Saturday, December 28, 2013

13 for 2013

If 2012 was the year for starting something new, 2013 was the year for finding my groove. I learned how to balance the intense studying of med school with volunteering, running, and fun. I learned how to study more effectively.  I made new friends (and stayed in touch with old ones). My running got faster.

This year wasn't about seeing new countries or starting new careers, but it was about stamina, balance, and countless exciting, sweet, and wonderful moments. Moments that are, without question, worth writing down.

1. Spring Break in San Francisco!
dukies in tahoe
alamer falls!! 
dancing and laughing at a book launch party

I know. Spring Break does not seem like a logical place to begin a Year in Review List, especially a list with 13 items! However-- January, February, and the first couple weeks of March weren't really made of moments conducive to photos or lists. I spent a lot of time in the library and in the anatomy lab. I learned a lot. I started figuring out how the human body works. I absolutely loved it, and learned so much-- but a picture of my flashcard collection isn't super exciting.

However! Spring Break was exciting. I headed out to San Francisco, where Ben and I met up with Duke friends at Squaw Valley for some great spring skiing. We also hiked to the beautiful Alamer Falls and got spiffied up for a book launch party. After 2.5 months of intense learning, it made for a refreshing and rejuvenating break.

2. Cadaver Ball (aka, Anatomy is Over!) 

(yes, I did wear my high school prom dress....)
One of Vandy's best traditions is Cadaver Ball, a formal dinner and dance to celebrate the first years finally finishing anatomy (and no longer smelling like formaldehyde!) and the fourth years matching into residency. This year, Cadaver Ball was at the Opryland Hotel-- an elaborate venue, complete with thousands of plants and an indoor river (with boat rides!). Ben was able to come out from SF and we had a great night dancing and celebrating.

3. Janelle's Wedding

the girls near the ceremony pavilion. with scenery like this, who needs decorations?

the lodge where the reception was held.

In a lot of ways, Janelle's wedding sums up 2013. When I first booked my ticket, I was really nervous-- I was so excited about spending a weekend with some of my best Duke girlfriends, but I was also really worried about missing a day of classes and a full weekend of studying. However, it worked out. Knowing the wedding was coming motivated me to study harder than ever so that when I finally touched down in Colorado, I was able to keep my books (mostly) packed away and just relax. Janelle got married in Estes Park, Colorado, right outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. We hiked, we played in the snow, we saw caribou, we danced, and we had late-night heart-to-hearts, and we laughed so hard I thought I would cry. It was perfect, and  taught me that having balance isn't only possible-- it's necessary.

4. The Derby Half Marathon

this is not the derby half. I didn't take pictures at the derby half.
this is a random 5k I did over the summer where we all wore neon and ran through
blacklights. It didn't make the top-13 list, but I needed a picture, so here it is!

Round two! To be honest, I really wasn't sure about running the Derby Half this year. I loved the race last year, and wanted to do it again, but wasn't sure how to balance half marathon training with studying (not to mention, another weekend away fro the library!). I didn't end up training as much as I would have liked,  and my time wasn't anything to write home about, but I did it, and I had fun. This was my first race since the 2012 Derby Half, and it also reminded me how much I love long distance running-- prompting me to make running a more regular part of my daily routine.

5. Review is Published!

Another less-than-photogenic memory: Throughout 2012, I put together a review on how bronchoalveolar lavage, a clinical technique, could be used to evaluate chronic lung transplant rejection. In many ways, this little review was my baby, and I spent many, many, many evenings at my desk, reading articles, making charts, and writing. It was an amazing experience (and hopefully one I'll repeat!), and finally seeing it in print was just the icing on the cake.

6. Sanibel

lighthouse at the tip of the island
biking with dad.

Between first and second year, we got almost a full month of vacation-- not quite enough time to pursue anything too serious (research, a job, etc), but definitely enough time to relax and travel. My first week of vacation was spent on Sanibel Island with my parents. We went on walks, we rode bikes, we read novels, we ate more key lime pie than I should probably admit,  and we simply relaxed and enjoyed each other's company. It was, in a word, lovely. 

