Thursday, September 12, 2013

Celebrating Sara's birthday

Living a long distance relationship has been tough.  Going from seeing someone 4-5 days a week to seeing them once every month or so is hard.  But, when we do get to see each other it is all the more sweeter.  This past weekend, I traveled back to DC to celebrate Sara's birthday with her.

After a long week at work (hopefully, I will have time to blog about that later), I left for DC Friday morning and landed in DC that evening.  Sara had been hinting at a surprise for a few weeks and while waiting for my bag, she started giving me clues.  I quickly found out that we were spending the night at a bed and breakfast in Annapolis and then going sailing on the Chesapeake the next morning.  (A quick note on the B&B - this was my first stay at a B&B and while the place was lovely, I felt like it combined all the awkwardness of staying at someone's house with additional awkwardness of breakfast with strangers.  I'll give it a try again, but it's a bit of an unusual situation).

Due to jet lag and going to bed at like 1030, I woke up the next morning super early (430 or 5) and couldn't fall back asleep.   Eventually it was time for breakfast (which was delicious and a definite plus for the B&B) and then off to our sailing cruise.  Sara and I both thought we were taking sailing lessons, so we could learn stuff like, "How does sailing work?", "What's that thing called?", and "What's up with all the knots?"  Instead, it was more of a pleasure cruise.  We did get to steer for a bit (way harder than it looks), but no one got to climb any masts or make any knots.  The beauty of this was that it was a beauty of a day and there are few places better to be than on the Chesapeake on a glorious Saturday morning.

Captain Sara

Apparently that pretty sail is spinnaker (I did learn something)

Sailboats racing on the Chesapeake

Cruising on the beautiful boat

Back in the harbor

After sailing, we made our way back to DC and spent the day watching football.  Both our teams (Huskers and Aggies) were playing no-name opponents, so we headed to Sara's favorite sports bar (now also an Aggie bar) to watch both games.  Two of Sara's friends joined us to celebrate Sara's birthday.
Sara and her friends
On Sunday, I had to complete my long run for marathon training.  I am now up to 16 miles, which is a really long way.  I ran from Sara's house in Shaw to the White House, down Pennsylvania Avenue, around the Capitol, then all the way down the Mall and past the Lincoln Memorial to the Kennedy Center, across Memorial Bridge to Arlington and then down Mt. Vernon Trail, past the Pentagon, my old neighborhood in Crystal City and finished in Old Town Alexandria.  I was just about dead at the end and Sara magically appeared at the end of the run to pick me up.

That evening (after a needed nap), we went out to dinner at one of Sara's favorite DC restaurants, Le Diplomat.  Then, we went home where she opened up her present from me - two sets of pearls (one traditional, one more modern) that I ordered from China through a friend.  The smile on her face told me that she loved them.

Isn't she beautiful?  How lucky am I?

Then, sadly, it was Monday morning and I needed to leave to head back to Germany.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Half Marathon

Today, I completed my first ever Half Marathon.  A year ago, I seriously questioned whether I would be able to complete a 5k.  Go back and read this post.  I remember writing that post and downplaying how scared/nervous I was to do the 5k.  I actually made myself go run 5k on a treadmill the week before the race, just to make sure I could do it.  I thought about that today, when I cruised past the 5k mark during the half marathon.  The distance seemed almost short now.  Life has moved a long way in the last year.

So, I did almost no research about this particular race today.  I didn't know the course, how many people to expect, etc.  I knew the start time, the location and the distance.  When I arrived, I was amused to discover that there was a 10k and a half marathon, both of which started at the same time.  Everyone would run the 10k, and then the half marathoners would do another loop of the same course.  Just before the race, the MC gave a bunch of instructions in German, which I didn't follow (wasn't really trying).  I figured I'd just follow everyone else and that ended up working out just fine.  One of the biggest downsides of running two laps was the depression I felt when the leaders for the half marathon lapped me just before I finished my first lap.  Those guys were flying.

