Tuesday, May 19, 2015

News this spring

I realize I never got around to posting about Madrid. I wanted to upload pictures from Marius' camera, but that has been hard to remember the few times I go to Oslo. So I promise to post something with the pictures I took with my phone.

So news since Easter...

April 30th I logged over 1000 kilometers of running so far this year. I saw at the end of March that I could get myself to do it, and I did! It was a great night in Bergen for making that goal as well. June 1st I'll start my training cycle for the Oslo Marathon. My second attempt, so I'm aiming for anything better than 4:09:00 - my finishing time last year.

My shoes that carried helped me run past my 1000th km this year also surpassed their 1000th km of their lifetime

My favorite running spot lately is Fjellveien - a road which runs along the rim of the valley just above the city-
Great views of downtown, fresh air, gravel pathway.

Experimenting with some new ways to fuel - quinoa berry bowl
1 c. cooked quinoa, 1 banana, 1/2 c berries, walnuts, coconut milk

Marius and I have been hunting around for the right dog for us. He has a dog allergy, so we did lots of research. We have settled on Spanish water dogs. We took care of two for a breeder at the beginning of the month and they were the best. Very well-behaved and friendly dogs! Their names were Sookie and Lukas. Sookie is Lukas' mom and she is pregnant (due this week). I told the breeder that I want one of these puppies since the temperament seems to be good in this line. Looking forward to updates on their arrival this week!

Mom likes to keep her son on a tight leash

On May 6th, Marius and I celebrated 6 years together...but in separate cities. Wild to think it has been that long. Time flies! 

I'm still living at the house downtown, but in a month I will be moving back up to the apartment that Marius and I first lived in together. It will be a great homecoming. Marius hopes to be finished with the apartment in Oslo by the end of June. Fingers crossed he can keep up his hard work. This past weekend we assembled some drawers for the new kitchen. 

Looking forward to updating about our expected new addition and my marathon training.

17th of May is Norway's Independence Day - Here is Katrine (2nd from right) walking in Auckland!
Marius and I have our own tradition of rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge - best with sugar,
cinnamon and raisins) with spekemat (dried ham) and flat bread.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Research Technician

I have moved around the Sars Centre (for Marine Molecular Biology) a bit now since beginning here with a 50% position last November. Now I am moving my way up the ladder. Last week I began full-time as a research technician for the cnidaria facility (sea anemones).

My main responsibility is keeping the animals alive by regulating the tank system, feeding and washing the animals. I have become quite technical with the new position.

So in the morning when I come in, I prepare the food (artemia sea monkeys) to feed the Nematostella (anemones). And then prepare the batch of artemia due for feeding the day after next. Then I give them some time to eat. In the meantime, the resesarchers put boxes of animals in the incubators to stimulate reproduction. I pull out packages of eggs and fertilize them.

Cultivating brine shrimp/sea monkeys/artemia

The boxes get washed on a schedule - each one is done once a month. And that takes up most of my day. However, next week I will learn how to identify transgenic animals. So once the animals I fertilized go back up to the lab, the eggs begin to develop and a florescent dye is injected into the embryos. This dye tracks how the nervous system develops. Nematostella is a common species to do these tests on because they are so simple.

There are twice as many boxes as this that get taken care of in our facility. Two new research groups will start in the fall and also use the animals.  

Hydra are also taken care of in the facility. They are relatively labor intensive for such tiny critters.
So that is a look into my day, as of now. It's quite a tiring and active job, but I'm enjoying being employed full time. Also, still need to get those pictures from Marius to post about our Madrid trip last month.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Medio Maraton de Madrid - Race report

March 29th was the half-marathon in Madrid that I got from Marius for Christmas. It was my fourth half-marathon and I trained a solid 15 weeks to earn a new personal record. Prior to this race, my personal record was 1:47, set in Lisbon in March 2013...I was around 30 seconds shy last year when I ran in Bergen coming in at 1:48 - I forgot the exact seconds.

We had a few days in Madrid before the race, but I will write about those later when I can get the pictures from Marius' camera. The course looped the northern part of the city and finished in a very nice park. There were nearly 17,000 runners, and I definitely blended in with the crowd. Marius was much easier to spot with his blond hair. Even though I wore my American flag shorts, there were so many people that it would have been difficult for Marius to spot me through the crowd. So I encouraged him to do his workout and keep an eye out for me at 10:45am. 

The course was not flat, like I had thought it would be. Rather, it rolled up and down through the city. I had my Garmin clocking my time and I managed to maintain a steady pace that was significantly faster than the pace I ran in Lisbon, Portugal in 2013. The Madrid half was probably the first half marathon where I was actually bored during the run. There was no street-side entertainment like at the other races and fans only lined the remaining three kilometers.

Map and splits 1-13 (note it is minutes per km)

Splits for km 10-21.1

When I saw Marius at the 19th km marker I was worn out. It was the steepest incline of the race and I was really losing my speed having maintained such a good pace for most of the race. He said I still looked happy, but it's easy to see in the pictures from the 20th km that I was really worn out! My Garmin GPS watch beeped at 21.1 km and I stopped it to mark exactly the distance of a half-marathon. The Garmin website acknowledged it and gave me a new personal best of 1:41:48! However, that was not the same as the course. So I tried to maintain a good speed to cross the finish in record time. 

