Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Close of a Dark Year

I'm not sure why I've taken to doing these "New Year" posts (see 2010, 2009).  Perhaps it's something about that last digit in the year changing that forces me to think about what the coming months will bring.  In reality, I just start feeding off of this "starting over" mentality that seems to take over after that last Christmas gift has been unwrapped.

Back in June, I did a mid-year progress report of my "resolutions."  If you keep any to-do list, you can probably sympathize with the satisfaction of crossing off items, and these resolutions are very similar.  Here is my brief update on all:
  1. PR - The only PR I might be able to BS is for trail half-marathons... 2:05, anyone?  Eff, anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I am disappointed as heck about my lackluster year, which was probably caused by not running enough races (<-- which was caused by repaying upwards of $15k of student loans)  
  2. Finish dissertation - completed before last update
  3. Start budgeting - I started doing this in September, and while I still "eyeball" a lot of what I spend, I have made a lot of progress.  So, I DID "start" budgeting... to be continued better next year, hopefully.
  4. Pay down debt - I will be doing this before March, and since I already have the money set aside, I will consider this basically done.
  5. Employment - As of this writing, it's close but I can't declare victory yet.  And I have a feeling I won't be getting off that easy.
  6. Retirement (saving for) - No progress since the last update... probably not until #5 is completed.  I guess I'll be working unti I'm 80.
As this post's title suggests, I am pretty much *done* with 2011.  I always thought that odd-numbered years were better for me, but this one was really dumpy.  I spent one chunk of it stressed and working off of two laptops simultaneously while hopping in my desk chair ASAP after long runs.  Another part of it, I was at a low I haven't seen myself in for many years, a time period that made me question everyone and everything.  It hasn't been until these past couple of months that I have felt like a functional human being, in spite of my athletic shortcomings.

(Some highlights that came toward the end of the year that should be noted: the birth of my niece, some aspects of finishing school, moving, and stuff that I will elaborate upon soon.)

I want 2012 to be the antithesis of this year.  I will embrace all the changes that have come along, both in routines and in the way I see myself and other people.  The biggest lesson I have learned from 2011 is to live in the present, and that means assumptions don't work since they are based on the past.

So in terms of "resolutions," I have added a few new ones:
  1. Retirement - save for (recycled)
  2. PR (recycled... you'll be mine!!)
  3. Publish (or attempt to publish) something (academic) -- in progress but needs to be completed
  4. Reach "equilibrium"
  5. Read more, including on spirituality
  6. Get a physical - It has been a few years
  7. Make progress on my guitar-playing

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cappuccino Larabar

So I received a little package just before Christmas.

Let's just say I've already indulged in this Cappuccino Larabar (for other Larabar reviews, click HERE), coming to a store near you in 2012.

This bar contains coffee-flavored chocolate bits among the nuts and dates and would be perfect with tea.  Or coffee, I guess, but that would be a bit much for people like me who can only tolerate so much coffee.

Thanks, Larabar!

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of this product to review and was not compensated to provide any particular opinion.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Leading Lady Sports Bra (Giveaway)

UPDATE: 12/26/11 -- Winner is #4, Krissy!  Please e-mail me for your voucher!


I'll preface this by apologizing to the dudes... this giveaway is aimed toward women.  Of course, if there is a woman in your life that could benefit from this giveaway, you can enter on her behalf if you wish... just make sure if you win, she winds up with it in the end!

Leading Lady specializes in full-figure and nursing bras.  I don't fit in either of these categories (not sure how that makes me feel.......).  However, I will say that if I ever need to nurse a kid, having a sports bra that can open up like so would be VERY awesome.

