Monday, February 28, 2011

A New Training High & a Slice of Humble Pie

Okay, so this is not a "humble pie."
My homemade egg tarts: jumbo & standard.
***WARNING: LONG (but entertaining in a sick way) POST!!

I did a 22-mile training run in preparation for LA Marathon 2011.  Now, I've done many 20-milers in preparation for my (about-to-be-8) marathons, and they have had various outcomes.  But if those really, really long runs have one thing in common, it is that they are nothing to take lightly.  Any way you slice it, 20 miles is just a long @$$ way.

However, I DID start taking them lightly, I guess.  For my last marathon, I maxed out at 21.55 miles for my longest run.  I would have rounded it out to the next whole mile, but I had misplanned and reached my house before I got there.  I felt accomplished, as I had very little cramping and felt like I could have easily finished it.

So when I set out to run 22 miles for my longest run this cycle, I didn't think much of it.  Okay, I take that back.  I had to push my run ahead two days due to forecasted rain (no WAY I'm doing that much running in the rain unless it's a race).  And it was just over two-weeks post-bad cold.  But like all other things, it was now or never, and I don't accept "never" unless I really can't help it.  So on a workday, I embarked at 6 AM for my longest training run to date.

Why 22 miles now?  I am not too sure.  I guess I often feel ill-prepared during a marathon for these parts.  I ALWAYS get leg cramps and attributed those to a lack of training.  These leg cramps, once you get to that point, pretty much cripple you for the rest of your race.  And let's not forget about the time when I tried pushing through the cramp twinges and ended up cramping my calf muscles in front of a bunch of people.  So if adding a little more could push back the cramps at all, adding more is totally desirable.  Plus, I have heard of even first-timers (friends training w/Team in Training and even those SRLA kids) doing 22 or more as their longest run.

So the run itself was pretty uneventful.  Had 3 gels and 2 salt packets; for those who don't know, I down actual salt packets from restaurants to ward off cramping, usually starting at Mile 10 and then another about an hour later.  I was VERY drained toward the end (I would say after 16 miles), and the miles after 20 were truly no-man's land because the way back to my car was hilly and trail-ish.  Around 20.5, in a particularly uphill portion, I walked for a minute because I was exhausted, but soon, I was running again. 

And then came mile 21.45 (close to my previous max).  Out of nowhere, the cramps came.  On BOTH legs (unusual because it's usually just the right one).  I had to walk the next .35 miles and even then, I cramped along and was just hoping not to get a full-on seized-leg cramp.  I was able to run the last .2 miles back to my car.

This is when the drama happened. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekly Workouts: 2/26 - 3/4

This week begins my taper for LA Marathon.  I plan on taking my taper seriously in terms of cutting down mileage, though I am going to keep up the strength training because I feel that will help balance myself out and prevent any last-minute injuries I might get.  I'm knocking on wood, but this is the first time in a year that I have been injury-free and intend on staying that way.

Another Confession: Additionally, this week marks the beginning of my dash to complete my dissertation to a point where I can do my final defense, hopefully sometime in April.  Anything with the actual manuscript itself I will worry about later.  I call it a dash because I was planning on taking an additional semester on this, but plans that are out of my control have changed.  I am not 100% sure I will be successful, and I am scared as heck that I will fail or become paralyzed as I get overwhelmed. 

(On that note, I did try to pull in more dissertation study participants through the blog but was pretty unsuccessful.  People did sign up but in one way or another did/have not complete their participation.  Fortunately, I have gotten enough responses via my original plans.)

But I can treat this a lot like what will happen at the marathon start line.  No matter how well or poorly I prepare, I will NOT feel prepared.  I will be scared and wonder how everything will turn out.  But somehow, that gun will go off, and I will have no choice but to take those steps forward.


This Week's Workouts:

Saturday - rest

Sunday - rest; stretching/"The Stick"

Monday - 30 min elliptical/stepper hybrid; 30 min strength

Tuesday - 6 mi
Why did I only have 3 planned?  I guess I am supposed to be tapering?  Legs felt like lead!!

Wednesday - 20 min elliptical/stepper hybrid; 5 min regular elliptical; 10 min upright bike; 20 min strength/abs

Thursday - 3 mi
Done in 1-mi intervals.

