Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Experiment: Vegan for a Week

Now that I'm posting this online, I am even more accountable than before. When I first quit meat, I gave up eggs and dairy, too. I did this for a month, and it was tough. My hair and such did not like that, but I had more energy and fewer stomachaches!

I've been wanting to do this again, at least once in a while, but with races and such, I was afraid to try. So now, from April 1-7, I will make another attempt at veganism. This will be tough, since I spend most of my days at a hotel for work and there is meat abound at home. Yes, I still get meat at home, although I avoid it unless it's pushed on me. And to think of it, my parents make pizza for breakfast on the weekends. In spite of all this (I am not at home that often, so there's hope), I want to try as best I can... I'll keep track of imperfection and report back in a week.

And no, this is NOT an April Fool's joke. That's tomorrow....

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Day 1 - Thursday, April 1

Today at the hotel was not so bad. I had some oatmeal with dried cranberries, banana, part of an apple, and some chunks of watermelon for breakfast. I think I got hungry and had a sample-sized Larabar before lunch. Yes, I have a gargantuan appetite. I had a little vegetable soup and sort of large (but unsubstantial) salad at lunch with strawberries, a few pretzels, and two bites of granola bar.



Throughout today, I had tea/lemon/honey (a little because I can't stand the stuff straight) for what I call my marathon cough that I got after running my immunity down into the ground... I am currently writing this entry VERY sleep-deprived (I'm talking <2 onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_2BEjNunkOFM/S7asWsR2CbI/AAAAAAAADGE/1mYysk60B3s/s1600/04-02-10_1153.jpg">
Above: Coucous! I bought a small bag and washed it/put it in hot water from the water cooler at work. 15 minutes later... bam! I added a little marinara, frozen veggies, and microwaved it for a bit. This was actually a very yummy meal (with a banana).

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Days 3 & 4 - The Weekend

So I definitely failed this weekend to eat completely vegan (beyond the fact that I'm still doing the honey thing), but I was 97% there. My violations were traces of fish sauce, traces of soup from ramen, possible gelatin in some rainbow jelly in boba, and I had about 1/3 of an egg at dinner with my family on Sunday. I also am not sure if there was egg in a pizza crust I ate (I checked the label and did not see "egg" on there at all) or in the tiny bites of bread I picked off from "The Ukrainian."

But I still give myself credit for trying... I passed up a lot of great desserts this weekend. I felt a bit bad, since "The Ukrainian" wanted to try some of them but did not want to partake without me. This is how I know I cannot do this long term, regardless of the little extra energy I have eating this way or the bloating that I don't miss. I really dislike having to forgo these little pleasures in life, and really, I don't have to, as long as I can learn to moderate and deal with the intestinal repercussions.

Anyway, all in all, it has been a great weekend. I've got three more days of this before this experiment is over.


Above: A Planet Burger from The Good Earth Cafe in Studio City, CA, hold the mayo, with AIR FRIES!!

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Day 6: Tuesday

Well, tomorrow is my official last day of this freakish experiment. I figured I would write today, since salsa class resumes tomorrow, and I really don't have time for much of anything again these days. Overall, I've maybe had the equivalent of one egg throughout this whole thing... mostly because I have had to eat at home, in addition to minor offenses listed above, and hidden chicken broth in a soup I had today. Again, these offenses were at home, so this was to be expected.

However, I have not eaten any meat whatsoever and no dairy. I've noticed a slight increase in energy, slightly fewer digestive issues, some unintentional weight loss (at least by feel -- no scale to verify) and clearer skin. Here are my takeaways from this whole thing:

1) Vegan does not mean healthy.

I definitely ate some things I normally would steer clear from this week, simply because I was hungry and had no other vegan options. In particular... white bagel and things containing high fructose corn syrup. Enough said. Plus, I really ate more fruit than recommended to compensate the bread or other carbs I wasn't eating.

2) You get used to the hunger after a while.

Yes, the hunger was tough at first, but this passes, probably due to bloating from fruit.

3) Weight loss isn't always (completely) wanted.

This is weird, but I recently bought a dress to wear to a friend's wedding next month, and it would not really benefit me to shrink at this point. Without doing anything else differently besides this food experiment, I already lost some of the weight I had put on while injured from running and the interlude without dance class to keep me active. Of course, it was going to happen as my activity level got back to normal, but keeping away from hotel eggs and french toast also helped.

4) Vegan-ism is not for me.

