Do Damage: Dublin Edition

The past eighteen months or so have been stressful.  There has been a lot of uncertainty in my career and personal life.  There has been a lot of frustration and a newly developed disdain for bureaucracy that came along with this uncertainty, and I am grateful that I have running, hiking, and cooking (and a great Support Crew) as releases for that.  It’s safe to say that I was looking forward to this marathon training season to help me navigate this rut.

That is until I ventured back to New England for an overdue visit.  A double-edged sword, it was wonderful to see family and friends, but the training season that I was so looking forward to succumbed to the heat and humidity.  My training lagged and I lost more fitness than I anticipated.  I hoped for the best, but didn’t bounce back quite as well as I had hoped as the season came to a close.  My paces were off and I made the mistake of comparing them, split-for-split, to last season.  Knowing that each season was run under very different circumstances, I still beat myself up over it.

After a quick vent sesh with a friend, I shook it off and adapted my plan.  Reflecting on the sheer exhaustion of the year, I let go of my time goal and switched to an “In It To Finish” mindset, and looked forward to a fun Irish getaway that just happened to include a wee 26.2 mile fun run.

I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the other little thing that has been affecting me and many people that I know: I read and watch the news.

The news has been disheartening lately.  Seeing horrific acts of violence and hatred and watching so many lawmakers vote against logic, seemingly neglect compassion, and attack each other leaves me with the impossible question of “why?”  In addition to several facets of anger, it makes me feel small and a bit useless.  It makes me wonder if we’re still on the same team here.

I won’t digress too much into this, because I’m sure you feel similarly and know that finding words to accurately describe your feelings towards the current state of affairs is an impossible task, but this weekend, I remembered that there is a way to restore your faith in humanity: be part of a marathon- run, walk, volunteer, cheer, honk your horn while you drive by- just be part of it.

Okay, so here’s a rundown of the 2018 Dublin Marathon:

“Fresh” isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe how I felt as I toed the start line of the 2018 Dublin Marathon (although I wore compression socks to bed the night before, so my mind felt like my legs felt fresh).  I’m sure it would be lovely to start a marathon feeling “fresh” and confident in your training and the amount of rest you got in the weeks leading up to the race, but I’d say it was more of a “Here Goes Nothin'” kind of feeling.  The usual nervous-excitement, butterflies-in-your-tummy feeling was there, but I also felt like, “wow literally anything could happen in the next 4.5 hours, and I’m excited to find out what will happen next.”

It was an absolute battle, but I felt strong, physically and mentally, the entire time.  Not once did I second guess myself or question the idea of the marathon.  And for the first time in over a year, I felt in control.

Right out of the gate, I was running too fast compared to my watered-down season of training.  It was a challenging pace, but I went with it.  The fatigue and discomfort that naturally set in every time around mile 16, while incredibly present, were no match for my ability to run on auto-pilot.  I never walked, knowing that if I slowed or came to a stop, starting back up again would be nearly impossible and incredibly painful.

The entire journey from start to finish was entirely renewing.  It restored my faith in humanity, as marathons tend to do.  Seeing human barricades of spectators lining the streets with witty signs, demanding high fives, and shouting words of encouragement reminded me that people are good and we are all still on the same team.

And the encouragement wasn’t limited to the sidelines.  Other runners lifted each other up and pushed each other physically and mentally closer towards the finish line.  I was genuinely asked on several occasions how I was doing, and honestly, I don’t think it was limited to the task at hand.  We offered each other snacks and broke down the course for each other- “It’s just a 10km now, an hour at most!” I said to a runner, struggling as her GPS watch rang in the twentieth mile.  “That’s 5km, two times!” someone else chimed in.  Twenty minutes (but what seemed like three hours) later, we remarked at what seemed like the longest 10km of our lives, but found comfort in the fact that everyone around us was also embarking on what felt like the longest 10km of their lives.

In the end, I pulled off a PB…and it felt good.  It felt challenging.  I finished in the best way you can finish a race- feeling like I couldn’t have gone any faster.  When my legs checked out, my heart took over and persevered onward to the finish line.

