Thursday, April 28, 2011

She Runs LA

EVENT: She Runs LA
DATE: Wed-Thu, April 27/28, 2011
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA (more like Pasadena, CA)
RACE BEGAN: 6:33 AM
FINISH TIME: 01:06:24

After yesterday's very long and stressful day, I kind of cringed when I realized that I had only a 24-hour window (4 PM April 27th - 4 PM April 28th) to complete the Nike She Runs LA virtual 10k.  I had a promo code from Run Eat Repeat, so I signed up and had the tank mailed to me.  I finally got the tank yesterday evening, along with tickets to the post-race event at the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles.  I had indicated I wouldn't be going, but I wound up with tickets anyway.  Unfortunately, I am going out of town tomorrow, so I won't be attending the after-party.

Since Fargo Marathon is in a few weeks, I also needed to get a 20-miler in, so I thought I would run 6.2 + 13.8 miles this morning and kill two birds with one stone.

Unfortunately, lately, my "throwing" has been a bit off.  The power was out at my house all last night.  I had to stay at school late to meet with my chair, so as I got home, it was getting dark, and dinner was kind of out of the question.  I had a slice of orange and mango that was sitting on the table.  Along with being too exhausted to be hungry, things just weren't going my way.  But it was actually one of the best nights I can remember -- imagine my parents, myself, my little sister, and pup sitting around in the living room with flashlights until bedtime.  It was weird, but actually pretty cool because I got to invite my parents to my graduation and explain to them this whole crazy process I just went through.

I guess I was still on an adrenaline high, because I slept very poorly that night in spite of being exhausted.  I had plugged in my Garmin, hoping the power would come back on sometime during the night and charge it enough for 3+ hours of running.


Needless to say, I woke up hungry, tired, headache-y, and unmotivated.  But I took to the streets, anyway, with salt tablets and gels on hand.  I trudged through 3 hilly miles when I realized that 20 miles just wasn't happening, and even the 10k I needed to do would be a challenge.  The bright sun already started beating on my back, and my legs felt weak. 

That's when I decided to start taking walk breaks.  And actually, it felt really nice, with the cool morning breeze countering the sun.  So I ran the easy parts and walked the other parts.  There was no shame in it... I felt that I needed a break from pushing myself.  I just didn't want to DNF (did not finish), even in a virtual race. 

And while I didn't do the remaining 13.8, I did cover a total of 7.5 miles, which was good enough for me.  I haven't figured out how I will make up for a lack of a 20-miler in preparation for my marathon in 3-ish weeks, but I am going out of town this weekend and have another hectic week next week.  So maybe I can wing it?  I'm sure I'll be up for more long runs later, but I am missing my window of opportunity to safely do the 20-miler, and in a way, I'm okay with that.  Maybe less is more when it comes to training for this marathon, since I just did one two months ago and reached a peak of 16 miles since then. *excuses*


Since my Nike+ thing wouldn't find the sensor (I haven't used it in quite a while), I was happy I had a backup measure!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

They Called Me Doctor

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen the announcement come out that I passed my final dissertation defense this afternoon.

I am meeting my chair tonight to start tackling the (kinda overwhelming) revisions, but thankfully, they are letting me get my hood on June 5th, in front of my friends and family.  Yes, there will probably be a little star next to my name saying that I still need to file the actual manuscript to be considered "official," but as Grandpa Simpson said, "Hot-diggety damn, that's good enough for me!"

I don't have very many real reflecting thoughts right now.  My feelings are strangely unenthusiastic because I wasn't sure they'd let me participate in the graduation, given the revisions.  Yes, I have a one-track mind.  But thanks to the help of my program coordinator (thank you, Lori!), I have the tickets in my possession.

I'm hoping that I will be able to get out of town this weekend to celebrate and refresh before tackling the rest, but either way, defending is something that I'm happy about never needing/planning to do again.  It is one of the most intimidating situations created by mankind.  Kinda like hazing.

And even though I have some work ahead of me, one of my committee members called me "Dr." upon congratulating me.  I didn't anticipate that, but it made this all seem so real all of a sudden.  However, I will never deliberately ask anyone to address me that way... it sounds mighty strange.

