Saturday, July 30, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 3

If you're following along, here is the third week of training according to the 4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon book.  The paces below are specifically for the 4-hour goal.  If anyone would like the paces for 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, or 5:00, I can start posting them alongside my plan if you let me know.

I am also posting on DailyMile, but everything (and more!) will be posted here as well.  This "Marathon Training" series is an experiment for me both in fitness and in blogging, as I am going to go into more detail than in previous training cycles, documented HERE and HERE.


Last Week in Review:

Here is the original schedule from last week and my comments/modifications.  Overall, this week went pretty well.  I am especially happy with the long run because last week's was very hard for me.  Although I had some rough moments in the earlier parts of the long run, I pulled it together and ran consistently the whole time except for some water breaks (actually it was Vega breaks).

Week of July 25 (Week 2)
Monday - jog 40 minutes -- Did this outdoors.  Had to take a couple of walking breaks, ugh.
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes -- Did 30 Day Shred for 40 min, need to review it soon!
Wednesday - 8 x 400 m (.25 mi), 2:05-2:15 pace (about 7.2-7.4 mph)
Thursday - jog 30 minutes or rest -- Ran 30 min later in the morning... super sweaty treadmill run.
Friday - cross-train 30 minutes -- Did 30 min of Jacob's ladder.
Saturday - 9 mi 10:40-11:20 pace (about 5.2-5.5 mph)

This Week:

This week's schedule is very similar to last week's, except a couple more speed repeats on Wednesday and a couple more miles on Saturday.  Also, instead of another Thursday run, I get to do cross-training instead.  This is appreciated, since I'm still no running superhero!

Week of Aug 1 (Week 3)
Monday - jog 40 minutes
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes
Wednesday - 10 x 400 m (.25 mi), 2:05-2:15 pace (about 7.2-7.4 mph)
Thursday - cross-train 30 minutes or rest
Friday - cross-train 30 minutes
Saturday - 11 mi 10:40-11:20 pace (about 5.2-5.5 mph)

Do you appreciate cross-training days?  What is your favorite way to cross-train, and what do you COUNT as cross-training?

To be continued...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Jury is Out

Earlier this week, I had to go here:

And sit in one of these:

Three and a half years ago, I took an oath in a box similar to this, an oath to be as fair and impartial as I possibly could.  I came back to this box every day for three more (full) days and reached a verdict with 11 other people on the fate of an alleged domestic abuser.

Living in Los Angeles, going to jury duty (or running marathons!) is pretty interesting.  The court houses are located in Downtown LA, near Union Station and Olvera Streets, Little Tokyo, and Chinatown.  When in Downtown, you see just about as much diversity as one could see in one area -- ethnically, age-wise, and socioeconomically.

I like being able to walk around Downtown so much that I didn't mind my last jury service.

But that's when I was paid (by my company) to go.

Nowadays, I don't get paid for any time that I am away from work (except holidays, thank goodness!).  So I'm a lot like a freelance worker with no benefits, which includes this jury service.  Knowing this, I spoke before a judge to try to get excused from a potentially long trial that would cut my monthly earning by 25%.  Ouch, when you don't make much and need to pay for your own health insurance and just paid for your student loans, dog's neutering and cat's teeth cleaning.

Anyway, the judge was not very sympathetic, so I decided to stick around.  Immediately, I was pulled into a court room and spent the rest of the day (!) involved in voir dire, the jury selection process.

Thankfully, just 15 minutes before the day ended, I guess the defense attorneys didn't like something I said and gave me the boot.  Another few minutes and I would have been on this trial.  No offense taken to this booting.  Honestly, I don't think I would have been able to be a fair/impartial juror given that the case involved white supremicst groups (this was a Federal court).

Picture taken around the time I last served (2008). 
Ten points if you can guess where this was taken!
I have always been fascinated by the justice system and government.  I minored in Public Affairs in college and got a taste of public policy, social welfare, and urban planning.  Therefore, I got to look at Pareto plots, sit in on drug rehab meetings, and learn about urban sprawl.  Had I not been so shy and rebelious when it comes to keeping up with the (depressing) news, I probably woudn't have minded getting into government/justice/politics instead of psychology.  So in a way, I kind of feel bad that I was actively hoping not to do my civic duties as a juror, but unlike the deed of giving blood, there is too much force involved in this act.