Friday - walked/ran/played with dog for 45 minutes (.7 mi)

Weekly Mileage: 9.7

Thursday, February 24, 2011

GoodBelly 12-Day Challenge

I once got this comment from one of my classmates that went something like, "I bet you have a six-pack, don't you?"


I couldn't blame her (or a couple of others who made similar remarks over the years) for suggesting this.  I was often running before class, racing a lot, and drinking vegan smoothies in class because I didn't like the smell of real food while trying to learn.  But most of the time, I'm a desk-jobber, lazy weekend person who gets tired easily and has an unfortunate love for sweets and distaste for ab exercises (THIS being an exception).  So... of COURSE I don't have a six pack (and that's what I tell people who ask), but that's not to say I don't like my abs at all.  On the contrary, I think they stay relatively flat considering my less-than-stellar eating habits and lack of crunches.  But this is generally only in the morning or when I haven't eaten anything in a while.  Once I put anything in my mouth, I start resembling Santa Claus.

I've alluded many times on this blog that I am intolerant to lactose.  I still eat dairy, but I take supplements or implement other strategies, as if my affairs with cheese and other products is a game that I often wind up losing.  And then there are times when I avoid dairy entirely and still end up with similar belly-upsetting episodes where I think, "WTF is wrong with me?  Why can't I be like a normal person?"

I've heard a lot of buzz about probiotics and that they can help with this.  According to the GoodBelly website (and most other places that concur), "Probiotics have proven to be an extremely important factor in human health. They’ve been found to improve core digestive health and support the immune system."  I've tried getting my dose from yogurt and kefir in the past, but these things were getting expensive and started bothering my stomach after a while.

Then I caught wind (no, that wasn't a pun!) that GoodBelly has a 12-Day Challenge that told me that I'd start feeling better in 12 days or my purchase would be refunded.  They even supplied some coupons so that the 12-day supply came in at around $15 (I got the heavy-duty kind, so the lesser-grade ones are probably cheaper).  All I had to do was take one per day, preferrably in the morning with breakfast, through my 3 containers' worth.  The prospect of "feeling better" was already worth $15 to me given daily discomfort.  (Plus, each carton has a $1 off coupon.)

The GoodBelly shots I got are called "Big Shots."  These contain more probiotics than their other shots and are geared toward people who are feeling particularly bad.  Fortunately, any "unneeded" probiotics would be flushed out of my system, so why not try the higher dose (besides the fact that it was the only one I could find)?  These are made of oat milk, while their normal onces are more juice-based.  But they are all vegan, which is a stark contrast to the other ways I was trying to get probiotics before.

Each little "shot" has 50-60 calories and looks like that smiley thing you see below.  Basically, you drink through the mouth.  I had to wipe off the "face" before taking a photo because it had little bits on it... I'm assuming those are the probiotics.  I can't say the flavor was thrilling; perhaps I don't like lemon/ginger in general.  But this was drinkable and portable enough to throw in my bag if I was running off someplace.

Yes, that's the container smiling... at me!

Days 1-2: I had a cold during this time and wasn't eating that much, yet I remember asking myself at one point, "Do I really eat this much food?"  Sorry about the TMI, but hey, if you're reading this review, then I'm sure you'd want the truth!  But I did not get any stomachaches or real bloating the whole first couple of days on this, which could also be from not eating as much as usual.  Also, props to the fact that I took one shot before running 18 miles, and it did not upset my stomach.

Days 3-4: I had some bloating after drinking some boba drink even though I'm pretty sure it had no dairy?  Also, I bloated a little the next day, though less than usual I suppose, but still I wasn't eating like usual.

Days 5-6: No real bloating, even though on Day 6, I had some Greek yogurt, which sometimes sends my stomach expanding like crazy!  While I keep wishing I got a different, better-tasting flavor so that I don't have to hold my breath while drinking this, I think I'm starting to subtly "feel better."

Days 7-8: Not really noticing anything different at this point.  At least my digestion seeems regular, though some nights, my stomach is a little bloated though a tad less than usual.

