Arts and Culture, Food, Travel

Love and Life: The Great Balancing Act

We’re one month into 2015, people. How’s the year been so far? For the Ninja Turtle, it’s been a whirlwind of travelling, work and training. After two months away in Australia and Singapore, she’s also been bouncing back and forth between Metz and Fromereville, not to say her brief stints in Paris and Frankfurt. Although her new job permits her to work from home, she’s still putting in anywhere between 7 to 9 hours a day, plus the few hours on weekends too, depending on how much needs to get done. As some readers may have also guessed, she’s stepped up her training this year, logging double the distance in her weekly mileage as she did this time last year.

Suddenly, the Turtle’s got to commit an extra ~10 hours a day to things she never did before, and still she’s only got 24 hours in a day. Between running, seeing the world, and doing a job she absolutely loves, her life is full to the eyeballs, and for that, she is grateful. It’s taken three long years to get it all together, which is why this weekend, she’s turning her attention back to someone who’s helped make it possible.

It’s taken time and a few loud and emotional conversations, but GodzillaPin’s finally adjusting to the new dynamics of the relationship (less home-baked cookies, slightly messier apartment, but a less anal-retentive Ninja Turtle who’s too tired to really give a damn about the small stuff anymore). Yes, with every change, no matter how positive and exciting, comes the need to adapt, and when one is in a relationship, these changes affect the other person too.

The run in the snow and ice last week led to a niggle in the Ninja Turtle’s right foot, so after 3 more training runs when the niggle made itself more and more apparent, the Turtle’s decided to take a whole week off training. Yup, ONE WHOLE WEEK of no running. No guilt for it either (hear that, buddy?) Why run a small problem into a big one, when taking a short break can avert a potential stress fracture or something worse? The Ninja Turtle learnt from her first marathon training, that if you insist on training through the pain, you eventually miss more important workouts. It’s a small compromise to make, missing the 28 miles in her cut-back week to run the 58 miles in the following build-up phase. At worst, she’ll lose a bit of fitness and gain a pound or two. At best, she’s not risking burn-out before the race.

Suddenly, with training out of the picture for a few days, she’s got TIME! And this weekend, she turned her gaze back to GodzillaPin, happy man. Saturday was spent shopping, eating, and strolling around town in the freezing cold, but the photo of the boathouse on the Moselle river made it totally worth it. They came home and made ground beef fajitas, guacamole, and a salad of corn, tomato and cucumbers for dinner, watched a really bad film, and fell asleep bitching to each other about how awful the movie was.

Sunday started with the most romantic gesture on GodzillaPin’s part – doing housework. OK to be fair, it was tidying up the basement a.k.a wine cellar, and they did it together, which made mucking in the dust actually kinda fun. Then, since it’s the first Sunday of the month (which means free entry to some museums in France), it was off to Nancy!

The Parc de la Pépinière was almost soulless in the dead of winter...

The Parc de la Pépinière was almost soulless in the dead of winter…

And yet, its emptiness just added a surreal charm to its beauty.

And yet, its emptiness just added a surreal charm to its beauty.

The museum they visited was the Musée des BeauxArts de Nancy, and they both agreed that it was by far their favourite Fine Arts museum among the many they’ve visited around Europe, and in their opinion, even better than the one in Dijon. The Ninja Turtle loved two things about this museum – the tableaux were enormous and added to the grandeur, AND the sequence of display started with the most recent art and moved back in time as one ascends the upper floors. Too often, museums start with antiquity, and by the time you reach the 18th century, you’re tired, need to pee, sit down and have a coffee, and you don’t care about anything that comes after Louis XIV.

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Then, it was off to a late lunch.

GodzillaPin (sporting his new 'stache) found a chic little bar for their "date"...

GodzillaPin (sporting his new ‘stache) found a chic little bar for their “date”…

It was supposed to be all romantic with flowers, candles and red wine...

It was supposed to be all romantic with flowers, candles and red wine…

But of course, a date is only as good as the food. So they ordered burgers. The Ninja Turtle's last burger was in Sydney with Sonic the Hedgehog on Melbourne Cup Day.

But of course, a date is only as good as the food. So they ordered burgers. The Ninja Turtle’s last burger was in Sydney with Sonic the Hedgehog on Melbourne Cup Day. She’s feeling more guilty about this than she is about missing her training, but damn, it was an awesome burger.

