Monday, April 1, 2013

My New Adventure: Public Health United

Hello! Again it has been a while since my last post. Thank you for your continued support!

I wanted to let you all know that I am starting a podcast called Public Health United. It's about improving communication between public health professionals and the public. Each episode will feature guests from the Johns Hopkins public health community (and hopefully from elsewhere eventually) who will discuss the topic of the month, common misinformation about this topic, and how we can get better at communicating to the public. We hope that these discussions will help improve public confidence in our research and interventions.

The first episode, "Public Health Miscommunication" features Steven Salzberg, PhD ("Fighting Pseudoscience" Forbes Magazine), Photini Sinnis, MD (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health), & Andy Pekosz, PhD (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health).

Please check out our website at and like our Facebook page. Let us know if you have ideas for shows/guests or would like to contribute to "News Analysis" mini-episodes or Op-Eds. We'd love to get feedback from you!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nina The Barbarian Day 4: Sushi, Mochi, Pineapple, Crepes, and the Great Buddha

Adventures in the Tsukiji Market, the purchase (and later confiscation) of the most glorious wasabi ever consumed, Kamakura, fabulous treats, and finally, after getting lost, again, the Great Buddha. I tried to rub its tummy, but the officers didn't like that idea for some reason...

Follow the link for the full story. More pictures and less talk.

The Great Buddha

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nina The Barbarian Day 3: Consumers R Us

Last bit of Day 3 in Japan: Kiddyland, Roppongi Hills, Starbucks, and Kirin.
Jeesh, every day was like 3 days.

Please follow the link! Thanks :)
Day 3 Finish

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nina The Barbarian Day 3: The Search For The Perfect Noodle

The Tale of Nina's Failed Search For Ganko
Please follow the following link!

Day 3 Ganko Search

Friday, May 27, 2011

Nina The Barbarian Day 3: Ghibli Studio

Day 3: Ghibli Studio

I found that I had alot to say about this place and alot of great pictures--even though you are only allowed to take photos of the outside. The images I discovered here stayed with me throughout the trip. Whenever I saw hills/mountains of a particular shape I thought of Totoro. I also got myself a little Totoro cup at Kiddyland later in the day and had my Aquawater in it nightly. I like interactive places that make you think. I am much more likely to remember what I learned and saw here for the rest of my life.

The Ghibli Museum

p.s. I upload a couple of drafts to scribd before posting here (and settling on a final version). Read: I think I'm done, then I reread on scribd and find errors. I'm pointing this out because 18 people had already read this article before I got my final version up (which only took 10 minutes). Hmm. Wow. So, just saying that if you are one of the people who is eagerly waiting for my next entry, you may want to give it a little while before you read. Once I post it here, it is pretty much finalized. Savvy? Ok. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nina The Barbarian = Nina Goes To Japan

Blogger and I are having relationship issues, so for now I am publishing over at Please follow the below link. I have issues viewing files on scribd on certain computers--letters seem squished together. I apologize if you experience this too. Hopefully I can work out a better system soon!


Nina the Barbarian

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Japan and China Trip Part 1: Training and Trip Preparation

It's been a while since my last post. I guess I've been waiting for something really noteworthy to write about. I suppose completing the Great Wall of China Marathon is noteworthy...not to mention traveling around Japan solo. I've wanted to go to China and Japan since I was a little girl. Specifically since Kindergarten when my mom (also my Kindergarten teacher) played "Big Bird Goes To China" and "Big Bird Goes to Japan" in class. I remember clearly daydreaming about the mysterious cultures around the world. In the 6th grade, I loved learning about Japan in Mrs. Curtis' Social Studies Class and proudly got a 100% on Japan history and customs exam--the test was of course laminated and hung on our refrigerator. I also used to have this huge, laminated world map that I liked to draw on (unfortunately one time I used permanent marker...) and plan out itineraries. Starting in elementary school, my favorite treat was when my mom would borrow "Around The World In 80 Days" from the library and I would watch it eating buttery, salty elbows macaroni. Just like in the movie, I wanted to see the Great Buddha and the famous Geisha girls "not to be sneezed at."

A few times since college I have thought whimsically about going to Japan, but never really seriously. There were always reasons not to go: I'm too busy with school, I don't have any money, I'll go when the timing gets better. But you know what? Timing never gets better. I never suddenly have excessive amounts of money. For some reason, it's always easier to not have new experiences and to think of why-not's. At some point, you just have to DO IT. Make it happen.

I started thinking about a trip seriously after the NYC Marathon back in November. Obviously that was a very painful experience that I wouldn't like to repeat, but I was attracted by the idea of destination races. I enjoyed going to an unknown city and being able to experience a tour in this unique fashion. I was exhilarated regardless of the pre-race errors. In fact, my sense of achievement was even larger because of all the obstacles I overcame. I started looking around at races in Japan first. The Tokyo Marathon was appealing--but it was in February. I decided that was way too soon after the NY debacle. My body needed more time to heal before building up mileage again.

I somehow typed in "adventure marathons" into Google and found my way to the Great Wall Marathon website. I immediately was intrigued. A destination marathon in China! That's what I'm looking for. Something big. Something to shake up my schedule. Something to really motivate myself to the next level.