Days 9-10: Same as Days 7-8.  I need to stop thinking that I can consume dairy just because I'm adding probiotics.  However, I do notice the effects are less marked.

Days 11-12: Had more Greek yogurt (when will I learn? but I had a big tub at work I've been slowly working on) and doing pretty well.

At the end of 12 days, GoodBelly sent me more coupons to "keep me going" (pun?).  I'm going to take them up on them and take advantage of a sale I saw at a local store (which I think would be much cheaper than Whole Foods) and give it 12 more days with the juice form of this stuff.  I can't say I feel like a new woman, but I have noticed a slight improvements, especially in the first couple of days.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Health Screening

What nerdy person who also happens to chronicle their running adventures doesn't like playing with numbers?

I find myself calculating distances, paces, and time as I am running.  Okay, so maybe this isn't out of enjoyment and more from necessity.  But even so, I couldn't have gotten through XX (i.e., too many) years of education without developing some affinity for quantifying information -- just see THIS POST on the time I did a metabolic test.

So when I was given a chance to do a free health screening at work, I jumped/ran to the chance.  While I can't avoid the doctor forever, I could at least know that none of the below would send me there.

Of course, this involved a quick finger prick, which I hadn't considered before going.  As they say, "no pain, no gain."  I would have taken a photo of my finger, but I'd just be flippin' the bird.

I had four main measures done on me.  Well, more like five -- they took my weight -- though that's something I do on my own at regular intervals anyway.  The others are as follows.  I inserted charts below (click them to go to the source) for comparison purposes.

NOTE: I am pretty sure I am surrendering some of my HIPAA rights by posting my numbers, but obviously because I feel pretty confident that I am healthy by all normal standards.


Basically, these are the lipids (fats) in your blood.  That sounds icky, but some amount is necessary for good health.  For example, cells need fats delivered to them. 

I wasn't sure what to expect.  I eat healthy fats pretty regularly, as well as some unhealthy ones (Doritos, anyone?).

My Result: 164 (79 HDL; They didn't do LDL or Triglycerides)

According to this chart, I'm doing pretty well in this area. :)

Blood Sugar:

Also called glucose level, this measure accounts for the amount of sugar in your blood.  This area made me a little nervous (and not just because of the blood draw!), as I eat more candy than I think most people do.  Admittedly, my love for sweets is a little much nearly every day.

My Result: 72

I had eaten about 2 hours before my test, so this is a non-fasting number.  I was a bit surprised at the fact that my result was fine, even compared to the fasting number.  While this doesn't give me a license to dig into more candy (my dentist would also disagree), my paranoia about acquiring diabetes has been tamed a bit.

Blood Pressure:
This number represents the pressure on your artery walls, created by the pumping heart as well as the condition of your arteries.  I do sometimes do measures of this at drug store pharmacies or just for fun wherever they have a machine, and it DOES vary.  Though I must say that the person who measured it on me made it squeezed VERY hard!

Salt, stress, and other factors can raise your blood pressue, though I hear endurance sports helps keep it down.  I definitely have my share of the two S-words I stated, but I'm hanging in there. :)

My Result: 102/66

Body Fat:

Body fat composition is a number that states how much of your body is composed by fat, versus muscles and other bodily junk. ;)  My sister had this body fat scale that I used to jump on whenever I came to visit her.  Though it was set for her height, I was close enough in stature to take the results wholesale and was always unsettled by what I saw.  I generally knew that women have about 20% body fat, and I was above (sometimes quite a bit above) that.

After entering my height and weight into a little machine that looked like a steering wheel, the nurse told me to extend my arms and grip the electrodes.  The machine supposedly sent a current through me and returned my body fat percentage.

My Result: 18.8%

I guess all my running has paid off???  I'm thinking the real number is closer to the 20% even though they told me during my consultation that these numbers were assuredly accurate.  I think my weight is off due to me recovering from a cold, so I'm sure that threw it off.  I don't consider myself all that lean (especially due to my eating habits), and although I have some obvious muscles, I don't think I'm "under fat" as this chart indicates. :/

So what did I gain from this experience?  Well, I did get some piece of mind knowing that my blood sugar is fine and my body fat percentage has lowered over the years.  (I never thought I could reverse the trend of steady weight gain I had been having in my late teens/early 20's.)  I also got to geek out over numbers for a while.

