Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween and Giveaway Winner

The winner of my 5th blog-i-versary giveaway is #7... Elie!  Please send me your info at nobel4lit2 (my g-mail address).


Just a brief Halloween post... (click HERE for past Halloweens documented on this blog).

Item #1 - This is the one of the more complex pumpkin designs I've attempted.  The template steered me wrong with the eyes, so I took the liberty of filling in the weirdness with... pieces of pretzels.

Item #2 - Very embarrassing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 16

If you're following along, here is the SIXTEENTH week of training according to the 4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon book.  The paces bealow 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 on my Training page.


Last Week in Review:

Here is the original schedule from last week and my comments/modifications.

This week was a bit bumpy, as "life" was getting in the way.  However, I'm supposed to be tapering, anyway, so I guess it's not that bad.  Excuses! =P

One thing that has changed this week are cooler mornings.  As a result, my Saturday long run went better than any of my long runs in quite a while, albeit very strangely.  Not that I endorse running "too fast" during the taper period, but it felt pretty natural and comforting to know I can hit my target marathon pace (which is supposed to be 9:10/mi) late in a run.

This run was so weird... here is the breakdown to prove that:

Mile 1 - 10:11
Mile 2 - 10:41 <-- this falls within the range of the "recommended pace"
Mile 3 - 10:27
Mile 4 - 10:16
Mile 5 - 9:55 <-- this is when I took some strides at "marathon pace" to see if I could
Mile 6 - 9:45 <-- momentum went on for the rest of the run
Mile 7 - 9:37
Mile 8 - 9:30
Mile 9 - 9:04
Mile 10 - 8:58

Week of Oct 24 (Week 15)
Monday - rest <-- cross-trained for 30 min (elliptical)
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes <-- Jacob's ladder
Wednesday - jog 30 minutes <-- my knee went south toward the end, so I did a bit of walking
Thursday - cross-train 30 minutes <-- skipped
Friday - jog 30 minutes <-- too busy to eat dinner the night before, so after 15 min or so, quit working out
Saturday - 10 mi at 10:40-11:10 pace <-- 9:50 pace
Sunday - rest

This Week:

I think I miscounted (errr, duh), because after this upcoming week, I still have a few runs before the race.  Hmmm.  But anyway, just glad to know this is almost over.

As for food, I've been eating pretty carb-heavy lately, so I don't think I need to change anything -- except be more consistent with my veggie intake.  Overall, although I think I've been eating enough calories, I haven't been very consistent about making them nutritious and am especially bad at dinner when I just seem to not be able to eat much no matter how hungry I get.  Need to work on this in these next two weeks...

Week of Oct 31 (Week 16)
Monday - jog 40 minutes
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes
Wednesday - 5 mi at 9:00/pace
Thursday - jog 30 minutes
Friday - cross-train 30 minutes
Saturday - 8 mi at 9:00 pace
Sunday - rest

What is the weirdest training run you've ever done??

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Marathons

Following suit with the "I am the 99%" Wall Street business (parodied here), I decided throw my mockery into the fray.

Of course, this is putting all thoughts on "marathoners" and "politics" aside.  I guess tapering has reduced me to this sort of thing.

P.S. Does anyone know if the 1% figure is still accurate?

Workplace (Treadmill) Perk

(My bar giveaway is ending pretty soon... last reminder to ENTER!)

Although I might complain about work, I must say, the environment is right.

I took these snapshots one day while waiting for "The Ukrainian" to take me on a lunchtime picnic (on his day off).

But most of the time, I'm indoors, and I could very well throw myself into the category of people who probably sits for waaaaayyyy too long during the day.  Although I've gotten better and take walks on most days during lunch, having this guy around is also helpful:

This is a treadmill workstation, which we're allowed to use for 30 minutes at a time.  After checking it out, I will say that this takes some getting used to, some decent shoes, a good split attention, and a speed no more than 2 mph.  Some handrails would have been nice, too, but a bit restricting I guess.

It sure beats sitting, although for simplicity, it'd be better if they set up our desks so we can pedal while we sit.  It might be a bit.... safer.

Do you work a desk job?  Would you use this thing?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk Yogurt

On a recent "work from off-site" day, I bought this yogurt for breakfast, particularly for dipping my bread.

If you've never tried to dip bread or bagels into yogurt, I'd say you're missing out.  Really.

Anyway, this coconut yogurt seemed like a pretty good idea, way better than goat milk yogurt.  And I was right.  Although this is nowhere as creamy as regular yogurt, it was palatable at the very least.  Not too sweet.  And it can definitely be used as a substitute in yogurt in smoothies and recipes, probably better than just straight up.