Reading through the site, I discovered that you can't just sign up and go to the marathon. You have to sign up with a tour group, go ~1 week before the race and tour around Beijing. I wrote Steve Hibbs, coordinator for Marathon Adventures, and asked him exactly how much things would cost and about any hidden costs as well. Once he confirmed that it was indeed a pretty good deal for the trip, I went ahead and booked a flight. Wow! Even back then, I didn't really believe that it was going to happen. I didn't think about how hard it would be--other than "it's a marathon. It's gonna be tough, but I can do it."

That's the thing about me, I get involved in activities and I never question whether or not I can do something. I assume that I can, someway or another. I like that about me. On the other hand, when I actually saw the course I definitely had a few [hundred] doubts and fears, but I didn't let that hold me back.

When I booked my plane ticket, I noticed that I had a layover in Tokyo. This is when it dawned on me, "I'm going to be in Tokyo. I really should just take a few extra days and go to Tokyo." Once I started to plan a trip to Tokyo, I realized where I really wanted to go was Kyoto, the historical capital of Japan. I would need more than a few days. So, my trip to China with a short stop in Tokyo became 8 days in Japan and a week lead up to the marathon in China.

My marathon training was an experiment of sorts. I wasn't sure how healed my body was after NYCM. I was mostly uninjured after NYC race day, but I did feel a lingering weakness in my left ankle. Not pain, just a tiredness. I took December off from running. Started walking everywhere in early January--the hardest was walking home after spin class Wednesday night's, my ankle would definitely be weak after an hour of walking. I looked online, found ankle-strengthening exercises, and started doing them 3x a week.

In mid-late January I started running again at a very slow pace. We're talking 13-15 minute miles. And for just 10 minutes at first. And then I would alternate 10 minutes walking and 10 minutes running a couple of times. And I kept up with the walking home from lab/class. I decided for this race, I wouldn't care about speed, just building up endurance safely--keeping close watch on that left ankle.

By February, I was thankfully feeling good. Ankle weakness was getting less and less. Slowly building up continuous running. Still, I didn't concern myself with pace or miles. Just time on my feet without injury! When I was able to handle the continuous running without pain, I started to focus on building mileage.

Since I still needed to make money for my travels (and pay my bills), I continued my schedule at the gym: 3 spin classes and 2 body pump per week. I love love love teaching, but if I didn't need the cashola for travels, I would have definitely liked to cut back a little bit. It is definitely tough to manage a marathon training plan on top of teaching five classes. The plus side is that I am always cross-training and limiting the number of runs per week, which definitely prevents overuse-running injuries. The Body Pump classes also kept my arms and core strong right up through Race Day, which definitely was a big help on the Wall.

Also, when you only have 3-4 running days per week, it forces you to make them high quality workouts with specific aims: long distance, hill/stadium repeats, tempo/fartlek, easy/mid-distance. Instead of my usual weekly Thursday speed workouts, I stuck to stadiums and hill repeats. I didn't want to tempt myself to go fast. Listening to my body, I knew that if I pressed the pace too soon, I would injure myself. No speed! Just hills.

In March, I paid off the final payment for the marathon tour. Started getting obsessed about possible itineraries. I'm not usually a detail-oriented person, but I knew that I had to plan as much as I could before leaving, both so I wouldn't be clueless in an unknown city as a lone female traveler and so that I knew exactly how much money would be needed before the trip and during. April was spent obsessing over travel guides, blogs, and stories from other people. I made sure I knew how much hotels would cost, museums, temples, onsens, subways, rail passes--fortunately I found out that you have to buy the Japan Rail Pass before you go to Japan and this saves you hundreds and hundreds of dollars, no exaggeration.

By the end of April, the weather started getting nicer and my body started feeling strong and healthy. I started some fartleks--no real speed sessions, but short bursts of speed on mid-distance runs. Warm, sunny weather always makes me say "I feel the need. The need for SPEED." Yeah. My body handled this well. Mid-April to the beginning of May was my Monster Month. 50-65 miles a week. Plus teaching class. Needless to say I didn't do much besides work and workout. I went to a party at the end of Peak Week and was ready for bed by 10. I toughed it out until 1am, but I basically was a zombie.

Here is something that I hope I remember for next time: for me, the worst of marathon training is not Peak Week. It's actually the week (or two) after I hit my highest mileage. Mentally, I keep saying to myself, "Just make it through Peak Week and then we're in Taper Phase!" What I always seem to forget is that the week after is still pretty high mileage. I went from a 23 mile-long run to 20 miles and 65 miles per week to 50 miles. Really didn't make that much of a difference and didn't give me much (or any) relief. The good news is that my ankle was fine and I felt uninjured, albeit tired and achy. Relief did finally come the following taper weeks with just 35 miles, then 25, then hardly any running for the 2 weeks before Race Day. I did end up doing ALOT of hiking the 2 weeks beforehand, since I'd been packing in as much touring as possible.

Part 2 Up Next:
"Nina The Barbarian = Nina Goes To Japan"