Finally, seeing that I did so well has encouraged me to continue and perhaps further focus on maintaining my health.  I get no free pass to slack off on making better food choices or regular workouts.  And really, this is no chore at all -- I love experimenting with healthy cooking that doesn't upset my stomach and of course, I love training for and competing in races.  So really, this should all be second nature to me, and I need to remember how good it feels to be healthy for those times when I feel like neglecting my health.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Doing the Hundred: Review of the 100 Push-ups Program

If you've been checking up on my weekly workouts/training, you may have noticed that compared to past training, I had been doing a lot of what I have been calling "strength" training several times each week.
I have purposely been vague about the details of this training for a reason. And that reason, my friends, is the classic FoF ("fear of failure").  I was secretive about this training to everyone, except my boyfriend who gets to hear about everything, and my little sister and cat who watched me crank 'em out at home.

Long story short, after my last marathon, I wanted to take on the hundred-pushups program. The specific reasons for this are unclear but influenced by two main things:

1) I maxed out at 36 pushups in a duathlon I did in 2009. Had I been able to crank out a few more, I would have done much better than I had.

2) Since I've switched gyms in July, no more FitMoves classes have made me worry about my overall fitness beyond running. The first time I did that class (for 30 min), I was nearly as sore as I get after marathons or really long runs.

A hundred pushups is a heavy endeavor, but not as heavy as this HUGE egg sandwich I came across one day.

End random food appearance. :P

So, I made the commitment to invest 3 days/week for 6 weeks...  And no, there were no push-ups done on my knees throughout this entire program. ;)  Here was how I progressed.

FINAL TEST-TRY 1: 65 (repeated Week 6 before Try #2)
FINAL TEST-TRY 2: 50 -- uhhh, massive fail?? groggy morning after a PM run?? (did not repeat Week 6)

I decided to repeat Week 6 of the push-ups because I FAILED (65/100) :(. Weeks 1-4 had been pretty manageable, but Week 5 increases the number of sets, and Week 6 increases the sets to NINE.

This two-hundred situps program seemed to fit well with the push-ups, so I committed to that, as well. Combined, doing these two programs takes about 30 minutes per session. I always did the push-ups first, because I needed my abs to hold that plank position.

WEEK 2-END TEST: 48 (:D)
WEEK 4-END TEST: 100 (Week 4 was when I was starting to get serious, apparently)

The sit-ups referred to in this program are NOT as pictured. I was doing them that way for the first couple of weeks until I re-read the program. The proper way to go through this program is to do it "crunch" style, raising the upper body to 35 degrees. I adjusted and was thankful for that.

The sites have printable booklets for convenience. Look at how cool they are -- they fold up into small booklets!

At the end of 6 weeks (more like 7, since I slacked off during the holidays), here is how the booklets looked.  As a note, I actually carried them around with me in my purse to make sure I always had them around.


I started training more for my upcoming marathon on March 20, so finding that this program was so mentally tough, I decided to can my ambition for 100 pushups for a while. :(

Looking back, this was a tough set of programs. I still try to do 100 sit-ups a few times a week to retain some of the benefits of this program that calls for hundreds of reps each time. I know sit-ups alone aren't the best thing for abs, so I make sure to exercise my obliques and back to balance things out.

As for the push-ups, I plan on doing 100 each time I strength train (4 sets of 25, mind you!). Doing 100 at one time is TOUGH, and the training often made me feel like I've been in a car wreck. Combined with marathon training, I can't say it is a winning combination.

Another side-effect of these programs are muscle tone. I have definitely noticed more definition in my abs and upper body -- moreso the upper body than abs. ;)  While I'd love to post before/after photos, I can't seem to get my act together and get in the same clothes and angle in front of the mirror.  But trust me, my triceps got really cut from this....

Monday, February 21, 2011

Weekly Workouts: 2/19 - 2/25

Last week, I was pretty darn sick.  I had a low-grade fever for two days, both of which I went to work.  It was hard to sit... I even had to sleep in my car during lunch to last through the day.  But I'm pretty ridiculous and worked out both days (not intensely but still).  I work out pretty early in the morning, which had been too early to get a good gauge of my health.  So I'd always be fine, only to crash a few hours later at work.