These are popping up at big stores everywhere, so feel free to give it a shot!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Making "Mmm Sauce"

I wasn't sure if I should try this, but I saw some blogs raving about this "Mmm Sauce" from the Peas and Thank You blog.

However, I already had a lot of the ingredients lying around, so I figured I'd give it a go.

Any excuse to use the food processor is very welcome!

By the time this finishing whorling around, I couldn't help but dip a lentil chip in there for some sampling.  It was very tasty, though a little on the tangy side since I didn't have lemon juice and instead used lime.

When "The Ukrainian" ate it in the dinner pictured below, the first thing he said was, "Mmm."  I guess this validates the sauce's name!

On the same plate are some microwaved mixed veggies (so classy), red quinoa, and roasted tofu (at 425 degrees for about 35 min) that I marinated briefly in Frank's Red Hot (even classier).  Those tofu nuggets were actually VERY good with the sauce, not too spicy at all.

And yes, that's a huge block of (Costco) sliced cheese in the background.

And my first pumpkin ale.  I liked it!  We bought a 6-pack from World Market (since I'm in love with that store) for $6.99.  You can taste fall spices in there! 

Also love how this bottle looks alongside all the other Fall stuff that I put on "The Ukrainian"'s dining table... the table runner is a recent addition from TJMaxx (for cheap!).  So was the candy *gulp* but luckily, they are just for show, because I was not a fan of the taste.

As an added bonus, this sauce was used in other meals, including in this form:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 15

If you're following along, here is the FIFTEENTH week of training according to the 4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon book.  The paces bealow 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 on my Training page.


Last Week in Review:

Here is the original schedule from last week and my comments/modifications.

This week's long run... was pretty much a death march.  After the first 14.5 miles, I needed to take a break.  It was sort of downhill at that point, and the heat came in and pretty much wiped me out after 19 miles.  No matter how "The Ukrainian" tried to pace me, I was groaning.  But we were determined to finish, and even walking was difficult by then.  Pretty sure it was about 80 degrees when we were done, which is not bad to some, but on this concrete path and lack of shade, the heat radiated all over.

Excuses.  Oh well.

Week of Oct 17 (Week 14)
Monday - jog 40 minutes <-- did not run due to knee pain from last week
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes <-- did a lot of walking???
Wednesday - 8 mi at 8:45-8:50/mi <-- skipped due to vacation
Thursday - jog 30 minutes
Friday - rest
Saturday - 23 mi at 10:40-11:10 pace <-- ran about 19 of these and walked the rest for a total of 23.82 mi
Sunday - rest

This Week:

For better or worse, can you say.... TAPER?  Hooray!  I'll chalk this up as a bad run, since I did do the 21 a few weeks ago with relatively little difficulty compared to this week.

The schedule has changed... particularly Wednesdays... when I get to take it easy and jog instead of bust my guts in a tempo run.

Since I'm now in taper phase, I am going to for once take my rest seriously.  I have never understood the "science" of tapering, but I do know I should run less yet not slack off completely.  This is when I'm glad I have this program to follow.

As for eats and such, I'm not really going to worry about carbo-loading of any sort until maybe next week or so.  I have been pretty good about not overeating over the course of this training plan, and beyond recovering from the 23+-miler, I will probably be eating pretty conservatively/healthy/carb-light this week.  My appetite has been variable lately, so I want to give it a chance to reset itself.

Week of Oct 24 (Week 15)
Monday - rest
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes
Wednesday - jog 30 minutes
Thursday - cross-train 30 minutes
Friday - jog 30 minutes
Saturday - 10 mi at 10:40-11:10 pace
Sunday - rest

What taper strategies do you follow?  Or if you've never tapered, what would you advise me to do with the slight bit more time that I have?  More stretching?  More research on running?  More sleeping?  More eating??

To be continued...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Exotic Foods (and Alive to Tell the Tales)

Today, I am 26.5.

What...... you don't celebrate your half-birthday??? ;)

On behalf of today, I'd like to share with you some things that may have put a dent in my 26.5 years or perhaps in my years to come.

(!!!"Healthy living bloggers" beware... sugar and raw meat ahead!!!)

First, we'll start with this.  These gummies are similar to THESE that I mentioned last year, both found at World Market.  I scored this jar for less than $2, but it lasted me a couple of months.  That's amazing for me, because I have one of the worst sweet tooths I know, and gummies are my favorite.