7. San Diego

torrey pines state park
late afternoon wine tasting in the sunshine


sunset over the pacific! so much love :)

I flew directly from Sanibel to San Francisco to spend the remaining three weeks of break with Ben. Having spend the last year and a half being long distance, it was absolutely wonderful to have a bit more time together. Although Ben still had to work during this month, we did set aside some time for two weekend trips. Our first trip was to San Diego to visit my college roommate, Brittany. I LOVED SD. We explored state parks, we visited the sea lions at La Jolla cove, we went to the zoo, we explored Old Town, we ate so much good Mexican food, and we had the best time catching up while exploring an honestly awesome city.

8. Yosemite

not a screen screen! it's yosemite valley!
vernal falls. 

enormous trees!

beautiful beautiful beautiful. in the distance, you can see vernal and nevada
falls, where we hiked the day before this was taken. 

The summer before Ben and I started dating, Ben was working in San Jose. I was in Switzerland at the time, so Ben and I sent each other lots of postcards from our various summer adventures. At some point during that summer, Ben went to Yosemite, and sent me several postcards. I can still clearly remember sitting at my desk, looking at the pictures, reading his descriptions, and being absolutely amazed. I knew I had to add Yosemite to my "to visit!" list.

Since Ben moved back out to the Bay Area in 2012, we started talking about making a trip to Yosemite together, and this summer, the logistics finally made sense. We weren't able to get Half Dome permits, but we did explore the valley floor,  hike the Mist Trail, see the giant red woods, see a wild Coyote (!!), and hike into the eastern portion of the park to Tenaya lake. It was easily one of my favorite (may even the favorite?) trip of 2013, and I am so glad that Ben and I got to experience the park together!

9. AAFP Conference: Kansas City

vandy represented at the aafp conference. 

Near the end of my first year, one of my third-year friends told me I should apply for a grant to attend the American Association of Family Medicine Conference. I wasn't sure if I was going into family medicine (I'm keeping a very open ming about my future plans!) but she said it was a great learning opportunity. The conference had many med student-focused sessions and covered everything from "What is Family Medicine?" to "Overview of Chest X-rays". Seven Vandy students ended up going, and we had a great time learning more medicine and exploring the surprisingly fun Kansas City.

10. Five Year Anniversary: Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

abram's falls

beautiful hiking.

biking the perimeter of cades cove. while biking, we
saw a wild black bear!

Every year, on our "dating anniversary," Ben and I go on an adventure. Our first year, we climbed Pilot Mountain. Our second year, we became Swiss Expats together (second year kind of wins, no?). Our third year, we went zip-lining. Our fourth year, we went white water rafting. And out fifth year, we went to Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Even with good balance and time management, it can still be hard to leave for a weekend during med school. Lucky for us, however, our fifth anniversary fell on my week-long fall break. We ventured to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where we climbed Mount Le Count (a "southern six-er"), biked through Cade's Cove, saw black bear cubs in the wild, and simply relaxed by the fire.

11. Music City Half Marathon

sweaty but happy

In April 2013, the Derby Half re-sparked my love for long distance running. After my second year started, I was very intentional about making time for regular running-- including my beloved Saturday morning long runs. I didn't really follow a training plan or intend to get faster, but regular running in the Tennessee hills did great things for my speed. In October, I ran the Music City Half Marathon with my Dad. The course itself was a little dull (the first two miles were literally by a recycling plant and a junk yard!) but Dad and I set a fast pace and stuck to it. The result? 1:55 and a new half marathon PR! I beat my old Geneva record by almost two minutes and felt happy and strong while doing it. Now I just have to break 1:50....:)

12. Nashville Half Marathon

lucy, isa, brittany, and me-- a fantastic race with fantastic company!
It wouldn't be fair to mention the Music City Half without also mentioning the Nashville Half! This race experience was very different-- I ran with some amazing girls from med school, I paid zero attention to my time, and I spent the majority of the race chatting while jogging through downtown. This course was quite a bit better-- I especially loved the finish, which was downhill along the honkey-tonk lined and postcard-perfect Broadway.