A bit about the company:

"Leading Lady is a premiere intimate apparel company dedicated to creating comfortably functional, remarkably affordable, stylish and easy-to-wear bras, camis and sleepwear. A family owned and operated business, Leading Lady has been expertly tailoring nursing and full figure bras for top brands and retailers across North America for more than 70 years. For the first time, Leading Lady’s comprehensive line of nursing and full figure intimates – including sexy stretch lace wire-free and underwire bras, supportive and seamless sport and yoga bras, and cozy sleep and leisure bras – can be purchased directly on

Leading Lady is proud to celebrate “Leading Ladies” everywhere through its products, programs and philanthropic activities. Leading Lady is dedicated to arming new moms with the support – physically, intellectually and emotionally – they need to nurture their babies through breastfeeding and committed to supporting a variety of organizations and issues relevant to women across the country. Follow Leading Lady on Facebook and Twitter."
Giveaway (ends 12/23/11 at noon, PST)
- Please leave a separate entry for each method of entering.
1) Visit the Leading Lady website (click for direct link to full-figure and nursing bras) and comment on which one you would order if you won!

2) Follow Leading Lady on Facebook and leave a comment.

3) Follow Leading Lady on Twitter and leave a comment.

4) Tweet or link this giveaway and leave a comment with your Twitter handle or blog link.

Giveaway Terms and Conditions:

Good for one free product.
Free shipping on total order.
Free shipping does not apply to shipments in Hawaii or Alaska.
May not be combined with any other coupon code offers.
Any site discounts will come off their order automatically.
One time use only coupon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vegan Gingerbread Scones

Happy Hanukkah!

With Christmas coming soon (don't forget to enter the Leading Lady giveaway, for a gift for yourself!), I had to get this post up as soon as I could so that maybe someone could enjoy this holiday goodness before "the season" ends.

I found THIS recipe on Happy Herbivore and decided to make it for Sunday brunch.  The recipe came together very quickly (I mixed the dry ingredients the night before!)... the meal was ready in 20 minutes!

Fresh out of the oven.

Enjoyed with a Numi tea sample that I received at Foodbuzz Festival (it was a soothing, somewhat sweet, and light tea).

"The Ukrainian" likes eating fresh tomatoes with salt and pepper at breakfast, and I have caught on to this.  It adds some freshness to otherwise heavy breakfast foods!

I used some Earth Balance spread on the warm scones.  I didn't buy, or force "The Ukrainian" to buy, it... he says he naturally likes the way it tastes.  Yay!

I screwed up a bit on this recipe, as I had taken a screen-cap of it on my tiny phone... so my bad eyes misread things.  I ended up putting 1 instead of 4 tbsp of maple syrup, and I also somehow neglected half a teaspoon of nutmeg. *sad face*  It still came out tasting good, though I'm sure those things would have made it even better. 

Since I don't have much longer to legitimately (haha!) enjoy "holiday" scones, I will probably revert back to more "everyday" scones, like THIS one I made previously.  Overall, they are quick and somewhat healthy additions to a nice breakfast at home.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Dummy" or "Idiot"?

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that I got a guitar

Now, I am not that busy of a person.  Yes, I work full-time, some side stuff (this blog, mentoring, continuing academic obligations), etc. etc... but I really could be spending more time with María (said guitar's name).

At least she didn't cost what this Spanish guitar did...

As seen at Guitar Center, Hollywood, CA
 So far, I've actually learned a few songs -- a lot of chord progressions, which basically means that you strum chords rather than play the individual notes of the melody.  I've also dappled into the true Spanish guitar form, but this is not really why I got a guitar.  I want to play Green Day, Adele, and even acoustic versions of Red Hot Chili Peppers, haha.  YouTube has been one of my primary teachers, along with books:

A while back, I received a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Guitar to compare against the Guitar for Dummies that I already had at home.  I took to the challenge and worked through both books with about the same thoroughness (as in, I pick up what I desire without drudging through too many things I don't care for or find "too hard"...I'm bad).

I am not sure if I can say which is a clear-cut winner.  Each has its advantages -- I feel like the Dummies book as more thorough and methodic, whereas the Idiots book was cleaner (in print and layout) and more inviting overall. 

After I play my guitar more, I wonder what the next "Dummy vs. Idiot" comparison I should make... I know they both make running books, but after six years of running, I'm not really sure either would be very helpful to me.....

What has been your experience with any of these types of "how-to" books?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Zensah Compression Socks

Hey, folks!