No stranger to crying in airports and on airplanes (happy and/or sad crying), I shed an actual tear on my short flight back to Glasgow Monday morning as I replayed the day in my head.  I can honestly say that every moment of the race was enjoyable.  It most definitely wasn’t easy, but the challenge, the pain, and the exhaustion, were all deeply personal and reminded me of my own strength, the strength of others, and the kind and supportive people in the world.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to my Support Crew (near and far), including the four lovely ladies I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with.  It would be impossible to train for and run marathons without a Support Crew.
  • Thank you to Dublin for putting on an incredible race! It was a gorgeous day and the atmosphere and support along the course were amazing.
  • Thank you, as always, to chocolate milk for being the most perfect, immediate, post-run recovery drink.

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The Power of Yet

I believe in the Power of Yet.  Job hunting has been a long, tedious, frustrating, and absurd process this time around.  Despite every rejected application, ignored enquiry, and being strung from one HR “professional” to the next, my faith that someday and in some way everything will work out and I will reach my goals has never wavered.  I’ve put in the work, done the research, written over 40 pages of essays for applications, I’ve prayed, sent countless positive vibes into the universe, and I’ve come up short every time.  But I have a goal, and I’m marching towards it.

Recently, I’ve learned not to listen to people when they tell you to “not worry” about something that means a lot to you.  If something means a lot to you, it warrants worrying.  Faith that everything will work out in the end is constant, but worry and frustration in the meantime only prove that what you’re tirelessly working towards will be worth it.

I’ll be honest in saying this has been a very trying year.  It hasn’t been easy to keep faith and remain positive.  I’ve taken several time outs for warranted break downs. My mental and physical endurance as a marathon runner have been tested, and I owe much of my strength to my Support Crew of family, friends, and ever-wise co-workers.

I’ve heard tales of fellow teachers and their tribulations in finding and keeping a teaching job.  Twistedly, this makes me feel better.  I’ve also been told I’m limiting myself, but I don’t have the energy to tell those people just how many jobs I’ve applied for and my reasoning behind every step I’ve taken.

The color-coded pro-con charts intensified to a new level.  Late nights of immigration research and job applications on top of my full-time job as a first year teacher in a foreign school system started to take their toll.  Countless unexplained rejected applications and outlandish waiting games between interviews and subsequent rejections have kicked what little confidence I started with square in the face.  But again, I run marathons for fun- I’m built to endure and I will.

This, combined with the dwindling clock of another expiring visa, forced me to do a lot of reflecting on my career.  I can confirm that I love teaching and I am still at a point where I really enjoy living abroad.  My current inability to land a job on either side of the pond leads me to believe that now is as good a time as any to go back to school and explore a side of Education that I am less familiar with than the rough and tumble world of High School.

While the plan to go back to school was “sorting itself out,” I made a trip back to New England where I stocked up on vitamin D and quality time with friends and family.  My training took a real hit because of the heat and humidity, the lack of proper long running routes safe from traffic, and a gaggle of friends and family saying, “let’s grab lunch and catch up,” “let’s grab a drink and catch up,” or “let’s grab ice cream and catch up.” While the latter may not seem like that horrible of a problem to face, the temporary loss of control over what and how I was eating combined with my watered down training plan affected my fitness, which is not something I enjoy with a marathon quest around the corner.

Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time with friends and family, got in some good hiking, a lovely beach week, and some long drives with my sister.  And now I’m back in the UK on the cusp of what I hope is a great year.  Quite the detour from where I thought I would be, but I don’t see this negatively affecting my long term career goals in any way, so I’ll continue to meander through life and learn all that I can while living the Power of Yet.  The best teachers are lifelong learners, no?

That’s all for now,

xoxo Christina Rose

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The Power of Yet

History, Beer, & Running (Part III): The Best of the Rest

Traveling to five different countries with five different languages and several currencies is exhausting.  At this point in the Runcation, I knew I would want something familiar.  So I made a stop in Salzburg to take in the views and a few Stiegl.  It was nice to know that I wouldn’t have to plan anything or navigate any new streets.  The thing about solo travel is that you need to be “on” 100% of the time.  It’s all you out there.  You need to plan, navigate, and communicate every step of the way.  Having a travel partner or group allows you to share this responsibility or at least take turns, but on your own, it’s a one-woman show, which is fantastic, but also physically and mentally draining.

It felt nice to go to a few of the old hangouts and viewpoints, including a refueling stop at Stiegl Keller, a hearty bowl of gulasch at Café Central, a solid people watching session in the Mirabellgarten, and a run along the Salzach and to Hellbrunn.  My legs were absolutely beat, but stopping in Salzburg made for a perfect holiday-within-a-holiday!