P.S. I made my committee and guests (yes, a few people came to support me) vegan carrot muffins, which were a hit.  A note to those who need to sway people, bake these!

Dog-gone Distraction

I'm stressed, so today, I'm posting pictures of my canine brother after he came back from his neuter surgery last month. 

He was still so chippper.   I could learn a thing or two from him.





And to think that just 5 months ago, he used to look like this:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Detox (Macaroons)

Ahhh, the joys of processed foods.

My latest processing adventure involves detox.  For those people who listen to rap, Dr. Dre has been promising an album called Detox for about 10 years now.... I'm still waiting............................

*Ahem*

Check out these Detox Macaroon recipe from Healthy Hoggin.  I've been making many versions of macaroons, but this is my favorite in terms of flavor.

The unique thing about this (vegan) recipe is that it is 99% coconut.


The first step is to pulverize some shredded coconut into a "coconut butter."  I loved seeing it transform!  It was quite tasty in this form!

By the way, that is almond extract that you see above.  It's a lot stronger than vanilla extract and clear in color. 


Coconut butter + more shredded coconut = macaroons!

They are delicate and coconut-y without that throat-itching sensation of condensed milk that other macaroons offer. 

If you're willing to put in some effort, definitely give these flour-less macaroons a try!  Otherwise, this much easier recipe is also delicious.




These were enjoyed with this "blooming" white tea that my friend gave me.  Just add hot water...

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Vegan Lasagna and Carrot Muffin Makeup

(NOTE: Sun Chlorella winners are posted HERE.)

I was a complete dud on Valentine's Day because I was sick. We usually don't make a scene for the holiday, anyway. The one year we did go out (and that was only because it was the only option we had), the crowds irked me.

Well, since I felt bad for being a total couch slob that day, a few days later when I felt human again, I whipped up a meal like I had intended to on the actual day.

I've blogged about my vegan lasagna before but never documented the process.  Well, here it is:


The "ricotta" is actually a mix of tofu, nutritional yeast, spices, and thawed frozen spinach.  There are a lot of recipes online -- I have a printed version that I have no idea where it came from.

But what I do know is that this whips up quickly.  Once the tofu is done, you simply layer it with about 2 jars of the marinara of your choice and start piling it up with lasagna noodles!

I used whole wheat lasagna noodles and boiled them a little before putting them here.  You CAN just put them straight in from the box, but I think boiling helps them get a little softer.


Here's that mysterious spice blend I was talking about: -- not tough to figure out... nutritional yeast flakes, thyme, oregano, basil, chili powder...


While that lasagna was in the oven, I decided to make cupcakes.  My Happy Herbivore cookbook came to the rescue once again.  I decided to make Carrot Cake Cupcakes (though more like muffins to me).


Next time, I gotta grate the carrots bigger -- they disintegrated in the batter!  But that's what I get for using baby carrots...

Here's the oven shot:


And here's the outta-the-oven shot!


I LOVED how easily these guys popped out!!


I whipped up some maple frosting for it -- basically powdered sugar, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and a splash of soy milk that I added because it hardened when I let it sit too long.


So here are the frosted ones -- I left a few unfrosted, as I found it to be tasty just on its own.  The frosting was a little sweet for my taste, but those who tried it seemed to like it just fine! :)


Texture shot.  I continue to be amazed at how the baked goods from this cookbook come out so lovely in texture in spite of being low/non-fat and vegan.


I didn't forget about the lasagna!  Here it is.  I covered it with chopped olives but somehow failed to remove ONE pit.  Can you spot it in this picture??? ;)


When I had been sick, I told "The Ukrainian" that I was craving some Coke (not Pepsi, ugh!).  I rarely drink soda but will get random cravings maybe a couple times per year and have a little bit accordingly.  He got me this Mexican version, which is made with actual sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup.  We shared this bottle.


Just so you know, those carrot cake muffins have definitely been made again. ;)

Happy Anniversary, "Ukrainian!"

Friday, April 22, 2011

Joblessness

WARNING: Full self-disclosure in this entry...

