when you overdo a training run? When your easy run the next day feels like death. Yeah, I was definitely dragging.

Sunday: 8-mile long run. My GPS didn’t kick in until about half-an-hour into my run (seems like a pattern), so I just relied on my pre-measured route. Legs were definitely still tired and my shoulders and arms were stiff because the day before I hauled my new end table up all of the steep steps up to my 3rd floor apartment. But I powered through and enjoyed some good foam rolling afterwards while watching the Olympic marathon.

All in all: I’m happy with my mileage and hitting all of my planned workouts. I’m still not a fan of bunching up the majority of my runs over the weekend, but I guess it’s better than not getting them in at all. Same story as last week with my strength training — I’m gonna keep trying to get them in!

Which Olympic events are your favorites? Did you watch yesterday’s marathon?