I'm sad that I can't find them in the store anymore, which I discovered when I went back for a refill.  These gummies come in unique flavors like coke and currant and are very... gummy/waxy, so they take a long time to eat, are relatively low in sugar, and can withstand being stored in the car during summer.

Unlike these (some gummies from the mall that melted into this one large, mega-gummy):

I ate that gummy, yes I did.

And one day, while in Santa Monica with "The Ukrainian," we decided to just bypass all the chewing and go for the liquid stuff:

Melted Belgian chocolate.... $3.  This was pretty heavenly.  I felt like I stepped into Europe for the 15 minutes this thing lasted.

On a healthier note, vegan salad dressings are pretty exotic to me.  I think I've taken down half of this jar by now.  I think I find this food "extreme" for me because for the longest time, I did not eat salad dressing.  Yep, I pretty much ate my salads "dry."  Now that I've developed a slight aversion to leafy greens, this stuff has helped me choke/get that stuff down.

I've also taken to "foo-foo" packaged oats.  These are freaky to me since I bought them on clearance at Target.  Since these are made with old fashioned oats, you have to microwave them in a deep-ish bowl... it will not cook if you just dump boiling water on it!

These are far better than instant oats, though I can still make a pretty huge bowl of oats for about the same number of calories.

Here's a healthy food that might be pretty cringe-worthy to some.  If you are new here, I generally don't eat meat... and for a long time (up until THIS point), this included fish. 

But now... I've pretty much become a cat.

This tuna came from "The Ukrainian"'s fishing trip... I asked maybe 10 times if it was okay to eat it, and he said yes, and obviously, since he's an electrical engineer, I took his nutritional advice. =/

Still alive.

P.S. If you were expecting to see me eat bugs or rats in this post, sorry!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Clif Coconut Chocolate Crunch

I am on a little getaway to an undisclosed location.  This is my last chance to sneak out on a (short) mid-week getaway until Christmas time, and the first time I have been off of work without making up the hours missed since May -- and it's mid-October. 

Given that I have been hauling booty at work and malfunctioning in other arenas lately, I felt that I really needed a break at whatever the cost.  My poor "Ukrainian" has been either in class or teaching four (soemtimes five!) days a week, on top of his full-time job.  Therefore, our time together is rushed/truncated/often not existing.  I think we both need this.

In the meantime, I thought I'd talk about this new flavor of Clif bars.  I've reviewed other flavors HERE, but this one I think I will pass on in the future.  To be fair, I have a strange relationship with coconut, borderline food aversion, but I have learned to enjoy it more as I got older.  The coconut flavor in this is too much for me, with me in my adjustment phase.  I think it would have been better with some actual coconut pieces in there... to legitimize the flavor.

If you happen to like coconut, I'd say you should give this a try.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Buffalo Tofu with Feta Dressing

(Don't forget to enter my giveaway here.)

This past weekend, "The Ukrainian" and I decided to dine in.  Dining in is something we would do more often if we weren't living apart.... gives us something to look forward to, I guess.

We both like to cook.  Okay, well, HE likes to cook, and I like to cook when I feel like it.  It saves us money, it keeps me from worrying about what's in my food, and I also don't need to dress any particular way!

Except during the supermarket trip.

I have started eating salad dressings that are NOT shelf-stable, which are sold near the produce in most supermarkets.  I find that they taste a whole lot fresher and are really not that expensive if you watch for sales.  I used to be the type of person who would eat their salads "dry"... without dressing.  Eck!  Now that I'm older and move averse to greens lately, I need a little flavor to help.

Marzetti's "Simply Dressed" dressings come in a cute bottle and many flavors, including vinaigrettes and flavors I've never seen before, like feta cheese.

To go with the dressing, I whipped up a quick appetizer.  You'll see more of this in an upcoming post, but I basically prepared this tofu similarly to THIS method and marinated it in some hot sauce before roasting at 425 for about 25 minutes <-- recommended time; I left mine in longer and regret that!

And here's the final product.  This is my vegetarian variation of buffalo wings.  This actually made really great finger food for a Saturday evening.

This dressing has a mild feta taste, so if you're averse to blue cheese, this is a good alternative.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this product from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program to review, but the opinions posted are my own.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fifth Blog-i-versary (Giveaway)

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away...

...just kidding.

But today marks five years since I started this blog in a small student government office at UCLA.

This is what I looked like five years ago....

My blog pre-dates many things, including:
I'm sure there is a lot more I can say about how things have changed over these past five years, for better or worse.  I have come out a much more knowledgable person, surrounded by those who did not judge me into oblivion.  Your true friends, folks, are those who are still with you after the journey.