Although I've been working full-time for years, I have been making jabs at myself for not being able to find anything stable.  You know, something that pays when I'm away and will help me take care of my health and my future babies' health.  Yep, that kinda job.

I will just put it out there that I think it's ridiculous that I've been in school for so long, when all I really wanted all along was this type of stability.  And now, with the degree I'll be getting, I'll feel awkwardly overqualified for any of the jobs I feel I could be good at right now.

If I don't find something soon, I am probably going to end up entering a contract with my current gig and be open to the possibility to contracting with other places, too.  This means I'd be a mobile worker (a blogger's/runner's dream?).  But still, no benefits.  I have also entertained the possibilities of starting my own business(es) -- I have a handful of ideas, some more viable than others.  But I always figured that self-venture is something you do later in life when you're not gifted with that required entrepreneurial spirit (and $$$).

Anyway, this e-mail exchange made me laugh out loud... (not meant to offend)

"The Ukrainian": I saw this [job] post...

Me: Thanks, honey. One of the base requirements is to be bilingual in English y espanol.  I told you I need to work on my panhandling skills. I'll try to look cute. -_-

"The Ukrainian": You speak espanol, right? Because you need that language for panhandling as well.

------

P.S. Sun Chorella giveaway ending SOON.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Carlsbad Half-Marathon 2012

EVENT: Carlsbad Half-Marathon
DATE: Sunday, January 22, 2012
LOCATION: Carlsbad, CA
RACE BEGAN: 7:30 am
FINISH TIME: ??:??:??

This is Part 1 of 3 of the Half-Marathon Triple Crown (I'm doing it again in 2012 since the last time in 2008)!

I won't forget how my friend, Kathy, talked me into the series the first time, but now I'm coming back to it on my own will.  Why?  I liked the scenery at Carlsbad, the bad-@$$ness of conquering La Jolla, and well... okay, so I'm not a big fan of America's Finest City... but I need the motivation to run more half-marathons next year.

My time kind of blew in the 2008 race, so I definitely want to hit sub-2 on this course... and even sub-1:55 because I've done that, too.  That means that I will strive to be training hard over the holidays. :)

Short-Sighted Runner

I'm a little short... for words.

I don't feel that way at home, but once I step out into the public, I see that I am not blessed in the height department.  When I tell people I am 5-feet, 1-inch tall short, I understand why it's hard to find pants that fit my legs properly. 

Besides having to find "short"-length pants, one thing that frustrates me is when I am running on the treadmill, someone much taller than me can be running at the same speed and seemingly put in less effort.

Is this in my imagination?

This New York Times article claims that bigger runners are not better, but this is only because shorter people weigh less. 
Distance running is different. Tall people naturally have longer strides, but stride length, it turns out, does not determine speed. Running requires that you lift your body off the ground with each step, propelling yourself forward. The more you weigh, the harder you have to work to lift your body and the slower you will be.
I don't really buy it.  My legs seemingly have to go through 3 strides when a taller person just takes a step.  I have to put in three times more footstrikes to get where I need to go.  And my disproportionately short legs have to haul my torso (which I feel is of normal length) with less muscle.

Yes, elites are not that tall, but then again, they are often very, very thin.  Some of the best track and field athletes are TALL.

Long Beach Half-Marathon (2009)
I had always thought I'd end up a few inches taller than I actually am.  A nice 5'4" (the extra inches in my legs) would have been great.  I think I'd be proportionally better suited for running and be able to get pants in normal lengths without tailoring them and not feel like a dwarf when I don't wear heels.  Most of all, I would get more for my training buck, right?

Also, another good thing about being taller is higher metabolic needs = can eat more food without gaining weight.

P.S. Last chance to enter the Sun Chlorella giveaway!  I will draw winners on Monday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Random Photo Entry 26: Version 26.0

You may (or may not) have noticed that in my Random Photo Entry this past week, I skipped over from 25 to 27.  This may (or may not) have been caused by an oversight by me, but it's actually totally appropriate.  As I mention HERE, it was birthday time for me.  (But I will refrain from updating my About page until I get used to the idea of adding +1 to my age!) 