So, if I had to summarize some pros and cons about serving, here they are:

1. Fulfilling civic duty
2. Wi-Fi available in the jury assembly room
3. If you're paid by your work, you're being paid to sit around and listen!
4. You learn a lot about the justice system
5. Lots of interesting people
6. Day ends much earlier than the work day
7. Long lunch breaks
8. Lots of places to eat lunch due to all the surrounding ethnic communities (see #7)
9. Not having to worry about being called in for at least another year
10. Free Downtown LA parking! 

1. Airport-style security scan (minus the liquids limit)
2. No pay if your company doesn't provide it (sometimes you get paid to serve, but sometimes not for the first day, and usually between $15-$40 + mileage)
3. Tough to tote food around, so likely have to buy lunch (see #2)
4. "Healthy" lunch options are lacking, so salad it is (see #3)
5. Besdies the assembly room, Internet access = nil
6. No turned-on electronics allowed in the court room
7. Downtown LA, for all its cool-factor, is sometimes scary
8. Being a juror is NOT easy... someone(s)'s fate is literally in your hands!
9. Downtown LA traffic
10. Lots of "interesting" people

What do you think about jury duty?  Have you ever been a juror?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review: What Got You Here Won't Get You There

Over the years, I have read a lot of these types of "business"-type books, mostly due to my studies in industrial and organizational psychology.

While many of them are good, I would actually recommend this book to the general population: Marshall Goldsmith's What Got You Here Wont' Get You There.


How many times have you complimented or thanked someone and then slapped the "b-word" at the end?  No, I'm not talking about THAT "b-word."  I'm talking about the word: but.

"That's a good idea, but..."

"You've really done a good job on this, but..."

I'm sure we have all slipped and done this, or been the victim of this.  Yes, victim.  Putting that "b-word" after saying something nice makes it suddenly not-nice.  It's a bad habit that supposedly keeps people from advancing or doing well with their colleagues, but it also doesn't bode well for real life.

Here are some of the 20 Bad Habits that Goldsmith outlines in his book:

2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our 2 cents to every discussion.

5. Starting with NO, BUT, HOWEVER: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone that I’m right and you’re wrong.

6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.

12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.

13. Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.

16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.

17. Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.

20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.
Guilty of any of these? 
I would say my worst one is #13.  I often blame my past for "the way I am" (see #20), but I should really have more faith in the here and now.  Change is something we need for which we need to take responsibility.  It has been many, many years since my childhood, and I've had LOTS of times to work on the bad habits/thoughts I've had over the years.
This book is pretty eye-opening and makes you think about the way you treat other people, including your loved ones (many examples from this angle were brought up in the book).  Best of all, it's a pretty short read.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sharing my Seven Links

Somewhere in the whirlwind of the weekend, I missed the fact that Paige from Running Around Normal tagged me in a little blog meme that asks to share seven (7) of my top blog posts.

I wasn't going to do this, but then I realized that my blog has almost been around for five years, and for anyone who is new, it would be beenficial to showcase some posts!

My Seven Links

1. Most Beautiful post: "Dedication" (2008) -- This entry was written in the wake of my coach's untimely passing.

2. Most Popular post:  "Foot Gloves"(2007) -- I wrote this entry the day I discovered the existence of Vibrams and was in awe of them, apparently.  I guess the rest of the world is, too!

3. Most Controversial post: "Pre-Marathon Starvation" (2011) -- Some people thought I was writing about something that would be a VERY bad practice, but I was actually writing about music withdrawl!

4. Most Helpful post: "How Vegetarians Eat Dim Sum" (2011) -- I concluded in this post that it is darn tough to eat dim sum (Chinese refreshments) as a vegetarian.  So I guess I wasn't too helpful after all, but it is one of my most popular posts.