Not to say that this journey is over.  I have contemplated axe-ing this blog a few times, but I'm glad I didn't.  A few months ago, I announced that I was taking the blog in a new direction, basically because I was going through a rough time personally.  Even so, I still like blogging and intend to continue, for now.

I'm not very fast, coherent, or popular, but to those who have been reading, thank you.

As thanks, I'm hosting a "blog-i-versary" giveaway!


The prize: (based on a bunch of reviews that have appeared on this blog over the years -- let's just call it "Raising the Bar")

***U.S. residents only.***  Winner will be chosen by on October 28, 2011 at 12 noon PST.

Ways to enter (leave one comment for each; I will verify if you win):

1) Answer: What were you up to five years ago?

2) Follow me on Twitter: @nobel4lit 

3) Follow this blog on Google Friend Connect

4) Add this blog to your blog roll

5) Tweet this giveaway: 
Win a 'Raising the Bar' goodie box from @nobel4lit for her 5th blog-i-versary! 
OR link this giveaway on your blog

Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Marathon Training: Week 14

If you're following along, here is the FOURTEENTH 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 on my Training page.


Last Week in Review:

Here is the original schedule from last week and my comments/modifications.

This week went pretty well... 28 miles total.  I was struggling a bit during the long run... probably normal, though I got really sleep-deprived toward the end of the week, taking a toll.

The 8-mile tempo run was tough, as expected, but I can definitely see why these tempo runs are in the program... they offer some sort of relative pace that makes you think, "oh, this is easy" the next time you're running at a slower pace.  Go figure.

Week of Oct 10 (Week 13)
Monday - rest <-- ran 3+ miles because I missed the previous weekend's 10-miler
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes <-- elliptical
Wednesday - 8 mi at 8:45-8:50/mi <-- did it! 8:44 pace
Thursday - jog 30 minutes or rest <-- outdoor jogging
Friday - rest
Saturday - 14 mi at 10:40-11:10 pace <-- 10:21-ish pace (Garmin issues)
Sunday - rest

This Week:

In this upcoming week is the "big, scary" run that will set off my taper period.  I am going to be "on vacation" on Tuesday and Wednesday, so per THIS post, I modified the schedule.  I really, really need the break, as you saw from last week.

"The Ukrainian" is supposed to be doing those 23 miles with me.  This is the first long run we've done together since the first week of training, 14 weeks ago.  We have actually run this distance together before, during his first marathon.  I hope he can "keep up" with my slowness!

Week of Oct 17 (Week 14)
Monday - jog 40 minutes
Tuesday - cross-train 30 minutes <-- will be "vacationing," but there will be lots of walking... cardio, right?!
Wednesday - 8 mi at 8:45-8:50/mi
Thursday - jog 30 minutes
Friday - rest
Saturday - 23 mi at 10:40-11:10 pace
Sunday - rest

Have you ever run with your significant other?

To be continued...

Friday, October 14, 2011


I normally don't post on Fridays, but once in a while, I make exceptions.

Especially when I get tagged on a post (e.g., Seven Links). Thanks, Wymberly!

The way this works is that I'm supposed to

1) Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to their post
2) Share seven things about yourself
3) Pass this award to 5 recently discovered blogs

Now it's time to list 7 things about myself, I guess. 

1) I took salsa classes 1-2 times a week for the better part of last year, until I found it too warm to dance with elder men and think I aggravated my hamstring doing these classes after running and work or even long runs. 

2) I have mentioned my lactose troubles many times on this blog (it's mostly under control now, maybe a topic for a different post)  I first noticed I was intolerant when I was drinking milk during dinners with my best bud in college, after he showed concern that I was doubling over in pain every night even before the dinner was over.  I assumed that this intolerance popped up later in life like it does to many people, but just recently, my mom told me I had to drink "bean" formula (aka, soy) as a baby since the normal kind gave me the runs.

3) Although you might find me worrying about money a lot, my college + grad school loans are down to a couple thousand dollars.  Part of that is attributed to an award I got from the dean, but of course, there were other sacrifices I had to make to allow this to happen as well.  I'm just very happy to be debt-free soon!

4) I recently got CPR/AED certified, kind of on a whim, but moreso so I could feel like a qualified babysitter to my new niece.  They also instructed us on basic doggie CPR... don't ask. =/

5) I absolutely cannot wait to be married (wonder if anyone still wants to marry me after seeing the above picture).

6) My friends' believe that I was Hispanic in another life, since I can still read and understand Spanish pretty decently after being 8+ years removed from passing my Spanish AP test in high school where I had to read, write, and listen en español.