Just in time for a rest day, I boarded an old-timey train to Ljubljana.  The Slovenian capital has been on my list for a few years now and has been a top recommendation of several friends.  This cosy city didn’t disappoint and is perfect for wanders along the river and nice Slovenian wine.  I definitely didn’t stick to the three themes of the Runcation in Ljubljana, and I wasn’t exactly on my proper planning game, but I walked up to the castle, took a very rainy day trip to Lake Bled, sampled Slovenia’s honey liqueur, and enjoyed some Slovenian wine with a couple other travelers and education enthusiasts.

I was pondering a run one afternoon, but seasonal allergies and tired legs pondered otherwise.  So, I took a vote, and a run through Ljubljana did not happen.  This scenario perfectly captures the beauty of solo travel.

And just like that, I was onto the final leg of the Runcation and half marathon number two of the trip: Budapest.  This was my second visit to the Hungarian capital and second half marathon along the Danube.  After straying from the themes of the Runcation in Ljubljana, I jumped right back on them in Budapest:

History– I chose to do the Communist walking tour of Budapest.  The guide walked the group through life in post-war Budapest and painted a picture of the current political climate in the country.  It’s always a nice bonus as well, when the people in your tour group ask fantastic and relevant questions.  Speaking of relevance, later that day, I walked into a massive rally protesting the results of the country’s parliamentary election that took place just one week earlier.  It was interesting to see, but it didn’t take long for my fear of crowds to take over and navigate myself elsewhere.

Beer & Food– The last time I visited Budapest, it was Christmas Market Season- a joyous occasion.  This time around, the spring markets were up and running!  Here I was able to refuel with Hungarian gulasch, Hungary’s national dish, chicken paprikash, and what ever they had on tap.  I also sampled Unicum, the 80-proof Hungarian herbal liqueur.  My top recommendation for a trip to Budapest, however, is a meal at Kisharang Étkezde.  This gem in the heart of the city offers inexpensive, authentic, and hearty Hungarian cuisine.  I went for dinner after the race, and I was starving.  I started with csülkös bableves, which is a delightful ham, bean, and dumpling soup.  I then enjoyed hortobágyi palacsinta, which I can only describe as a magical cross between an enchilada and a pierogi but with a paprika sauce.  The combination of the two made for the perfect last meal of the Runcation.

Running– Before this, I had never attempted two half marathons so close together, but figured if my body can keep up with marathon training, then back to back races wouldn’t be the end of the world.  However, my legs wanted absolutely no part of it at this point in the trip, so I ran solely with my heart (15 April is a day where the heart tends to take over).  The pre-race logistics were a bit of a nightmare, and will probably prevent me from recommending this race, but the race itself was lovely (shoulder-to-shoulder for several of the first miles, but otherwise lovely).  Running this race was an absolute battle, and I left it all out there on the streets of Budapest.  Despite a frustrating Garmin malfunction in mile 3 that left me doing mental math for the next 10 miles, I can say with certainty that I couldn’t have run any faster, and that is a good feeling.  The chip time says I ran this race one minute and ten seconds slower than Bratislava, a consistent showing that impressed me.  I then spent the afternoon soaking my tired legs in the Széchenyi Thermal Baths.

All in all, I would rate the Runcation as a challenging success.  Two very consistent and quick races outran my previous half marathon PB, which was set in Glasgow in October 2017, and I am so grateful that this trip turned into an opportunity for several of my passions to collide.  Now that I’m back at work, it’s time to start planning the next adventure!  Stay tuned for that.  Click here if you missed Part I and Part II of this series!

Thank You Notes: Runcation Edition

  • Thank you to ice cream for being the most perfect snack for an afternoon wander.  The best part about being on holiday is that it’s pretty much expected that you break for ice cream around 1500.  No questions asked.
  • Thank you to fellow hostel-goers for plenty of stories, laughs, and travel recommendations.
  • Thank you to travel days for being a built-in rest day with scenic views.
  • Thank you to race medals for being the most perfect souvie.
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Home Sweet Salzburg

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Travel days are scenic rest days

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Rainy day in Ljubljana

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Budapest Half Marathon!