So that’s it, a weekend of investing some time and attention in the relationship. It’s a nice change from the routine of “how’s your day”, “we need to do our grocery shopping tomorrow”, “please lock the door behind you”, “don’t leave your clothes in a stinky pile on the floor we have a clothes basket for that” to hold hands and run in the snow, make silly remarks and crack stupid jokes, and indulge in the little pleasures of life like fine art and good (but oh so bad for you) food.

Do you feel guilty for missing a run, even if you’re sick or injured? Why?

Would you consider your partner a good friend too? How do you keep the flame strong in your relationship?

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Running

Night Running – Nancy Trail des Lumières

After being benched a couple of months by her physiotherapist for sciatica, the Ninja Turtle only managed to get back into something vaguely resembling a running routine in the beginning of September. She’s managed to increase her mileage safely and carefully without risking recurrence in the injury by 1) sticking to the 10% rule and 2) completing 95% of her runs at an easy pace. As such, she found herself eight weeks on, toeing the starting line once more.

This is not just any race, though. For the very first time, the Ninja Turtle decided to participate in a night race!

This is not just any race, though. For the very first time, the Ninja Turtle decided to participate in a night race!

As the Ninja Turtle made a very last minute decision to register for the 10th edition of the Trail des Lumières in Nancy, and given how she’s only restarted her training, she went for the shortest distance – the Trail des Loupiotes – a very feasible 12km. The more hardcore runners chose from the 20km or the 32km races.

Trail runners know the importance of looking out for trail markers, but especially so at night. The organisers scared us by announcing that some "conards" had removed the markers earlier that day, but they'd gone to re-mark the paths as visibly as possible, so all was good.

Trail runners know the importance of looking out for trail markers, but especially so at night. The organisers scared us by announcing that some “conards” had removed the markers earlier that day, but they’d gone to re-mark the paths as visibly as possible, so all was good.

The Ninja Turtle, getting geared up for the race. This race had the electronic trackers on anklets for the runners, which was a first for the NT.

The Ninja Turtle, getting geared up for the race. This race had the electronic trackers on anklets for the runners, which was a first for the NT.

The organisers staggered the departure for the various distances, and the 32km runners started off at 5.30pm (while the sun was still out and Nancy was basking in a gloriously warm 23C), the 20km runner at 6.00pm (when the sun started dipping in the sky) and the 12km runners at 6.30pm (when the Ninja Turtle knew she’d done the right thing to change out of her T-shirt and into her long-sleeved top). Dressing for night running isn’t at all like preparing for a day-time race, and getting all the kit ready takes three times as long.

The Ninja Turtle at the starting line dressed like a Christmas tree. For the first time, she is wearing a night light, a whistle, a hydration pack, and a heart rate monitor. Reviews on these to follow shortly.

The Ninja Turtle at the starting line dressed like a Christmas tree. For the first time, she is wearing a night light, a whistle, a hydration pack, and a heart rate monitor. Reviews on these to follow shortly.

As usual, GodzillaPin was very supportive, and managed to make his way to several points along the race course to take photos of the Turtle. It’s still a mystery why he doesn’t participate in these races himself.

The Ninja Turtle posing for the camera.

The Ninja Turtle posing for the camera.

The view of Nancy from the top of the hill which the runners - and GodzillaPin -  ascended.

The view of Nancy from the top of the hill which the runners – and GodzillaPin – ascended.

As night fell, the lights came on.

As night fell, the lights came on.

It is one thing to run in the dark. It is quite another to run in the dark on a forest trail. GodzillaPin’s photo, brilliant as it is, will never be able to capture the real experience of nighttime trail running. As the runners enter the forest, some unseen guiding hand sets them in single-file with no fuss or complain. Sure, it’s a race, but it’s also about the experience, having fun, and staying safe.

Most runners were very polite, and offered to yield the path for others to overtake, which was very often declined. Conversations began among strangers, and soon, some weird bond was developed as runners bunched into their little groups, chatting and running in camaraderie. Above all, in the darkness of the forest trail, not only did the runners have to contend with roots, rocks, and holes, the mud was unbelievable after a week of rain. Runners were calling out “root” or “careful it’s slippery here” or “hole ahead” and the message would be passed down the line like a game of broken telephone, except it wasn’t broken. Collisions happened, as did slips and falls, but on the trail, when this happens, the other runners tend to stop and check you’re OK.