My work location has shut down for the holidays (didn't think I'd get to take part in this, but I can... yay!), so I am planning on spending the time wisely by:

- going snowboarding
- getting a smog check, going to the dentist, and other nagging errands
- helping to babysit my niece
- baking with my little sister
- running???

Speaking of running, I have been a bit out of it since the marathon, in spite of my intentions to train for the next one and a half-marathon that I may or may not do on January 8 (it was free, thus my flippant-ness).

How "out of it" have I been?  Well, on the week of December 5, I ran 15 miles... total.  And I felt hugely accomplished for doing so. I'm probably going to pay for it during my half-marathon, but it might be enough to snap me into sanity...  The same thing happened in 2009 prior to my PR marathon, so maybe the same thing will happen?  But perhaps I'm getting too old to pull that off again.

Anyway, I should really get into running long distances again, so I can continue to wear these around.  I have a pair of CEP Compression sleeves but wanted another, cheaper pair to wear for recovery.  When I saw a 50% coupon for Zensah compression socks, I bit!

These are different from CEP socks in that they are not as tight around the calf.  I don't know if that's a good or bad thing... only time will tell.  Because of this, I didn't feel like I have monster calves because I didn't have to order the next size up.

The sock portion (which my sleeves don't have) are comfortable and thick.  I don't do well with thick socks when I run (toenail issues and blisters tend to become more likely), so for now, I am still using these socks for recovery.  The socks are fitted for the left and right feet, so the socks are labeled "L" and "R" for reference.

Finally, I just think this particular pattern (diamonds) is pretty darn cute.

I'm not entirely sure these are all that helpful... it makes the initial part of recovery a little more comfortable, but when it comes to a longer-term effect, I haven't felt any.  So far, I've felt the same the next day as I would have without wearing compression socks for recovery.  But sometimes, there's just something nice about bundling yourself up after a run.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Equilibrium Update #2

This is my second update to the post in which I mentioned I was going to try to lose some weight to spare my joints and such as I ease back into running post-marathon

After 2 weeks (I've been doing weigh-ins on Mondays):

Change (me)
Change (Ukr)
Overall Weight
 -2 lb
-2 lb
 no change
 no change

After 4 weeks (all changes are compared to baseline, NOT the previous week... figure there are gonna be ups and downs, so this is the best way to capture just the overall picture).

Change (me)
Change (Ukr)
Overall Weight
 -3 lb
-4 lb
 no change
 no change
 no change

I decided not to post Week 3's update, since I wasn't able to get the tape measure numbers.  However, that week, I was down -4 lb from the start and seemed to have gained one back in Week 4 (though I was wearing more clothing than usual and the timing of the weigh-in was off... but I am still going to report it).  The fluctuations in the tape measurements are so lame that I don't really think that matters anymore... it could just be my "human error."  I'll keep trying, though!

Overall, I'm still going in the right direction, 30% there!  However:
  1. I'm pretty sure some of this loss is muscle mass... I haven't been working out as much as normal (BUT I was active/busy moving crud around but not at the gym), but I have stepped it up this past week (ran 15 miles over 4 days) and will continue to try to get used to some sort of routine.   
  2. Not to mention... my eating has kind of been all over the place -- I haven't been tracking calories and have subsisted on cheap/free food (calorie bombs) more often than I should.  Darn holidays!   
Anyway, next week's weigh-in will be kind of telling, since by then, I hope to be up to working out 5 days a week, which is my normal frequency.  Whether my intensity or eating will improve is another story.

"The Ukrainian" has started using MyFitnessPal (the site I started to use and then quit due to laziness) as an app on his phone.  I'm jealous my phone isn't "smart" enough to do the same thing, but I'm proud of him for keeping on top of things this way.  He hasn't worked out since... our visit to the personal trainer... which is a long time for him!  He says that once he's back to working out again (hopefully soon!), he will increase his intake.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kashi Tuscan Veggie Bake

I have to admit that I've eaten way more frozen entrees than one really should.  Something about vegan boxed meals intrigues me, just like energy/meal replacement bars.  Perhaps it's that I am skeptical that these could come close to the typical non-vegan versions... or perhaps I just like the chase.