History, Beer, & Running (Part II): Beautiful Bratislava

Based on multiple reviews from trusted travelers, I had minimal expectations for Bratislava.  Not only was I pleasantly surprised by this charming city, but over the course of three and half days, it worked its way into my list of Top 5 Favorite Cities.  A bold statement, I know, so here’s the lowdown:

  • History– To get acquainted with this small city, I started with my go-to: a free walking tour.  This three hour lay of the land was fantastic, and easily one of the best walking tours I’ve been on to date.  The passionate guide walked the group through the history of her city, including its medieval, WWII, and communist histories.  She gave the history of Bratislava a very human emotion and bridged the past to the present while explaining the current and growing political unrest in the country.  She also gave an incredible recommendation for high quality and inexpensive Slovakian cuisine.
  • Beer & Food– Let’s start with the tour guides recommendation- Bratislava Flagship Restaurant.  This seat yourself, beerhall-style eatery offers scrumptious Slovakian cuisine and local beer.  Based on the tour guide’s recommendation, I had bryndzové halušky, which is a dish of gnocchi-like dumplings with a sheep’s cheese sauce.  Sprinkled with bacon, this national dish of Slovakia is an absolute delight.  I dined with a couple lovely Canadians who, together, sampled the bryndzové halušky, garlic soup, and potato pancakes.  They recommended all of it.  For beer, we had Kláštorný ležiak, which perfectly balanced out the richness of my meal.  The other food-related experience that pushed Bratislava higher and higher up on my top list of cities is Konditorei Kormuth.  For €15, you get 3 courses of dessert: a specialty coffee or hot chocolate, a piece of cake of your choosing, and a spirit of your choosing.  The decadent hot chocolate rivaled that of E. Wedel’s in Warsaw.  For cake, I chose the Esterházy torte, a favorite of mine from my studies in Austria.  And finally for the spirit, I chose Slovakia’s famous Tatratea.  The original tea liqueur boasts 104 proof, and the entire line of Tatratea ranges from 44 proof to 144 proof.  The entire dining experience at Koditorei Kormuth was complimented by the atmosphere and artwork of the cafe.  I definitely recommend everyone carve out a couple of hours of their time in Bratislava to enjoy this gem.
  • Running– Here we go, the moment we’ve all been waiting for.  The first half marathon of the Runcation.  My only goal was to finish.  I had been loosely maintaining my base of 10 mile long runs since February, but this trip came together fairly last minute, so I didn’t have time to properly train.  That being said, about 4 years ago, I made it a goal of mine to always be in reasonable fitness to complete a half marathon, and I suppose this was the first real test of that endeavor.  The race was fantastic and the course through Bratislava and along the Danube was fast.  It was my warmest run of the year to date, but I still managed a pretty sizable PB.  It was definitely a battle, but I felt strong.  My performance in this race was so unexpected that it made the victory so much more enjoyable and justified another serving of bryndzové halušky.  Also, the medal is of a fine quality.  The evening before the race, I went on the complimentary history run of Bratislava, which was one of the events of marathon weekend.  Talk about passions colliding!  This run reminded me of how strong and fantastic the running community is.  It was so nice to explore Bratislava with other runners.
  • Bratislava Bonus– Sculptures are scattered throughout the streets of Bratislava.  “Man at Work”, or Cumil as the locals call him, is a sewer worker who watches passersby in the heart of Bratislava’s old town.  According to the walking tour guide, many lighthearted sculptures like Cumil were added to the city to make the streets “more fun” after the communist regime.

Overall, I was impressed by my visit to Bratislava.  I went for the history, beer, food, and running, and all were met to the highest degree.  The next leg of the Runcation: a trip back to Salzburg, my home away from home(s).  Click here for Part III of the Runcation.  Click here if you missed Part I.

History, Beer, & Running (Part I): Easter in Poland

Life is funny.  Remember how I mentioned in my previous post how time is something we cannot control?  Well, roughly a week after moving back across the Atlantic, starting a job in Massachusetts, and publishing that post, I was offered a job in Scotland.  The color-coded pro/con flow charts made a resurgence, I consulted my Support Crew, I cried a bit, I accepted the job, I booked a flight, and the rest is history.  Well actually, I suppose the rest is History as well as Modern Studies, the two subjects I am currently teaching to the U.S. equivalent of grades 6-12.  A fantastic range of ages and part of the reason I was so keen to accept this position.