Sorry vegans, but this lifestyle is WAY too hard to uphold at this point in my life. And really, I was still eating items with honey and beeswax. I think my effort has been valiant and a test of will, though. My poor "Ukrainian" was very supportive, but he would really be reeling if I never shared red velvet cupcakes with him again.

5) But it is something I will incorporate.

Not all is lost. I will somehow carry this experience into my future eating (after a nice non-vegan dessert, though!). I am considering things like eating 1-2 vegan meals per day, having 1 "vegan day" per week, or something like that. I really do enjoy the clarity that comes with this lifestyle as well as the small energy boost.

6) Problems still remain.

I still have digestive issues in spite of eating vegan, which as I mentioned, could just be a side-effect of fiber or fruit. The best I can do at this point is try to eat balanced meals and not eat too much at one time. This is definitely a habit to work on. I often eat until I'm very full so that I can do my work and not have to worry about it again for a while. Plus, I'm not that skilled at moderation, especially since work is getting increasingly stressful as I seemingly have to keep taking on new roles and projects all the time (coordinator, meeting leader, budget-er, IT person).

I should note, however, that my knee/IT band is feeling SO much better this week (2 weeks post-marathon and 7 weeks post-injury). I obviously am holding back in my running and still feel twinges (in both legs!). However, the fact that I was too hurt to even turn over in my bed at one point makes this a vast improvement. I'm not out of the woods yet. I've been running 4-6 miles at a time doing mostly okay, but I do want my speed back. And eventually (soon), I will need to build my mileage back up. But I have decided to concentrate on improving my relay speed first before moving on, so that means no real marathon training until a month before my next marathon in June. Yes, this could be a mistake, but it's really the best way I think this combination of two close-together marathons and injury can be handled.

Monday, March 29, 2010

KT-Tape

At the San Francisco Half-Marathon expo, I picked up a few samples of KT-Tape, which is an athletic tape that is supposed to support the muscles when taped in various ways. At the time, I was having a horrible hip pain that really could not be taped since it felt deep-seated, so I put the packets away.

Fast-forward to now, more than 6 months later. Today was my first real run since after the marathon. I tried toward the end of last week but started spasming after 1/4 mile. So to make sure my first real attempt didn't go badly and unsure of how much damage I had done to myself during the marathon, I taped up my lovely knee with KT-Tape.

Of course, I had to know how to tape it, so I looked on their website that described the different taping methods based on the condition. Now it was time for some good old self-diagnosis. It turns out that pain on the outside of the knee like I have is the all-famous iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), one of the most common and painful running injuries. It is caused by the tight IT band, which runs from the pelvis to the tibia, creating friction at the knee. The cure? Stretching, icing, and rest. Gosh, I hate that last part. I have races to run in the not-to-distant future, so I am hoping for a relatively short healing time, even though I've technically had this injury on-and-off since the middle of February.

So that picture above is my fat leg (though to be fair, it's hard to take a pic of your own leg from that angle) taped up as shown on the website, with the intersecting parts at the "point of pain." It seemed to work, though I am not sure if resting had also helped. Anyway, the bandages are supposed to stay on for 5 days. I had pants to run in today, but that luck is basically out. So tomorrow morning's gym-goers will have to see the elaborate taping on my leg... too bad!

All in all, the tape is comfortable and comes in cool colors. It also can partially rip in half to become a "Y bandage" for various taping methods (the straight one is called an "I bandage"). I like that it adheres well and can stretch with various tension throughout, since you don't necessarily tape muscles down with a uniform tension.

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Link: http://kttape.com/instructions/itbs-knee/

Friday, March 26, 2010

Milks and a Few Extra Seconds

I've been hearing about how bad soy milk is for you for a long time... you can just Google it and find propaganda everywhere about how soy in the US is genetically modified, pesticide-ridden, etc. etc.

Cow's milk and I became sworn enemies when I was 19 years old... in addition to the fact that it contains pus (I won't provide links because I think these issues warrant their own research). Milk bloats me (or worse) every time I drink it.

I really like soy milk. Vanilla, unsweetened, and even chocolate have become my primary cereal buddies. I have been drinking it more than previously, so now I have concern for all those "soy-is-bad" stuff.

My boss' manager gave me a sample of his almond milk today (unsweetened chocolate). It was thin, it lacked protein, and it realllllly could use some taste. It was almost like water! And nutritionally, it still contains too much sodium for what it is...

I hear rice milk is worse... and hemp milk is horribly expensive. So I think what I will do is get almond milk half the time. Maybe I will get used to it, and I will still get protein from soy milk. There is just no winning with these things, is there?