13. Thanksgiving in Houston

with my precious baby neice

Although I usually head back to Kentucky for holidays, this year my parents and I flew to Houston to spend Thanksgiving with my sister, brother-in-law, and two nephews, and niece. I don't get to see them nearly enough, and it was absolutely wonderful to spend three solid days eating, playing games, and simply catching up. So, so, so thankful. 

12 for 2012.

I occasionally go back and look at this little blog-- mostly when it's late at night, I can't  possibly memorize another drug name/bacteria name/hard-to-pronounce eponym, and I just need a brief stroll down memory lane. When I first started this blog, my only real goal was to document my year as an expat for friends and family. What I didn't realize, however, is that I was also documenting it for someone else-- my future self.

While I flip through a lot of old posts, my favorites are the "Year in Reviews". I actually posted 2010 and 2011, and have had 2012 sitting in my "Drafts" folder for over a year now. I'm pretty sure nobody reads this anymore, but I know I do (or will), so I decided to write. And remember.

So, without further ado: 2012.

1. Disney Princess Half Marathon

I ran this race on an almost-whim. A dinner with an old friend somehow turned into a last-minute race registration, a crazy 20-hours-of-driving-in-3-days roadtrip, a day at Disney World, and one of my greatest weekend memories. Disney is always a good idea.

2. Rock n' Roll DC Half Marathon

me, b, amy, keith. swiss friends reuniting by the cherry blossoms!

Second and slowest half marathon of 2012. My running definitely was not on, but it was still an amazing weekend in the capital: long dinners with old friends, cookouts in the sunshine, exploring the Smithsonian, seeing the Cherry Blossoms in bloom (a week early, just for us!), and the first time Ben and I have run a race completely together, start to finish.

3. Cooper River Bridge Run

love love love love love
Clearly, I spent a good part of the first half of 2012 running-- and I wouldn't have it any other way! Ben and I met up for a sunny weekend in Charleston to run the Cooper River Bridge run. The Bridge Run was actually my first ever 10k and I was surprised by how much I liked it! The Half is still my favorite distance, but I liked being able to push myself a bit more in a shorter distance.  Running across the bridge was a blast, and spending a weekend with Ben and his family in the sunshine, sand, and waves was a much-needed break.

4. First Trip to SF!

me + be + golden gate bridge

Although Ben had technically been working in SF since November 2011, April was the first time I was able to visit the city. I. Loved. It. We were blessed with unseasonably warm weather (I would later learn the city is not always 80 degrees and sunny!) and spent a fantastic long weekend being tourists: sampling the chocolate at Ghiradelli square, taking a boat ride across the Bay, visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, and spending hours and hours walking the many hills of San Francisco.

5. Weekend in Louisville: Derby Half Marathon + Kathleen's Bridal Shower

me + kathleen with the rehearsal dinner bouquet!
me + daddy, post-13.1

My last and fastest Half Marathon of 2012. My Dad had run the Derby Half several times before, but logistics had never worked out for me to join him. This year, however, the Derby Half fell on the same weekend as my friend Kathleen's Bridal shower-- making for a wonderful weekend of family, friends, tea sandwiches, mile markers, and a whole lot of smiles. The Derby Half itself was a blast-- mile 8 is actually through Churchill Downs (where the actual Derby horses run!).

5. My First Presentation! 2012 Advances in Organ Transplant Conference

Definitely a highlight of 2012. In May, I flew up to Boston to give a talk on the roll Clara-Cell Secretory Protein in lung transplant rejection! I was super nervous, but really enjoyed speaking to and getting feed back from transplant physicians from around the country. I learned a lot, and was also able to meet up with a Duke friend in Boston.

6. The Great Urban Race: another DC adventure!

brittany, me, meg, and hannah, repping duke and solving clues!

Also in May, I headed back up to DC to meet up with some of my favorite Duke girls for a crazy adventure. Although this is called a "race", it resembled a scavenger hun far more than a 5k. Armed with a sheet of clues, we walked all over the city, taking photos of ourselves at various monuments, restaurants, street signs, and other corners of the city. We definitely didn't win, but we had a blast spending time together and venturing off the beaten path of an incredible cool city.

