Come to DC and I can make you a believer

Who has two thumbs and a PhD in Epidemiology? This girl! 

Thesis successfully defended, done and dusted. If you’re interested in the details let me know and I’ll send along a summary. 

I moved back to DC last week and it already feels like I never left. Besides jumping up and down at the variety of food choices, I’ve had a bit of readjusting to do – good coffee is very difficult to find, you don’t have to pre-weigh vegetables in a grocery store, and the public transportation system here is shockingly inefficient. 

What a ride these last few years have been, I’m excited that it’s time to make some decisions about next steps. I’m still basking in the afterglow of my defense, and am starry-eyed about all the potential options, but for now, I’m concentrating on taking a break and letting my mind and body reset. Considering after my marathon last October I’ve been doing nothing but eating, I need a serious kick in the arse. Once my broken toe heals, I’ll be hitting the pavement once again. If anyone has suggestions for marathons in the fall, let me know!

Sending love,

Dr. Petunia

Posted in DC, Random musings, Running, USA | 2 Comments

Countries #49 and #50

Drum roll please….

Luxembourg and Belgium!

IMG_3087[1]IMG_3130[1]Long live waffles! Long live french fries!

IMG_3129[1] IMG_3122[1] IMG_3124[1] IMG_3105[1] IMG_3123[1]Long live Ric Hochet and European men sporting vibrantly-colored trendy eye-wear!

IMG_3127[1]IMG_3121[1]And last, but not least, long live Belgian beer!

Posted in Travel | 1 Comment

Run, Petunia, Run!

Currently hanging above my desk at work.

Currently hanging above my desk at work.

So, two months ago I ran a marathon. That happened. And I haven’t run one single step since the race. Instead I’ve been eating everything in sight (raclette, french fries and kebabs, oh my!). But that doesn’t mean this was one of the best experiences of my life.

Up through my 17 mile training run I wore Vibram five fingers. Yes, that’s right, those funny toe shoes you see some crazy people wearing. Well, let me tell you, these are the only reason I was able to stay injury free and keep running. They completely changed the way I run, and for the better. No more ankle and knee injuries at all since I switched to running only in these a year an a half ago. Plus, when you run through a field wearing them, the dandelions get stuck between your toes!

vibramsOn that 17 mile run, I felt fine, but my feet were so, so, so sore afterwards. I bought a pair that were a half size too small, and instead of returning them I thought I could just break them in and stretch them out. Wrong. My foot got messed up and it hurt. So I found a pair of zero-drop shoes with lots of cushioning to help deal with running while my foot was still in pain. So these shiny puppies were what I ended up running the race in.

sauconyI’m a big fan of the minimalist running style, so these will soon be replaced with something with a thinner sole and a larger toe box. But I digress.

The day of the race it was pouring. Absolutely pissing down rain. I was completely unprepared – the weather report had said only a 10% chance of rain for the day. Thank god for some company handing out free ponchos in the race expo, and at least it wasn’t freezing. Because the race went through the city of Luzern and all the main roads were shut down, there was a boat to take people from the main train station to the starting line. On the boat a woman sat on the seat across from me. We got to chatting (because that’s what I do when I’m nervous) and it turns out she lived in Amsterdam but is American, and was trying to run races in as many countries as she can. Up to 18 so far and has another 5 planned for the next 6 months. Pretty cool if you ask me. She tried to suggest I sign up for the Marrakesh half marathon in January, but I don’t think I can justify another international trip at this point in my thesis-writing process. Anywho, we navigated the pre-race process (drop off bags, find out where everything is, etc) together and ran the beginning together as well. It was nice to have a buddy around to keep the nerves at bay.