Alright, you’re just about caught up, so now I can move on to my 18-day solo adventure around Central and Eastern Europe.  I turned my school’s rather lengthy Spring Break into a little something I like to call the “Runcation”.  The first step in planning this trip was to look at the European half marathon calendar and connect the dots.  I chose two half marathons one week apart from each other and planned the entire trip from there.  Planning this adventure was an elaborate and exciting puzzle: linking one city to the next via bus tickets that could literally be paid for with pocket change and using hostels as a home base that offered free meals, free laundry, and a steady stream of fellow travelers to swap stories and travel recommendations with.  The Runcation had three major themes: history, beer (plus local cuisine), and running.

In each city, I had three goals:

  1. Explore history– this was usually done through free walking tours.  I didn’t do too many museums, as they were either closed for Easter, or the weather was too nice for me to want to go inside for longer than need be.
  2. Indulge in local beer and cuisine– I was incredibly strict on not letting the half marathons affect my eating and drinking game.  I thought of it more as a refueling strategy for all of the running, walking, and backpack carrying- averaging about 10 miles each day, sans running.
  3. Run– If not racing, just run and take in the sights of a new city.

So those were the parameters- a trip for passions to collide.  I put the necessities in my backpack and flew to Warsaw, where I was greeted with bitter cold, wind, and museums closed for Easter weekend.  Thankfully, this New Englander could handle it and did three walking tours in two days.  Here’s the breakdown:

  • History– The Old Town walking tour is a great overview of Warsaw’s history from its medieval walls to its WWII ruins and rebuilding.  I also enjoyed a few more specific walking tours, including Warsaw at War and Communist Warsaw- the former walking through Warsaw’s occupation and resistance during WWII, and the latter showcasing Warsaw’s post-war history through communist-style architecture.
  • Beer & Food– To escape a rainy afternoon, I went to a craft beer bar called Jabeerwocky.  Here they had about a dozen choices of craft beer on tap, many of which were local.  I also enjoyed Poland’s popular orzech laskowy, or hazelnut, wódka.  As for food, I ate my weight in pierogi.  Finally, I recommend a trip to E. Wedel Chocolate Lounge to sample Poland’s oldest brand of chocolate.  It was packed, so I got a takeaway bitter hot chocolate and it warmed my soul as I wandered the rainy streets of Warsaw.
  • Running– I didn’t want to, but I ventured back out into the rain and wind for an Easter run to Łazienki Park, home to Łazienki Palace.  The park was lovely, and the palace was fairly easy on the eyes too!  As always, I was glad I went for that run.
  • Pro Tip– Ask your walking tour guide for their top notch recommendations for places to eat.  They tend to point you in the direction of authentic and inexpensive local cuisine.

Then, after a couple hour’s bus journey, where I powered through some marking (need to maintain that work-life balance, right?), I arrived in sunny Krakow.  Of course, I was ravenously hungry, so after settling into the hostel, I went for a wander to find a late lunch.  I stumbled into the final afternoon of Krakow’s Easter Market and stepped right up to the pierogi booth.  Here’s the breakdown of my time in Krakow:

  • History– A couple walking tours helped me to get acquainted with this lovely city.  Krakow’s Old Town walking tour showcased, well, its old town, including Wawel Castle.  The WWII walking tour was an incredible look at Krakow during, well, WWII.  I suppose these are pretty self-explanatory.  My top recommendation for a trip to Krakow, though, is a tour of Auschwitz.  This history teacher was left speechless and reminded of the importance of studying and remembering the past. I’m not going to even attempt to capture it in words.  (Logistics: You can get to the site via public transportation or through a tour operator.  If navigating your own way via public transport, you will have to wait in line for a tour and are not guaranteed entry.  Going through a tour operator is more expensive, but guarantees you a tour and minimizes waiting time.)
  • Beer & Food– When traveling, I think it’s important to try the cheap beer that’s served in mostly every restaurant and bar and packs the shelves of convenience stores, AKA the “Local Bud Light”.  The hostel I was using as the home base offered free dinner every night, which included a free beer hour.  This was a fantastic opportunity to meet and share meals with other travelers and indulge in the local brews.  Poland is in no short supply of Tyskie and Żywiec, both of which can be found on tap mostly anywhere.  In terms of a local craft beer, I made a refueling stop at Ursa Maior during my afternoon wander through the Jewish Quarter.  Finally, I have to recommend Wódka, a cosy little vodka bar in the old town (Shout out to Babs for recommending this establishment for the past 4 years).  Here you can build a flight of six shots of vodka from an overwhelming menu.  The difficult part is narrowing down your choices.  My favorite was chili chocolate, but I don’t think there’s any surprise there.  Other than enjoying quintessential Polish beverages, I continued to eat my weight in pierogi for lunch, as breakfast and diner were provided by the hostel.  I really enjoyed this time to connect with other travelers, especially other solo travelers.
  • Running– I took advantage of a sunny afternoon and went for a run around the former moat of Krakow’s old town and up to Park Jordana, which was honestly a bit underwhelming of a park.  There were also a lot of youths there.  That’s okay though, I suppose they’re allowed to go outside too.  I digress.
  • Krakow Bonus– Spend a few hours wandering the Jewish Quarter.  There you’ll find street art, vintages shops, and a market.