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On another note, lately, I haven't been able to keep my s---, er, act together. I feel like I have begun a terrible habit of procrastinating and neglecting details that end up costing me time and quality later. So from now on, I am going to try to spend a few extra seconds in my tasks to make sure the bases are covered, my to-do list is updated and used, and things are put away in a decent fashion. This week has been especially tough since I've been recovering from running injuries and illness.

Finally, "The Ukrainian" interviewed for a project manager position last Friday, and we found out that he got it. Yay for him! However, there are complications that will likely prevent him from accepting the job. Still, I'm super proud of him!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Los Angeles Marathon - 2010

EVENT: Los Angeles Marathon
DATE: Sunday, March 21, 2010
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RACE BEGAN: 7:47 AM
FINISH TIME: 04:50:40

This was was important to me because is marathon #5 (3rd LA Marathon) for me, race #20 which is 13.1 or longer, and originally (see note at the end) my last race before surpassing the F 19-24 age group. So even after $125 + $9.44 processing fee, I was somewhat excited to be running from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica Pier.

Unfortunately, I have been mentioning ailments as of late. Five weeks ago, both knees were hurting. One knee got better, and my quad started failing. Then the Monday before this race, I woke up feeling sick. Fortunately, though, I felt better by the weekend, and my quad even cooperated.

Pre-Race:

I was up at 3:00 AM to get to Santa Monica in time for the shuttle to Dodger Stadium. This was my first time inside. We saw Gordon Ramsey from Hell's Kitchen being interviewed... that was really cool! Anyway, we froze for a while and then stood at the start line for an hour while everything got under way...



Race Recap:

Miles 1-3: Hilly... my left calf was hurting from standing at the start line too long, but that feeling went away.

Miles 4-7: Hello, left knee! Ouch! I saw Tea Time at mile 5 as I started walking up those never-ending hills! The downhills should have been a relief, but with a bad knee, they are no good! I took a gel...

Miles 8-10: I was still keeping 2 minutes ahead of pace in spite of my respites.

Miles 10-12: Lots of cool Hollywood scenery here. I saw Big Bird, theatres, and guys in drag.

Miles 13-15: My right leg was starting to cramp. Already. Normally, this happens after mile 20. But the combination of overcompensating for my knee and the training I missed out on during this past month began to catch up with me. This was going to be a very, very long race.

Miles 16-20: Legs were cramping just by WALKING. I took down the remainder of my gels (so I had four in total). I contemplated visiting a medical tent but was not sure if I'd get DQ'ed if I did...

Miles 20-22: Hilly. Still unable to run. I stopped a few times to stretch. The 4:30 pace group passed me. I saw a downed runner on the floor being treated by medics. Unsure if I could even finish under 5 hours at this point. Was saved by a couple of pain spray/patch booths.

Miles 23-25: On-and-off running. The course was flat by now, but my leg seized up every so often, so I had to do what I could.

Miles 25-26.2: I pretty much was somehow able to run this stretch. Very. Carefully. I don't know how I was able to go, or maybe I was very numb by then from the analgesics and caffeine kicking in. I was ecstatic that I made it but still disappointed overall.

I spent the next half an hour walking a few miles because people kept misdirecting me to the family reunion area when I was already having a very hard time walking. I was so frustrated that I pretty much cried. I finally found "The Ukrainian," who comforted me.



Reflection:

First of all, 4:50 is the same time I ran at LA Marathon two years ago. I've beaten this time twice at non-LA races... I wonder if there's something about this race.... lol.

Overall, I thought the sights of the course were great, and I think that had I entered this race at 100%, I could have done decently, since I don't handle rolling hills too poorly. I will consider next year's race, but the deterring price will cause me to think about it again. Also, tomorrow is the opening of the San Francisco Nike Women's Marathon lottery. Not good timing... seriously. I can't imagine running a course that will probably be at least twice as tough as this was!

Anyway, I am for once planning on not running again for about a week. I usually give it about 3 days or so, but frankly I am sick of running right now and really should try to heal myself from my stacking injuries. I've had a strained ab muscle since November that has been slowwlly hurting less, bad left knee for 5 weeks, and a questionable right quad for about 3 weeks.

I might be doing a 10K in April (Victory for Victims), assuming I feel better before then. It will be a great warm-up for my next couple of races (THIS and THIS). I guess my craziness never stops...