7) My latest project post-dissertation is to submit to academic journals using my research.  "Getting published" has always been a life goal of mine, but I didn't think it'd fall into this academic category.  Wish me luck!

Here are my five tags of some bloggers I've (somewhat) recently discovered:

The Orange Mask
Lotería Chicana
Everything in Moderation
Little Miss Runshine
Run to the Border

Have a great weekend, all!  Be back with Marathon Training and a giveaway post over the weekend!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Perfect Post-Race Activities

(Picture-heavy post ahead.)

Now that it's (approximately) mid-October, I thought I'd finally share what I did after my half-marathon last month.

I'll preface by saying I am NOT a good example... people should observe their energy levels before going out after running.  But I am known to stay out til midnight after a marathon and run races the day before other races.  Buuuttttttttttt..... you might get some fun Fall ideas, so read on and prepare to get hungry!


I was staying with one of my good buddies, who didn't seem to mind that we rolled our way back post-race at around 11 AM, sweaty, and about to contaminate their bathtub.

They were even nice enough to let "The Ukrainian" and I split a biscuit that came all the way from Seattle... no pic because we were ravenous (had no food at the race, and we are not pre-race eaters).

Once cleaned up, my bud and her beau took us on a mini road trip.  At the time this picture was taken, "The Ukrainian" and I were stillll hungry.

We stopped here, after about 40 minutes.

Apple cider doughnut... very light and not too sweet (even though there's sugar on that crust!).

Julian is a small town sort of east of San Diego, CA.  The town is known for its apple orchards and pie.

This was our post-race meal... fruit, carbs.... I normally don't like baked fruit and hence am not a pie person, but there was no nasty, syrupy sweet mess around the apples, and the crust was just the right amount of flaky.  We shared this slice, which also contained peaches.

Our friends' mountain berry pie.

Once my hunger was somewhat stablized, we headed to Dudley's...

We totally made out with a BOX of breads (shared among all of us, including some orders we were taking from back home).

I know the carbo-loading is supposed to happen BEFORE the race, but their bread is SO special.  Kind of puts a certain other epic bread place to shame...

We all dug into the bread, standing around the trunk of the car.  With bread basically flying everywhere, I took a bite of all.  By the way, for the rest of our trip, the Prius trunk smelled heavenly....

With flavors like these, there is seriously a bread for everyone.  They come in loaf sliced/unsliced and roll form.  Among other breads we ordered were garlic, rosemary and olive oil, Julian apple, and date/nut.  For our large purchase, we were given a reward, which I will elaborate upon later.

Next, we went apple-picking.  The apples were pretty tart since it was early in the season, but crunching on fresh, flavorful apples was very fun.  I found that even though the trees are short, I still had to solicit help.  (p.s. nobody could tell, but I totally dyed my hair black before this trip, as it's normally like 8 different shades of dark brown)

This guy was our "too high apple" guy.

This jug of apple juice was $12.  But I must say, it was the best apple juice I have ever had, hands down, period.  I normally don't drink juice because it tastes off to me, but this was freshly-pressed apple juice.  (Like "The Ukrainian"'s shirt?)

Julian is a very small town with lots of goodie stores like this one.  We picked up the following goodies for the road.

"The Ukrainian" lovvves cherry pie, but the first pie place ran out.  Luckily, there is no shortage of pie places in Julian, and so the day was saved.

We stopped for a snack (yes, of course we needed a snack).  Real soda fountain drink... this one was cherry.  I don't drink soda often, so this was truly a treat.

We all split this order of zucchini fries, ranch dip not pictured.  I have had more zucchini fries in my lifetime than I should, but these were easily the best I've ever had.  The breading was perfect, seasoning was perfect, size of the fries were perfect... basically, these were perfect.

I just had tiny sips at these next stops...

After being (in)sufficiently liquored up, we made our way to a nearby casino.  We got $10 of playing credits from our bread-buying spree at Dudley's.

And I won $20 from here playing on a machine called "Russian Treasure."  "The Ukrainian" lost $5 playing on an Asian-themed machine.  True to life.  =D

Glad we snacked earlier, because we went to this place back in San Diego... we seriously waited 1.5 hours, and so did EVERYONE else, apparently.

Based on my baked potato meal, I can't really say if it was worth that wait.  Standing for nearly 2 hours after a half-marathon, apple picking, and town-hopping, will do a number on your legs.  By the time we sat down, it was late, my stomach was shutting down, and I probably would have eaten that meat to the left if I didn't remember that I don't eat that stuff.

Now... is it fall yet??! Fall races have arrived, but according to So Cal, we've still got plenty of sun and heat left. =/