Running

Race #5: Boucles de l’Acier

Spring has finally sprung! After two miserable races in miserable weather conditions (both being marathons no less), the Ninja Turtle finally lucked out and got some sunshine for her 5th race of the season, a 10K run in Florange, not far from the Luxembourg border.

This time round, GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle invited their neighbour Mickey Mouse to come along for a fun day out and extra moral support. Secretly, it was the Ninja Turtle’s strategy to make sure that GodzillaPin would be there at the finish line this time, instead of missing her YET AGAIN.

The race started at a local stadium, which was very convenient for warm-ups. Mickey Mouse helped pace the Ninja Turtle to make sure she was going fast enough to get the blood pumping, but not toe the line wasted.

The race started at a local stadium, which was very convenient for warm-ups. Mickey Mouse helped pace the Ninja Turtle to make sure she was going fast enough to get the blood pumping, but not toe the line wasted.

It was a small-town race, and only into its 3rd edition. The name Boucles de l’Acier literally translates to Loops of Steel, as it was 2 laps of 5km, and a reference to the local steel industry. There was a really dreadful smell as they drove into town, which was a cross between dead fish and chlorine. It was little consolation when they got accustomed to the smell though, because there were visual reminders of heavy industry.

How to die of black lung: run a race in a town which pumps out this much smog. Breathe. Enjoy. Keel over.

How to die of black lung: run a race in a town which pumps out this much smog. Breathe. Enjoy. Keel over.

It was a pancake flat course, and with the sun and light wind, conditions were perfect. The Ninja Turtle employed her usual “strategy” of going slow for the first 70% before picking up the pace at the end.

She even had time to stop for a mid-race kiss from GodzillaPin.

She even had time to stop for a mid-race kiss from GodzillaPin.

She finished the race in 54m 13s, which is a PR for a 10K distance. Save for the 7th to 9th kilometres, which were held at a constant of 11.05kph, this was also a perfect negative split run, meaning each kilometre was run progressively faster than the last. She started at 10.49kph and worked her way up to 12.93kph for the last and final 1000m.

Crossing the finish line strong and happy.

Crossing the finish line strong and happy.

There’s an observation that the Ninja Turtle wishes to make. Progress takes time. For some people, it takes a very long time. When the Turtle first started running in September 2012, she’d lost all fitness, and couldn’t imagine running 10km without dying of an asthma attack.

She remembers when she first ran a 10km under an hour, some time after the New Year of 2013. She cried happy tears.

It took her one year and a bit to bring it down to 57m 54s (summer 2014)

This race time of 54m 13s in spring 2015 is a new 10K time for the Turtle.

Undoubtedly, there are lots of people who improve much faster than she does, but there are also others who’ll need more time. The Turtle has no running coach, and isn’t part of a running club. These are not excuses, these are just facts, being stated simply and plainly. It’s to say that whatever your personal circumstances are, whatever your financial or temporal limitations, just work with what you’ve got. It takes determination, discipline, patience and trust to happen.

Also, progress isn’t linear. Sometimes we stagnate, or we regress, but as long as we keep at things and give it all we’ve got, magic will eventually happen.

You’ll just have to check back in a year or so to see improvements with this Turtle (who knows, she may have even upgraded to a Sloth by then).

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Travel

Here Comes Spring, Now Let’s Go Ski!

What does one do when the weather threatens to turn fine?

Why, hang on to the last vestiges of the cold, of course.

Why, hang on to the last vestiges of the cold, of course.

So off the duo went in search of some snow in the Vosges.

So off the duo went in search of some snow in the Vosges.

In fact, a few weekends ago, GodzillaPin had the idea of going skiing, but seeing how it takes 2 hours to drive to the Vosges from Metz, and it was already about 11am when he thought of it, the idea was shelved. This weekend however, they were awake at 7am, ready to roll.

They don't own their own equipment, but not to worry, there are plenty of ski hires around.

They don’t own their own equipment, but not to worry, there are plenty of ski hires around.

They stopped to hire skis here because the sign said in French “the last ski hire before the station”. This is A LIE. A blatant, blatant lie that made them feel quite bitter because they struggled for a good long time to fit the skis into GodzillaPin’s car. Well evidently, you could hire ski gear at the station itself. Of course, seeing how the Ninja Turtle has never gone skiing in her life, she didn’t know this. GodzillaPin conveniently forgot this option even existed. Oh well.

A short drive later, they arrived at the slopes!

A short drive later, they arrived at the slopes!

The Ninja Turtle was frankly quite hesitant about skiing – hurtling down a slippery slope of ice at great speed is not exactly her idea of fun, especially not since her accident back in November from falling 2.5m onto concrete from a mate’s loft in Adelaide (which resulted in a nasty combination of hospital+morphine) still gives her frequent recurring nightmares. Nonetheless, there’s a first time for everything, and she had to at least give it a try before dismissing skiing completely, right?