This Tuscan Veggie Bake from Kashi was a surprise purchase (on sale).  I know that not all of Kashi's stuff is vegan, but for all intensive purposes, this one seemed to be.  The dish is similar to lasagna, except there is no cheesy aspect to worry about (I put "worry" because it's so easy to mess up cheese substitutes!).

I thought that this was not bad, but as a lasagna lover, I was really missing some substance in the middle besides vegetables and lentils(?).  I also thought it was a tad salty, but I think that's a complaint I have about any frozen food with a tomato sauce base. 

However, it did fill my stomach without hurting it... and that, my friends, is a success.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Are you tired of seeing pumpkin yet?  This will probably be the first and only time a pumpkin recipe appears on this blog this season.  However, THIS recipe is one of the best ones.

The key ingredient is: water.  I also halved the sugar and subbed half of the oil with unsweetened applesauce.

The loaf served as breakfast for my sister when she was a new mom.  I also brought it to a potluck recently because it whips up quickly and contains readily-available ingredients.  I'm sure it'd make a great festive snack, if you can practice portion control.  It's not too sweet and quite moist.

And yes, pie plates make perfectly good bakeware. =)

THIS recipe

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My First Personal Training Experience (Encino PTI)

I have been working out regularly for about eight years now, but personal training is unventured territory for me.  The last thing I needed during my "me time" is something constantly staring at/correcting me.  So although I had access to free training in the past, I never bit.

My best friends recently got trainers and are seeing pretty good weight-loss results.  Given that I gave jumped on the weight-loss wagon, I thought it'd be a good time to at least see where I stand in terms of my body composition.
I look tired here, blah.  To be fair, I drove an hour to get there,
and I had just gotten off from work.

Joe from Encino Personal Training Institute offered "The Ukrainian" and me a free trial session.  This place is located off the 101-N on Hayvenhurst (for those who aren't in CA, there are other franchises -- but this I'm sure they are all different).

The club includes a variety of equipment.  This is their cardio area, which members are encouraged to walk in and use at any time.  (Bonus points for having a TV!)

Beyond cardio, the second element of their "success-stories" is nutrition counseling.  Clients receive access to calorie/macronutrient trackers and learn about proper portion sizes.  You'd better believe that I was obsessed with the fake food, and even moreso fascinated by the one- and five-pound replicas of fat and muscle.  I was blown away by how much a pound of fat really is!

Finally, Encino PTI emphasizes strength training to build lean muscle mass.  Each total-body session is 30 minutes of about 10-12 exercises done very slowly, which definitely felt effective.  You don't need to waste a lot of time working out if you do it right, which the trainers here help you do.

I usually rush through my strength training and definitely learned a lot about what I SHOULD be doing.  For one thing, I definitely need to work on my leg strength more!

Both of our sessions ended with two minutes of boxing.  This was the most fun part.  Joe (picutured below) was so encouraging throughout and did NOT make me feel like I was doing everything incorrectly (even if I was, he was gentle about it).  I rarely have someone actively trying to push/motivate me during workouts, and I must say that I can see why so many people have had success with personal training.

The part I was looking forward to most was the initial body analysis.  Clients use these once a month to track their body composition changes.  They use a Tanita scale here, which sends a current through your body and calculates everything from there.

Here is the analysis that prints out from the scale.  According to this, I am properly hydrated, in the middle of the "healthy" BMI (body mass index) range, and have a low body-fat percentage.  I was skeptical about the accuracy of the body-fat measurement and what it means for my weight-loss goals, but I'd rather not fuss over some percentage points.  Bottom line is that while I am not sure my goals are attainable, I can stick to my basal metabolic rate guidelines and continue to see where that leads me.

"The Ukrainian" also found the session useful (which is saying a lot because he *thinks* he knows how to keep himself fit... love ya, honey!), and I hope that it helps him with his weight-loss goals as well. 