5. A Post Whose Success Surprised Me: "Jogger's Hematuria" (2007) -- I wrote about this during a whirlwind of medical tests I was getting for various things, one of which was a suspected busted kidney that is likely just a circumstance of running on an empty bladder.

6. A post I didn’t Feel Got the Attention it Deserved: "Catharsis of Negativity" (2009) -- I had recently learned about Operation Beautiful and blogged about my own struggle with appearances.

7. The Post I am Most Proud of: "The Other Side of the Table: On Being a Race Volunteer" (2011) -- I'm really proud of this post because it was the first I'd seen that documents the experience of volunteering at a race from the perspective of a runner/past participant of the event.

This would be the part where I need to nominate bloggers to respond, but I guess I'm a meme jerk and am leaving it open to whomever would like to do this since I posted a bit late.  But leave a comment with the link if you do, and I'll link it here!! =)

Also, I guess 2010 entries did not make it up there.  Given that I did blog often that year, I find it a bit disturbing that none of them made the cut, so to speak.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Giant Pancakes (Cici's Cafe)

I was originally supposed to take a five-day trip to Napa Valley (wine country) to celebrate my graduation, but somehow, that never came together.  Work is busy for both "The Ukrainian" and myself, and given my work situation... it was probably not a smart idea no matter how badly I wanted to go on a romantic getaway like that.

But, being the strange (ha ha!) people that we are, we decided to make do -- at least for now -- with spending a few worry-free days together over a weekend.

It started off with a 7-mile run together.  The weather cooperated and held to a cool gloom until we were done, which was disappointingly later than I had hoped.  This girl is out of shape and still slightly unmotivated, but having someone running with me helped.  I plan on doing some of the long runs with him to keep me from not pushing enough during my training this time around.

My reward was this place called Cici's Cafe.  I spent the days before this drooling all over the Yelp! reviews on this place... which is known for their giant pancakes.  This is really close to "The Ukrainian"'s place to the point that we were able to walk there, even after a run.  We had never been there previously because it's always crowded on the weekends, and it closes early (at 3 PM).

With a large menu with THREE pages of pancake creations, I can see why it's so frequented.

The ambience.  We got in pretty quickly due to coming in at an off-time (10-ish).  I was happy with how quickly our order arrived.

This cinnamon/sugar French Toast came with pumpkin butter on top (but no whip cream due to our request!).  I could taste the pumpkin and overall, liked this dish.  The bread was hearty, though could have been a little more soaked.  The pumpkin blob was definitely the best part about this, and I could have done without the cinnamon/sugar bit.

Next up was this salmon benedict.  "The Ukrainian" has ordered this dish before, but that was before I would order fish things.  I liked this dish because it was light on the hollandaise sauce, which I never really liked in the first place.  The smoked salmon was plentiful and not too salty.  The only downfall was the poaching of the egg... I'm very picky about this, and it could have been more "runny/eggy."

My order was this green tea tiramisu pancakes (hold the whip cream).  These pancakes were unlike any other that I've had, flavors aside.  They were fluffy and not rubbery at all, with a subtle green tea flavor.    Not sure what I was supposed to be tasting in regards to tiramisu, but that green creamy substance was delicious nonetheless.

I normally don't like pancakes, but these I would order again.  They also had some red velvet variations that I definitely would like to try the next time I am here.

"The Ukrainian" and I made a valiant effort on these and took down about half.  The rest made for some great leftovers!  (Hand shown for size comparison).

After that, we went for a walk before walking back and stopped at Whole Foods.  We picked up some goodies that will be up for future review.  (Hint: I've already tried this kombucha, my second ever, and found it worth buying again, obviously!)

That night, we had dinner with "The Ukrainian"'s grandparents because he had relatives coming from Israel.  No pics, since I'd feel totally weird, but I always love this grandma's food and pretty much always eat more than I should there. -_-

Saturday was biking, swimming (I actually swam this time, versus my normal wading), and errand-running ("The Ukrainian" has a pretty large kitchen project to do as a result of a plumbing kaboom).  We decided to cook dinner together, as it was something I wanted to do as part of a relaxing weekend.