7. San Francisco Again! Napa + Big Sur

me + b in big sur
I rounded out my post-bacc/pre-med time with a phenomenal week in Northern California. Ben and I spent one long weekend exploring the Monterey/Big Sur region. We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, hiked along the coast in Big Sur, and saw thousands of elephant seals (!) at the Piedras Blancas Rookery. Ben then went back to work for a few days while I explored the city solo and did some reading. After that, we took another long weekend trip-- this time north, to Napa! We loved sampling and learning about the wine, eating delicious food, and strolling through the sun-soaked vineyards. All in all, it was a perfect "last hurrah" before I buckled down and got back to work.

8. Welcome to Med School!

white coated!
In July, I packed up my car and drove from Durham, NC, my home for nearly 5 years, to Nashville, TN, where I would begin the next stage in my career. At first, it was a little weird-- I was used to being an employee, not a student, and it took a while to readjust to late nights in the library and piles upon piles of flashcards. It also took a while to form a new friend group. When I left Durham, I was fortunately enough to have friends I met during my Freshman year of college-- nearly 6 years ago! Starting med school meant introducing myself and making new friends. Most of all, however, starting med school was just really, really exciting. I love learning just about everything, but learning about the human body-- the intricacies, the details, the thousands of delicate balances-- was (and still is!) just the best. 

9. Welcome to Nashville!

swimming and cliff-jumping at rock island state park
While starting Med School was a big big big transition, there were also countless small transitions-- making new friends, adjusting to a new time zone, and simply learning a new city! Fortunately, Ben was able to visit quite a bit, and we had tons of fun exploring state parks, botanical gardens, new restaurants, vineyards, and Nashville's fantastic music scene.

10. Kathleen's Wedding!

bridesmaids holding up zack, the groom!
In August, Kathleen got married! I've always called Kathleen my "baby sister"-- we may not be biologically related, but her family is my family and vice versa. Kathleen's wedding was amazing. I cried, I laughed, I danced until my feet hurt, and then I took off my shoes and danced some more. It was a beautiful, beautiful evening.

11. Four Year Anniversary: White Water Rafting

just before the first big set of rapids!

Each year, for our "dating anniversary", Ben and I try to go on an adventure. For our first anniversary, we climbed Pilot Mountain in NC. For year number two, we moved to Switzerland! (Ok, Switzerland was not for our anniversary-- but our flight did fall on our anniversary date!). For year three, we went Zip-lining. And for year four-- we went white-water rafting!

The Ococee River is some of the best Class III and IV rafting in the US. It was even the location for the kayak slalom competition in the 1996 Olympics!

12. My First Publication! More Lung Transplant. 

It's hard to pick only one more even to tie up 2012! To be honest, however, most the the activities the filled the end of 2012 don't really translate well to a blog: hours spent in lecture, studying notes, in the anatomy lab, in the histology lab, working in small groups, volunteering at the free clinic, working on an oncology clinical team, and learning how to be a medical student. It was exciting and I loved it, but it doesn't translate well to a single photo or bullet point. What does translate, however, is my first publication! Some of the work I did at Duke on lung transplant was written up for publication, and in fall 2012 was accepted and published! Definitely a fantastic way to tie up an exciting, busy, and transitional year!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


The past week has been hectic. Not crazy-busy-no-time-to-sleep hectic, but a nice sort of busy that keeps work interesting and life on its toes. I like it.

On Tuesday, I took Ben to the airport to fly to San Francisco. For real this time. And while I'm beyond excited for him and can't wait to visit, SF is really, really far away...

On Wednesday, I also hopped on a plane, headed north, and attended another med school interview. The school was super impressive, and I really enjoyed my time there (minus the cold, of course).

Speaking of med school: this process is driving me bonkers. Patience has never been my strong point (understatement?), and my anticipation is practically tangible.