My illness resulted in the end of my excessive appetite.  While I'm sure it would have happened on its own, this just made it really abrupt.  I had to force myself to eat food regularly, and when I ate, I was MUCH slower than usual.  I remember having lunch with the family, and in a very rare event, they all finished before me.

While it's not smart sometimes to work out while ill, I'm glad I did.  I had been prepared to quit at any time I didn't feel right -- and yes, I did cut down when I needed to.  However, I had a critical training week that I got through, and even though the running wasn't stellar, my legs got through it with minimal soreness.  The rest of my body, on the other hand, took quite a beating, but I think this was in a good way.  This kind of mental toughness will hopefully help me down the line.

So training goes on as I continue to rebound health-wise.  I am glad I got it earlier rather than later. :)


This Week's Workouts:

Saturday - sat on my butt in class from AM to PM... but the good news is, I had a good presentation -- so good that I am going to be the opening act at a big school event in a few months

Sunday - rest; walked around the mall

Monday - 1.5 mi to the gym & 1.5 mi back; 20 min assorted cardio; 40 min strength
It was. freaking. cold. outside.

Tuesday - ~6 mi
Ditto the comment on Monday about the cold.

Wednesday - 15 min upright bike; 15 min elliptical/stepper combo; 20 min weights

Thursday - 22 mi
I am the freaking cramp queen. :X

Friday - 15 min upright bike; 5 min elliptical; 40 min strength
So sore...

Weekly Mileage: 31

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Random Photo Entry 25: Happy "Birthday," Cat!

I might be lame, but this Sunday marks the one year since I woke up and discovered this:

I'm not a cat person, so usually any cat that walks by the back door is "shusshed" away by me or someone else in my family.  And believe me, we tried.  She would NOT leave.  She had no collar, and then it started to rain.  The cat gained entry into our previously pet-less home (well, except when it serves as a pet hotel to my canine nephews).

You can read more about her breed here.  As far as cats go, she is about as low-maintenance as can be.  She took to the litter box like a champ.  And after a few "toilet paper roll destruction" episodes, she has learned that those are not her toys.  Speaking of toys, she doesn't take to them as excitedly as many cats do, but she still has a couple nonetheless.

And as I mention on my About Me page, she is smart, too.  Even at her non-kitten age, I was able to teach her how to sit on command.  It took about one month (on and off) and a lot of her meowing in frustration.  Many of the training sessions took place at 5:30 in the morning before I set off to work.  But during last Thanksgiving holiday, something seemingly clicked.  (Still working on teaching her the "down" command, but I had to teach it to the dog first.)

Her utter cuteness is what really sealed the deal for us.  Along with being easy-going, her cuteness apparently landed her some advertising gigs prior to living in our house.  Or maybe it's true that cats live nine lives....

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blueberry Larabar

The great folks at Larabar sent me a sample of one of their newest flavors, Blueberry Muffin.

I've eaten MANY Larabars over the years, and I'm proud to say I've tried most of the flavors (reviews are here).  But they made my heart be still when they launched a flavor that has a likeness to one of my favorite foods in general -- blueberry muffin!

Upon trying this, I really did taste a resemblance.  Something about the sweet outer layer reminded me of the glaze they sometimes put on blueberry muffins, and the tiny plump bits of dried fruit satisfied my need for tender blueberries.

Of course, there is no delicious crusty "muffin top" involved in this Larabar, and if you're looking for that aspect, you're probably out of luck.  But the flavor does do the pastry some justice, and is probably a whole lot healthier, as well. :)

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent this product to try for free but was otherwise not compensated for this review.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dinner Party a-la Us

If you have been following my blog, you have probably noticed that over time, I have been:

1) posting more frequently
2) featuring more food, including restaurant dishes and my own cooking

While I don't feel the need to explain the reason why running isn't the center of all my posts, I will say that I used to blog a lot less frequently relying on running topics alone. So while reviewing races and running gear will always be my favorite... I eat way more often than I do any of these things! Not to mention, I'm sure you don't want to hear the gruesome details of every single one of my runs. (If you'd like to see my daily workouts, though, click HERE and HERE for examples.)