"The Ukrainian" happened to have some caught tuna that his friend had packaged and frozen for him.  We ate it with refried beans and jicama salad.  I wish I had taken a better picture.  And yes, I did fear that I would get food poisoning due to me thinking that only restaurants could safely serve these types of things, but I was fine (even through my second viewing of the last Harry Potter movie later that evening).

Sometime during the weekend, we got this nice kit.  Yay for rotating push-up grips and cordless jumprope!  We got this free due to coupons and gift cards.  Not to mention a set of 3-lb weights I bought -- I'll explain why later!! ;)

Finally, I baked this pumpkin/apple cider bread.  It was good, not too sweet or dry and smelled heavenly, though it may need perfection before I share the recipe!  Also, don't try to get your walnuts to float by coating them in flour.  Boo!

The binder in the background is actually one of my recipe binders!

All in all, I had a great weekend. I would have documented it better, but I was really just needing to relax and not worry about blogging.  I was sad to have to return to my normal routine, as I have been very stressed lately for some reasons I'm not sure of.  What I AM sure of is how much I treasure my time with "The Ukrainian," even after the 3+ years I have known him.  That's a good sign, right? ;)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 2

My most recent race
(Valley Crest [Trail] Half-Marathon).
If you're following along, here is the second week of training according to the 4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon book.  The paces below are specifically for the 4-hour goal.  If anyone would like the paces for 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, or 5:00, I can start posting them alongside my plan if you let me know.

I am also posting on DailyMile, but everything (and more!) will be posted here as well.  This "Marathon Training" series is an experiment for me both in fitness and in blogging, as I am going to go into more detail than in previous training cycles, documented HERE and HERE.


Last Week in Review:

Here is the original schedule from last week and my comments/modifications.  Basically, I switched Friday and Saturday's workouts and got through the rest of the days okay so far without huge spikes in hunger or exhaustion.  Most notably this week was my difficultly sticking it through the long run.  I definitely am not accustomed to trucking along that long anymore.  I guess it's something to work up to, and the ONLY reason I am not totally scared of my total lack of fitness is because I've done so many marathons already.

Also, I've been doing more strength training with the time I would have spent doing more cardio (which is the norm for me, but I'm trying to follow this program as closely as I can).

Week of July 18 (Week 1)
Monday - jog 40 minutes
- Defined "jog" as <6.5 mph
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes : elliptical
Wednesday - 6 x 400 m (.25 mi), 2:05-2:15 pace (about 7.2-7.4 mph)
- This was actually shorter than the speed workouts that I have been doing recently.
Thursday - jog 30 minutes or rest <-- did not rest
Friday - cross-train 30 minutes
- Did this workout on Saturday by biking for 8-10 mi with 'The Ukrainian"... oops
Saturday - 7 mi 10:40-11:20 pace (about 5.2-5.5 mph)
- I ran this (on Friday) with "The Ukrainian" pretty slowly with a couple of walk breaks.

This Week:

This week's schedule is very similar to last week's, except a couple more speed repeats on Wednesday and a couple more miles on Saturday (although in light of this past week, I'm scared!).

Week of July 25 (Week 2)
Monday - jog 40 minutes
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes
Wednesday - 8 x 400 m (.25 mi), 2:05-2:15 pace (about 7.2-7.4 mph)
Thursday - jog 30 minutes or rest
Friday - cross-train 30 minutes
Saturday - 9 mi 10:40-11:20 pace (about 5.2-5.5 mph)

What workouts did you do this week?  Have you found success following a training program to-a-tee?  Does that even ever happen in real life?

To be continued...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: Invisible Shoes

Well, it looks like I get to talk about feet again in this entry. o_O

Recently, I got the opportunity to try out Invisible Shoes, which are minimalist running sandals.  Yes, I said the words minimalist, running, AND sandals in the same phrase.

I had yet to have anything to do with the barefoot running movement.  In fact, in 2007, I wrote a weird rambling about Vibrams, and just last month, I gave out a pair of minimalist running shoes but didn't even try them myself.