OH YEAH!!! If you look at the top of my page, it is pretty much my 4th year "run-i-versary." Wow, I've been running for a long time! I'm sure there will be more to come... just not this week!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Random Photo Entry 12: Summation of Current Affairs

One week from now, I will have done Marathon #5 and my last race before I bid farewell to the 19-24 age division. I'm excited to be doing another crazy feat in my relatively short life, but my legs/knees are not in the best shape right now. I'm sure it will be okay, but I can imagine that I won't be breaking any personal records. And I will probably be incapacitated from running for a while after the race. At least I've raised about $150, and that should keep me going if not by force.

I think I've gotten to a point (or maybe I was already there?) at which marathoning really isn't the cornerstone of my life as it may have been previously. I think I have given it a similar time commitment, but mentally, something(s?) has changed.

In other news, this weekend has been decently productive. I knocked off 1.5 of the 2 books I have set to read and submitted yet another dissertation proposal draft. My spring break is coming, so I hope I will not receive the draft back before the end of it so I can really enjoy my time away from academics! And when that draft comes back, I hope the changes will be scant this time around! Did I ever mention how unmotivated I am to be in the thick of this process? Agh!

Given that I don't know what else to say, here's a bunch of recent pictures that I've taken... note that this first one is not a picture. It's a music video of one of the songs from dance class. We primarily do salsa, but over time, we've gotten to learn some bachata and merenge as well. This song is our "bachata song," and I really like it a lot because it's super romantic and great to dance to.



Above: CPK's red velvet cake. I've written about this before, but I had it again so "The Ukrainian" could try it. We both agree that this is one of the better red velvet desserts out there!

Above: At some point, I had decided that I needed to see what my dancing looked like to a spectator. I've done this before to check out my starting technique in track and field, so this is one of the screenshots I pulled from that session. Totally embarrassing, I know. The sunglasses were to protect my identity, j/k!

Above: Speaking of embarrassing, I had mentioned that I went to see a show this past week, and here was some of the aftermath. I have to say... it was an excellent show! Those guys are so talented!

Above: This is the dinner I had before seeing the show. It was at Casita del Campo in Silver Lake, CA. What I loved most was that I just ordered this tostada salad with no other instructions, and it already came sans dairy. I lopped off the jalapeno and most of the guacamole, and deep inside, I found black beans and steamed veggies. Yay!

Above: On a random night, I also went to Swinger's. This is seriously one of my favorite diners, because it's near Hollywood and has lots of vegetarian and vegan options! I also like the atmosphere... not too pretentious but still weird enough to be "LA." This is vegan chilaquiles. Not what I expected, but yummy!

Above: These last two pictures were from Loving Hut (see here and here for my past references to this place). One is vegan fish tacos. They were fine, and so was that rice dish. However, they totally blew it. We ordered mocha vegan ice cream, and they gave it to another table and charged us for it. They apologized and asked us to remind them what flavor we wanted again, but they ended up just bringing us another bill without the ice cream on there. Ugh, the incompetence. It's not like the place was crowded at all! I am not sure if I want to go there again, though I need to consider the scarcity of vegan restaurants in my area.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Two Books

Long before running or the advent of my adult life, I used to read a lot more. I can go on for a while about my favorite books, including Angela's Ashes, The Stranger, Life of Pi, and Falling Leaves. Nowadays, my reading is limited to textbooks, business books, newspapers, blogs, and Internet articles.

I wish I had more time to read, but with my dumb dissertation on the line, I am mostly stuck with research articles and journals. More recently, I randomly saw the movie "The Lightning Thief" and wanted to read that entire Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Yes, my little sister reads those, so they are not exactly adult lit. Still, that movie brought a piece of my youth back, the young person in me who writes poetry and reads books.

At the same time, I acquired two books from work that I was told I eventually should read. This one below is called Managing the Millennials. I've met two of the three authors and feel that this book will be useful for training we're working on at work and is useful info in general.



This second one is the one I was reading yesterday at Starbucks as I was waiting for "The Ukrainian" to join me for a mini-dinner before I went to class, Man's Search for Meaning. I feel like I should have read it in high school, but better late than never, I suppose.

It's about a Halocaust survivor who was sent to Auschwitz (i.e., THE famously large and terrible concentration camp). I've read many of these types of books, but I think that it strikes me differently now because my life's philosophy has changed. I'll leave it at that; you don't really want me to spend another entry talking about that, do you? Anyway, I was stricken by this part when the guy talks about seeing visions of his wife at his worst moments. Obviously, you'd have to read it to understand, as the sheer desperation builds upon itself to that moment.