Turning 26 was a whole lot less devestating than turning 25.  I didn't have to exit a racing age group (darn, F 25-29!), and I still think I'm safely far enough from 30 to not have some kind of crisis yet.  Along with that, I just had an exceptionally good birthday this year (though last year wasn't shabby but just quieter, I guess).

My sisters took me out to brunch a few days beforehand at this cute place that I will get around to reviewing at some point, but Tea Time already did!  Speaking of her blog, she was so sweet and wrote two more posts relating to my birthday (HERE and HERE).

After brunch, I took the dog (at the bottom of the picture below) to the dog park.  Look at some of the buddies he had to play with!


My sisters must really know me... I loved the loot!  I had been thinking about how to protect my car from dog fur, and now I have a way (though she intended it to protect my car from my own sweat :$).  I also LOVE the green shirt/cute tempo shorts and can't wait to wear them to a race. 

Also, more Injinjis!  As I mentioned in my review of them, I felt weird about the toe sock thing, but they are really comfy to lounge in!  (They are fine for running, though I don't use them for that too often.)

In one of those envelopes is a hand-made card from my youngest sister... it was actually pretty hilarious because it told a (n inside) story about me and the dog and cat...


A few days later, I made bread with beer.  This will be documented in a later post, but it was definitely an interesting experience.


On my actual birthday, I woke up to carrot cake and jelly beans from "The Ukrainian."  There was also a little self-made gift certificate (pictured below, far left) with those, which I can't wait to redeem (it's for a getaway)! :)  In my very sleepy state, it was one of the sweetest things he has ever done for me.

A few company giveaways are in this picture below, too.  Sephora body wash, Veggie Grill certificate, Auntie Anne's, and World Market.  I also had a Victoria's Secret free cash card that I used on a dress I didn't quite like and returned.

In the center are TOMS!  I got an email from my online wishlist, GiftPickle.com, to update my list, which I just randomly did one day and added these thinking nobody would see it.  Well, one of my sisters did, and now I have them!  My feet have been hurting lately, and I wanted to try these out.  They will take some wearing in to become really comfy, but they have support for my low arches, which makes them superior to regular flats!


A few more random things... I got an e-mail from one of my committee members saying that as he's reviewing my dissertation, he found some parts "exemplary" and wanted to use it in his teaching materials and cite me.  Wow, my first citation! :)

Lastly, I got an e-card from an old friend.  It was so adorable.

The Roaring Twenties

Holy crud, it's my birthday again.

I originally had a long post here about how I felt losing much of my "twenties" to work, school, and living with my parents.

But I have other things I'd rather say today. 

Last week, I had the honor and pleasure of witnessing my best friend since elementary school take the oath of office into the position of mayor of our city -- the one in which we grew up and attended elementary, middle, and high school.  We were walking partners from middle school all the way through college.  I will never forget the day we met in the elementary school cafeteria, or the day that his father passed away and I didn't know how to console him, or the day we were running on the UCLA campus in effort not to be late to our graduation ceremony at the Public Affairs school. 

At his young age, I was so proud to see him up there.  In fact, the whole city was proud of him, including my parents and sister, who showed up as well.  Not to mention a whole slew of other people from our past.  I think that "The Ukrainian" probably got a kick out of seeing all of us interacting, a collision of the past and present.  I introduced a few of my friends to my parents.  Mingling with those people during the reception made me realize something.

The past is present.

I am not alone.  These people, who I hadn't seen in years in some cases, offered their ears and assistance to me any time I would need it.  They admired and respected me for how far I've come, something I cannot for the life of me see on my own normally.  And I am so, so lucky to have friends who understand me and would not give up on me.

No matter what happens, I will try to never again forget who I am, the experiences I had growing up, and especially the people around me.  It's a small world, and I am happy to be a part of it.  I am going to try a lot harder to make my part a good one.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Enchiladas (y Sopes)

I spent part of my growing up in El Monte, CA, a city known for being "friendly" (if you live there or near there, you will know why I put that in quotation marks) and for its Mexican food.  Later, I took three years of Spanish in high school and even passed the Advanced Placement (AP) exam, knocking off a year of language studies in college.  Qué bueno...