Unfortunately, he is moving out of the area soon and can't join right now, but for anyone who does live there, feel free to try it out on your own.  Rates start at $199, and they do (holiday gift alert!!!) have gift cards available.

Encino Personal Training Institute
16350 Ventura Boulevard
Suite C (in the Avalon Bay Encino shopping center)
Encino, CA 91436
(818) 783-4792
[link] | Twitter [link]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Skin Care for Athletes: Tri-Body Recovery Wash

My calves were sore as heck after my previous marathon.  They were so tender, particularly the one that buckled, that I couldn't even stand the thought of foam-rolling it.

Luckily, I had a sample of this Tri-Body Recovery Wash from the Skin Care for Athletes line, which as you can guess by the name, makes organic/natural skin care products for athletes.

I don't know why I don't do more bath-related things to relax me, since I'm a big fan of bath bombs and lotions and such and am often stressed from work (and formerly, school).  I tried the whole ice bath thing a couple of times with just a tray of ice cubes (I can't bear to "waste" a bunch of perfectly-good ice!), which obviously wasn't all that helpful.

Anyway, this gel helped a lot.  I lathered this up in the shower and paid special attention to my calves.  That evening, I suddenly felt SO much better -- less sore and stiff.  That's pretty unusual to suddenly feel recovered in the middle of the day like that... most of my recovery gains occur over a nice snooze.

Anyway, this might be a great gift idea for the athlete in your life (even if that's yourself!)... no ice bath needed.
FREE SHIPPING code: Free Cyber11 (till 12/16)

FTC Disclaimer: I was provided a sample of this product to review but otherwise not compensated.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Marathon Post Mortem

What the heck is in THIS picture?!

It looks awfully reminiscient of a marathon training program.  And based on my recent marathon failure, I thought I'd never be making one of these again.

Not sure why I look happy in this
photo... happy to be done?  Next time,
I hope to be happy for a race well-run.
(More pictures from the race HERE)
I don't know what the heck I'm doing.  I'm registered for the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon on March 18th (and a few shorter races in between).  It will be my fifth LA Marathon, and for some reason, I have not been able to run better than a 4:50 each time (my PR is 4:19, a time I've hit twice).  Although I am scared that I will be wasting my time again by training for this race and then succumbing to a surprise calf spasm for the 11th time, I have decided that this one will be a go.  Some notes:
  • I will NOT register for any other marathons until this one is done.
  • I will consider alternatives from my physical therapy visit and perhaps do a second.
  • If this is my last marathon, I want to give it my last efforts.
I have been combing through my notes from my previous training cycle, trying to determine if I did something wrong during my training.  I complied with that program (based on THIS book, 4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon) about 85%, which is much better than I have ever stuck to any marathon training.  The reviews on Amazon for this book were indeed mixed, but I felt it was the right program for me because of the relatively low weekly mileage and plenty of long-long runs (e.g., 19, 21, 23) to condition my endurance.  Low weekly mileage was important to me, because I tend to get injured easily.

So now I'm revisiting a plan I've used before, Hal Higdon's Intermediate 1.  I ran a 4:34 in San Antonio last year using this plan, even though I didn't follow it perfectly and recall doing a lot of walking in some of my training runs.  If I can handle this higher mileage without injuring myself, perhaps I'll stand some sort of chance.

I'm starting on the 4th week of the program, since I really wanted to give myself a chance to recover/unwind before starting.  I should have enough base fitness from my marathon of death to cover myself for the three missing weeks.  I have been plagued with a busy schedule, a cold, and lingering injuries, so let's hope these all settle -- if not, I'm willing to keep waiting and dive in when I can.

And yep, I started a new tag "lamtraining" for these posts... I will not be updating weekly like I did for the last cycle.  I have a few races embedded within my plan, so I'm sure details of my training progress will go in there (and hopefully Daily Mile).  Yay for half-marathons, though only time will tell whether those become my longest-distance race in the near future.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Clif Bar: Peppermint Stick

Happy Holidays!

Well, it's December, and that can only mean that you're probably already tired of the Christmas music, tinsel, and commericals.