Whoopsie! Two steps in and she's experienced her first fall.

Whoopsie! Two steps in and she’s experienced her first fall.

Nonetheless, GodzillaPin’s patient guidance and explanations slowly gave her courage a little boost, so it was up the slopes they went.

Look, if the little children can do it, surely it's not that difficult, right? RIGHT?!?!

Look, if the little children can do it, surely it’s not that difficult, right? RIGHT?!?!

A few practice tries down the little slope later, it was time for the big one. (OK fine, it was the next slope up from the baby slope, but it was big enough for the Ninja Turtle.)

Yikes, it's a long way down!

Yikes, it’s a long way down!

True story, the Ninja Turtle fell standing on flat ground, but not once while she was skiing. Ain’t that weird?

Off went the Ninja Turtle, desperately trying not to vomit in fear.

Off went the Ninja Turtle. She may look like she knew what she was doing, but she was desperately trying not to vomit in fear.

One roll down the big slope was one attempt too many. For a moment, she found herself picking up more speed than she cared for, and her brain froze in panic mode. Mental images of crashing into someone or something, or hitting a bump of ice that’d send her airborne filled her mind. So she did the only thing she could think of right then, which was to change directions, and proceeded to wind her way down to the bottom.

It may have looked like a stunning performance, but she was shaking so badly by the end of it, and was ready to call it a day. Besides, the ski shoes were killing her feet and shins, which is really not ideal, given how she’s still trying to get back into top form after last week’s marathon. So, she sat herself down and took a break, while GodzillaPin refreshed himself quickly before running off to attempt the monster slopes.

Yup, nothing like a bit of booze to help with the balance.

Yup, nothing like a bit of booze to help with the balance.

It was a fun afternoon, and certainly a change from all the weekend racing. GodzillaPin got to do a bit of what he enjoyed, and the Ninja Turtle tried something new for the first time in her life. That said, there was no sweeter moment than when she finally took off those heavy cumbersome skis, and felt light on her feet once more!

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Running

Race #2: Piste de Napatant

Today, GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle celebrated International Women’s Day by waking up super early, and fitting in as much as they could during the daylight hours (which are getting longer hooray!) Although Spring doesn’t officially arrive in France till 22 March, and even then, we don’t shift the clocks forward till 29 March, there is definitely a slight change in the air. The morning chill lingers, but the sun is slowly beginning to bite. This is how the Ninja Turtle likes it.

The 13km took the runners around Briey, which is still in Lorraine, but the next department over – la Meurthe et Moselle. Under the glorious sunlight, the route was gloriously beautiful. It was a mix of road and trail, and although people were making a big fuss out of the hill climb in the final 2km, the Ninja Turtle didn’t mind it.

One of the better small town races so far. The post-run refreshments included the standard fresh fruit, raisins cake and chocolate BUT it also had fruit salad, ham and cheese sandwiches and a choice of drinks including BEER!

One of the better small town races so far. The post-run refreshments included the standard fresh fruit, raisins, cake and chocolate BUT it also had fruit salad, ham and cheese sandwiches and a choice of drinks including BEER!

Yay! GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle sitting on the grass and snacking, just like back at the Adelaide University campus!

GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle sitting on the grass and snacking, just like they used to back at the Adelaide University campus

Then, because it was only midday when everything was done, and they had many more hours of sunlight to enjoy, they decided to take a roadtrip to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. Because, why not?

The majestic Vosges mountains

The majestic Vosges mountains

The quick stop back at the apartment gave the Ninja Turtle a chance to take a shower, and they packed a picnic lunch of sandwiches, salads, chips and fruit. But then of course, GodzillaPin conveniently forgot to mention that there was a reason why they were going to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges that day.

23ème Salon de la Gastronomie et des Produits Fermiers du Massif Vosgien la Table Vosgienne

23ème Salon de la Gastronomie et des Produits Fermiers du Massif Vosgien la Table Vosgienne

So, they foolishly carried around a picnic bag with food brought from home, in a food exposition. *le sigh* Aside from the usual cheese, honey, sausages, terrines etc that characterise the offerings by these small food producers in the region, they managed to buy some rather interesting items, such as a honey-like spread made from dandelion flower and saffron, duck terrine, and this:

St Patrick's Day came a bit early for this man...

St Patrick’s Day came a bit early for this man…

Yup, green beer. It was in fact, beer with a green thistle syrup. The Ninja Turtle stole a sip, and it had a nice floral smell but otherwise, it tasted like regular ale.

The precious little that was left of the afternoon was spent driving around aimlessly, just enjoying the sun and the scenery of the region. When it was time to head home, the duo were treated to sunset on the highway.

Even if there had been a traffic jam, one wouldn't really complain.

Even if there had been a traffic jam, one wouldn’t really complain.