In all honesty, I have fond memories of being in elementary school there and developing a taste for Mexican foods.  I ate enough Lucas (chili powder seasoning) and watermelon chili candies until I got mouth sores.

This entry was a result of a random craving I had for Mexican food.  Once I announced this craving, "The Ukrainian"'s gears started turning, and I knew we were going to have a good meal on our hands.

Of course, this isn't the first time I've cooked meals of this genre... check out my tostadas and tamale pie.  These next two recipes were a step above that, and this time, I got to cook with "The Ukrainian."

Enchiladas (vegan):

Filling:
1 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 4 oz can of diced green chiles
1/2 cup or so of frozen corn
6 oz. of firm tofu (about 1/3 of the entire block pictured), crumbled
1/2 tsp (or more) of ground cumin
1 tsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp ground parsley
dash of sea salt (or regular)
dash of chili powder (optional)

Outside:
12 or so corn tortillas (depending on the size of your casserole dish; I used 9x13)
1 can (or more!) of canned enchilada sauce
shredded soy cheese


We picked up these ingredients from Trader Joe's and Vallarta.  I joked that this Mexican grocery store, Vallarta, was the closest I'd ever get to ANY Vallarta, if you get my drift. [insert vacation-deprived sad face :(]  This store was the cleanest and most organized Mexican grocery store I've ever seen, and it even sells fully-cooked meals to-go.  *drool*



Here are all the filling ingredients mixed together.  As you can see in the recipe, I kind of just made up some seasonings, but the end result tasted good.

My enchilada rolling skills were blah, but I fit about 11 rolls in my pan.  I had extra filling, so I kind of just dumped it along the gaps.  I wasn't trying to score appearance points. ;)


"The Ukrainian" decided that he wanted to be the one to grate the (soy) cheese.  Note that 1 can of enchilada sauce was NOT quite enough for our tastes (though we like very soppy enchiladas).  A lesson learned.

We baked this at 375 for about 20 minutes and then let it cool for about 5 minutes.  Here is the end result:



Sopes (not vegan due to cheese):

While I was whipping up the enchiliadas, "The Ukrainian" started making this salsa mixture... onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, and the other half of my can of diced green chiles.


I tried to document his cooking process while I was busy cooking, managing to get this shot of cooking sopes (think of a cross-breed between a corn tortilla and an English muffin) and heating a can of refried beans (I recommend vegetarian versions like Rosarita if you can find them).


Top sopes with refried beans, lettuce (we used romaine), salsa, and queso fresco (Mexican cheese).  This has to be my favorite picture of the day:



I loved them so much, I had to get a photo with them :$ :

The only way to enjoy these things is like this... no forks, Dos Equis, and a soccer game on the TV.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Random Photo Entry 27: Hope I Don't Blow it This Time

I never really talked about what I did on Valentine's Day.

Well, that's because I was sick and didn't have the energy to cook him dinner like I had planned.

He got me a little present with some things to cheer me up (including that Ring Pop in the back when he "proposed" that we should be Valentines).


I felt really bad because I didn't go through any of that effort.  Worn out from work, school, and my cold, I could only think about laying in front of the TV.

He made me soup with some produce he had and a box of carrot ginger soup in the cupboard -- my version didn't have those sausages on top.  Sadly, due to my extreme lack of appetite, I had to work hard to get it down. :(

NOTE: I did not have these sausages in my bowl!



He even brought over some lovely cheese bread from Bishop, CA.  But as much as I tried to appreciate it, I'm sure my lethargy wasn't appreciated.

Well, now, I've got less than a week to think of something for our third anniversary.  I have school this Saturday and other important school stuffs in the week/s after.  That, along with being completely burnt out in general, doesn't bode well for my creativity.

Last year, he took me to Temecula, a romantic winery area.  Everyone thought he was going to propose, a notion to which I laughed.  I wasn't laughing at the idea but moreso at how quickly people jump to those sorts of conclusions.  Nope, I'm not engaged... yet... except in my school work. 

Okay, maybe not.