But the allure of the sandals was too much, so I sent in the following tracing of my foot to create my custom pairs.  Apparently, I got a little crazy and accidentally marked my skin with permanent marker. :$

A few days later, my pairs came.  I chose mine to be laced in orange and black.  I got two pairs (one on each foot in the pic, but I assure you that I have complete pairs of both!) because they come in different thicknesses.  The orange one on the left is 6mm, and the black is 4mm.  The thinner ones are supposed to give you more of a "natural" feel, though my review so far is just of the 6mm one.  Gotta start somewhere!

Also, the shoes came with a long strand of leftover lace.  I went to their website to figure out what to do with it, resulting in the little "flowers" you see.  There are many ways to tie the shoe to your own comfort, though I mostly just kept the slip-on/slip-off configuration as they came.

NOTE: I can't believe I am showing my feet on the blog. o_O  The things I do to give an honest review!

This picture below is not a good one of me (self-timing fresh from the gym!), but I'm trying to prove that these are cute to wear casually, which I plan on doing!

The next picture is me gearing up for my first run in them.  While not a flattering pic again, you get the idea.  I ran .25 mi with these to prevent doing "too much, too soon."  Interestingly, it was 90+ degrees out, and not having to wear socks and conventional shoes actually felt really good.

Okay, so now onto the part you're probably wondering about... will I keep running in these?  Yes!  I have to work on a new gait, but I honestly didn't feel that these shoes were not protecting me from the harsh, hot, rubble-y ground.  It was kind of liberating.

I will probably just incorporate small trials like this one for a while, since my legs did feel a little tight afterward, presumably because they were more involved than usual.  But I was still okay to slap on my normal shoes and do my interval workout.  I guess I'm hoping that my leg muscles will be a little more balanced by running "barefoot" once in a while, and perhaps I will learn to soften my steps and not pound my legs to death.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Graduation Dinner - Mi Piace

On the day of my graduation (which seemed so long ago but was just back in June), two of my best buds attended the two-hour long ceremony.

Knowing how long and boring commencements can be, I was already eternally grateful!

After things finally wrapped up, a couple more friends joined us at Mi Piace (pronounced something like: pee-AH-cheh), a New York/Italian restaurant that is always so crowded when I would walk by at night.

I guess my friends wanted to booze me up, so white peach sangria went down.  I didn't have very much, since I had barely eaten that entire day up until this dinner, and no food in stomach + alcohol = no good.

We started off with an ahi tuna tower... split among six people, ha ha.

I'm pretty sure this was a portobella appetizer.

My buds partook in raw beef!

Bread.  My friends got carried away (not me, I think...), and I think this was our third basket!

My main entree was this veggie lasagna.  Of course, I took lots of dairy pills before partaking.  I thought it was very delicious, though I like my lasagnas noodle-y, which this one was not.  I didn't finish this, but mainly because of the dairy content rather than me not liking it.

Sausage rigatoni across the table.

"The Ukrainian"'s linguine pescatore (or something like that; I am not cultured ;) )... he managed to not get any of this on his shirt!  And look at that lovely green pasta!

A meaty version of my lasagna from across the table.

The ol' spaghetti and meatballs.  This was definitely not just ordinary; we all loved the food here!

My friend convinced us to get this souffle.  She was so convinced that she ordered it way in the beginning so that these would be ready by the time we finished our meals.  Souffles normally require extra bake-time.  Yes, I said THESE.  (Note: My wine glass still very full. o_O)

I was kind of bummed that we forgot to take a group photo... but I only got some of 'em from behind, LOL.

The evening ended with a long walk with a bunch of photo-taking of ourselves.  Below is an example.  Y'all probably don't get to see a lot of self-pics in this blog.  Mainly because I don't have lots of people photographing me, and I often don't bother asking. So it definitely seems awkward to be posting one now, but maybe readers want to see the person behind these posts???

All along, I felt like such a lucky person to have my family and friends share such an important day with me. I'm still lost in a post-graduation funk of sorts, but thinking of this day always cheers me up a bit.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: The Four Agreements

This book, The Four Agreements, had been recommended to me numerous times over the years from peers and various (successful) personalities. 