I ditched the poncho at mile 3 because the rain let up, but then it came back and continued through mile 10. Luckily my outfit helped boost morale.

race2Besides the tutu, the only thing that kept me on target and mentally positive through the whole race was the pacer (they hire people to run the race at a certain pace with huge balloons attached to them so you can identify them) I ran with for pretty much the whole race, Reto. He was absolutely incredible. Just an all around fantastic human being. It was like having my own personal cheerleader and coach all rolled into one the whole way. He chatted with me when I needed to chat, was incredibly positive and motivational, kept checking on the 3 or 4 of us running with him making sure people stopped at the aid stations, and bless his heart, when we hit kilometer 40 and he said “ok, now we go a little bit faster up to the end” and my response through my whimpering was to tell him “no, there’s no way” still ran just a little bit ahead of me to try to motivate me to go faster – even though he was supposed to be keeping the pace to 4:30 made sure he stayed with me even though it meant finishing 1 minute 22 seconds slower than the goal. He kept insisting “no problem, it’s my job” when I would thank him, but you can tell that this was way more than that to him. I swear to God, that man is a saint. I would willingly have given him my first born child.

For the first 16 miles I felt good. Really good. So good I contemplated running faster than my target pace, but made myself take it easy in case I needed extra energy at the end. Thank goodness I did. I almost cried once I passed mile 19 just from the emotional experience of running farther than I had before, but then I tried not to cry, which made my throat close up and I had to pause to be able to breathe normally again. Overall the race felt great up until 22 as well, and then the positive mental attitude I had up until that point started to crumble. But I kept telling myself that my legs knew better than my brain, so I shouldn’t listen to my brain, and then I was ok until about mile 25. Those last 2 1/2 km were awful. Simply awful. I was whimpering like a puppy. Actual whimpering noises were coming out of my mouth. No joke. Total wall. It didn’t help that by that time the participants in the 5 mile race were finishing as well and were ZOOMING past me. Then once I crossed the finish line the same crying/breathing thing happened and one of the medics walked with me for a few steps and kept asking if everything was okay until I was able to tell him that yes, I’m fine, just emotional. That was caught on one of the video clips they took of all the runners, so I get to relive that moment over and over again. Awesome.

Never again will I claim to not like running because it’s too much of an individual sport – at least for us slow pokes there’s no competition with other people, only with ourselves, and everyone wants everyone else to do as well as they can.

Now if I can only convince myself to get up off my butt and start running again. Signing up for another race should do the trick. This was such a wonderful way to relieve stress, and I have another one month before I submit my thesis and another two months before I defend, so I could definitely use some continued stress relief.

Posted in Running, Switzerland | 1 Comment

How much is enough?


I notice it most with running. Wanting to push beyond the limit of what I can normally expect from my body and from my mind. But the problem with pushing limits is the bar is then being constantly reset, and the definition of what is normal is redefined.

While three years ago I spent three months training for a half marathon that left my body aching for three weeks after the race and me cursing that I will never run that far again, now I am running farther than that race every weekend, at a faster pace, and with barely any fatigue the next day. Running is addictive. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to be running down a path and have to concentrate on suppressing the nay-saying thoughts of your own mind as well as keeping your legs moving, but the thrill of excitement each time you realize you have passed the number of miles you ran the previous week and are still going strong, can still run farther, is more than worth it.


Yesterday I went on a hike with a couple of friends up Mt. Pilatus in Luzern, which was absolutely stunning. It just so happened that the end of the “Mountain Man” half-marathon, marathon and ultra marathon races were ending at the summit of Mt. Pilatus, and we had to share a series of very steep switchbacks with these people who had just run an insane distance up and down mountains.


Do you SEE those switchbacks leading up to the platform? There are twice as many just to get to the point shown in the picture. Insane.

They all looked like they wanted to keel over and die, except for a few. The main characteristic of the people who didn’t look like they wanted to die? As I stepped aside to let them pass, these people looked me in the eye and returned my smile. Their other distinguishing characteristic? They were all women. The men all trudged up the hill like they were approaching the executioner, but every single one of the women smiled. There were only five of them, but still.*


The Mountain Man marathon series. Where after running a stupidly long distance, they make you run up a flight of stairs to cross the finish line. Dicks.

I firmly believe the key to finishing these long runs, to keeping your mental focus, to keeping these nagging poisonous broken records of self doubt in your mind from taking over, is to smile. Even when no one else is watching. No joke. Empathy and positivity are the hallmarks of successful runners. It makes a huge difference.