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Travel

The Incredible Finds At A Yard Sale

May heralds the warm weather, and with spring-cleaning comes yard sales. When Father Rabbit announced after lunch that there was a brocante in the next village, the Ninja Turtle, GodzillaPin and his cousin decided to take a look. Of course, there was the standard fare – children’s toys, leather-bound books, copper pots and too many sets of dining ware.

The title of the book reads: "The jobs of our grandmothers". Not so long ago, women not only had access to the workplace, they were expected to join the workforce. No biggie.

The title of the book reads: “The jobs of our grandmothers”. Not so long ago, women not only had access to the workplace, they were expected to join the workforce. No biggie.

Cassette tapes. Remember those? Now if only we can find a Walkman to go with it.

Cassette tapes. Remember those? Now if only we can find a Walkman to go with it.

Coin collectors can make a tidy profit, if they find buyers. 3 euros for a 2 euro coin purchased in 2009 = 50% profit in 5 years.

Coin collectors can make a tidy profit, if they find buyers. 3 euros for a 2 euro coin purchased in 2009 = 50% profit in 5 years.

Then again, there are certain items that took them quite by surprise. Like this:

A DIY tricycle made of metal and wood. Definitely NOT from Toys R Us.

A DIY tricycle made of metal and wood. Definitely NOT from Toys R Us.

Seeing how Verdun was the frontline in the Great War, it's actually not so surprising to see military garb, probably from great-grandpa's closet.

Seeing how Verdun was the frontline in the Great War, it’s actually not so surprising to see military garb, probably from great-grandpa’s closet.

What's surprising is this collection of slightly dated arms.

What’s surprising is this collection of slightly dated arms.

And gas masks, because, you know... just in case, right?

And gas masks, because, you know… just in case, right?

After an hour of strolling and browsing, the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin came away with two mugs. While walking past a stall where an impressive box of phone cards were for sale, the Ninja Turtle lingered. The collection of phone cards was impressive – the owner must have been making long-distance calls from a phone box daily to accumulate about 300 of them – but it was the box itself that the Ninja Turtle was impressed by.

The label below says: best before 06/85. This thing pre-dates the Ninja Turtle

The label below says: best before 06/85. This thing pre-dates the Ninja Turtle

The lady made an offer to sell it for 50c, and perhaps it was the combination of sunstroke, fatigue and looking at too much junk, but the Ninja Turtle thought it was a great bargain. The woman emptied out the impressive stack of cards, and handed over the box in return for the best 50c the Turtle has spent. She then found herself trying to justify the purchase to everyone, feeling only slightly ridiculous in retrospect.

Thing is, items are only just items until you find some meaning and value in it. To others, it was a rusting metal box, without the sweets. To the Ninja Turtle, it is the memory of many a childhood Christmas spent with relatives, wherein there always would be a box of Quality Streets involved.

The shiny colourful wrappers, the delightful treat within, and back in the days when we were limited to “only one, maybe two if you’re good” (as opposed to being an irresponsible adult and eating 20 at once only to feel quite sick after).

The memory of taking the time to choose carefully which colour or flavour meant the most to you at that moment, with the knowledge that you may regret your choice five minutes later and hoping your cousins/siblings loved you enough to swap sweeties with you if you decide to change your mind. Ah, the joys of Christmas.

The memories are priceless, but apparently, they can be re-lived for 50c. This is reason enough for the Ninja Turtle to skip away happily, rusting box in hand.

And if that’s not reason enough, well… the box will become an antique in another 25 years.

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Food

Lighter Meals for the Warmer Weather

Hello! Has it already been a month since our last update? The Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin have spent the last few weeks making the proverbial hay while the sun shines – spring has sprung a whole 3 weeks earlier than scheduled, and at the end of February, we began having beautiful weather in Metz that we had to wait until early May for in 2012. Crazy seasons!

So, since the duo have found themselves walking around in T-shirts already, it is also of little surprise that they start craving lighter and cleaner tastes (you know, to make calorie allowance for the inevitable 6pm beer/wine/cocktails, now that the days are getting longer too). There is a bonus for the Turtle in all of this too – salads are relatively quick to prepare, and cleaning up is easy. Less time in the kitchen = more time outside playing in the glorious sunshine.

The following are a couple of quick and easy salad ideas for entertaining guests with – only a handful of ingredients, and pretty to boot. Enjoy!

Beetroot and heart of palm served on a bed of lamb's lettuce with raspberry vinaigrette.

Beetroot and heart of palm served on a bed of lamb’s lettuce with raspberry vinaigrette.

Sauté scallops with cucumber. Serve with a drizzle of walnut oil.

Sauté scallops with cucumber. Serve with a drizzle of walnut oil.

Cheat meal: leftover chicken pasta that actually tastes pretty damn good eaten cold the next day as a salad.

Cheat meal: leftover chicken pasta that actually tastes pretty damn good eaten cold the next day as a salad.

How does your menu reflect the change in seasons?

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