I finally had a chance to read this.  I really don't know why I waited... the book is such a quick (i.e., short) read.  Even checking it out from the library was a cinch, since I reserved the book online and just swooped in to pick it up.

So this book is based on Toltec (tribe) "philosophy," so there is a lot of spirituality highlighted in this book.  I am not very spiritual, so although I respectfully read through these parts, I moreso focus on other sections.

According to Ruiz (the author), we are taught how to think and process information from Day One.  With their words, people set it up so that we make "agreements" with ourselves.  For example, if someone told me that I am no good at writing, then I make an "agreement" with myself that in future interactions, I must be a bad writer.  It takes a lot to break these "agreements," which are part of a fog that obscures the truth about things.

"The Four Agreements" are new ways of behaving that will help people see through the fog and live a happier life, because we're not being poisoned by misinformation or other people.  They are:

1) Be impeccable with your word.

2) Don't take things personally.

3) Don't make assumptions.

4) Always do your best.

The latter three agreements really spring from the first one.  And all of these are REALLY tough to go by in daily life.  For example, I sure as heck know that I'd be a lot happier if I didn't take things personally and that others' words are moreso a reflection of themselves than me, but I can't help that I was raised in a "me-centric" society and am inclined to feel offended.

Anyway, I would go into more detail, but I really think you need to read the book to get the full effect.  It will definitely be one that I won't forget, and I hope that if I try to live those agreements, I can help change my perspective on things.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Does Running Cause Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is WAY worse
than a case of the runs...
For countless times in my childhood, I was told that if I ran or jumped after eating, rice (or other food, but let's face it... I mostly ate rice in those days) would fall into my appendix and lead to appendicitis

The rationale is that rice or other small food particles, while passing through the large intestine (to which the appendix is connected), can get jerked into the opening of the appendix.  When the appendix cannot flush itself out, it gets infected, and hence, appendicitis.

NOTE: In biology and physiology (waaay back in high school), we learned that the appendix is a vestigal (aka, useless) organ that lost its practical use over time.  It used to create enzymes to help digest the "rough stuff" like weird plants that humans/humanoids used to eat.  Over time, as we cooked our food and narrowed our diets, the appendix was no longer needed.  Instead, it dangles on the right side of the large intestine.

As the good (yeah, right!) kid that I was, I abided.  I guess moreso out of fear.  And to this day, although I took biology, physiology, and even Googling-ology, I still have this tiny superstition that this could be true.

Having somewhat of a family history of this scares me.  One of my parents was struck by this more than 10 years ago, supposedly due to rushing to places after meals. 

Using Google has not really helped allay my suspicions.  This site claims it can't happen.  And based on the explanation I gave above, it shouldn't... right?  I mean, by the time we're talking about large intestine, "rice" is no longer rice... by then, everything is poop (how many applications could THAT phrase have?).  So if anything were to "fall" into your appendix, it wouldn't be something that could merely just happen after eating... it can really happen ANY time your digestive system is not empty (which, short of colonoscopic cleansings, is atypical).

Of course, I don't run after eating, because running or anything on a full stomach feels terrible in other ways. ;)

Has anyone else been told about the appendix "myth"?  What are your thoughts on this?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Peanut Butter & Co. - White Chocolate Wonderful

It has been a while since I've bought a jar of peanut butter, and I know why.

Following suit with the Dark Chocolate Wonderful version of Peanut Butter n Co's special peanut butters, this one I had to restrain myself from finishing it outright.

I had to taste it a few times to see whether the white chocolate flavor was really prevalent in this.  You see, white chocolate is one of my favorite things, so I am rather picky about it.  Well, after getting used to what white chocolate tastes like with peanut butter, I couldn't stop eating this sweet, smooth peanut butter.

It has taken me quite a while to hunt down a jar of this variety, until one day, the Whole Foods in my area suddenly had it on the shelf.  I've checked that same shelf many times, but I was pleasantly surprised...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kara Goucher's Running for Women (Giveaway)

UPDATE: 7/14/11: Winner was selected by #19... Kelly!  I'll be contacting you for your address soon!