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In my next life I want to come back as one of these cows.

Not long after our trails merged and we started seeing participants push their way up, my mind automatically and unconsciously snapped into race mode, and I started walking faster, focusing on my pacing, breathing rhythmically, eyes ahead like some kind of hunting dog. I was no longer looking around (well to be honest the scenery was very stark and bare), but focusing on the path ahead of me.  A couple minutes later and I realized the two friends I was with were maybe 50 meters behind me. It was totally bizarre. Just like muscle memory, but for a combination of thoughts and actions. Freaked me out. As I stopped to wait so we could all resume our hike TOGETHER I realized what had happened. And wondered how much I do this in other parts of my life.

Have a job with a great organization in a field I love? Not enough. Need a Master’s degree. Have a Master’s degree and am getting job offers back in DC? Not enough. Need a PhD. Getting a PhD and can start to apply for these research-focused jobs? Not enough. Need to apply for ridiculously competitive leadership fellowships. Maybe I need to, you know, chill out, man. I’ve always needed to actively work at balance. It doesn’t come naturally. But I can’t help it. If I can, without burning out, push myself do do things that are special, are beyond the status quo, that seem to hold the promise of greatness, why shouldn’t I try?

I guess I’ll ponder that question on my 15 mile run this evening…



*Side note feminist rant: Fuck that race. It’s called the Mountain Man race (um, hello, women participate too), and they even give women different colored hats as the finisher’s prize – men got black, women got white. I’ve never see that before. Usually everyone who finishes gets the same giveaway. Why the gender segmentation? UGH. 

Posted in Random musings, Running | 6 Comments

Boom go the fireworks!


Silent fireworks – fires attached to balloons. July 31st, for the Swiss National Day celebrations

Have you ever felt like you are on the edge of something important, something life changing, something incredible, but you don’t know what it is? I haven’t been able to shake that feeling for the past three weeks. There are all these points of light that are the pieces of my life have been slowly circling each other, travelling through space, winding their way closer and closer together as if they are being drawn together by a magnetic force down through a funnel. The tension is building but the path the energy will take is unclear.

I am daring to hope, to believe, that everything I have been doing – at times (often?) tedious and insular – is finally going to have an outlet, with the result of launching me into a clearer orientation and purpose. That there are actually options. That there are great things to come.

And you know what? It’s SO FREAKING EXCITING.

I’m not sure how much I should be actively trying to resolve whatever is going on vs. letting connections happen naturally. But for now I watch…and wait…because this is slightly trippy and weird.


13th and Park, Washington, DC


What else is new? Hmmm… I turned 30. I’m more or less on track to hand in my dissertation (beginning of November). I signed up to run a marathon on October 27th in Luzern as a de-stressing method for the whole finishing my PhD thing (yes, I am fully aware that I am crazy).  I’m on a sabbatical from alcohol (at least until I finish my dissertation). Life in DC was wonderful, life in Basel is grand. I’m in a band and get to sing songs by Pink and Nirvana. Summer is glorious…


Black Raspberry ice cream with chocolate sprinkles on a pretzel cone. YUM.

…and I have a tan.


Soaking up the sun at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.

Posted in Random musings | 3 Comments

Happy Labour Day/Beltane!

Yes, that spelling was intentional.

Today is May 1st, or Labour Day for the rest of the world that is not ‘murrica. It would be horrible to go with the flow and celebrate with everyone else. I mean, people might think we’re COMMUNISTS! *shudder*

It’s also Beltane. A much better holiday to celebrate in my opinion. Where my faeries at?

Warning: this is awful, awful music. If you want some really good Viking Folk Metal (and who doesn’t want some really good Viking Folk Metal?), listen to Korpiklaani instead.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Indonesia 6: Nias

Bali was only 4 days and Nias 8. Bali got five posts on this blog, Nias will only get one. Not because it is not worth experiencing, but because it was SO much more worth the trip. I did not keep a journal in Nias, because it felt like THIS was the reason I came to Indonesia. Not to document my running around, but to spend time with my friend, her fiancee, and their families celebrating their wedding. Oh, and surfing. Lots of surfing.