Official time 1:46, chip time 1:42....any of those numbers is a personal best. I am one very happy runner!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

722 km so far

This year I have happily logged nearly 450 miles in preparation for my fourth half-marathon, which will be in Madrid on March 29th. I have put in 15 solid weeks of dedicated training in hopes of setting a new personal best. To date, my best time for 21 km (13.1 miles) is 1:47, but I'm aiming for a sub-1:45! A couple of weeks ago I set a personal best in the 10k.. 45 minutes and 25 seconds. I bet if it had been a race then I could have shaved off more time.

I've been running 6 days a week. Occasionally this is twice a day, but only in the last couple of weeks when the sun has been shining and the days have gotten longer. Being in Bergen has made my training really enjoyable since we haven't had many days below freezing to create ice obstacles for me. I don't mind cold temps, but ice is not fun.

I haven't signed up for a marathon yet, but I will have to choose between Amsterdam and Oslo if I want to reach my goal of at least 5 full marathons before I'm 30. An ultra marathon is also on the to do list.

Today I signed my contract for my full-time job at the University/Sars Centre for Marine Molecular Biology. My main job will be taking care of sea anemones used for research - well, their embryos are used for research. One of the groups using the animals is researching how the nervous system evolved and how it develops. It's really interesting, so it will be neat to lend my skills in another field.

I've enjoyed that only working 50% means that I have more time to dedicate to running, so now I will need to come up with a better schedule. At the end of April, in conjunction with the Bergen Marathon, there is a half-marathon relay. Carol (the HR lady) and I are trying to convince a few more people to run for Team Sars. I volunteered to run a few of the legs, but not everyone at work is so eager to jog for a mile.

So tomorrow I am taking the train from Bergen to Oslo because it was cheaper than taking the plane. And then on Wednesday Marius and I are off to Madrid!! Updates of course to come of out trip, my race, and Easter skiing, but just had to write a little something for an update.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Birthday eve update

[Pretty mornings walking past Bryggen to work]
Not much has happened since the New Year besides for, what seems like, great job potential at the place I'm currently working (Sars Centre for Marine Molecular Biology). There is a full-time position opening up and they are hoping that I will be eligible  based on my visa requirements. I'll be handing in a new visa application tomorrow morning, so it will be a great birthday present if the police station can grant me temporary work permit while my new application gets processed. So that's happening. 

I have gone back to Oslo a few times the last couple of months, and we actually haven't gone up to the cabin. We went to Tylldalen to visit Marius' grandmother who is currently in a recovery home. The weather in Tylldalen was beautiful and I managed to sneak out for a run, but no ski since our skis are at the cabin. Marius' grandmother has her ups and downs. She is always in high spirits and enjoys playing games with us; usually cards or dice. 
[Can you see that Marius is in two places at once?]

[Cool old picture at Marius' grandma's house]

[New skis!]

Since my classic skis are at the cabin (classic = for classic style cross-country skiing), Marius bought me a skate ski kit as an early birthday present. Skate skis require longer poles and boots with ankle support, and the skis can't get wax on them (only glider) or else you won't be able to move. Skate skiing is faster, but definitely involves good technique. We found some relatively flat trails near our apartment in Oslo where Marius could teach me the basics. I was quite good on the flat areas, but I can't seem to get the uphill part just yet. We'll just blame the glide for now. We skied twice that weekend, but not since because the ski tracks are now just sheets of ice with temps in the mid-30's. I'll have to bring my new skis up to the cabin to try out the runs there, but the mountains are intimidating me because I'm afraid I won't be able to climb them. 

[Renovating the new apartment in Oslo]

[Hard running up the mountain]

This weekend Marius came to Bergen to visit me for my birthday. He got in Thursday night and stayed with our friend Knut, and picked me up from work on Friday and we picked up my birthday package from Mom and Dad. It was forwarded from Rigmor with a package from her and Tron inside as well. We walked around town a little bit and invited Knut and Ruth (another friend from Marius' college days) for dinner and games. The next day was full of entertainment. We walked around town a little more to window shop; Marius eventually bought himself a light raincoat and some "late winter boots". We got back to my place just in time to watch cross-country skiing on TV and have a light lunch. I convinced Marius to come for a run with me, which started out as only a 30 minute 5k and eventually turned into a 5k plus a mountain run up Fløyen. We felt good and tired afterwards as we went to the movies. I always liked going to the movies for my birthday. I even remember Grandma Jo taking me and Carolyn during our winter break to the movies, and it usually fell on my birthday. 