I jumped the gun a little bit before finishing school to read, when I was sent this book to review by Kara Goucher, one of my running idols.  Here is my review (I also did one for Healthy Tipping Point):


This book is geared toward beginner runners.  It begins with Kara's story of how she got into running and then gives tips for new runners from how to take those first steps to how to deal with those initial "pains" (I think we all know what I'm talking about!).

But I did learn from this book, which I couldn't stop reading until I polished it off in two evenings.  She talks about some mental games one could play to get through rough spots during training.  She also offers some training programs for half- and full-marathons that only require 3 days of running.  I might have more time to train now that I am slightly less busy, but they might be worth a shot sometime!

I found the quotes Kara used for inspiration a nice break from the text, but I found it was a little unnecessary for her to explain why she "loves" every single one of those quotes.  Beyond that, I think this book is great.  I wish I had this when I first started, since she talks about how to stay safe when running outdoors, how to pick running garments, and other little things that would have saved me from learning on my own, the hard way.

Kara is a very relatable person, and her personal stories really bring that to light in this book.


If you'd like some summer reading, I am giving away a copy here!  (US/CAN residents only)  Giveaway closes at 11:59:59 PM, Thursday July 14.  I will choose a winner via

To enter:

1) Leave a comment about someone who gave you some good running advice.
2) Follow this blog (on Google Friend Connect), or add this blog to your blog links... and leave a comment letting me know you have done so.

3) Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you have done so.

4) Blog or Tweet this giveaway.

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent this book to review, and not in any particular way. My opinions are my own!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 1

Hoping my time will be closer to the left one
than the right one! (Fargo Marathon)
If you're following along, here is the first week of training according to the 4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon book.  The paces below are specifically for the 4-hour goal.  If anyone would like the paces for 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, or 5:00, I can start posting them alongside my plan if you let me know.

I am also posting on DailyMile, but everything (and more!) will be posted here as well.  This "Marathon Training" series is an experiment for me both in fitness and in blogging, as I am going to go into more detail than in previous training cycles, documented HERE and HERE.


This might not look like much to you, but keep in mind that this is Week 1 of 16.  I typically train in 18-week cycles, so I'm curious to see how this "shorter" one goes.  I am grateful that it starts off this way, and if you notice, some of the days are really flexible in terms of activities. 

The problem for me will be that I normally do more, sometimes MUCH more, than "cross train 20-30 minutes" on any given day, but I will try to stick to the schedule as prescribed as much as possible to prevent injury (by training too hard in vain hopes of "getting faster").  The "good" me will probably supplement with strength training, core work, or yoga, but if the "bad" me takes over, I will throw in elliptical, biking, Jacob's ladder, etc.  But NOT mileage. 

I will also sneak in a little complaint about running 7 miles at 10:40-11:10 per mile.  If you're looking at those numbers, you might be wondering that that kind of pace will yield a 4-hour marathon.  Me of little faith, but I gotta have some trust sometimes, right?  However, I don't naturally run at that pace; I am not even sure what my "natural" pace is at the moment, but I estimate it to be about 9:00-9:30/mi for mid-distance runs and fair conditions.  So this is where I'll be putting my foot down and planning to stick around 10:00-10:15 pace, and slower when conditions (my bodily/stomach state, summer weather, etc.) are not good.  This will help me finish the run in some reasonable amount of time!

I will do a weekly summary of how the previous week's training went, but for now, here it is!

Week of July 18 (Week 1)
Monday - jog  40 minutes (my interpretation: run easy, don't worry about distance)
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes
Wednesday - 6 x 400 m (.25 mi), 2:05-2:15 pace (about 7.2-7.4 mph)
Thursday - jog 30 minutes or rest
Friday - cross-train 20-30 minutes
Saturday - 7 mi 10:40-11:20 pace (about 5.2-5.5 mph)

***If I fail to post next week's schedule early enough, just know that Monday and Tuesday are the same as the above for the first three weeks.***
What do you think of this schedule so far?  Anyone going to try at least some of it?  Do you think this will get me to my goal?

