Sunday, November 30, 2014

A (not so) short marathon report

If I ever get the stupid idea of running a full marathon during wintertime again, please smack me in the head with something hard. Like, really hard.

I don't want to be too lengthy in my descriptions of the difficulties of running with numb feet, or trying to open energy gel packets on the go with lobster claws where hands should be. Neither am I going to overly stress how tricky it is to drink water from a squeeze bottle when you can't feel your lips. Or hands. (Meaning, no squeeze.) Well, then you can always drink the water provided at the water stations, right? You just need to remove the ice layer floating in the cups first. And then swallow the freezing liquid. When you're already numb from cold, everywhere.

Then, as you eventually cross the finishing line and someone hands you a power bar (which you can't get out of the box without help - lobster claws, remember?) and a water bottle (whose cap there is no chance whatsoever you will be able to unscrew), it's a little problematic to hold on to the aluminum foil blanket they hung over your shoulders, so you lose it immediately but are too stiff to bend down and get it so you leave it. You then limp all the way to the bus stop in wet, sweaty clothes, carefully cradling the water and energy bar you so badly need but can't uncork/unwrap. When you get there, the bus is waiting at the stop but your legs just won't move fast enough so you inevitably have to see it leave right before you get to it. When the next one shows up about 15 minutes later you almost cry of joy, and then you almost cry for other reasons as you try to enter the vehicle. The bus driver sees your struggle to lift one leg after the other in some sort of organized manner, and loudly exclamates OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH!!! so that everyone in the entire bus stares at you as you not-so-elegantely flop down on a seat. Then you almost cry again as an older gentleman solemnly applauds your effort (because you're still in marathon gear; bib, medal and all).

Finally, when you get off the bus (not very elegantely either) your entire body has started shaking uncontrollably to the point where you're nearly incapable of getting the house key into the lock. (Again, lobster hands are not helping.) Once inside, you see yourself in the mirror and get a slight shock. What the heck have you been eating, and how did you get it all over your mouth? It almost looks like dirt! You're confused, until you realize that it's neither dirt nor food: your face has become blue from the cold.

At this point, only one thing matters: to get warm. So you do the only right thing: fill your bathtub with hot (!) water, bring a cup of hot (!) tea to the tub, plus the power bar and water bottle you still haven't been able to get to. When the water gets too cold, you empty the tub and continue with a hot (!) shower. To hell with global warming; all that matters is that your icy bone marrow melts.

So... Without going in too deep into detail of my endeavours (I really don't want to bore you) I'll just conclude that running marathons in negative Celsius is not my thing. But damn, did I do well! 03:35:55, ladies and gentlemen.

Pre-race mirror selfie. (Yes, I look a little tense, because I was a little tense.)

A closer look at the result.

The course.

I'm now sitting in my little Christmas-decorated place, happy and proud, and still full from the late brunch that David and Amelia treated me to after I regained some color to my face (anything but blue).

Perhaps I should try a summer run next time...? (Hah.)

Thank you all, for encouragement, thoughtful comments and happy cheer! It means the world to know that you've all got my back, and that I can share my happiness with you. Extra gratitude goes to Paprik, for excellent long-distance coaching (in dual sense).

Love to all!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ready, set, go!

It's 9:15 Saturday evening and I'm going to bed in about 30 minutes. This, my friends, is the life of a marathoner. Granted, I have no idea what the other runners are doing tonight, but I'm guessing few of them are out partying. My alarm is set for 4:55 am, which leaves plenty of time for a hearty breakfast to settle before I take off towards Seattle Center and the 2014 Seattle Marathon.

The starter pistol fires at 8:15 am (17:15 CET), and powered by a combination of stubbornness, stamina and good fortune I'm hoping to cross the finishing line sometime before noon (21:00 CET). Supposedly, those who are interested should be able to get continous updates on my progress through Twitter. Otherwise you can check the results afterwards, and search for either my name or bib No. 691.

But as all Swedes are well aware, tomorrow is not just marathon day; it's also Advent Sunday, marking the start of the season of Advent. Without coming off as a religious nutcase, let's just say that to me it signifies the official countdown to Christmas, or rather, the first day that it's actually okay to listen to Christmas music and indulge in holiday treats. Besides mentally preparing for tomorrow's challenge I spent the day scrubbing and dusting my little place, and then decorating it with some essentials. Advent candles, check; calendar candle, check. And then some glittery stuff.

Lovely, innit?

