Europe 2015 Diary Entry IX – Switzerland

One Two years later, I’m finally finding the time to document my memories of our trip. I’m calling them diary entries, because they’re mostly thought dumps to recall as many details as possible – mostly for memory sake. I’m already forgetting little details about our trip, which is sad as it was really a once in a lifetime experience that I want to remember for the rest of my life. So these posts will be long and full of pictures. Consider yourself warned. 🙂

After hopping around from city to city for a few months, I started to feel unsettled and found myself wanting to stay put for a while to catch my breath. Having Granichen as our “home base” was perfect, because it gave me a sense of stability for the majority of the time we spent in Europe.

I already wrote about our time in Granichen, so I’ll talk about a few of the other Swiss cities (Locarno, Basel, Olten, Lenzburg) that we managed to visit.

Here’s a handy map of Switzerland. Thank you, internet (source).

Locarno
This is one of the prettiest Swiss cities I’ve been to, and it was my most memorable day trip. We left Granichen late one morning and arrived in Locarno a few hours later. The train ride itself is stunning, and we were able to explore Locarno under clear, sunny weather.

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In our typical travel style, we packed lunches to eat on the train and saved our money to spend on coffee and pastries instead.

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Eating sandwiches with homemade bread (or fresh bread from our local Swiss-German bakery) while riding trains to different places is one of my happiest memories.

Locarno is on the Italian side of Switzerland, so everybody says Ciao! instead of Grütze! and the Italian influence is everywhere. It’s amazing.

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Despite their good looks, swans never hesitate to hiss at you if you get too close to them.
Not long after we took this photo, we went to a nearby shop and bought a Toblerone. It seemed fitting.

Like Lucerne (another stunning city that we’ve visited in the past), Locarno is incredibly gorgeous and scenic. It’s like stepping into a postcard. As pretty as it is, I’m not exactly sure what more you can do there other than gawk at the pretty mountains and shop if you have excess amounts of money to spend.

We sat on a bench and stared at the mountains in the background for what felt like hours. In reality, it was probably more like 30 minutes and then we were done. I couldn’t see myself coming back here to stay for more than a day unless I had a local showing me around, or a specific event to attend (like a race, maybe?).

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Basel
To keep our solo long runs interesting, Mike and I would often choose a nearby city to run and finish our long runs at. Once we had both finished (often Mike would be done long before me), we’d meet at a cafe to enjoy a post-run coffee and pastry before taking the train home. It was the perfect way to knock out a long run without getting bored since Granichen itself is really small, and there are only so many kms you can cover before you start running in circles.

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Basel

One Sunday, we each spent 35km slowly making our way to Basel. The run itself was interesting as I got to run through a lot of very rural areas of Switzerland that I would have never seen. We also managed to run an errand by purchasing Eurail passes for our upcoming trip to Germany (not all train stations sell Eurail passes and unfortunately, you must buy them in person if you want to use them right away and can’t wait for them to be mailed).

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Scenes from a long run.

We also went there once to check out a Fasnacht winter carnival. I wrote more about it in this post, but it was really interesting to witness something that the entire city shuts down for (even schools are closed so children can attend) and enjoy. I can’t think of anything in Canada, not even Canada Day, that results in this type of attendance.

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Even on a grey, rainy day, people came out for the festival.

Olten
I can’t remember why we went to Olten. Maybe because it was one of the closest cities to visit by train? The city had its usual pretty views, but we struggled to find things to do. Most of the cafes we visited didn’t have wifi which was a problem for Mike who was still working remotely. And – as usual, everything was pricey. At one cafe we went to, 2 cappuccinos and 2 waters set us back 20CHF (~$26CAD).

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Apart from a cupcake and a coffee, we didn’t get much accomplished here. We couldn’t even find one cafe that had wifi for us to use.

Lenzburg
This was a REALLY fun and random city that we ran to as part of a long run. When we were planning that particular long run, our friend Maja drew us an old school map to give us an idea of where to go.

A basic map of our route. It’s really all that we needed since the majority of it was around the lake.

We incorporated a run around Lake Hallwilersee which itself is a 20km loop that included running around a very old castle (which was used for the first time in 1036…!!!).

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Pretty, old castle.