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gender Change

So it appears that my dog and cat have something in common now, besides being members of a rather strange household/zoo.

Yes, the cat that we have had for over a year is not a girl after all, confirmed by a long-overdue vet visit.

You should have heard the conversation between me and the staff.

Assistant: I think it could be a boy.

Me: Really?  We have been calling it a "she" forever.  Hence the pink collar.

Doctor: (feels cat) I don't see any [female parts].  (checks a few more times due to my disbelief) You have a neutered male. (checks more because I'm still looking at him strangely)  Unless it's a hermaphrodite.

So I guess that's that. Hope everyone will still shower him with the same affection with his feminine-like cat behavior.  And HE is healthy, young, updated on shots, and apparently needs a teeth cleaning soon, which is a procedure in itself costing not too far off from the dog's neutering last March.

These boys are sending me to the poor house.

My First Cupcake

I have never made a cupcake.  I've made muffins many a time (like THIS one and THIS one) because I prefer them over cupcakes.  Muffins are hearty, somewhat known for being "healthy" (though this is debatable), and don't have frosting that needs to be protected.  Muffins are also easily made vegan. 

Cupcakes, in my mind, are known for being unfilling, overpriced, dairy-laden, and not really a good substitute for cake.  I know this shocks most folks who jumped on that "cupcake revolution," but sorry, I can't change my basic beliefs. ;)

But I decided to expand my baking horizons and try out a recipe at last -- chocolate chai cupcakes sounded good enough to me!  Plus, I wanted to try stuff out to see if I could possibly bring this to my sisters' upcoming tea party, where perhaps muffins would be a little out of place.

This vegan recipe is from HERE.

Top: cupcake ingredients.  Below: frosting ingredients.  The recipe called for soy milk, but I used coconut.  This could have been one thing that went wrong... 

Also, in the bottom picture are two bags of chai tea that I "borrowed" from work.  The Earth Balance was actually already something "The Ukrainian" had.  He claims that he likes these vegan spreads over traditional spreads -- go figure.

The recipe calls for making "buttermilk" out of non-dairy milk by adding apple cideer vinegar and letting it sit for a while.  If you look closely, you can see curdle-ish things in the milk.  Also, I had to sift the dry ingredients using this freaking large strainer, since "The Ukrainian" had nothing smaller at the time.  I ended up buying a smaller one for him a few days later!

Adding wet ingredients to the dry...  I was short about 1/4 or so of a cup of sugar, but I prefer not to make things too sweet, anyway.

Batter in the oven.  Second mistake was that instead of following instructions and making 10 cupcakes, greedy me tried to make them into 11.  (Side note: whenever I see those oven coils, I get nervous.)

While these were baking, I tried to whip up the frosting.  Due to a lack of a hand mixer -- gotta get one for him -- I worked my arms off just to get this all incorporated.

I was also short about a cup of powdered sugar (guess we are not good with keeping sugar in stock), though the recipe called from "3-4 cups."  I got 3 cups out, but I guess it needed 4.

P.S. I realize I have a somewhat of a "bobble head." :(

Here are the "after" shots.  Yes, there are some shorties in there....

I didn't get a picture of my lame attempt at piping this frosting out of a ziploc-baggie, but that's because it got messy.  I'm guessing that the frosting needed more powdered sugar and machine-whipping, though it tasted amazing.  :)  As a chai fan, I found it to be not too sweet (although compared to the cupcake, I guess it could be perceived as that way).  Just wish it was fluffy instead of runny...

After dinner, I cracked one open.  For a cupcake, it was good.  It could have been a little more moist and a touch sweeter, but using vanilla soy milk next time might alleviate both of those issues.

"The Ukrainian" says that it could use something inside, like injected frosting or (ick) raisins.

My little sister agreed with my moistness comment (also remarked at how short they were) and my overall feelings about the frosting.

Since I was so busy making these (I work long days during the summer, leaving much less time to cook nowadays), "The Ukrainian" made dinner.  Good trade-off!