My basic takeaways from the book so far: 1) love is as strong as death, and 2) we spend too much time covering the lack of human connections and meaning with materialism. Nothing wrong with that, but it's something to be aware of. I'm sure I'll have more to say after I'm done reading.



Before I go, I also wanted to make note that I am going to see Chico's Angels this week with "The Ukrainian" and a friend of ours. I'm not much of a show person, but since I started dating him, I have been "dragged?" to several things like Neil Diamond/ABBA tribute bands, Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals sing-a-long, and a production of Oklahoma. I get revenge by bringing him to things like my little sister's middle-school band concert and her upcoming Guys and Dolls appearance. It sure beats dissertating, though!

Onneeeee more thing: my classmates are trying to get me to ditch class next week. I have not ditched class... ever... no matter how bad the class. Maybe once or twice in college for a holiday, and maybe even once for surgery as a kid. But otherwise, never. I could use that time to work on my paper or final class project, which is definitely how I'd spend it. I'm at a point where those things are simply more important than perfect attendance. The girls said that I've worked too hard and deserve a break... or maybe they are just trying to ensure they aren't the only ones ditching (I don't really mean that, girls!). But... why is it taking every fiber of my being to resist going to class? The young person in me lives on.

Speaking of classmates, some of them need help with their thesis data collection. Please consider taking a few short minutes for the following if you...

- have worked at your organization for at least 6 months,
- currently have a supervisor,
- and are at least 18 years old.

http://alliant.qualtrics.com/SE?SID=SV_2mzE70JHbVh1RE8&SVID=Prod
http://alliant.qualtrics.com/SE?SID=SV_bDSRSal1UEQOhtW&SVID=Prod

And with that, back to work and running. My bum leg is feeling better by the day, so I will continue to ice, eat a bunch, and try to take it easy. Yay, taper!

Friday, March 5, 2010

MaraNatha Peanut Butter

This morning on the way to work, I had the most massive peanut butter craving ever. I slipped into the supermarket and found this jar of peanut butter for $3.55. This is more than I would normally pay for peanut butter, but hey, it is natural, right? (I also managed to pick up some sprouted bread and veggie cheese.)

This PB requires no stirring and tastes rich like you'd expect it to taste.

This certainly addressed my craving, and I didn't even have gobs of it. And I didn't want any more after I was done. So THAT is how I won't overdose! Good to know! I guess the lack of a ton of sugar and that tackiness of normal PB is what causes my addiction. Next time, though, I should get the chunky variety if they have one. I tend to like some bite to my PB.

So in the work fridge it goes for some nice meals/snacks next week. Yay for PB&Cheese sandwiches!

Public Counsel & LA Marathon #3

Yay, I have time to do an update!

Not much new stuff is happening in my world. I still have a cat living in the house and am still getting my dancing lessons in twice a week (that blog post will come soon, I hope!). Oh, and I guess my next marathon is in two weeks! More than the race, I'm more excited to be taking a DAY OFF after the race. I really, really need one! I'm more burnt-out than blackened toast!

I've been having a hard time with running lately because about a week ago, my knees gave out. Those got better, and I've been icing them every day as a precaution. Following that, my right quad suddenly decided it would tighten up forever. So I haven't been running a whole lot lately due to its limited capacity. Last week's scheduled 20-miler became a 13.1, and we'll see how today's scheduled 12-miler goes.

To keep me going, I am raising money for the Public Counsel like I did last year. I've raised about $100 so far, so I think that justifies both myself and "The Ukrainian" to have our times counted on behalf of my company. You see, I ran the fastest female marathon time in my age bracket among all the participating law firms that hold this fundraiser. I am not sure what will happen this year, but I'm sure at least one of us will take that title!

Beyond that, this next marathon is going to be my 5th marathon and last race overall before I hit the big 25 next month, which will duly kick me out of the F 19-24 racing group.

Finally, I am so happy that the week is nearly over. I'm SO tired! And just for kicks, let me just say that award shows (e.g., Oscars) are a waste of the world's time and resources. Sure, award people for their hard work, but really, do we need to give out bags worth $$$ and dresses that cost more than my yearly income to people who already have money coming out of their ears? There are people suffering in Haiti, Chile, and across the US with layoffs/school crunches and budget crises galore. Young girls and boys see these celebrities who think they are better than everyone and grow up with this notion that their character is not worth nearly as much as their wealth. Ooops, end of rant. I live in a strange, strange world.

Link: http://www.firstgiving.com/run4justice