But if it's any consolation, holiday Clif bars are here (I received an entire box of 'em last year)!

This Peppermint Stick is a new flavor, and being the good bar reviewer, or just eater, that I am, I tried it immediately.

I liked this one because it really did remind me of candy canes.  Not to say that you won't get a carbo-bad-breath afterward, but I imagine it'd be a treat to cool your mouth slightly as you take a break from your winter activities.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Equilibrium Update #1

This is my first update to the post in which I mentioned I was going to try to lose some weight to spare my joints and such as I ease back into running post-marathon

After 1 week (I've been doing weigh-ins on Mondays):

Change (me)
Change (Ukr)
Overall Weight
 -2 lb
-4 lb
 no change

After 2 weeks*** (all changes are compared to baseline, NOT the previous week... figure there are gonna be ups and downs, so this is the best way to capture just the overall picture).

Change (me)
Change (Ukr)
Overall Weight
 -2 lb
-2 lb
 no change
 no change
***this week covered Thanskgiving and 4 days of not working out =/

I am not getting too excited yet, as I'm pretty sure water weight and muscle loss are occuring to affect the changes.  The lower-impact stuff I have been doing is probably not helping my muscles one bit, although I have been getting enough protein. 

I WAS using MyFitnessPal to keep me on track, except on the weekends when I was more lenient.  I quit tracking after a week or so but try to roughly estimate my intake.

This past week, I scheduled a body composition analysis, which gave me a better idea of where I stand, whether my goals are fitting, and what I can do to make this easier.  Stay tuned.

As for "The Ukrainian," I will have more details on him in the next update.  We have both been a bit busy, but soon, this quest will return to the front burner.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lemon Curd Experiment

A while back, I decided to make lemon curd.

Now, I am one of those people who does NOT like lemon-y desserts (eeew!), so the thought of producing lemon curd kind of made me wince a little.  However, more than anything else, I was curious if I *could* do it.

Cue THIS recipe.  This is basically a bunch of lemon with agave, cornstarch, and egg yolks.

Everything started off so watery and then finally got to this:

My little sister took this picture of me looking pretty darn pleased about my "accomplishment."  She thinks I'd be too embarrassed to post such a photo -- sweats and all.

As for the curd itself -- it was actually not that "bad."  It had lemon flavor but was not sickening.  I gave this to "The Ukrainian" to eat with bread, though next time, I might actually put it into a tart or something.

How do you feel about lemon-y desserts?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tomato Barley and Capers

I am way behind on this post, but I wanted to get it up later than never. <-- That sounds wrong.

I received some jars of Newman's Own pasta sauce to try out from Foodbuzz and was supposed to create a 30-minute recipe featuring it.

You can tell I'm a novice cook, because anyone can figure out that barley takes longer than 30 minutes to cook.  Gah!

Once this cup of pearled barley and 1 cup of Newman's Own pasta sauce (Roasted Garlic flavor) cooked -- about 40 min -- I stirred in about 2 tablespoons of capers (with a splash of the juice).  It made for a quick meal, and the capers made this side dish a little more sophisticated.

The texture of this barley was chewy, much like the version they served at the Foodbuzz festival.

I was also supposed to record a video on making this, but somehow I popped it out of the box thinking that I could just press Record and go.  Hah, no such luck.  I had no batteries, which weren't included.

My regular camera was a substitute, but after many, many out-takes, I decided to call the multimedia quits.

Speaking of quits, I also made this quinoa and pumpkin mixture that night, which was spiced with cumin and such to make it a burrito filling.  It was okay, but not thrilling enough to elaborate upon.  In addition to not having anymore wraps (fail!), this kind of sparked an upsetting conflict between "The Ukrainian" and I.  We're usually pretty easy-going, so this was kind of a big deal, even though it wasn't.  Full disclosure here!  Ugh.

That quinoa sitting in the freezer now, so I hope it resurfaces before I have to throw it away.

Didn't I say I was a novice cook?'