On a happy note: my parents came to visit! Although I get to see them far more now than when I lived in Switzerland, I still don't see them as often as I'd like! I documented our visit with a new app my mom introduced my to: Camera+. I was never able to get into the whole Instagram craze-- it's almost too retro, if that makes sense-- but Camera+ strikes a nice balance. I like it!

1. warm enough for daffodils?  the durham farmer's market says yes!
2. lovely new candle that smells like the beach
3. bright happy toes (to hide marathon-induced bruises, of course)
4. love, love, love, love love.
1. red bud trees = impending spring?   2. matching stripes.
3. baby aloe vera plant
sarah p. duke gardens: even lovely in january!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Spring Race Schedule

It's funny how races tend to accumulate. I clearly remember thinking, sometime in November, that after the Kiawah Marathon, I wouldn't have anything to train for. I had absolutely nothing on tap for 2012, and had no idea what my spring race calendar would look like.

Fast forward a couple months. I'm now planning on (and registered for!) three half marathons in three months, and possibly a full in June as well.

Crazy? Yeah, probably, but this is the way I see it: next year, when I start medical school, my life will most likely revolve around studying, sleeping, and eating. While I'll definitely stay active, I have a feeling it will be more like let's-run-a-5k active than let's-run-a-marathon active. Thus, I my as well do heaps of long distance running now, while I have time and energy on my side. (At the very least, this is what I tell myself to justify race entry fees...)

But anyway! Spring race schedule! Let's go!

1. Disney Princess Half Marathon
This has been on my "running bucket list" (yes, I have a running bucket list...) for years now. All women run? Through Disney World? In tutus? Sign me up! When my amazing friend Suzanne mentioned she was doing this race, it took all of 2.4 seconds for me to decided to do it with her. True, it's a bit pricey, and true, it's a bit of a logistical nightmare,'s Disney! So, so, so excited.

2. DC Rock n' Roll Half Marathon
While Disney is going to be a fun/silly/fantabulous run, DC is going to be my chance to give it all I've got. I'm thinking sub-1:50....but we shall see.

3. Kentucky Derby Half Marathon
My dad's run this several times and only has good things to say. This time, when he mentioned he was signing up to run it again, I decided to join him. The last time my dad and I ran together, I walked away with a shiny new PR, so I'm hoping this race will bring on some faster times as well :)

4. Undetermined June Marathon
I still haven't signed up for a June Marathon, so I'm not 100% sold on this. To be honest, the Kiawah Marathon left me tired, sore, and a bit burnt out. I love running, but I'm not sure I have it in me-- physically or mentally-- to take on another 26.2 just yet.

Of course, if I am going to run another Marathon, I should probably do it now, before starting med school, so we shall see!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Two Thousand Eleven

When I started this post, I intended to only focus on 11 events. I wanted to call my post "11 for 2011", much in the way I called last year's year-in-review "10 for 2010."

But you know what?  12 months, 7 countries, 4 road races, and 1 move across the Atlantic is a lot to condense into 11 bullet points. So I didn't. 

I know this is probably lengthy, and yeah, maybe boring too, but I hate the thought of forgetting any of the awesomeness that was 2011, and I know someday I'll look back on this post and smile.

So, without further ado: 2011. 


-Skiied in the new year at Craans Montana. Discovered an undying love Fondue Neuchateloise, Alpine skiing, and Swiss snow. 

-Spent the remainder of January making soup, imaging beads in gels, and wishing I was skiing while actually studying every free moment for the MCAT. 

-(Finally) took the MCAT in London, and rewarded myself with a trip to the Museum of Natural Science (why yes, I am a dork) and a West End Play. I love London. 

skiing in the new year
london. one of my all-time favorite cities. 


-What with the MCAT out of the way, decided to fully concentrate on skiing as much as possible: a trip to Interlaken with the Hamners, another trip to Interlaken with some EPFL friends, and my first foray into cross-country skiing, which ended in an absurd amount of bruises. 

-I also ate a lot of cheese, imaged more beads in gels, started my med school application, and thought about running, but decided it was entirely too cold. All in all, it was a great month.

interlaken with friends!
interlaken with the hamners!
adventures in cross-country skiing. 
wine and cheese. yum. 