This was probably the smallest run I have done.  All told, there were probably about 1000 people running, but spread out over 13.1 miles, much of my run was quite lonely, particularly on the second lap.  Essentially, for the second half of the race, I ran by myself.  There were a few people about 50 yards ahead and 50 yards behind.  Another consequence of the small field of runners was the small number of supporters.  Crowds were very sparse and I never realized how much I enjoyed the cheering during a race.  And there were no fun signs, either.

Running this race was both very meaningful and kind of sad.  I ran the first lap without stopping or walking and made all the way to mile 8 before I walked at all.  Pretty damn sure this is the farthest I've run without any stopping and I was moving at a pretty good speed for me (around 10:30/mile).  In total, I walked probably less than 3 minutes.  I've spent the past 8 weeks or so training and was proud of how I was doing.  Yet, 90% of the field was ahead of me.  It still stings that I can put in all of this work, and still not actually be very good at it.  I am proud, immensely proud, that I completed this race.  Simply completing this race puts me into an elite group of people.  BUT, among the people within that group, I'm still not very good at it.

The second sad aspect of this race was that I didn't have anyone to share it with.  Let me be clear - I have plenty of support for my running.  Family and friends across, I believe, 5 continents offered me support through facebook and e-mail.  But none of those people live in Frankfurt.  I didn't have anyone cheering my on the sidelines.  I didn't get to high five any of my friends during the switchbacks.  No one met me at the finish line.  It wasn't the end of the world, but I kind of missed that.  (I fully expect to have supporters for the Frankfurt marathon.  Darmstadt was 1/2 hour away and it's a holiday weekend, so that made it harder).

The last few miles were a real killer.  As the course was set up, you went just past the entrance to the stadium at mile 12 (19km) and had to circle the stadium before coming back to the finish.  I honestly didn't feel all that bad at this point - I wasn't out of breath, my back didn't hurt, my knees were a bit mushy, but not awful.  I thought I might be able to give a little kick for the last mile.  So my brain instructed my legs to go a bit faster...and my legs refused.  Try as I might, I could not move any faster.  A group of three lazily passed me while chatting away the late morning (I abhor talking runners, they make it seem too easy) and I couldn't move any faster.  I had never had my body refuse a command like this before - it was a wholly unique and rather unpleasant experience.  After a half mile of this effort, I gave in and just made it my mission to finish.  No final kick was gonna come.

Anyway - my final official time was 2:19:59

Berlin in Pictures

I went to Berlin two weeks ago for work and stayed the weekend for fun.  I had a great time, met up with a number of friends from language training and A-100 and basically fell in love with Berlin (especially in comparison with Frankfurt).

Französischer Dom

Trabi Safari - you can rent these old East German cars to drive around Berlin.
This poor girl stalled out the car through two full lights.

Pergamon Museum - German archaeologists discovered ancient artifacts and
reconstructed whole, huge, structures.

Pergamon Museum - ancient market gate.  About 60% original pieces.

Bearlin has all of these statues throughout the city

TV tower - Alexanderplatz in East Berlin
TV tower close up

Berliner Dom (view from Alexanderplatz)

Sadly, I chose not to "basefly" off this 40 story hotel.  I am ashamed at myself.



The city bird of Berlin - the crane!

East Berlin building seen from Spree river cruise


Siegsaulle in the Tiergarten

Elephant entrance at the zoo

After work at the Brandenburg gate

Holocaust Memorial - Despite the fact that these stones look about the same height...

Some are much taller and shorter.  Walking down these paths is very disorienting.
The ground is uneven.  Noise carries weirdly.  People suddenly cross your path.  You can see forever
and nowhere at the same time.  Although completely inappropriate, it would make a fantastic location for
a tense chase scene in a thriller.

Street musicians in Potsdamer Platz

Pink pipes in Potsdamer Platz (apparently Berlin is built on a swamp and these pipes carry water to river).

Fancy car - a Bucati, I believe

Brandenburg Gate at night

Berlin Wall at East Side Gallery, plus a shoutout to my hometown of SHENandoah

Mural at East Side Gallery dedicated to those who lost their lives trying to cross the wall

Running at the Berlin Wall