After a wonderful few days in Krakow, I boarded a bus bound for Bratislava.  I didn’t want to leave Krakow, but I needed to get some more marking done!*

Teaser: What happens when you eat pierogi the entire week leading up to a half marathon that you signed up for with only a few weeks notice?  Read on to relive the magic of Bratislava with me, and the first race of the Runcation!  Click here for Part II and Part III of the Runcation.

*Denotes sarcastic tone

 

Seasons of Life

To every thing there is a season.

I find comfort in these words as I overstuff my suitcase for yet another transatlantic move.  The past six years since starting university have been full of many short and long-distance moves.  These moves tend to mark the end of one season of life and the beginning of another.  The seasons have different schedules, locations, responsibilities, people, and goals.  Though many of them have been short, the seasons of my life up to this point have been accompanied by many lessons.  These lessons have helped to shape my outlook on life and help me to navigate the seasons (whether they be welcomed seasons or not).  While difficult to explain, these three lessons attempt to sum it up:

  1. Take chances– It might work out.  It might not work out.  Either way, you learn a thing or two in the process.  In actions big or small, I have learned the importance of taking chances.  Do the research, weigh the pros and cons, make color-coded charts, consult your Support Crew, and then take the chance.  Two of my most incredible seasons of life (Austria and Scotland) were the result of chances taken.  It can be scary, and it can feel as though you’re being pulled in different directions, but that’s okay.  It’s okay to have no idea what you’re doing.  It would be boring if we had it all figured out, right?
  2. There are things you can control and things you can’t– This can be difficult to accept.  My current season of life is coming to an end because of factors I cannot control.   Unfortunately, I cannot outrun an expiring visa, nor can I topple the bulwark of bureaucracy that is preventing me from landing a job in the place I want to live.  When working towards a goal, I have learned to identify factors that I realistically can and cannot control.  On the way to achieving said goal, it is my job to take care of the factors that are in my control.  If I’ve worked hard and done my part and the goal is not achievable because of the factors I cannot control, then that goal is not meant to be reached…yet (I sometimes struggle to remember that time is a factor that I cannot control).  Side Note: For those of you who are aware of my ability to persevere and endure, I am not giving up on my goal of living and working abroad- I’m just taking a detour on the construction-filled, pothole-ridden, winding road of life.  “It’s exciting!” “I’m too blessed to be stressed!” I repeat to myself as I frustratingly shove everything I own into a suitcase, pretending that 20 kilograms is more than it actually is, and wondering why I collect rocks as travel mementos.
  3. Home is not a place, it’s a feeling– Since 2014, I have been fortunate enough to call three different countries home.  The northeast of the States is a place I call home because it is where most of my family is, it is where I was raised, and it is a region of the country from which I am proud to say I hail.  Austria is home because it is where I met a few incredible friends, took big steps out of my comfort zone, and became comfortable with my independent self, which gave me the confidence to find home in a third place, Scotland, which has been home for the past year and a half.  I initially embarked on this adventure to earn a Master’s degree.  Not only did I accomplish this mission, but I’ve also met some fantastic people, run some incredible races, and learned how to look the proper way whilst crossing the street (more or less).  Some people think that because I enjoy living abroad, I don’t miss “home” (aka the Northeast).  But I am here to report that this couldn’t be further from the truth.  While I am quite happy living abroad, I do miss friends, family, and familiar places from all of my homes.  These are, after all, the things that make a home.  It certainly isn’t easy to miss holidays, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and impromptu get togethers that turn into the best nights, but through all of this,  I have gained so much appreciation for my family, friends, and those familiar places.  I have learned to cherish them more, and  I have learned how to balance both forces of missing one home and being happy in another.  This balance is something that was difficult to strike at first, but understanding that it is possible to feel at home in more than one place has helped me to manage these forces.  This couldn’t have been more evident than when I was on the bus to the airport earlier today- a woman wearing a Red Sox hat sat down next to me.  Upon seeing this symbol of one of my homes, I got excited for my return, until .03 seconds later when I looked out the window of the bus, the only view in sight being Edinburgh Castle.  The forces battled and neither won out.