-Probably the winner for the busiest month of year.

-Finished off the ski season with a fantastic trip to Saas Fee. While the trip wasn't perfect (no hot water), it was sunny and snowy and made me wish I could always live 2 hours away from perfect skiing. 

-Lisbon! In retrospect, one of my favorite cities in Europe. Sunny skies, gorgeous castles, ocean views, and a crazy-awesome garden. I also ran the Lisbon Half Marathon, my first race in almost 3 years, and re-discovered my love for long-distance running. 

-Budapest! A great conference in another awesome city. Highlight of the trip: The Hungarian Opera House. So, so cool. 

saas fee. perfect skiing. 
sintra! a wonderful city just outside of lisbon. 
me + ben, capa de roca, portugal
hungarian opera house. 

-Recovered from the craziness of March: lots and lots and lots of time in lab. The microscope becomes my new best friend.

-Springtime in Switzerland! Hikes, picnics, and day trips! I also begin training for the Geneva Half Marathon, which I stubbornly decided would be run in two hours or less. 

awesome rope swing on a trail near lausanne. 
paddle boating in annecy. 
annecy, france. 


-Kathleen and Zack visit Lausanne! Lots of fondue eating, sight seeing, and day tripping. We also took a trip to (where else?) Interlaken, which included a Lake Thun cruise and a canyoning adventure!

-Mom and Dad visit Lausanne! Dad, Ben, and I ran the Geneva Half Marathon (sub 2 = success!), spent a gorgeous weekend in Annecy, and took a wonderful mini-Vacation to northern Italy.

-Frantically tried to finish my research, accepted a job at Duke Hospital for the following year, and prepared my med school primary application. 

kathleen and zack visit lausanne!
canyoning in interlaken!
geneva half marathon-- a great race and my current PR!
cinque terre, italy. 

--Took one last Swiss adventure to Interlaken (I'm obsessed), where Ben and I attempted to climb Schilthorn and were thwarted by snow. 

-Submitted my med school application, returned to the US of A, moved to Durham, set up a new apartment, and went to a wedding. A bit less glamorous, perhaps, but still crazy busy. 

one last swiss hike. 

-SECONDARIES. Wrote approximately 3249238049238234092389 essays for med school secondary applications. 

-Fantastic road trip to Mississippi for a wedding! Decided that a) Mississippi is very far from North Carolina and b) I have the best friends in the entire world.

-Spent a gorgeous weekend at Ocean Isle with Ben and his family. Sun, sand, and jigsaw puzzles.

ben + me, riding a trolly in jackson, mississippi

-Signed up for the Kiawah Marathon, and somehow convinced four friends to do it with me!

-A bit of traveling: to Houston, to finally meet my new baby niece, and to Charleston, to visit Ben.

(Apparently, I didn't take any photos in August. That's unfortunate.)


-Dove head first into my research, and loved it. Transplant immunology is fascinating. 

-Interviews! I began interviewing for medical, and proceeded to get even more excited about the next four years. 

-Celebrated my three year anniversary with Ben with a zip-lining adventure.


-More interviews, more travelling, more research. Busy Vanessa.

-Durham Ramblin' Rose Half Marathon! Four minutes shy of a PR, but considering the hills, a fantastic race. 

-Mom comes to visit! Delicious dinners, movie watching, a little shopping, and seeing the fantastic musical Rock of Ages. Good times.

a great day trip to hanging rock state park with my sweet friend hannah.
it's not the alps, but it's still super lovely!
durham ramblin' rose half.  hilly course.

-Re-learned how time consuming Marathon training is. Also re-learned how much I love long-distance running. 

-Hosted some of my best Duke friends for a weekend in Durham-- lots of yummy food, late night chats, and cheering on Duke basketball. 

-A wonderful Thanksgiving in Kentucky with Ben + my family.

forever duke. 

-KIAWAH ISLAND MARATHON! 26.2 is awesome. It's tough, but it's awesome. 

-A wonderful Christmas in Kentucky chased by New Year's in Charleston. Amazing, amazing year.

kiawah island marathon. 26.2 miles of amazingness.