Anyway, about cooking.  On a normal basis, I prefer to prepare simpler meals like this one:

Above: Trader Joe's veggie marsala burger patty with greek yogurt on top and sandwich thins, with a side of spinach salad, mushrooms, tomato, and half a banana.

I've gotten a little more adventurous in my cooking.  For example, I made fried rice with a bunch of leftover veggies and mixed brown rice.

Served with a side of some of the meatiest meat you can think of (for the man).  I prayed I would just need to heat these up and use the spatula every so often to get these done.  They were easy but way too splattery for my liking.  The things you do for others...

Given that I don't like cooking meat, I prefer when "The Ukrainian" cooks with me.  We don't get to do this very much anymore.  In fact, I'm thinking it's been over four months.

Four months ago, we hosted a dinner party for a couple of couples (his high school friends and their girlfriends).  We started them off with a simple mixed greens salad with persimmon, mushroom, and garlic.

Above: I guess he's very lax about cooking, versus my frantic self.

Above: the table setting. 

Above: "The Ukrainain" preparing some feta-stuffed burgers.  I couldn't stop eating the feta out of the tub.

We also prepared two pizzas, inspired by the time I made pizza with store-bought crust.  With this extra step out of the way, they came together quickly.  The top one (made by me) is topped with Daiya, tomatoes, capers, mushrooms, and basil on whole wheat crust.  The bottom (made by "The Ukrainian") is mozzerella with bell peppers, dill, and mushrooms on herbed crust.

This was served with a tiramisu dessert that I had prepared the day before.

The guests seemed pretty impressed, and I took some pride in making food that was a little more sophisticated than these:

Above: Tomato soup made out of jarred pasta sauce, water, and microwaved frozen veggies.  Ha ha... ghetto, I know!  A throwback to my days at Vegeslop!

Above: Israeli couscous with tomato-basil feta, garlic hummus mixed in, and spinach.  At least I cooked the couscous myself...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Happy Herbivore

A while back, I bought a new cookbook called The Happy Hebivore. I had made a recipe from the site that inspired the book before with some pretty decent success. So when I heard about the cookbook, with over 175 of these yummy healthy vegan comfort foods featured, I pre-ordered it on Amazon.

Although... "happy herbivore" reminds me of these "Happy2BHardcore" CDs that I am really into.  Happy Hardcore is a dance genre that is basically electronica with high, cheery vocals.  This CD pictured below is one of my favorites:

But back onto the topic of food, I could not wait to start making stuff from this cookbook!  This is the second of probably more installments of recipes featured from this book.

Why this book?  Well, unlike many other vegan cookbooks, it generally features cheap and accessible ingredients.  Also, the recipes are generally quick to make.  Finally, the recipes don't contain added fat, which keeps calories down. 

You know how people say just because something is vegan doesn't mean it's healthy?  Well, this book's recipes are vegan AND healthy (AND comforting... this ain't rabbit food, baby!).

The first recipe I tried was Red Lentil Dal (recipe linked here).  One of the ingredients was garam masala, which I could not find in the market but was able to substitute by combining other spices, which is what I did here:

Another hurdle I had to overcome was using veggie broth.  We didn't have any cans, but I always have bullion cubes on hand for this.  It definitely needs to be salted, but it's a lot more compact than cans!  One cube makes 2 cups, which was perfect for this recipe!

Here are all/most of the ingredients, waiting to be used.  I don't think I had enough onion, so I compensated by adding a little more tomato.  Produce was in extremely low supply, so this was going to have to work.

This recipe also calls for tomato paste.  I personally was sick of getting those little cans of paste because I'd often use a tablespoon and then have to pray that I'd use the rest of the can before it went bad.  No more with this tube!

Here's the finished product in the pot, topped with cilantro that was on its way out:

I also started on a little jicama salad to use up more old produce.  I flavored it with orange juice, lemon juice, and some mexican fruit spice powder (not pictured).  Peeling that jicama was a chore -- had to just cut off the skin rather than rely on the veggie peeler.