To every thing there is a season.  Taking comfort in these words brings peace to a move that is not exactly on my terms.  Luckily, seasons come back around, but in the meantime, it’s time to yield to the forces I cannot control, take a few chances in my career, work towards my 2018 goals, and spend some quality time with one of my other homes.  Ready or not, I start my teaching career in the morning.  All the best, Christina Rose.

Redemption in Reykjavik

For the past sixteen months, I’ve been running for redemption.  I’ve talked openly about my bittersweet and barefoot run through Boston and DNS in Berlin, and finally, I am pleased to report that I’ve run a strong marathon.  I trusted my training, fueled and hydrated properly, and left everything I had on the roads of Reykjavik.

A poor performance during a race that you trained oh so diligently for can be as frustrating as an unanswered text message, but a botched race can also motivate you through another training season, to the start line of another race, and on to another finish line.  You can also learn a lot from a rough run.  It was the pain of running Boston and the disappointment of sitting out of Berlin that fueled my fire this season.  Every long run, hill rep, lap swum, lunge, squat, wall sit, early morning spin class, and late night foot soak had some of this fire and a whole lot of heart (No matter the race performance, let us never forget the underlying reasons as to why we run).

After a training season that went strangely well, I boarded a plane for Reykjavik.  I’ve had many a stop over in Reykjavik, but this was the first time I got to leave my favorite airport.  I spent two lovely days exploring Reykjavik and Iceland’s Golden Circle.  I certainly didn’t dislike it, but since honesty is the best policy, I’ll also say that what I was able to see of Iceland definitely caters to tourists and receives a great deal of hype.  That being said, race weekend was still incredible, and I do recommend a visit to Iceland (specifically for hot dogs and Icelandic donuts).

In a twist of events, it turned out that I would be tackling this race solo, which added to pre-race jitters and sparked a bit of fear and flashbacks to the breathing-induced back pain during and after last year’s Boston Marathon.  With that as my last marathon memory, it was easy to wonder, “What if that happens again, but this time I am alone and in a foreign country?”  Thankfully though, I learned from my mistakes and was determined to not let that happen again.

Okay, now on to the good stuff.  The air was cool and crisp and the sun was shining as I headed out of the hostel and to the start line.  Right then and there, I knew it would be a good day for racing.

After a crowded first mile, I locked into a comfortable pace and pretty much checked out until mile 11 when I looked at my watch and thought, “Wait, when did I run 11 miles?”.  This was the first time I’ve raced a marathon with a GPS watch, and it definitely helped to keep me on pace.  The course was flat compared to what I am used to, which tends to bore me, but it was also incredibly scenic and the spectators were lively.  My new maple syrup fueling plan proved successful, as evidenced by no GI issues and a measly wall-hitting experience of roughly 4 minutes.  The last few miles ran along the coast and were very quiet.  My legs were tired, but on autopilot, and this was more of a mental challenge than anything else.  Luckily the scenery and blue skies were there to help me through.  Also, the smell of low tide put a little pep in my step so I could get back into town more quickly.  And suddenly I made it to another finish line, but this time feeling stronger than ever before.

I definitely missed the physical presence of my Support Crew and running buddies, but know that they were rooting for me from various corners of the world.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to all of the friendly runners and travelers at the hostel, race, and around town for sharing stories, advice, and travel recommendations.
  • Thank you to Reykjavik for an incredible race and post-race festival/fireworks show.  Iceland surely knows how to party!
  • Thank you to my Support Crew, a team of friends and family who have taken on a whole new role recently.  While they couldn’t stand along the race route with cowbells and wet paper towels, they were pretty fantastic at supporting from afar.  Furthermore, the Support Crew has consistently been by my figurative side lately, offering plenty of advice and perspectives on my post-Master’s degree quandary/waiting game.  I can’t express my appreciation enough for the Crew xoxo