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Before this trip to Indonesia I had become a bit jaded about traveling and seeing new places. Dealing with travel and showing up somewhere new with only a vague idea of a plan is my bread and butter, and I expected to see interesting things, but I was not prepared to once again be blown away by people and landscape and everything about a place.

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I loved this island. Everything about it. Nias and I were love at first sight. Nothing big and built up, just people enjoying life and the place they live.

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I went for a barefoot walk one evening at dusk wearing a cover up type of dress over my bathing suit, and partway through decided that it would be nice to jog instead. So I did, lack of shoes and proper clothing and all, just started trotting down the road. And it was no big deal.


It’s the kind of place you want to spend three months at a time because everything slows down and instead of creating anxiety, makes you take a breath. A glorious, deep, grateful breath.

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Trust me, I’ll be back.


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Indonesia 5: Mount Agung

I couldn’t believe it when my alarm went off because I had actually slept the whole 4 1/2 hours. I got in the SUV that picked me up, was offered some Pringles by Wayan. After an hour and a half drive, we started hiking. In the pitch black dark. And continued for three long hours, straight up the side of the volcano. A muddy path through a forrest dripping with water and the sounds of nighttime animals gave way to rocky ground just past the tree line, and then finally we scrambled up boulders with firewood on our backs that was collected along the way. Thank goodness for the fire. Still pitch black and freezing cold, on the exposed summit of Mt. Agung, we waited for the dawn. And then, slowly but surely, the sky exploded.

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Indonesia 4: Gratuitous rice paddy gloriousness

Because these pictures deserve a whole post to themselves. Too much green to leave sitting in a folder on my computer collecting virtual dust. Enjoy!

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Indonesia 3: Pura Tanah Lot and Rice Paddies

Last summer I took a two week trip to Indonesia for a vacation, as well as to attend my flatmate’s wedding. I finally got around to typing up my journal entries, so here they are. I’ll take my chances that you won’t mind if they are 8 months late! Forgive the lack of serious editing; sometimes travel writing should be left as it is, stream of consciousness and abruptness and all.


I woke up relieved that there was no lizard sitting on my head eating my face. After breakfast I headed out to Pura Tanah Lot on the back of Jo’s motorbike. He was chatty and super nice, and a kind of surfer-type. Faux-hawk hair, board shorts, tattoos, neon sunglasses, etc.


An hour and a bit on the bike brought us to the temple, which was not at all what I was expecting. I was looking for a quiet, calm spot for reflection and maybe some time at the beach, but what I got was thousands of tourists (mostly from other parts of Indonesia) and some kind of ceremony, to which flocked tons of Balinese.


Apparently it was the pre-wedding ceremony (Thursday, June 25th was a particularly auspicious day for weddings).


Tons of the tourists stopped me to ask if they could take pictures with me – it was India all over again. And many of the younger girls didn’t bother to ask – they just whipped out their cell phone cameras and followed me around. The temple itself, while very impressive-looking built on top of a rocky outcrop in the sea, was closed.


After wandering around awhile, we headed back out in the drizzle on the bike and ate a lunch of various parts of a pig.


Seriously, everything on this plate is pig (except for the rice). YUM!


Then off to the rice terraces – a particularly impressive formation.


I walked around through the rice paddies and found a lovely spot in the back where there were multiple waterfalls and forrest encroaching, threatening to take it back.



Then we headed back into town where I found a sarong for S’s wedding and a few gifts. Lesson learned: all of Bali is a tourist attraction and the places listed by tour operators are exactly the places that you do not want to go.

I ended up eating lunch late at the River View Restaurant in town. The food wasn’t that great but it was a quiet spot.


Except for the Balinese guy who introduced himself and once again insisted on giving me a lecture about not entering temples if I am on my period. Jesus christ. I was nowhere near a temple! Once my food arrived he left, and I was able to enjoy a bit of a view with misty rain all around. It was still crappy weather so I read for a bit and went to sleep at 7pm, setting my alarm for 11:30pm to make the midnight pickup for my Mt. Agung trip.

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