From the cookbook, I also made the cornbread recipe.  See my lovely method of keeping the cookbook open???

I had some frozen corn on hand, so a dumped a little bit of it into the batter.  "The Ukrainian" was later pleasantly surprised to find corn in the cornbread.

Here's the uncooked batter in a silicone pie dish:

And here's the after-shot.  Look at how beautifully it popped out of the dish!  Keep in mind there was no fat added or pan greasing involved.  I added paprika on the top before baking.

The cornbread had a nice texture (not too dry or moist) and no weird "spoiled milk" smell that I feel comes from a lot of cornbread that I've had.  It is a little sweet (because I added the "optional" 2 tbsp of raw sugar), so I think I'd omit that next time.  I also think it could have used a little more salt, but perhaps removing the extra sweetness would take care of that problem.  For something made out of coconut milk and whole wheat pastry flour, this sure came out good!

Finally, I wanted to try one of the faux-cheese recipes that are in The Happy Herbivore.  Admittedly, although I've made vegan mac n' cheese before, I was worried about how this would turn out.

I served it warm in a bowl with some leftover pita chips.  I nervously asked how it was, and "The Ukrainian" said it was good!  I agreed, though next time, we need to add some green chiles. ;)

Here's the whole dinner together.  I made some mixed rice to go with the dal.  The dal was not what I expected it to be.  It was not spicy at all in spite of adding chili powder at the end.  In fact, I found it to be a little bitter... not sure why.  There are similar recipes in the book tha actually call for curry powder, which was the taste I was sort of expecting while making this.

What I did learn, though, is that red lentils cook 2x faster than green ones!

There were plenty of leftovers for "The Ukrainian" to take the work for the next couple of days, which is always my goal when I make dinner for him.  I feel good knowing he's eating something flavorful and healthy.

In short, I'm really diggin' this cookbook so far!  Stay tuned for more recipes from this cookbook!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

iFitness Belt

It has been a long time since I bought any sport belts, and for good reason. 

I wasn't really a fan of this one or worse, this one (fanny pack!), so I had given up on the prospect of carrying stuff around in a belt.  So I had been using my shorts, my pants, my jackets, sweats, and even my own hands to haul stuff around during my runs.  And since I mostly run outside now, it is getting hard to keep up because I only have a few items of clothing that can carry my stuff, and I hate carrying stuff with my hands.

For that reason, I hardly ever run with my cell phone.  Yes, this is bad, but my cell is a large touchscreen that I don't think tolerates moisture too well.  I used to run with my old phone that was flip, but I think my sweat destroyed it eventually.  So I prioritize and bring my RoadID, pepper spray, gels, and key only. 

Well, I recently decided to give this belt thing another shot and got an iFitness belt.  My sister has had one for a while and reviewed it here.  Given her good review, I picked up a double-pouch at an expo for $27 and saved myself waiting and tax.  Unfortunately, they didn't have the black and green one that I wanted, so I settled on this blue one.  I was pretty set on the double pouch, because I didn't want to overstuff one pocket with all the stuff listed above.

Although it took a little while to get the staff's attention, I was told by one of them that the "sealed" version that I got is water-resistant.  They also have a cheaper, non-sealed version if you don't care about stuff getting sweaty.  The neoprene they use in the sealed one is the same stuff that wetsuits are made of, but I should not go swimming with this because it's NOT waterproof.  But they assured me that I could put my cell phone in there with no harm, better if on the side with no seam on it (see pic below for the seam).

The belt snaps on easily (unlike some other belts I've tried), which is a huge plus.  That picture of me on the right -- sorry I was covering my eyes, but it was early and I was sleepy -- is the first time I put it on with stuff inside.  I felt like the pocket was awkwardly overstuffed, but it did seem to stay in place once I found the correct positioning for it.  Basically, it needs to be placed LOW, and then it doesn't move around, to my amazement.  I was also able to access my gels pretty easily, because usually I carry them in my back pockets.

When I took out my cell phone afterward, it was dry!  Sure, sweat got on the belt, but a little hang-dry took care of that.  I am pretty impressed with this belt, as I had been pretty skeptical about it.  Now I can wear whatever clothes I want while running. :)