FTC Disclaimer: I received the Newman's Own product to try out from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program but was not compensated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Let's Talk About Chex

Are you looking for a little appetizer for your Thanksgiving dinner, pre-dinner run, some after-dinner nibblings, or Black Friday fuel?

I made this (<-- recipe link) mix for Halloween.  I was very skeptical about dumping this gluten-free cereal (and pretzels, raisins, and candy corn) in white chocolate.  I feared a mixture that would be too sweet and boring for people to eat.

But nope... people seemed to actually enjoy this thing.  As my mom (who usually says my creations are too sweet) said, they have an addictive factor.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Physical Therapy Visit

As I mentioned in a previous entry, my marathon-ing career is in jeopardy.  Unless I find a reason why I keep getting debilitating calf cramps in every marathon and buck the trend, then there is really no point for me to keep having the same (sad) story unfold each time I decided to tackle a marathon.

All the Google-ing in the world hasn't really helped me over the years, so I finally decided to see someone about it.

Luckily, I'm in a good running area that had lots of options for physical therapists, some more geared toward runners than others.  I finally decided to visit Catz.

Not that cat.  He wants nothing to do with running, unless it's for kibble.

Catz Physical Therapy Institute operates in a few cities across the country.  When I visited my local branch, I was paired up with Melissa for a consultation to see whether my issue was really one that physical therapy could handle.

Melissa is a super-awesome licensed physical and lymphedema therapist.  She is also a runner herself, having done five marathons and is currently training for the Disney Marathon

After explaining my predicament in detail and answering her questions, she said she was stumped but went through a slew of recommendations.

- fueling: She thinks I'm fine in this area

- hydration/electrolytes: She thinks I'm fine in this area, too

- stretching: I'm doing OK here, maybe more ice baths after running 14+ miles

- medical issues: She doesn't suspect chronic inflammation or something inherently wrong with me, medically, because I don't really have these issues during training, at least not to the degree of the marathon.  However, I can go to the doctor if I want, but most likely, she won't "understand."

- compression socks: Already wear these during runs/races and recently got a pair for pre/post-runs (will review it later).

- gluten or other sensitivity that is causing inflammation in my body: I brushed this one off.

- training: No more concrete for me, street is preferable, but trails work best. Also, no more training runs over 20 miles.

- insoles/orthotics: She looked at my walk and looked at my feet and said they are very flat.  I have a few pairs and should be more consistent with wearing them (I switch shoes and forget to pop out the insoles) to keep my foot in the best position possible as to not have shock affect my calf.  If these don't work, might need $$$ custom ones done for me.

- Galloway method: I have seen this around but didn't want to incorporate walking, ever.  She says it might help "save" my muscles and shouldn't affect my race times if I employ it properly. *need to research*

- running gait analysis: There is likely some biomechanical problem that I have when I run, probably related to some of the other items above, that is essentially screwing my calf.  These issues likely can't be caught in the PT setting because running forms tend to get more sloppy as you go (mile 2 vs. mile 18).  Therefore, she recommended a running coach/gait analyzer.  I haven't had a coach since high school (RIP).


I'm not exactly sure where to go from here, though I may be going to a chiro for a second opinion soon.  Even though I was worried about the expense of physical therapy, I'm kind of bummed that I didn't get my magic bullet, "Hey, let's give you six weeks of therapy, and you'll be cured" answer.  And without an answer, I don't know if I will have the will to run another marathon.

Giving my insoles a permanent home in my shoes is easy.  Avoiding concrete will suck because I don't want to drive to run, but I'm willing to try to see what's possible without it. 

More research is in order, and then I'm going to be more mindful of my running form as I ease back into running.  At some point, I hope to have someone analyze my running, maybe running with "The Ukrainian" instead of solo will help, and then maybe with one of the local running clubs a couple of times.

To be continued.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Candle Cafe Macaroni and Vegan Cheese

I have given the whole vegan mac thing plenty of tries.  I'm not even sure why, as I can't say that it's one of my favorite foods. 

I might have mentioned this before, but I had their weird obsession with Kraft's as a kid.  Since I didn't get to eat it and thought the school lunch version was good, I was elated when my older sister S made some for dinner one night.  Sadly, it became inpalatable after a short time, yet my fascination with it somehow continues.