That particular long run also involved running through various types of terrain (and weather; it rained on and off), a forest, and up a very rude hill during the last 2km. As always, we set our meeting point at a cafe in Lenzburg – a very old, historic city that I would have loved to explore but not much is open on Sundays in Switzerland. I seriously love how much history is buried all over Europe. Maja was kind enough to meet us at the cafe and drive us home after a quick post-run cappuccino. When we got back to her place, she made us an amazing Swiss version of French toast for brunch that we still eat on a regular basis today. It was SO GOOD!

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Lenzburg, where we met a friend for a coffee after finishing a very long, challenging and hilly long run.

Bottom line
I absolutely loved exploring and running through Switzerland. I know it’s unrealistic to spend hours running to a different city and commuting back home, so I didn’t allow myself to take any run for granted. Every Sunday was a blank slate to create our own adventure and I am so grateful that my body stayed strong enough to carry me through all of those amazing, scenic long runs.

I say this all the time, but I would go back and live there in a heartbeat.

Sleep, stress, and injuries: is it all connected?

The last few months have been tough. Getting injured for the third time this year made me feel like a failure and it was difficult for me to get through. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, though, and this injury forced me to take a serious look at what was going on in my life and how it may have contributed to my injury.

A few major themes have been constantly coming up in my life over the last year and a half – constant stress, unrelenting eczema flare ups, and insomnia/disrupted sleep.

The lack of sleep and eczema flare ups stress me out, and stress, in turn affects my sleep and exacerbates my eczema. SUPER.

Stress is an ongoing theme in my life that I’ve got to learn to manage. In the meantime, I’m trying to tackle the smaller things and that is mainly my eczema and my sleep problems.

I’ve been seeing a naturopath to help me manage my eczema which I’ll probably write another post about in the future depending on how things go.

When Mike and I spent time in Switzerland last year, we unintentionally revolved our training schedule around sleep. If we had trouble sleeping the night before, we would sleep in and run whenever. Luckily it was during their winter as well, which meant that we didn’t have to worry about starting our run too late when it was the hottest part of the day. In fact, the later, the better as far as I was concerned.

Over the last year, I thought that it was unfortunate that I had trouble sleeping, but I never thought it could contribute to me getting a stress fracture. Trying to keep up with a certain level of training when I was barely sleeping was a pretty dumb thing for me to do. I should have known better.

So working on getting a better quality sleep is one of my top priorities right now. I feel like it will contribute to lowering my stress levels which will hopefully improve my ability to manage my eczema and stay uninjured. I really like this infographic below, from Casper, which is actually a mattress start up that I came across when I was doing usability research at work. A few customers I was interviewing for the company I work at actually cited Casper as having a very aesthetically pleasing website and a great business model.

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The top takeaways for me from their infographic were:

Average pro-athletes get 10-12 hours of sleep, and the average amount of sleep adults need is 7-9.
I was averaging 5-6 most days and the majority of that was broken up into chunks.

A sleep environment that promotes restorative sleep includes a dark room, supportive mattress, and a cool temperature.
My insomnia started when we moved here last June. We were in the middle of a heat wave and none of the apartments seemed to have air conditioning. Air conditioning is a given in the majority of the apartments in Toronto, so I took having the ability to control a room’s temperature for granted. We DID buy a portable A/C this year, but it was too small and it didn’t always reach our bedroom. I spent so many nights tossing and turning with my thoughts and lying in a pool of sweat.

Quick naps are important.
I’m always hesitant to take naps. They feel so luxurious in the moment, but I’m always afraid they’ll impact my ability to sleep later that night. But maybe it’s worth taking a few naps here and there, especially on weekends, when I’m eventually running longer again.

A few other things I’m doing now to help promote sleep:

Taking magnesium.
I started seeing a naturopath to help me with my skin, but she’s also helping me address my insomnia. Every night, I’m taking some magnesium to help me fall asleep and stay asleep. In all honesty, it’s not working as well as I had hoped and I’m still waking up in the middle of the night.

Working on my anxiety/stress.
I think one of the biggest things I need to address is the amount of anxiety and stress I carry around. I’m trying to meditate, take a few breaths every hour on the hour (that has also been difficult, but it’s a work in progress), and choosing more relaxing and energizing exercise like yoga over high intensity / high impact exercise like running.

Ever since I started taking magnesium and the weather has been cooling down for the fall, I’ve been having an easier time falling asleep. Staying asleep is still a work in progress, but one step at a time.

To 8-10 hours of sleep and staying injury free for 2017!

alison

 

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