Have a cozy advent morning folks, and I'll see you on the other side...!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Things that make sense in some parts of the world

Holiday season is upon us! BRING OUT THE CHOCOLATE SALMON!

I just... I don't... No.

(Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Writer, check. Photographer, check.

Imagine my surprise when a photo I shot in May for a Thank you-package to some generous donors suddenly showed up in my Twitter feed today. Following the link, I found this nice little collection of quotes from patients, researchers and other Fred Hutch staff, all in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

My lab bench and some utensils; a contemporary still life from the reality of another grateful individual.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Classy sassy

Saturday brought another first for me: a classical concert at Benaroya Hall. Seattle Symphony played Beethoven's Fifth, and judging by my untrained ear they did so quite well. Better yet were the Gioacchino Rossini and Ottorini Respighi pieces, which were slightly more to my taste in terms of musical qualities, but the entire evening was highly enjoyable.

Seriously, any excuse to dress up nicely, have a cocktail and experience something new is a success in my book; another addition to my list of I-should-totally-do-this-more-often items. (It's getting longer and longer...)

Sunday, November 23, 2014


My friend Isaac sent me a link to this video about the incredible supporter culture that thrives in Seattle; a fun little film that I recommend to anyone that's curious about the atmosphere at a Sounders game.

The coolest part is that it was filmed during the playoff game against FC Dallas on November 10; a game that we happened to be at. What's more, a lot of the footage was shot from the ECS (Emerald City Supporters) section at the arena; i.e. the section we were in. In fact, the reporter was standing just a couple of rows in front of us. Provided almost-x-ray vision and knowledge about our exact location, it's therefore possible to catch nanosecond-glimpses of us here and there during the clip, for instance around 2:28 and 11:58.

I might be hiding behind someone's armpit, but I'm there. (Wearing my Sounders scarf, of course.)

Have a look-see, why don't ya?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The November issue

For each edition of the Fred Hutch newsletter Science Spotlight one of the five editors is appointed head editor and thus bestowed with some extra tasks and responsibilities. We go by a rotating schedule, and if the November issue looks stunningly credible or surprisingly kooky, this person is to blame:


Anyhow, here are the two articles I wrote for this month's edition:

The two faces of NKG2D
AAT: A double whammy for leukemia

Read! Ponder! Form a study group!

Finally, before you say it; I know, I need to learn how to be more concise. (I just love words too much!)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Baby, it's cold outside

Cold outside, cold inside. Biting, yet beautiful. (Painfully so, if you ask my hands.) Last week brought gorgeous weather, with clear skies and spectactular colors at dusk and dawn.

A few snapshots from my everyday walk to work; a treat to mind and eye.

Hello! A happy gal in her new Betsey Johnson beanie. The bow on top doesn't quite show in this pic, but I can assure you that it's super cute (yes, I know you were worried).

Pink skies on the way back home.

November at its very best!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

No need to go postal

Mail! Ragged, patched, torn and bandaged mail. Postal services of the world, you sure do a... job. Of some sort.

Nevertheless, packages from mum are always a treat, no matter how much tape it takes to keep them together. Crossword puzzles, glögg napkins and a calendar candle; I'm all set for November and December. Amazingly enough, the candle was intact, even though it looked as though the envelope had been run over by a caravan of lawn mowers. A genuine Christmas miracle!

Tack mamma!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bonfire night

Remember, remember, the fifth of November...

Seriously, it was four days ago; if you don't remember it you might want to have that checked out! You may not be fully up-to-date with the events that took place on November 5th 1605, however. On that night, Guy Fawkes was arrested while guarding some 20 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars underneath the House of Lords of the British Parliament; gunpowder that was part of a failed plot to assassinate King James I of England.

Long story short: the catholic conspirators were caught, tried in a court of law and found guilty of high treason. Their punishment: ugh. (A not-so-pleasant death.)

Anyhow, the Brits commemorate the failure of the so called Gunpowder Plot with fireworks and the burning of Guy Fawkes effigies. Friends of mine in Seattle figured that this is as good an excuse as any to gather a bunch of people, eat well, drink well and have a big fire. For the fifth year in a row, they therefore arranged a bonfire party at their farm outside of Lacey, WA yesterday. We were in luck; the weather was wonderful all day, and as darkness fell around us we were warm and cozy under the starry sky, telling stories accompanied by the comforting sound of the crackling fire.

Looking through my photos I realize that the actual burning of our straw man looks quite horrifying, but I can assure you that it was  less dramatic than it seems.

A fascinating tradition and an extraordinary night, in the company of some really tremendous people.