Trail running is hard. In that short 12km, the Ninja Turtle found herself trying to unglue her shoes from mud that was as soft as chocolate mousse, climbing up slippery slopes with over 40% incline (thank goodness they were short distances), and wading in water as she crossed a stream at the 9th km. When she left the forest trail and re-entered civilisation through a park, she was momentarily lost as there were two possible options but no runners ahead in sight. She waited till other runners caught up, and together they hunted for a trail marker before setting off together. Her night light was reliable but it pointed straight ahead when she needed it to angle downwards so she could see where to put her foot. Her entire focus was on the run – constantly checking how she felt in her legs, feet, lungs, and heart, scanning the environment, gauging the distance between herself and other runners, and keeping her eyes peeled for trail markers.

In short, it looked NOTHING like her usual run, where she could mentally switch off and let her body just go through the motions.

It was also one of the most incredible experiences in her life.

Entertainment as the Ninja Turtle approached the finish line - a clown juggling with fire.

Entertainment as the Ninja Turtle approached the finish line – a clown juggling with fire.

This was the moment when the Ninja Turtle, while sucking on a post-run orange and feeling very pleased with herself, decided that she can finally call herself a true "runner".

Covered in mud, sweat and cheers… Trail runners are filthy animals, and that’s the way we like it! This was the moment when the Ninja Turtle, while sucking on a post-run orange and feeling very pleased with herself, decided that she can finally call herself a true “runner”.

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Travel

Super Sunday – A Frolicking Good Time

When left to their own devices, GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle have a fashion of clearly distinguishing the week and its end. Gone are the wholesome meals and waking at reasonable hours, as they fall into bed at 2, rise with a throbbing headache and proceed to feast on sparkling wine, Stilton cheese and crackers.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The first (and foremost) glorious thing this weekend was the weather – we got a few hours of sunshine and the type of stifling heat that precedes rain. It got so hot during our walk out to the farmers’ markets that GodzillaPin stripped off his layers. Unfortunately for all, this meant seeing him in pyjamas. Sort of.

Sun! In mid-October!

Sun! In mid-October!

There is something of a tradition to buy a roast chicken at  the markets for our Saturday lunches. In summer we tear it apart and rustle up a salad with leafy greens, peaches and vinaigrette, while autumn called for a more warming spinach stew. Versatile stuff, whole roast chickens.

Yet this time, something else excited the duo even more. While strolling through the markets, GodzillaPin was frozen in his tracks by the sight of the most beautiful array of squashes he had ever seen. There were squashes big and small, green squashes, yellow squashes, orange squashes, squashes he didn’t know the names of… It was squashy (peachy, but with squashes).

GodzillaPin pondering a nosedive into the lot.

GodzillaPin pondering a nosedive into the lot.

The Ninja Turtle got an even better find. After hunting for a year and half through all of this Gallic nation, making fervent enquiries from Auvergne to Bretagne to Lorraine, she finally found what had been haunting her dreams since leaving Australia:

I don't care that France has got 500+ varieties of cheese, nothing even comes close to replacing a Stilton

I don’t care that France has got 500+ varieties of cheese, nothing even comes close to replacing a Stilton.

Pleased with their bounty, they made their way home, believing they have seen it all. Were they in for a shock when the after-lunch stroll saw them bumping into one of these contraptions.

You know how in Japan, one can purchase some really weird things (we won't be explicit here since family members are reading this, but some of you will immediately catch our drift)

You know how in Japan, one can purchase some really weird things (we won’t be explicit here since family members are reading this, but some of you will immediately catch our drift) from a vending machine? Well, they’re amateurs ‘cos here in France…

The next time, dear reader, you run into a snooty French person or someone acting like French cuisine is superior in all the human race, gently point out that in France, one can buy baguettes from a vending machine. The mind boggles.

We also got a taste of the South this weekend in Nancy too, at the 40th edition of the Nancy Jazz Pulsations.

We attended both the Friday and Saturday night concerts, but it was far more enjoyable the second night, when the air wasn’t thick with marijuana and the music loud enough to penetrate the marrow. Our unanimous favourite was Alex Hepburn, though Ibrahim Maalouf was a very close second.

So that was the weekend for GozillaPin and the Ninja Turtle. Now they will lay low and try to recover from the wine, cheese and jazz hangover before another week commences.

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