I picked this vegan boxed meal up at Whole Foods because they had a coupon in their flyer.

The verdict?  The smell was fine, the choice of noodles was good, but then the texture of the cheese... I don't know.  Some of it was coagulated to the point of no return, so even distribution was impossible.  The taste was actually not bad.  It wasn't as tangy as I'd hope mac n cheese to be, but it was pretty similar to cheese as I know it and didn't seem overly processed.

So if you can get over some globs of cheese, this isn't a bad choice if you're vegan and having the pangs for mac n cheese.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Next Goal: Equilibrium

Since I haven't been able to figure out how to control the fate of my marathons (if you missed the recap of my recent marathon gone wrong, it's HERE), I turned to another new goal that I might be able to control. Yep, the rebound goal.

I'm calling it "equilibrium" on the blog, which is really just a code-word for weight loss.  I have pretty much been the same weight for nearly three years now. Prior to that, I had an extra ~10 Starbucks-induced pounds somewhere, and each year that the scale number increased, I feared that it would only go up from there. Should the same trend start again (due to aging, babies, or whatnot), I want my starting point to be as low as I can (healthfully) get it.

I haven't talked much about weight loss on this blog.  For one thing, I've approached the whole thing rather stupidly in the past.  Secondly, I know that such topics are controversial/sensitive, which opens me up to criticism.  That all comes with the territory, I suppose, but in exchange for some accountability, I'll take it.  And maybe I might motivate someone.

The Goal:

"The Ukrainian" and I both think that carrying a little less weight will help improve our running, as both of us have been noticing our steps getting heavier these days.

My (lofty) goal is to lose 10 lbs over the next 10 (or so) weeks.  "The Ukrainian" has a similar goal, pretty much x2 of mine.  For the both of us, it will bring us closer to the "ideal" weights for our ages/heights and perhaps help us be more efficient runners. 

The Plan:

I will be blogging (hopefully weekly) updates over the next 10 weeks or so, for both "The Ukrainian" and myself.  This will include weight and gut changes, though I will take a few additional measurements for just myself because they seem unfair to men (bulging biceps, anyone?). 

I will NOT be reporting any actual values, just changes.  Also, I will NOT be posting any body shots -- while I thought about doing this, I'm not really comfortable with that idea!

Change (me)
Change (Ukr)
Overall Weight

So the main plan of attack is to mind calories, something I haven't done in years.  For sanity's sake, we don't plan on being all that precise, but any sort of reference is better than none.  (I must be the worst weight-loss blogger ever...)  We used THIS calculator as a reference, which made a recommendation based on account current mass and activity level.  For me, that number is roughly 1400 kcal per day (varies with activity level) for a loss of .6 lb/week and about 2000 for "The Ukrainian" to lose 1 lb/week.  (Edited to add: I'm also using to help me track things for the first week or so until I can eyeball things on my own.)

Since we both just did a marathon, I except neither of us will be doing a whole lot of running for a while, but my goal is to exercise five days a week for about 45 minutes each time.  "The Ukrainian" is usually waaay more hardcore about his workouts than I, but his gym will be closed over most of this time period, so the calculations assumed an activity level similar to mine.

Initial Reflections:

  • Yes, it's holiday time.  I expect we'll have some deviating moments, and I'm okay with that.  I mean, if I can't manage a weight without killing myself, it's not worth it.
  • I think I'd be okay if I don't reach my goal, and even if I could, it will probably take a long time to get there.  I haven't seen -10 on myself for about seven years, while I was still in college with no desk job and did not run regularly.  However, back then, I could lift more weight and was able to last on other cardio machines much longer than I could today.  So this means there is room for improvement, for sure, but whether my body can healthfully support that amount of weight loss is yet to be known.
  • The first day of this was really rough... I was hungry allll day.
  • Thank goodness someone is doing this with me, or I would have given up already.
So in my next update, expect to see this initial chart filled out for us... off to take some measurements!