["Please don't disturb the invisible witch hunter"]
Today was more of the same. We woke up to seeing snow falling outside my window. We took a walk around my neighborhood and picked up some ingredients to bake while we watched the next day of the cross-country skiing world cup. We had planned on baking a cake, but I decided that I wanted to bake boller (raisin buns) and have ice cream instead. I thought it would be sad to rush to bake a cake before Marius would have to leave and just have a piece and have to put the rest away for another time. Had I thought of that before I would have had us bake the cake on Saturday, or Friday when our friends were over. Well well. Marius really mastered baking boller and kanelboller (cinnamon rolls). I have plenty left over to bring some to my colleagues tomorrow.

[Birthday rolls and buns baked by Marius]

So, in reflection. Tomorrow I'll be 26 (technically tomorrow night). I will be applying for my new visa, going to work, and then relaxing with a needed long run. I'm sure my 26th year will be better than my 25th, which was full of stress due to my immigration situation and limited job opportunities. There's lots to look forward to in this new year if things are now on the way up.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sleddogs at Synnfjell

This weekend before we go back to work, we headed up to the cabin for skiing. I went running today to train for my race, but skiing was great yesterday!

Today there was a sled dog race that went on the trails that we usually ski. There were 43 sled dog teams, some with only 8 dogs and others with as many as 16.

Phones have great editing programs now. It looks like I had Marius' fancy camera! (Mom and Dad: he forgot to bring it and his new mono-/tri-pods to test it out...doh!!)

Showing Marius a Diaz-family Christmas

It meant a lot to me that Marius came with me to Michigan for Christmas this year! Our bags were stuffed with presents when we departed Bergen/Oslo on the 13th at 6am bound for Detroit. When we arrived Marius greeted everyone working at the airport with a Merry Christmas, which spread a lot of smiles. Unfortunately, some of our gifts were confiscated...apparently all meat is prohibited from entering the US unless it has been boiled and sealed in a metal container. Sounded a lot like spam. So our gift of Norwegian smoked ham and lam sausage was given in spirit. At least the other gifts made it through!

[Upon arrival at DTW]

[Marius cutting down the tree]
Mom and Dad picked us up on time and we were tired. We had a hard time adjusting to the time zone since our flight just made us awake for the day, but after three days we were adjusted. We picked out our tree the day after arriving and Marius was given the task to cut it down after a fair amount of time of comparing several trees in opposite corners of the tree farm, which, in retrospect, we probably would have been satisfied with any of the trees we compared. Marius got to hear the usual frustration and arguing that comes with putting up the tree, and that gave him a good laugh. We also set up some lights outside. Marius loved that project and added a few more strands the following days, including dripping icicle lights. 

We drove up to Shanty Creek/Schuss Mtn to hang out with Katie and Justin. We stopped at the cross country ski shop and Marius bought himself a new pair of ski pants; however, when we arrived at the condo it was 50 degrees F and no snow! The bar next door (Ivan's), the outdoor and indoor pools and hot tub were also closed. But we had plenty of games and got to catch up. At least on the day we were leaving there was a bit of snow coming down. Dad's tip to bring the saucer sleds was great! We hiked up the slalom hill to sled down a few times and finally just before driving back south there was just enough snow for Marius and I to try the pine cone loop (a little 5km flat loop around the golf course). Unfortunately, we did not come back home to snow.

[The tree looks smaller than it was here]
[a little snow at Schuss!]

Carolyn got in a week after us. She did not get much rest at home before we all shoved in the car to drive up to Frankenmuth. Naturally, we ate an early dinner at the Bavarian Inn in the Edelweiss room; followed by viewing the glockenspiel, Bronner's and the Silent Night Chapel. It was a long day, but could not be passed up if I was going to give Marius a true Michigan Christmas experience. 

[So many choices! I brought home a cardinal ornament]
[A little overwhelming?]

Aunt Janine and Uncle Jerry came in to spend Christmas with us as well. Christmas Eve we drove down to St. Paul's cathedral in Detroit for midnight mass. Marius really enjoyed it! Christmas morning was a real treat as well. We all talked about only getting each other "little remembrances", but everyone went beyond expectations. My big gift from Marius is a trip to Madrid at the end of March and a spot in the half marathon there. 

[It's a Christmas Eve miracle!]
[Aunt Janine snapped a picture inside the cathedral]
[Looks like Santa found us this year!]
On the 26th we drove over to spend time with Mom's side of the family. This was the first year in a very long time that the whole family was all together, which made it extra special. The "Drunkles" took us skeet shooting, and Marius did the best out of all of us.


A visit home is not complete without visiting my group of friends from high school! Even though it is always a long time since we had last seen each other, it always feels like no time has passed. They are a great group of friends and I'm so thankful that they take time out of their busy schedules to come visit me. 

Now I'm in the Munich airport waiting for the flight to Oslo. We're sitting in the Lufthansa lounge thanks to Marius' gold card and we had a glass of champagne to toast to the new year. We have another 5 hours to go before we have to board our plane. Things are pretty closed down since it's New Year's Day...

Hope everyone had as nice of a holiday as I did! Thank you, family, for being such great company and hosts this holiday season. Love you all! Happy New Year!

Happy New Year / Godt Nyttår

Act for Arctic